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In my house, the months between October and December feel like one big back-to-back rush of putting one holiday's décor up and another's away. As much as I love the cheer of the decorations, I find my house gets a little cluttered and out of sorts—which usually leaves me somewhat flustered during the season.

This year, I'm making a point to do things differently: I'm getting my house together before the holiday season hits with some decluttering.

My goal is to sell, donate and toss the things that are not of use around here and focus on the things that I am using. Here's where I'm starting:

Holiday decorations

Unwanted, broken and unused seasonal decorations are great starting points for the pre-holiday purging. Now is the time to sort through those boxes, of…

  1. Ornaments
  2. Bulbs and lights
  3. Garlands
  4. Extra stockings
  5. Unused holiday albums
  6. Outside decorations
  7. Old wrapping paper, bows and tags
  8. Last year's Christmas cards
  9. Old artificial trees
  10. Outgrown holiday sweaters, pajamas, etc.

Kitchen + dining room

Since the kitchen and dining area will be some of the more used rooms in your home around the holiday season, keeping them clean and clutter-free will not only make them look good, but keep you sane during the season. Start by getting rid of…

  1. Unused serving wear
  2. Outdated table runners, napkins, table cloths
  3. Orphaned kitchenware, e.g. pots, pans, Tupperware, utensils, etc.
  4. Expired cleaning products
  5. Old spices
  6. Canned goods you won't use (look into donations to a local shelter or food bank!)
  7. Expired condiments or items in the freezer
  8. Old booze or wine
  9. Mismatched glasses, coffee mugs and wine glasses
  10. Cookbooks

Kids' gear

With the first semester of school down, I like to gather my little guy's artwork and school papers and sort them into two piles: keep and toss. It's also a great time to sort through closets and make a list of what they need or could use for winter. A few things I've already sorted through and can get rid of are…

  1. Old hats and mittens
  2. Shoes that are too small and can't be used for hand-me-downs
  3. Underwear and socks
  4. Unused and broken toys
  5. Puzzles/games with missing pieces
  6. Old books
  7. Unwanted school or artwork
  8. Old toothbrushes, soaps, shampoos and other bath products
  9. Outgrown shirts and pants
  10. Old winter coats and snowsuits

Living room

If your living room is anything like mine, it tends to be a catch-all for toys, books, coats, shoes... everything. Try getting rid of a few of these things to keep the room balanced and easy to pick-up…

  1. Old throw blankets
  2. Unused throw pillows
  3. Miscellaneous toys
  4. Boring coffee table books
  5. DVDs
  6. Old remotes/manuals
  7. Dying houseplants
  8. Old magazines
  9. Mantel knickknacks – you're going to want a clean mantel for the holidays
  10. Old fireplace logs, starters and equipment

Personal items

There's nothing quite like a light, well-organized purse and closet to keep you on target for the busy holiday season. Here are a few personal items that you can sort through to light YOUR load…

  1. Old make up, face washes, hair products and nail polishes
  2. Purse and wallet items
  3. Junk drawers items, e.g. old batteries, pens, coupons, etc.
  4. Car items
  5. Old clothes
  6. Old shoes
  7. Unwanted scarves
  8. Junk mail that still accumulated
  9. Unused planners and calendars
  10. Expired medications (safely)

Things tend to multiply over the holiday season—especially with little ones—so getting a head start never hurts. When the New Year's purging comes about, you will be glad you did!

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's officially a sale bonanza, mamas! In addition to Amazon's 48-hours of Prime Day markdowns, Target has joined the fray and is also offering major discounts this Monday and Tuesday via its Deal Days, Walmart is offering up Deal Days, and let's not forget the Nordstrom Anniversary pre-sale is happening, too!)

Target's biggest sale of the summer is on our radar for a couple reasons. For one, unlike Prime Day, you don't have to have a membership with the retails to score the discounts. Secondly, once you've ordered a product you can select to pick it up same day at your nearest store. (Have the Target app? From there you can even choose "drive up" and pickup up your loot curbside—without even getting the kids out of their car seats!)

