Thursday, January 28, 2010

Walk-In Closet Makeover--Part 1

As an organizer, I am embarrassed to say that the walk-in closet in our master bedroom has literally become a disaster! I have been wanting to install a custom walk-in closet system since we moved into our house. So for months now, I have been procrastinating and in the process of my procrastination, I have let our closet become the mess that it is! As for most of the "stuff" on the floor, it is due to my one-year-old son taking all the folded clothes off the shelves and playing with them!

There are SO many options out there for closet system makeovers from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars! I want something high quality, but I want a great deal! This makes a perfect winter project for me to complete! It has come to the point that I "just have to make a decision" and stick with it!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saving Money on your Grocery Bill

Tired of wasting money on groceries? Tired of throwing food away? Tired of buying something only to find out it was on sale last week? Making dinner and realize that you are missing the key ingredient?

With organization these woes can be solved! First of all, I must tell you that I am pretty frugle and LOVE to save money! I get excited over a good deal! With that being said, I will share with you the ways I save my family money by shopping smart.

When I lived in the United States, I was a religious coupon clipper. In Sunday's newspaper, I would clip coupons and scan the ads for good deals. There were several products that I refused to buy without a coupon. I keep my coupons in two envelopes. One envelope has coupons for groceries and one for household items. However, now living in Canada, coupons are hard to come by! They do not come in the newspapers. I have found a few online sites that offer coupons in Canada, but I find that to be really time consuming and often not worth my time to do it. Therefore, I had to come up with a better way to save money on our groceries and household items.

Using the Weekly Ads to Save Money

Now I scan the weekly ads that come in the mail on Fridays. On the weekend, I look over the ads, find out what is on sale, and make a list. My list looks something like this:

  • fruits/vegetables

  • bakery/bread

  • deli

  • meats/seafood

  • grocery items

  • refrigerated/dairy

  • frozen

  • paper/cleaning products

  • health/beauty items

  • miscellaneous

Note: So I remember where the item is on sale, I put the first letter of the store next to the item.

Meal Planning According to What is On Sale

Next, I plan my meals around what meat and fruits/vegetables are on sale for that week. On the back of my list, I write the meals that we will be having for the week. When meal planning for your family, think about what your family enjoys, but don't be afraid to try something new as well!

Buying in Bulk or Family Sized-Items

I typically buy in bulk for many items. Please note that most of the time, but not always, it is more cost effective to buy in bulk. Pay attention to the unit price to which size of an item is the better deal. You should see this on the price tag by the scu number. Items that are nonperishable or frozen (or can be frozen) are best to buy in bulk because they will not go bad, as long as you have the storage space and/or a freezer for such items.

I always buy meat/fish in family pack sizes when they are on sale. I then divide the meat/fish into dinner-sized portions, label, and freeze. In the summer, when berries are at their best, I wait for them to go on sale, wash them, pat dry, layer in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and freeze. Once they are frozen transfer them to freezer bags and label.

I hope these ideas can help you save time and money at the grocery store! By taking the time to look over the ads and making a grocery list, it can save you time

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Laundry Out of Control?

One night my friends and I were talking (I really mean griping!) about our household tasks. One task that we all had difficulty with was how hard it is to keep up with laundry...especially with children! We felt that is was too time consuming and never seemed to get put away once it was folded.

I am probably the odd ball here because laundry is one of my favorite chores! However, I don't enjoy all aspects of it. The part I don't like about laundry is ironing and putting away the clothes. I have come up with some suggestions to make it less time consuming, less of a headache to deal with, and less work for you!

1. Get LOTS of Laundry Baskets!
Go to the dollar store and stock up on laundry baskets. Simple plastic ones will do the trick, and make sure that you AND YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS can carry them easily. I typically do not like the fancy wicker ones because they are not easy to carry and tend to harbor ordors!

2. Divide and Conquer!
I have three baskets in the master bedroom closet (one for whites, colors, and jeans/heavy duty). I have one basket in each of the children's bedrooms. I have one basket in each bathroom where bathing takes place, and one basket in the laundry room.

