Category Archives: systems

Quick Tip: Simple Socks

So this post is a no-brainer but it sure does make me happy. And because I am so happy… I thought I would share my happiness. Socks. They disappear, they lose their best friends. It’s a tough life for a sock. With quickly growing babies, socks don’t last as long as my grey and blue nautical pair from high school. Yep, still in my drawer. Still cozy in boots. (Not still in style.)

I ordered my 2 and half year old some sneakers and sport socks. His big feet are getting bigger and, well, so are the socks and shoes. (I could stop right here and weep over the fact that my first baby is definitely a little boy now, but there isn’ t much of nap time left.) As I was putting the new large socks away, I pulled the ones he’s outgrown. And as I thought about this simple solution I started a few years back, it felt like a Project Momma Quick Tip.

socks1Kid socks look similar and it’s definitely hard to tell their size just looking at them. In fact I accidentally put baby socks on my toddler a few days back. (Proof right here.) There is no way I will remember what size socks are when I pull them out of storage. So, when I buy new socks, I simply keep the packaging or labels and shove it in the drawer under the socks. Then when it is time to pull them to store away – until the next baby has grown too big too fast – I already the packaging with them. I fell upon this idea accidentally because I kept the sock tags from Isaac’s baby socks; they were the only ones I’d found that would actually stay on those active baby feet. I save the label because did not want to forget that brand (Okie Dokie from JCPenney if your are wondering).

socks2So, now that it’s time to rotate the old socks, I grab that label, the socks and a ziplock bag to store them. 
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And there you have it. Easily understood socks. I keep the outgrown socks and shoes in a separate bin from clothes. One reason is that I pass around clothes with my friends but socks and shoes I hang on to. Another reason to keep them separate? They may not be true to size. Hey Oshkosh, size 2-4 did not last pass 2 and a half for my big boy. Just sayin’. Every kid grows differently so I don’t want to have to search through my 2s, 3s, and 4s clothes, to find my 2-4 socks that fit Isaac when he was 1 and 2. Yeah, read that sentence again if you have to.  socks 4I have also started keeping some other tags and packaging for items like swaddles, sleep sacs, underwear, etc. It really takes no extra time upfront but saves a little confusion on the other end. Why not give myself little organized treasures? I deserve them.

Anyone else have a quick tip when it comes to your kids’ clothing?
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My Recovery Spot

I like to always be prepared. At least as much as I can. So at 37 weeks with my first pregnancy I tried to prep for my upcoming C-section. I bought extra large pads and mens boxers – ya know, to help the healing. But that was the extent of what I knew to do. The surgery itself was not a bad as I thought and all my docs said I was healing well. At the hospital I had help and direction and of course the amazing lift bed that almost stands you up on its own. Coming home was the harder part for me. Driving in the car was very painful; I felt every bump! Isaac had jaundice so we had 1-2 dr. appointments a day for the first 5 days home. This was exhausting and again, painful with all the extra movement in and out of the car, up and down through the buildings, and nursing in the car. But it was the laying down and sitting up in bed that opened my incision (and some minor malpractice by that no longer licensed OB – thats a whole other story). Yep another trip to the doc to close it up. All this combined with the first time mom learning curve, challenge of nursing, and sleep depravation made for a pretty hard first week.

So the 2nd time around I was more prepared – mentally and tangibly – for what life might be like that first week. You better believe I had a heart to heart with my doctor. I was determined for him to do the surgery. Since the first time around I ended up sleeping in Doug’s lay-z-boy, I planned for that from start.  I made a little Recovery Spot:

recovery spot 3

Every family has their own plan after baby. For us, this meant mom nursing and getting up with baby at night. Dad needs sleep because of his job. No need to be on top of high buildings, using dangerous tools, and putting the lives of others at stake without a good night’s sleep. Since I was up nursing anyway this made sense to us. First time around I learned it was hard to stand from the chair with baby or even reach down to pick him up from a chair or swing. So we fashioned a sleep space next to the chair that I could reach while in the chair. (Note that I wouldn’t leave Luke there during the day while big brother was awake. This was his nighttime-everyone-else-is-asleep-mom-is-right-next-to-me-spot.) We moved in the sturdy piece of furniture that usually sits in our master bedroom under the window.

recovery spot 5 The space was to help me function without a lot of unnecessary movement. So I have the Moses basket to set Luke down to sleep and while I stand up through the night. I kept some diapers, wipes, and a burp cloth. The monitor was there to keep an eye on both boys whenever they were their beds. Also my phone charger and a lamp. I moved this lamp here specifically because it has a 3-way bulb. Dim for those night feedings. recovery spot 1 On the other side of the chair I have the baby log, boppy and cover for nursing, remotes, and a basket of filled with supplies. I kept a pillow on the chair for extra support and at night I would bring out a big comforter to make the chair feel more like a bed. recovery spot 2 I all the small items a basket so during the day I could move it high out of Isaac’s reach. But through the night it was so convenient to have medicines, lotions, hand sanitizer, books, notebook (for all my listing), and my ipad all within reach. I usually had a large water bottle here too, it’s just not in the picture. recovery spot 4As I sat in this chair WAY to much, it was super helpful to know that I had everything that I needed. The less times I had to get up and down the better for my healing. So this little Recovery Spot was a big help!

The Basement Project – Phase 2

The basement is still under way!
end phase 1 with banner

Here is a reminder of what I did Phase 1: Create the Plan

  • Wrote down everything in the room to know what I was working with.
  • Divide all the items into groups (on paper). 
  • Map out the room to plan for where the items would end up.
  • Divided the project into bite-size chunks that I could do in a few hours, then in a few days
  • Made room to work by pushing table against wall and some empty boxes gone.

