Tag Archives: organization

Life Through Photos | Snow Day Freezer Meals

Life Through Photos | Snow Day Freezer Meals

What do you do on a snowy day? For the south, most of the city panics and rushes to the grocery for milk and bread. Instead – I sent my husband to the store to gather items I needed to make {SEVEN} freezer meals. I figured I would be stuck inside so why not put that time to good use.

(this is the link to view and print out the shopping list and recipes I used for these freezer meals)

While my husband was shopping, I was preparing the kitchen.  I cleaned off my kitchen table so that I had even more space to spread out. My husband arrived home and I set everything out so that it was easily accessible.

Snow Day Meal Prep Sweetbottoms Baby 1

One of the first things I did – while the meat was cooking I was chopping the vegetables that were needed. I placed them all in separate bowls so I could just measure what I needed.Snow Day Meal Prep Sweetbottoms Baby 2

Then I labeled all the bags before I put anything in them. I was sure to add any cooking instructions so I didn’t have to refer back to the recipes.Snow Day Meal Prep Sweetbottoms Baby 3 Snow Day Meal Prep Sweetbottoms Baby 4

Find a larger Tupperware bowl, formula can or coffee can and place the bag inside and fold over the edges. This made a sturdy place to add all my ingredients. Snow Day Meal Prep Sweetbottoms Baby 5 Snow Day Meal Prep Sweetbottoms Baby 6

I stacked my bags flat – I find this helpful for storage once they are frozen and they are easier to thaw!Snow Day Meal Prep Sweetbottoms Baby 7

I spent about 3 hours total in preparing and cleaning for this project. I was also attending to lunch and nap times for my kids so there was a little deviation from the task at hand. Best part… I have SEVEN meals frozen and ready to eat whenever (or share with a postpartum mom!)

Moving Tips for Families with Children

moving tips with children

I’m sure there are more stressful things in life, but packing up and moving to a new state has been a HUGE event in our lives this year. At first, it really doesn’t seem all that difficult. I’ve moved to several states and even stayed in a different country for a semester. I felt like I knew how to pack, how to move and learn a new place. The only difference? This time I have two children in tow.

All moves are different. Down the street is easier than a different town or state or country. Another consideration is the change in square footage. Moving to a larger place isn’t as stressful as downsizing. And having plenty of time to prepare is, of course, an advantage over unexpected moves.

For our move, we were going only about 300 miles from Durham, NC to the Baltimore area. We knew we’d be using a truck so we weren’t very limited on how much we could bring. The limits for us came in the smaller home size. We left our 2-story 1100 sq ft town home in North Carolina for a 870 sq ft apartment in Maryland.

 

Our experience– compared to what it could have been– wasn’t terribly harrowing, but it was much more difficult and stressful than I had anticipated. Part of it came from me getting sick three times in the last month before we moved. Although we still aren’t completely settled, I did unpack the last box and with that came a great sense of relief: We’re finally home.

Here are a few things we did (and should have done) that might help you moving (especially) with children.

1.  Start early. I cannot stress enough how much longer everything takes than you’d expect. You can begin packing things like out-of-season clothes, keepsakes, knickknacks, decorations and books. I actually packed away all our books (kids’ too) and relied on library books for the last 6 weeks. About 2 weeks before the move, I packed up almost the entire kitchen. We used disposable goods and ate more to-go dinners than normal in the last few days before we left. Plan for all those little things like taking down curtain rods and wall hangings. Like everything else, they take longer than expected.

purge

2. Don’t pack what you don’t need. If you’re into sports metaphors: The best defense is a good offense. Even though I thought I had already purged before packing, I still ended up dropping off several loads at Goodwill on our first week in Maryland. Downsizing means that we have less than half the storage space we had before so there is simply not room for extra boxes of baby clothes for “just in case” or toys that my kid plays with for only 30 seconds. It’s best to get rid of as much as possible before the move because– obviously– that means less packing and unpacking work, but it’s also a good idea because you’re more familiar with consignment shops and donation spots in your current city.

3. Make a master ist of places to call or contact. You’ll need one list of old to disconnect and one list of new to sign up for services.

