inside my fridge

inside my fridge

OK. So I have a cute and super simple DIY project that I’m going to show you, but you have to promise not to laugh… cause it involves looking inside my fridge.

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When friends and family come for dinner, I often secretly hope they WON’T open my fridge. With six people in our family and lots of food going in and out, it seems to be a messy place. But when I take the time to pull out all of the shelves and wash them, the rest of my house could be a disaster, and I feel great about myself! I LOVE pulling open the door and finding a bright, clean and organized space!

When I became obsessed with organization a few years ago, I found out about fridge coasters and put them on my birthday list. (That’s the mental list of things I want, but would never buy myself. However, I also never actually give anyone The List!)

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I always thought it would be so fun to open up my fridge and not only see it clean and organized, but also cute with stripes and patterns on the shelves. Alas, I couldn’t ever convince myself to spend $25 on a set of fridge liners.

Recently, I saw an idea to create your own fridge mats our of place mats you can buy at Target. I was so excited to get this project started that I made a special trip to Target on the rainiest day in the history of spring to get some place mats. The place mats are only $2 each and come in several patterns.

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You simply have to trim the sides to make them fit your fridge. (I just cut mine with scissors to fit.) When you are done, your refrigerator becomes a happy place with colorful shelves. And the best part is that it makes it easier to keep clean. Instead of pulling out the shelves to wash down the inside of the fridge, you just have to take out the mats and wipe them clean.

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So there you have it. Fridge mats! Oh, and next time you’re over, make sure you look in my fridge!

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Monthly meal plan

Monthly meal plan

I’m one of those people who loves to set goals. So, every Jan. 1, I sit down and write out my goals for the year. A few weeks later, like most people, I have already started going back to my old habits and losing track of whatever goals I set.

This year, I decided to do things differently. I realized I needed to set shorter goals and celebrate more once I had achieved them. There were several areas where I already failed in January, but I am taking a look at what went wrong and pressing the restart button for February. However, there was one area in which I had a big success: meal planning!

I’ve always been an off-and-on meal planner, and I’ve written about many of my meal planning attempts here on this blog. This time, I decided I would plan out all of my meals for an entire month. I printed them out on a piece of card stock and taped them on a cabinet next to the stove. For me, making my plan look CUTE helps me with whatever I’m trying to accomplish!

I actually stuck to this meal plan almost 100 percent. There were a few times when we had to be out for dinner and ate at a restaurant, or we were invited to someone’s house for dinner. But I think we ate about 27 of the 30 meals I had planned!

Here are the reasons this really worked for us:

My husband and kids could see the meal plan each day. For my kids, they actually started looking forward to some of the meals that were coming up. They stopped asking, “What’s for dinner?” and just looked at the chart. If I wasn’t home, my husband could look at the chart, and he knew what to make for dinner. If he wasn’t sure how to make that day’s meal (my descriptions aren’t always the best), he could skip ahead one or two days and make something else on the plan.

I saved money on grocery shopping. With my monthly meal plan, I was able to go to the store at the beginning of the month and stock up on most of the meat and staples I would need for the entire month. I still had to go back to the store every week for milk, bread and produce, but I spent less at the grocery store because of my plan.

I’m hoping this will cut down on planning time in the future. Now that I have January planned out, I should be able to repeat some of those recipes in future months.

I did make a few mistakes. I jotted down meals as they came to my mind, without realizing that sometimes I was planning very similar meals two or three days in a row. I have three growing tweens/teens (plus a more picky preschooler), and quite honestly, they are so hungry that they didn’t seem to mind! I tried to do a better job in February though.

mealplan

Click here to download a blank meal plan.

This month, I created categories for each day of the week. We often eat breakfast for dinner on Sunday because we don’t feel like cooking. Monday is Mexican. Tuesday is slow cooker. Wednesday is chicken. Thursday is Italian. Friday is all-American. and Saturday is Easy. I also spent a lot of time looking for new recipes. I printed them all out and put them in my Big Organizational Binder. I also created a Pinterest board for meal planning with all of this month’s recipes to help me in the future.

I also created a new shopping list on my computer. This allowed me to go through each recipe and fill in the ingredients that I need. I take a photo of my meal plan and my shopping list with my phone. This makes it really easy for me to go back to the store in the middle of the month to pick up fresh ingredients.

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Click here to download a blank shopping list.

Right now, our life is extraordinarily jam packed. Our four kids are involved in school basketball, travel basketball, travel baseball, gymnastics team, gymnastics class for the preschooler, an after-school cooking club and youth group. My husband is an elder at our church, and I work part-time for our church. Plus, I’m spending a lot of volunteer hours helping out with the school talent show, and I’m also a room mom.

We often have one, two, three or even four activities happening in the evenings. So meal planning is HUGE for my sanity! We don’t always eat at the same time, but everyone has access to a meal before or after activities.

