Sunday, September 27, 2009

Do You Know How Much Time You Have?

September 16th 2009, does that date mean anything to anyone? Anyone? September 16th is exactly 100 days before Christmas. Oh my! That means there are presents to buy, gifts to wrap, cards to send, parties to plan, and a family meals to be prepared! Do you realize there all sorts of websites set up to email you a “to-do” for each of the 100 days prior to Christmas?!?!?

If you don’t know me by now, you know I am always tooting my horn about getting ahead of the game. Do this, do that and your life will run so much smoother. With that being said, I am here to tell you, that I think we as a society (you and me) have gone overboard every year at Christmas.

Have you looked in the stores lately? It isn’t even October 1st and the Halloween decorations are on sale. Why you ask… to add more room for the Christmas decorations that already are out! Yes, you can buy Santa and his reindeer today! I am shocked at how early the stores start filling the shelves with Christmas items every year. I swear it starts earlier and earlier, could be that I am just getting old and losing my mind.

I have helped clients over the past years organize their attics, garages and closets to help make more room for Christmas decorations. What I find most interesting is that no matter how organized it is or how much room you have to store all the totes or boxes no one wants to unpack ALL of that stuff. I have had clients that have even purchased all new things to avoid unpacking all the decorations.

I am not suggesting that you hire me to organize or that I that I am telling you go out and spend hundreds of dollars to decorate your home to avoid unpacking your decorations. Instead I would like to give you a gift a “get out of jail free card” if you must. I am suggesting you give yourself PERMISSION, yes permission, to relax…to step back and listen to the Christmas songs…breath in the cool fresh air….to make things simple…to make it real. Enjoy Halloween, enjoy Thanksgiving and above all realize that it doesn’t matter if your house looks like a Macy’s Christmas room, it doesn’t matter how many gifts are under the tree, it doesn’t matter how many fudge balls or cookies you make…what MATTERS is that you and your family enjoy the holiday season and are free from stress.

Happy 88 days of a new holiday tradition of keeping things effortless and not being overwhelmed! Who knows you may thank me for this someday…

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Organizing Your Freezer...

I know you don’t want to do this, but when was the last time you saw what was at the bottom of your freezer? I bet some of us could give that “unexplained meat” to our children’s science teacher for an experiment! Why not organize your freezer today?

The first step I suggest is taking everything out of your freezer and putting it on your kitchen counter top. As you are doing this I would like you to check expiration dates and start to put the food into categories.

For example:

Breakfast Items
Desserts, ice cream and popsicles (BTW the creamy, rubbery stuff on top of the ice cream is not a topping it is old!)
Cheeses or Deli Meats
Pizza, pizza rolls, left over Mazzio’s, Papa Johns and Hideaway Pizza (Do you see a theme here…we love pizza at our house!)
Vegetables
Fruits and so on.

Here is a guideline by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration for safe storage. Frozen foods can be stored indefinitely, but the flavor can change when food is stored past the time limits below.

Raw Beef Roast and Steaks: 6 to 12 months
Raw Pork Roast and Chops: 4 to 6 months
Raw Veal Roast and Chops: 4 to 6 months
Cooked Meat: 2 to 3 months
Soup: 2 to 3 months
Raw Chicken Pieces: 9 months
Cooked Chicken Pieces: 4 months
Pizza: 1 to 2 months (In our house it doesn’t last more than a week!)
Luncheon Meats: 1 to 2 months
Raw Fatty Fish (Salmon, Tuna, etc.): 2 to 3 months
Raw Lean Fish (Cod, Flounder, etc.): 6 months
Cooked Fish: 4 to 6 months

Now that we have everything categorized and checked for expiration dates, let’s go ahead and clean your freezer with warm soapy water and a cloth. As we are putting your food back into your freezer, keep your like items categorized together on the same shelf or in the same drawer. I like to put my frequently used frozen items within easy reach inside the freezer door, such as breakfast items and my coffee.

Remember to record the date of purchase or write the expiration date on the outside of the freezer bag before putting the new food into the freezer. This will help you stay organized in your freezer.

If you have any further questions about your freezer please feel free to email me at cleartheclutter@cox.net.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Is It A Mom Thing, Or Am I Just Crazy?

We took off to St. Louis Friday morning to catch a Cubs vs. Cardinals game Friday night and go to the St. Louis Arch Saturday morning before heading home. I am telling you our itinerary because my husband accused me of being crazy and of course extremely anal Friday afternoon. Not to say he didn’t accuse me of this Thursday or Tuesday but my point of all of this is Friday.

After a nice six hour drive in the rain until three hours outside of Tulsa we arrived in St. Louis. After we zig zagged through downtown to our hotel we parked and checked in. Thank goodness we got there at 2:30 because the check-in line wasn’t bad, but after 3:00 the line was outside the door!! I will tell you we were on the road in good time because I am organized and once I have it in my head we are leaving at a certain time by goodness we are leaving on time! Did anyone thank me or mention that had we left a little later that we would have been standing in line for an hour!?!? No…but they did mention it later that they were glad we didn’t have to stand in that long line. I’ll take what I can get!

