Monday, July 26, 2010

Do the Easy Things First

I've read countless books and articles on home management and organization and they all have great ideas, but sometimes differ on their thoughts on things a bit. The biggest thing is, "What should I do first - the easy stuff or the hard stuff?" By this I mean, should you do the simple tasks and then do the tasks that are a bit harder (take more time/energy) or do it the other way around?

I know a lot of people might disagree with me, but I have always found that doing simple tasks is better as you can mark off a lot of things on your To-Do List and it won't make it seem so crazy. Also, it gets a lot of things done so you have a clean and straightened area to work on the bigger projects.

An example of this is doing all the little things before you move onto the big projects you have for the day/week/month. Make your bed, straighten up rooms, put things where they go, wipe down surfaces, etc before you go and pull stuff out to re-organize cabinets and closets. If you don't, you will have a huge mess on your hands. It will motivate you to complete your projects so you can have everything back to being neat and tidy as well.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cleaning the Living Room/Family Room/Den

Here's the 2nd installment in my detailed cleaning posts. Whatever you call it, the living room, family room, or den, it's one of the rooms that needs to be cleaned the most, as you "live" in it the most (outside of your kitchen). I have a few rooms that have to be clean/organized in order for me to function - my kitchen, living room, and guest bathroom (all 1st floor).

Here's how I clean and keep clean my living room:

Step #1 - Straighten up
Go around and put things (magazines, books, remote controls, blankets, toys, pillows) away. If you find things that don't belong, put them where they go (or at least in a basket to take back soon). You can't clean until everything is straightened up.

Step #2 - Dust
I like to grab my Swiffer duster or a cloth and dusting spray (if it is bad) and go from top to bottom around the living room.

Step #3 - Glass clean
I go around with glass cleaner and paper towels and get the mirrors, windows, and anything else that has glass.

Step #4 - Vacuum
I start with the main carpet area and then take the hose and do the couch, followed by taking the edger and doing the edges, baseboards, and window sills.

It takes very little time to get the living room clean.

How to keep it clean:

If you get stuff out, put it back. Keep things straightened up. Vacuum when it needs it (just the middle of the room). Have a weekly time to dust, glass clean, and deep vacuum.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Power of the Planner

One of the biggest things to organize is time. I will confess that I have struggled with this off and on for my whole life. I am the type of person that needs to have everything on a list or in a chart to almost be able to function. I can't just wing it all day and get everything done. I also could forget appointments and when I am supposed to do something with someone if I didn't have it written down.

Over the years I have read tons of books on time management and they all say the same thing - YOU MUST HAVE A PLANNER. I have also spent hours looking at different planners, calendars, PDAs, and other organizers for time. I have loved some and hated others. After all of that, I finally found what works for me. I have to have the monthly calendar view as well as a weekly/daily view with time slots. I like to be able to see birthdays, anniversaries, appointments, bills that are due, and big things on the monthly view and also like to be able to fill in specific time-oriented things on my weekly/daily view so that I can plug in things I need to get done. Sometimes my day just has the big things and other days I like to plug in everything that I need to do (even shower/get ready, workout, cook, clean, etc).

Here is the planner I am currently using:

Of course everyone is different and some people can remember everything. I don't know how they do it especially the more responsibilities they have. If you are a person who just wants to know when big things are going to happen, you could just post a calendar in your kitchen and write things on it. If you like to have some space for each day to write a list of what is happening and maybe have a little room for a To-Do List, then having the time slot style might not work as well. There are planners that have monthly views and then each week with blank space for the day. Some people prefer to have a ton of space for each day. For that you can get a daily calendar which gives you a page or two for each day.

Whatever method you choose to use, the key is to use it. Write things down and keep your planner handy so you know what things are coming up and where your time is going. It really helps.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Glazed Carrots

I love glazed carrots, especially the kind you get at Cracker Barrel. I have tried various ways and it just never tastes right. I looked up another recipe tonight and tried it and it was tasty. I thought I would share it with you guys.

Glazed Carrots

1lb baby carrots
2-3 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup brown sugar

Put carrots in pot and cover with water.
Bring to a boil and cook until tender (roughly 1 hour).
Pour off most of the water - just leave a little in the bottom of the pot.
Add butter and brown sugar and stir until melted.
Let sit so the flavors absorb into the carrots.

Cleaning the Kitchen

So if you have followed my blog for any extended period of time, you know that on Mondays I clean my first floor. That includes the living room, powder room, dining room, and kitchen. I thought that I would write a post completely devoted to cleaning the kitchen today. I am thinking about doing a series where I write about how I clean each room of my house.

Here is how I clean my kitchen:

Step #1 - Take anything and everything that doesn't belong in the kitchen and put it where it goes
If you guys are anything like me, your kitchen table and adjacent areas can become a dump zone for mail, papers, kids' work, etc. If you go through and put all the stuff where it needs to go, it will clear the way for cleaning.