Phase 2: Sort, Purge, and Store
This was the tedious part. After I broke down the project into chunks, it was time to get chewing. ….Sort, purge, and store…. ON REPEAT! 2 hours here, there, and again. Slowly making progress. But, accomplishing what was on paper, kept me motivated.

basement phase 2It is hard to read the picture because it is written in pencil, so I have it listed below. It actually changed a lot throughout the process… But here is what my final work looked like on each of the days.

Five days (2 hours shifts):
1 – Gift wrap, bags, boxes. Craft supplies. Move Printer. Clear long wood table.
2 – Boys clothes & label. Bag clothes to give away. Kid Supplies. Summer Misc.
3 – Organize pantry. Storage needs for pantry. Purge glassware. Purge gifts.
4 – Home decor: candles, glass. Christmas presents. Baby feeding Misc. Maternity clothes.
5 – Project pile. Trash out. To give and Goodwill items packed into car. Christmas/seasonal.

Two vacation days (3-4 hours of work each day):
6 – List storage needs. List: projects. List: Items to go through in the future  (Phase 4). Drop off items giving to people and Goodwill the rest.
7 – Clear desk. Furniture and big items moved. Memories sorted.

As I went a long I labeled items (hello yellow post-it notes) and bins with sticky notes to prepare for Phase 3!  My favorite!  Here is what the basement looked like after Phase 2 or 18-20 hours of combined work. Get ready…

basement phase 2 - 2 basement phase 2 - 1 basement phase 2 - 5 basement phase 2 - 4basement ph3 7 This wall holds items that are on their way out. On the table and under are either on the “project” list, need to be gone through, or are items I would like to sell. The bins on the far left are old college books and childhood memories; they just need some more time (Phase 4 = after the baby!) Also I have a few empty containers stacked up on the far right. basement phase 2 - 3

Woo hoo! We can see the floor. We can walk through the room!  Everything that is staying has a home! Big accomplishment from the start. Next up labels and labels. Let the fun begin.

Potty Pack

The few weeks ago we began potty training Isaac. I plan to write a post on all that, but until then here’s a short post about how we went from Diaper Pack to Potty Pack. One of my all time favorite baby/kid items is this Skip Hop Pronto Diaper Changing Kit. This is actually my 2nd. When a zipper broke, Buy Buy Baby replaced it for free with a brand new one. They rock like that. potty pack 3 This is what it has looked like the last year or so. While I usually keep a change of clothes and extra diaper in the car, this is easy to throw in my purse (which is actually a bag), instead of carrying a whole diaper bag. When Isaac was little baby I also left the changing mat attached. He outgrew the length, so now I mostly leave it off… thank you easy zipper.potty packNow that we are into potty land, we said goodbye to diapers! I put a few pairs of pants and underwear in the pack along with a plastic bag for the possible messy cloths. I also grabbed a travel size of the moist wipes to have in case of a poop while we are out. 
potty pack 2
It is super handy to grab in and out of my purse when Isaac is with me or give to Doug if he takes him out. And since Skip Hop patterns are kinda hip, you’d have no idea what is hiding inside.

See ya next year diapers!

4 Steps to Early Bird Tax Prep

Yep. You read that right. Time to start my 2013 Taxes.
taxes6Every year, I do it. I put off doing my taxes until a few weeks before tax day. And, every year I ask myself why I waited so long. See in my mind it seems like it’s going to be this really long and hard process, so I move it from this week’s list to next week’s, etc. The truth is our taxes are not that complicated and we always get money back. So why do I put it off!? And… how do I motivate myself to just get in there and do them?

Well, like most things in my life, I think that a simple system will do the trick.

After I finished our taxes this year, I decided to write myself a little prep list for next year. Some basic instructions may just make me jump on those taxes rather than think about it for months. So with just 4 easy steps, I am making next year’s tax filing E-Z… and I don’t even use that form.

taxes final
1. DROP BOX
I created a “Taxes” box with super easy access to gather items as they come in. You might recognize this from the Dining Room Closet. The box has a lid so nothing gets lost. It’s at eye level where I will see it often to be reminded, unlike a pile or file folder.
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2. REFERENCE DETAILS
I save the copy of last years return on my computer as well as a printed copy. I like to file all our paperwork from that year in a large mailing envelope (you can see that in the picture above). I write the year on the outside. I laid this envelope at the bottom of the box so I don’t have to go looking for that next year. 2011 envelopes and prior are filed for safe keeping. I also write my login info. and all the details I need for online filing on the envelope for quick reference.  Sorry I can’t share that with you all. You understand.

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3. DEDCUTION ENVELOPES
Rather than throw important receipts straight in the box, I created a few envelopes ahead of time to hold the receipts I am expecting. I can keep a tally on the outside throughout the year, or total them up at the end of the year.  You can see that some of the envelopes are already in use. These items include: tools and uniforms for work, conference receipts, goodwill donations, etc. I put all my other receipts into monthly envelopes in case I need them. I will trash all unused receipts at the end of the year. (I have been doing this system for a long time and it works for me).
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4. PAPERWORK CHECKLIST
I quickly wrote a checklist of items I needed before starting my taxes. I always seem to be missing one or two things, this list should solve that delay. So, these are the documents and paperwork I need to gather next January. The list is nothing fancy and it’s not even typed up, it is just a quick list meant to be save time next year. (Dang, I noticed that I missed Charitable Giving from the list after I snapped this picture.)
taxes2

With only 10-15 minutes of work, I have myself all prepped and systemized for next tax season. All the above items are safely tucked in the box. While no two completed tax forms look alike, I am certain that you can craft a simple plan for yourself too. I challenge you to take a few minutes to plan ahead, save your stuff in one place and make a checklist. It is amazing what a little prep can bring peace, even a year out!

