Home Management

15 Ways to Make Your Home Cozy

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Everyone wants to create a place where they can relax with their family and read a good book on the weekend. Maybe you've moved into a new house or have just hit a creative roadblock with your current one. Here are a few easy ideas to make your space a little more homey and special!

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1. Keep the Memories Out on Display

Don't pack away your most loved items where no one can see them! You want guests to walk into your home and automatically know about the places and people you love more than anything else.

We have pieces of our little man's art all over the house as well as some silly knick knacks we picked up on our honeymoon. No one else can have the same items and it's what puts a personal stamp on our home.

2. Place Out Fresh Flowers

Flowers can really help warm up a room. They make me feel like I have a beautiful garden (I wish!) and that I'm a cheerful June Cleaver, with everything in its place.

3. Display Your Favorite Literature

I was a librarian for years and you can tell so much about a person just based on the books they read. We keep all of our books on a huge shelf in the living room.

To kick things up a notch (or because I am insane) I also organize them by the color of their spine. It looks adorable but it also helps me find the books I'm looking for. I will remember the color of a book 10x faster than I will remember the actual name.

color coordinated books home library bookshelf

4. Frame Your Family and Friends

This is a no-brainer but such an important part of your home. We lived in an apartment for weeks before I finally got around to putting up our photos. It instantly made the place "ours." Seeing the faces of people you love can make your house an area you love to be in.

We create a lot of family collages and use an array of traditional frames and displays like this cuuuute one from Target.

target photo display

5. Lay out the Extra Blankets

Keep a few throw blankets lying on the arm of the sofa or at the foot of the bed to provide extra warmth. I am constantly cold, regardless of the season, so I use ours all the time.

6. Keep Fluffy Pillows on Hand

Fluffy, soft, bright, or beige, it doesn't matter. Pillows will make your living room just a bit more homey. I always shop at Target for these because I can usually find an affordable 2 pack like the one below. I'm loving the bright colors and shapes!

Add a few spare pillows in the bedroom as well. My husband and I only sleep with one pillow each but we have at least four on the bed. It can really take a college student's bed and turn it into one for an adult.

target throw pillows

7. Put Out Candles or Coffee

A pleasant smelling home is a welcoming home. I personally love brewing a fresh pot of coffee, early in the morning and throughout the day.

I don't light too many candles with a baby in the house, but if I do I will use either a muffin or sugar cookie scent. Sometimes you just need to fake this whole perfect housewife thing.

8. Keep Yummy Food at Hand

We are definitely foodies in our family, and while we like to eat healthy, we really just want to have a snack at the end of a long day. I try to keep banana bread or oatmeal chocolate chip cookies on hand. We were given after school snacks as children and I find that it feels comforting to have an after work snack too.

9. Add a Rug or Two

Our home has functional beige carpet. Boring! We throw a small rug down in the living room and bedrooms to add a personal touch and make the rooms feel a little more welcoming. I personally like to choose relatively thick rugs like this gray one because it's comfy for the baby when he's crawling around.

target gray rug

10. Buy a Headboard

I swear the first time I ever bought a headboard I thought, "Oh now I am an adult!" There's just something about adding it that makes the whole bedroom really come together.

And it doesn't have to be expensive! We had a baby on the way and no extra money to spare when we found a simple frame at Ikea. You can also try to make your own if you're feeling brave enough. Pinterest is crawling with DIY headboard projects. I also like this headboard from Walmart because you can just attach it to your bed frame. It makes it a very affordable upgrade!

walmart gray headboard

11. Let the Light Shine In

Both natural and man-made lighting is so important in a cozy home! There is nothing welcoming or comforting about an under-lit, gloomy room.

I like to keep each area in the house with at least two lamps in addition to any overhead lighting. My desk has this lamp from Target and the quality is amazing for the affordable price. You don't have to spend a lot! I also use natural sunlight like it's going out of style. Keep things bright and cheerful!

target white desk lamp

12. Make Every Room Prepared for the In-Laws

I know saying you should tidy up sounds like the opposite of keeping things cozy. But clutter only causes stress! I have extremely laid back in-laws but I still wouldn't want them to see a messy house. I keep my home "In-Law Ready" by making sure the beds are made, the bathrooms are tidy, and all of the dirty laundry is hidden. I also use these 5 easy tips for making the kitchen sparkly clean.

13. Add a Seating Area in the Bedrooms

It doesn't have to be a large sofa or take up a lot of space. Just grab a little corner and add your favorite chair to it. This creates a comfortable area where you can read or relax. I like to use it in the early morning when I'm not quite ready to sit at my desk but am afraid I will fall asleep if I stay in bed!

14. Hang a String of Lights

We put up a sting of lights around our headboard (it's wood) during Christmas and liked it so much that it stayed there after the holiday was over. It gives such a warm glow to the room and even magically erases the tired look under my eyes at the end of a long day.

