Tag Archives: organization

School’s Out For Summer

Summer Bucket ListThis Friday marks the first day of summer and I could not be more excited.  My husband’s birthday is in May.  My anniversary is in June.  Pumpkin’s birthday is in June and Ladybug’s birthday is in July.  I work in a profession that has summers off.  Is it not obvious that summer is my favorite season-HANDS DOWN?  Along with summer comes the boredom/insanity challenges.  I have an over-inquisitive five year old that functions best with routines and procedures in place (blame me).  With summer being a time of fun and exploration, I like to venture out on at least one outing a week.  This year I wanted to involve the angels and decided to create a Summer Bucket List with their input.

I am a semi-creative person that does NOT believe in recreating the wheel.  I searched and searched for a printable with pictures of summer activities that would be age appropriate for my angels and I finally struck gold.  I simply cut and paste the pictures to construction paper and put it on a poster board and our 2013 Summer Bucket List was created.  Simple and applicable.  It actually surprised me how excited and ready the angels would be to start scratching items off their list.  So, now that I am being held accountable by a very intimidating 5 year old and three year old…I better get to planning our first outing.

Activities On Our 2013 Summer Bucket List
Splashpad
Park
Watch a Movie
Snocones
Swimming
Ice Cream
Baseball Game
Children’s Museum
Zoo
Camping
Farm
Picnic
Watch Fireworks
Bake Cookies
Library
Art Project
Butterfly Pavillion

Date Jar

In the past month I’ve hosted two baby showers, so I’m in the shower/party planning mood. Last year, I assisted my mom with hosting a bridal shower for my sister and as a gift my mom gave her a dating jar. The truth is: I created the jar and gave my mom all the credit until now. Its a jar filled with dating ideas that range in spontaneity and cost. It ended up being a hit with the bride and my mom was smiling from ear to ear.

This jar is beyond easy to create. It’s so easy that I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. Seriously, I’ll say it again, crafts are not my thing, so if I can do it, I KNOW you can do it.

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SUPPLIES NEEDED:

Colored tongue depressors

Thin Sharpie marker

Decorative Jar (or create your own)

DIRECTIONS:

I color categorized the date ideas (click for ideas) for easier planning for the couple:

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  • Write one date idea per category on each depressor.
  • Place the depressors in a decorative jar and present to the bride!

FFF-Are You Kidding Me Right Now?

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My Bible Study Basket

It was a great morning at least it seemed that way.  The angels were dressed, armed with fruit snacks, and ready to go.  And guess who couldn’t find her keys?  You guessed it…..Mommy.  I texted work and let them know that I would be late.  I searched all over the house and after 15 minutes, I finally had a breakthrough.  Pumpkin said, “Your keys are in the dining room.”  I said, “Oh!  Show Mommy where you saw them.”  So, now, I’m following a 4 year old through the house to look for my keys.  And that was a complete witch hunt.  I’m asking over and over, “Where did you see Mommy’s keys?  Were they on the table?  In the plant?  On the chair?”  And the only responses I’m receiving are, “Oh, Mommy, I don’t remember.”  “Look over there.”  “Maybe I forgot.”  It finally clicked for me after ten minutes of these shenanigans that the boy had no clue of the whereabouts of my keys.  And then it was as if I was hit with a lightening bolt,  I ran to the couch and found my keys buried under the pillows.  I remember sitting them on the arm of the couch Sunday night.  The entire process took 30 minutes and pushed my commute back about 45 minutes.  Needless to say, we all arrived at work and school late but safe.  Lessson learned.

LESSON LEARNED

Be.  Prepared.  I clearly learned my lesson on this particular morning.  I have committed a slice of my evenings to being fully prepared for the next day or upcoming week.  My evenings are now prioritized by what is mandatory for the next day.

  • When I come home from the grocery store, I spend time cleaning the fridge and cutting the fruit before putting away groceries.
  • I select outfits for the angels and myself (even my gym bag) for the week.
  • I pack lunches and breakfast the night before.
  • Jackets, bags, and keys are in a centralized location. (I’ve been pinteresting and a mud corner is in the works.)
  • Pictured above is my Bible Study Basket stocked with my journals, pens, bible, and study materials for my morning studies.