But the deals don't stop at Target, so we hit up a slew of other retailers to find the best deals you can get today..you know the ones that aren't available over at Amazon. Because it's all about scoring the biggest discount possible, right? Right!

Whether you're stocking up on back-to-school supplies, investing in baby gear or just need to replenish your everyday home items, these are the products you want to scoop up this week.

Other

Boxed: Up to 50% off Prince & Spring toilet paper (use code TPPARTY), 20% off kitchen gadgets and tools, up to 20% off snacks, home goods, and school supplies

Best Buy: Flash sale across the site—from appliances to tech

Macys: Black Friday in July sales, including an extra 25% off select departments

TJ Maxx: Summer clearance event with savings that only happen twice a year

Dick's Sporting Goods: $20 off your order of $100+

Carter's: Summer cyber sale, entire site 55% off or more

Williams Sonoma: Friends and family sale, 20% off your order and free fast shipping with code FRIENDS

Gap: Up to 50% off sitewide

Old Navy: 50% off sitewide and free shipping

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Last month Granger Smith and his wife, Amber, shared a story no parent would every want to. Their son, River, drowned at their home—and despite attempts to revive him—the little boy died tragically at just 3 years old. But River's parents managed to find some good in this absolutely devastating loss: They chose to donate their son's organs, saving two lives in the process.

River's mom, Amber, opened up about this choice in a heartbreaking Instagram post.

"I've always known I wanted to be a donor if anything were to ever happen to me," Amber writes alongside a photo of River. "Never in a million years did I think I would be making that decision for my baby."

Our hearts hurt so badly for this mama—but we're also amazed by her ability to find a way to turn her worst-case scenario into a lifesaving measure for other families.

Amber shares more about her family's gut-wrenching experience in the post, writing that doctors told Amber and Granger their son had no chance of brain recovery. As shocking as that was to hear, the parents knew they wanted to donate River's organs as there are so many people who need donations to survive.

That choice began a three-day process of determining which organs could be donated and which recipients would be appropriate. Amber shares excruciating details about the night before River's operation.

 River's organs saved two adults

"I spent the night laying in bed with him, crying and talking to him while they kept running tests and taking blood. The next morning family and staff lined the hall for the 'walk of honor.' We told them River liked to go fast, so to honor him, they pushed him down that hall faster than they had ever pushed anyone. Granger and I held each other and cried," Amber writes.

It's all so terribly tragic...but the outcome is bittersweet. Amber and Granger received a letter explaining that River's organs saved two adults, a 49-year-old woman and a 53-year-old man. Amber calls the decision to donate her precious son's organs the hardest and easiest of her life.

Our thoughts continue to be with River's family. We can't even imagine what they're going through, but their strength and grace in the face of all this is incredible—and we hope they'll always find comfort in the fact that little River left a beautiful, heroic, lifesaving legacy behind.

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When I was pregnant with my fourth child, my husband and I decided to shell out for a swing set in our backyard. Why? We knew with a new baby, packing up four kids and heading to the park on a daily basis would simply not be feasible. Don't get me wrong, I love a playground. But when you've got multiple kids running in every direction and a toddler refusing to only climb up a slide that big kids are careening down—well, let's just say that the park can go from super fun to incredibly stressful real fast.

Having a play set right in our backyard means that when the baby is napping, my "big" kids can get off their screens and head outside to swing their hearts out or play pirates under the canopy. And I can be inside cooking dinner or folding laundry or answering work emails while they get allllll their energy out. The swing set was one of the best investments we've ever made… and we paid a lot for ours.

Which is why my jaw dropped when I saw that KidKraft is offering its Ainsley Wooden Swing Set right now for just $269 at Walmart today. (FYI: It's a hundred dollar more on Amazon.)

