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Journey to an Apartment Upgrade

There is much to consider when deciding to move from one place to another. Many factors drive the decision making. Family needs, location, cost, location, availability, location, the list goes on. Our journey from a one bedroom to a two bedroom unit has been an arduous process. I'll walk you through our journey and reveal the destination of our big move.

Things to Consider
Family Needs
When we first moved into our current apartment, our son was only a few months past his first birthday. He was mobile, but not independent. He was still nursing. Still a baby. Because of that, we felt okay getting a one bedroom and squeezing his crib in next to our bed for the little guy. Fast forward two years and that little guy is not so little anymore. He's a running, jumping, climbing, independent boy who can reach higher with each passing week. Our needs were changing to say the least.

Location, location, location
What comes next for our growing family? We toyed around with finding a single family home to rent, but everything was out of our price range. We considered renting an apartment closer to our church and my side of the family, but everything was out of our price range. We searched for communities comparable to the one we are in now just in a different county, but everything was out of our price range.

Not only were many places out of our current price range, but they didn't have the community and ammenities that we are already getting. Nothing was comparable. Because of that {and the sweet deal we snagged to upgrade}, we were happy to stay in our current community and upgrade to a bigger unit.

Floorplan Schmoreplan
We live in a gated community of apartment, villa and townhome units. Floorplans from 1 up to 3 bedroom units, some with a loft, den or both. One story units and two story units. From the moment we started looking at units in this community, we "knew" what we wanted. It was the one for us, it was our unit. The one story, two bedroom floorplan with a large private courtyard and two car garage.

For the most part, this floorplan suited our needs.
Two bedrooms.
Large courtyard for Mateo to play in.
Large walk in closet for us.
Office nook.
Bigger coat closet.
Bigger pantry.
Bigger garage.
Bigger everything.

Here are the things I felt were not meeting our needs.
Nook would be too small to use as a playroom.
The laundry closet was in the kitchen.
Guests would share our son's bathroom.

Although this was the unit we kept hoping and praying for, it was not meant to be. In the end, it wasn't about the money, but about the availability. There was nothing available in our timeframe. Bummer.

We felt stuck. We felt like we would have to settle for less than ideal. For a perfectionist like me, that's a hard pill to swallow, especially since I'm going to be the one living and working in that space 24/7. So we conceded to find the next most suitable floorplan for us.

What I haven't told you yet is there is a major wrench in the timing of this whole move. We had planned an out of state vacation the very week our lease would end. Great planning, right? More on that in another post to come.

Counting the Cost
So we knew we weren't getting "our" unit, but we needed to get a bigger unit regardless. The only relief we did get from having to find a different floorplan is the increase in rent. It was going to be quite a jump for us to live in the one story unit. Being the optimist that I am, I knew it would all be okay. God had a plan for us and was taking us on this journey for a reason.

Light at the End of the Tunnel
One random day when the hubbub was working a night shift, we decided to visit the leasing office just to see what was available in our time frame. Because we were traveling out of state, we needed to be in our new place before the trip. It wasn't until that very day that I took notice of a floorplan that had previously gone under my radar. A two story two bedroom unit with a loft, and two car garage. Why hadn't I noticed this before? Probably because there was no courtyard, which I felt was a must have.

We asked about it, and it turns out that there is a unit available in our timeframe for that very floorplan in an area of the community that is very desirable to us. So we take a look at a vacant unit with that floorplan. It was great! Dual master suites! Laundry room upstairs {not a closet in the kitchen}, a loft, a powder room and so much more that we didn't even know we wanted! The unit had us at hello. We held the unit that morning and haven't looked back since.

This, my friends, is our future home. It will be the home that we call home until we can save enough to buy our own home. It's time for the reveal!
This space is the light that God had in mind for us all along. It meets our needs much better than the other floorplan did and creates loads of new opportunity for me to work in this space. I love it when God proves me wrong.

