Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yea and Amen!

A few weeks ago I posted on the six commandments of organizing and I'm still sticking to them. But this article essentially covers them in three points. I love it!

"Outer order contributes to inner calm."  Oh yeah.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Unclog Your Sink, the Easy and Green Way

So, hubby and I have a chronic problem with our bathroom sink. Every few months the drain gets so sluggish that we have to take action.

I'm not entirely sure who or what to blame, but I imagine there is toothpaste and shaving cream residue mingling with the main culprit: hair.

I'm thrilled that there is a simple and inexpensive remedy to this. First, I unscrew the decorative part of the drain stopper, just so I can get a better look at what's happening. You may or may not be able to do this, depending on your sink. I use anything I can find that is long and skinny to fish out chunks. Sorry for the word picture, but I am sparing you and showing this on a clean sink! This last time, I just used q-tips to clean the opening. Hubby has a long wire that he sometimes uses (like a miniature pipe snake).

Once the visible buildup is cleared, I pour a small "mountain" of baking soda over the drain hole, maybe an inch high. Then, with exciting science class volcano action, I pour vinegar on top and watch the bubbles go to work. It sometimes takes four or five healthy pours of vinegar to fully rinse the baking soda down the drain. Once the foaming has stopped, follow with a full kettle of boiling water. By now, your sink should be draining rapidly.

A happy sink!
I love that this trick does virtually nothing to the water supply (the acid of the vinegar and the base of the baking soda cancel each other out) and is so stinking cheap! Neither can be said of the commercially available drain clearing products.

Monday, December 12, 2011

No More Stinky Towels

Having guests for the holidays? Want to give your linens a refresh without having to buy new ones? (White sales don't start until January.) Here are a few tips:

Wash towels on hot. Though cold water saves energy--I just learned that 90% of the energy used to wash clothes is for heating water--hot kills any bacteria hanging out in the towels. This is particularly important if colds are circulating in the family.

Put vinegar in the bleach dispenser and at rinse time. Not only does vinegar remove buildup from soap or oils, it revives the fabric and make your towels fluffier. It should also take care of any sour smells, which are usually more of a problem in the summer. Don't use liquid fabric softener, which just layers the towels with a petroleum-based product that eventually builds up and can be a breeding ground for more bacteria. Plus, some folks will be irritated by fragrance. Which leads me to my next point.

Dry smart. Use wool dryer balls, a clean tennis shoe or clean tennis balls to keep the towels moving in the dryer, reducing drying time and further fluffing them. Be sure to find out if the time dry or the sensor dry is the most efficient setting on your dryer. If you have time, clean the dryer vent which leads from the back of your dryer to the outside of your house. Getting rid of built-up lint will definitely speed your drying time!

Do you have other tips for how to freshen your house for guests? I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Shout Out for An Organized Lady

Overwhelmed? House full of clutter? Already planning how to simplify in the New Year?

You're going to want to keep an eye on Glynnis' blog for the next month or so. Love her ideas!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Greeting Cards

I was recently invited to a gathering with some of the moms from my MOPS group. One of the organizers prepared a bunch of great conversation starters, including the question "What are you good at?" There are many talented women in this world, and I really enjoyed hearing the answers from around the table. They included everything from 'loving my kids' to 'keeping an attractive home' to 'keeping in touch with others'. The last answer sparked some conversation about greeting cards.

A lot of us want to send nice cards and notes but have trouble following through. One woman noted she has a friend who buys cards and sends them right away. Her friend wants the card to go out when she thinks of it--before it is too late--even if that means it's weeks ahead of the birthday!

That comment got my wheels turning and I've compiled a few tips for you on how to make the prep work of sending cards a bit easier:

Monday, November 28, 2011


Today I have another installment of  odds 'n' ends thoughts for you.
  • In my six commandments of organizing, I mentioned having a place where you can dump things and sort them (commandment #3). In our house, this is the foyer. We have a rather large foyer compared to the rest of our townhouse, so this area is often where things are dropped for further review. Beyond that, it's the island/peninsula in the kitchen. I'm hoping to get back to some room-by-room posts on kids' rooms and other spaces soon.
  • My husband and I love watching Mythbusters and are catching up on some old episodes via Netflix (we save lots of $ by not having cable). One of the episodes tackled the myth that there are dirtier things in the house than the toilet seat, including money, computer keyboards and the number one culprit--the kitchen sponge. Interestingly enough, we get another magazine that talked about the same type of thing, saying the kitchen is often the dirtiest room in the house. If you use a sponge, you should run it through the dishwasher or microwave every day. Otherwise, you should use dishcloths and pull out a new one at least daily.
  • I'm curious to know if you've started your holiday shopping yet. I did a lot before baby was born, but will probably finish up with online purchases. There was a lot to choose from in stores even before Halloween this year.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Priorities, Priorities...

