Check it out: A new look on the blog!

So I was hanging out with my friend Kristen the other day, and of course we started talking about blogging stuff. Well, before I knew it we were sitting at the computer and in what seemed like 10 minutes, my blog had a new look!

She’s an action girl, that Kristen. I’ve thought and thought and researched and thought some more about changing the look of the blog, but Kristen encouraged me to just sit down right then and do it!

Action. Getting things done. Even if it’s not perfect. I’m learning about more than just blogging, here.

Anyway, I hope you like the new look!

And I hope to be back tomorrow with an update on the big toy purge.

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The Big Toy Purge | Part 1

Toys are fun, aren’t they?

But when they take over your whole entire house, they are less fun.

I think when there are too many toys and they are disorganized and spread out all over and who-knows-where, kids just get overwhelmed and the toys actually don’t get played with as much.

However, if you walked into my house, you wouldn’t guess that this was my thinking.

It’s time for action.

The Cleaning Fairy has arrived. This cleaning fairy puts everyone to work!

The only way I can get my head around a project like this is to get all of the toys together in one room. Not everyone would agree with this method, but here’s why I like it:

-We can see exactly how many toys we have

-We can see if we actually have all of the parts and pieces for each toy

-We can see how many of each category of toy we have (dolls, stuffed animals, cars)

Once we have everything in one place, we categorize and sort into various containers just so that we can really see what’s there. This is where we are right now with this project.

Here’s the start of toy sorting:

We have gathered many of the toys from around the house, but we still need to do another round of gathering and sorting this week.

After that, I think we will get rid of the easy stuff: Broken toys and things no one cares about or plays with anymore.

Then comes  the harder part: Choosing favorites to keep, making sure we have reasonable space for the toys we want to keep, getting rid of the rest.

It’s a good thing I’m telling you all about this, because now I know I need to come through with some good after pictures! Keep an eye out for Part 2, coming soon to a blog near you.

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Cleaning and Decluttering Progress in the Kitchen

I’ve  actually been doing pretty well at doing cleaning/decluttering projects with the kids lately. We pretty much do at least one project a day. Cleaning their room, sweeping the floor, wiping cabinets….that sort of thing.

I’m actually on kind of a cleaning kick lately, which is strange….but good.

One project we did this last week was the kitchen floor. First we did a big sweep. We put things away and threw away the trash and dirt. My plan was to do some spot cleaning, thinking that over several days we could get through the whole floor. Well, I guess we were on a roll, because we did the whole thing in one afternoon!

The kids asked if they could put sponges on their feet so that they could skate around the kitchen to clean the floor.

My answer: Of course!!

They had fun trying it, but it didn’t really work as well as they had imagined.

We kept on cleaning anyway! The kids were into it. Maybe a little too into it at times, but it all worked out and we got it all done!

Simple pleasure? Walking barefoot on that floor without stepping on little bits of who knows what. The floor feels so smooooth now.

 

I’ve also been battling with the infamous Clutter Island. This picture is from Thursday:

This is how it looked on Friday:

And here’s how it’s looking today!

I don’t really love that big pile of papers, but let’s just say this is a big improvement!

Coming Soon: A BIG toy decluttering project. That’s right. We already started. Later this week [Edit: Or early next week!] I’ll post the before pictures and the progress we’ve made so far.

Have you been working on any cleaning and decluttering projects? I’d love to hear about it.

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Menu Plan for the Week 7/15 – 7/21 (Last menu plan post for a while)

OK! So I’ve decided to take a break from posting my weekly menu plan so that I can focus more on what I think of as the core of this blog: Decluttering.

Don’t worry! I will still make menu plans, I just won’t post them here (at least for a while). I am still planning to create a page of favorite recipe links, because that will help me with my menu planning and I thought some of you might like that, too. So this is the last menu plan post for a while, but I’m sure I won’t totally avoid the topic of food and recipes, either.

Because I love yummy food.

Corn Chowder and Cheese Biscuits

This Week’s Menu Plan

Sunday

  • Baked Ziti I used ground turkey, left out the  provolone, added sauteed zucchini and spinach
  • Salad – with our first tomatoes from the garden! Yum!

Monday

  •  Corn Chowder I use more bacon than the recipe states. Cook it up and crumble it up as a topping. Turkey bacon works, too. Sometimes I substitute chicken broth for part of the milk in this, too.
  • Cheese Biscuits

Tuesday  

Wednesday 

Thursday 

  • Leftovers

Friday

Saturday

  • Classic Cobb Salad (I think we’ll grill the chicken and I won’t  bother with peeling the tomatoes)
I’m linking up with OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday, where you can find many more meal plans to check out!