I have many grand plans swirling around my head for this space to share with all of you! I cannot wait to get started! I'll give you a sneak peek at my plans in a later post.
I love it when a plan comes together. In this case, it was not my plan, but I'm glad that I was open to change. Now I can't wait to embrace the space that was set out for us the whole time. We are moving folks! It's not a far move by any means {one block over}, but it's a significant move for our family as our son transitions into his own room, and I get to unwrap a load of new gifts for you! Gift and gift!

Which do you think is harder, the physical process of moving or the mental process of finding a new space? Anyone else moving and find a place that was even better than what they had set out looking for? Tell me about it in the comments.
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How to Create a Blog Grab Button

Here today with a quickie blog tip! Bloggers love to share. Share their gifts, posts, and blog buttons. Blog buttons are a blog's badge, logo, call it what you want, it's a way to identifying a blog's brand. One way to spread the joy of your blog is to create a blog button for other bloggers to share on their sites.

Create It
I use a grab button generator to make my blog button functional. In order to fully take advantage of the grab button generator, there are a few simple steps to follow first:
  • Create your blog button. I would recommend PicMonkey since has great quality images, high resolution sizes, easy user interface, and {my all time favorite} it's freeee! 
  • Upload your image to a host site like Photobucket. Photobucket is also free and makes it simple to copy and paste your image's URL.
After those two easy steps, you're ready to plug away and bask in your bloggy ingenuity. So get to it bloggers, spread your bloggy love with a little blog button grabber.

Generate It
I'm not an HTML expert, but I don't have to be with this grab button generator that I found to flaunt by buttons! I just plug in my blog's info and voila, the generator creates my code and all I do is copy and paste the joy in my sidebar. My blog buttons live in my multi-tab widget in the Welcome section of my sidebar.
Gifts We Use

On another note, I found a great resource for standard web banner sizes that will give you a great guideline for how big or small to make your buttons and other graphics for your blog. Gift! You're welcome!
Another little nugget of bloggy learning from yours truly. Being able to spread the word and the joy that is your blog will not only get some new eyes to your blog, but it's a great way to begin thinking outside of your blog and make it PR friendly.

Have you been looking for a blog button generator to ease your HTML woes? Maybe this post has inspired you to dive into being a DIY blogger and get creative with your own branding touch. Let's hear about it in the comments!
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Next in the series, What It's LIke to be Critiqued >>>

This post is part of the Learn As I Blog series

Cool Techy Accessories

In case you don't know, I'm a fan of all things techy. I also like to prettify even the hottest gadget on the market to suit my unique taste. Today I will share some cool techy accessories to make your cool gadget look even cooler! Yes, it's a geeky tech parade and I'm proud of it! I'll start small and work my way up the gadgety growth chart. Enjoy the parade!

Awesomize Your iPod Nano
As if a teeny tiny touch screen device wasn't cool enough, the iWatchz Timepiece Leather Watchband for iPod nano (6th Gen.) makes it even cooler. This gem is found at the Apple Store online. Now you can discreetly tote your iPod around and use it as a watch as well. Oooh...aaaah!
Charge Up Your iPod Touch
This next accessory is not only cool, but energy efficient to boot! Pottery Barn Teen's Solar-Powered Battery Pack packs a punch when in a pinch to get the newest app or tune while on the go. Just face it to the sun and charge your iPod touch while having lunch outside.
Impress with Your iPhone 4/4S
When you're really on the go and short on pockets, this next accessory works great. Pinned from the Apple Store, this Michael Kors Wallet Clutch for iPhone comes with a compartment for ID, money or credit cards. Talk about on the go! Now if only it had a compartment for my keys.
Punch Up Your iPad
I'm a little bias when it comes to this next accessory because I purchased this skin for my own iPad and have loved it since I got it! Gelaskins makes tons of fabulous skins for your device at reasonable prices. The skin is also super simple to apply. I did it myself on the first try and that is a feet in and of itself! The best part about the skins from Gelaskins is that it even comes with a matching wallpaper for your homescreen. Have a look.
Livening Up Your Laptop
This is one of my favorite ways to up the ante on a device. It's as simple tape, cut and stick, but it makes a fantastic impact on that cold hard keyboard. From the super cool Kira at Her New Leaf, take a look at her washi tape keyboard and read her post to learn the sweet details!
This was a fun post to write as it combines my love for techy things with my innate accessorizing fetish. Being techy doesn't mean you have to blend in with the crowd. Showing off your unique style by accessorizing your favorite device is a great way to regift yourself every once in a while. In most cases, it also helps to take good care of the device so it lasts longer.

