Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Best Tips from 2010

First, I want to thank all of you who read my blog. I love having a simplified life and hope that this blog has helped you to simplify your life this year.

Second, I'm ringing in the New Year (early) with my picks for the best tips and ideas for this past year:

1. Cooking in Bulk
2. Maintaining an Organized Freezer
3. Organize Necklaces and Bracelets

What are some of your favorite blog posts from 2010?!?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kid's Dressing Themselves

Warning: This is a post for mothers. And dads. And for anyone out there who has seen ratty-looking kids and thought to themselves (or said out loud to a friend): "Wow, who dresses those kids? Those kids are *so* NOT cute."

My big girls love to pick out their own clothes in the morning. And they equally love to do their own hair. They are 6 years old and 3 years old....therefore the outcome is often scary.

I like my children's clothes to match. I like their hair to look cute. But, I also want to teach them that they are the one's who decide what clothes and hairdos they like. Pleasing others is not my goal when I get dressed in the morning, nor should it be there's.

Therefore, I've learned that Ava loves to pair red shirts underneath her pink dress and then wear tights that don't match. She pulls the look together with two dozen hair bows stuck in her hair. Morgan has a slightly more refined taste...plaid shirt with striped pants. She almost always comes downstairs with her hair half up-half down...with lots coming out of the sides.

This scene is not the image of cuteness I'd choose if I were doing the dressing. However, here's why I let them do it (and tell them they look beautiful):

1. It simplifies my life. I now have 2 less people to get dressed and do hair for.
2. It teaches them that they get to determine what they think is beautiful...not society. Boy, do I wish I had learned that lesson early in life.
3. It teaches independence and creativity. They are so proud when they come downstairs all ready for the day.

I'm thankful that my children feel comfortable to dress how they think is beautiful without me putting society's pressure on them to look perfect. And while I hope the plaid and striped look will disappear, I pray they always know that their clothes and hair is not what makes them beautiful.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Maintaining an Organized Freezer

Welcome back from yesterday! Since you're back, I assume you are ready to change your life for the better. And I really mean that. This document I am about to share with you has changed my life and I hope it will do the same for you.

Without further ado: Click on this link to see how I keep my freezers organized. Now, let me explain how to use it:

1. Email me at if you would like me to email you the same document that you can tweak for the items in your freezer.
2. Once I email you the editable document, edit it and print it out.
3. Get the list of the items in your freezer from my last post.
4. Make a slash if the item is in your freezer.
5. Once you take something out of the freezer, make the slash the other direction, so it makes an X. Now you know you no longer have that item in your freezer.
6. Keep up with it! It's so easy to add items and take items out without marking them on your sheet...but then the sheet would be a waste of time. So, if you want this system to work, you have to keep up with the slashes.
7. Enjoy always knowing what you have in your freezer and how much of it you have!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What's in Your Freezer?


And as I type the title for this post, I mean for you to read it like the Capital One commercial, "What's in your wallet?". Makes it that much more fun.

OK, so you know all the items in your freezer? Can you get to them without taking out half the freezer? If you answered 'no' to either of those questions, keep reading:

1. Storage containers. For those of you who have read multiple posts on this blog, you know I'm in love with storage containers. Clear plastic are my favorite. No, they don't make my house look like Martha Stewart's. But, that's not my goal in organization. Simplicity is. So, take some measurements of the inside of your freezer.

2. Shop. Before you shop at the store, shop around your house. I had some bins around my house where I didn't need to lid....I put the lid in my freezer to create my "veggie" space. So, go around your house and gather bins and lids that aren't being used. If you don't have any, go to the store and buy some containers you think may work for you. For reference, I have 1 big plastic lid and 1 shallow plastic bin. That's all I needed. But, get more if you want all the food to be in bins.

3. Make a list. You have to have about an hour of time to do this. Pull out everything in your freezer. Write down what's in it and how much of it you have.

4. Put back. First put in the storage containers and/or lids in the spaces that you may need them. Then start adding the food! This may be easily done...but don't get discouraged if it's not. It may take some trial and error to figure out what foods fit where and what makes the most sense for your home and freezer.