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The entryway closet: A new solution for shoes | Before and After

I am so excited to show you the progress I made in my entryway over the last couple of days! I picked up a shoe organizer from someone on Freecycle hoping I could use it in the entryway coat closet, and I am thrilled with how it’s working out so far. Of course, I couldn’t declutter and organize the closet without also working on the space around it. I went a little picture crazy on this one, so hang in there!

Here’s the before picture of the entryway area:

Yes, that picture was taken just a couple of days ago. Yes, it’s July. Yes, those are Christmas hats and winter coats.

Here’s a closer look in the bottom of the closet:

The last time I worked on the entryway, these bins were my solution to the shoe problem. I knew they weren’t perfect, but they were an improvement. Keep reading for my new and improved shoe solution…

A before of the whole closet:

Time to get started!

I took everything out from the bottom shelf down. Part of my grand plan was to actually remove the bottom shelf. Here’s some of the closet stuff:

Next, I vacuumed the closet. At this point I wondered if I could just move into the closet. You know, live in there. It’s so calm and peaceful in there. It was a nice thought.

So I had 6 coats and jackets there (one is not shown in this picture):

Mr. RSS had 11 coats and jackets in that closet. The irony of this is that I am always cold and he is always hot. I wear coats and jackets all the time (sometimes even inside the house), and he hardly ever needs one. Go figure.

I am getting rid of one of my coats and I moved one up to my closet upstairs. Mr. RSS is getting rid of some of his coats/jackets also. For now, I moved 4 of my coats and 5 of his back into the closet.

Here are some things that moved upstairs at least for the summer.

And here are some of the things that are going out the door:

I removed this add-on shelf:

Are you ready to see my new solution for our shoes? Here it is!

In case you are wondering, the lady who gave it to me (through Freecycle) said she got it at Target. I don’t even think she used it at all. Score!

This makes it SO much easier to grab our shoes and put them away. We each have 2 slots.

And now I actually have a place to keep my vacuum so that it’s not just sitting out wherever we used it last. A place for everything, and everything in it’s place, right? We’re getting there.

And now I present the organized entryway….

Before:

After:

I can close the door to the closet now!

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

And finally a view from the stairs…

Before:

After:

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Tips on how to be prepared for a power outage

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that we lost our power for 4 days. Not so fun, and very unexpected. What was supposed to be a thunderstorm, turned into a derecho storm. The strong winds brought down a lot of trees and power lines in our area.

If you’ve been a reader here for a while, you may remember that in the fall we lost power for 5 days from a hurricane. Most of the time though, if we lose power, it’s back on within 24 hours.

Yvonne commented on my Facebook post that she would love to hear strategies for coping with these situations. We have learned a lot about dealing with power outages over the past several years, so I thought I would pass along some tips. Being as prepared as you can be helps a lot. Some of these are in the obvious category, but I’ll include them anyway.

Also, when our power goes out, we also lose our running water from our well, so I’ve included a few tips related to this issue as well.

1. Fill old juice/soda bottles with water, and then keep them in the freezer.

This first tip is one from my mom. I’m putting it first because I want to make sure I remember to do this! I think it would have really helped us. It’s like having your own ice blocks handy. These can also be moved to a cooler, if needed.

2. Flashlights

Have at least one per floor/living area or per person. We also have a worklight just like this Cooper Lighting LED120 35 LED Rechargeable Worklight (see the picture at the top of the post). It can act as a regular flashlight or act as an area light. It has a magnet clip and stays on the side of our refrigerator until we need it.

3. Save the power outage reporting phone number for your power company in your cell phone.

This makes it easy to report the outage quickly and get outage updates.

4. Have at least one cooler to help keep important food cold, or to transport food to another location.

5. Generator

If you can afford one and have the space, this would be great to have. We don’t have one, but several of our neighbors do. We do have an extra-long outdoor extension cord and have plugged our sump pump into a kind neighbor’s generator to keep our basement from flooding.

6. Have extra batteries for flashlights and radios.

We also have this Black & Decker VEC026BD Electromate 400 Jump-Starter with Built-In Air Compressor. It’s basically a portable battery pack that we mostly use for my husband’s CPAP machine  (for sleep apnea), but it is also great for charging cell phones and laptop computers. It will only last us about one night, though, without needing to be recharged.

7. Grill (and propane tanks/charcoal)

Cook your food before it goes to waste!

8. Extra gas for cars (or don’t let cars be on empty)

When the power outage is widespread, like it was for us this time, getting gasoline can be a challenge! Most gas stations were closed in our area, so the few that were open had crazy lines and wait times, and were running out of gas themselves.

