Category: DIY

A real mom’s guide to making birthday cakes for your kids – Part 2!

(This post contains affiliate links that may provide a small commission to me at zero extra cost to you. Click to see my full disclosure here.)

 

Happy Wednesday everyone! I’m here talking about cakes again and I’m excited because this is the fun part. If you missed last week, I posted about how to bake birthday cakes and this week it’s all about easy ways to decorate them! You absolutely have to have solid, flat, delicious (obviously!) cake layers if you want to decorate a cake yourself so go back and read all those tips in Part 1 before you bake your cake.

Just as a side note, all my decorating tips are to be used with frosting. I’m not a fondant girl and I don’t think I’ll ever be one. 😉 Fondant doesn’t taste good and personally, I’m making my cakes so that they look cute but also so they taste delicious! Just taste the very best homemade frosting that I’ve been using for years (recipe down below in step 2) and I think you’ll see why.

I love to search Pinterest for cake inspiration. It is such a great idea resource! I find a few inspiration pins and then always put my own spin on an idea! You can check out my cake board here.

Decorating seems to be the scary part for everyone – I know it was for me when I started making my kids cakes. I promise though, these easy tips are all you need to make an amazing cake PLUS I’m going to share the very best homemade frosting recipe that I’ve been using for years.

Things you need:

Cake board (if your cake isn’t already on one)  (Half sheet cake size, 8 and 9 inch round or 10 inch round)

Decorating Tips – see my favorites down in step 5

Decorating Bags

Gel Food coloring

Lots of my favorite homemade frosting – see step 2

Any decorating elements you choose (small toys, candles, etc.)

Angled Frosting knife

White piping bag couplers (totally optional – I use them when I need two different tips for the same frosting color – see step 5)

Rotating decorating turn table (also optional but makes turning cakes to decorate the sides a lot easier)

 

Step 1: Trim and/or carve your cake layers

If you followed all the steps in Part 1 for baking a flat (not raised in the center) cake then you really shouldn’t need to do much trimming off the top if at all. You do want your cake layers to be as flat as possible so if you see any raised areas, just easily trim them off with a serrated knife.

 

I love using cake shape as an easy part of my design. You can do this by carving the cake or using different size cakes to form a shape. I made this Paw Patrol cake by using a double layered 9 inch round cake and four cupcakes to form a paw.

 

I made these “2” cakes for my twins by carving 8 inch round cakes and an 8 x 8 square cake with the below tutorial from Cakebaker that I found on Pinterest for easy ways to make number cakes!

Whenever you carve a cake, I prefer to do the carving with a serrated knife on a separate cutting board and then move my carved pieces to my cake board. Doing it that way prevents tiny pieces of cake from getting stuck all over your board. (TIP: I put a tiny bit of frosting on the cake board where I am going to lay my cake so that it doesn’t slide around when the board is moved!)

 

Step 2: Mix up your frosting and color it!

I’ve made a lot of frosting when I’ve been baking but this recipe I’m going to share is my very favorite. I’ve been asked for this recipe a bunch of times when I bring my cakes places because it’s really amazing.

Wilton Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup softened butter

1 tsp vanilla

4 cups of powdered sugar

2-4 tablespoons of milk (I usually use the full 4 to make sure that the icing is not too thick to spread)

Cream butter and shortening together with a stand mixer or hand mixer. Mix in the vanilla. Add the powdered sugar, mixing between each cup you add. Gradually add the milk, until you reach the right consistency.

 

The amount of frosting you need to make depends on the size of the cake you have. In order to have enough frosting for a base coat and any frosting decorations I want to do, I listed below how many batches of my frosting I make up. It’s just a guide though, you may need more or less depending on how thickly you frost your cake and how many colors of frosting you need!