Here's a quote that I, in my orderly nature, find a bit hard to swallow:

"If all we needed to follow was a plan, we'd have no need to follow Jesus."

I'm sure that if you are here reading this, you are somewhat like me and thrive on planning. Or at least, you desire to be a bit more on top of things in your life. How would I know how to shape my week without looking over the calendar, listing out chores to be done (even if just mentally), and considering the people and things that are seeking my attention?

Glynnis Whitwer, author and inspirational speaker, recently shared a great post about the myth of multi-tasking, which tied in with a devotional on seeking God's agenda for our day. Reading these articles really challenged me as an organizer and as a Christian. There are countless things that I can accomplish in a day (provided I have the energy) but are all of them worthwhile?

I can constantly follow my toddler around the house, picking up, wiping and straightening, but is having a pristine home the ultimate accomplishment for my day? (If it was, how would I have learned that he loves to take a cloth and wipe up messes?) 

I love to watch a certain TV show during his naptime, but isn't it a better use of my time to rest, call a friend or do some chores I'd rather not be doing while he's awake and wants to play?

May I challenge you today, dear reader, that while a plan, a checklist, accomplishments and cleanliness are all worthwhile and sometimes even fun, they are not necessarily the end goal? Nay, let an orderly home with good systems in place be what makes you quick about the "have-to-do's" of life so that you have time leftover for the really meaningful stuff.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Six Commandments of Organizing (Part 2)

Here's part two of the post I shared earlier with the cardinal rules of organizing, as I see them (complete list):
  1. Each area of the house should be set up for only one type of activity.  Don’t pay bills in the kitchen, or eat in the bedroom. Use rooms for their intended purpose and designate an area for paperwork in an office or at a desk. Don’t cram all your activities into one room, or you’ll set yourself up to lose things!
  2. Handle items only once, or at the very most, twice.  Sort your mail next to the trash can.  Toss junk mail right away, take bills immediately to your desk (or schedule them for online payment immediately). Don’t make a habit of ‘piling’ unless you make a habit of sorting the pile for an hour each week!
  3. Designate one place in the house that will always be clutter-free to serve as your sorting area. You need a place to set down grocery bags, stacks of paperwork or supplies, and any other items you bring home with you. Unpack or spread out the items, then start putting things away immediately, working to clear off the sorting area.  Sometimes you have to make a mess in order to organize or clean it up!
  4. Work methodically, starting in one place, and sticking to a task until it is completed.  Try not to get overwhelmed.  Focus on one drawer or shelf, and work with it until you are done. Set a timer if it helps you keep moving. Small successes will be a big motivator.
  5. Group items with similar uses together where you use them.  For instance, store the supplies that you use to clean the bathroom underneath the sink or in a nearby closet - don’t hide them in the basement!  You’ll save time if you keep extra trash bags in the bottom of the can, protected by the bag that’s already in place.  Plus, you won’t need to find a shelf to store the bags on.  If you absolutely do not have room in the area, box up items, label them clearly and store them together with similar items in a storage area.
  6. Ask yourself: Could someone else benefit from having this item more than I am benefiting from it?  Check with them to see if they could use it.  “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Remember Matthew 6:25-34 – Do not worry about clothing, storing up treasures, or other things.  If you have not worn it in two years, picked it up in a year, or if it has a thick layer of dust on it, it isn’t doing you any good! You can donate just about anything to various causes, or you could bless a friend with something they can use, but may not be able to afford.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Six Commandments of Organizing (Part 1)

