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The Plum Paper Planner

I’m a planner addict. Actually I’m an organization addict and that carries over to my intense love of planners. For years I’ve used The Happy Planner and been really, well…happy. Then I saw someone post about the Plum Paper Planner and I was intrigued. I spent a month going back and forth before deciding to order one. What finally tipped me over the scale into ordering one was all the options for customizing my planner. With 4 kids in 3 different school systems this year I need to be able to stay organized. This planner allows me to do that. 

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There are so many options for customization. You choose your cover. You choose your style. You choose what month to start and how many months you want. You choose the name or word on the cover. You can add all kinds of different sections. You can choose the custom labels for up to 7 sections in the weekly layout. It’s amazing and exactly what I wanted. I went with the ME Family Planner because it fit what I needed the best. 

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Each month starts with this monthly highlights page. It has space to write 3 goals for the month, birthdays, events, things to remember, and space for notes. 

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This is the other side of the monthly highlights page. I use this page to write out the meals we’re going to eat for the month. It makes it easier to plan the weekly meal plan when I can see all the dinners on one page. 

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The monthly calendar spread is great. The boxes are big enough to fit everything for everybody. I started color coding my planner this year and I’m really loving the PaperMate Flair pens. They’re amazing and they don’t smear or bleed through to the other side. 

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What really sold me on this planner was the weekly layout sections. Amazing. I customized all 7 boxes according to what I need to keep track of- one box for each kid, dinner, home, and an etc box for everything else. This has made life so much easier. I keep a general record of appointments on the main calendar page and then the in depth information goes in the weekly section. 

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I can see every single thing I need to do and where I need to be for the week in one glance. I also use the kids’ sections as reminders for things. This week I made a note in Ty’s section for him to bring the money for his spirit wear. I also noted that Maia needs a calculator by Friday. It’s taken away the fifty billion scraps of paper laying everywhere. I even added a big notes tabbed section at the back of my binder for when I need to jot something down.

I’m extremely happy with my Plum Paper Planner and I will definitely be ordering another one when this one runs out. It’s the perfect size to fit in my bag and the cover protector means it doesn’t get ripped or wrinkled. 

I was not compensated for this post at all. I bought the planner on my own and was not asked to provide a review. I just love it that much!

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Tips To Tame The Laundry Monster

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I don’t know about y’all but the hardest thing for me to stay on top of is laundry. I struggled for years with laundry piled up to the point that it became an all day affair just to make a dent in it. I’m totally guilty of buying my kids new socks or underwear just to avoid the laundry for another day. But all that has had to change this year. Two of my kids wear uniforms every day to school. And uniforms are expensive. So I can’t just buy more to avoid the laundry. I dedicated the summer to developing a laundry system in my household that works without being overwhelming. 

1. Designate a laundry collection area. One of my issues was too many laundry baskets in too many areas and we ended up with piles of laundry everywhere. I used to have a small basket in every kid’s closet. I took those out, bought 2 larger laundry baskets, and created a laundry station in the upstairs hallway linen closet. We have a light wash basket and a dark wash basket. Tyler has a basket in his room. Matt and I have our own separate laundry baskets. It’s working much better. I can easily see when the baskets are full and I can throw in a load before it becomes a mountain.

2. Give your kids some responsibility for laundry. All the kids are responsible for putting their dirty clothes into the proper basket. They know how to sort lights and darks. They know if something has a stain on it that needs to be treated that they are responsible for putting it on top of the washer instead of in the basket. 

3. Do it start to finish. I was the worst for starting a load in the washer and then forgetting about it. So it sat there, sometimes for days, and I had to spend time getting the icky smell out of all the clothes. Now I start the washer, transfer to the dryer or hang to dry right away, fold it when it’s done, and it gets put away immediately. Bonus- it means I don’t have to iron or steam the wrinkles out of clothes anymore. I used to make the kids put their own clothes away but now with school going back in I’m going to get all the laundry done while they’re at school. 

4. Clear out the closets regularly. Instead of waiting for the end of the season to clean out closets I’m doing it every month. Then it’s not such a big task to complete. It takes me less than 10 minutes to do all 3 little kids closets when I do it regularly. I’ve started keeping a better eye on the stuff they don’t wear and weeding it out. I’ve also limited the amount of clothing they have, especially since the 2 older kids are in uniforms for school. They don’t need 20 shirts when they wear uniforms 5 days a week. 

5. Separate the outgrown or destroyed items in the laundry room. Doing smaller loads more often lets me weed out stuff in the laundry room before I spend time putting it away. Socks with holes, underwear with torn elastic, shirts with stains, and stuff they’ve outgrown gets weeded out immediately. I keep donate bags in the closet and I toss things in them regularly. It’s so much easier and then I’m not searching for a matching sock without holes when it’s 7am.

6. Plan school clothes out on Sunday night. It’s easy with the older kids- uniforms! But with the 2 little kids, I’m going to have them choose the whole week’s worth of clothes on Sunday night. It saves time in the mornings and makes everything run smoothly. My kids are not morning people so anything I can do at night to help make the mornings easier is a bonus.