Here’s our list to get you started:

Electric/Gas, Water, Internet/Cable, Renters/Homeowners Insurance, Auto Insurance, Health Insurance, Doctors/Dentists (*Let them know you are moving and get any routine checkups you might need. Ask if they can refer you to a physician in your new area and find out about how to get your records transferred.)

4. Explain what’s happening to your children. Even if you are moving just around the corner, kids are very sensitive to changes in their environment. They pick up on the slightest changes and can sense if you’re stressed out. Don’t be surprised if there are changes in eating, sleeping and behavior. Try to maintain as much normalcy as possible. Talk to your children about the move explain what’s going to happen in simple terms. I kept telling my three year-old son that we would be getting a new house but that all of our old things like the couch, bed, and toys would come to our new house. We also checked out books about moving and looked at maps of where we were going.

involve the kids

5. Let your kids help. Sure, you can do it 10x faster. But if you can assign your little ones a small task (like ‘transfer the contents of this bin into this box’) while you focus on a bigger task, you might actually get some work done. Even if you have to re-pack what they did later, it will help them feel a part of the process and buy you a little time.

6. Pack like you want to unpack. Don’t just think of packing room-by-room. We had 6 main categories: study (books and school supplies), clothes/accessories, kitchen, decor, toys and bathroom. Make sure you have a few vital boxes and suitcases that you want to unpack first. Those boxes should have everyday use and high-need items. I recommend packing a couple of suitcases as if you were going on a trip for a week: include clothes, toiletries and favorite toys. (And don’t forget about urgent items like a thermometer and medicines–just in case!)

7. Consider what your child will do on moving day. It worked out that I was in Houston visiting my parents while my husband did the actual move to Maryland. Although it was lonely for him (he did have friends helping), we were so glad we planned it that way. Moving can be stressful and even hazardous for little ones. Make sure you arrange for them to be supervised and safely occupied while things are coming in and out of the house.

8. Don’t unpack until you know where it goes. Once you’ve moved in, the temptation is to quickly unpack and get out from all those stacks of boxes. And while heavy boxes can be safety hazards for little ones, it will make your life easier if you can unpack little-by-little. Keep things packed until you are really ready to put away everything in the box. All those breakable knickknacks and teeny accessories are taped up and out of your little one’s hands. Unpacking in a methodical and organized way will help your home run much more smoothly in the long run. (And save you from tripping over piles of random items in the short run.)

9. Introduce your children to their new home. Make sure they know their way around the new place. Little ones can be easily turned around and might get scared– especially at night. Go around to each room and talk about what is going to be in there. Explain how this is your new home and listen to any concerns your child might have. Be prepared again for changes in typical behaviors until things get settled. It’s only natural that they may feel unsettled. One of the first things I set up was a play space for my kids. Even though my kitchen is still a little disorganized, I’d rather have their space settled so they can relax and enjoy it.

get out and explore

10. Have fun with it! In the first few days everything is crazy–boxes everywhere, you don’t know where your left sock is–much less the grocery store. But take a break from the overwhelming task of creating a new home and make a few memories. Get out of the house and go on an adventure. Google Maps now has turn-by-turn directions on their App so you can explore your new city with confidence. Even if you don’t want to leave, just take a break from work and play with the kids: use boxes as drawing boards or play hide-and-seek. Be patient (I know it’s hard) but your home will all come together soon!

Have you made a big move with the kids? What’s your best advice?

Organizing Your Home (and keeping it that way)

I started the Home Sweet Home series to share what I’ve learned while decluttering and organizing my home. Not only do I want to create a more organized and peaceful home, but I want to teach my kids to appreciate and care for the things they have. So moving forward from Phase One (ie. getting rid of what you don’t use) we are ready to talk about the next steps.

I’m combining them into this one post so it’s easier to see how each step relates to the other. I’ll share more specific posts about the toys, kitchen, closets (including diapers), laundry, and car in the coming weeks. Today, I’ll just use a few examples to illustrate my points.

