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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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2016 Top 10 Home Organization Challenge

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I don’t know about you guys but the start of a new year makes me feel the itch to organize all the things in our house. I’ve tried over the last couple of years to add as much organization as possible to our house but I still seem to be stepping over messes every day. I’ve justified this for a long time by saying we have lots of kids. But honestly, the youngest is 5. I think the shelf life on the kids are messy excuse has come and gone. It’s time to get serious. I don’t function very well in a messy space. Mess breeds anxiety in me and it trickles down to every aspect of my life. So this year I took a good long look around our house and made note of the top 10 areas that need help the most. 

1. Master Closet
2. Linen Closet
3. Paperwork
4. Front Closet
5. Laundry Closet
6. Garage
7. Toys
8. Random bins, baskets, & boxes
9. Bathroom cabinets
10. Medications/First Aid Stuff

I think getting a handle on these areas will help me keep the house clutter free and clean. I’ve already started on the Paperwork and the Laundry Closet. I can’t wait to see the results of my Home Organization Challenge this year!

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Converting A Hall Closet Into A Second Pantry

One of the things that has been really challenging about having 5 kids in our current home is the size of the pantry. Oh my gosh, the size of the pantry. It’s tiny and shallow and pretty much the bane of my existence. For years I have complained about it and brainstormed ways to expand it but there really is no good way to make it bigger in our kitchen. Then, last month I was walking through the house trying to figure out an area to keep the dog food bags and had an epiphany. We have a large walk-in closet in our hallway underneath the stairs. It was filled to the brim with junk. We never opened it because it was full of junk. Y’all, I had a real light bulb moment. It took me 2 days to completely empty out and clean the closet from floor to ceiling. I don’t have a before picture, mainly because I was too horrified at the clutter to remember to take one. It was awful. I found stuff in there that I didn’t even know we owned. I found an unopened box of size 1 diapers. My youngest kid is 5. It was THAT bad. I’d say 70% of the stuff in there was donated to charity, a bunch was trashed, and the little bit left was relocated to more appropriate areas in the house. 

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After it was cleaned out I brought a short black shelving unit in from the garage and bought 2 taller metal shelving units from IKEA for $14.99 each. I ended up with a L-shaped wall of shelves to help me get organized- 11 shelves in total! I originally just wanted to be able to put our extra food products in the new pantry but I quickly realized that I had enough room to store the toilet paper, paper towels, and extra household products as well. 

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I’ve mentioned before that I’m now doing the grocery shopping only twice a month. I was shooting for once a month but it was just too much at once. So I do Wal*Mart on the 1st and the 15th of the month, then I do smaller trips to Aldi once a week to pick up produce, fruit, and anything else that I need to buy there. Having this second pantry allows me to be able to do the large Wal*Mart trips only twice a month which is in turn, cutting my grocery budget down by a significant amount. 

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I’ve switched to a monthly meal plan again and it’s so nice being able to organize the ingredients. I buy 2 weeks worth of dinner ingredients at a time. The things to prepare the current week’s dinners are kept in the smaller pantry in the kitchen. The ingredients for the next week’s dinners are kept in the second pantry and the new refrigerator/freezer in the garage. I’ve also made it a house rule that I do not buy snacks in between Wal*Mart trips. So if the kids eat all the Goldfish during the first week of the month then they won’t have any more until I go back to the store on the 15th. I don’t make extra trips for snacks. 

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I added several battery operated push lights inside the new space to make it easier to find stuff. After I filled the shelves with our extra food products, I dedicated a shelf for cleaning products at the bottom. The black shelving unit holds all the toilet paper and paper towels as well as extra grocery bags and dog treats. I have room to slide my containers of touch up paint underneath the black shelving unit. I also added some command hooks to hold my swiffer mop, the swiffer duster, the cooler bags, and my purse. I was even able to fit the downstairs vacuum cleaner in there!

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It’s been about a month since I completed the second pantry and now I’m wondering how I ever lived without it. This has seriously changed my life. It seems like such a small thing but being able to keep the kitchen clean and organized by having a designated area for the overflow items is such a blessing in my house right now. 