I’m really excited to actually be on top of laundry for once. I instantly feel more organized when there aren’t piles of dirty clothes waiting to be washed, or piles of clean clothes waiting to be folded! 

**Have you told me how you deal with allergies so you can enjoy all the fun Fall activities on this post yet? Your comment will enter you for a chance to win a $100 Visa Gift Card!

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Back To School Planning For A Large Family

There’s just something about the back to school season that gets me every year. Even more so than the start of a new calendar year. I’m big on setting goals and starting fresh each school year. I always have lots of great ideas and plans for how to make life easier during the school year. Unfortunately the enthusiasm for reaching those goals usually peters out somewhere around the second week of school. Ha! But this year will be different. No, really it will be different. Shut up. 

But in all seriousness, it has to be different. We are embarking on a whole new life with regards to school this year. We have 2 kids in 2 different charter schools that are 30+ minutes away from our house. And then the 2 littles are in our local elementary school for this year. So it’s 3 different school schedules and more importantly, 3 different school calendars. None of their Spring Breaks line up. None of their teacher workdays line up. Basically the only days off that line up are federal holidays. My stress level is very high just thinking about it. So what all that means for our family is that the organization needs to be at level 10 this year. No exceptions. I made a to-do list and then promptly had a mini panic attack at what need to be accomplished in the next couple of weeks. So I’ve broken it down into main categories to help me focus.

1. Clothing. 

     Tyler- He has 99% of his uniform pieces- he needs a couple of long sleeve button downs and hoodies. He has new boxers, new socks, new shoes. 

     Maia- She needs her entire school uniform. She has new undies, bras, socks, and shoes.

     Mason & Zoey- They are DONE!

2. School Necessities.

     Tyler- I bought his book bag and igloo lunch bag already. He wants a Yeti water bottle. He won’t get a school supply list until the first day. 

     Maia- She has her book bag, lunch bag, and water bottle. We won’t get a school supply list until the first day.

     Mason- He has his book bag, lunch bag, and water bottle. I got his school supply list today and already have half of the supplies.

     Zoey- She has her book bag and lunch bag. She needs a water bottle. I don’t have a school supply list yet.

3. Organization.

     1. Front entry closet. AKA- the very depths of hell. This closet is a disaster. I opened it this morning and 3 basketballs, a hockey stick, a baseball bat, 2 skateboards, 3 helmets, and a set of football shoulder pads fell out on the floor. I need to take every single thing out and start over. I need to clean out the old shoes, get baskets for each kid to hold gloves, hats, etc, make an area to hang the library bag. Basically it just needs a total overhaul.

     2. Second pantry. I love my second pantry. A lot. But it’s going to have to do double duty this year. I need to create a space for a family command center in there. I know exactly what I want, now I just need to make it happen.

     3. Linen closet. I’ve started this project, now I need to finish it up. I’m making a laundry center in the linen closet for the 3 kids upstairs. Currently I have small laundry baskets in their bedroom closets but it’s not working. I can never tell when I have a full load to wash. So I’m centralizing the laundry into 2 baskets inside the linen closet- dark wash and light wash. Now to just get the kids on board.

     4. Kitchen cabinets & pantry. Because the kids take their lunches almost every day I am working on making it easy for them to pack their own lunches. The drawers in the pantry are getting an overhaul as are the shelves. I purchased some really great inserts for their lunch bags that I want to make space for in the pantry. The kitchen cabinets need a little mini purge too. 

     5. Garage. Specifically- the garage stairs. I cannot take the clutter anymore. I’ve already switched out a short shelving unit for the tall one in the second pantry. I’ve started organizing the shelves already but I need to finish. We needed space for the hot tub supplies, pet supplies, frequently used tools, outside shoes, etc. 

     6. Meal planning. I’ve been working hard on this. I bought a great new app to organize our favorite family dinners. I’m working on a new monthly menu meal plan and the coordinating weekly grocery lists to go with it. My goal is to already know exactly what we are eating every week and what groceries I need to order to make that meal plan happen. 

Basically it’s all about making my life easier this year. I’m not kidding at all when I tell you that the schedule is going to kill me. Tyler is playing football, Maia wants to play volleyball, Mason has his eye on flag football, and Zoey has her heart set on gymnastics. That’s just the Fall season. I’m going to be spending most of my life in the car so the house has to function like a well-oiled machine in order for me not to check myself into the nuthouse. 

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5 Strategies I Use To Maintain A Stress Free Month

This year has been one of our busiest and I’ve found myself needing to find ways to keep myself from becoming overwhelmed and stressed out. It’s taken me a few months to identify and eliminate the main sources of stress in my life. Then I went one step further and found ways to help make my month more organized.