7 Things To Do After Conference

I just returned from the International Nanny Association Annual Conference. My 5th!  Though I am currently not nannying, I am still very involved in the industry and with our local CincyNanny community. I get so much out of this conference both personal and professional. I come home energized, excited, but a little afraid. I desperately want to make sure that the seeds planted at conference will grow. That the ideas that challenged me would be set to action. That I would live passionately and never settle for so-so.

I usually debrief my trip on the plane ride home. I’ll journal and make a “to do” list. I was able to drive to this conference and now find my mind still swimming with the information, ideas, and memories. So as I process, I thought that I would share it …via the blogosphere.

todo logo
1. Un-pack with next time in mind
Yes, we all unpack and do laundry when we get home. But, it is important to notice items that you brought home and remind yourself of items you wish that you had taken – business cards, more cash or better walking shoes. If you had a packing list, update it! Make a note or create a generic packing list for next time.

2. Count your costs
Grap a letter-sized envelope and place all your conference receipts inside. Include items you paid for ahead of time, like travel expenses. Depending on your career, items may be deductible. Tally up your expenses on the outside of your envelope by category and you won’t have to think about it come tax time.
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3. Connect online 
Lay out the business cards you collected and/or the contact list of attendees (if available). Take some time to find these new friends with social media whether it be linked in, facebook, twitter, etc. Send a message to the ones that you had a nice connection with and would like to stay in touch. You may even want to share pictures or write a hand-written note.

4. Continuing ED
Conferences are a great place to find new experts and professionals in your industry. Note who  inspired you and find them! If you liked their information at conference, make sure you’ll receive more after conference. Follow their blog, order a book, register for their newsletter, follow them on social media. Set yourself up to be inspired by them again…even virtually.

5. Make the most of your notes
Take time to re-read your notes before you hide them away. Read them with a colored pen or highlighter. Notice some ideas that really challenged you, spoke to you, intrigued you and even things you disagreed with. Pull out those nuggets and keep them infront of your face for a few weeks. Write them on post-it notes or note cards where you can revisit the ideas. Keep those sparks from burning out. (Quote from Dr. G)
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6. Keepers 
After you have sorted through all the papers, notes, biz cards, etc. package them in a way you can reference them. For this conference I just attended, I like to file all my items in my ‘Nanny & Kids Resources’ Binder. Nothing fancy, just a 3 ring binder where I drop notes. I do make sure to have dates, location, and speaker/author on all my notes. By the way I don’t keep everything. Don’t hang on to things you know that you won’t use.
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7. Take Action!
A few days away from normal life can really inspire you. Don’t let the opportunity for life change just pass you by. Schedule a block of time to debrief – alone, just you. Get out of your house for a few hours, take your conference notes, and write out at least 3 action steps for yourself. This might include how to come back to the same conference or to just get away more often. Whatever the next steps write them down. Then…. follow through and do them!

My debrief time is going to be Friday afternoon. What about you?

What do you do upon returning from a conference?

The “Done Done Done” Dining Room Closet

It’s been a LONG process, but I think that I can finally call my Dining Room closet done! Ahhh, that sounds so good.. “Done Done Done!” It was a long process that requires a long post. I’ll say sorry in advance. Go grab a cup of coffee and settle in for the read….if you dare.

RECAP: Remember back when I was talking about my “Drop Zone” Problem at the kitchen table? Things were piling up – papers, coupons, work stuff, bills, Isaac’s things. Anything that came in the door with me landed on the table and I found myself cleaning and clearing the table multiple times a week. The real reason that items would get stuck on this table is because my closet in the dining room was OUT. OF. CONTROL.  So I did a little exercise to see what actually was piling up, so that I could create a specific place for those items. Remember this picture?

org1

To solve the Drop Zone Problem, I first had to create some landing spots for these items. Most would end up in the closet – whether final or “in process”.
closet

I use this closet as an office, basically. Projects, files, office supplies and a few other daily use items live in here for easy access. But, with a toddler walking and climbing around the house, it became my hiding spot. I’d been hiding so many things that the door would barely close.

It took me awhile to even decide to do this project. I knew it was going to take some time. Pre-baby, I could have tackled this in a day or two, but with Isaac running around it was impossible to conquer quickly. So, I slowly bit off chunks until it was done. Let’s take a journey starting back in January and ending in April. Woah.

DAY 1: A FRIDAY MORNING – ABOUT 3 HOURS
closet1I spent time purging papers, clearing files, sorting memories items, and pulling items to donate to goodwill and trash. Isaac had a ball playing with my trash pile. It kept him occupied, exploring while I worked and chatted with him.
closet collage 1bI went through all then 3 fabric bins that were filed to the brim. On the shelves were still several piles sorted with like items ready for the next time I could get back to this project. I also found some cash in a card – 30 buckeroos! Ya-YAH! At the end of day one I was able to close the closet door with ease. It was good

By the way, this was the day that Isaac lost his tooth, just a few minutes after these shots were taken when we went to play in the bedroom. The trash pile on the floor stayed there as we ran to the pediatrician.

