February Mantel

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Christmas is wonderful, but it always leaves me longing for a clean, bright, and freshly decluttered home. I love decorating for the holiday. I also love how open and clear our home looks after everything’s boxed up again.

Despite all the best advice of decorating magazines, at this point in our lives we have very few “styled” surfaces. I keep a few things out on the fireplace mantel, the piano, and one cupboard. Since having kids I’ve gradually stored or discarded our extra decor. You’ll notice most decorating magazines don’t feature homes with four kids three and under! I believe in house-proofing the kids versus just childproofing the house, but I also like spaces where our little people are free to play without requiring constant vigilance (name that character). I found the best decorating tip for this stage of life on the Dyno-mom blog. She has 11 kids, and lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Keweenaw easily sees 28 feet of snowfall each winter. Frequent storms keep her family cooped up in a relatively small house for many months a year. Her advice for non-practical decorations is just…don’t. If you’re maxed out on childcare you don’t have the mental space for clutter and visual distractions. Not everyone is wired the same, but I’ve found her advice true for this stage of parenting. I try to choose attractive options for the practical things we need like lamps or couch throws, but avoid putting things on a surface just because it’s bare. My three year olds take care of that!

The fireplace used to be dark gray and pink stone with a boxy dark ’80s mantel. I didn’t have the energy or resources to replace it so I did the next best thing and painted it all a clean bright white a few years back. My mantel picks right now:

  • Pillar candles and holders (vases? chimneys? what would you call them?) from Hobby Lobby. My favorite go-to candle option with small kids. I love candles in the winter months or at dinner. These are the basic unscented candles from Hobby Lobby. I pick them up during 50% off sales and they last forever. I lit the last set almost nightly for…four months? six? before they burnt down. The holders make them hard for the kids to tip, prevent wax spills on the furniture or tablecloth, and make it harder for little kids to accidentally lean over into the flame. They also don’t get hot like narrower glass holders would. Also, on that appalling morning when you come downstairs and realize you never blew out the candles last night you’ll be happy to know the holder makes it very hard for anything else to catch fire while you sleep. We have one pair downstairs and one set upstairs.
  • Fisherman’s creel. I love nice baskets and spots of natural material around our home. They’re practical and pretty at the same time. This one contains the remote, matches, or other living room odds n’ ends that would float around the house or get eaten by babies.
  • Flowers. It’s hard to escape your genes. My mother’s flowers seemed so boring as a kid, but flowers in the house make me smile now. They’re beautiful and cheery, but they’re not clutter or permanent. I love a pretty bouquet, but for best return on investment it’s hard to beat a $5 pot of flowers from the grocery store. A good one blooms for weeks before heading out to the compost heap. My only advice is the lesson my Mom taught me when I was six: don’t get the plant with the most flowers – it’s almost done blooming and will die soon. Get the plant with the most buds. Thanks to Christmas checks from relatives I have a pot of hyacinths in the kitchen, another in our bedroom, and a pot of daffodils in the living room right now. They’re sitting in a bowl I’ve had since high school.
  • Painting. My parents had a few paintings inherited from my great grandmother when I was growing up. Because they were always around I barely registered their existence. My husband re-sold me on the value of “real art” and every few years we find something we love at a thrift store, antique shop, or gallery. We ran across this old portrait during an otherwise disastrous trip to Savannah (the Army cancelled our leave and ordered us home). The artist is unknown and it’s not in great condition, but that doesn’t bother us – it made it much cheaper! I’d wanted a portrait for years and I love this one.

What’s making you happy in your home this season? Any decorating tricks that work for you with small kids or many kids in the house?

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8 thoughts on “February Mantel

  1. Thank you for sharing this. Your mantel looks lovely. I think it is a good idea to use a fisherman’s creel, and the portrait is stunning. I havs noticed since having kids we have fewer and fewer items on display and they are bigger. Because bigger equals less visual clutter.

    • Fewer big items vs. lots of small items is a great point. I hadn’t thought about it that way but it’s true here as well. As we clear away lots of little things we often end up replacing them with one or two larger simple things. Bonus, they’re easier to clean! I continue to have fun with the occasional A Slob Comes Clean post or podcast as well, though the themes repeat a lot and none of it is really “new information” at this point, just motivation while tidying. Do you still listen to those?