So, here we are just a few days until baby is scheduled to arrive. I made some serious "nesting" headway this week, reviewing and filing receipts, making lists and packing my bag for the hospital. I was also cleaning up some of the files that I saved to my computer's desktop, and found a list that I made for a friend several years ago. Here is the first installment for your inspiration: 
  1. Each area of the house should be set up for only one type of activity.  Don’t pay bills in the kitchen, or eat in the bedroom. Use rooms for their intended purpose and designate an area for paperwork in an office or at a desk. Don’t cram all your activities into one room, or you’ll set yourself up to lose things!
  2. Handle items only once, or at the very most, twice.  Sort your mail next to the trash can.  Toss junk mail right away, take bills immediately to your desk (or schedule them for online payment immediately). Don’t make a habit of ‘piling’ unless you make a habit of sorting the pile for an hour each week!
  3. Designate one place in the house that will always be clutter-free to serve as your sorting area. You need a place to set down grocery bags, stacks of paperwork or supplies, and any other items you bring home with you. Unpack or spread out the items, then start putting things away immediately, working to clear off the sorting area.  Sometimes you have to make a mess in order to organize or clean it up!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Applesauce Party!

The other day, two of my good friends came over to help make applesauce. This is the third year that we've turned it into a party, and the proverbial saying is true--Many hands do make light work!

Regretfully, I didn't think to take many pictures along the way, but here are two shots of the finished product.

We started out with four baskets of Cortland apples from Ray's Greenhouse in Telford. They are a family business and wonderful to deal with. Out of the four baskets, we had one apple that was past it's prime. They also sell baskets of "seconds" for less, but according my frugal mother-in-law, it's not really worth it. I'll take her word for it! We love the Cortlands, because they are very flavorful, require little added sugar, and give this beautiful pink color.

Some math for you:
4 adults +
3 hours +
4 pots +
2 strainers =
35 quarts of yield

Pretty exciting! I like that kind of math.

In case you are wondering, I did a lot of rearranging and found just enough freezer space for all the containers. We ate quite a few thawed items for dinner this week, though!

Oh, and all the apple scrap left from this project went right onto the garden to feed next years' beans, zucchini and tomatoes. Maybe we'll even get an apple tree!? !

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I'm initiating a new type of post today, called "Tidbits." This format will encompass miscellaneous updates or thoughts that don't really warrant their own full-size post.

  •  I ran into my friend Erin over the weekend. She was pleased to tell me that even though it's been a year, she's completed her recipe project. She typed up and organized her recipes in binders. Each type (Dessert, Vegetable, etc.) is separated by a pocket divider. The recipes she hasn't tried yet go in the pocket until she deems them worthy of filing. Way to go, Erin!
  • The cleaning list I shared in my last post is really working out. I will confess that I don't get every item done every week (remember I am 35 weeks pregnant and have a teething two-year-old). However, I think I was pretty lax before and now going over stuff that is still relatively clean goes very quickly. It took me the better part of two hours to really clean my fridge last week, but it was soooo worth it. De-cluttering the doors of magnets and hanging stuff really makes for a clean appearance, too. 
  • I've learned something about laundry. Since I've been a domestic engineer, I've found myself running loads of laundry every other day or so, often mixing towels in with another partially full load. This week, I tried waiting till I had several full loads. While I can't explain it, it seems easier to do multiple loads at once. I doubt it's going to take much discipline to wait, especially once the baby is here!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Cleaning Chart

Before kids, and when I worked full time, Saturday mornings were a time of laundry and frenzied cleaning. I spent several hours racing around trying to get everything back in shape. Now, I do cleaning in short bursts when I have time, or at least before company comes over.

I just read an article that affirmed my experience, saying it's more productive and less stressful to break things down into small jobs throughout the week. I never really timed these projects until I planned to write this post, but it is true that you can do a lot in 20 minutes.

When breaking up the tasks, I worry that I'll miss something.One of my friends told me she has a set day for dusting, another for vacuuming, etc. I'm not sure I can hold myself to such a high standard.

Because I believe that good organization means developing a system that actually works (not just sounds or looks good in a magazine), I came up with this cleaning chart to help me personally cover the basics. I'm sure it will require some adaptation after a few weeks.

