Décor Books to Die For

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I wasn’t always that interested in decorating- sure, I liked nice things, but I guess I felt that decorating was reserved for those who had lots of spare time and money.

Then for whatever reason, I ended up with a copy of Shabby Chic by Rachel Ashwell. Everything felt so dreamy and ethereal and almost accessible (minus the incredible house) for someone like me with limited resources. I was totally hooked- frayed linens, frills and all.

Although my tastes have become a little varied over the years, I still try and hunt down her stuff every time I go into a used bookstore. Copies of her older books have become harder to find, so I was pleased when she came out with The World of Shabby Chic; I was starting to get hungry for more. What can I say? Old habits die hard.

It wasn’t until I started reading D.I.Y. blogs that I became more interested in what my own home looked like. I loved Jon and Sherry Petersik’s blog Young House Love and their subsequent book of the same name. I was so in love that I dragged my sister to the book signing when they came to Toronto and you better believe we fan-girled so hard. (I’ve already used up my fifteen minutes of fame posing for a photo with Sherry that ended up on their on blog.)

It was from their blog and other similar blogs of the time that I discovered (too late) the wonderful magazine that is Domino. Thankfully, it had since relaunched but until then I had Domino: The Book of Decorating to tide me over. Not only does it showcase some fabulous designs across a variety of styles, it’s also a great primer for those starting out on their decorating adventure. (There’s also a companion book here.)

Books are such a big part of my life that it’s hard to imagine not living with them. I think it was the type of audience author Alan Powers had in mind when writing, researching and photographing Living with Books. If you’re a bookworm too then you’ll find its gorgeous images of unconventional collections and libraries from around the world almost painful to look at. It’s probably one of my favorite books I own, period.

There are so many more decor books that I’d love to collect and peruse but limited funds and space limit my collection to only a few. While I’d love to draw inspiration from even more of the creative resources and guides out there, it’s kind of nice to restrict your purchases to the things you love so much you’ll revisit them again and again. Hopefully they can serve as a starting point for your own ideas on how to cultivate a home that is unique to you and your style.

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I love to read and I love sharing my favorite books with you. (For more reading inspiration click here or here.) Don’t forget to friend me on Goodreads either! Btw: These lists are totally my own creation and I was not paid or perked to share my opinions with you by any author or publishing company.

If you’ve been bitten by the decorating bug, I may have something for that bite: click here for a quick tutorial on choosing the right paint color, here for the most productive ways to organize an office, and here for other projects and tips on keeping your home happy and organized.

Reclaim Your Home From the Holidays!

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Cleaning up after the holidays is the worst. Not only is cleaning kind of a chore (har har), but you’re also coming down from that holiday high and finding yourself staring down at the long, dark tunnel of the winter months with absolutely nothing to look forward to until the spring.

I’m kind of a buzz-kill, aren’t I?

The Swedes have it down pat, though, when it comes to holiday clean-up: a whole other holiday known as Julgransplungering, or literally “the plundering of the Christmas tree”. It’s kind of a holiday unto itself that usually occurs the twentieth or so day after Christmas. There’s food, and singing, and one last dance around the tree (yup, just like a maypole) to mark the end of the holiday. I always regarded it as the “final hurrah” of the Christmas season before it’s back to the reality of winter.

If it’s something you’re into, I highly recommend conducting your own modern adaptation. Mine usually involves a glass of wine and one last listen of all my Christmas playlists as I take down all of my decorations. It’s not quite like dancing around a tree, although I may or may not do a happy dance after my apartment is looking clean and back to normal.

The time of year is another great opportunity to review your greeting card list (Don’t have one? Want one? Click here to learn more on how to assemble your own) and make note of any changes in address, or personal information. I always try to update my list to include anyone who’s given me a card during the past season. Hopefully there are no deletions on your list!

I’ve got a Christmas budget, too (read all about that here), so after the holidays I go through my receipts and make notes on how much I spent, saved, and of course, what I ended up buying. Sometimes I’ll come up with new ideas for gifts after the exchange has occurred so I’ll note those too, along with my purchasing information like sizes, color preferences, etc. It sounds like a pain but it really helps me with my shopping the next time the holidays roll around!