5. Read tomorrow's blog post. I have a great system for KEEPING the freezer organized...not just for getting it there. I'll write about that tomorrow!

TIP: If you have a second freezer, do most of your storage in that one so your primary one is not out of control cluttered. I happen to have another freezer, which is why I don't have a ton of food in the picture above. If you only have one freezer...bummer. Just be sure to keep things in there that you use on a regular basis. It might be nice to have frozen cranberries on hand, but if you only use them once a year, don't have them in your freezer taking up precious space.

Friday, December 10, 2010

10 in 10 on the 10th

 Here are 10 things you can do in 10 minutes:

  1. Change the sheets on your bed
  2. Sharpen your knives
  3. Dust your ceiling fan(s)
  4. Sweep your front porch
  5. Clean your microwave
  6. Clean out your purse or wallet
  7. Call a friend you've been meaning to call
  8. Take out your kitchen utensils and wash the holder they were in
  9. Change your air filter(s) in your home
  10. Empty all the trash from the trashcans in your home

Organize Your Pantry, Step 3

Not sure about you, but I'm excited about this step. It's the doing part! You'll need to block out about an hour for this step. Put some music on - it'll help you have more fun...

1. Take all the food out of your pantry. Discard anything that you either can't tell what it is, has expired, or you know you won't eat. Group the remaining foods together with like items.
2. Put them in their appropriate bin and then stick the bin in the pantry. See how easy that was?!?! When doing step, keep in mind to:
  • Label your bins. Don't use a permanent marker to label though, because then you're stuck with that. Use a label maker, stickers you can write on, or even paper taped on it. Use bins for whatever you typically have in your pantry. I have a bin for each of the following categories: baking items, potatoes, dried fruit, nuts, rice, box mixes, vinegars and liquid sugars, salty snacks, sweet snacks, and candy. You can also use them for pasta, canned goods, breakfast items, etc.
  • Maintain it! Anything that you organize needs to be maintained. Try to keep it in order and you’ll spend less time maintaining. But, every so often, take a look in your pantry and see if you need to redo it.
Here are some pictures of my pantry from the top:

I keep oil and flours up top, along with a bin of vinegars and liquid sugars.

Next shelf has my snack food on it...all in bins. One for salty, one for sweet, and one for my children's candy stash.

My pasta is on the left, the rice is in a bin in the middle, and box mixes are in the bin on the right. My bread crumbs, peanut butter, or any other random item goes in between the bins.
 NOTICE: I have 1 more shelf that's not really's the one on the bottom in the picture above. The shelf in the top of the picture below is the same shelf. I didn't take a picture of it because it's not typical for me. I have a ton of canned goods that I got for free, which I usually don't have. So, all of those are on the left. My ziploc bags are in the white shoebox in the middle, and all my oats are on the right. 

My bottom shelf has my dried fruit and nuts in their own bins as well as all my cereal, grits, and pancake mix.

Obviously, the floor. I keep potatoes and onions in one bin and my baking items in the other bins (yes, it takes up two bins!). My popcorn is kept in a container on the floor as well as whatever large snack items I may have.

Keep in mind to utilize the wall space! Hang aprons or...
...hang grill items.

And lastly, I keep my spices and canned goods in my door.

I hope this series has been helpful to those who need a pantry makeover. Please make some comments on this post if you have any great tips to share with others!

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    Organize Your Pantry, Step 2