So here is where my husband and my dear children suggest I am crazy. As soon as we entered our room, first things first, I ALWAYS, ALWAYS check to make sure it is clean. If the bathroom tub is dirty…I will guarantee you the rest of the room is even worse. If the tub is sparkling (i.e. no hair, no grime, no slime) the rest of the room will be great. All is good so I start unpacking…I put the HBA suitcase in the bathroom. Unwrapped the soap, took the toothbrushes and toothpaste out and put them into a cup. Took my shampoo and conditioner out of the suitcase and put it in the shower. I moved onto the clothes in the suitcase, took our Cubs and Cardinals shirts out to hang (yes we are family that is divided). My oldest son and husband are Cubs fans and my youngest son is a Cardinals fan, I on the other hand could care less but I must keep things even so to keep things symmetrical I am a Cardinals fan. I would rather be watching a football game or hockey game but sometimes we mothers just need to go along for the ride.

As I am semi unpacking our clothes, my husband asked, “What are you doing, we are just staying over night, are you crazy?” I look at him as though I have no idea who he is talking too, it’s not like we just got married. In December we will have been married 13 years. I am thinking to myself, are you out of your mind??!?!? What do you mean, “what am I doing?” I respond, “Getting things in order, dah…what do you think I am doing”!?!?!?! He reminds me again we are just staying over night and let’s get going. I told him all moms do this, we like things to be in order and ready. I reminded him of the Berenstain Bears episode where Brother and Sister hurried to get their suits on and swim while they were on vacation. Mama insisted on getting the summer house “clean and ready” and in the end Brother and Sister helped and said it was much better to have things unpacked so they could “all relax and enjoy the vacation”. I got nothing, but a look as though I am crazy! Am I crazy or do you unpack and get things in order too? BTW the Cardinals beat the Cubs, in the end I got the last laugh!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Keeping a Calendar

All of us seem busier than ever these days and with so many commitments whether it is work, a dentist appointment or a PTA meeting we need to make sure we try to keep track of these commitments. Time management is essential otherwise you will feel like your are running in circles and getting nothing accomplished.

I still use a day planner from Franklin Covey. You would think that of all people that would not like to have paper around I would use my phone or Outlook but I am still stuck in the 80’s. I love my paper calendar!! There is something about it to me if I write it down, I feel more committed to my calendar. I will suggest if you use a paper calendar please use a PENCIL to write your appointments rather than a pen! I can not tell you how many times I see calendars with blue and black ink scribbles all over their calendars. How can you read it after so many scribbles?!?!?

After you decide what type of calendar you want to use make sure it is in format you that can hold all of your family’s appointments. I prefer the Week at a Glance calendar, this way I see what is going on at school, my work appointments, doctor appointments and soccer games all for this week. I check my calendar every night and I always look it over on Sunday afternoon just to get an idea of how busy our week is going to be. If you really want to live on the edge you could always put a menu plan on your calendar too! I know, I know now I am talking CRAZY!!!

Try to fill in monthly/yearly appointments that you already have committed to. Add birthdays to your calendar, school activities, practices, games and any other activities your family is committed to. This will help you be prepared in advance, instead of writing it in every week.

I place our family calendar on a plate holder so that my family can check the calendar regularly. I try to highlight school activities so the boys see it more quickly and I highlight their games. If you start to remind your children to check the calendar this will help them to understand scheduling and time management. Say they each have a game scheduled at the same time, this will help them to understand that both parents can not possibly be at both games. They are going to have to realize that sometimes you have to make a decisions to split up and cover two games. Sometimes it is easier to “see” the problem instead of hearing it. I don’t know about your children but my boys just hear whawhawhawhawha or is it that they don’t listen... That is for another blog!

Life is much easier when you have you are ahead of the game and know what is on your calendar for tomorrow.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cleaning Your Washer and Your Dishwasher...

The boys both had soccer games Saturday morning in the mud! After we hosed off as much mud as we could outside I threw the clothes into the washer. I don’t know if you remember this show or not but there were these two ladies that would go around to people’s homes and show them how dirty their homes were according to their testing. I remember one of the homes they were in the tested the toilet seat and it was cleaner than her washing machine!!! YIKES!!! Apparently there are a ton of germs, mold and grime that live in our washers, who would have known? Since that show I try to “clean” my washer at least once a month by either washing it on hot (nothing in the washer) with two cups of bleach. I start the washing cycle for a minute or so to mix the bleach around the washer tub and then let it sit for 30 minutes before I finish out the cycle. After I washed the filthy soccer clothes I thought I would clean my washer but I didn’t have enough bleach so I used 2 cups of vinegar and a half of box of baking soda. To my surprise it worked pretty good, so if you are not a fan of bleach, try the vinegar and baking soda. Now your clothes can be washed in a clean washer, think of the fun your clothes are going to have!

