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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sheet Storage

This morning I tok the winter sheets off the bed.  (I know, many of you have already done this but my hubby keeps the A/C set to freezing so I procrastinate as long as possible).

Anyway... for those who don't already know this secret....

When storing sheets that are not in use, fold the top and fitted sheets.  Place them inside the pillowcase and fold the end of the pillow case over to make an envelope.  This keeps your storage location looking neater and keeps the entire set together and ready to use - no more looking for the lost pillow case my son stole to make a super hero cape!

Try it.  Easy!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What's for dinner?

It's weekend so I'm in the kitchen getting ready for the upcoming week.  What's for dinner this week?

Enchilada Chicken with Mexican-style Rice
Tater Tot Casserole
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Stuffing
Jambalaya with Sausage
Baked Pasta
Taco Pizza
Chicken Spaghetti

Not sure what will be served each night but I know what the choices are.  Get home, decide what sounds good and throw it in to warm up.  Easy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Company's coming in 10 minutes! Quick clean up ideas.

Let's face it.  As organized as you try to be, there are days....

When my family gets busy, the kitchen counter becomes a dumping ground.  The couch, the coffee table all seem to have things on them that don't belong there.

And let's face it, that's when someone calls saying they're stopping by.  My general theory is that if someone knows me well enough to drop by, it doesn't matter that things aren't neat and tidy.  However, there are those visitors who call and give you 10 minutes notice who you would rather they not know how bad it's gotten (extended family perhaps?).

For these situations, you need a quick fix.  Around here there are few cleverly-desguised items for this purpose.  In the family room, there are two storage ottomans that open to reveal storage.  One holds blankets, pillows, etc.  The other is the "quick, clean it up" temporary storage location.

In the entry hall are two baskets.  It's amazing how just tossing all the shoes in a basket can make it look like you cleaned!

Find what works for you.  It doesn't have to be expensive or fancy... just functional!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Re-evaluate after lunch

I am forever making "To Do" Lists.  I typically start each day with one.

I'm also guilty of doing the things I find easiest first.  That's not necessarily bad, I can get several of those checked off my list fairly quickly.  However, if a task is something I'm dreading I may put it off.

Lunch gives me a natural break in my day (though not always a long one!).  It's then that I re-evaluate my list.  Have I done the things that must get done today?  If not, I need to use the afternoon to focus on those tasks in order to have them completed by deadline.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

More Timer Tips...

I am not advocating buying all new stuff.  However, if you do find yourself in a position where you need to replace something - look for features that make life easier.

I was reluctant to buy a washing machine with a timer feature on it ("Why do I need that?  I've never had it before and I've survived just fine...")

We got the washing machine with the timer feature that allows me to put the clothes and detergent in the machine and set the timer to start up to 7 hours later.  As it turns out, I LOVE IT!

I can put the wash in the machine in the morning and set the timer to wash the clothes later in the day.  When I get home, they're ready to throw in the dryer.  Or, during the summer we can reduce usage during peak hours by setting the washer to run overnight and the clothes are ready to move when I wake up.

The dishwasher features a similar feature.  As other appliances die around the house, this will be a feature I will look for.  I've learned it saves me time and money... and to think I thought it was a waste!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Timers aren't just for kids and kitchens

You may set the timer when cooking.  You may set the timer to let the misbehaving child know when the timeout is over.  But have you ever set the timer for yourself?

Sometimes cleaning can seem like an overwhelming task.  Try setting an inexpensive kitchen timer for 5-10 minutes.  Stay focused and do as much as you can before the timer rings.  The "beat the clock" mentality forces me to move quickly without feeling overwhelmed.  What I don't get to before the buzzer will be there later when round 2 starts!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Color Code Everything

If you come over, you'll find most of my daughter's stuff is green.  Most of my son's stuff is black, mine is red, and my husband's is blue.

In the morning when we're heading out the door, it's easy for my son to grab his backpack, black water bottle, black lunch box and be out the door.  Same thing for my daughter.  It has significantly minimized the number of "I grabbed the wrong thing" episodes and makes for less stressful mornings for all of us.

I'm not saying buy all new stuff.  Just as you replace, keep it in mind.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Run your family like a business

In my family I am the CSO (Chief Scheduling Officer).  My job is to keep track of everyone's schedules, coordinate getting people to the right place at the right time, etc.

Run your family like a business. While it may sound crazy, the only way I can get this done and not lose my mind is through my computer.  My husband, the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) set up email accounts for our kids and computer log-ins on the family computer.  If something gets scheduled, say soccer practice, a calendar notice is sent to all family members that shows up on their individual computer calendars.  It has saved the "you didn't tell me that" arguement as everyone has the same information.

And to keep my master calendar from being totally out of control, each family member's schedule shows up in a different color.  (More on color coding later...)

I currently use iCal but have used a variety of other similar calendar programs in years past.  The point is get the same information to everyone who needs it as efficiently as possible.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I need help....

I'm always amazed when I talk with women who seem to be doing it all - all the laundry, all the cleaning, all the cooking...

My typical question is "why?"  "My husband doesn't do it right."  OK, I'm a control freak but really?  Take the help!

Kids?  "They're too busy."      "...and you're not?"

Washing machines run themselves.  Kids are capable of doing many things.  Yes, it takes a bit more work up front.  The trade-off is that (1) it saves you work in the long run and more importantly (2) it teaches kids the skills they need as adults.