3. Laundry Day
Pick a day(s) of the week that you will be doing laundry. Since the master bedroom will have three baskets (one for whites, colors, and jeans/heavy duty), TEACH your family members to sort the contents of their baskets from their bedrooms into your baskets. As for the baskets in the bathrooms, have your children alternate weeks and do the same thing with the contents of those baskets as they did with their laundry baskets. The laundry basket in the laundry room is for kitchen towels and other misc. items.

***TIP--by giving your family members and/or children some of this responsibility is equals less work for you and teaches them a valuable lesson about contributing to the family!

Also, please note that when teaching your family try not to be too critical or too much of a perfectionist or they are not going to want to participate with helping out!

***IMPORTANT--have a separate basket for delicates, items that need hand-washing, or cannot be put into the dryer! I would do that load myself to ensure that items do not get ruined!!

4. Washing/Drying
Decide on who will be putting laundry into washer and dryer. I for one, am a bit particular about laundry, my husband wouldn't even know how to turn the washer on, so I am the one that does it all. However, you may want to give older children/teenagers this responsibility. Afterall if it is all sorted now and brought to the laundry room/area, the easy part is loading the washer and dryer!

5. Fold and Put Away as a Family
In our house, we fold as a family in front of the TV. If you have children old enough to help fold, teach them how you want clothes and towels folded so you are not refolding items. Have a basket on hand for each person and/or bedroom. Load baskets with items for each bedroom and/or family member. Load one basket with linens to put away. Have members of the family bring their basket back to their bedroom, and again, if old enough put his/her OWN clothes away neatly! You may have to check their work a few times to ensure they are not just tossing things into drawers.

6. Ironing
This is my least favorite task! I typically tackle ironing once or twice a month. I do it in front of the TV usually when the kids are sleeping or napping. If you have teenagers that are capable of doing a good job with this, you could have them do this chore or do a portion of it.

Other Tips!
  • Start loads of laundry at night. Not only will you be saving energy (and money!), you will be one step ahead of the game!
  • Do not let items sit in the dryer. Otherwise, you are creating more work for yourself if they are all wrinkled when you go to iron. If you do put laundry in the dryer at night, fluff the load for a few minutes before folding in the morning.
  • Line drying (again for energy consumption) is something I take advantage of in the summer months! I love the feel of line-dried towels, and the smell of line-dried clothes! This is something that family members can help out with as well!!!
  • Do not put wet or damp items into laundry baskets! That just creates stinky laundry and often the mildew smell is hard to get out of clothes. Moreover, mold can grow on items, which is virtually impossible to get out except by using bleach. Teach children to dry items first by handing them on the tub or towel racks!!
I hope this helps you loathe laundry less! By getting your family involved, you are teaching them responsibility and the value of helping each other out. You will be giving yourself more time to be with your family instead of a bystander doing all the chores while they are having all the fun!!! Even very small children can help out too. Give the appropriate tasks to the appropriate age!
Good luck and happy laundry day!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Manage Your Time; Make Double Batches!

What family these days isn't busy? With children being involved in extracurricular activities and parents working, it is very easy to just pick up take out or fast food for dinner on your way home from work! However, if you want a healthy alternative that will save you time and money, make double batches of dinners and FREEZE them! It is easy to take out something from the freezer to thaw before you go to work or to take it out to thaw when you get home. My mom used to have me take out the meat out of the freezer when I got home from school. That way it was thawed when she got home from work. As I got older, I would do much of prep work in preparing the dinners making it even easier for her when she got home.

How much would it take to make a double batch of your family's favorite dinners? My answer...very little! If you are making it already, it would only take a few extra minutes of prep work and a few minutes to place into freezer bags, label, and freeze! I keep freezer bags of different sizes and a Sharpie marker stocked in my kitchen to make it easy. Be sure to label what is in the bag, it may not be recognizable after it is frozen, and the date!