8 inch round double layer cake – 3 batches

9 inch round double layer cake – 3 batches

10 inch round double layer cake – 3-4 batches

Half sheet cake (12 x 18) – 4-5 batches

I strongly recommend that you mix up these batches individually or the frosting doesn’t mix properly. For example, if you need 3 batches do NOT triple the recipe in your mixer. Mix the recipe up 3 times. It’s worth it.

Use gel food coloring to color frosting in the amount you need for your design! I always use gel coloring instead of the traditional liquid. It gives brighter, deeper colors and also doesn’t add liquid to make your frosting too thin! In my experience, the color does get deeper with time. I’ve had trouble trying to mix up a bright red that just wouldn’t change from a dark pink. I used it anyway and the next morning it was very red!

 

Step 3: Stack your cakes

If you are making a single layer cake (like a half sheet cake) – you can skip this step!

If you are making a double layer cake, put a dab of frosting in the center of your cake board and place one layer of your cake with the top facing up. (The flat side that was in your pan should go against the board for a flat, level base.

Put a good layer of frosting in between them. It always needs more than I think. Nobody wants a dry cake!

Then place your second layer on top of the frosting, with the top side down and the flat side up. It’s okay if there is a bit of a gap in between the layers- you can fill that in with frosting!

 

Step 4: Give the whole cake a base layer of frosting

Before you begin, make sure your frosting is the right consistency to spread. It should not be too stiff or it will not spread easily and will pull off the top layer of your cake! If it’s too thick, just mix in a little more milk in half teaspoon increments.

With your frosting knife, take big dollops of frosting and place a few of them over your cake. Gently spread them around until the top is covered. Then carefully do the sides, making sure to fill in any gaps between your layers of cake. You want a good, thick layer of frosting. Your knife should not be scraping the top of your cake, only touching frosting if that makes sense.

If you have a small gap between the bottom of your cake and the board, don’t worry. We’ll cover that up. If you have carved your cake and find that your cake is breaking apart as you frost, you can always follow the below step for putting frosting in a piping bag and pipe on your frosting with a large tip. Just gently smooth the top out.

Step 5: Add your decorations!

This is the fun part! Now that you have your base layer over all your cake, you can go back and add anything you want. Place your frosting tip of choice in your piping bag, snip off the end and place it into a glass. Then fill up your bag with frosting, leaving enough room that you can twist it closed at the top.

There are probably hundreds of piping tips out there but these 5 are my favorites and the ones I most use.

# 1M – I always use for frosting cupcakes or for piping borders on cakes

# 12 – I use for general decorating, filling in shapes, or borders on cakes

# 3 – I use for fine decorating details and any writing I do

# 233 – Grass, Elmo’s hair, dog fur, anything fun like that. I love what this tip can do.

# 47– I think it’s purpose is supposed to be a basket weave or straight ribbon but I love using it for a border.

 

I’m not very good freehanding my designs so I love to use guides. I’ve lightly traced around cups, straight edges, etc. with a toothpick, then piped over it with frosting to make a design. I also love to print images off the computer on regular paper, cut them out and gently lay them on the cake to trace the shapes (especially with character cakes!). I traced the shield and the bone in the Paw Patrol cake I mentioned earlier.

I used a ruler to mark the web on this Spider-Man cake and traced the Batman shape from something I printed online.

And this soccer cake, I laid a smaller cake pan on top and lightly traced the shape for the soccer field!

I also love to decorate cakes with small toys or edible items. It’s an easy way to make your cake fit the theme without having to free-hand difficult decorations. The soccer balls and goals on that soccer cake and the Paw Patrol pups were perfect for those cakes. The train tracks on these “2” cakes were made with upside down Hershey bars, black icing and small toy trains. I loved using tractors and crushed up Oreo “dirt” to decorate this construction themed cake too!

 

Finally, I always place a border around the bottom of the cake to cover up the messy gap where it sits on the board. You can do anything with this you choose. Sometimes I just do dots of frosting, sometimes I try to be fancy with the basket weave tip.