As an example, I only scheduled myself to vacuum upstairs every other week. Maybe you think that's gross, but let me say that it's better that I do it every other week than procrastinate and have it go far longer in between.  Yes, even though I like to clean, some jobs just require more effort to start.

I'd love to hear how you make your chores fit into your schedule. Until then, happy cleaning!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's Too Soon for Colds!

Oh bother. My son has a runny nose and I am starting with a sore throat tonight. Just in time for me to do a lot of public speaking this weekend.

Before pregnancy and nursing, I would have poured myself a glass of red wine to try and head off the impending cold. However, an online friend introduced me to an even more potent remedy that's safe anytime. It's just not for everyone, though I've tried it several times and stand by it's success.

Here's the recipe:
  • One cup of hot black tea, brewed (I suggest nothing too flavorful)
  • Honey, to taste
  • Lemon juice
  • And the secret ingredient--as much cayenne (red) pepper as you can stand
Some of the pepper will probably float to the surface, but do your best to mix it in. I am probably using about a half teaspoon tonight, because I got a bit heavy handed with pouring. This is definitely a sipping tea!

I also really like that this requires no extra ingredients to keep on hand. I don't have to think about running to the drug store when I feel less than my best.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Look What I Found!

Here's a nifty tip that you might not have known about...but someone at the factory has been thinking!

Did you know there's a cool little panel on each side that you can press in to keep your foil roll from always popping out of the box?

There's also a pair of tabs on the front that (at least in theory) hold the box top down.

I checked, and this is true for the foil, the cling wrap, wax paper, and parchment paper that I have. Maybe I really can store these in a stack inside my cabinet, without it constantly falling over!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pregnant, Barefoot and in the Kitchen

This description may not always be the most flattering, but this is exactly how I found myself today. I spent the entire day making soup to freeze for quick and easy meals after the baby is born. Call it nesting or call it crazy, I now have 29 quarts (more than seven gallons!) of soup put away.

This was the first time that I spent the better part of a day in the kitchen cooking (aside from making applesauce). It also took a few hours of planning and shopping before the cooking. I pulled out the recipes and made my list, then checked it twice. Here's a picture of my canned goods stacked alongside their recipes, just to be sure I had enough beans, tomatoes, etc.

Since I had five types of soup to make, I borrowed a pot from my neighbor (thanks, Jen!) in addition to my dutch oven and stockpot so that I could keep the process going. I was able to chop vegetables, clean up, or package a cooled batch while the current pot was simmering. Of course, the kitchen didn't always look so organized...

It must have smelled pretty good wafting out into the backyard. Look who showed up!

Here is what my soup looked like as it finished freezing solid. The goal is to have nice, firm rectangles that can stand up on their own in the freezer. I debated on what might be the most eco-friendly storage solution and determined that reusable containers are great, but also take up more space in the freezer. And of course, I can't afford to buy all glass containers. So, I feel pretty justified in using less freezer capacity/energy even though the bags will only be reused once or twice at best.

I guess you can imagine one of my next projects is organizing the freezers to make room for applesauce!

Here's what I made:

A very special thanks to Nana for watching my boy while I worked. :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Found Money

This is my second full week working as a Domestic Engineer (stay-at-home-mom) and I'm enjoying it quite a bit more than I might have anticipated. As one of my friends has commented, it does tend to make you a bit more OCD about the house!

As you might imagine, I like making lists. I've developed a full-page list of things that I'd like to do before baby #2 arrives November 4. This includes making meals ahead and freezing them, deep cleaning most of the rooms in the house, and prepping the nursery. I hope I can get it all done, considering the number of naps I seem to need right now.

Since we are operating on one income, there's a renewed frugality in me. I'm finding myself interested in evaluating the house to find items I don't use much and can sell. I have a few items up on eBay and was thrilled to find a new consignment shop with adult clothing just opened up a few miles from my house. I'm already planning to rent a table at a Mother's Mart when we're ready to pass on some of the larger baby items.

Flipping through the channels last night, I found a show with people trying to do the same exact thing, only the items are much bigger ticket. It's called Buried Treasure and it's sort of like door-to-door Antiques Roadshow. Very cool, though I kidded my husband that I don't keep anything around long enough to let it become an antique!