9. Have canned food and can opener on hand

10. A safe heat source

We don’t usually lose our power in the winter, but when we do, I’m glad we have a wood burning fireplace.

11. Find a friend or family member with power!

When we lost our power in the fall, the weather was nice, so we stuck it out here at the house for 4 of the 5 days before staying at a friend’s house. We did catch a shower and recharge batteries/cell phones at another friend’s house before that. This time around, we were having hot, hot, 100 degree weather, so after the first day, we stayed with some out of town friends, plus one night at my parent’s house after they got their power back. We feel very blessed to have wonderful friends and family!

Losing running water due to power outage

1. Fill the tub with water

When I know a bad storm is coming and we might lose power, I start filling the tub. This water can be used to manually flush the toilets.

2. Keep extra water on hand

There are lots of recommendations about how much to keep. We usually only keep about 2 gallons, plus I fill some other containers when I know a bad storm is coming. Edit: When we know a really bad storm is coming, we store more water (10+ gallons).

3. Paper plates, napkins, cups, plastic forks/spoons, etc.

It’s hard to do lots of dishes when you don’t have running water.

4. Have baby wipes, antibacterial hand wipes, and hand sanitizer available.

Especially in the bathroom!

I’m not an expert on this topic. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned from experience. Do you lose your power very often? Do you have any tips to share?

This post contains affiliate links.

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Time Diary Experiment: Results! Yikes!

Time Journal

My time diary from part of one day. Messy, of course. The numbers on the far left side show computer time.

Last week my friend Kristen (The Frugal Girl) and I (and some of you!) did a time diary experiment to see what in the world was happening to those 24 hours each day.

My hypothesis was that I have Computer Time-Suck Syndrome.

I was right. And remember the whole thing about how I was going to do better just because I was keeping track and I knew I would be reporting it to the world? Can we forget about that part? Because…well, you’ll see.

I could tell as I was going through the week that I was losing track of time on the computer. I would go to do a quick email, blog, Facebook check-in, thinking it would be 5-10 min., and discover upon emerging that it had actually been 20 or even 60 minutes. Really? It didn’t seem like that long!

I went through the time diary to try to total my computer usage for each day. These times are approximate, because I didn’t always write down the exact time I sat down and the exact time I broke away.

Computer Time

Monday: 3 hours

Tuesday: 4 hours

Wednesday: almost 5 hours!?!

Thursday: 4 hours

Friday: 2 1/2 hours

Now, I don’t consider all of that time as wasted. Some of it was intentional and planned. Some of it was productive time. But waaayyy too much of it was me, floating around from one interesting recipe/blog post/Facebook update to another, when I really should have been doing something else.

The thing is, when I’m on the computer,  I’m often doing things that I think will ultimately be good for my family, like finding new recipes, researching activities to do with the kids, or learning about decluttering and organizing. But I need to spend time actually living my real life.

I need to spend time actually decluttering and organizing my own home, not just looking at a gazillion ideas and methods from others. Not that that’s all bad, but I need a better balance between the two.

I just want to throw in here that we did lots of good offline things this week, too! We went to the library twice, we made smoothies and banana bread, we cleaned, played, colored, and danced. Yay!

Here are some updates on a few other things I mentioned in my post when I introduced the time diary experiment:

Sleep Schedule:

I went to bed between 12 – 2 AM each night and woke up between 6:30 – 8:59 AM. (My goal is to get to bed earlier and wake up earlier.)

Average sleep time : 7 hours (I think my body would prefer 8-9)

Cleaning Schedule:

I think I did a little better than usual. And I’m really improving on getting the kids involved. No big decluttering projects, though.

Planning Ahead:

I made To Do lists for at least 3 days. I don’t follow them very well. I don’t look at them enough. I need to simplify this and force myself to have less things on the list so that I’m not too overwhelmed to look at them.

Next Steps:

Even though I’m tempted to try to fix everything at once, I think I will start by simply reducing the amount of time I spend on Facebook. I love Facebook. I love it a little too much. So I’m thinking 30 min. a day. I’ll be sure to let you know how it’s going!

Be sure to check out The Frugal Girl’s time diary update, too!

If you did a time diary, I’d love to hear about it! And if you blogged about it, feel free to put your link in the comments. 

If you want to stay updated on my simplifying adventures, you can subscribe by email for free:

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Menu Plan for the Week 6/24 – 6/30

Hi Everybody! I am so happy that it’s summer and I am flying through my Summer Bucket List! We had our first pool swim of the summer on Saturday (thanks to some friends who invited us over) and it was lovely.