Once you’ve done a ruthless purge, you’re ready to organize. Where to begin? It’s worth the time to do a walkthrough of your home to write down what needs to be done. It helps if you can see an overall goal and then break it down into bite-sized pieces. You’ll have to be honest about how much you’ll be able to do in a day and prioritize the areas that are the most high-traffic.

organize

I tend to make a huge mess at the start of organization. I need to take everything out and slowly add things back in. This is definitely a challenge with small, inquisitive hands around. Use old boxes and lids to sort small items. At this point you will most likely find more things to get rid of so you might want to keep a bag for that handy. Every single item that’s to stay in the space must have a ‘home’ that’s accessible.

Here’s the question to ask yourself over and over again: How do I want to use this space? Envision the end result and then make a plan to get there.

It’s important that you don’t buy anything new to store your items until you know exactly what you need. Make do with what you have until you are sure your organizational plan is functional…

evaluate

After you’ve done a trial organization of the space, take a step back and make sure what you’ve done will really work. Do this before you purchase organizational materials like bins or boxes and before you break out the labelmaker. By taking the time to evaluate your work, you can be mindful of how much stuff you have, how you use it, and how you access it.

In the example of my playroom, I did what I thought was a decent purge. Then I put all the toys that we kept out on the shelves and in a small, three-drawer organizer. I used a few baskets and shoe boxes that I already had and held off on making labels.

Within days, it was apparent that there were still too many toys.

So I cleared everything off the shelves and put only a few things back on. It was perhaps about 1/3 of the toys we have.

Everything else will go into storage and can only come out if something else gets put away.

maintain

Once you have your beautiful space, you need to figure out how to keep it that way.

The last phase is meant to be an ongoing routine that will help you maintain all that hard work you did. As with everything, the specifics of this part will depend on your lifestyle. How much will your children be able to help maintain the neatness of the space? How often is the space used?

Sit down and decide on a schedule. In the past I’ve used a weekly rotation, but it might make more sense for you to use a 10-day or 2-week routine, depending on your needs.

Now is the time to snap your ‘after’ photos. Keep them as a reminder of how you want the space to be. You can use them as part of a chore chart for yourself or the kids.

We also have to make a point to be mindful in what we bring into the space. I try to purchase only things that I truly love. And–especially where toys are concerned– only things that inspire creativity and have multiple uses.

I’ll be updating you on my progress throughout the next weeks and months!

How are you doing with your Home Sweet Home project?

 

Decluttering and Organizing for a Home Sweet Home

Today I want to share some of my ideas on decluttering and organizing your home. My mission in the new year is to create a Home Sweet Home feeling in my home when I’m inside. I don’t want to be stressed out by stuff or constantly running behind my kids to keep the house from becoming a disaster. I wish for a peaceful space in which we can play, work, eat and rest together.

That’s my goal.

What’s yours?

hsh

Decluttering and organizing is a pervasive topic among women I know. Moms in particular feel overwhelmed by the management of all the extra stuff that comes with kids, in addition to their penchant for rummaging in places they weren’t meant to. Since before I was married, when I lived with roommates or even on my own, I went through bouts of purging and organizing. My efforts in the past were usually driven by some aesthetic aim. I saw a basket I liked so I brought it home and put some stuff in it. I saw a neat Pin and randomly decided to turn the closet upside-down so I could try it. But these weren’t purposeful and the changes weren’t long-lasting.

So for the past three months I’ve been making slow, steady progress toward real change in my home. I’m not finished, but I needed a jump start so that I could be ready to write these posts with an honest look at how my efforts turned out.

A bit about me and what my needs are: I work primarily at home and have a son who is almost three and a six-month-old daughter. We live in a 2-bedroom, 2-story townhouse with minimal storage. I tend to be creative and while I like organization, I easily give up on something if it’s not perfect. I also manage with chronic pain so I need to keep projects small and physical tasks to a minimum. Why is all this important? Because the process I’m describing to you requires you to think about yourself, your family and your needs. What works in my home might not work in yours. There’s no one best way to do anything. But instead of telling you how to “fix” your household, I’ll give you steps for figuring it out on your own.

Getting Started

Start by asking yourself this: How do I need to use this space?

When you start your plan with the end goal in mind, you can see the big picture and it will keep you from becoming lost in the process. Make a list of specific goals that you want to accomplish. You might jot them down in your planner or scrawl them on a large sheet of paper you hang up on the wall.