The extra work I’m putting forth on the front end has made my mornings that much more pleasurable.  And I need all the morning sunshine I can get because I am NOT a morning person you can ask anyone from my angels to my college sweetheart (husband) to my college bestie.  I challenge you to make one little adjustment every night.  I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

I Plan. It’s What I Do…

PlannerFor the past few years, I have spent every New Year’s Eve-New Year’s Day the same way.  I prepare for the new year.  I set realistic goals and action items to accomplish each goal.  This year, as I sit down to prepare my goals, I can’t help but be in awe of my DIY PLANNER.

A couple of months ago, I realized, “If I don’t write it down, it won’t happen.”  Now don’t get me wrong, I am a tech geek.  I use my phone for EVERYTHING.  But, it is still no replacement for pencil and paper.  I needed to brainstorm, set goals, and jot down my ideas and so my search began for the perfect planner.  My search was HIGHLY unsuccessful.  I am a researcher, so I searched forever looking for the perfect planner.  I found them to be very expensive and still missing several key components I needed for my own planning purposes.

So, I created my own planner.  I had no choice.  I refused to pay up to $50 for a planner that I was not fully satisfied with.  I absolutely love my new planner.  I will admit, that my planner isn’t colorful and pretty, but it is fully functional, works great, and cost me about $25 to create.  Maybe next year, I will attempt to be a bit more creative.  Or maybe not.

I started designing my planner with a section for each month containing the following sheets:

CALENDARS
For me the calendar is the most essential filler for my planner.  I wanted a calendar on two pages with an area for notes.  I printed a generic 2013 calendar with the full year to view to start my planner.
http://www.printfree.com/Calendar_files/Yearly/2013printable.htm
http://www.organizinghomelife.com/archives/4388

WEEKLY PLANNER SHEETS
Following each monthly calendar was a set of weekly planner sheets (4-5 sheets depending on the month).  I am very anal (and not ashamed to admit my personal flaws) and I searched high and low for a single page planner sheet that started its week with Monday.  In my world, the week starts with Monday.
http://www.thehouseholdplanner.com/pdf/weekly-planner-sheet-block.pdf

FILLERS
On the back of pages, I copied lined pages.  I wanted to utilize every space of my planner.  NO WHITE SPACE!
http://www.PrintablePaper.net/preview/lined-portrait-letter-wide

I added these sheets to the front of my planner to stay completely focused on my goals throughout the year.
http://www.printabletodolist.com/preview/Checklist_To_Do_List
http://moneysavingmom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/goal-setting-worksheet-custom.pdf
http://www.organizeforfree.com/?s=goal+tracking&op.x=0&op.y=0

I added a gift checklist to the beginning of my planner and after the December calendar to prepare for the holidays.

http://www.tipjunkie.com/organize/organization/christmas-gift-checklist-printable-free-printable/

This year I plan to grow a closer relationship with Christ and added a prayer list sheet to keep track of prayer requests and celebrations:
http://www.brighthub.com/multimedia/publishing/articles/118470.aspx#

BLOGGING
I filled this section with sheets to help me create goals I want to accomplish with this blog.  I also included about 50 copies of a blog planning sheet (copied front to back) to organize my blog thoughts.  Often times, I will think of a great blog post, but by the time I find something to write it on, the thought is gone!
http://printables.yourway.net/blogging-business-plan/
http://printables.yourway.net/blogging-goals/
http://giftsweuse.blogspot.com/p/printables.html

BUSINESS
I started this section with a year calendar (the same one I started the planner with) and a one year planner sheet copied back to back and year calendar (3 months on a page) with notes.
http://www.printfree.com/Calendar_files/Yearly/2013printable.htm
http://www.kristensguide.com/Printables/Calendars/Year_Planner_Sheet.pdf
http://www.calendarlabs.com/calendars/2013-calendar-templates.php

I also filled this section with 52 sheets (for each week of the year) of weekly planner sheets to plan my week in business at the start of each week.  I also included a few goal sheets in this section.
http://www.kristensguide.com/Printables/Calendars/blank_weekly/Weekly-Planner-blank-4-column.pdf
http://www.organizeforfree.com/?s=goal+tracking&op.x=0&op.y=0

FINISHING TOUCHES
The personal calendar section, blogging section, and business section were separated by a blank piece of bright orange cardstock that can also be used for notes.  I created a simple cover page with my name and the last decision I made was the binding.  As you guys know by now, I AM A BINDER QUEEN and I originally wanted to use a 3-ring binder to contain all my planner pages, but decided that a true planner is bound together, so I opted for a coil binding with a  clear front cover and hard back cover.