    Now, the fun part! Think about your space(s). You're going to want to group like-items together (all the cans, the baking items, your rice and pasta, snacks, etc). Figure out where you want those groupings to go. Some things to keep in mind:
    • Open space
      •  You're going to want to leave some open space to add items. Especially if you shop at Costco or another warehouse store or if you like to stock up on items that are on sale. So, don't fit your items as if they were a jigsaw puzzle. 
    • Accessibility
      • What items do you get to often? You don't want these on the floor or up high. 
      • Do you have kids or pets? Be sure to put items on their level that can't hurt them or you wouldn't mind them getting into. Like, probably not candy. I have cereal on my lowest shelf so my young kids can get it themselves in the morning.
    • Lazy Susans 
      • Utilize these handy things! I once put a client's oils and vinegars on a lazy susan so they would be able to reach them all without moving them all around. Another client uses one for canned goods.
      • These are especially good if your pantry has a corner shelf!
    • Utilize the floor 
      • Get bigger bins to put on the floor to keep things organized. I keep my baking items all together in one and my boxed mixes (cakes, extra flour, etc) in the other. I also keep a container of popcorn and also a bin for potatoes and onions.
    Next step in the planning process: Make a list of storage bins you might need. I prefer clear plastic, so I can see what I have easily. But, you can also do decorative if that's what you want. WARNING: This is where most people will give up. They will look at their space and say "I have no idea what I need". Here's the remedy: Either hire me (shameless plug) or follow this method....

    1. Take a picture of your pantry.
    2.  Print it out.
    3. Draw the bins on the picture.

    This is a great way to be able to visualize what you think your needs are. If you don't like it, start over.

    Tomorrow is my favorite part of the process...come back to find out what it is!!

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    Organize Your Pantry

    Morgan "helping" when she was a toddler.
    I love my pantry. It's not a walk-in and it doesn't look like Martha Stewart's. But, it's simple, practical, and I know where everything is. I am convinced that an organized pantry is one of the biggest ways to simplify your life and bring less stress into your days.

    Most of us don't have a 2 hour block of time (or energy) to devote. But, by breaking it down to 20 minutes a day, you can tackle it. So, I'm going to do a series on organizing your pantry, one day at a time.

    So if you want to organize your pantry this week, visit back each day. Here's the assignment for today:

    Think. That's it. Although I know sometimes that's the last thing you want to do at the end of a long day of work. But, this one's easy, so just open your pantry space. Take a good look and make notes of what you like, don't like, what is working, and what is not. Really, make notes. Go get some paper and a pencil.

    Ask yourself some questions as you look into the abyss:

    1. When I reach for the ______, does anything fall out?
    2. If someone asked me where my _________ was, would I be able to answer them right away (without the answer being "um. Not sure.")?
    3. Have you ever bought an item because you thought you were out, but you actually did have some to begin with?
    4. How much time do you spend looking for items?

    Stay tuned for your next assignment in your quest for sanity! 

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Preparing For Next Year's Holidays

    I know, I know. Chanukah isn’t even over and Christmas isn’t even hear yet. But, if you think ahead, you can make next year's season even better. Here’s how:

    1.      Storage containers – Make sure you pack all your holiday items well and store them in labeled containers. If you don’t have enough containers, don’t just throw them in a plastic bag and forget about them…buy some during the after Christmas sales. Remember - see through it almost always best.

    2.      Lights – They are such a pain to untangle…so don’t let them get tangled! Wrap one strand together and tie them with trash bag ties in two opposite spots. Then put one strand in a plastic grocery bag. Put all the bags into a large bin and there will be less swearing at the lights next year.

    3.      Keep records – Did you make a delightful brie this year that got rave reviews? Did you find the perfect hot chocolate recipe that you made for gifts? Write that kind of information down on your computer and you’ll have it readily available for next year. We always say, “Oh, I’ll remember that detail next year.” But, we rarely do.

    What are some of your favorite ways to prepare for next year?

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Help for the Unorganized Desk

    Can you see the top of your desk either at home or at work? Or does it look like an office supply store threw up on your desk (yes, I know that is a gross analogy)...

    I love organizing my desk. I mean love it. I have stacking trays. I have containers for supplies. I have a box of tissues. OK, that one doesn't have to do with organization, but it's a handy thing to keep on your desk.

    Of all my organization tools for my desk, my absolute favorites are my two bins. They are deep paper trays that do not stack and are kept side by side. One is my "To File" for papers and things to be put away. The other is my "To Do" things. Don't have a large enough desk? Get the stacking kind....just make sure they are deep.