Have you found a particularly effective way to recoup some value from items that you are no longer using? I'd love to hear it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Packing Checklist

Though summer vacations are winding down, I decided to make a few revisions to my packing checklist based on recent experience and repost it as a PDF for you to use. Enjoy!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Maintaining a Happy Home

Do you ever find yourself wishing you could get another family member a bit more on board with organizing, helping around the house, or some other project?

I found Mark Gungor's analysis of men's and women's thought patterns to be so interesting (and quite funny). He explains that women think in a winding trail like spaghetti and that men tend to compartmentalize. Take a few minutes and hear what he has to say.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trash by any Other Name Smells as Sour

Key idea: If you aren't recycling, WHY NOT?

My Dad told me something very interesting last week. He throws out about six bags of trash a year. Only six! That really benefits him because the trash pickup in his area is done by paying per bag. So, he spends about $12 a year to take care of what he can't compost, burn in his woodstove, or recycle. Can you say the same about your trash output?

I find it disturbing the names of some trash companies. There are at least five of them that growl their way through my development once or twice a week. We have the ever-present Waste Management (do I need someone to manage it for me?), the new Evergreen Waste Solutions (using green and solution, of which garbage dumps are neither) and others who are a bit less ostentatious about what they do.

Do you ever think about what goes in your trash can? Isn't there a good chance it contains stuff you could be recycling (the styrofoam tray from the chicken that you were too squeamish to rinse?), food items that could be composted or put down the disposal, or paper that can be disposed of elsewhere? What about stuff that you simply don't have to throw out? Donate used electronics to the thrift store, look up how to recycle cardboard on or find a clever way to use those old socks with holes (dust rags, sock puppets, etc.).

Here's some sobering data about how the United States compares to the rest of the world in trash production, er, "waste generation." For those of us unaccustomed to the metric system, 760kg equals 1,672 pounds per person...or more than 3/4 of a ton of trash every year. That's sick.

So, in conclusion, let me give you a pat on the back for putting your soda bottles and aluminum cans in the recycle bin. But, don't just stop there--first evaluate what you've got and then recycle, compost, reuse or flat out eliminate buying something that you will end up throwing away. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Supermarket Loyalty Cards

I stumbled across this article a few weeks ago. It seems to fly in the face of everything that hard-core bargain hunting coupon ladies are all about. It tells you not to sign up for customer loyalty cards.

In a very roundabout way, the article suggests you don't rely on that card to get you all the deals you need. But you knew that already. Just like you knew many of the tips from my previous post on grocery shopping. Loyalty cards and coupons are sticky wickets when you are a brand-loyal consumer. I'll admit that I only want Heinz ketchup and I don't care if the other brand is a dollar less because it tastes weird. So, I choose to wait to stock up on Heinz when it goes on sale ('cause I've never seen a coupon for Heinz ketchup). However it's no surprise that when I buy one brand of pasta at the store, I'll get a coupon for a competing brand.

Once again, I have to compliment my favorite store, Target, for their wonderful checkout coupons for the stuff I actually buy. I will more than gladly take that $1.50 coupon for the coffee I buy every few weeks. Even better that I can combine the store coupon with the manufacturer's coupon. Target has the best price on it anyway. Not to mention their awesome credit card that automatically gives you 5% off your purchase.

Anyway, I can't say that loyalty cards, checkout coupons and store credit cards are all bad. You just have to know how to work them in your favor, and be glad to put more than a few in the recycling.

What do you think? How many stores do you visit in an average week to get the best savings, and do you have their card?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lost Keys

I can't believe it. I lost a set of keys!

They were a spare set, but still. I pride myself on having a good system in the foyer so that this doesn't happen. It's not appropriate to blame my two-year-old for moving them, is it? Since I went and had a new set made this morning, I'm sure they will turn up later this week!

One of the first things we bought for this house was an entryway set with a matching table, mirror and lamp. This was in part because we have a pretty large foyer compared to the rest of our house. Plus, it was important to me that there was a place to set things when coming home, or set things that needed to go out (library books, mail, etc.). It's easier for me to remember what needs to go out the door if it's nearby.