Another machine that we use to clean our dishes that can look dirty is our dishwasher. Sometimes you can see lime deposits and iron stains inside the dishwasher. I pour a packet of lemonade Kool-Aid (the only flavor that works) into the detergent cup and run the (empty) dishwasher. The citric acid in mix wipes out stains and your dishwasher will look brand new!

Oh just think of the fun you could have today cleaning your washer and your dishwasher!!! What else are you going to do on a rainy day!??!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Too Many Possessions?

One of the many perks of being a NAPO Member (National Association of Professional Organizers) is that I can be a part of a chat forum which includes Professional Organizers throughout the United States. The other day C. Lee Cawley with SimplifyYou from Virginia sent this statistic regarding people and their possessions.

“A lot of it just comes down to the great American propensity toward accumulating stuff,” Litton explained. Between 1970 and 2008, real disposable personal income per capita doubled, and by 2008 we were spending nearly all of it — all but 2.7 percent — each year. Meanwhile, the price of much of what we were buying plunged. Even by the early ’90s, American families had, on average, twice as many possessions as they did 25 years earlier.

By 2005, according to the Boston College sociologist Juliet B. Schor, the average consumer purchased one new piece of clothing every five and a half days."

I must have read and re-read that statement a 100 times. Are you kidding me?!?! We purchase a new piece of clothing every five and a half days? I don’t know about you but if I did that my husband would have me locked in a room for weeks! What I do think is interesting is that there are consumers out there that are still spending more than they are making. I worry that some people have the mentality that, “it’s not going to happen to me.” “I am not going to lose my job, my car and my house, that will happen to someone else but not me”

Unfortunately nothing is guaranteed anymore for any of us at any given time. I hope that most people take a look at what they have and how much they have and are grateful. I know in my family we have cut back on going out to eat, less movies, less shopping and trying to save more money. I would love to tell you we are minimalists but that is not the case. I truly believe in most areas of our home I only keep the things we are using and replace as needed. I will honestly tell you I do not practice what I preach with my boys. On their clothes I do, but as for their toys, games and everything else I tend to keep a blind eye. It is very hard for me to not give them everything they want. One of my son’s never wants anything, he will always put it on a list for his birthday or Christmas. On the other hand my other son wants everything “NOW, NOW, BAD, BAD”!!! It is rather entertaining…hahahaha! It wasn’t so funny when he was three but now that he is eight he has a little more patience, not much but it’s a start.

Do any of you find this statistic alarming? Have any of you cut back on your possessions and really just kept the things you use? Do you feel people have changed and live more within their means?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Organizing Your Medicine

The boys came down for breakfast Friday morning and looked horrible…fall allergies. I usually give them Nasonex everyday but this was scratchy throat, stopped up full blown allergies. So I go to grab the Claritin to give to them. Now keep in mind the last time I used it was in the spring for my youngest son. We are out, I don’t have enough to give to both of them just one of them!!! Here I am running to Wal-Mart in the pouring rain at 6:15 on a Friday morning before school. YIKES!! I don’t want you to experience the same morning trip I had to make so let’s take a moment today and go through your medicine cabinets.

Gather all of your medicine and place them on the kitchen counter so you can spread everything out and really see what you have and need. Start first by making sure all of the dates are good and nothing has expired. Grab a paper and pen to have handy incase you may need to purchase something that has expired or that you have noticed you are out of.

From here start by sorting into children’s medicine and adult medicine. An idea to keep them separate might be keep your medicines in your bathroom and theirs in their bathroom. If your not comfortable doing that, maybe put all of your children’s medicine in storage bin, so you can just grab the whole container when they someone is not feeling well. Try to keep all of your cold/flu medicine together, stomach medicine, ointments, headache and so on. I am not suggesting you have a ton of medicine but I do try to keep things on hand that I may need in the middle of the night for the boys. I really, really don’t want to be running to Wal-Mart in the middle of the night!!!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Making Your Life Easier So You Don’t Have to Iron

As I mentioned in my last blog, I hate to iron. To make your life easier and let you cut back on ironing I thought I would give you a quick tip on organizing your laundry. As your laundry comes out of the washer quickly sort your clothes into hanging and a pile for the dryer. I put all of my hanging clothes into the dryer for a few minutes to get the wrinkles out from the washer. As they are drying a short moment I get my hangers ready to hang them up as right out of the dryer. I take a couple at a time and keep the dryer going until all of my hanging clothes are finished being hung. This way you don’t have to fold it and you will get less wrinkles, which means less ironing! Now I put the rest of the clothes that don’t need to be perfect into the dryer to and fold them later when I have time.

Don’t forget Stylish Stepmom suggested Downy’s Wrinkle Releaser, she said “This is a HUGE style secret that I, believe it or not, stole from my husband. When I met him, he had a regular "stash" of this wonderful product at his house, and to this day, we STILL have a regular "stash" of this product at our house. It is Downy's Wrinkle Releaser and it is AWESOME!” I have never tried it before but I am definitely going to give it a shot, who knows maybe I will be able to donate my iron…a girl can dream, can’t she???