You can find these and more of my finds on my Techy Fab board on Pinterest! Follow me on Pinterest to see what else I pin and check out my Pinterest Peek tab in the Welcome section of my side bar.

Do you have a favorite techy accessory? How do you take your device from drab to fab? Do tell!

***Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way by any company/brand mentioned in this post. These are all just products I happen to come across in my pinning and wanted to share with you.

Obstacles of Staying Organized

As much as I am about being organized, I'm also about  being real and needing accountability. Having said that, I have a confession to make. My house isn't all organized. It gets worse. Some of the areas that should be organized haven't always stayed organized. I know. But I'm not here just to make shame of myself, but to point out some obstacles of staying organized and ways we can get around them.
Obstacles of Staying Organized
Circumstances can get in the way of maintaining even the finest organized space in our home. A busy schedule, kids, vacation, fill in the blank. All of these can get in the way of long term oganization.

Bad habits are another obstacle and probably my biggest one at that. I'm really good at creating and developing organizational systems and spaces, but because I have bad habits like procrastinating to clean up right away, and allowing laziness and distraction to steer me away from finishing my tasks, things can pile up just as fast as I am able to put them in their place.

Difference of organizational opinions is another obstacle for staying organized. If you live with others who don't share your same zeal for organizing or have their own way organizing that is different than yours, it can be difficult to find a system that works for everyone.

There are probably many more obstacles that stand in the way of keeping organized, but I'll tackle just these top three for now. Let's put these obstacles behind us and work through ways to overcome them.

How to overcome obstacles
Overcoming circumstances can be hard because, often times, we have little to no control over them. My recommendation for overcoming circumstances is to leave room in life for margin. That's right, margin. By consciously under scheduling ourselves, if a need arises, there is room to squeeze necessary slots of time in for family, friends or others that need us.

We all come with bad habits and what I have found to be a good remedy for curing bad habits is self discovery and recovery. Once you can identify which of your bad habits are holding you back from staying organized, then you can find simple solutions to maneuver around them.

Take myself, for example, I have a bad habit of not putting things away after I've planned them out brilliantly. I know this because of the row of bags that sit on my floor after the many fun things our family has done in the last month. My son's overnight bag, my VBS bag, our beach bag, and my son's backpack o fun {for the car} are among the mess that wait for me to close out each of our family's activities.
This mess has been there for weeks and is hardly blog worthy for a productivity blog like mine. Or is it blog worthy after all? This mess tells me that I need to do a better job of setting aside time for clean up and put things away once we get home. That also means that I need to do a better job of keeping my boy busy while I clean up after myself. By doing those simple things, I will not only help to keep my house organized after a day o fun, but it will also set a good example for my son to follow. A gift that keeps on giving.

Is there a way to overcome a difference of opinion when it comes to organization? I believe there is. As a stay at home mom, I tend to hold all things homey near and dear to my heart and can become territorial; however, I forget that I share this home with others and need to do some consulting before I arbitrarily make major changes in the house. Coming together can be the best thing you can do overcome a difference of opinions. Take into account the concerns of the other people who use the space and find a solution that will meet everyone's needs.
I am of no help to anyone if I am not honest. If you thought that my house is left spotless 24/7, here is the proof that it does not. I struggle to keep my house clean like so many others. Sometimes I choose to leave a mess and play or sit with my son and hubby. But there is a difference between choosing family over cleaning and just blatant neglect. I want you to know that I am human and that you {my friends} are my accountability. As much as I strive to encourage and inspire you, I look to you to do the same for me.