DAY 2: ABOUT 2 HOURS DURING A SATURDAY NAP TIME

Now that I had some sorted piles, and could see the closet a little better and I put together a plan… on paper. I knew that I needed to chunk it out to continue to move along with the project. I taped this lists to the closet door.
closet19I spent some time shuffling my files. Took some to the basement to file the archives (shown below), and I aso created new files like these for 2013. I do finally have a process to our paperwork, that is a whole other blog post, but only using four yearly categories and other general long-term categories makes sorting at the end of each month a breeze.
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At the end of Day 2 the closet didn’t look much different, except for a large pile disappearing into these folders. I was not moved to capture a pic.

DAY 3: FRIDAY MORNING ERRAND WITH ISAAC TO THE CONTAINER STORE AND ABOUT 2 HOURS DURING HIS NAP LATER THAT DAY.

I love the container store. Looove it.  Let’s just take a moment and appreciate the glory of this place……Ahhh!

coset11I went this day with a few items I needed for the closet. I was in search of two large boxes with lids, but had easy access. They were for (1) Tax items collected and (2) Memory items – both that are through the calendar year. I had measured the closet, so I knew that instead of two, three would be a better fit. I wasn’t sure what would end up in the third box, but it ended up being perfect to stash my different sized envelopes. I have lotsa those too. I picked up the orange desk file on impulse because it was on sale. And, back at the ranch… here is how it turned out. Perf.

boxes collage

Next, I spent some time going through the four office supply (grey & white) drawers; stuff had been accumulating. I had far more supplies than I needed, so I kept the basics, donated some to my office and trashed the rest. How many pens does a girl need? Apparently, 400. Isaac was ecstatic to get the benefit of the pink calculator shown… he thought it was a phone.
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closet9I was able to pare down quite a bit. I used sticky address labels to temporarily label the storage containers and binders. I knew that I wanted to live with the arrangement for a bit until I committed to the labels. I am wise like that. I used the new orange desk file to hold blank printer paper, envelopes, and large lined notecards (one of my favorite things). I wanted a “quick grab” option.

To the right of the grey and white drawers is a labeled “work” pile for all the items I’d gathered to donate to my office. This gave me the brilliant idea to save a space in this closet for my work stuff. I constantly have items going back and forth and this spot would save my counters from being cluttered (–> Goal of this entire project!) I put my work bag and misc. items here in the closet! Yes. I was totally excited about this epiphany and started that system immediately. It is great to keep work stuff hidden while at home.
closet end of day3

DAY 4 – A SATURDAY MORNING & NAP TIME

I emptied the orange door-hanging organizer. Most of the items in here were tax related: monthly receipts by envelope, goodwill donation records, and a big envelope that I was putting tax documents in as they arrived in the mail. I added those to the new grey “taxes” box. I started a new container for my digital camera items and external hard drive items that had also lived in this hanging organizer’s pockets.

closet18Yep, I did it. I created a layout for this the space. A mood board for closets, if you will. I used the old sharpie and paper for this visionary work. The lovely drawings are the first ideas of the different containers. I decided to add some project boxes (clear bins on the shelf under the 3 grey bins). I was working on the Valentine Banner during this time which gave me another epiphany “I am always working on some random project… why not create a home for those smaller sized projects”. I know, I know… genius.
closet15Then I shuffled some things around to get closer to this…
closet16I also started an “In Process” box (shown in orange). This will be where I put incoming bills, items I need to read, magazines waiting for the weekend. Basically anything that needs further attention. I do go through and open out mail each day, read, sort, trash, etc. So if an item makes it to the “In Process” box it is a keeper. Once a week I sit down with this box and empty it, usually on Wednesday nights when I pay bills. This system has really been working for me. The box is small and upright, so it cannot last more than a week… and shouldn’t.

[PROJECT PARALYSIS - A WHOLE MONTH! ]
At this point the closet was about 85% done. The glassware was awaiting it’s home. I had a plan for that: building doors for the dining room credenza. Except, I don’t know how to build doors. So this is now a husband project and unfortunately he has two others already crowding his workbench.  So I waited. Through the waiting, I realized that the closet was functioning really well for me. I loved have drop spots for my work stuff and mail/bills. I also loved that my random projects weren’t hanging in the garage or on the kitchen table. The door was closing and the closet was overall less cluttered.

Waiting. Waiting.

Then, all the sudden it is April and the spring weather is starting to flirt with me. I want to shop! I received some money and gifts cards for my birthday to shop for clothing with. Yay! Isaac’s shopping sale 1 and sale 2 were motivating me to really look at my wardrobe and shop smart. I knew the first step would be going through my clothes closet. WAIT A MINUTE… I cannot start another closet when I haven’t finished this one! So I told myself “No! Self, you have to finish the dining room closet before you rip into another one.” I was really motivated now! That meant changing my plans. The glass had to go somewhere. No more waiting for credenza doors.
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DAY 5 – COMPLETION AND DETAILS! I TOOK A VACATION DAY FROM WORK. ISAAC WAS HANGING OUT WITH GRANDMA.