I strongly discourage you from attaching artificial deadlines to your goals. I’ve been caught in a trap of “30 Days to a Cleaner House” and similar plans. The problem with these schedules is that you miss a day or two and you’re at risk of quitting. Even worse- if you do manage to finish- your efforts usually won’t last because they aren’t thoughtful or sustainable. It’s similar to the Crash Diet.

There will be a time for parsing out tasks, but it’s not now. Before you start, know where you are going. Depending on the size of your house, you may go room-by-room to list goals. The way I think about my home is more of areas: kitchen/food, living room, bedroom, play room, and bathrooms.

Here are a few of my goals for these areas:

-Peaceful sleep in our family bedroom.

-Productive work environment in the living room.

-Stress-free organization in kitchen, bathrooms and closets.

This is also a time to take some “Before” photos. Use social media to motivate yourself. Set up a Pinterest board with your goal in mind. Instagram your disaster closet and ask your friends for encouragement.

Oh yeah, and gather up some bags and boxes for Phase One, coming tomorrow…

Share with the group now, what are your Home Sweet Home goals?

 

 

 

Organize Your Week

What’s a great way to spend a cold January Sunday? Getting organized, of course! I’m starting 2014 off with more efficient organization and a huge purge of clutter in my home. (More on the purge later this week!) One thing I’ve read over and over again is how important it is to organize your week. And I’ve tried several different methods. I’ve even attempted the electronic route with a iPhone planner, but that just didn’t work for me.

I need plenty of space to write, draw, and sketch. I need flexibility and I need to be able to see everything at once. So I designed my own planner and I figured y’all might like it if I shared.

Free Weekly Printables

There are 3 .pdf files below to get you started. I’ll explain what’s in each one and then talk about how I use them myself.

The first two files are covers and a back. First you pick which one you’d like and download that. You might want to print these on a thicker cardstock. You can use a binder and three-hole-punch or get your planner spiral bound.

In the third file, you’ll find the planning pages. I have a landscape weekly planner with four blocks. You have some options here as well. Two versions use minimal ink and another has bold blocks. Of the two versions with just the outline one has a block for “Work” while the other has “Go.” Since I work from home, I like the “Work” title, but that may not fit for everyone.

My suggestion is to print out 52 (or however many weeks you want) of this page (or the “Go” version):

Weekly Planner

and one of this:

Weekly Planner

This bold page can be laminated or stuck inside a frame for a wipe-off version of a weekly calendar. I like the idea of having a week displayed like this because then everyone (cough-Hubby-cough) can know what’s going on. Again, it’s all up to you.

Additionally there are a few pages for Ideas, Reminders, and Milestones that you might want have handy to jot things down. You can print as many of these as you like and add them wherever you need. For me, I’ll have several “Idea” pages for sure.

So what’s my thinking behind the design?

One reason I chose to do landscape pages without actual borders for each day is for flexibility. Most things I do are somewhat transient– meaning I might plan to do something on a Tuesday but end up sliding it over to Wednesday. With this design, I can simply draw an arrow to the left or right and it’s not too far off.

I chose the four blocks to represent my main four priorities. I do keep a more detailed binder that’s 100% dedicated to work projects. But I still want to plan my week in the context of the work I need to accomplish. Since there’s not a ton of room on just one page, I’ll just write a brief description of what I need to do on that day. So for today I’d just write “Sweetbottoms Blog Post” but all the details will be kept in the other binder. If you aren’t using the version with the work label, you could keep appointments or errands in this top “Go” bar.

My second bar is titled “Play.” And I put this in because it’s really, really easy to overlook. I want to see that I’m making plans for my kids to get out and do something just for them at least once a week. Most of the time they are dragging along with my crazy errands or playing alone while I work. And while I don’t think there’s anything terrible about that, I’d also like to schedule in some fun times that we can all enjoy.

The last two blocks, “Home” and “Eat,” are for household chores, which I am terrible about remembering, and meal planning, which I’m even worse about. I’ll be writing some more detailed posts about this in the next few weeks.

I hope this planner is helpful for keeping us organized this year! Get your free printable version by clicking the links below.

Your can get a 2014 Monthly Calendar here.

Do have another weekly planning tool that works well for you? Please share it in the comments below!