    My "To Do" Tray:
    If I get a sweet card from a friend that I want to keep, but it doesn't belong on or in my desk and don't have the time to put it away then and goes in the "To File" pile. When my "To File" tray gets full, I take 15 minutes and go around the house and file everything in it. I put my kid's art where it belongs. I put that sweet card in my memory bin, located in the garage. I put the button off my jacket in my sewing items. I put the screwdriver back in the garage. You get the point.

    My "To File" Tray:
    Say I get an invitation in the mail for a slammin' event that I want to go to. I either IMMEDIATELY write it and all the details in my calendar (and throw the invitation away) or I put it in my "To Do" tray. When that tray gets full (or if I have 30 mins. of free time) I start going through the tray and get stuff done. I mail the letter that's sitting in there. I RSVP to a Christmas party. I put batteries in my child's toy so it can annoy everyone again. I write the birthday card that needs to get mailed next week. Again, you get the point.

    TIP: Have a system for your time sensitive items. I have a 3-Ring binder of important information that stays on my desk. It includes my calendar (yes, I'm still in the dark ages and don't have an iPhone, Droid, or online calendar). It has pockets in the front where I put all my time sensitive things. Nothin' worse than going through your "To Do" tray and finding things that are now too late to do.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Create More Storage with Pegboads - Day 4

    In case you're tired of pegboards, today's the last day of them. I hope they have inspired you to think about your walls more creatively!

    Today's idea comes from Real Simple.

    Put one up in your laundry room to hang your laundry, ironing, or cleaning tools on. Ah. Just beautiful.

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Create More Storage with Pegboads - Day 3

    If you sew, this is a great way to keep up with your spools of thread. If you don't, maybe tomorrow's pegboard idea will work for you!
    This is from Craftlog.

    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Create More Storage with Pegboards - Day 2

    Another creative thing to do with pegboards:

    Hang a small one on the back of the entrance coat closet and hang your keys, umbrella, dog leash, etc. Or if you exit your house by the back door, hang it right on the wall. May not be the prettiest solution, but it will work!

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Create More Storage with Pegboards - Day 1

    If you don't have enough storage in your living space, this series is for you. The next few posts will feature a creative way to create more storage with: Pegboards.

    They can be hung on virtually any wall to instantly create more space to hang things. Since most people think of pegboards being used in the garage, this first post will show just that. Here's a picture from

    As you can see, this is a great way to organize tools. They become easy to see, easy to reach, and most importantly, easy to put back (which is sometimes the hardest part about keeping things organized). Gardening tools would also work well on a pegboard in the garage.

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Boxes and Their Lids

    I've written a bit before about defining your space. Here's another easy (and generally free) way of doing that.

    Step 1. Find a tin box, wooden box, etc.
    Step 2.  Put something in it (like items are best so it's coherent).

    Not only is the above picture a way to define space, it makes it very easy to slide the lid or box out to find what you're looking for.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Buy, Buy, Buy!

    Culture tells us that the more things we have, the better and more full our lives will be. And as parents, the more we buy for our children, the easier and better their lives are. What a lie! The truth is, the less you have, the fuller your life will be. If our homes are full of clutter, let's take a look at why we have it in the first place. Most of the time people are trying to fill an unmet need by buying things. Or trying to gain approval from others by the items they have in their home. Or trying to buy their children's love by giving them the things they want. 

    So, trust me. Get rid of all the things in your house that you don't use and mean nothing to you. It will simplify your life. It will open your eyes to how much money our culture spends wastes on material things. I'm not saying to go all monkish and get rid of everything you own. But do live in moderation. Next time you're about to buy something that you think you need, analyze it to see if you can live without or ask yourself why you really want to buy it in the first place.

    Challenge yourself this holiday season: Don't buy more clutter. Give consumable gifts. Or art lessons. Or a special trip. Your loved ones will remember the relationship they had with you - not the things you gave them.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Ten in Ten on the Tenth

    Ten in ten on the tenth. Say that ten times. Welcome to a new post series that will be written on the tenth of every month. 