I packed up all the glass on the shelves and carried them to the basement. Temporarily (I hope).
closet20With the glass gone I had a whole open shelf. I finally moved all the items to their homes and started labeling! The fun part.

closet21A few additions:
(1) Cleaning caddy. I brought this up from the basement so that I can do a few quick cleaning on Tuesdays and Fridays. Having quick access to the cleaning supplies = more likely that I will clean. I love organizing. I do not love cleaning.
(2) Coupons. They used to live in the kitchen in a basket. They were pretty hidden, but I am trying to reduce items in the kitchen, and this seemed to be a good place to drop coupons as I sort bils and etc.
(3) Isaac’s Activity boxes. I have created a few boxes that have what I call “table time” activities. They sit next to the long grey boxes.
closet 27I will likely replace or update the clear plastic bins, so all the items inside aren’t as visible. But we are functioning well, so I will let that slide for a bit.
closet29At the bottom of the closet, I have empty space on top of the file cart for my work bag. I also have floor space to hide my mini-vacuum. I am often using this in the dining room to clean up after toddler meals, so it is nice to have a spot to tuck it away.

Lets take a closer look at the pretty labels:
closet collage labelsSo the closet it done! I am not saying I won’t tweak it as I go. Remember this is like my office. It  will flex with life. I’ll be back with more details on my washi labels. They need more attention, for sure.

I feel like I accomplished my goal for this space… 
(1) Simple – check
(2) Functional – check
(3) Affordable – check 

(4) Systematic – check, check
(5) Pretty – check

final closet org

Have you had a project take you months to complete? What got you through project paralysis? I think I need to study that symptom some more! More importantly… Did you actually make it to the end of the post?!

Quick Tip: Outfits On Deck

I am all for making mornings easier. Coffee, yes. Not having to think about kid clothes, another yes. So here is a little ‘Quick Tip’ for ya. outfits on deck bannerBasically I take about 5 minutes every couple of weeks to match up Isaac’s shirts with pants to create an outfit. I usually do this after folding laundry while I am hanging up his clothes. Why do I hang his clothes up?  1) Easy to find them. 2) Isaac’s room has a large closet and not much drawer space. 3) He cannot reach them. Yes, it takes a few seconds to hang each one, but so does folding. To me it’s worth it.
outfits collageI don’t pull outfits to wear in a certain order, I grab something appropriate for the weather, occasion, or comfort.
outfits6Often, I will choose his outfit out the night before and hang on a hook next to the changing table. This allows me to bring Isaac from crib to changing table to change and dress him. At 18 months he will try to get down himself if I leave him for a second to get stuff from his closet. I’m not messing with that first thing in the morning if I don’t have to.

Simple things like this that make me happy.

P.S. This is a double time-saver if you have multiples. I nannied for triplet boys and did their laundry. We’d keep 3 sets of clothing bundled together in their closet. We could have them matching or coordinating with ease!

Accidental Hoarder

I love to watch the hoarding shows. A team comes in and clears a house and organizes it back to life. It is probably my dream job. Most of us are not hoarders to that extreme, but we all have tendencies. Anybody else have an “I’m going to make something out of that” pile? Intentions are good, the items may even be valuable, but too much of a good thing still has the potential to get out of hand.

I noticed I was hoarding an unlikely little collection. Gift cards. As much as I love them, I had accumulated so many that they were getting lost in my wallet. In fact, between loyalty cards and gift cards, my wallet was starting to look like the back pocket of a working man’s jeans. Can you see the rectangle in the leather? Poor, sweet, red Hobo… you do not deserve that.
wallet 1The cards inside were actually doubling the size and of my wallet. They were taking over. Too much plastic and I don’t even have credit cards.
wallet collage 1Ultimately, I just need to spend these gift cards! Problem was I didn’t even know what I had to spend. So, I sorted the cards (gift and loyalty) and bound them with rubber bands. That would keep them separated, and my wallet thin. I purged some of the loyalty cards and kept the ones I use. Sidenote….I am thinking of trying this  Key Ring App where you scan all your loyalty cards to the app on your phone so you don’t have to carry the actual cards! Sounds fabulous, right? That would get rid of a whole stack!
wallet collage 2Time to make a list! You saw that coming right? I used one of my oversized, lined notecards and cut it to size. I laid out all the gift cards and simply made a list of what I had, and the amount of money on each of them. There were a few I had forgotten about and others that I can’t remember the amount left. The amount totaled over $500. Wow. Hoarders cannot even use quality stuff they have because they don’t remember what they have it! Lesson learned.
wallet collage 3My little mess is now tidied up and gift cards are ready to be spent. And, look how much better my wallet is looking! “Ahhh, organization.”
wallet collage 4So, maybe I am not really a hoarder. Maybe my wallet is no where near the disasters airing on TV. Still, a little bit of life change happened here, people. Sometimes a simple solution can save a lot of frustration. Why didn’t do this months ago? Now it’s time to spend those cards!

My DIY Planner

It’s time to get real personal. Yep, I’m going to let you in on one of my prized possessions. My planner!

I have used several systems to keep myself organized in the past, but none of them seemed to flex to my life and family. I am a list-maker, and most planners don’t easily allow my to make my beloved lists. So rather than change the way my brain worked, I stuck to my lists and changed the way my planner worked. I used to just write and re-write and update a master list on a single sheet of paper. I even typed and printed from the computer sometimes. Problem was, I would make misc lists and they’d be floating around too. So a few years back (pre-Isaac), I finally created a system that works with my real life…. I use a spiral notebook. GASP!
diyplanner

I start with a simple blank notebook, about 8.5″ X 5.5″ (just a tad bigger than half a sheet of printer paper). The brand is usually whatever I find on sale around the time when I am finishing my previous planner (notebook). It must be ruled. Pockets help. They seem to last about 6 months.
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I may transfer a few long-term lists to the new notebook at this time: project list, isaac’s needs, errand list, wish list, etc.

