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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Organization Tips from Another Organized Friend

These first couple weeks of summer I’ve been trying to get back to square one in this crazy, chaotic house of mine.  Yesterday was supposed to be a paper purge day, but alas, I was in one of those sentimental moods and having a hard time parting with my kids’ hard work.  Part of the reason for this is that I’m not sure what I have and what I don’t have.  And I want to make sure I have a nice sampling of their work from the beginning and the end of the year for comparison.  So first, I need to collect everything in one spot and then I can purge away knowing that I’ve captured the right pieces to represent the year.

Since paper purging wasn’t going well, I ended up reorganizing some of my kitchen cupboards and finally emptied one of my craft cupboards so that it could actually hold kitchen items.  As I mentioned in this post, the goal is to move the craft stuff to the playroom.  Oh that playroom….progress is still on hold until I can get a handle on the chaos around me.

In the meantime, I’ve asked another friend to share some of her best organizing tips with us.  From the moment I met her, I could tell she had the organization gene running through her veins.  Here’s what my friend Beth pulled together for us…

Hair Accessory Storage

This was my very first Pinterest idea that I actually copied…. take an empty silverware organizer from Target ($15) and turn it into a hair supply organizer. My hair dryer goes in the wide slot that you would put plates. My straightener, brushes and hairspray goes in the spoon, fork, knife slots.

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I definitely need to use this tip.  These caddies are the perfect holder of all things.  I’ve just recently started using one on my kitchen counter to corral magazines, sunglasses and sunscreen.  I’d also like to add some bug spray to this bin and have it outside with us while we are in the backyard for easy access.

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I’m hoping Target still has some of these left because I’d like to get a few more to go under my sinks for cleaning supplies, sponges and washcloths…and now hair supplies!  These caddies are just so versatile.

 

Hygiene & Medicine Products

This is how I organize my hygiene/medicine products. These containers fit side by side in my linen closet. Each drawer is labeled with specific items. You can organize these any way that fits the needs of your family. We also keep it up high so the kids can’t get into it.

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Kid’s Closets

Every child’s closet should have built in organizers. As you can see, it has two levels, shelving and 4 drawers. The current season is down low, the off season is up high. There is a pull out laundry basket, which is awesome! My daughter does not need a dresser in her room because she has the four drawers for socks/underwear, pajamas, t-shirts and soccer gear.

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Pantry & Kitchen Cupboard Organization

This is one section of my pantry. The pull out baskets are filled with kid-friendly snacks. It sure does make it easier for preparing backpacks. The kids can grab something healthy when I ask them to grab a school snack.

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These are two of my pull out drawers in my kitchen….one on top of each other.

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Left: Yes, I know it is bad for the environment but we use paper plates for breakfast and lunch. I also store those mini circular Glad containers and its lids. I keep all of my many chip clips in a Tupperware for fast access too.

Right: Easily accessible sandwich/snack bags for lunch making. My kids love straws, so I keep those at their level. I also keep kid cups in these drawers too….all for the kids I guess!!

 

Organization Station

This is where it all happens. Everyone needs an office work space in their kitchen. It is nice and tidy now because it’s summer, but during the school year this space is utilized for red school folders, permission slips, teacher notes, calendars, etc. As you can see, it is cleared of all that stuff! Just the way I like it! Smile

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The black organizer is where we keep our checkbooks, envelopes, gift cards, school phone books, city book, etc. Stamps are stored in the mini drawers toward the bottom.

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The three slot organizer is stored above the desk in the glass cabinet. I have three kids so this works perfectly for my family. I keep classroom info for each child in the slots (curriculum night packets, notebooks, homelink letters….because I need the answer key that’s on the back.  Apparently, I can’t do math from 3rd grade and up so I need those sheets to double check answers.  (Me neitherSmile.)

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File Organization

And finally, my very important, most used files.

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This is how I do it:

Each person in the family has a file. Inside the large file folder are individual files that are labeled: school (ie: edline password, MEAP scores, etc), medical (well visit sheets with weight, height, etc), sports (extra curricular stuff).

I also have a file for important receipts. I try to go through this file at end of year. I keep some house files in this section…things that I need through the year, like: lawn service, bug control, appliance receipts with warranties. I also keep my teaching files in here in the back. I have a large file for my important documents: teaching certificate, evaluations, contracts, interview stuff, portfolio stuff.