15. Add a Plant or Two

I'll be honest in saying that I have the worst green thumb you will ever know. But I can keep a sturdy fern alive if you remind me to water it! A little greenery, real or fake, will pull everything together in a very homey way.

Always remember that the best way to turn a house into a home is to incorporate the things you love most. If you love the Beatles, put their records on display. If you love to read, create a mini library in your living room. Use your own personal stamp in each room and you will create a space you love to be in.

How do you make your home cozy?

Free Mother's Day Gift Ideas

Mother's Day is less than a month away and I'm already racking my brain for gift ideas. If I don't plan now, I will definitely drop the ball. Is it just me or is this year flying by?

Whether your mother is near or far it's likely you'll want to give her a little token of your affection. Have you ever seen the price for fruit baskets or flower bouquets? Of course our mothers are worth every penny and more! But sometimes the money you need is just not in the bank.

I've created a list of my best out-of-the-box ideas just for the special occasion. The best thing you can give your mom is a gift that will make her heart melt and keep your bank account happy too!

1. Call her bright and early.

She wants to hear your voice, regardless of what time it is. And there's nothing lonelier than waiting for someone to call you on a special day. Call her early and don't put it off until you're getting ready to watch Game of Thrones.

2. Tell her your favorite story about her.

As mothers we love to know that we have made an influence on our children and that the love we've given is also reciprocated. Think of a favorite memory when your mom was especially awesome and tell her about it. She'll appreciate the fact that you noticed the energy she put into raising you.

3. Make a homemade meal...and do the clean-up too!

Yes, we would all love a good breakfast in bed. But you're not going to leave the pancake batter and egg shells on the kitchen counter for her to clean, right? She will love the breakfast you made but she will especially love it if the kitchen was cleaned too.

4. Greet her with a compliment.

Sometimes we're so busy running through life that we forget to slow down and show the ones we love how much we appreciate them. Make your mother's day (no pun intended) by giving her a compliment as soon as you see her.

5. Give your phone the day off.

It's not going to be easy because as a society we are more addicted to cell phones than we were even 10 years ago. But she wants to spend time with you! Mother's Day will be disappointing if she spent time with you, while you spent time with Twitter.

6. Make a homemade card.

This really doesn't have to be fancy. I am the least creative person you will ever meet. I can't draw or decorate worth a dime but I have a lot of heart. Let your love for her show through your effort. A mom appreciates the idea that "it's the thought the counts" more than anyone else.

7. Write a poem

Again, you don't have to be Shakespeare to pull this one off.

Example:

Roses are red Violets are blue I can't really rhyme but I love you so much that I tried Happy Mother's Day, Mom

No you're not going to win any awards but she'll get a laugh out of it and find it really endearing that you tried anyway.

8. Give her the day off.

Do the grocery shopping. Clean the kitchen for her with these 5 easy steps. Return the sweater to Macy's that's been on her to-do list. Make it your mission to be her personal secretary for the day. She will appreciate it tenfold!

You don't have to do all of these to make your mother happy this year, though I'm sure she would love it if you did! The key is to find something that shows how much you care and how important she is to you. If you do that then you are already winning the Kid of the Year Award!

What frugal Mother's Day gifts will you be giving this year?

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Why Dirty Dishes Don't Matter

Before you get too excited and start shouting "I'm never doing the dishes again!" this post isn't about never doing your dishes. Because that would be extremely gross! But I really think you should feel guilt-free if your breakfast plate doesn't get clean until later. I was obsessive about washing and drying my dishes after every single meal and I slowly realized it decreased my overall efficiency.

Nowadays, I worry less and you should too. Here's why:

There are Better Things to Do

Your to-do list is long and never-ending, right? I can relate because I have the same problem. And every time I look at those plates I think, "It'll only take a few seconds to wash them and then I won't have to worry about them!"

But you and I know that's not necessarily true! It's a few minutes here and a few minutes there. I find that I lose momentum in completing my to-do list if I interrupt my focus to wash a few spoons, even for a "few minutes."

Your Kids are More Important

"Hold on a second, I'm finishing these up." We've all said it to our kids at some point. And yes there are situations where, seriously, they need to just chill for one second. But for dishes? Are they really more important than taking the time to be present with your little ones?

Yes, you've already read The Hungry Caterpillar four times. But they're not going to ask you for the rest of their lives. They can only snuggle in your lap for so many years. Drop that dishcloth and go play with your kids!

Your Guests are More Important

Like I said in the beginning, I washed my dishes after every single meal. It's not uncommon and it's not crazy by any means!

When I spent my first holiday with my in-laws I was confused as to why we all didn't go into the kitchen and start washing and drying as soon as we were done eating. We're family after all, aren't we supposed to help clean up? But they wanted to sit and chat and left the dishes for later. I just kept thinking, "This is so weird...and incredibly refreshing!"

Holidays and get-togethers are about spending time together. NOT spending time in the kitchen cleaning up! Enjoy your dessert and pack the leftovers later.