Since I happened to buy this one the same week as my new washi addiction, it got a little dazzled. This is the first time I have gone this far to decorate a notebook, but it was fun. To me it’s more about function, but I suppose you could go all out with the washi if you desire.
planner8Of course my plain-jane notebook is missing the calendar part of the average planner, but I, personally, didn’t need it included. For years I have used Google calendar (at work) and iCal (on my phone); they sync well together so it is a way to keep my calendars with me at all times. My work and personal calendars can be viewed separately or together. I admit that I am breaking the number 1 rule of the popular Franklin Planner system (I took the course when I was 13), which would say to “keep only one calendar/planner”. I have found a healthy balance in leaving my work list at work.
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So the picture is pretty self-explanatory. I write out tasks by day, starting with current day and then a few more days. The above photo shows Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and the weekend. Sometimes I get more elaborate with my sharpie art because I enjoy this part of the process. I like it pretty if I have time. I like to only see a few days at one time rather than the whole week.

I update my list every 4 days or so. It may sound like a lot of work, but it flows with my life. My husband’s job, ministry work, and Isaac’s health are just a couple things that affect this Momma’s life and schedule. There are a lot of variables right now, and when life happens, plans have to change. With a regular planner, you have to format the way they set you up to. I like to be able to create my own format depending on the week and what is happening in life.

Once most of the items are crossed out, I rip off that page, transfer any leftover tasks, and throw that list away. Ooh, it feels so good! This method keeps my list clean and easy to work off.
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I try not to give myself more than 5 tasks to do each day. The Monday tasks above were from a few weeks ago when I had the day off work. I had a few extra projects on that list that you saw here: rotating clothes & Isaac’s food list.  I don’t write down things like: do the dishes, clean up Isaac’s toys, check my email. Those tasks (or chores) happen regularly and I don’t need to be reminded. I do have a rhythm to my week that I try to stick to if possible, but that’s a whole other blog post.

My DIY Planner goes everywhere with me. To work, in the car, running errands, grocery shopping…. you get the idea. I make notes while I am out. It’s amazing the things you think of when you are driving. My planner is often hanging out on my car’s console.
planner2
I take it with me into stores. I use a large paper clip (one of my favorite things) to hold grocery lists, coupons, bank deposits or whatever is on the agenda on the inside of the cover. It also acts like a clipboard to hold my grocery list while I shop.
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My planner sits with my keys on my desk at work, so when I happen to have a random thought, I make a note of it and get right back to work. This actually is a great time management system for me, because I don’t drift off into that thought, I write it down and know that I can come back to it later.
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As I said before this was the week I fell in love with washi. It was getting plastered everywhere. I added a few strips to the outside to cover up the logo and text. I also underlined the titles of some long-term lists that I keep in the planner.
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These lists have items that I want to get to, but they aren’t in the week’s agenda or even this month’s agenda. I do not want to forget them. Tasks are items that can be accomplished in a day. Projects are jobs that will likely take a few days, a week, or 15 nap times. I also have a “Blog Ideas” list, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise by showing a picture. Having blank, lined paper available in the notebook allows for the random lists that pop up: packing lists, christmas lists, etc. And, they are ALL in one place rather than on sheets of paper that can easily be lost.

So those are the basics of my planner. This tool helps me stay organized, focused and about the tasks that my family is counting on. It is such beneficial tool for me that came out of years making lists. Are you a list-maker too? How do you stay organized and on task?

Pack it Up, Pack it In

Have I mentioned that I love free stuff? And when it comes to having a kid one of the greatest blessings is free clothes. I mean I like nice clothes, but paying full-price for items that they are going to where only a few times? Can’t do it.

When I was pregnant it granted me rights into my family/friends’ Share the Clothes Club. We waited to find out the sex of our baby, so the day we came home from the hospital my sister-friend dropped off two bags of baby boy clothes. Ever since, the clothes keep coming from Beth, from other friends, and from my step-mother who works at a second-hand store. Let me tell you, it is awesome. There are  a lot of clothes. A lot. Storing them is the challenging part of this blessing.

clothes7Isaac is 18 months now and is wearing mostly 18 month-sized clothing. He can wear some 24 months, but others he’s swimming in. In his closet 18 month clothes are hanging on the right side and 24 month hanging on the left. This allows me to start pulling from the larger clothes as he is transitioning. When he grows out an item, I toss it into a size-labeled bin in his closet. Once he is completely out of the 18 month clothes I’ll pack those up, and pull out the 2T. Brands do not all run them the same, so this system has worked well for me.

I have supplemented the gifted stash with just a few purchases and holiday outfits. I rarely go shopping at kid’s stores, though I can’t walk by Janie & Jack without perusing the sale rack. I mainly shop for Isaac at the local sales by the multiples’ clubs. In Cincinnati that happens in the spring and fall. I usually spend $50-100 a season and walk out with bags of items in all different sizes. I buy what I need, like if his 2T stash has mostly shorts I look for pants. The sales are only two weeks away (yay!!), which was motivation for me to break into the garbage bags of the larger clothes piling up in the basement.

I brought all the clothes upstairs so my little helper could share the work. OK so he really enjoyed playing in the bins, dragging off clothes, and walking around with pants on his head. He gets into projects. Sometimes it takes longer with him in the mix, but honestly I would rather spend more time on a project with him in the room, than retreat to the basement and miss time with him.

clothes9I started with sorting all the items into piles by size a total of 2 bins + 4 garbage bags. Any 24 months and 2T clothes went straight to the laundry room to be washed. Those will go to Isaac’s closet. Piles are 3T, 4T, 5T & beyond and Misc.