We keep all other files in the basement! I keep these files upstairs at the desk because I know I go to these often.

Beth also took a moment to answer some of the same questions I asked my sis-in-law.

How do you tackle paper piles?

I try not to create big paper piles…the key is to go through it every day.  When I see a field trip slip I send it back the next day.  I don’t ever want to be “that parent”  who forgets.

If I do have a paper pile, I usually tackle a little at at a time. 

How do you avoid clutter?

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I can’t even be around clutter.  It makes me edgy, but let’s face it….I work full-time, so sometimes the clutter is inevitable.  I involve my kids! They must help pick up because I know they are old enough and can handle the task.  As for their rooms.  They each have a drawer or drawers that build up with junk.  We go through about four times a year. We make three piles:  keep piles,  throw away piles, Salvation Army piles.  I do the same for clothes.  We go through at the end of each season.  I am known for giving good clothes to friends with kids younger than mine. I love doing that for my friends.

Cleaning, laundry schedule?

Ugh!  This is a hard one….but it does get done…

Cleaning - I do main level one day and upper level the next day!  That system seems to work. 

Laundry - I do all sheets every other weekend, my clothes on the weekends and the kids clothes and towels throughout the week.

I use Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean my white wooden blinds.  It smells good and it really gets the dust. I do that about 4 times/year.

Thanks to Beth for all these wonderful tips.  It makes me feel more organized just reading them!  And with that, I will continue on my quest to conquer clutter!!  Hopefully I will get it together enough over the weekend so I can share the system I’m using for kids’ schoolwork.

Happy Organizing! Smile

Monday, June 25, 2012

Garbage Can Facelift

About a year and a half ago, my daughter declared she was done with the princess phase.  I was in slight denial at first and stashed all the princess dresses down in the basement thinking she was just falling prey to peer pressure at school.  Yeah, I know, peer pressure in first grade, whaaat?  Anyhow, it was true.  She dropped the princesses cold turkey.  So a year and a half later, I’ve come to terms with it and asked her if she would like a new garbage can to replace her Disney Princess garbage can.  She gave me a resounding, “Yes!”

So here’s what I did.  Grabbed this white garbage can from the bathroom section at Target for $10.

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It’s fine the way it is, but I thought we’d jazz it up a bit.  Grabbed my new favorite thing…you guessed it, washi tape and gave it a pop of color.

Ta-da!

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And guess what…she doesn’t like it.  Not colorful enough, she says!  Some people are so picky!  Thought I’d share it with you anyways because I thought it was another fun way to put that washi tape to use.  Back to square one.  I’ll let you know what we come up with.Smile

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jungle Jam

In my last post about Jungle Jam, I was a bit jungled out.  But now that it’s over, I’m happy to share the results.  Here are a few things I Iearned from this party…

  • all you need is an awesome DJ and some candy – seriously
  • you can never have enough zebra tape
  • the dollar store is your friend, but I already knew that
  • think outside the box

Here are a few cost efficient things we did to create the jungle vibe.

Upon entering the school, the kids were greeted with this super cute sign created with a green tablecloth, dollar store tiki heads, fringe, paper plates and zebra tape.

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One of the moms had a clever idea to put zebra tape all over paper plates, then cut out the letters from the plates. Genius!

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The registration table was covered in burlap and we used table fringe that was only $7 for 50 feet.  That green table fringe went a long way on many things throughout the party as did the zebra tape acting as a dual purpose functional and decorative item.

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We used a banana leaf basket for the raffle, a little galvanized bin wrapped in that priceless zebra tape to hold our glow sticks. Each child received a glow stick at check in. This helped us know who was officially checked in.  And besides, who doesn’t love a glow stick?

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After checking in, the kids walked through a jungle canopy.  To create the jungle canopy, we used two rolls of green tablecloth at only $17/roll.  We were able to use binder clips to hold them on a grid on the ceiling.  Easy up, easy down and didn’t impact any of the wall art and no fretting about it falling down.

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We used two 30 foot rolls of kraft wrapping/mailing paper at $1 each from the dollar store to create the vines.  I simply cut strips the entire length of the roll and about 3 inches wide, then twisted them to create the vine look.  We also draped a few faux vines and hung a few tropical leaves randomly.   Big impact, little money.