1- Meal plan. It takes me about an hour to compile a monthly meal plan. I’m not fancy about it either. I use the Notes section of my iPhone. I break the month down into 4 weekly sections and I start adding meals. I make sure to plan meals that fit with our schedule on specific days. For example- on Tuesday and Thursday we have basketball practice at 6:30pm so I make sure I have a few crockpot meals scheduled each week. I don’t assign meals to specific nights, just to specific weeks. Then I can shuffle meals around if I need to but at least I know exactly what meals are available for any given week.

2- Grocery Lists. I use an app called List Ease to help with my grocery lists. I do once a month grocery shopping so I have separate lists for Walmart, Sams Club, and Aldi. This app allows me to add my items one time along with the price and as I shop I check them off. They stay at the very bottom until the next month when I go through and uncheck the ones I need to re-buy. This has saved me so much time because I don’t have to build a list from scratch every month.

3- Choose 10 books to read. I try to always read 10 books a month. At the beginning of the month I look through my TBR lists and choose 10 books that I want to finish during the month. It saves me the hassle of searching through several TBR lists for my next read. 

4- Make a goals list. I do best with goals. And a to-do list. So I make 5-6 goals at the beginning of the month, write them out, and then check them off when I’m done. I even share them on the blog to keep myself accountable. It helps a lot and it keeps me from being overwhelmed by a massive to-do list. I also maintain a list of long term projects so if I find myself without specific goals for any month I can check my long term project list and pick something to start on.

5- Fill out calendar and planner. I’m bad about writing down appointments and reminders on scraps of paper and then tossing them on my desk. So at the beginning of the month I make sure to add all those appointments to my calendar and my planner.

These simple things have helped so much in reducing the amount of stress in my life. And they really don’t take any time at all to do. 

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5 Ways I’m Keeping The House Organized

I cannot stand clutter and mess, y’all. I don’t know if it’s because I’m turning into a cranky almost 40 year old or if my psyche has just had enough and is putting it’s foot down. I know I haven’t always been so Type A about clutter. But I just can’t take it anymore. This year I am committed to getting rid of the excess, not adding to the clutter, and making sure every item has a home. It’s a huge undertaking but it will be so worth it. Eventually. I know I’ll love the end result but let’s face it- the process sucks. I already shared my 2016 Top 10 Organizing Challenge and I’ve made some good progress that I’ll share soon. But just organizing the spaces isn’t enough in this crazy house. I need a system in place to keep the house organized or it’ll be the same mess in 3 months. 

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1. Stop using stairs as clutter catcher. This is one of the worst habits that we need to break. I say “we” but it’s mostly me. The kids bring stuff down from their rooms and then somehow it never makes the long trek back up to their bedrooms. So as I’m walking through the house during the day I’m always grabbing stuff that needs to go upstairs and just stacking it on the stairs with the intention of taking up later. Most of the time that never happens and the stuff is still on the stairs two days later. So I’m committing to putting stuff away immediately. Plus, think of all the extra exercise I’ll get from walking up and down the stairs a hundred times a day. 

2. Deal with dishes immediately. One of the ugliest things I can see in the kitchen is a sink full of dishes. We finally have a brand new beautiful dishwasher so there are no more excuses for a sink full of dirty dishes. We need to either rinse them and put them in dishwasher or wash them and put them away immediately. This is a habit I’m trying really hard to form. We lived without a dishwasher for awhile so I still catch myself putting dishes in the sink to wash later. I’m much happier when the sink is empty and clean.

3. Finish laundry load completely. I’m the worst at starting laundry and then forgetting about it. I have a house full of kids and dogs and it’s easy to forget to finish what I’ve already started. I’ve already implemented a laundry schedule which will help me out a lot. I’m committing to wash, dry, fold, and put away every load of laundry immediately. No more letting the clothes sit in the dryer until they are so wrinkled that they have to be steam dried a second time. No more leaving clean laundry in the laundry baskets and letting the dirty clothes pile up in the floor. 

4. The 1 touch rule for paper. Paper is my nemesis. With so many kids in school I am buried in paper. I have a great system in place with my family command center. The key is to actually use the system! I’m committing to the 1 touch rule for paper. It either gets shredded, filed, or placed in the appropriate folder immediately. No more piles of paper cluttering up the kitchen counters and desk. 

5. 10 minute tidy up at end of night. The worst way to start the day is to come downstairs to a messy and cluttered space. It just starts the day off on the wrong foot. So I’m committing to a quick 10 minute tidy up sweep at the end of the night after the kids are in bed. It will help me start the next day off organized and upbeat. I’m always leaving stuff out on theory that we’ll just need it the next day- such as bookbags, lunch boxes, shoes, coats, etc. But that means the space is never clutter free. And honestly, it takes 30 seconds to get them back out the next day before school so it’s not as if leaving them in the family room is a huge time saver. So I will be putting all those items away as well as any other items I see lying around. I will be making sure the dining room table is clean, the kitchen counters are clean, and the dishwasher is started. I think this will have a huge impact on my mornings!

Those are 5 changes I’m making to help keep our home organized and clutter free.

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