If you plan to make your own planner, remember to find pages that work for you and fit your lifestyle, there are SO many free fillers that you can find to fill your planner such as calendars, lined pages, and goal strategy sheets, just to name a few.  And take your time, I spent over an hour at Kinko’s making sure my pages were copied correctly front to back and flowed like a true planner.  And once again, I’m not ashamed to admit that I am severely anal which I’m sure added to the time I spent at Kinko’s.

FFF-Lights Out

The kids and I arrived home and were finally nearing the end of a long week.  My husband and I finalized our plans for dinner and soccer practice.  The kids were eager to get home and grab a snack.  We finally arrived home and the garage door would not open.  The week before we had a new garage door installed, so I figured it was a malfunction and I thought to myself, “Here we go again.”  I took the kids out the car and we went inside and my world stopped, it came to a screeching halt.

I made a huge mistake.  My “easier way“of paying the bills had failed.  The electricity had been turned off for nonpayment.  I knew this without making one phone call, the house was warm and I absolutely could not remember the last time I paid the electricity bill or checked the mail.  I had every intention of checking it the night before, but I was just too exhausted.  Well, I back pedaled and checked the mail and right on top was the beautiful pink slip.  I paid the bill and the electricity was on in about 45 minutes.  The kids never missed a beat and my husband didn’t judge or blame me.  Lesson(s) learned.

LESSON(S) LEARNED

This one mistake taught me so many lessons:

1)  Bills need to be paid on time every time (I KNOW this already).  (This flub cost us an additional $52.95.)

2)  Trust my instincts.  (I had a feeling we had not paid the bill and a notice was in the mail, and I was right on both hunches.)

3)  Take care of home first  because no one else will.  Life had grabbed a hold of my husband and I.  My responsibilities at work were overflowing, the kids started a new school and needed paperwork completed and supplies purchased, my husband was sick again, and I had a ton of personal action items I “needed” to scratch off my to-do list.

I hit a brick wall, but I learned my lessons, reviewed our Household Financial Manual ,and refocused my priorities.  A little stumble never hurt anyone.  The real test is how fast you get up.

There Has To Be An Easier Way

When it came to paying bills on time, I was losing my mind. Every month there was always a minimum of at least one bill we forgot to pay. It was ridiculous. We were constantly asking, “Have you seen the water bill?  Did you pay the mortgage?”  Not to mention we forgot to pay our water bill once and we had to pay over $300 in fees because of a simple oversight.  The simple fact was that we were (and still are) overwhelmed. Half of our accounts were set up with paperless billing and the other half were not paperless. I check the mail about once every two weeks to make matters even worse.  In my usual fashion it was late one evening and I decided enough was enough.  We NEEDED an organized system in place STAT or our home was going into foreclosure, our cars were going to be repossessed, and all utilities were going to be shut off because we forgot or misplaced another bill.  So, I got to work.

EMAIL

The first step in my plan was to set up an email address dedicated to paperless bills, payment reminders, and account updates.  This way my water bill payment reminder email is not overlooked because my email box is too full.

PAPERLESS BILLING

After I set up the email account, I then converted all my bills to paperless.  Since I had to change the email address on all my accounts, as I logged into each account I also converted to paperless billing.  Paperless billing lessens the chance that I will forget to pay a bill and reduces the clutter at home.  Less paper = Less mess.

PASSWORD LIST

When we converted to paperless billing, that also meant too many usernames, passwords, and websites to remember.  To solve this problem, I created a spreadsheet to store all this information.  The spreadsheet was added to the Budget section of our Household Financial Manual.

Password List Template

MANILLA ACCOUNT/ONLINE BILLING

At some point, the bills need to be paid.  I use our bank’s online system to auto pay all reoccurring bills.  I set up each account in bill pay and Manilla.  Manilla is an online account and bill organizer.  You can set up your account to receive reminders or pay bills from this site.  It is another check and balance system.  It is online, has an app, and provides an at-a-glance view of all our accounts.