  2. I think visual clutter has become a big thing for me with the explosions of toys and artworks and now homeschooling supplies. My (rather minimalist) friend was saying the other day one of her biggest stresses in homeschooling is the amount of stuff it brings with it.

    No, I haven’t listened to A Slob Comes Clean for a while, I found they got a bit repetitive. I must admit my podcast listening has been right down since having Naomi as, for that matter, have my standards of cleaning. I still find I draw a lot on her inspiration for decluttering though, which I see as tangential to cleaning at this stage of my life – less stuff to put away means more chance I will get past the tidying to actual cleaning.

    I am enjoying this website http://truthbeautygoodness.net/podcast-network/
    I have listened to her straight stick podcasts, and the kids like her Melody, Mystery and Mayhem podcasts. I am looking forward to getting into her Cultivating the Kingdom series but I have to work out how to load them onto my ipod for my morning walks.

    I have also got inspiration recently reading the archives of this blog (she doesn’t seem to post much anymore) http://growingupgodskids.blogspot.com.au/
    She had a great tip (her girls all shared a bedroom) and she said she limited them to 6 soft toys each and they could rotate those 6 in and out every few weeks through a crate of all their soft toys in the garage. A true sanity saver. I was surprised how open our older two were to doing it. No more soft toys spread from one end of the house to the other!

    Anyway better get tea, husband is interstate for the work this week so no early evening helper.

    Do you have any suggestions/ recommendations?

  3. Grr! My comment just vanished.

    Anyway, I was saying that I have been a lot more sensitive to visual clutter with the profusion of toys that seems to add chaos to any room. Homeschooling only seems to be adding to that problem:)

    No, I don’t listen to A Slob Comes Clean anymore. I found it got pretty repetitive. I find I still draw inspiration from her though in terms of decluttering – which I find is part and parcel of cleaning at this point of my life. The less stuff to put away the more chance I will get past the tidying stage to the cleaning stage! Cleaning has been taking a bit of a back seat since having Moppet 8 months ago.

    I have been enjoying this website lately http://growingupgodskids.blogspot.com.au/
    Her archives are pretty extensive. I really liked her suggestions (way back in the depths of time) about limiting her girls to only 6 soft toys inside at a time. She had them rotate them every few weeks with the bulk stored in a crate in the garage. My older two were remarkably open to it, and yay! no more toys strewn from one end of the house to the other.

    The other website I draw inspiration from at the moment is
    http://truthbeautygoodness.net
    I like her straight stick podcasts, and the kids enjoy the the Melody, Musings and Mayhem podcasts. I am looking forward to finding time to listen to the Cultivating the Kingdom podcasts which look more meaty. I loved her suggestion of the cordless vacuum – Ginger now has vacuuming the kitchen and their shared room on her daily list.

    Any recommendations?

    • Oh good! I love a new podcast to check out! I love how turning on a podcast turns chore time into a fun treat. My current favorites mostly revolve around books: The Read-Aloud Revival Podcast, and What Should I Read Next are two favorites. I’ve also been enjoying the Happier podcast, which is mainly about building good habits, but explores a variety of interesting topics.

      Goodness…I hadn’t even thought about what homeschooling will do to our household order! What made you decide to go with homeschooling in the end? I know you were debating between a couple of local schools last time we emailed pre-Moppet/Josie. A lightweight cordless vac for easy kid cleaning is a great idea!

  4. i love decorating with family photos or religious art -i’m just picky that way in that i want our decorations to be things that are meaningful to me, if that makes sense. lol so not just beautiful to look at but also stirs a memory or moment.

    i love the clean lines you have here – simply, beautiful, homey ❤

    my mantles are both a little more cluttered than this b/c of the photos. not like an insane amount, and only professional ones i think? dont think i have any candids?

    another thing i started doing this last year is getting free seasonal printables printed at mpix or the like, and then putting them in old frames or handmedown frames or thrift store frames. i love that touch of seasonal sensibility for pennies on the dollar and its not something that anyone can really break, ya know?

    • Love decorating for pennies! We used to have more photos out, but the twins went through that toddler spree of “grabbing every thing off every shelf they could reach” and broke something like five frames in two months. I decided it was time to pack them all away for a little stretch, and now that Jenny is just hitting that age herself they’re staying packed up until after our move. Less lovely, but I’ve started ordering family pictures as fridge magnets from shutterfly. If you wait, really good 50% off sales pop up, and the kids can’t break them.

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