You're not being (a bad parent, lazy, demanding too much) of your kids by asking them to help.  You're teaching them life lessons about taking care of themselves and time management.  It builds self-esteem and teaches kids about organization.

Some ideas for things kids can help with and the ages we implemented in our family: sort the laundry (2 years), empty dishwasher (w/o knives 4 yrs; including knives 6 years); feed dog (18 months); cook simple meals (7 years); do own laundry (7 years); clean up toys (1 year).  More ideas and research is provided at the link below.

Kids, especially young kids, typically want to help.  Older kids crave being treated like an adult.  Give them the chance.  It's good for them and good for you.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

One day makes a difference...

I understand that finding extra time is a challenge in today's busy world.  I also have learned that carving out a little time on one day saves me time, energy and frustration the rest of the week.

For me that day is Sunday.

Check in with each person who lives in your house, even if it's by text message!  Figure out what everyone's schedules are for the week and who will be home on what nights for dinner.

Decide what you're having for dinner each night.  Don't worry about the "I don't know what I'll be in the mood for..." that mindset creates uncertainty and therefore stress.  Make things you like and your family likes - you can always flip nights if the mood strikes midweek!

On nights when we're home at a reasonable time and all here, I might actually make something that requires day-of preparation, but Tuesday nights are soccer nights for my daughter.  We typically eat in shifts so I like to have something in the fridge that can be easily heated in the microwave as each person is ready to eat.  It saves me time and money Tuesday night not having to go out and reduces the "what am I going to make?" stress.

Create the menu, then the grocery list.  Go to the store.  I am in and out of the grocery store in about an hour including drive time there and back.  I know what I want.  At this point I can typically go to the store every other week for larger trips.  The off week just requires a trip for bread, milk and produce - 15 minutes tops!

Once home today, I will be turning on the NCAA basketball games to watch my Jayhawks play while I'm working in the kitchen.  Do I want to spend the time in the kitchen?  Not really, I'm not a great cook and I don't particularly enjoy it... but I do enjoy that it reduces my stress later in the week and reduces the food portion of my budget.  I also like knowing that we're eating healthier...

Giving up part of the day once a week makes a difference.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bigger is not better...

Do you have a big bag of stuff that you bring back and forth from work to home?  I used to... I'd lug stuff home, set it down, make dinner and do all the home stuff that being a mom demands.  When I looked at the big bag, I'd get overwhelmed and end up not doing any of it.  So the next morning I'd lug it all back with nothing accomplished but a slight weightlifting working out from hauling the materials back and forth...

I've learned that by having a smaller bag, I prioritize what I put in it.  Because it's smaller, I don't get (as) overwhelmed and am more likely do what needs to be done.  Ideally, I would leave my work stuff at work and focus only on my family when I get home.  However, I'm a teacher and the reality is that work comes home with me in the form of grading and lesson planning.

I found this bag at Target a few years ago - it's by Real Simple and cost less than $30 when I bought it.  Since then I've seen it updated seasonally in new colors but the idea remains the same.  I love that it's not only a bag but a traveling file cabinet (more on that later).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Laundry Soap...

I'm always looking for a bargain... But it drove me crazy to walk into my laundry room and find an enormous box of laundry detergent.  It just created such a non-welcoming site.  The only thing that bugged me more was to find that the enormous box of soap was no empty - just as I prepared to do laundry...

The easy solution?  A pretty glass jar that holds lots of detergent so I can stock up, but allows me to easily see when more is needed - before we're out!

I found this jar for less than $20 at my local Target.  It also makes the laundry room looks more finished and like a place I might want to be!  (Yes, that's my daughter's artwork on the wall behind!)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hungry Kids = Grumpy Kids

There are days when things take longer to get done than I plan.  Especially if I'm out running errands.  What makes those days worse is when my kids are hungry (read cranky and whiny).  Over the years I've gotten smart.  A reusable plastic container now has a home in the center console of my car.  Inside are whole grain goldfish.  When the whiny voices from the backseat request food, I'm ready to go without having to hit a drive thru window wasting time and money for little nutrition.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I tried the solution of having my kids buy lunch at school, but often they didn't like the options served.  So we pack lunches.  But for a long time I either (1) felt bad about the number of plastic bags we were using or (2) was constantly watching the reusable containers.  This year we found a solution we've all been happy with.  Goodbyn lunchboxes.

Featuring individual compartments that each seal independently it offers the advantages of the previous containers in one single unit.  I pack the night before and the store easily in the fridge until morning when the kids can pull them out and slide them easily into their backpacks.

The kids each decorated their own and when they've become unusable, the boxes and recyclable.  Yes, they were more expensive than a traditional lunchbox, but I've bought only one box of sandwich bags all year.

Tea to go...

In honor of my friend Lisa, this must be the first post...

Lisa drinks (lots and lots) of tea.  I know this because I just returned from a week-long vacation with her during which she would often be digging in her bag looking for the tea bags of her favorite Chai tea.  Our vacation was near water and I wondered at what point her bag would become wet and take on a brown-colored, tea-smelling appearance.  Upon returning home, I was at the store and found an easy inexpesive solution for her - travel soap holders.  For less that $1 her tea can now be water tight and easily found.


My amazingly talented photographer friend Lisa has suggested I create a blog.  According to Lisa I possess a skill she admires - organization.  Specifically she recommended starting a blog and then writing a book.

Organization tip #1 - take one step at a time...No book but will try the blog.

(Yes, that's us... She's in green taking the photo.)