** You can also use these white couplers if you want to use the same color frosting with different tips. You place the larger piece of the coupler inside your bag and snip off the end. The tip fits on the coupler outside the bag, and then the other piece of the coupler screws in around the tip to hold it in place. You can unscrew that and replace the tip with another without having to get a new frosting bag.**

Also, if you mess something up don’t panic! Either roll with it or scrape off your mistake, replace your base layer of frosting and try again. 😉 I may have done that a time or two.

That’s it! If I can do this, you can absolutely do this too. If you have any questions, contact me or post in comments! Your cake does NOT have to look perfect to be perfect for your child!

 

Happy cake decorating!

 

 

 

A real mom’s guide to making birthday cakes for your kids

(This post contains affiliate links that may provide a small commission to me at zero extra cost to you. Click to see my full disclosure here.)

 

 

Today I’m talking about one of my favorite subjects- birthday cake! It’s birthday season in our house and I’ve been in the kitchen a lot lately baking cakes, treats for school, etc. I was thinking the other day how I much I enjoy making their cakes myself but how intimidating I used to find the thought of it. And so this post was born. I’m going to share all my easy tips and I promise when you are done reading, you absolutely can do it yourself too. I’m going to break this down into two parts – today’s post will be all about baking the cakes. Next week in part 2, I will share my easy tips to decorate them.

Growing up, my aunt always made all of my birthday cakes. I’m pretty sure I asked for a Barbie birthday cake (you know the kind with the actual doll in the middle of a dress made of cake) for at least 5 years in a row. I remember being so excited to see it and watching out the window for her to arrive at my party with my cake.I never even realized that was something special that she did for me until I was in college. I somehow thought that everyone had an aunt that liked to decorate cakes. 😉

Years later, I found out that my grandma used to decorate cakes and sell them out of her home when my mom and my aunt were little. She would of course make their birthday cakes too and taught my aunt how to bake and decorate them. My grandma died when I was really little so I don’t have very many memories of her. I had always loved to bake and hearing that she did too made me feel connected to her in a way that I hadn’t before. I have always made my kid’s birthday cakes myself because I want to but also because it makes me feel close to her. I love that I come from a line of cake bakers and I like to think this is in my genes. (That’s a thing, right?)

PLUS it’s way cheaper than store bought, it can look exactly how I want it and the look in my boy’s eyes when they come down on their birthday party morning and see the cake I made is priceless.

When I had my own kids, I started making their birthday cakes and learned a lot from my aunt and A LOT from trial and error. If you have ever wanted to bake your child’s birthday cake but were too intimidated to try, follow these easy steps. I promise you. It’s way easier than you think it is!

I love baking half sheet cakes (12 x 18) for their birthday parties which is what I did in the pictures here. I love half sheet cakes because they feed a ton (30-40+ people in my experience), have an easy flat surface for decorating and are thick enough that they look great without needing to have layers stacked. However, you can follow these steps for any size cake pans. I included notes in each step for how I bake 8 inch, 9 inch and 10 inch round double layer cakes.

Things you need:

Cake pan – Wilton cake pans are always my choice (These are the ones I have for half sheet cake, 8 inch, 9 inch and 10 inch round.)

Baking strips – see below in step 2 for my cheater version

Parchment Paper

Cooking spray (like Pam)

3 cake mixes + eggs, oil and water per the mix instructions – I like to use 2 of one flavor and 1 of another but you can always use 3 of the same! **See my notes below in Step 3 for amount of cake mix needed for other size cakes**

Cake board (Half sheet cake size, 8 and 9 inch round or 10 inch round)

 

Step 1: Prepare your cake pan

 

Take your cake pan and lay it on a sheet of parchment paper. Use a pencil to trace the outline of your pan and cut it out with scissors. Place it in the bottom of your pan.  I usually don’t line the sides of my pans but I do spray them with cooking spray. You absolutely can line the sides if you want to, and it’s fine to let parchment paper stick out over the sides of the pans.