After we set up that nice entry table, I also found a bowl to put keys in. That bowl of keys has become sort of a toy these days (whose toddler doesn't love to repeatedly lock and unlock the car with a remote?) but for five and a half years, that was an easy way to keep track of keys. The idea would also work nicely for hubby's wallet and cell phone, but it's never really caught on. :)

Well, here's hoping I find those keys!

Update: these keys were found lurking in the diaper bag, of all places. :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Boggling Principle

What can you learn about organizing from a family game? More than you might think!

I just returned from several relaxing days at a mountain cabin with my husband's family. It was wonderful! After the kids were in bed, we chose to play a few rounds of the game Boggle. I enjoy word games because I read so much, but I also devised a system for winning. See, the Boggle letters are arranged in a four by four square. I mentally divided the letters into two by two quadrants and started looking for word patterns in each quadrant. This really seemed to work and keep my mind focused when all the letters were facing different directions and it seemed easy to get distracted.

So, how to apply this to real life?

Start with a logical system to keep you from getting distracted. I've found this really helps me in the kitchen, where I can clean or straighten from left to right. My dishwasher is one of the right-most things in the kitchen, so I can keep funneling dirty dishes to the dishwasher or food to the fridge. Obviously, you can work right to left or in another patten if your kitchen is different, but I bet you'll find it's easier if you work with the same system every time.

Tonight, hubby and I washed our cars. This is a perfect example of how a grid or sectioning system works in your favor. Start with the roof, then windows on each side, then doors, moving from left to right and top to bottom. This ensures you get every nook and cranny without having to do spot cleaning later.

I envision the same principle to tackle papers on my desk, reviewing items from left to right and prioritizing projects.

How can you see this applying to your life? I'd love to hear your suggestions!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Five Tips for Maxed Out Moms (Link)

Check out this post (and giveaway) from Karen Ehman. I really appreciate her encouragement to do what's next, not what is easy. It's also very guilt-reducing and refreshing to hear her say that she doesn't scrapbook!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Closet Switch

Ah, May is here, and it was 80 degrees yesterday. Time to put away the winter clothes. Ugh.

Do you dread the seasonal closet switch like I do? You know, hauling bins of clothing up from the basement and sorting, washing, and packing away the stuff that has been in your closet. Of course, the coming addition to our family means that I had to haul out the maternity clothes, too, and pack away the summer stuff that already doesn't fit to make room in my dresser and closet.

So this year I decided to do it right and went and bought four more storage bins--one for overflow sweaters, one for my son's outgrown clothing, one for clothes he has yet to grow into, and one for my husband. I was proud of myself for thinking ahead and writing down the brand and size that I needed. If there is one thing I've learned from this dreaded project, it's to try and have bins of the same size and brand, with sturdy lids. Even if they are the same size, different brands make different shapes and that makes them frustrating to stack. You just have to label them since they all look alike.

Normally, this would also be the time when I carefully review what I didn't wear much, what didn't fit, and what I was just plain tired of looking at; that stuff would be donated at the thrift shop. However, since I don't know what my post-baby shape will be, I'm hanging on until fall. Then I imagine I'll be getting rid of a lot of things! (I realized that one of the shirts in my closet is still from high school. That's thirteen years ago. Maybe it's time to say goodbye?)

I once read a great tip about how to decide when it's time to part with a piece of clothing. The author suggested that you start the season with all your hangers turned around (so the hook came toward you instead of the wall). As you wore an item and rehung it, you then hang the hanger the right way. At the end of the season, you could honestly assess what you didn't wear at all by looking at the hangers. I'll confess I've never done it--possibly because I don't have too much trouble parting with things--but I like the concept a lot.

What do you do that makes this project easier? I need ideas since I haven't perfected the process.

ps-Interestingly enough, my pastor talked this week about Americans being overfed and overclothed. This whole post is testimony to that. And, if you are one of those folks who doesn't have to switch out their closet because your closet is big enough to hold all your clothes, I don't want to know about it!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Time Savers

Every minute is precious.
 It's also an opportunity to
get something done!

When you have young kids, people frequently admonish you to enjoy the time because children "grow up so fast". It's especially fast when you are the parent. Unfortunately, I don't know how to put life on pause.

There are a million things that drain your valuable time each day. How can you capitalize on what feels like wasted time?