I love lists and charts so I also created some organizational tools that I use for chores and other goals. I know this doesn’t work for a lot of people, but having a cute chart telling me what to do each day makes a HUGE difference for me. A few people asked me on Facebook if they could have a copy, so here are those as well.

This is my weekly cleaning chart. I found that this is difficult to stay on top of every day, so I’m working on revising it for February:

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Download a weekly cleaning schedule.

This is the chore chart for my kids. We have a separate chart that lets us know whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher.

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Download a child’s chore chart.

On my dishwasher chart, my kids’ names are written next to the circles. This hangs above our dishwasher, so there are no arguments about whose turn it is.

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Download a dishwasher chart.

This is my reading list. It’s been my goal to read 12 books a year, and I am pretty good at accomplishing that! I take a photo of the list and keep it on my phone so I can remember what I’m looking for when I go to the library.

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Download a blank reading list.

If you download any of my organizational tools, will you leave me a note in the comments section? I would love to know if you are going to try to use any of these. I also would love to hear how you stay organized. Do you meal plan? Do you have daily chores for yourself? Thanks!!

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Getting cozi with my calendar

Getting cozi with my calendar

For the last couple of years, I have been in a serious calendar conundrum.

I love the convenience of an online application to keep track of our schedule and appointments. But I also love paper.

It’s true! I love to doodle, add notes and mark things off. I also love being able to hang the calendar on the fridge or bulletin board for the whole family to see. I have tried using iCal or Google calendar, which both work great online. The problem is that when I go to print out a paper version, they are so, so, sooooo UNcute!

I can’t handle a blah, boring calendar. So for the last few years, I have been creating my own calendar with my own colors and my own fonts and printing it off to carry in my binder or hang on the fridge. This isn’t the greatest system, and it has seriously been driving me crazy. No person should spend as much time as I have thinking about the inefficiency of her calendar!

The problem was amplified a few weeks ago when my husband got a new iPhone. He has been a long time PC person, and I have been an Apple user since the invention of the computer. When his company forced him to make the switch, he wasn’t happy. And I was trying to convince him that his life would be perfect and simple once he got used to it. “Just turn it on and push the button!” I kept instructing.

A few hours later, he sent me a text. “I’m sure there is some simple way I can import the family calendar.”

“Umm. No. Remember the cute color coordinated calendar that hangs on the refrigerator and the bulletin board and various locations throughout our house? That IS your mobile calendar! I can print one out for you, and you can carry it anywhere you want to go.”

Well, at that moment, I knew I needed an upgrade!

That’s when the strangest thing happened. I logged on to Facebook and at that very moment, one of my FB friends had “liked” this web site called, Cozi. I didn’t know what it was, but I liked the logo. (I have been obsessed with logos the past three months, but that is a completely different story!) I clicked on the link just to examine the logo more closely, and it turns out, it’s an online calendar. I was convinced it HAD to be better than the other options I had tried. If it had a cute logo, then it HAD to have a cute printable version!

Well, it’s not perfect, but it’s cute enough. And I have to say that I am loving its features so far! I can:

  • Access our family calendar through my desktop, phone or iPad. We have one family account so my husband can log in to see the most up-to-date info. (We don’t have to upload our calendars to “the cloud” or “share” our calendars. They are always there, up-to-date, all the time on all of our devices.
  • Select a color for each member of our family to label each person’s events. The app gives me lots of options for assigning each person his or her “color.” Even though this is a super small thing, it’s huge to a color-loving calendar snob like me!
  • Make shopping lists or to-do lists and assign them to various people. I can enter my shopping list and then my husband can access the list when he goes to the store. I like being able to check things off the list and keep old lists stored in my phone so that I can easily update the things that I buy frequently.
  • Keep track of my meal plan. I have been using eMeals since the beginning of the year to plan out my meals and shopping lists. However, I’ve found that I usually don’t like a few of the meals, and I end up modifying my weekly menu. One complaint I have so far is that I can’t access the meal planner from my mobile device.
  • Finally, the printable version of my monthly calendar is somewhat CUTE! I mean… it’s not quite as cute as it would be if I made if from scratch. But it’s cute enough!

So what about you? Do you use an online calendar system? Do you use a paper planner? Or some combination? I want to know. I really do!

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Summer check lists

Summer check lists

It’s the first day of summer break! We’ve been counting down to this day for months!

And yet, I will admit, I’ve also secretly been a little nervous about starting our summer fun. After sending our three kids back to school this past year, the transition to having all four of them home everyday is a little overwhelming. They now range in age from 3 to 12, so it’s not as easy as it used to be to find daily activities that make everyone happy. I also have to figure out how I will rearrange my work schedule to still keep up with my hours around trips to the pool and fun outings.

So I’m kicking off this summer the way I always do… with a bunch of lists! I’m so crazy about my summer list making, that my awesome writer friend, Lara, even included me in an article she wrote about being prepared for summer. Talk about being organized! Her article was published here, here, here and here.