CHECKLIST

Last but not least, I still needed to verify that all the bills were paid each month.  I created a simple checklist and checked each bill off as it was paid.  This sheet was added to the budget section of our Household Financial Manual.

Bill Payment Schedule Template

I have now organized my money.  This plan has streamlined my bill payment system and when and how bills are paid.  It has allowed me to only pay bills twice a month on time.  I am no longer chasing dates, bills, or money.  This system just might free up  a little more time for blogging and that makes me very happy.

Debt Be Gone

10% of Americans owe more than $30,000 in credit card debt.-USA TODAY

If you have made a commitment to reduce your family’s debt and need a proven strategy, I’ve got a plan that just might work.  My husband and I have used the debt snowball method to reduce our debt.  (We married  young and were having too much fun in our 20’s.)  Little did I know, we were using the method before it received a sophisticated makeover and was named the Debt Snowball Method.

It’s no secret that I cannot function (not a joke) without a list.  So, I have created a list for you that details how to implement the Debt Snowball Method in your own Family Financial Plans.

Debt Snowball Method:

1.  List your debts in order from the smallest balance to the largest balance.  Interest rates and terms should not be considered, paying off the smallest balance first creates momentum and results.

2.  Determine the minimum payments for each debt and continue or make a commitment to begin paying those debts on time.

3.  Decide how much extra money can be designated to paying down your debts.  Use that extra money plus the minimum payment to pay down the debt with the lowest balance. Continue making payments on the lowest debt until that debt is eliminated.

4.  Once that debt is taken care of, move to the debt with the next smallest balance. Use the amount (minimum payment + extra money) you were paying on the first (already) eliminated debt, plus the minimum payment on the second debt, to eliminate the second debt.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 until all your debts are eliminated.  As always, I have an example of  a Debt Snowball Template to assist you with your planning.

How to Find Extra Funds (snowflakes) to Contribute to Your Debt Snowball Method:

  • Sell your gold-I found random pieces of gold jewelry around the house and received over $300 for jewelry I would never wear again.
  • Cut unnecessary household expenses
  • Sell your stuff (garage sale, online)
  • Request lower rates on credit cards
  • Reevaluate insurance premiums (home, auto)

Leave a comment.  Tell me about any debt busting strategies that have worked for your family.

House of Money

This week I will bring you a series of posts about the dreaded topic of household finances.  I have always been the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) of our household.  Even before we were married, I was the kind of girl that saved, budgeted everything, and kept a balanced checkbook.  And then it happened, LW was born.  When my son arrived, I was walking around like a crazy rabbit.  Luckily, my dear husband flew in with his cape and took over the finances.  Motherhood, working full-time, and household management proved to be entirely too much.  Fast forward four years later, it’s time for me to resume my role.  The difference is that this time it will be a joint effort.  We now have a co-manager model to handle our finances.

By now you have probably figured out hat I may not be an impulse shopper, but I am certainly an impulse thinker.  Late one night (as ideas usually come to me), I decided in order to adopt a true co-manager model, we (of course) needed a Household Financial Manual which was simply a binder divided into 4 sections (Goals, Budget, Debt, Notes) with dividers:

GOALS

Every December, we write down personal and financial goals.  I typed our overall yearly goals and monthly checkpoints to reach their targets and placed them in the binder.  I have found the secret to goal setting success for me is the target piece.  You can create goals all day long, but it is the target checkpoints that truly holds you accountable.  I’ve included an example,(don’t forget-I have an educational background):

Family Financial Goals

In this section, I also added notes from financial gurus (Dave Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps) that I follow or money tips I’ve found along the way that will help us reach our goals.

BUDGET

Creating a budget for our family was going to be the death of me.  I was too done.  It was not an easy task tracking every single dollar going in and every single dollar going out.  I have used every template known to exist and even created my own.  I finally found a budget template that works for our family.  When creating your budget be honest and be exact.  A budget truly creates a blueprint for your household finances.  Every business has a budget and departments are forbidden from going over budget.  The same should hold true to your household.  There are several different free forms you can use on the internet, I’m just sharing forms I’ve created or found the most useful.