If you are wondering about my Time Diary Experiment, I’m planning to post the results sometime tomorrow. There are so many thoughts swirling around in my head about this. I think writing about it will actually help me organize those thoughts. Or I might ramble on and be all over the place. We’ll see!

You know what was really yummy last week? The Chicken salad. I loved how simple the recipe was to begin with. And then I made a small change that we loved. I didn’t have any parsley, so I chopped up some fresh basil from the garden instead. It was great and brought out the lemon flavor even more, it seemed. This was great for a hot summer night.

This Week’s Menu Plan

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Sunday

  • Hot dogs
  • raw carrots
  • baked beans

Monday

Tuesday  

Wednesday 

Thursday 

  • Soft Tacos, Burritos, taco salad, or nachos…Oh, you get the idea.
  • raw veggies/fruit

Friday

  • Homemade Pizza with a quick and easy crust (I use part whole wheat flour and knead the dough after mixing)
  • raw fruit/veggies

Saturday

  • Pesto Pasta
  • Grilled veggies
I’m linking up with OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday, where you can find many more meal plans to check out!

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Menu Plan for the Week 6/17 – 6/23

Grilled vegetables with couscous

I must admit I was a little nervous about how the kids would do with the Grilled Vegetables and couscous for dinner last week, but they loved it! We all loved it. I kept the dressing separate because 2 out of 3 of our kids prefer things a little more plain if possible. The picture above actually shows the leftovers. I chopped up the leftover veggies, mixed them with the leftover couscous and dressing, added a bit of chopped fresh spinach and basil and it made a super yummy lunch!

This Week’s Menu Plan

Sunday

  • Buffalo Chicken Wraps (I made them with chicken I cooked in the slow cooker. I also added chopped celery. I couldn’t find yogurt blue cheese dressing at my grocery store, but maybe I should try making some next time.)
  • watermelon
  • Sun Chips
  • carrots

Monday

  • 15-Minute Chicken Chili (Bumped from last week. I used regular canned tomatoes and had chiles as an optional topping. I couldn’t find the A1 sauce from the recipe at my store, so I mixed some regular steak sauce and hickory smoke barbeque sauce.  I also added some chili powder and cumin.)
  • corn bread
  • green salad

Tuesday  

Wednesday 

  • Beef Stir fry (I’ll use some leftover London Broil and a variety of veggies)

Thursday 

Friday

  • Homemade Pizza with a quick and easy crust (I use part whole wheat flour and knead the dough after mixing)
  • raw fruit/veggies

Saturday

I’m linking up with OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday, where you can find many more meal plans to check out!

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A Time Diary Experiment – Join us!

[Image Credit]

I love that we do not have a lot of scheduled activity in the summer, but I have been feeling like I have been wasting about half of each day! It seems like I look up and all of a sudden it’s lunch time and what do I have to show for that morning time? Not much. Not much at all.

It’s not that I think there can’t be down time or chill time, but I want my days to be more purposeful. I don’t want the day to just happen to me, I want to be intentional – whether it’s chill time, play time, or declutter time. 

And I think spontaneity is awesome, but all day every day doesn’t work well for long.

One thing I’ve been trying to do for a while is get to bed on time and get up earlier (ideally before the kids, or at least before my youngest (Anna, 2). I think this will help me a lot, but I haven’t done well so far. My tendency is to get a second wind at night and stay up way too late. Of course that leads to a lack of motivation to get up in the morning and starting the day with the feeling of being behind.

Another thing I know I need to work on is planning for the day ahead. Not planning every hour of the day (although maybe some days I should), but having some idea of how I want the day to go, including at least some specifics about activities, times, tasks.

Working on my new cleaning schedule was definitely a step in the right direction. Now I need to pick me up some self-discipline to actually follow it! Do they sell self-discipline at Target? Well, they should.

So when my friend Kristen from The Frugal Girl contacted me about working together on our time management, I was easily on board!  We are both going to keep a time diary this week to see where our time is going, and we will report back at the end of the week. It would be even more fun if you wanted to join us and do your own time diary!

I actually have tried to keep a time diary before, but the mistake I made was trying to write down every. single. thing. That lead to wasting time keeping the diary updated and burnout from making it too hard to keep up. So this time I’m planning to jot things down once every 1-2 hours.

I’m going to continue to make efforts to use my time well this week. In fact, I’m fairly confident that I will do better than usual. (Because I am not really motivated to tell you at the end of the week that I sat in front of my computer for 3 hours every morning while my kids sat in front of a screen of their own. Nope. ) And that’s a good thing, I think.

So if you want to join us in keeping a time diary this week, leave a comment letting us know, and then you can comment again at the end of the week with your own analysis. I would love to hear about what you learn! 

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