28 July 2010

Moving Day

I missed both Forget It Friday and Funday Monday.  Well, my fun day Monday was watching our movers pack up our life and send it to the Netherlands.

And today my fun day was...


yuck yuck yuck.

But it is much easier to do when there isn't stuff everywhere.  Yet another reason for me to keep it simple.

Do you think I could get by with no furniture or toys?  It's fun to camp, right?

Well, as chaotic as it seems at the moment, things went rather well.  Only a  few items got packed away that shouldn't have, and none of them were critical (like passports).  We have a couple weeks visiting family before we're off on our new adventure, so starting tomorrow we're officially nomads.  Blog posts might be sporadic, but stick with me.  I'm sure I'll learn many things not to do when traveling with children, and I'll share them as soon as I can.

26 July 2010


Measure twice, buy once

I will admit that I am container crazy, but only because if I didn’t admit it, my husband would spill the beans.  I purposely stay away from The Container Store so that I don’t end up filing for bankruptcy. 

That said, I can also tell you the most important lesson I’ve learned about containers:


It’s true.  Don’t get sucked into the “what great containers, these will help me organize everything” argument.  Many people (excluding me, of course) fall into this trap and load up on great containers only to find that they don’t fit what they were intended for, or they don’t fit into their designated space.  Or maybe they were bought without any intentions in the hope that having the container would somehow make the person who bought it more organized.

Don’t do it.  Figure out what you need by creating piles of categorized items and measuring it’s volume.  Then, measure the size of the storage space to determine what you can accommodate.  You may end up with a few smaller containers, but if they fit your stuff and in the correct space, they will eliminate much more chaos than that one box that won’t fit anywhere but your dining room.

22 July 2010


Now or Later

I try to take care of papers as they come into the house.  But I also have 3 kids, a husband, a job, and two blogs.  Since I hate hate hate papers lying around, I came up with a simple system.  I have a nice leather two file shelf thing by my computer.  The top is labeled "To Be Filed", and the bottom is "Pending."  When I am finished with a paper (a receipt, a paid bill, etc), it goes into the top file.  If it needs further action or I am waiting for a response so I can finish whatever needs to be done with it, it goes into pending.  

About once a month or whenever the file gets full, I sit down by the filing cabinet and file all the papers in the top file.  I also use that opportunity to go through the pending papers to see if something can be filed or more action needs to be taken.

It works because it keeps me from having to file every day, but it also keeps my counter clear.  While we are becoming more and more paperless, we still have plenty of papers coming in that I am not ready to get rid of.  And this system doesn't take any more time than it would to throw it in a stack and have to hunt for it later.  

21 July 2010

The Three Rs

I've been thinking a lot lately about our stuff.  Maybe it's the impending overseas move that has me thinking.  After all, the first of our three sets of movers comes on Thursday.  Anyway, I've been thinking of all our stuff and thinking of the famous Rs made so by the environmental people that want us to stop being so wasteful.

Now, we really don't have that much stuff, considering.  I am a purger, so much so that it has come to haunt me a couple times when I looked for something I had already gotten rid of.  To this day my husband swears I threw out a bunch of his t-shirts when we were moving.  The reality is that he chose to store said t-shirts in a trash bag, and one of our friends who graciously helped us in exchange for pizza probably threw it away in the spirit of helpfulness.  But to get back on track, I know we have thousands of pounds less than some of our other friends (when you move, you become acquainted with the weight of all that stuff).  We definitely use what we have.  But I've been trying to think of ways to carry less with us, by

1.  Reducing (our bulk)
2.  Reusing (items in new ways)
3.  Recycling (what I no longer need)

This has started to make sense to me in a couple tangible ways.  First, we've bought silicone covers for containers that come in various sizes and stretch to fit.  Silicone is considered to be much safer than plastic, and can be endlessly reused.  Now I can use a bowl or coffee mug for food leftovers without using plastic wrap, which I hate.  This covers #1 and 2 on my list, because by reusing dishes for storage I can reduce tupperware type containers.  And the other day I saw a man at the pool with one of those blue Ikea bags that you buy to put your stuff in since they don't provide bags.  I always use it when we go to the park, but it's not a daily thing.  And when I saw this man using the bag I thought it was a perfect idea.  I don't need a dedicated pool bag any more than I need a dedicated park bag.  Reduce 1 pool bag, reuse 1 Ikea bag.

Finally, recycle.  Not just putting glass and plastic in the nice green bins your trash company provides.  I've decided that instead of automatically purging something, I try to see if someone else in my family could use it.  Usually this is my children.  And usually they are all too happy to have a new container for their animal friends or rock collection.

We'll see how this little experiment works out, but so far, so good.  Anyone else have any great ideas to reduce, reuse, or recycle?

19 July 2010


The Littles

Ahh, the joys of parenthood.  And the messes of toddlerhood.  And the crazy loudness of childhood.  These are the days of our lives.  

Little kiddos make big messes.  As a mess-hater, I get very tense when toys are scattered and forts are built.  But as someone who works with children, I know that this is how children learn and develop.  Imaginations get too stifled with technology, educational videos, and overcommitments to organized clubs, classes, and sports.  

This is veering into a soapbox, so I'll just sum it up.  Kids need to make messes.  And yes, they need to clean them.  But messes are fun.  Knocking over towers teaches them boundaries about where their bodies end and the rest of the world begins.  Sticking both hands into a pile of shaving cream develops neurons in their brain, enabling them to make sense of their senses.

I've learned over the years to allow the fun.  And to even enjoy it.  For my own sanity, I have to put a cap on its time limit (fort stays up for 2 days, then we build something else), location (no secret elevators in the oven), and items available for use (no, you cannot create a water zoo with a colander, but here's a tupperware container), and cleanup is a FUN group effort also.  Because of the personality of my kids, I've had a couple regrets, namely involving scotch tape and sharpie markers.  But we've learned and moved on.

And guess what?  Our house is FUN!  And our kids are super creative in their play, and it doesn't require all kinds of special toys.  A small price to pay for a couple tense moments when I find myself having to climb over the pile of pillows to retrieve the spatula from the mountain home of the wilderness explorers.

16 July 2010



Everyone knows family comes first.  But when "one more thing" needs to get done, I sometimes find myself turning that "one more thing" into two or three or four.  And especially in the midst of yet another overseas move (not that I'm complaining about that!), my to-do list grows faster than it shrinks.  

So, for that reason, we designated Fun Fridays.  We've been doing it for a while, and it's a way for us to drop everything and, well, have fun.  And usually dropping everything means dropping everything:  dishes, laundry, mail, money, dinner.  When daddy gets home on Fun Friday, everything else is forgotten.  It can wait.  It will wait.

Sometimes Fun Friday is dinner out.  Other times it is popcorn for dinner and movie night.  Or a bike ride.  Or making forts in the living room.  It doesn't matter what it is, just that it is special.

Yes, I am mostly a stay at home mom.  So, yes, I spend time every day playing and doing activities with the kiddos.  And yes, usually our weekends are filled with family stuff.  But Fun Friday is sacred and untouchable.  Sometimes it takes planning ahead so nothing creeps into that time.  But it's worth it, and it's nice to forget about everything else that's not so important.

15 July 2010


The Small Store

We have three kiddos in our family:  two boys, ages 7 and 5, and one girl who is 13 months.  As you can imagine, the two older boys have many small toys that are a hazard for a toddler who still puts everything in her mouth.  We've done a pretty decent job of keeping the small toy area inaccessible to the baby, but often random items get brought downstairs and forgotten.  And, of course, Little Angel Girl can spot those tiny toys from miles away and lives for the moment when she can break free and eat them.

So, we've created The Small Store.  

It started with Silly Bandz.  If you don't yet know what those are, just wait.  They are only the latest craze to sweep through every elementary school between here and Timbuktu.  Well, I exaggerate a little, but these crazy-shaped rubber bands are really quite the rage.  

Anyway, our Silly Band Store was a way for my boys to buy them one at a time, for a quarter each, rather than the $3-5/pack that they go for at the drugstores.  Five dollars is a lot for rubber bands, if you ask me.  So is a quarter, but it is much more manageable for someone who only earns a couple bucks a week.  But that is another post for another day.  So, we already had the Silly Band Store, and it was going well.  Then we hit on the idea that if a grown-up finds a Silly Band in a place where the baby can get it, it goes back to the store and must be bought again.  Well, who knew?  It was an instant success.  Somehow, we managed to speak the language of a 5 and 7 year old.  

So, of course we immediately decided to expand upon our success, hence The Small Store.  The store contains any small object (read:  choking hazard) that is found in a place it shouldn't be; namely any spot accessible by the Little One.

While we have occasionally found an item here or there, for the most part our tiny toy woes have disappeared.  And, as an added bonus, it makes clutter more manageable too.  And that definitely Works For Me.

12 July 2010


What could be more fun than a LABEL MAKER???

I use mine for everything...I label food in the freezer, I label boxes for storage, I've even used iron on tape to label clothing for school.

Sure, you could use a sharpie, but if you ever want to repurpose something, you're stuck.  And at this house, my container needs change regularly, so I end up re-labeling things.  For instance, I have rubbermaids to hold the baby's out of season clothes, and one to hold her future clothes (mostly hand-me-downs or things bought on sale in the off season).  Sometimes I have to switch containers depending on how many items of clothing I need to store, especially if I am storing winter items.

I got mine several years ago, and it's still going strong.  It is definitely worth the investment, and it's fun in a "you're kind of weird but whatever" sort of way.

10 July 2010


The Junk Drawer.