    When you’ve taken care of children all day or you get home from work, one of the last things you want to do is declutter or organize. So, here are 10 things that will take 10 minutes or less. While they won’t be overwhelming, they will simplify your life:
    1. Put up clean towels in all the bathrooms.
    2. Go through your pens and throw away the ones that don't write anymore.
    3. Change any dead light bulbs.
    4. Clean the fish bowl.
    5. Upload pictures off of your camera.
    6. Respond to one email that's sitting in your inbox.
    7. Clean the litter box.
    8. Throw away the trash in your car.
    9. Floss your teeth. 
    10. Water your plants. 

    Organize Earrings, Idea 6

    6. Ice cube trays

    This idea is from Apartment Therapy. It's one of my favorite websites. I could easily and cheaply put these into a drawer, assuming they fit. And while little people may still get into it, there's no glass or pottery to break. And I just happen to have some ice cube trays I'm not using. Sure, it's not beautiful. But, it's earrings. It doesn't have to be.

    So, here's my finished reorganization of my earrings:

    And I gotta tell ya - it's simplified my life.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Organize Earrings, Idea 5

    5. A box.

    While this one is too expensive, the idea might work. However, I have a lot of earrings and I'm not sure I could find a cheap enough box to fit them all. Nor do I have the time and energy to go hunting for one. Although I could get one of those plastic bead boxes, I don't like how they are so hard to open.

    Tomorrow is my last post on's my chosen method for storing my stay tuned!

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Organize Earrings, Idea 4

    4. Plate on the dresser.
    I love how simple this is. Take a decorative plate and lay your earrings on it. Easy. Pretty. And you can adapt it to how ever many pairs of earrings you have. Just a few? Get a small plate. Got a ton? Use a large charger.

    However, this cool idea is not so cool with little people in the house. But, I may be using this method when the kids are grown.

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Organize Earrings, Idea 3

    3. Screen Frame

    Get a picture frame and attach screen to it. And while I don't like this person's taste in earrings, I do like the idea. And it might work for me. But, it will also BE work for me. The thought of taking on this project does not simplify my life. So, I keep looking.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Organize Earrings, Idea 2

    This is beautiful as well. And if I were a bit more artsy and crafty, I might do it. But alas, I'll have to find something else since I am not crafty. Nor do I have a spot for it. Or even that many earrings. By the way, Cindy Cage is a very talented stained glass artist. Visit her website and check her out!

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Organize Earrings

    Here's my system of earrings. And it doesn't simplify my life. I'm in the process of looking for a different solution such that I can actually find the earrings I'm looking for. For the next several posts, I'll give an idea that I've found. If you're looking for a way to better organize your earrings, I hope one of these works for you.

    1. Martha Stewart (are you surprised?):

    I think this is beautiful. And I do have a drawer. But, I also have little people living in my house...which puts a damper on this idea. One little toddler hand in this drawer is a disaster waiting to happen.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Organize Necklaces and braclets

    My apologies for all the gentlemen who are reading this. Unless you're Adam Lambert or you rap for a living, this post is not for you.
    This is my system for organizing necklaces and bracelets. The thread rack. I bought these on sale for $10 each at Hancock Fabric. Walmart and craft stores also carry them. Spray paint it white (or whatever color you want) and mount on the wall; you have a great system to store your necklaces. It's easy to see what you have, keeps them untangled, and is easy to keep organized.

    Stay tuned for a series on organizing your earrings! 

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Keeping Mementos

    These are my grandfathers canes. When he died, the canes were passed onto my dad. They could have easily found their way to a basement, attic, or garage for storage. But, they didn't. They are being displayed.

    Sure, not every sentimental item can be put up on a wall or out on display. Nor should they. But if you have an attic full of sentimental items, take a look to see what you can turn into art. It adds a little something special to your home. And unclutters your attic at the same time, even if only by one item.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Multiple uses for file boxes?

    See that black file box? It's being repurposed. Toss out the papers that were in there and add some pasta. It's such a pain to stack pasta boxes because the ones on the bottom are then difficult to get to. Enter the file box. Put one in your pantry or cabinet and you create more vertical storage.