A few ideas that will hopefully get your organizational juices flowing:
  1. Multitask when you are on the phone: unload the dishwasher, throw in a load of laundry, wipe the counter. These all take little concentration and won't distract you from your conversation like, say, replying to an email would.
  2. Keep mail, a magazine or other reading material that isn't time-sensitive in your purse or diaper bag. Look over it when you are waiting at the doctor's office, in line somewhere, or waiting in the pickup line at your child's school.
  3. Keep a microfiber cloth or swiffer in your car. When you are stuck at a light or getting gas, give the dashboard and console a quick swipe.
  4. Use any time you are sitting and waiting as an opportunity to clean out your purse.
  5. I check my pockets and purse when I'm in line at the grocery store, and toss any trash on my way out.
  6. Keep a pad and pen handy to write down things you need to do. You can refer to this list when you have a few minutes for a project; you can probably find one that will fit into the time that you have available.
  7. I find myself wasting a lot of emotional and mental energy saying, "I need to remember to ______". If I don't have paper handy, I often email myself, or call and leave myself a voicemail at home. Those are easy to delete and they're paperless, too!
  8. If you find yourself a few minutes early for an appointment and need to kill time, stop to get gas. Even if your tank isn't empty, you're less likely to run out or need a special trip later.
  9. Find some time to put your most frequently called service contacts (hair stylist, dentist, physician, pharmacy, etc.) in your cell phone so that you can call for an appointment any time you have a spare minute, no matter where you are.
  10. Waiting in the kitchen for a dish to finish cooking? Use that time to straighten items in a cabinet or glance through your fridge to see what needs to be used up, put on the grocery list or tossed out.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Room by Room: Office

Well, we have exciting #2 is due in November! I guess this is a partial excuse for my infrequent posting the past few weeks.

As we prepare to welcome a new little one, we will soon say goodbye to our office (the third bedroom). Truthfully, we've been working towards this goal over the past year. We have gone virtually paperless, paying bills online and scanning documents that we want to save. Still, losing this space has me thinking about what is really essential when there is limited space.

For my home office needs, I've narrowed it down to a laptop and mouse, flat workspace, a file box, a safe, a scanner, shredder, router and one shelf of a cupboard for office supplies. I really didn't think we could pare down from two desks to this little. It was refreshing to cut down on files and realize that I really only need to save the most recent bill from the water company, the electric company and so forth.

One tip from a friend: Lest you become too zealous in getting rid of paper, make sure you have at least one copy of recent bills (electronic or paper). If you need to call for service, they will want your account number, and you don't want to be left without it.
Do you have pictures of a condensed workspace that you want to share? Please post a comment; I'd love to spotlight some of your ideas!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I've observed something about women and men: They use the refrigerator differently.

I hear from so many women that their husbands can't find anything in the fridge that isn't exactly at eye level or in the very front. Imagine my surprise that there is actually a technical term for this "condition." It's called Refrigerator Blindness, or RB. (For more, read this fascinating study. I still can't fully decide if it's serious or one of the most sarcastic things ever written.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Weekend Getaway (Packing Checklist)

My sincere apologies for not having any new posts for awhile. Work has been busy and thus preempted some free time during naps. DH has been working hard too. Fortunately, we were recently able to get away for the weekend at a lovely bed and breakfast in Lancaster County. Thanks to the grandparents for watching our boy!

I don't know about you, but there are two parts to going away that really bother me: packing and laundry. It's not especially easy for me to figure out what to throw in a bag, even for a 36-hour excursion. (Will they have a hair dryer? How fancy a restaurant are we going to go to on Saturday?)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

So Many Errands!

Just about everyone I've talked to this week has spring fever. Enough of the winter, dashing from heated house to hopefully warm car, trying to avoid the bone-chilling cold. Doing errands in this weather is no fun, bundling up and toting a toddler around. I'm freezing or sweating, and there is no happy medium.

So, let me share with you my new, favorite way to do errands: I've been a longtime Amazon buyer for books, but a few months ago found out about Amazon Subscribe and Save and Amazon Mom. Silly me thought a lot of people knew about this, but I've mentioned it a handful of times in recent weeks and no one knew what I was talking about. So, here we are.