Every season I find that my decorations and other holiday fare grows exponentially in comparison to the amount of storage I have allotted for these items. Taking the time to put everything neatly away allows me to discard any unwanted items, and gives me a chance to make notes about repairs. (I chat a little more about storing holiday décor here.)

Dealing with the aftermath of the holiday season is not necessarily a party. (Although the Swedes have made it so.) But the act of cleaning up and organizing everything afterwards has become almost a ritual of closure for me. It’s a way of embracing the calm and restoring order after a busy and often anxiety-inducing time. I also find it clears the air and gives me a sense of renewal and purpose for the year ahead.

The final act of the Christmas tree plundering when I was younger involved a procession with the tree out of the door and to the yard, where we’d toss it onto the ground in a grand finale. Although I never actually threw the tree itself I found the whole thing kind of satisfying. There’s no tree-throwing in my version now as an adult, but there’s still something to be said for engaging in the ritual- it leaves you with that same sense of completion.

KBwB-BFlower-50I’m so happy to have spent another holiday season with you and excited to start a brand new year on the blog. What are some of your end-of-holiday rituals? Have you ever plundered a Christmas tree? (Have you ever plundered anything?) Tell me all about it below or email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

I love talking about the holidays so if you’re still feeling that holiday fever, you can read more about the most wonderful time of the year here. Interested in cleaning up and getting over with? I write lots about organizing your household and your life here and here.

Porch 4.0

One of the biggest draws of renting this apartment is the outdoor patio space located directly outside my window facing the back parking lot of the building. It may not be the prettiest view, but having a small outdoor space all to my self makes my rental feel bigger in the warmer months, almost as if the patio acts like an extra room to eat or simply chill.

I’ve had the chance to dip my toes into gardening before and really enjoyed it (maybe even almost as much as baking, although I wouldn’t go that far!). So when I moved here four summers ago I decided not to let the jungle of concrete deter me from having an enjoyable outdoor space. Over the years, my patio has slowly evolved growing into a makeshift garden space that’s perfect for sipping my morning coffee and getting lost in a book.

I started out pretty low-key when I first moved in the spring of 2013. I’m guessing my priorities veered more towards buying furniture than starting a garden from scratch. My dad very kindly bought me the hanging baskets as a housewarming gift.

KBB_porch_2013The next year I was craving a little bit more privacy, so with a few extra dollars in my budget I decided to add a few more decorative items and plants to make my porch feel like it was just an extension of my apartment. So in 2014 it looked a little something like this:

KBB_porch_2014_1With my dog, Gemma, keeping watch outside my evenings when the light was still out often looked a little something like this:

KBB_porch_2014_2I still miss all of those chalk hearts that I drew all over the concrete ground. At the time I was think it was meant to be symbolic of a safe, loving space but looking back on them now, they were still tons of fun. Unfortunately I discovered that chalk art and dogs don’t really mix. I’d often come back inside to find Gemma covered in rainbow stripes.

Despite the addition of my herb garden, I still hadn’t quite satisfied my green thumb. Some new garden-crazy neighbors moved in upstairs in 2015 and the clippings from their plants transformed my porch into a green oasis. (The new green deck chairs helped.)

KBB_porch_2015Friends and neighbors started dropping off unwanted plants, or plants that needed rescuing and I was more than happy to welcome them into my brood. Unfortunately, a lot of these family members were only seasonal so I find myself back at square one for this upcoming spring.

The nights are still chilly and some mornings I wake to find frost still lingering on the ground, but I’ve already started scheming and dreaming. (Here’s how I do some of my garden research here.) Seeds are starting to sprout in their containers lounging on my windowsill. Already, I’m squirreling away extra cash to fund some of the projects I have planned. This year I’m hoping to find a balance between greenery and recreational space so I can make the most of my porch while I’m able.

When the beautiful weather hits, I know I’m going to be more than ready.

KBwB-BFlower-50I’d love to hear more about your upcoming plans for spring and your outdoor spaces, or maybe you have a suggestion for mine! Comment below or drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

If you want to see a little bit more about how I’ve organized my own personal spaces you can check out how I styled my bookshelf here, the story of how I purged everything in my apartment here, how I organized my closet here and some of the things I just can’t figure out how to organize here.