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Once they got through the “jungle,” the kids turned the corner to get their picture taken.  I forgot to take a picture at the school, but here’s what it looked like.  We used some old, broken bamboo blinds as the backdrop and a hanging palm tree.  Since the blinds weren’t as tall as the tree, we used dollar store hula skirts to finish it off.

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Then, they finally entered the gym/cafeteria for the party.  Inside they would find Minute to Win It games, a baby photo contest, food and fantastic DJs that got everyone on the dance floor.  These guys were seriously the key to the success of the party.  Here’s a peek of what it looked like inside…

Those huge tiki head murals were a dollar each…can you believe it?

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I was going to use grass table skirts, but in the end, the cost was not worth it and did not work in the budget.  Instead, I used colorful animal print paper to create bunting around the tables.  Each pack of paper was about $4 and I think we used 3 packs.  So $12 vs. around $100 for the grass table skirts that may have fallen off or got ripped off.  I’d say that was a good trade off.

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Luckily, I was able to use the die cutter at the school to create leaves on the baby photo contest game.  The kids had to guess who was who.  Number 69 was my little Jakey baby.  Look at that little pudge ball.  Love it!  Oh, and once again, we used the zebra tape as both a functional and decorative tool holding up the kraft paper background.  The kraft paper was a perfect option because it gave that natural vibe and was only $1 for a 30 foot roll at the dollar store.

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We used zebra plates as a part of the centerpiece to offset the green tablecloth and green palm tree balloon weights.  It was an easy and cheap way to add a little flair and contrast.

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I just love the dollar store.  We used these cute pick signs and stuck them in buckets filled with sand as extra décor on the food tables and game tables.  They added a bit of height and didn’t take up too much space.  And at $2 each, you can’t beat it.  Notice the zebra tape once again.  Seriously, we used that zebra tape everywhere!

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Since the gym and cafeteria are such a vast space, we used pop up canopies to help fill the space and added table fringe attached with none other than zebra duct tape to add a tiki hut vibe.  We also threw on some battery operated paper lanterns to set the mood.

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I used two ferns from my own front porch to hide the DJs equipment under the table and used those pick signs from the dollar store again. Also used the left over green fringe from the tiki huts to trim out the stage stuck on by zebra tape of course.

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To offset the 10 red doors surrounding us, we simply hung dollar store hula skirts on the handles and cut outs of toucans and parrots.

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For the raffle prizes, I just used simple brown paper lunch bags, fringed them, added a little green zebra paper with Jungle Jam stamped on them and tied with raffia. Barely cost anything, but added a nice touch, although I’m sure the kids did not even give them a second glance. They just wanted to see what was inside.

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So that’s it!

The kids had a blast and I’m glad to have been a part of it!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Organization 101

Now that the chaos of the end of the school year is through, I’m trying to regroup and reorganize.  Organization is really not my forte.  I’ve come to discover the true key to organization is discipline, that of which I don’t have.  Sure, I am organized and disciplined when it comes to planning parties and doing things for other people.  I even used a clipboard at my daughter’s birthday party to stay on track.  I was like Julie McCoy from The Love Boat. 

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But when it comes down to the daily grind of organization, I do not have discipline at all.  I kind of compare myself to a sprinter and long distance runner.  I am a sprinter.  Go hog wild for for a short time and I’m done.

But my sister-in-law’s got discipline for the both of us.  She is definitely an endurance runner.  It’s almost comical how polar opposite we are when it comes to daily organization.  And that, my friends, is why I’ve asked her to share some of her organization must do’s with us today. 

What are the things that you do that keep you the most organized?

Routine

School Year

When the kids come home from school they empty backpacks and folders and give me their papers.  Whatever needs to be signed is taken care of and put in the folders and back in the backpacks immediately.

Library books and stay home folders stay in their "mailbox" so we always know where they are when needed.

4 slot mailbox

Sports

Same goes for athletic bags: swim bags are emptied immediately as they walk in from practice and then repacked for the next day....no running around 5 minutes before car pool.

 

Known expectations and responsibilities by the kids

They have checklists that they reference to make sure they've done their share.  These are not allowance related....haven't really done that yet.  They are teamwork related.....really helps to give some structure to summer days.

What are your favorite organization tricks?

