~ Overnight bag note. I was tired of opening up my overnight bag while away from home occasionally only to discover that I forgot something really crucial, like my hair mousse, or my deodorant! I do not like to waste time coming up with an alternate plan, and I like to be prepared for all possible situations. *chuckle* I like to do life ON PURPOSE. But there are those few overnight items that cannot live long-term in my over night bag because they go bad before I can use them up. For example, my clear gel deodorant crystallizes and turns white when it is too old, my hair mousse bottle looses pressure and doesn't dispense the mousse any longer *gasp!*, and my pump hairspray bottle gets clogged and won't spray. *sigh* So my overnight bag is no longer self-sufficient containing everything I would need already in it in travel-sizes; these items have to be added to the bag at the last minute. So I have put a large 5x7 note paper in my overnight bag that lists the7 items on it in large one-inch letters that need to be added without fail: my hair brush, hand mirror, mousse, deodorant, hair spray, make up bag, hairdryer.
So when packing I now open up my overnight bag, remove the note inside to myself and place it on the bed while I gather those missable items, then when I'm done I leave the note on my dresser while I'm gone to be put back in to the overnight bag when I return home and unpack. No more mistakes and forgotten items - and no more going in to public with out my make up on because I left it at home. *wink*
~ Clear packing tape repairs. I use clear packing tape to repair so many items around our house, and it works beautifully! *laugh* I actually keep a dispenser of it in our desk in the family room, right on hand since I use it several times a week. It repairs books bindings and pages that have been ripped or completely broken apart by a child stepping on the book or a toddler getting a hold of it. I just run a length of tape along the binding or inside the pages and it's totally invisible, it's strong, it doesn't yellow over time, the adhesive doesn't get old and disappear after a while, and the edges don't curl up causing the tape to come off in the near future. And because it's totally clear-as-glass (unlike scotch tape), the kids don't even notice it or pick at it. The repair is good-to-go really for the rest of that book's life (or other object's life listed below), which is a good use of my time, finances, and energy - and only takes about 1/2 a minute to accomplish. Awesome. This book below was pretty broken in the binding on the bottom corner.
I patch our clear, plastic boxes that contain our toys and activities when the boxes or lids get cracked. Just a 3-inch length of tape on the inside and on the outside of the cracked spot really stops the crack from continuing to get bigger and helps the box last several more months at least. In the photo below there is a large crack by the handle, and a crack/hole/piece coming off in the open flat area which has a piece of tape on the inside and the outside; this happened about a year ago but is fine and still functioning today.
We also have children's activities with lots of pieces in clear plastic zip-closure bags (like the bags that new bed linens come packaged in) which can be repaired the same way, with a strip on the outside of the bag. Or bags that other toys come in from the store, such as Polly Pocket doll bags. I also use clear packing tape to reinforce some of my 3-hole-punched papers for my homeschool teacher binder, such as my grade sheet that has to last me all year, and gets flipped back and forth a lot in the binder causing the holes to rip out fairly soon. I run a length of tape along the edge of the paper, fold it in half back to the back side of the paper, and then put it in our 3-hole punch before putting it in to my binder for the year. And I use clear packing tape to repair game and puzzle boxes that seem to always break open at the corners (why is that? Bugs me.) Good to go.
~ Pretty box spring. We had a bed skirt on our bed for years and that covered up the box spring so it didn't show. But recently I did some more cleaning out of storage underneath the bed so that we could take off the bed skirt and enjoy seeing the whole wood bed frame. To me bed skirts say, "Covering up stuff stored here", whereas no skirt says, "See - nothing hidden; spacious and clean!" But now that there was no bed skirt our suede chocolate-colored box spring was blaring among our pretty floral bed linens! So I bought, at Value Village, two high-quality cotton, white, king-size fitted bed sheets and my husband helped me put them both over the box spring of our bed underneath the mattress (because the brown was so dark, we needed two sheets together to hide the color) so that now we just see white sheets on the bed underneath the comforter. This just so pleases me! *beam!* Below is a photo of our covered box spring, and then our bed with the bed skirt, and now without it.
~ Quiet doors & drawers. With so many children in the house it's easy to have a lot of doors and drawers being closed with a bang (not necessarily intentionally, just wood-on-wood noise), which is unnecessary noise, and is especially not good when some children are sleeping. So we went around the house and put either felt or rubber little 1/3 of an inch size self-adhesive dots inside door jams (about 4 dots along the vertical inside of a door jam) and inside drawer edges so that all of the doors and drawers close with a soft bump. So simple; so nice.
~ Anything in a basket. I read once that any thing put into a basket looks like it's supposed to be there. Piles on the floor or on tables - in a basket, they look orderly and no longer cluttered (when we keep them cleaned out enough to not be overflowing). We keep some toys in baskets, our stack of library books used to have their own basket (until we began checking out 80 at a time, in which case they now need their own designated book shelf), office supplies that don't have a drawer, headphones, extra throw blankets, etc.)