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    And the Winner is....

    Thank you to all those who participated in my first contest! Keep reading my blog for another chance to win!

    Congratulations to Trish R. who guessed it correctly! My favorite organizing tool is the trash can! Disclaimer: be sure to recycle.

    I love the trash can because it's a great way to keep the clutter down. I immediately throw out junk mail. I toss out odds and ends around the house. I throw away some of the kid's art projects because I really don't need 10,000 samples of their art. I love to throw away things more than anyone I know. And for all those skeptics out there: no, I've never regretted throwing something away. I've never thrown away something I actually needed or wanted. And I always recycle what I can. You should try it. It really does simplify your life!

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Contest Time!

    Welcome to my first contest! The first person to post the correct answer wins a $10 gift card to Target!

    Here's how this works:

    1. Answer this question: What's my favorite organizing tool?
    2. Post your guess as a comment on this blog post.
    3. Contest ends on October 31, 2010. If someone guesses it before then, the contest is over!

    Good luck!

    Jump Start Your Project

    I just got this roll of wrapping paper from someone. I could have easily just added it to my pile and moved on with my life. However, I'm letting it jump start me to organizing this crazy, out-of-control space of mine (see, even people who love to organize get cluttered!).
    The under the stairs closet that keeps my cleaning supplies and gift wrapping.
    Whew. Now that's better.
    I'm being vulnerable here people, showing my mess!
    And much better.

    So, instead of continuing to add items on top of items...let that newest addition give you a jump start to simplifying your space.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Product Review: Expanding File Folders

    I love these! I used this past weekend at a client's home to help her organize her files. These wonderful file folders expand on the bottom, making enough space for bulky paperwork. The next time you organize your files, be sure to go buy a packet of these. It makes it so easy to get paperwork, magazines, etc. in and out of the cabinet.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Cooking in Bulk

    And this isn't even all of it!

    A dear friend and I bulk cook once a month. Here's how it works and why it simplifies my life:

    1. Organize. Our very first meeting we talked about the types of food we like, who's house we'd do it at, and worked out child care (thankfully, her kids are old enough to babysit mine while we cook).

    2. Recipes. We do 3 recipes every time we meet and make sure that we multiply the recipe enough for each of us to come away with 3 servings of each recipe. There are lots of cookbooks with great freezer recipes. Go to the library and check some out. Buy the books you like or just copy the recipes. My favorite book is Fix, Freeze, Feast by Kati Neville and Lindsay Tkacsik. Another tip: you don't need the recipe to be a freezer recipe to freeze it. Walk through the frozen food section at the store and for the most part, what they freeze - you can freeze.

    3. Shop. We split the shopping. We mostly shop at Aldi's and Costco because they carry items cheaper than Harris Teeter or other grocery stores. We figure out the total and split the cost evenly.

    4. Cook. We spend one morning (typically 3 hours) cooking. We do prep work ahead of time (like chop veggies, cook meat, etc) so it's basically just the assembly that we do that morning.

    5. Freeze. We put our meals in the freezer (making sure they are labeled) and they are ready to go.

    Bulk cooking has simplified my life more than any other thing I've blogged about. I serve inexpensive, healthy (for the most part), quick meals that all I have to do is take out of the freezer.

    Caveat: You have to have the freezer space in order for this to work. We bought an extra one on Craigslist for a great price. And I'm convinced we've already paid for it with the money I save by cooking in bulk. Don't have the space for an extra freezer? Ask around! Maybe one of your friends has an extra one that's not full and you can use their freezer in exchange for a meal!

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    A Client's Office Organization

    I spent this past weekend helping a client get her office organized. She was a self-proclaimed paper pack rat. She knew she needed to go through it, but she said that at some point it got too overwhelming to tackle.

    It's much easier going through clutter with someone else. We took the weekend and put order and beauty back into her office...which now she can use again!

    Desk Before:
    Desk After:

     Closet Before:

     Closet After: 

    Filing Cabinet Before:

    Filing Cabinet After:

    Bookshelves Before:

     Bookshelves After: