Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Find Lost Treasure

I have been bugging my teen boys for weeks (months) to clean out their room. It wasn't until I was at the end of my rope that I realized that they have absolutely no interest whatsoever in cleaning out their room. And when they started telling me that I needed to buy them more black socks because they no longer had any did I decide to take over their room. I couldn't imagine where all of their black socks had gone. I took matters into my own hands.

I went in their room with a mission to find the 20 pairs of black socks that I knew lurked in there. I also was going to find shorts that they told me they no longer have as well. After all, clothes don't just walk away.

My approach was fairly straightforward and would work in just about any bedroom. I worked on the closet first and then moved to the bed area and then the TV area. Closet was the biggest challenge because kids notoriously do not organize or purge their clothes. I am sure there are exceptions but at least this rule is alive in my house. I start by pulling all of the clothes out of the closet. We make a few piles: one to give away, one to keep, and one to pass down to their youngest brother. The boys were a part of the process and as I held up the item we decided which pile it goes into. The decisions have to be quick and kids usually know which of their clothes no longer fit or is no longer in style. We went through the belts, shoes, and baskets. Every keeper got hung back up on the rod in an organized fashion grouped by type (shirts, pants, tshirts, etc). To my kids' surprise the baskets which contained shorts and t-shirts were crammed with shorts that still had the tags on and ended up buried at the bottom. What we also found were several pairs of black socks. I struggled to contain myself so as not to relish in what I knew all along (that the socks and shorts didn't just walk away).

When the closet was finished I moved on to the drawers under their beds. This is where they keep their underwear, pjs, and socks (which they say they no longer have any of). What I found hidden beneath the underwear were more socks! We sorted through these drawers and paired up all the socks, folded up all the underwear and threw everything out that no longer fit or was wearable.

While I was at the bed area I decided to take a look under the bed. I figured that surely I would find treasure there and I was not disappointed. More socks!

We moved on to their end table that they somehow has become a total junk drawer. I emptied the whole thing out much to their horror. The whining tone didn't sway me. We were not going to do a partial purge. Everything was emptied out of that drawer onto the floor. We went through old papers, candy wrappers, and overall junk that just needed to be trashed. I did find a few surprises that came from that drawer..money and gift cards that totalled $75 in value.

Only essential items were put back into the end table drawer and on that happy note we were finished with the purge. Lost treasure totalled $75 + the cost of black socks and striped shorts. Overall the mission was a success.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thank You Notes

I was flipping through my blog reader this morning. I love every blog in my reader and believe me, there are so many of them that it's a full time job just keeping up with them. So I found one blog post in particular here that made me think about the topic of thank you notes.

She touched on a subject that I feel is really an important art form that seems to have been lost in our culture. Why is it lost? Is it no longer important for kids and adults to write thank you notes letting the person who picked out the gift, paid for it, wrapped it up, and shipped it off to know that you appreciated their effort?

It's a subject that comes to the forefront whenever my kids get gifts. They whine and complain about having to write the notes. I don't let them use the gift until they write it. I always wonder if they will continue when they become adults and don't have me hanging over them nagging them to do it.

In generally discussing the subject with friends and co-workers I find out that many people don't get thank you notes from the person receiving their gift and frankly don't expect to. That's sad to me. It's common courtesy and we should be passing this courtesy on to our children. And let's lead by example by showing them how important it is to write those thank you notes.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Subway Southwest Sauce - Knock Off

So after yesterday's post I started googling some of my family's favorite dishes that they order when we eat out. I am on a mission to try to recreate some of those favorite dishes at home in order to stick to my 2010 goal of eating out less.

One of the recipes I googled was Subway's Southwest Sauce. My husband loves to eat lunch every Saturday at Subway and he gets a sub with this sauce on it. I started thinking that I could probably make that same sub at home. I found a recipe for the sauce online and I am going to try it this weekend. Let's see if he agrees.

Subway Southwest Sauce


1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 ounce Dijon mustard
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1 ounce chipotle chile in adobo, pureed
1/4 ounce fresh garlic, minced
salt, to taste


1. Combine mayonnaise, mustard, lime juice, chipotle and garlic.
2. Add salt to taste.
3. Cover and chill before sandwich preparation, or before using as a salad dressing.

I am going to buy one of those squirter bottles from Target so if the sauce turns out good I can make a batch and keep it in a bottle for my husband to use every week.

Let's see if this does the trick.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eating Out

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to work hard at eating out less. In fact if I had my way we would rarely eat out. I don't have anything against restaurants. It's just that while they are convenient they host a whole other set of problems that I have to deal with.

One of the main problems with eating out is that it is difficult to get the same quality of family style dinner that I enjoy at home. The noise level is usually loud and we don't engage in the same family atmosphere as home. The kids behavior seems to be worse in restaurants and they lose all sense of responsibility such as setting the table, clearing the table, doing the dishes. At a restaurant the hired help does all that for them and they don't have to life a finger.

The second thing I find irritating about restaurants is that it seems that so much food goes uneaten and the quality of food isn't the same as I can make at home. The restaurants try to offer a variety but I find it's usually the same ole same ole when it comes to kids.

The third thing is the expense. Regardless of the reports I constantly hear about soaring food prices, I remain steadfast in my opinion that it is cheaper to eat at home. If you don't believe me go to this blog and you will see proof for yourself.

So that is my goal for this year...to eat out less and stay in more.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Car Organization

I am pretty anal retentive about organization in my car. There is a good reason why I am like this. The main reason is that once upon a time I used my vehicle for business purposes and would often find myself driving other coworkers or even my boss around in my car during work. I never wanted to embarrass myself in front of my peers or managers by having a filthy car. Hence my ongoing habits about keeping my car clean stemmed mostly from that.

And I think that's a good thing. But it certainly is not easy always carrying 4 kids around. They do have a tendency to drop things, leave their toys or games on the floor, or just leave the car in general disarray.

But I have discovered a few tricks that I do all of the time that help to combat these issues.

1. Keep a small garbage bag in the car at all times. I found a neat one similar to this one
and hang it around the neck of the front seat headrest. The kids know that any and all garbage goes in here. I empty it whenever I get gas.

2. Keep a small towel under the seat of the car or in the trunk. You never know when you will have a spill or a sick child. The towel can be pulled out for easy cleanup!

3. I always keep a small box of wipes in the car for reasons similar to #2. If there are any spills and you need something wet to clean up then these are perfect. Your kids might need to wipe their hands for some reason. The wipes are great for this.

4. Keep a stash of quarters in the glove box. I religiously vacuum my car at the gas station using one of those mega-powered vacuum cleaners. They are great for crumbs or for the clay that my sons drag in during baseball season. Your car will always look great when you give it a routine vacuum and you will feel visually peaceful not to have to look at cluttered floors and seats.

5. Clean out the surface clutter in your car every time you go home. When my husband was driving and we would pull up to our house, he would always say "I will get my stuff later" and he would then never do it. Eventually after days, it would look like a pigpen with papers and junk everywhere. I finally got him into the habit of not procrastinating and that means taking your stuff with you from the car to the house as soon as you arrive home. Try to stick to that habit and you will see how much better your car looks because of it.

6. I keep a first aid kit in the trunk of the car. It's like insurance. Hopefully you will never need to use it but in case you do, you will be not be sorry you did it.

A lot of these ideas are not difficult or costly to implement but the benefits are so tremendous. You will soon find that your car is no longer a junk pile and will no longer be embarrassed to have people riding in it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Being Organized Does Not Mean Perfect

I am organized, yes it is true. But I am not perfect in any way shape or form. I know this for a fact as well. I don't pretend to be perfect but I do strive to be as organized as possible. It's a balance act because I have four kids and it is impossible to be clean, organized, and orderly every minute of the day.

To me, though, being organized is not being totally clean, totally decluttered and totally organized. After all, it's unrealistic to expect a 4 year old to never drop a cheerio on the floor or never spill his milk. It's unrealistic to expect two teenage boys to keep their rooms neat. It's the furthest thing from their minds and I am too busy keeping the house running to spend a lot of time trying to get them to comply with my organizational ideas.