Experts say there is a “point of diminishing returns” for many things, and certain household chores are no exception.  As an aside, what makes one an expert?  Is that a title that can be bought, or does someone have to bestow it on you?  Anyway, today’s Forget It Friday addresses this point of diminishing returns with the junk drawer.  Everyone has one, or maybe more than one.  When we moved into our temporary house, I swore I would keep all the drawers in the kitchen organized.  What I learned was that with the kiddos and the husband, it was way more work and frustration to keep a system for small items and have everyone follow through.  So, I’ve learned to let it go and forget it.  I have two kitchen drawers that I don’t need for kitchen items.  They are slightly organized in that they have silverware trays in them but there is no method to what is placed in what tray.  While the smaller compartments make finding things a little easier, it is still essentially a place for junk.  And it’s ok with me.  Now, on to that toy closet…

09 July 2010

The Big To-Do

Maybe I am making a broad assumption, but I would guess many of us make to-do lists from time to time.  I, for one, am addicted to the post-it note.  I have such high tech options available to me, but I still utilize the beloved post-it on a regular basis.  And no, I am not a spokesperson, unfortunately.  But I always have viewed the To-Do list as a very adult way to get things done.  I mean, what 6 year old makes a list?

It turns out, lots of them do.  Or, at least, many would be open to doing it given the opportunity.  I learned this tip in my job working with children.  Yes, I have my own kids.  But it took me using my professional capacity to realize that kids respond very well to this tool.

A simplified version of your own To-Do will go a long way in getting your kids involved in your daily tasks and errands.  Give each kid their own copy of the list, and keep it short and manageable (you should be doing this for yourself, too!).  Have them cross off each item as it gets done, and the readers in your family can tell you what comes next on the list.  When it comes to family responsibilities, give each child their own checklist of things to be done.  Use pictures or drawings if needed, and have fun!

07 July 2010



We’ve spent time living in Hawaii and in Asian countries and have adopted the practice of leaving our shoes at the door.  Now that we have kids, it is useful for many reasons.  For instance, it keeps the shoes from being strewn all over the house.  We are never searching for shoes when we should be heading out the door.  It also saves our carpets and floors.  We have various other spills and stains to contend with; we don’t need to add mud (or something worse) to that list. 

But with five of us in the house, our front door looks like we’re having a town hall meeting in our living room.  What to do, what to do?  Here is what I tried, or at least considered trying:

  1. Storing all but 1-2 pairs of shoes elsewhere
  2. Lining the shoes up by person/size
  3. Letting the shoes run free in a huge pile
  4. Giving up

BUT, I finally found a solution that works for us.  Each person has a shoe bin.  Each person is responsible for their shoe bin (except the baby).  If the shoe bin is too full, some shoes must be moved to the closet.  If a pair of shoes is found anywhere other than on someone’s feet or in their bin, it’s a quarter fine – oh no!  The trick is the size of the bin.  Obviously, it has to be big enough to hold shoes, but it can’t be too deep that it just makes a huge pile that you can’t quickly sort through.  I found it best to use bigger bins for mommy and daddy, medium for the boys, and a small box for baby’s shoes.

We’ve been using this system for a couple months, and so far here are the benefits:
  1. No hunting for shoes in a jumbled pile
  2. Less sweeping
  3. Neat entryway

All of this equals one calmer mommy.  Hey, it works for me.

05 July 2010



It may not sound fun to everyone, and I usually wouldn't describe it as "fun", but I would call it calming, de-stressing, and recharging.  No, not the dreaded "c" word, but the "o" word.  What is it?  


My husband knows that when I start organizing something, it's because I am feeling overwhelmed and stressed.  And he lets me be. Dare I say that you should try it too?  Maybe.  It might mean the difference between eating a healthy home cooked meal and throwing a frozen dinner on the table again.  It might mean having the time to play a game with your 6-year-old, instead of hunting desperately for his math homework.

Maybe it's time for a baby step.  Here's a few to get you started:

1.  Throw away or recycle the junk mail.  Don't even open it if you don't have to.

2.  Sort through the artwork your child brought home at the end of the school year.  

3.  Put away the items on one horizontal surface (desk, counter, table).

4.  Plan your meals for the next week.  Make a list of ingredients you need, and get them all now.

5.  Go through the kids' clothing, passing on clothes that don't fit any more.

Imagine how good it will feel to see the fruits of your labors with one of these tasks.  Start small, and have fun!

04 July 2010

I Hate Clutter

I hate clutter, for many reasons.  First of all, it’s ugly.  Secondly, it makes a house look dirty, even when it’s clean.  But the biggest reason I hate clutter is that it is chaotic.  When my house is cluttered and chaotic, so is my life.

That does not mean I have a perfectly organized house all the time.  That would be great, but then I wouldn’t have anything to blog about, would I?

So here I am, talking about clutter.  I am not an author, or a professional organizer, or a super awesome de-clutterer.  I am a wife of someone who travels a lot for work, a mother of two boys and a baby girl, a pediatric occupational therapist working with children with disabilities, and the head organizer of a family in the middle of two overseas moves within 8 months. 

So, instead of telling you what you should do to eliminate your clutter and chaos, I am going to tell you what I do to eliminate mine.