Amazon Subscribe and Save lets you order consumable stuff and have it shipped to you at regular intervals. Cereal, shampoo, diapers, Sonicare toothbrush heads, and pretty much any personal hygiene item you can think of. Set it up to ship any quantity at one, two, three or six month intervals, and automatically save 15% with no shipping charge. Plus, you can change the shipping pattern or cancel at any time. Just be sure you stop the subscription before you have a garage full of cereal. You only have a short window to tell them to stop a shipment. On the bright side, you can also speed up a shipment if you are running low on something. The full details are here.

Amazon Mom is especially cool, because you get the free two-day shipping that is part of Amazon Prime, with no minimum purchase (normally $79 a year if you sign up for that program outside of Amazon Mom). For every $25 you spend on baby stuff, the Prime benefits are extended another month. For instance, I bought a $100 item with Christmas money and the benefits were extended four more months. Plus, it's better than subscribe and save because you get an additional 15% off (total 30% off) many items, including diapers! Plus the stuff comes right to your door.

Due to the two-day free shipping, I have been seeing a lot of my UPS guy. He's a very nice man, and with all the visits he has been making, I'm thinking he's going to deserve a Christmas gift this year!

Seriously, if you are tired of running to the store for the stuff that runs out--vitamins, makeup, coffee--take a look at these programs. I bet you will save some time and cash, not to mention the chance you'll have to develop a special bond with the guy in brown!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Congratulations to...

Congratulations to Megan, the winner of the January organization services giveaway! She is expecting her first child and needs to find space for playing, sewing and storage all in one. I can't wait to get started on this project; babies are so much fun!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Room by Room: Laundry (Products)

Ah, the smell of fresh, clean laundry. There's nothing like it, right?

Well, unless you get that fresh scent from hanging your clothes and sheets on the line, you may want to think again about why it smells that way. (There's one particular baby detergent that makes me sick to my stomach because of the artificial fragrance they use.) The more I get away from using mainstream cleaning products, the worse the others smell.

I've been saddened to learn that a lot of commercially available detergents use things like optical brighteners to make whites look whiter, and can also contain a host of carcinogenic ingredients. A lot of fabric softeners coat your clothing with chemicals and the dryer sheets are polyester, so once you throw them away, they don't really break down.

Here are a few more eco-friendly products that I've checked out in the past year or so, which you might want to give a try:
My wool dryer balls

Finally, I can't entirely vouch for objectivity of this article, or find out enough about the financial ties between organizations, the information about dioxane is interesting. I keep hoping the Environmental Working Group will come out with a database like their Cosmetics Database, where you can learn the ingredients and relative safety of a large percentage of cosmetics and toiletries.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Room by Room: Laundry (Troubleshooting)

Today's entry includes a hodge-podge of information abut laundering your clothes and troubleshooting some common problems.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Free Organization Services Giveaway for 2011

I am again giving away three hours of free organizing services. Want me to tackle a closet, basement or junk drawer? Just post a comment and let me know what you need done. The lucky winner will be selected at noon on January 21.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Room by Room: Laundry (Pre-Sorting)

Confession: I love doing laundry. I always have, even when I was a teenager. Perhaps it has something to do with sorting, folding and putting away, all of which feels organized. Or maybe it's the fresh smell of clean fabric. Whether you enjoy laundry, or merely tolerate it as a necessary chore, I hope today's tip will save you some time.

Consider getting a laundry basket or dedicating a bin of some sort to laundry in each bedroom. Also, have a few extra in your bedroom. (I don't want to get in a habit of suggesting you need to buy "organizing supplies", since that's not usually necessary. Repurpose a storage tote, canvas bag, etc. to save money.)

Here's what I do with my five baskets:
  • Whites
  • Darks
  • Towels and rags
  • Delicates/dress clothes
  • One basket in my son's room for his laundry, which I don't separate by color. His dirty towels and washcloths go in here.
We simply put clothes in the right basket as we take them off. It gives me quick visual so I only have to launder full loads (eco-friendly). I will combine loads if I'm close (say, adding towels in with whites) or adding my son's clothing to a load of darks. Plus, I can fold and return clothing using the same basket.

What's really great is that I can do laundry throughout the week when I see that it's accumulating.  No more mountain of clothing to sift through on Saturday morning. That's precious family time nowadays!