I've always wished I were more creative. I have this intellectual understanding of creativity, and if there were a formula for it - I’d be all over it! I took piano lessons from the ages of 6 to 17. I got pretty good - played at church, accompanied the school choir, won a couple of awards, played for a few weddings, and even taught lessons. I never felt like a true musician, though. I understand the mechanics and the mathematics of music, I appreciate the beauty, and enjoy playing. But what I can’t do is play by ear or improvise -- and man, do I wish I could! I like to create, but it’s a task for me, not something that just comes naturally.
If this rings true for you, too, don’t despair! Regardless of your level of creativity or craftiness, it’s still fun to create something yourself, even if it isn’t a concerto or a Pinterest-worthy craft. It’s also rewarding to create something that adds value to your life by providing beauty or, even better, order! I like to think of a problem I have keeping things in order and then brainstorm ways to solve that problem. If solutions include something that someone else has already made, and it’s affordable, honestly, I’d just buy it. There have been a few problems I’ve encountered, though, that I couldn’t find a solution for anywhere. So I thought through what the ideal scenario would be and then planned out how I could put items together to solve that problem.
Here are two crafty solutions I’ve used to get my life and home in order:
Problem: My family used way too many cups every day! No one knew where they’d left their cup, and if they happened to find it, they weren’t so sure it was really theirs. This resulted in getting out new ones over and over until there were cups all over the place. This caused clutter, lots of dishes, and just plain annoyed me.
Solution: A place for each family member to park their cup for the entire day that was marked with their name so they always knew where their drink was.
Process: I’d seen projects for this sort of thing online years earlier, but when I searched for something to buy, I didn’t have any luck. I started by putting sticky notes with each family member’s name on the counter and placing the glasses behind them. It sort of helped, but the notes got all wet with the sweat off the glasses, and they weren’t all that cute either.
I considered trying to craft some sort of rectangular tray contraption out of wood, but thought better of it. I searched for a plastic tray of the right size, but just couldn’t find what I wanted. So instead, I happened to see a 4 pack of rope coasters one day when I was at the store. I used a fabric marker to write a name on each coaster. Then I used sticky tac to adhere each coaster to the end of the kitchen island counter. We still have the occasional rogue glass, but it’s such an improvement! I think it works because it’s simple and straightforward. My husband doesn’t mind it because it doesn’t take up a lot of room and isn’t too decorative or “foofy,” and my kids can handle it because there’s a clear expectation of where to put their cup.
Be Present Box
Problem: I was struggling with the boundary definition of order. My job requires me to be available 24/7, so I have an iPhone that I check my email on constantly. It was becoming an addiction. I have a one hour commute each way, so I’d clear my inbox of unread messages before leaving work and when I walked in the door at home, before I’d even say hi and hug my family (or sometimes even in the garage before walking in the door) I’d check email again to make sure nothing monumental had occurred in the previous 60 minutes. Then, throughout the evening, I’d check email - deleting and flagging them to do it in a productive manner, of course. When I heard my son tell me it was my turn in UNO because I was mesmerized by a screen instead of paying attention to him - well, let’s say, I did NOT feel like a stellar mom. I realized it didn’t matter how many hands of UNO I played or how many minutes I spent outside while my kids jumped on the trampoline, it mattered that I was actually present for these experiences.
Solution: I typed a note in my Reminders app on my iPhone: IDEA - Make something to put my phone in that says, “be present.” It sat in the list of reminders for weeks, but finally on a trip to the store, I picked up the needed supplies to make this idea a reality.
Process: I purchased a paper mache oval box that my iPhone 6 would fit in and a package of lowercase small wooden letters. I had some scrapbook paper and paint at home and made my own version of modge podge.
I explained to my then-5 year old that he was going to help me make a box to put my phone in after work so I would spend more with him and his brother. He chose the scrapbook paper and helped me trace and cut it for the outside of the box and the top and edges of the lid. He helped me mix the ½ cup Elmer’s glue and ¼ cup water that we used to adhere the paper to the box. Then we painted over the paper with more of the glue concoction. He chose the color and helped paint the letters of the words “be present.” It was special to me to do this craft with my son knowing that it was intended to make a difference that he could see.
Now this box sits on my counter (next to my coasters) and after work, or at any time I’m home with the kids when they are counting on me being present, I put my phone in the box and put the lid on. On the first night I tried this, my mom called and had to leave a voicemail because I didn’t hear it. I got nervous that I might miss something that was really important, so I decided to get a bluetooth speaker to pair with it so I could hear texts or calls. (When I got my FitBit Charge 2, I set notifications so I felt a vibration on my wrist instead.) I’ve already turned off all notifications for email and social media so those will not make any noise to distract me. Just having the phone out of reach so I don’t unconsciously pick it up to check my email or scroll through Facebook has made a major difference in my evenings with my children.
Recently, I heard my oldest son explaining what the box was to say to his friend who was visiting, “This is the box my mom puts her phone in when she gets home so she pays more attention to us.” It’s sad I had to make a box to accomplish this, but the end result is what matters to me.
Do you have any other crafty ideas that keep your life or house in order? Share them with us in the comments!
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!