 

 

It’s tempting, but don’t skip this step. Especially with larger cakes, sometimes pieces of your cake do stick in the pan even when you spray it well. And that SUCKS.

TIP: If you are having trouble with the parchment paper curling and not staying flat in your pan, spray your pan with cooking spray so it has something to stick to. It’s not necessary, but I always do this so that my paper lays where I want it to. The last thing I want is the paper moving while I pour the batter and having half of my cake stick to the pan. 

Step 2: Wet and wrap your baking strips

Baking strips are like a hidden secret that I discovered years ago. If you’ve ever baked a cake before, you’ve probably seen how the middle of the cake commonly domes up when it bakes. That’s fine for cakes you are planning to spread with frosting and leave in your 9 x 13 pan. It’s not good though when you need to remove your cake from the pan, stack it with another and decorate it. You can try to trim off the dome, but you lose a good chunk of your cake and your edges are funky and crispy from baking unevenly.

Wetting these baking strips with cool water and placing them around your pan helps the cake cook more evenly. They get rid of the dome and the crispy edges. You can buy these strips OR you can be cheap like me. I use cut up strips of old (clean!) bath towel that I wet and safety pin around my cake pan. It does the same thing and costs nothing but is a little more work without that Velcro of the baking strips.

Step 3: Mix up your cake

 

 

A half sheet cake needs 3 cake mixes to fill for a nice, thick cake. I like to use 2 cake mixes of one flavor (here that is the funfetti) and 1 of another (here that is the chocolate) so that we can have two kinds of cake for the party. If you dump both your mixes into the pan at the same time, the bigger mix will fill approximately 2/3 of the pan and the other the remaining 1/3. It’s funny because people always love the line of pieces that are a mix between the two! Use a small spatula to smooth out the cake mixes to fill the corners of the pan.

 

I use 1 cake mix divided into two pans for 8 and 9 inch double layer cakes. When I do 10 inch double layer cakes, I use 1 full cake mix for each layer.

I don’t even attempt to make my own cake from scratch when I bake a half sheet cake because I know exactly 3 mixes fill it nicely and I don’t know how much a homemade batch would fill. I have made my own cake when baking 8, 9 or 10 inch round cakes. I’ve tried several different recipes and I’m going to be honest. They didn’t taste as good as the box mix so I hardly ever do it anymore. Because why do more work for something that doesn’t taste as good. #just saying

I have ‘doctored’ the cake mix though before with good results. Although absolutely not necessary, adding 1 extra egg to each cake mix and/or replacing the amount of vegetable oil called for with melted butter makes a more rich cake.

 

Step 4: Bake cake

Bake your cake according to package directions for 8 and 9 inch cakes. For 10 inch cakes, also bake at 350 degrees but for approximately 10 minutes longer than it says for the 9 inch cake. Keep an eye on your cakes! For the half sheet cake, I bake at 325 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

Here’s a pro tip from my aunt: The general rule of thumb is to bake a cake until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean. That is actually too long. Once a fork comes out clean, the cake is already overbaked and too dry. Once the top of the cake is set and if you gently push down in the center with your finger and it springs back, then the cake is done. That’s the secret to a delicious moist – not dry – cake!

As a general rule, I always set a kitchen timer for at least 5 minutes less than the box recommends and keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t over bake.

 

Step 5: Dump and cool

Once you pull it out of the oven, set your half sheet cake still in the pan on top of the oven for 30 minutes to let it cool. Then carefully place the cake board on top of your pan and quickly flip it over to dump it onto the board. Let it cool the rest of the way before decorating which is probably at least an hour.

If you are using 8, 9 or 10 round layer cakes, let your cakes sit in the pan for 15-20 minutes and then dump onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.

 

 

5 easy steps and your cake is baked. And it’s delicious! I’ll be back here next Wednesday with part 2 – How to decorate a birthday cake!