They'll Be There Tomorrow

There will always always ALWAYS be dishes! You're still eating aren't you? You'll need plate for that sandwich, won't you? If you don't clean them this afternoon, you can catch them after the next meal.

It's Good to Eat In

Every time I see my dishwasher half full of dirty plates I think, "Good! We haven't been eating out!" I wrote about how much money we save from eating inand seeing extra dirty dishes is a good sign, not a bad one.

I'm not sure who created the rule that you have to clean your dishes after every meal but I'm sure even they got sick of that schedule. It's important to get to your chores done but there's always something more pressing to do in the busy afternoon.

Nobody feels comfortable around a host who ignores them or a parent who has better things to do than hang out with them. Spend time with your family and friends and give yourself permission to not feel guilty about it!

Do you clean your dishes after every meal? Do you think it helps or hurts your efficiency in getting things done? 

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5 Steps to a Clean Kitchen

Who has the extra time to keep their kitchen sparkling clean at all hours of the day? I'm both a work-from-home and stay-at-home mom. I'm lucky if I am able to eat a pb&j sandwich before 11:00am! But a tidy kitchen always gives a nice boost to the day. It can make you feel like all of the dirty laundry in the world doesn't matter because you can find a clean coffee cup and there's no junk on the countertops.

I don't have a lot of time in the morning (or afternoon...or evening...) so I like to use a quick system to freshen things up before the day gets away from me.

Follow these 5 easy steps for the fastest way to clean your kitchen and you'll never find yourself in an overwhelming mess again!

1. Empty your sink.

If it's 11pm and you're all but ready to fall into bed, clear your sink out AT THE VERY LEAST. No need to wash the dishes! Just rinse and stack. In fact, I don't think there's any need to wash your dishes after every meal. But there's just something about an empty sink that will make your rushed morning 1,000x easier.

Stacked dishes give the appearance of order and control, regardless of whether they have actually been washed.

2. Clean off the counters.

That random leftover sandwich is an unpleasant sight to see if you've already had a tough day or just have a long day ahead of you. Do yourself a favor and clear the whole counter off.

The first time you tackle this may mean going through old junk mail or finally designating a place for odds and ends. But if you clear things off every day it will only take a minute or two from that point on.

3. Sweep the floor.

Stop stepping over the spilled Cheerios and do a quick sweep around the kitchen floor. Nothing looks more ridiculous than walking around food because you don't want to crush it with your socks. (Don't worry, we've all been guilty once or twice!)

4. Clean the splatters.

Grab a washcloth and spend 30 seconds scrubbing if that's all the time you have. That spaghetti sauce has been there since Tuesday.

I personally do a wipe down after every single meal because grease and dust on the cooking range hood really grosses me out. It also helps me avoid the layers of grime that like to build up after I fry something on the stove.

5. Take out the trash.

Oh no, you have unexpected company! You can explain away the random papers laying in the entryway ("I'm writing a very important article on junk mail.") but you can't explain away the overflowing, smelly trash. It's unpleasant for your guests but it's also unpleasant for you too!

Following a simple routine can make all the difference in the world when it comes to your kitchen. Keeping things tidy will only take a few minutes if that's all you have. There's no need to do a two hour deep cleaning session! Start by making the dirty dishes look organized and follow that up with a quick clean of the countertops. Then sweep away the crumbs and wipe the splatters from last night's lasagna. Spend 30 seconds taking out the trash and you are officially a Kitchen Boss!

What is your routine for cleaning the kitchen?

How To: Thrifty Easter Basket

I've got a large extended family and when we get together for Easter we put together A LOT of baskets. The lowest price I've seen for a pre-made basket is $10. Multiple that by 20 people and you've got a broke Easter Bunny!

Related Post: Easter Feast on a Budget

I'm a huge fan of raiding the Dollar Tree and Wal-Martfor more affordable versions of what's available in other retail stores. Here's how we're doing a DIY Easter basket this year.

Looking for a DIY Easter Basket? This is one of the best ways to make your holiday memorable without going broke!

I know everyone does things differently but my family always recycled the Easter baskets so I didn't include that in the cost. (I don't know how my siblings didn't catch on to the truth about the Bunny when they were little!)

Bunny glasses: Dollar Tree, $1.00

Wind-Up Hopping Chick: Dollar Tree, $1.00

Bunny Pez Dispenser: Wal-Mart, $1.50

Tootsie Rolls: Wal-Mart, $1.00

Starbursts: Wal-Mart, $1.00

Whoppers Robin Eggs: Wal-Mart, $1.00

Bunny Tale Book: Dollar Tree, $1.00

Bunny Ears: Dollar Tree, $1.00

Total: $8.50

Who doesn't love giving their child a memorable holiday without having to break the bank? Making your Easter baskets a DIY project is one of the best ways to do this. The kids can get the goodies that they love and you can enjoy the discount price.

How do you save money with your Easter baskets? 

*This post was NOT sponsored.*