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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. 


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. 


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. 


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.


2016 Top 10 Home Organization Challenge


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!


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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!


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.