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You can see that the 5T and above are slim, that is because the Share the Clothes Club is still using those sizes. They will eventually come into the rotation, and the clothes Isaac is finished with move along as well.

I then sorted each of sizes by type of clothing item: pants, jeans, sweaters, sweatshirts, long-sleeved shirts, short-sleeved, winter PJs, long-sleeved PJs, summer PJs, etc.
clothes3See the 3T label on this bin? It is actually a combo of 3 of the items from my 5 Favorite Things Blog Launch Giveaway! I used the over-sized notecards as the paper, sharpies to add some color and the washi tape to adhere.

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In the past I have used mailing labels for these bins, but I end up relabeling bins and it’s hard to remove all the sticky paper. Ding, ding, ding!!! Washi tape easily removes from items AND is pretty. Yes!

Another trick is to quickly write a list of clothes that I have in this size on the back. I wrote it in pencil so I can update it as the clothes trickle in. I also made note about holiday clothes, swimsuits, jackets, etc in this size. Here is the genius part. I can actually take these lists with me as reference for the multiples sales I am going to in a few weeks.
clothes4 I am hoping that it helps me shop very smart. This did not take much additional time and I believe will save me rummaging through the bins thinking, “Do I have mostly winter clothes or summer in that size?” and “Does Isaac have slacks for Thanksgiving?” Yes, I am a planner. I created this system, but I do think it is genius. Not to sound prideful, but I’d say the same thing if you created it.

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Here is what we were left with to take to the basement…
clothes6After the clothes were washed, 24 month were hung up and the 2T put up into bins.

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So there you have it! It feels good to have this project done and more importantly I am prepared for my sale shopping in a few weeks.

If you are local, here are links to the 2 sales that I like:
Tri-state Multiples Sale
Eastern Hills Mother of Twins Sale
There are more all over the tri-state that you can look into. I will be back to share my spoils.

How do you organize and shop for clothes? Please share your methods and strategies. I love this stuff!

5 Favorite Things… Blog Launch Giveaway!

I am super pumped to launch my new little blog into the world. So, what better way to celebrate than share some free stuff with my friends?! FREE STUFF, people. I love free stuff. You’re welcome.

Today, I’ll share some things that I love and YOU CAN HAVE THEM ALL! (Well, one of you can have them all.) If you know me much at all, you know that I have a love for organization and effective systems. My goal is not to over-structure life, but to bring effectiveness to work and home. Organization saves time, and that is time I can spend with my family and friends. In addition, if I can make those systems beautiful and colorful that is a total winner-winner-chicken-dinner in my book.

Here are 5 FAVORITE THINGS…. 

5things1 with numbers on

1. Large Notecards
A great multi-purpose item. I love them because they are sturdy, a great size and lined on one side. I often use them as bin labels, errand list, or honey-do list.

2. Mulit-colored Fine Point Sharpies
Adding a little color to my work and planning just makes me happy. I love to have a plethera of colors to choose from. Yes, I carry about 12 in my purse at all times. Don’t hate.

3. Over-sized Paperclips
Colorful, functional, and big. What is not to love? These clips are super strong and the colors jump out of a pile of papers.

4. Over-sized Notepads
Love to use these for large sticky post-its for notes and lists. I rarely can fit anything on the small square ones. Plus, these catch my husband’s attention before he walks out the door = worth a fortune!

5. Washi Tape
As I said yesterday this is my new obsession! Colorful addition to projects and decor. So many options… I dare you to search “Washi tape” on Pinterest.

…and I am throwing in a pretty desk organizer too. Can’t have 5 Favorite Things just laying around.

5 things2 with banner

So, here a few ways to enter. Each item below is worth 1 entry, up to 3 entries total per person! Giveaway closes on Sunday, March 3rd at 12:00 midnight EST. 

1. FOLLOW this blog  in one of three ways: SUBSCRIBE BY EMAIL or LIKE ON FACEBOOK or follow on BLOGLOVIN’. Email and Facebook options are available on the sidebar of the home page. (1 entry)

2. COMMENT on any Blog post or Facebook Status on Project Momma. (1 entry)

3. SHARE this giveaway on Facebook or your own blog….or on Pinterest or Twitter or Instagram. Note that you must tag “@ProjectMomma” on Facebook or “#projectmomma” on Twitter or Instagram for giveaway credit. (1 entry)

The giveaway is open to friends, family, and beyond. Open to the United States excluding Alaska and Hawaii (sorry). Project Momma was not paid or perked for any of these items. Coupons were utilized but not harmed in the purchasing of this giveaway. 

 

Solving the ‘Drop Zone’ Problem (Part 1)

Our kitchen has many problems. For now, let’s ignore the fact that our fridge is avacado green, our cabinets are laminate, and the floor is….well, dingy. We hope to gut it someday in the future. But the problem functionally, is that it’s so small! We have limited storage, it’s awkwardly shaped, and like many homes it is the entry, exit and hub of the house.

I specifically bought a high-top kitchen table so that it could act as another counter while cooking. But, instead, it has become the ‘drop zone’. And, really… it is my fault. We have with no mudroom and limited space in the garage. As I walk in from a busy day I usually unload my work bag, Isaac’s bag, lunch bags, coats, shoes, mail, the paper, groceries, and whatever else I have in my hands.  So the challenge: get my kitchen table back.

Here is a real-life picture of what it looks like on a bad day:
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Part 1 of this project is to clear the clutter and assess what is piling up. Each item needs a home and a system to get it home on a regular basis. I’ve learned that just cleaning the table is not enough. The pile reappears as soon as a busy work week starts up again.