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What does it comes with? Two swings, a high-rail wavy slide, a rock-climbing wall, an upper level "clubhouse" (the perfect spot for summer morning snacks or kids-only meetings), a chalkboard and a sandbox. Yup, that equates to roughly 100,000 hours of kids entertaining themselves over the next year alone. For less than $270.

If you're worried about quality, don't be. I've seen the KidKraft product in person and they're legit—big, beautiful and made of super-sturdy cedar lumber. Really I'm just here to tell ya that this is a purchase you'll never regret, regardless of how many kiddos you've got at home. Your summer (and your backyard) is about to be lit!

KidKraft Ainsley Wooden Swing Set

Sale price: $269

Original price: $399

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Many new parents receive the confusing news that their newborn baby has a tongue-tie. It means the skin attaching their tongues to the bottom of their mouths is longer than normal. And while this condition can cause complications from infancy on, a new study shows that not all newborns need to get surgery to correct it.

The condition is known as ankyloglossia, which occurs in 4-10% of people, usually looks like nothing but an extra strip of skin under the tongue. But because that skin (called the lingual frenulum) acts like a taut rubber band restricting movement, babies with a tongue-tie often have difficulty forming a good latch to nurse. This can mean they don't get enough milk, so they have to nurse for longer. Meanwhile, they're causing their mother a whole lot of pain because their latch is shallower and mostly clamping down on the tip of the nipple.

I speak from experience here: When my son had a tongue-tie, it felt like I was feeding an angry piranha. He was definitely not getting enough to eat, and my milk supply was steadily decreasing.

But this new study published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery suggests that not all babies diagnosed with ankyloglossia need to undergo a frenotomy—a simple procedure in which a doctor snips the skin with a pair of surgical scissors.

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Infants don't usually need anesthesia, because this tissue doesn't have many nerve endings or blood vessels. Their mother is asked to breastfeed them immediately after the snip, to get the tongue moving properly and reduce the chance of the skin growing back. According to the Mayo Clinic, complications from frenotomies include bleeding, infection and damage to the tongue or salivary glands, but they are rare.

What's not rare is the number of patients getting frenotomies: Referrals for the procedure in the U.S. went up tenfold, from 1,200 in 1997 to 12,400 in 2012.

"We have seen the number of tongue-tie and upper lip tether release surgeries increase dramatically nationwide without any real strong evidence that shows they are effective for breastfeeding," study co-author Christopher J. Hartnick, MD MS, of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, said in a press release.

The researchers looked at 115 infants (between 19-56 days old) who were referred for a frenotomy. Instead of sending them straight into surgery, the babies and their parents met with a pediatric speech-language pathologist for a feeding evaluation. These specialists observed the babies breastfeeding and gave parents feedback and tips to overcome any challenges they were experiencing. After this, 72 (62.6%) patients did not have the frenotomy after all, while 10 (8.7%) had a labial frenotomy (releasing extra tissue from the lips) and 32 (27.8%) had both a labial and lingual frenotomy.

"We don't have a crystal ball that can tell us which infants might benefit most from the surgeries, but this preliminary study provides concrete evidence that this pathway of a multidisciplinary feeding evaluation is helping prevent babies from getting this procedure," Hartnick said.

For now, parents' best bet is to consult more than one specialist to identify the best plan of action. In addition to lactation consultants, children with tongue-ties might need to see speech pathologists later. In some cases, the frenulum loosens over time. In others, they might wind up needing the procedure after all.

Anecdotally, I'll add that I visited with lactation consultants and my son's pediatrician more than once before deciding he should have a frenotomy. It was no fun for me (who wants a strange man sticking scissors in their baby's mouth?), but my kid was fine. It didn't solve all our problems, but feeding was much less painful immediately afterward.

The bottom line here seems to be that not everyone needs to rush into a procedure just because it's easy. Our kiddos deserve more than a one-size-fits-all approach to their health.

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