 

Thanks for stopping by! You can find me on Instagram here. Or on Pinterest here!

 

 

Christmas Gift Tags – Free Printable!

Happy Wednesday everyone! We’ve been having some really beautiful warm December weather in Iowa the past week or so which has left my boys with some serious concern about Christmas not coming if there hasn’t been snow. I will admit that I’m usually all about the snow in December! The feeling lasts until mid-January when I am OVER all the snow and ready for spring. My older boys have been super annoyed about having to wear a winter coat in the morning to school and then – and I quote – “roasting like warm marshmallows” in them by recess time. I think this warm weather is about over and I think we are all ready for the weather to feel like Christmas time too.

It was time for my annual trip to the Dollar Store for Christmas wrapping paper last night and made out like a bandit. 😉 I love getting all my wrapping supplies there: paper, tissue paper, boxes, ribbon/bows and TAPE. All. The. Tape. Partially because I go through a lot and partially because I always misplace half of it. Tell me I’m not the only one.

I love buying wrapping supplies at the Dollar Store because then I can afford to buy a bunch of different pretty papers plus the character wrapping paper that our kids love without spending very much. Our Santa always wraps his gifts in gold paper (or puts big gold bows on larger items) so I dig through the wrapping paper bins and buy up all the gold too. 😉

One thing I never buy there though is gift tags! I love me some cute gift tags and the ones in stores just don’t really do it. I created these gift tags for  our gifts this year and you can download this FREE printable too! Right here! Print them, cut them out, tape on or string them on a ribbon and a super cute gift you have! OR you can buy this label paper and print them on that instead. I love using label paper because you cut them out, peel off the back and they are stickers ready to go!

And don’t forget about those gifts from Santa!

PLUS, I also created these cute Santa gift tags! You can find those to download here.

I considered trying to have all my wrapping done this week so I didn’t have to worry about it but then I realized that wrapping to me isn’t a chore. I love to wrap gifts! Josh and I always settle in with a Christmas movie and hot chocolate while I wrap gifts a little every night the week or so before Christmas and I like it that way. 😉

 

Do you dread wrapping gifts or look forward to it like me?

 

Don’t forget to pin for when it’s time to get your wrap on. 😉 (Hover over or tap the upper left corner of the images above.) Happy wrapping!

 

If you like these gift tags, check out the Christmas printables in my Etsy shop!

 

 

Let’s Celebrate Fall – Recipes, Decor, Family Fun and More!

 

I don’t care what the calendar says, it’s officially fall in our house! My pumpkin candles are lit, we have already hit up the apple orchard and I’m searching out all the pumpkin spice in the stores. (And I’m excited to see what crazy stuff they’ve come up with this year!)

 

 

Today, I’m joining with some sweet bloggers to bring you a list that’s full of all the fall you’ve been looking for. Read on for some of the best recipes, ideas for fall family fun, decor, fall crafts and more!

 

Fall Recipes

  1. DIY Healthy Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer – Amanda Middleton
  2. A Healthier Apple Crisp Recipe – Just A Simple Home
  3. Apple Cinnamon Protein Pancakes  Just A Simple Home
  4. How to Make Caramel Apple Cider – Leggings and Lattes
  5. Pumpkin Pie Recipe – Buckets of Tea
  6. Hot Mulled Apple Cider Sangria in Crock Pot – A Sprinkle of Joy
  7. Quick & Easy Apple Cider Three Ways – Creating A Great Day
  8. Frosted Maple Cookies – Money Savvy Living
  9. Apple Harvest Muffins – Just A Simple Home

 

Fall Family Fun Ideas

 

  1. How to Feed Your Fall Apple Addiction – A Mama Tale
  2. 5 Summer Activities You Should Be Doing in the Fall  – Put the Kettle On
  3. Family Friendly Fun Fall Activities – Fashion Ave Mom
  4. 50 Idea to Make This Your Best Fall Ever – Sharing My Favorites
  5. For Everything There is a Season – Bible Journaling  – Creating a Great Day
  6. How to Have a Fun & Free Fall with Your Family – Lovely Little Lives
  7. How to Plan a Spirited Football party (On a Budget) – Lovely Little Lives