Step #2 - Unload your dishwasher if it is full and needs it
This is definitely a task that can be overlooked and can cause a major pileup in the kitchen. It's pretty crazy how it happens. No one unloads the dishwasher so no dishes can go in, so the sink starts overflowing to the counters. I can say that this happens at least once a week at my house (usually over the weekend as I don't clean as much on weekends). It only takes a handful of minutes, but is a big help.

Step #3 - Wash all dishes and load dishwasher (run again if needed) or dry them and put them away
Dishes make the kitchen look so dirty. They clutter the kitchen and mind. If you get them into the dishwasher or cupboards, it really makes the kitchen easy to clean.

Step #4 - Wipe down every surface
I go around with a cleaning wipe or cleaner and sponge and clean from cleanest area to dirtiest (ie less used counter space to more used counter space to stovetop). If you need to wipe cabinets and your kitchen table/chairs, this is the time to do it. I also like to wipe down the exteriors of my appliances.

Step #5 - Wipe out appliances
I go around with a cleaning wipe or cleaner and sponge and clean from cleanest area to dirtiest (ie microwave to fridge to oven).

Step #6 - Sweep floor

Step #7 - Mop floor

Now if you need to do a deep cleaning of your refrigerator (I do this every few months unless it gets really dirty as I am a freak about throwing stuff out and wiping my refrigerator down a lot), here's a great way to do it.

Step #1 - Go through and toss out anything that needs it.

Step #2 - Work one shelf/area at a time and pull everything out, wipe down, and put everything back. If it is dirty enough, pull out the shelf, take it to the sink, and give it a good scrubbing.

To me having a clean kitchen is my #1 priority as so much in our lives centers around our kitchen. Most of us cook at least one meal a day in there, not to mention snacks, drinks, etc. If your kitchen is dirty, it really affects everything. I know that if I have to go in there and clean before meal prep, I get annoyed (even though it is at myself) and think, "Pizza sounds good tonight." ;)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Organized Vacationing

I don't know about everyone else, but I know that for me a vacation is not truly a vacation. As a wife, mom, and homemaker, I spend hours preparing and packing for our trip, hours in the car keeping everyone sane (putting on movies, handing out snacks, and entertaining Luke), hours setting up shop for the week (putting away food, kitchen supplies, clothes, and toys), hours still cooking meals, cleaning up, and getting everyone whatever they need for each outing, hours cleaning up the place when we are done, hours in the car again, and then hours unpacking, doing laundry, and getting us ready for life when we get home. Does that sound familiar to any of you guys?

Well because I am so OCD and have to have order no matter where I am - home, hotel, or beach house - I have to be really organized. It does make things run a lot smoother and I do get a little more down time as the crew knows where everything is and can [sometimes] fend for themselves.

It all starts a few days before we leave for our vacation. I do all of the laundry and clean up the house. It makes things a lot easier when you have clothes to pack and a clean house to go through and get what you need. I also have a packing list on my computer that I print each time we go somewhere. I print it out the day we pack and tweak it. I add things that need to be packed in addition to all of our regular stuff. That saves me so much time and headache. There is nothing worse than getting somewhere and not having underwear or a toothbrush.

Then when it comes to packing, I use lots of different bags and bins. I like to organize things so that we can put bags or bins in their respective spot when we arrive at our destination. I use one bag for Luke's clothes and personal care items, one bag for my clothes and personal care items, one bag for Lee's clothes and personal care items, one bag for towels and sunscreen - my pool bag, one bag for beach toys as they get sandy and I like to keep them in a mesh bag to carry down to the beach, one bag for Luke's toys, one bin for dry food, one bin for kitchen needs, a big cooler for food when we get there, a small cooler for drinks in the car, and one bag for snacks and toys for the car. Yes, it seems like a lot, but it really isn't. It's more organized than cramming stuff in a bunch of bags.

I pack each area/bag/bin and bring it all to a certain spot so that Lee can load it all in the car. This way he sees how much we have and how he should load everything up. If you have stuff all over the house, you might have something heavy that ends up on top or have to take stuff out and reload. This saves time and frustration.

When we get to our destination, we can just put each person's bag where they are sleeping, they toys/entertainment in the area where we will be hanging out/playing, the beach/pool stuff near the door so we are ready to go at a moment's notice, and the food and kitchen stuff in the kitchen. It is really nice. It also makes it possible to not have to unpack as stuff is where you need it.

When we get done with our vacation, we just load everything back up, repack the car, and when we get home, we just put stuff back where it goes pretty efficiently. One note - when we are packing to come home, we pick a couple of suitcases to put all the dirty stuff in and one to put all of the clean stuff in (inevitably we pack too much). The dirty suitcases go to the laundry area and the clean suitcase is unpacked. Super easy.

I hope this helps. Enjoy your vacations. :)