I’m planning to sit down with the kids today and make our list of goals for the summer: All of the places we want to go, friends we want to see and fun things we want to accomplish.

But before we do that, I revamped our system of keeping our home somewhat livable. With six people living under one roof, everyone needs to work together to keep this place from looking like a zoo. You already know that I have been working hard this past year to get our house organized, purged of unnecessary STUFF and somewhat clean on a regular basis.

I’ve already involved my kids in that process by creating their “daily checklist.” This is just a simple list they can use to walk around the house, room by room, and pick up any messes they made. It works great because I no longer have to nag them to “pick up your shoes” or “put away the paper and markers.” I simply say, “Have you done your checklist?” I added a few things to the list for summer, like a laundry day for each child and reading a book each day.

The big thing I’ve been wanting to improve on the daily checklist is to make it cuter and also to give them each a clipboard so they can keep the checklist in one spot. Since my organization obsession began, I have become an addict of the $1 section at Target. Last week, I found these super cute clipboards there for only $1, and I knew I was ready to cutify the checklist.

Instead of having a laminated chore chart or something that hangs on the fridge, I simply print out a new checklist each week. I’ve tried tons of other approaches in the past, and I’ve written about many of them, but this is what’s working for me at the moment.

Oh, and you might be wondering why even the 3-year-old has such a long daily checklist. Well, she can’t actually read what’s on the list, but she would be going crazy if she didn’t have her own clipboard and her own list to carry around the house. She gets to check things off at random from the list! We can even make up simple chores we want her to do and tell her they are on her list. Haha!

Each child has two more lists on his or her clipboard. The second list is our weekly chores that we typically do during the school year on Saturday mornings. Believe it or not, we have never given our kids allowance or paid them for their chores. We believe that part of the privilege of getting to be part of a family and live in a cozy house is that everyone works together to take care of it. However, my kids have been begging for a way to make some money, so this summer I’m going to see how it goes to pay them for these chores.

I tried to make each chore complicated enough to be worth $1. When they were younger, I could get away with paying them 5 cents to wipe down the sink. Now, (as an example) I’m offering $1 to clean the sink, toilet and the mirror and also empty the trashcan! They can be a little demanding, so we’ll see how this goes! I tried doing this last week with a spring cleaning chore list and I got a few complaints that some of the chores didn’t pay enough to make it worth their time. I was ready with my awesome mom comeback: “That’s OK. You can do it for free!” 🙂

The third list is our summer Bible reading plan. All three of our big kids are now old enough to sit down and read their Bibles on their own. I wanted to give everyone the same reading list so we can talk about what we are reading. They have been memorizing parts of Ephesians at school this year, so I decided that would be a great place to start!

So, that’s my plan for keeping the house under control this summer. When they ask me what we are going to do for fun this week, at least I can buy myself a little time by saying, “Have you done your checklist yet?”

I still need to come up with several more lists to help me feel good about kicking off summer break: my work schedule, the fun places we want to go and any other goals we want to accomplish the next three months.

I would love to hear from you. Do you do anything special to stay organized over the summer? Or do you prefer to let things roll? What about involving your kids in chores?

 

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So many people have asked me for a printable of my checklists that I am making them available here. I originally created these in Pages for the Mac, but I have uploaded them here in Microsoft Word. I used the font Coolvetica.

Daily checklist for girls in Word

Daily checklist for girls in PDF

Daily checklist for boys in Word

Daily checklist for boys in PDF

 

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The New Me, part 8: My laundry room

The New Me, part 8: My laundry room

Now that I’m almost finished with the office half of my office/laundry room, it was time to tackle the laundry space. I have been admiring a lot of laundry room organization ideas that used cute bins to store all of the detergents and cleaners in the laundry room.

Every time I thought about doing this, it just seemed silly. I store ALL of my cleaners in the laundry room, so I have a lot of bottles of stuff for everything from the bathroom to the carpet to the windows to the laundry. Putting the cleaners in a bin seemed like it would create an extra step in finding what I need at the right moment.

But then I saw these bins at Target that were just the right size, shape and color, and also were sturdy enough to allow me to pull down a bin without everything inside tipping over.

I seriously can’t believe how much I LOVE having my cleaners organized in these colorful bins. It makes that space seem soooo much more organized.

I found this little bowl and basket at Target that match the other accessories in my office. The bowl is for my “laundry tips” — all of the change and other items people leave in their pockets!

I recently started pouring the huge container of laundry detergent into a smaller bottle (which once was a soft soap refill). This has improved my attitude toward laundry significantly because it’s so much easier to pick up and pour. And it doesn’t drip all over the place like the mega laundry detergent container.

Now that my laundry room and office are so clean and organized, I have done a MUCH better job of keeping up on the laundry! I actually look forward to going into that room, which means I’m getting a lot more laundry done!

OK… ready for the before and after?

OK… so tell me… Is anyone else out there in bloggy land getting obsessed with getting organized? I need to know. I really do.

 

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