Here are some ideas of foods that I make double batches of and freeze:
  • soups (cream based and broth based)
  • stews
  • chili
  • chicken pot pie filling (use a prepared frozen pie crust to finish)
  • manicotti pasta stuffing
  • lasagna
  • mashed potatoes (they make excellent potato pancakes or hashbrowns for breakfast)
  • bean dishes
  • squash dishes
  • casseroles
  • spaghetti sauce
  • meatloaf
  • meatballs
  • homemade hamburger patties

Make and freeze your family's favorites. It will make your life easier on those busy nights while giving your family a healthy meal!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Weekly Housework and Errand Routine

I find that if I don't keep up with housework daily and errands weekly, it throws me off making me feel unaccomplished, overwhelmed, and frustrated. Over the past year of being a stay-at-home mom, I have slowly come into a weekly routine.

Please note that when I use the word "clean" it means cleaning all surfaces, vacuuming , mopping floors, dusting, mirrors, etc. When I use the word "tidy" it means wiping off coutnertops, picking up toys, no dishes in the sink, putting away anything that should be put away, etc.

My weekly routine goes something like this:

Monday--I stay home and usually do not go anywhere. I clean the kitchen, breakfast nook, dining room, and living room areas (basically the main living areas that are most used). If my son is having a good nap or the day is going well, sometimes I can get Tuesday's cleaning jobs done as well. Generally this takes me about two to three hours.

Tuesday--I clean the entry, laundry/mud room, and main floor bathroom. This usually takes me about 20 to 30 minutes. I run errands this day according to my to-do list, which is created/updated on Sunday or Monday.

Wednesday--I tackle paperwork (i.e. filing, invoices, receipts, etc.) for our small business and tidy our home office. The time it takes to do this really varies based on the time of the month. This is our trash day as well (we do not get curbside trash service where we live so I have to bring the trash/recycling to the refuse station). I finish any errands not completed on Tuesday.

Thursday--I clean the two bathrooms upstairs, clean and/or tidy the boys' bedrooms and our bedroom. I vacuum the entire top floor. Sometimes I have to finish this on Friday. Generally this takes about one to two hours.

Friday--I am usually catching up on anything not checked off my to-do list.

Saturday and Sunday are generally my "days off" meaning I just tidy the house and spend time with my family. If I was not able to take the trash/recycling out on Wednesday, I can do it either of these days. This is usually my husband's job, but if he is away working, then I do it.

Life happens and sometimes my routine gets thrown off, truthfully it happens just about every week! So for example, if my Monday cleaning doesn't get done, I just tidy and clean the Monday stuff the next week. I try not to stress out about it!

Generally every other week, I move the furniture in our main living area to vacuum and mop (if needed) underneath it. I only do this because we have hardwood floors and this is where the dust settles! If you have carpet, you would not have to do this!

*****One key area I would like to point out, is every night before I go to bed, I spend about five to 15 minutes tidying up the mainfloor. I feel refreshed in the morning when there are no dishes in the sink from the night before and the toys are not laying around everywhere!*****

Creating a routine that has room for "life" is key for me when staying organized and on top of things in my household! Then housework doesn't seem to build up! If this happens it is because we are really busy, and in that case, I just start up the next week.

When you create your own routine, you will need to decide which day you can tackle your cleaning chores. For example, if you work a typical Monday through Friday job, you may have to do your cleaning on the weekends and save weekdays for tidying and spending time with family. If you have children, they can definitely be helping out with these tasks saving you a lot of time. Husbands can also help out with things! I will tackle that subject in another post as I have had lots of inquiries on how to get husbands more involved!! In my household, we have the belief that we are a family unit. We help each other out with cleaning, errands, and yardwork. We work together to get it done faster in return giving us more time with each other for play! Since I am a stay-at-home mom and my husband works a great deal away from home, I generally am doing most, if not all, the cleaning and household chores.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010 Resolutions

As the new year is upon us, I am like most people, I have a few New Year's resolutions. The first one is to be more organized! That one might be a surprise to some as I am the one writing about being organized. However, wearing so many "hats" leaves me with little time.