Stair baskets! (Hey, I do that one!!Smile)

The kids each have a basket that sits on the 2nd step to collect the day’s things....AKA clutter!  At the end of the night, the baskets need to be empty or they run the risk of the items being thrown out by mom and dad.  This has occurred and the kids are allowed to fish the contents out of the garbage if they choose to do so.  This has been an amazingly successful process and I now find the kids taking care of their baskets multiple times throughout the day without even being asked to do so. (Ooooh, we’re suppose to empty them too?  Yep, I don’t do that part. Ours collect for weeks, maybe months before we empty them.Smile)

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Four slot mailbox

One slot for each person in the family

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Large Color Coded wall calendar

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What is a must do every day?

Clean up the kitchen after EVERY single meal or snack!!!  It takes barely anytime and is just part of our routine.  No matter how little time we have, the counters, dishes, sink and floor are cleaned after any type of meal/snack preparing or eating occurs.  This is my sanity.....especially with our kitchen being the 1st thing I see no matter how I enter the house (garage, bedroom, front or back door)!  (And this, my friends, would be one of my BIGGEST downfalls.)

 

How do you tackle paper piles?

  • 90% of our bills are online so no paper
  • recycle containers in the kitchen, garage and office for paper collection
  • must keep papers, I'm old fashion..... At the beginning of each year, we make new file folders for the necessary papers: medical bills that we will submit for Health Care Reimbursement, Tax papers (salvation army donations, etc).
  • I have a large flat basket with a lid in the office that holds the kids’ school papers and activities that I sort at the end of each year for MUST keeps and time to recycle. 
  • The 4 slot mailbox on the kitchen wall holds the kids’ "important" papers.

How do you avoid clutter?

Clutter Clean Up Days…

…the kids go through the treasures they've been hoarding and decide if they really still want it.  This usually amounts to about 90% of the stuff ending up in recycle/trash.

We also are really focused on items going back to where they came from not just moved to a new place.

Cleaning, laundry schedule?

Laundry

  • Laundry is a DAILY activity in my house.  Typically, I do 1 load of colors and 1 load of whites each day.  I have 2 laundry baskets in the laundry room: 1 for whites, 1 for darks.
  • The kids are responsible for bringing their clothes down after every change and towels after each shower (jammies in morning, uniforms after school, clothes before bed).  No clothes left on floors.

We used to have hampers in each room, including ours, but then I'd start collecting and became overwhelmed by how much laundry I suddenly had to do.  Kids clothes are folded for them and then placed on the step above their clutter boxes on the stairs.

They are responsible for putting away everything except for items that need to hang up.  We do that for them usually at the end of the day while they are brushing teeth doing bedtime routine.

 

Cleaning

  • The dishwasher usually gets ran either every day or every other day at night ready to be emptied 1st thing in the morning while we are all in the kitchen doing breakfast.
  • The kids have to clean their bathroom once a week together. 
  • I usually wipe down my bathroom and powder room 1-2 times a week. 
  • The kids make their beds 5 days/week (1 day off when I change the sheets and 1 free day because I'm so crazy).
  • vacuum once a week and swiffer when the sunshine hits the dust.   
  • The other thing that helps with cleaning is we only eat in the kitchen at the counter/table.  No walking around or taking food out of the kitchen.  Now of course this rule gets broken....mostly by Keith and I, but the kids don't really know that.

Thanks for the tips, Shelly.  I’ve been focusing on the dishes as my top priority these days.  It does make me feel so much calmer when I walk into a clean, dish free kitchen!  Baby steps.  Everyone has their own level and approach to organization.  I’ll never be as organized as my sis-in-law, but the key is to find what works for you.  In my next post, I’ll share how I’ve organized my kids’ schoolwork...but first I’ve actually got to do it!  I’ve got the plan, just need to execute it!

What are your best organizing tips?

Do share!

Let us know in the comments.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father’s Day Gift: A Snack Tray

For Father’s Day, we made my hubby a little snack tray for his office.   This guy is in non-stop meetings leaving him little time to grab a bite to eat.  Since these snacks may be his lunch, I made sure to include protein packed snacks like trail mix and nuts.

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We included a reusable to go cup so he can easily refill his water.  If he wants a little flavor, he can grab one of the single size servings of one of his favorites - lemonade, Arnold Palmer and cran-grape.

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And to give him a little smile, we added cute little faces to the caps of the bottles of beverage packets.  You can’t help but smile looking at those little cuties.

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We hope this little tray sends our love and a little bit of home to the office for our favorite guy!

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Happy Father’s Day!

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