Budget Template

DEBT

Credit cards, car loans, student loans, mortgages….it is all debt and it all has to be paid.  The ideal situation is to be totally debt free at least from revolving credit.  For us, the most effective way to pay down debt is using the debt snowball method.  Using this method , extra cash is used to paying debts with the smallest balance or highest interest based on your preference.  As each debt is paid in full, the money used to pay that debt is applied to additional payments on the next smallest debt or account with the next highest interest rate and so on.  We prefer to pay the debts with the smallest balance first.  It just gives us a sense of accomplishment.  There are also several debt snowball templates that range from simple to detailed.

Debt Snowball

NOTES

In this section, I simply inserted a stack of paper and I use this section to take notes.

Now, I’m not even going to begin to document our mistakes, I do not have nearly enough time for that.  I will be honest, it took us a few months to get it right.  But, the process is well worth it and my husband and I are on the same page (most of the time).

SIDE NOTE

I am no financial expert, I am just sharing my family’s experiences.

Closet Bliss

This picture is not the best!

We have an adequate amount of shelf space in our closet and I make it a point to utilize all spaces effectively.  I despise clutter and to me, shoeboxes = clutter.  As a result, when we moved in this house, one of the first items on my to-do list was to rid my shoes of shoe boxes and purchase inexpensive shoe/boot boxes.  I am such a happier woman!  This system has also helped me purge.  Every new shoe has a plastic shoe box which means a pair is being donated to make room for  new shoes.   Now, I may have 3 flat shoes such as sandals in one box, but nothing is going to waste.

These come in a variety of sizes and colors and make great storage bins!

We are lacking drawer space and I resolved that situation by purchasing decorative plastic bins to store workout clothes, lounge wear, seasonal pjs, seasonal gear (hats, mittens, bathing suits, etc.), and miscellaneous t-shirts.  I love these bins, they are spacious and look good.  I have them on the top shelf of my closet, and I don’t think about them!  You can use these bins for almost anything anywhere in the house.

Baskets, Buckets, and a Colander

I will use a basket to organize just about anything. As I’ve posted before, the baskets do nothing more than infuriate my husband, but they assist with the balancing of my organizational issues. Today, I’m going to reveal a few of my secret weapons that I store in the kitchen and bathroom.

Baskets

Please excuse the mess. We have been on the go the last few weeks, but I really wanted to post a visual!

Baskets can be used to store a multitude of items. They can be purchased almost anywhere and can be found in several different styles and colors. A couple of years ago, I started using baskets in the bathroom to store toiletries. I am a bulk shopper which means the house is usually fully stocked and it drives me insane when random items are stored in random places. As a result, I created a simple basket organization system. (I have learned in time that to avoid frustrating myself, I just fix the issue.) I keep three plastic baskets on my bathroom shelf for my items, my husband’s items, and miscellaneous items that we both use. In my basket, I store body wash (the smelly kind that my husband prefers not to use), deodorant, extra makeup brushes, extra body wash sponges, etc. In my husband’s basket, it’s basically the same, deodorant, “manly” body wash, his prescription face wash, etc. In the miscellaneous basket, I store items that we both use such as toothpaste, cotton balls, floss, toothbrushes, etc. The baskets help me with keeping items stocked and my husband hasn’t asked me about a toothbrush or deodorant in a long time. Remember, the less questions, the better for me!

Buckets

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I have 1-2 buckets (dishwashing buckets) under my sink in the kitchen and each of the bathrooms. These buckets store cleaning items. One bucket stores all the cleaning fluids and the other bucket stores the items used to clean such as towels, dusters, and sponges. When it is time to deep clean, it is easy to pull these buckets out and get to work. They keep everything together in a neat and orderly fashion. Also, I when the cleaning monster takes over me, I don’t have to look for cleaning items, they are all in one place. I love it!

Colander

20120802-090430.jpgBath time = fun time in most households with little ones which usually means wet toys all over the tub. An inexpensive way to solve this problem is to store the toys in a colander. It’s that easy. After bath time, you can use the colander (so inexpensive) to scoop up the toys and be done with it. The toys will dry/breathe in the colander and you’ve cleaned the tub in one scoop.

Please leave a comment and let me know if you plan to implement one of these cheap and easy tips in your household.