While Isaac was napping one Friday afternoon, I moved each item to the dining room table and organized like items with each other. I wanted to visually critique my mess. WHAT is there and WHY is there instead of someplace else? Here’s what had accumulated…

org1Let’s take a closer look…

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Left side of the table:
2 bowls
red card box
lunchbag
seatbelt for highchair (project)
grocery list & coupons
candle tarts (gift)
dirty bottle
screws (project)
picture CD
Isaac’s bath toys
Isaac’s book
food drive list (project)
reminder note to buy bins
small group book
Isaac’s shoes
vaseline

None of these items belong on the kitchen table. They are either on their way out of the house, on their way back in or waiting for time to do a project.  Isaac’s things can go to his room, dishes and lunchbag can be put away in the kitchen. The card box belongs in the dining room closet (which is like my misc spot/office). From looking at these items,  I think I need an “in process” container and a “projects” container somewhere, so those items don’t sit on the kitchen table for weeks until I have time to do them.

org6

Middle of the table: 
blank paper
mug of pens
post-it pad
loaf of party rye (project)
bills/mail
magazines
iphone accessories
Isaac’s log (blue)
coupon organizer (black)
bill organizer
change
paper clips
packing tape
keys
chapstick

Keys belong in a tray on the microwave. Chapstick and phone accessories go in my purse. Nail polish goes to the bathroom. Office supplies to the Dining Room closet. Beyond that, these items, mostly paper or organizers with papers in them are constantly hanging out on the table. They need places to live.  I do not want to see them! I also need to be able to easily grab office supplies and easily put them away.

org4Right side of the table:
Misc bags
Misc papers to be filed
Diaper changing pouch
Gloves
Mommy hook
Wipes pack

Gloves hang out in my purse. The large Mommy Hook, changing pad and wipes go to the car. Bags go in the garage. The misc. papers need to be filed in the dining room closet.

Have you noticed a pattern here?

OK, so I have been holding back on you. I do have a clue as to why these items, a lot of them paper, are accumulating on the table. My closet in the dining room is worse than this table. It is my misc spot and it is out-of control!!! So, there you go all you people that think that my house is perfectly organized. I have monsters in the closet just like you. The reason they are literally in the closet, has to do with a certain 17 month old. Now that he can get into everything on the bottom part of the house, I’ve had to move, hide and store things differently. The dining room closet has become the misc. safe place for alot these items. Ready for the scary picture?

closetItems falling out as I open the door. Paper piles that are growing. More projects in a bag, I cannot even see the files! Oh, it is time!! 

So, there will be a Part 2 of this project. It is contingent on creating some space in that closet. Assessing what was landing in the ‘drop zone’ has prepared me to create some thought-out, systematic, and organized zones in the closet. Ooh, it gives me chills just thinking about it. Again, my goal is to create new habits and maintain a clean kitchen table.

Oh, let’s at least enjoy the picture of the clean kitchen table…ahhhhh.
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MY LIST of Items that need homes:
1. Misc. project items  — > in the closet, bigger items to the basement
2. In process items – like mail, bills, etc. —> in the closet
3. Location for coats, shoes, purse, diaper bag, and work misc. —> closet and other?

Hang in there. There are a lot more nap times of work in my future. I will fill you in soon.

Winter 10

Back in December, I drew a 6th grade looking artwork piece of things that I wanted to experience during the holiday season. I hung it up in the kitchen where I saw it everyday- reminding me of great times to be had (and the fact that I am not an drawer). It actually worked, we did almost everything on my picture-goal-experience sheet.

So, I thought I would try to do it again, only this time it would include my projects, some fun and some not as fun.  Maybe I will do this each season? And since I have been playing with PicMonkey, I decided to make my picture a little more graphic.

winter 10

They are all pretty self-explanatory, so I will save the details for later posts after they are done!

Wont you join me for Winter 10? Post a blog like this and link in the comments.

- – -

COMPLETED: click below to link to more info. on that project

1. valentine mantel

Weekly Grocery Shopping Made Easy!

Look what I made… a Master Grocery List! So I guess that makes me a master grocer? Hardly!  I am not a fan of grocery shopping, but…. it must be done. So why not make it as easy and efficient as possible. I have been wanting to make myself a list for awhile and finally got around to it tonight.

I quickly did a Pinterest search for some inspiration. Anyone else do that? Here are some ideas I found. Some were beautiful, but I only really needed mine to be functional, low maintenance and quick was good. Here is what I came up with in a half hour + excel + home printer…

banner_grocery-listI made it pretty simple – with only the things that I mostly by for our family. I also left a lot of blank spaces. I added a Misc. category at the end, you know… for those things that you add to your grocery run and don’t want to forget! This is just my first draft, I plan to add and update over the next few weeks as I shop. This is to use on a weekly basis, but I also have plans to make a monthly version, that way I can do a major stock-up on as much as I can in that trip, and pick up produce, dairy, meat and etc. each week.

Want to make your own? Here are a few steps to become a Master Grocer yourself.

Project: Master Grocery List
1. Make list of items you buy monthly
2. List these in order as they appear in your regular grocery store, so they are in order as you shop.
3. Start an excel or google spreadsheet of the list, use columns.
4. Leave blank spaces/lines for add ons (items you do not by as often).
5. Highlight the items you need for that shopping trip on the list before you shop.
6. Put a “C” by the items you have coupons for, add notes as needed.
7. “X” out the items you have put into your cart.
8. Update the list as needed.