~ No scratches. I put self-adhesive felt pads underneath some of the baskets or furniture we use so that they don't scratch the surface they're sitting on. This is valuable for underneath our dining room chair legs and the table legs as well, to protect and preserve the wood floors. It's also useful when a basket is slid all over the surface of a table when people use it, such as the basket on our dining room table that holds our napkins and salt and pepper shakers, or a basket on an end table or coffee table when people pull it closer to themselves for easier access to what's inside the basket. I use the 1-inch or the 2-inch size felt circles (either dark brown or light beige, to match the basket or furniture).
~ No sliding organizers. I have plastic drawer organizer trays in some drawers but sometimes there is 3-5 inches of extra space in the length of the drawer which gives room for those organizers to slide too far back to be accessed easily. So I simply put at the back of the drawer out of sight one or two empty toilet paper rolls. This keeps the drawer organizers up at the front of the drawer where I can see them and access them easily every time I open the drawer.
~ Fold to the space. When I have a limited amount of shelf space due to shallow shelving or due to part of the ceiling slanting inward which then minimizes my shelf space, then I fold the items for that shelf so that they're sure to fit. The bottom towels may be folded in a longer shape, but because of the sloped ceiling the upper towels need to be folded so that they're 8-inches shorter so that the whole pile sits on the shelf without falling down. Anything can be folded to fit the space and therefore look orderly (if the space is not over-cluttered). Sometimes this is a square fold that's taller because the shelf is shallow; sometimes it's a longer rectangle fold because the shelf is deep, which can allows the item to be seen from the front but keeps the pile short. I apply this to bed and bath linens, or the clothes in my closet or in my dresser.
~ Spacious-looking rooms. Open wall space without too much stuff hanging on it says, "Spacious and uncluttered" to a person's eye. Too much clutter, wall hangings, picture frames, silk flower arrangements, souvenirs, etc. greatly and quickly shrinks a space in both appearance and feel. So hang I hang the few favorites, making sure that there's lots of open space around them on the rest of the wall.
~ Oddly ordered. Picture frames and other things hung on walls are supposed to be arranged in odd-numbered groups, such as 1, 3, or 9 items in a single space. This was an interior decorating tip my mom passed on to me. It's the rule of thirds, and not at eye level but slightly over or under.
~ Lighting opens up. Recessed lighting in a home greatly opens up the space of a room. We've tried to fill all of the space in our home with light; no shadows or dark corners. When we bought our home my husband removed the two little light bulbs from the family room and installed 8 recessed lighting fixtures in stead - it transformed the room! And my husband added a dimmer switch which allows us to control mood (bright, daytime work and play, vs. dimmer and quieter in the evening or during nap time), and the cost of electricity by minimizing the output of electricity.
We also took down the kitchen/dining room chandelier and put 3 smaller recessed lighting fixtures in it's place which really opened up our tiny dining room area. Over time we put lighting in the other the main living areas: the kitchen, hallway, and play/computer room. The fixtures are only about $20 each for the can and the trim, so we just saved some money and bought a couple or a few as we could afford them and did one area at a time. We also use "daylight bulbs", which produce not a yellowish light which is darker, but a white-white, bluish light which actually brings out furnishings natural colors and really brightens up the house.
~ King on a queen. We currently have a king-size bed, but for the first several years we were married we had a queen-size bed. I found that when my husband and I were both in bed we were only barely covered by the comforter because we lifted it up so high, which was not so cozy and warm. So when our comforter needed to be replaced (because we had let the children climb all over the quilt which broke all of the stitching and it fell apart - no longer) I put a king-size comforter on our queen-size bed, and both my husband and I were much more covered and cozy! Also the comforter hung down around the bed a little further which made the bed linens more plentiful and full looking.
~ Match sticks for sewing. When sewing a button on to an article of clothing, if you slip a wooden match stick between the fabric and the button it will keep the space there that's necessary leaving room for fabric when the item is button closed; preventing it from being so tight that it then comes unbuttoned easily.
~ Fray Check or Fray Block. If you buy clear liquid Fray Check/Block at the sewing store it's useful for many things! I use it to finish the ends of a ribbon I've cut for the girls' hair so it doesn't unravel but stays clean cut looking. I use it on clothing items that are unraveling or have a tiny hole I'd like to stop (not so much for a solid-color item as Fray Check darkens the are a tiny bit like clear nail polish would, but for patterns it's great). If I notice buttons are coming unsewn from a shirt or dress then to stop the unraveling and prevent the rest of the buttons from also coming unsewn I just put a drop of Fray Check on the thread of each button and they're good to go, will not come unraveled. It dries clear and is flexible (not scratchy or noticeable on fabric) and doesn't peal off.
~ Reusable bags & containers. I use the clear, zipper-closure bags that some items are packaged in, such as new bed linens, to contain some of the children's toy pieces that should stay in sets. Also larger clear plastic food containers with screw-on lids, such as the ones that Costco's Jelly Bellies or peanuts come in. These both work beautifully at enabling children to see what activity is inside each bag or container, as we've found that children only play with the toys that they can see, but we of course don't want the toys every where in order to be seen and used. And, these storage containers are "free"! (Well, once we purchase the Jelly Bellies.)
So! Let's bring on the mom tips for around the house from you! I'm sure my ideas spurred some of your own tips you could share!
Blessings on your efforts,