For me organization is a state of mind. It's about me forming habits and systems in my home, car, and life that help me to get through my day a bit easier. It's about not wasting time looking for items that should be easily found. It's about filing important paperwork in an orderly fashion so that if I need to find an insurance paper or pay stub or tax return I don't have to waste precious hours looking for them. That's what organization means to me. As a consequence of the many hours I have worked toward having an organized life my home is generally neat and clean, not perfect though.

If you walked throughout my house today you would see clothes on the floor in my teens room. You would find too many stuffed animals on my daughter's bed. You would find about 50 hot wheels cars thrown about in my 4 year old's room. You would find a handful of old magazines in the basket of my bathroom (my husband reads those what can I say?). So indeed there is always room for improvement. But what you will also find is an attic where every box is in place and labeled for easy view. You will find a key rack inside the laundry room where my keys are always hung. Since hanging this key hook I have never lost my keys. Not once! What a huge time saver that one was. You will also find that my bed is made EVERY morning and there are NO dirty dishes in the sink. Those are two very important "non-negotiables" for me that help to provide visual peace when I walk about the house.

Organizing yourself and your life is not a one day project or even a one week project. It's a way of life. It's a way to plan and create habits within your life that work for you and that help to create some free time to do the fun things that we like to do. Isn't that what all of us are looking for?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christmas Storage - Declutter It All

I spent most of yesterday putting away all of our Christmas decorations indoor and outdoor. It was a pretty big task but I try to go in with a strategy. I am a big advocate of organizing for a purpose and most of the times it is to make things easier for the future. So when it came to putting Christmas decorations away my main goal is to store it so that it is easy to take out next year. There is nothing most time consuming than going through cardboard boxes that you cannot see inside and that are thrown about in a haphazard fashion. I have also found that not using good, sturdy storage boxes leads to breakage and damage to precious heirlooms.

Before I start packing I take all of the containers down and clean them out. I throw (donate) away ornaments or decorations that are either broken or I no longer use or want. The remainder that I keep gets sorted out. If I am short of a containers I can usually find them on sale at Target, Walmart, or some other type of store. The containers must be clear and must have locking handles to be airtight and waterproof. I also buy packing peanuts for the breakable stuff. A little thought goes a long way.

Once the items are all packed up, they go back into the attic in an order such that I can easily retrieve them when next Christmas rolls around. The method is especially clutter free and I feel good that all of my items are well protected and useful.

Here are a few of the types of containers that I use.

Basic Ornament Box that keeps ornaments from breaking:


This is a basic container box for various decorations. I fill with packing peanuts to keep it safe from breakage:


This container is very nice for storing lights and keeping them separate:


A lot of organization is about how you want to leave things for the next time you need to use them.

Happy Organizing!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Birthday Organization

I have a pretty good memory when it comes to birthdays so remembering them wasn't my problem. My problem was keeping them on my radar so that I would send a card or gift in time for the person's birthday. With my busy life it gets more and more difficult to keep things stored in my brain...things I have to remember. Forgetting is becoming more and more common.

I have been forced to turn to technology to help me remember many of these important dates. So for birthdays and other important dates I turn to my favorite program of all - Microsoft Outlook.

I love Outlook. It has every function I need all in one program. I can read, sort, delete and folder email all right there with one drag and drop. I can set up my calendar there and there are so many user friendly tools that go along with the calendar. I can set up a birthday on the calendar and have it recur year after year. I can set up a reminder so that Outlook reminds me weeks in advance of the birthday. I can color code the appointments so that I can glance the calendar weekly view and quickly see what is happening for the week...doctor appointments are colored in yellow, kids activities are colored in green, school activities are colored in blue, and so on and so forth.

I can also create a task list in Outlook. I love this feature because I can create a task and then assign it a start and end date. Outlook stores these tasks and I can view them on a side bar. When the task becomes overdue it turns red. This is a great function for keeping all of your more important tasks in order and stored.

I know there are probably more functions within Outlook. I cannot imagine it getting better than it is. I know that every program has its critics. Not everyone is sure to think it is perfect. But for my use I happen to love it. And I am sure to not miss a birthday ever again.

What do you use to keep your appointments straight? I would love to know. Send me a comment.