 

Fall Fashion

How to dress in fall fashion while living in warming locations – She Lives Vintage

 

Fall Crafts

  1. DIY: Fall Crafts for Kids –  Our Swiss Experience
  2. Fall Digi-Leaves  – The Imperfect Homeschooler

 

Fall Decor

1. 3 Home Decor Pieces That Bring Fall Into Your Home – Back to the South

2. DIY Preppy Pumpkins – Happy Family Blog

3. DIY Fall Hoop Wreath – Scenes from Cedar Street

 

And of course. All these beautiful fall decor designs (and more!) are available for immediate download in my Etsy shop for only $5!

 

Time to get your fall on everyone!

 

Keep up with us on Instagram here.

 

 

School Year Summary Sheets – Free Printable!

A couple weeks ago, I talked a little bit about how we try to control our school year paper clutter by letting our kiddos choose what they want to hang on our DIY Art Display Wall. We enjoy their art for as long as they want it to hang and then recycle it. It’s worked great for us to cut down on refrigerator and paper clutter. I didn’t mention though what we do with the really special stuff that we want to hang on to for them to look back on when they are grown. Until this year, I was keeping some things in a tub in their closet that we wanted to keep and kept putting off taking the time to organize it. This past school year for the first time, we had two kiddos bringing home projects and I knew I needed to figure out a better way before we didn’t even know what belonged to which child anymore.

 

 

I created this printable (which is here free for you to download!) to put with each year’s folder of things to keep. It has a short end of the year survey, a place to put a 3 x 5 school picture from that year and (my favorite) a place for them to sign their name. I love the idea of being able to look back on how their ‘signature’ changed each year. **The font on this printable is the adorable Pea Alesa from Kevin and Amanda. I love, love their fonts!**

 

 

 

I glued the completed sheets to the front of a file folder, labeled it with the school year and put all their items to keep in it or behind it. For each kiddo, I kept report cards and notes from their teachers, their class picture, the yearbook and some of our very favorite work they did. Eli had some adorable projects with his hand print on them that I couldn’t resist keeping and Caleb had a few books they had put together in kindergarten (a daily journal, a birthday book with pictures from all his friends, and a scrapbook of their class trip to ‘China’) plus some amazing art projects that I know we will love to look back on. It’s not a lot of things but enough for us to remember this school year and the progress they made.

 

 

For now, their papers are in a printer paper box that I covered in leftover fabric from other projects but eventually as they grow, I will probably buy plastic tubs like these to store their things in. My goal is to hang on to a small folder of things from each year of school that they will take with them someday when they are on their own.

 

 

If you still have stuff from last school year you want to keep or you want to be ready for this coming year, download my free printable or pin it for later!

Hope you all have a wonderful day!

 

New House Remodel: Wet Bar turned Toy Closet!

When we moved into our new house last summer, we honestly never gave this wet bar a second thought. We stuck a couple boxes on the shelf in there, shut the door and never really thought much about it. Our wet bar was about 10 feet from the kitchen so I never really thought about using it. Plus, the sink wasn’t in very good shape and we didn’t really want to repair a sink that we wouldn’t use.

 

This winter when we were stuck inside all the time, the toy clutter really started to make me lose my mind! I tried to keep most of the toys in the basement but it just wasn’t realistic with two toddlers I didn’t want climbing up and down the basement steps all day long. Plus, we were starting to look like hoarders because Caleb and Eli would pile up their toys and art stuff on top of the dining room table and sofa table to keep them safe from twin toddler destructive hands. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me sooner that we didn’t need to keep something we weren’t using! We decided to tear out the wet bar we weren’t using anyway and make it into a toy closet with shelving.