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How & Why I Created A Functional Capsule Wardrobe For My Kids

It all started with the laundry. Isn’t that always how it works? One little moment of frustration leads to a whole change in the way you think and that leads to a massive project. About a month ago I went to put away the little kids’ laundry and couldn’t find a hanger because their closet was so full. It was ridiculous and I was fed up. In a fit of “ohmygosh, these kids don’t need all this crap” I pulled every single item out of their closet. I was flinging things right and left while the two little kids stood there with mouths hanging open. Matt called it Laundry Gate ’15. For the record, I do not recommend this method of closet clean out. While it felt great in the moment I still had to clean it all back up again. And so the great closet clean out of 2015 began. 

I sorted everything into like piles (tops, shorts, leggings, etc) and then made the kids try on everything I wasn’t sure about. I found at least 12 tops in Zoey’s pile that haven’t fit her in at least a year. So why were they still in the closet taking up valuable space? I know why. Because there was entirely too much in the closet. Mase had 4 plain blue tee’s all in the same size. I bought him the same pair of shorts twice because I didn’t remember buying the first pair. Insanity. I was ruthless in getting rid of stuff. We’re lucky enough to have people to give our hand-me-down clothes to- my nephew and a family friend with a little girl. So I don’t feel bad about clearing out stuff. 

Now that the closet is totally cleaned out and we’ve paired down the little kids’ wardrobes I have made some ground rules for myself to hopefully avoid a repeat of Laundry Gate ’15 in the future. 

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1. Buy bottoms that will match any tops. Now that doesn’t have to mean gray or khaki. Zoey has a lot of tops with pink in the design so pink shorts work great for her wardrobe. Mase has a lot of tops with red in the design so red shorts work well for him. They both have khaki, navy, gray, denim, black, etc. Added bonus- it’s easier for them to dress themselves!

2. Limit high maintenance clothing. I got rid of anything that needed to be ironed, or hand washed, or dry cleaned, or was too fussy for everyday wear. We don’t go anywhere fancy so why did Zoey need 5 fancy frilly dresses in her closet? She didn’t. I know myself well enough to accept that I’m not going to break out the iron for a 4 year old’s shirt so there’s no point in keeping it. Now when I shop I really look at the item and decide if it’s going to be wash and wear before I buy it. 

3. Only keep what you need for a week or so. Zoey had 28 bottoms in her closet. 28 y’all. She’s 4. Now I didn’t buy all of that- that number was comprised of hand-me-down’s from Maliah and a good friend with a daughter a size ahead of Zoey. I only bought maybe 4 of those. Still- 28 was an unmanageable number. So I paired it down to a more reasonable number. She has a handful of “nice” shorts, several pair of play shorts, a couple of skirts, and a handful of fun capri leggings that she loves. 

4. Separate play clothes. I didn’t include play clothes in the capsule wardrobe. My kids are messy and they like to play outside and get even messier. I keep a stack of play shirts and play shorts folded on a shelf for them to wear. They know which clothes are play clothes and they can grab them easily. 

5. Keep a running list of what they need. I have a list on my phone of exactly what my kids need so when I’m out shopping and see a great sale I don’t end up bringing home 5 tee’s when Zoey already has 10 in her closet. When I see an item come out of the laundry ripped or stained I check to see if it needs to be replaced and if so, I add it to the list. Then I wait for a sale. 

6. Keep up with purging the closet. I now keep an empty basket in the bottom of the little kids’ closet and every time I do laundry I sort. If I see something that didn’t quite fit when I did laundry then it gets put in the basket. If I notice that there’s an item that one of the kids just doesn’t wear then I pull it out. When the basket gets full I bag up the clothes and drop them off for my sister or our family friend. It cuts down on clutter and the kids don’t pull out old stuff that they just “love”. 

My goal is for the kids to have a functional, mix-and-match, easy care wardrobe. We lay out clothes for the next day as part of our bedtime routine so having less choices is always better. I’ve been using this system for a couple of months now and it’s working out great. The kids are dressing themselves (in matching pieces) and the laundry is so much easier now! I highly recommend pairing down your kids clothes into a smaller, more manageable, mix and match wardrobe. It’ll make your life easier!

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