Before becoming a mother, I was "neat freak." Everything always had to be clean, tidy, and organized! When I moved to Canada permanently, I was essentially "moving in" with my husband permanently as well. That meant that my step-son, who was eight years old at the time, stayed with us often. As most eight year olds, they are messy eaters at times! It drove me nuts! I was constantly vacuuming up the crumbs behind him. My in-laws laughed at me and told me to "get used to it." I didn't think it was going to be "that bad" having a baby around. Well, as my baby is approaching one year in a few days, he is the one making a MUCH BIGGER mess that the eight year ever could! I have had to learn to relax a little bit on my squeaky clean regime. Thus, this has taken a tole on my organized home!

One area that has gotten disorderly and is driving me crazy is the closets! Two closets being of particular concern, the master bedroom closet and the baby's room closet. In our master bedroom closet, the stacks of clothes are hardly neat anymore, there are hangers on the floor, laundry piles up quickly, clothes that need to be donated, and I have maternity and post-maternity clothes in a pile in the corner. It has gotten out of control!

The baby's room closet is a mess partly because of him digging in there for toys that I have already put away. I have a habit of finding amazing deals on things, so I have toys that he is still too young for which are piled on the shelf in the closet. Now there is way too much on the shelf! The floor in his closet is covered with books, old and new toys, a baby swing, an exersaucer, and so much more! It is a huge mess! I can't find anything!

A few other areas that are making me nuts are the dresser drawers. Again, my baby is partly to blame for this one! He is in the habit of taking everything out of them and throwing them onto the floor. Need less to say, his dresser drawers are no longer full of perfectly-folded, neat piles of clothing. In the master bedroom, the same problem is happening in our dresser drawers. I must say this one is my fault, probably because I am putting things away in a hurried manner.

So as 2010 is upon us, I will be taking some "before" pics of these areas and some "after" pics when I am finished. I intend on keeping these areas as neat as possible! In my defense, I organized our home when we moved into it a year and a half ago. It has stayed neat and organized up until probably November of 2009. I think part of the disorganization may be due to the holidays and being even more busy than normal! That may be just my excuse, but I am going to stick with it!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Choosing a Planner or Calendar

As the new year begins, the task of finding a new calendar and/or planner can be daunting. My advice is to not just pick one, but really look at your options. Find one that is suited to your needs.

When I was teaching and maintaining a household, I personally liked one with a month-at-a-glance, week-at-a-glance, and plenty of space to write down events and appointments. I would also choose one with a plastic or heavier cover if you tend to bring yours with you as I did. Some may want to keep their work and personal calendars and/or planners separate; however, I found that maintaining two was too much work. I generally combined mine into one planner/calendar. It went to work with me everyday and home every night.

Now that I am a stay-at-home mom and a small business owner, I use a large desk calendar to write down events, appointments, and schedules. Again, I like plenty of space to write things down.

Whatever calendar or planner you choose, take your time picking one out! Afterall, you will be with it for the entire year! Having a planner/calendar is an essential way to keep yourself organized and managing your time!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Creating my To-Do List for the week

Every weekend I update and/or create my to-do list for the week. Having a visual, written to-do list really helps me stay focused, less stressed, more organized, and in control. I used to type and print it out, but now I use a small notebook. I write down everything in the notebook that I need to remember. Before I was a Mother, I could remember things that I needed to get done better; however, now I cannot seem to remember anything! I forget things very easily! Therefore, having a to-do list to me is essential!

I only tear pages out of my notebook that I do not need anymore, or once the To-Do List has been updated on a separate page. I usually carry this notebook with me when I am running errands, so I can check things off as I am done with them. This helps me feel "accomplished!"

My To-Do List looks something like this:

To-Do List--Jan. 2-8, 2010
and so on...

I try to organize my list by errands, household, phone calls, etc.
If my list is particularly long, I can feel overwhelmed. I will designate tasks that I want or need to get done by the day. For example, if item #1 on my list needs to get done or I want it done on Monday, I will either highlight it in a color or put "Mon." next to it. I feel very accomplished when I can check off items on my list!

This may sounds a little ridiculous to some. However, if you are an unorganized person who forgets things a lot, creating a To-Do List is essential in helping you become more organized.