This is what it looked like before. The picture is poor quality because we only really had one from way back when we bought the house. Once we decided to do this, I was so pumped about getting the toys off the floor that we ripped everything out without even thinking about taking a before picture.

 

 

We removed the upper shelf and sink pretty easily and then Josh installed shut-off valves to permanently turn off the water. After we removed the lower cabinets, this shockingly roomy space remained. Who knew those giant cabinets were hiding that much space?

 

 

We bought and installed a bunch of wire shelving for the boy’s toys and I collected all our various dollar store tubs floating around to organize them. Josh removed the old brown bifold closet door and frame and installed a new white one. I painted the new closet a ____ by Valspar from Lowes and installed carpet where the cabinet used to be. I love how clean and fresh the new color makes the space look.

 

 

It’s nice because we put Luke and Reid’s toys on the floor and first shelf so they can reach them fine but can’t reach Caleb and Eli’s stuff on the higher shelves. It’s a pretty big closet with a bit of room to play on the floor so it’s not uncommon that I walk in on ‘meetings’ like this one. Reid is trying to tell me to close the door again so they can play. Haha!

 

 

Honestly, it feels amazing once the kids are in bed to be able to shut that toy closet door and pretend for a minute that our house isn’t full of toy clutter. I only wish we had thought of it sooner!

 

 

Fighting the ability of toys to overtake our home seems to be a constant battle. How do you handle the toy clutter?

Kids Art Display Wall

There were many things that I wasn’t prepared for when my oldest started kindergarten this past year but honestly one of the biggest was ALL. THE. THINGS. that came home in his folder everyday. Every assignment, school papers, art projects, morning coloring pages were taking over my life. For awhile, we hung all his projects on the side of the refrigerator but there were so many that it was beyond cluttered all the time. Then our twins started walking and found it to be an enjoyable past time to pull down all the papers off the fridge and onto the floor in the entrance to our kitchen all the time. All day long. Every day. And when I walked into the kitchen on piles of paper they had pulled onto the floor over and over, I began to lose my mind. The cluttered papers on the fridge had to go.

So Pinterest to the rescue, right? I found a few ideas that I combined into something that would work for our family right now. Caleb has wanted to be an artist when he grows up for a long time and it was one of my main goals to continue to encourage his goal and show enthusiasm for all of his hard work while also making sure we all realize that we cannot hold onto everything that comes home for the rest of our lives. And of course, I wanted it to look nice and not be a big expense!

I created a sign in Photoshop (but you could use Picmonkey or another free service) and stuck it in a 16 x 20 frame that we already had. I found inexpensive curtain rods to mount on the wall that were 9.99 each. I also bought rings with clips to put on the rods to hang the artwork for $4.99 with a deal on Cartwheel. I bought all ours in the oil rubbed bronze finish but they had other finishes there to choose from. We hung ours high enough so the twins couldn’t pull anything down but low enough that the boys could enjoy their work! We hung our art gallery in the kitchen but I think it would be great in a living room/den too!

We don’t put anything on the side of our fridge anymore. They each have 7 clips to hang something on and choose what they want to hang every day. When the clips are full, they choose what to take down to put something new up. Sometimes they really love something and leave it up for a long time and other times things only stay up for a couple days. When we take something down, we take a picture of the things we really liked and recycle it all. It’s been a really good system for us this past school year.

What do we do with the rest of the paper clutter you ask? I recycle as much as I can right away (information on sports he is too young for or invitations to groups we are already involved with or are not interested in), take pictures of event details that I know we need and recycle the paper, or I file things that we do absolutely need to hang on to in this organizer which sits on the corner of our kitchen counter. It’s small and doesn’t take up too much space. I try to go through it when I notice it is getting overly full to make sure we actually need what is in there.

Please share any tips you have for controlling the school clutter! It’s overwhelming to think of four of them being in school and coming home with papers!