Do you have a mess that's been waiting for you for days? weeks? more? Confess it the comments. I promise you won't be judged here!
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Techy Tuesday: Pinterest for iPad is Here!

If you're like me and have a thing for Pinterest, then you may have heard that they finally brought the pinning goodness to the big screen of iPad recently! I was super excited to try it out this weekend and am happy to share my discovery with all of you. Let's have a look at the wonderful Pinterest for iPad app.
Full Screen Pinning
At first glance, browsing pins in the app looks very similar to browsing in a mobile tablet browser, but the deeper you dig into the app the better it gets. One new feature from the app is a nice new menu panel that you can tap or swipe in and out of your screen. I love the category icons that have been added too.

Big Screen Pin
When you find something you want to pin, there's a great big full screen preview of the pin. The large preview is perfect for viewing those long infographics that you just can't fully appreciate on a smart phone app.
And once you tap repin, the user interface uses the large screen of the iPad very nicely. When selecting a board, your existing boards slide in and out from behind the pin with great ease.

In App Browsing
Say you want to read a post before you pin it. Now you can use the in app browser and go straight to the pinning source. If you look at the top right corner, you can see your "pages" laid on top of one another. Nice. There's also a built in Pin It Button for extra pinning functionality. Really nice! When you're done browsing, just tap X to close of swipe it away to reveal the previous page where you left off. Sooo niiice!

Sharing a Pin
Now sharing a pin is also better with more options to share on your social media outlets or via email. This app is quickly becoming my new favorite place to pin, hands down.
Now that Pinterest has opened up its doors to all and removed the invite only restriction, pinning is available to all. With the addition of the iPad app, it makes for a much more visual pleasing pinning experience overall. From browsing to exploring sites to sharing, it all looks and works better on the iPad. If you've held off on updating the app for iPad, now is the time to dive in and be amazed. For pinners like me, it was a long time coming, but well worth the wait.

Are you on Pinterest? Come check out my boards and let's get pinning together! Follow me on Pinterest!

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Announcement: Guest Post for Gifts We Use!

As I continue this awesome bloggy journey, I am learning more and more that blogging is about more than just me and my thoughts. I don't just blog for me, but I blog to inspire and encourage you to make positive change in your life by sharing my adventures in organizing, technology and blogging. With that, I have an exciting new feature that I will be implementing soon, that's YOU!
 Gifts YOU Use
I want to know about the gifts you use to grow, love and serve your loved ones! Is there an organization project you just completed that has made your home run more smoothly? Maybe there's an app you discovered that you cannot live without! Let us know how blogging has impacted your life for the better! I want to hear all about it and give you a real chance to gift it forward, right here!

How to share YOUR gifts
If you are feeling lead to gift it forward, then I want to hear from you! Go to my contact page and scroll down past the contact form to complete the Guest Post Submission form. Look for the snazzy intro below.
Guest posts may be up to 500 words in length and must include at least one image. In addition to your guest post, there is a spot to share your bio with all of us, so we can show our support of your gifts too.

You are the key to We
Thus far, Gifts We Use has been about the gifts that I use, but you are the key to Gifts WE Use! The best part about guest posting here is that you don't have to be a blogger in order to gift it forward! Although being a blogger helps, you don't have to be a blogger in order to share your gifts. As long as you have enough information to complete the form, you can be considered for a guest post. Who knows, maybe the blogging bug will bite after you gift it forward! {wink}

I hope that you are as excited about this new feature as I am! I cannot wait to hear about all the gifts you use to grow, love and serve your loved ones! I know I'm using a lot of exclamation marks, but I can't help it! This is so exciting for the blogger in me! I get to open up my bloggy home to you because you really are the key to Gifts WE Use.

Do you have a gift to share with me? Is this opportunity as exciting for you as it is for me? Celebrate with me in the comments!

Home Inventory & File

In my previous post about my Moving Planner, I mentioned that I use a home inventory file to keep track of all the items in my house and use it for packing and moving. I'm here today to gift you with my home inventory file and show you just how I use it for packing. Keeping an inventory of everything you have and intend to move ensures an organized packing and moving process and I'll show you just how you can benefit from this kind of organization and planning.
Taking Inventory
The first step in preparing to pack for a move is to take stock of what you have. This process can also help you to sort out the items you no longer use and donate items you do not want to take to your new place. Here's a look at a piece of my home inventory.
It may seem like a daunting task, but believe me when I tell you that once you get started, it is actually quite easy and will go by quickly. In the file I have also included easy to follow instructions so you can get started right away.
Filling out the Inventory
Tabs on the bottom help you to distinguish different worksheets provided for you. The tabs I've included are Instructions, Home Inventory and a copy you can rename to get you started. I recommend keeping the Home Inventory tab clean and in tact serving as your template. Start by renaming the Rename tab with the current month and year and work with that tab going forward. Now just fill 'er up!

Using the File for Packing
Once your inventory has been completed, putting it to work will be a breeze with a little bit of prep work. The goal of this is to use the data you just entered to make a packing list for each box. The prep needed in order to help with a move involves the following: sort, filter and print a list of each boxes contents.

By printing out the inventory, you can get a tangible sense of the supplies needed for packing and enable others to help.  These inventory-turned-packing-lists will be super useful if you have others helping to pack. The benefit to you is that the workload can be shared with older kids.

The home inventory is an excel file compatible with Microsoft 2007 and above. You will need to have a basic understanding of excel functionality in order to make this file work for you, but I will give some basic instructions for those who are not familiar with spreadsheet files.

The first thing to do to prep your inventory for use is to put order to your data. Sorting is the first step of this process.

Sort your data in alphabetical order by room. Select the first cell in the room column, find the sort button and sort all your data by room.

Tip: Before sorting, make sure that there aren't any empty cells. Even if it means putting a hyphen in the cell, do not leave any gaps in your data.

  Next is to filter your data. To do this, enable the filter function before starting. In Excel 2007, the filter button is located in the same menu as sort {see image above}.

The filter icon looks like a funnel with an equal sign. When you have enabled the filter, you will notice a drop down arrow next to each column label. Click it to filter data.

Clicking on the drop down filter arrow will bring up each entry you have entered in that column. In the image to the left, I have filtered the room column. Go through each room and print a category or two to pack into each moving box. The file you get here, should already have the filter enabled.

Tip: Make sure your data is consistent and concise. Only one to two words are needed for each data entry. Keep it short and sweet.

Sorting and filtering will get your list widdled down to packable chunks, now just print! Customize your print by updating the header with your name. I have set all the parameters for you, all you have to do is insert your name by updating the header in the print preview screen using the page setup wizard.

To update the header:
- Click Print Preview
- Click Page Setup
- Go to Header/Footer tab
- Click Custom Header
- Replace {Your Family Name Here}
- Click OK
- Print

Here is what your list will look like once it has been sorted, filtered and customized.
Don't let the short list deceive you, because the items on here could be any size. If you like, you can choose to put several categories together to fit more into a box {like cooking and food prep items}, but be careful not to overfill your boxes, making them too heavy.

Tip: Print two copies of each list. One to pack and one to keep as a set, serving as a Master list.
A Gift for You
Now is your chance to put it to work! It's wise to keep an inventory for insurance purposes anyway, but to be able to put it all to work when moving is a win win. The file is ready for you to fill in and go. I've done all the formatting and page setup for you. Get your inventory on and pack away.
Having trouble with the images? Download your gift here!
As with many other organization projects, organizing a move by utilizing a home inventory file requires an analysis of what you have, a strategy for accomplishing your goals, a plan of attack and the proper tools to execute with success. It is a formula that can be applied to any organization project and I hope that the gift of a home inventory file serves you well for whatever you decide to use it for {personal, insurance or moving}.

Have you tried to use an inventory list to pack for a move? Does this seem simple enough for you to do? I have confidence that you can do it! Share your thoughts in the comments.

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