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Very Important Papers! Getting Your VIPs in Order

We’ve all got “VIPs”–Very Important Papers that need a good, safe home! We’ve got the best method of keeping all your VIPs in one, easy-to-find place!

 

Courtesy of caroleschiffer.com

 

The Hardware

Courtesy of theepochtimes.com
Binders are a parent’s best friends–keep recipes with ease, extra school photos organized and yes…your VIPs get their own binder too! Make sure you get a heavy-duty 3 ring binder from a reputable company–it should be between one and two inches thick, have hard covers that keep their shape, and a plastic coating that is easy to clean. A good binder can last for years…even decades…so invest wisely.
Also grab a set of tabbed dividers with pockets–some folks opt for the opaque color-coded ones (which are our favorite by far). They’re durable as all get out and add a little more storage space to your VIP binder.

Also grab clear plastic page protectors–you can get a pack of 100 at Target for just a few bucks, and it’s so worth it. They’re good for just about everything, but most importantly, they’re going to house your VIPs!
Optionally, you can grab some blank labels and permanent markers, but it’s not necessary.

 

Lay it Out

Collect up those VIPs from everywhere in the house–get the birth certificates out of the baby books, the storage unit contract, the car stuff, the lease or home deed, the taxes, the dog registration, copies of your driver’s license and credit cards, social security cards, your wedding ring papers, insurance paper of all kinds, immunization records, passports…anything you can think of that might be stashed in a drawer somewhere or under the bed in a box of junk, grab it. Take it to a quiet part of the house and decide on your layout. One reader divides her stuff into one clear page protector, her husband’s into another and places them both behind one divider. Behind the next is their lease agreement. Behind that is their dog’s vet records. But really, the layout is up to you.

 

Individual Binders

Courtesy of sheknows.com

It’s all fun and games until suddenly your kid has fifty billion VIPs–report cards, certificates, school photos, birth certificates…not everything is going to fit into your VIP binder, and that’s okay.
Our solution will always be another binder. Please know this.
When your child is in first grate, set them up with their own VIP binder. Pack it full of yearly photos, report cards, test results, doctor and dentist visits and so on. By the time your child graduates you’ll have given them their whole childhood’s worth of VIPs–things they’ll like to have (and sometimes even need) even if they don’t know it yet!

 

Binder Storage

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Courtesy of bobvila.com

Storing your binders is just as important as making them! Make sure you keep your beloved VIPs up high, to save them from water damage, the dog, curious kiddos or any other “from-the-doorknob-down” dangers lurking around! Some folks store them in airtight plastic storage boxes, which we love, but can be a little hard to break into for making adjustments or additions.
Binders also fit in filing cabinets, so it might be worth buying a two-unit cabinet to keep in a home office or bedroom.

 

Treat It Nice

Courtesy of dreamstime.com

Your VIPs are your life–treat it with care! Your binder never leaves the house, never sits out in the open and never ever ever is used by the children! If you move, take your binders with you and always know where they are. The binder system for your VIPs only works if you’re all committed to keeping it safe!

 

But you can do it, Super Mom! We know you can.

Childproofing Your House–It’s Got To Be Done, But WHERE to begin…

Keeping your kiddos safe–simply!

Where To Begin

When you’re setting out to begin childproofing your house, it’s time to look down–outlets, table corners, doorknobs, bathtubs, toilets…if it’s below your waist, it’s in their reach.
1) Start with your table edges and corners–they’re hard, sharp and can do some serious damage to heads and eyes. The solution? Well…you can find them at the Dollar Store.
Pool noodles and tennis balls!
Cut your pool noodle down one side and slide it onto table edges; at the same time, cut holes in your tennis balls and smash them onto any sharp corners!

2) Bath. Mats. Get some. Get thirty of them. They are literally lifesavers–and putting one in your tub could keep your child from slipping and getting seriously injured. While you’re at it, grab a soft, non-slip mat for outside the tub too–without them, your bathroom becomes center stage for naked ice-skating.

3) Door stops are important to keep little fingers from getting pinched! You can hack this one outright with…yep…more pool noodles. Cut off a disc two inches wide, cut a slit down one side and push onto the edge of your door (up high, so they can be absconded with!). They’ll keep your doors from shutting all the way, so no extremities are at risk!

4) Blind cords are notorious strangle hazards–child experts across the world warn of the dangers of letting your kiddos get their little mitts on these. The quickest and most effective way to keep these out of reach is sitting on your bread right now.
Those twist-ties are great, and sooo versatile–just wind up the cord and tie it at the top with your twist tie! Binder clips work here too.

5) Cabinets–why do children think that these are endless, amazing treasure troves of goodies they need to have? Keeping your kids out of kitchen and bathroom cabinets is easy–just stop by your local superstore for these amazing Step1 Magnet locks!
http://atmedia.imgix.net/38d45126eec0e7fbefe15ce62617178e98dd770e?auto=compress&w=800.0&fit=max
They are the best, and aesthetically pleasing–no huge, clumsy ratcheting locks for you. Even better, you can use them on drawers too, which can help keep silverware and other utensils locked up tight!

6) Doorknob locks. These are so important–a few decent doorknob locks can save you from having to go childproof-crazy in certain rooms. You can either buy some doorknob locks from your local superstore, or just install those hook-and-loop locks way up high–either one works, and they keep your kids out of sensitive areas!

And they come in a million styles to match your home, so win-win, right?

7) Fireplaces are awesome…until you have kiddos. Then they’re just dangerous holes in the wall full of sharp tools, ash and…you know…fire. Building a temporary wall like this adorable chalkboard variety not only keeps kids safe, but entertained as well…

Courtesy of Sassy Wife, Classy Life

8) Don’t hang dishtowels on your oven handle! You provide an awesome oven-opening tool when you do–instead, attach some Command Hooks up high. Easy peasy.

9) Outlets–they’re the perfect size for little fingers. There are a million ways to lock these things down, the most obvious of which is those plastic plugs you can practically buy in bulk. But, if you’re in a pinch, break out the bandaids or duct tape–both cover them up quite nicely.

10) Baby gates. Top and bottom of all staircases. Enough said.

11) Toilet paper is, for whatever reason, super fun for kids. And honestly, it’s not one we tend to think about till our toddlers wander by dressed like mummies…until you can properly train your kiddos not to unravel the whole thing, we suggest making a pretty DIY cover like this:

Courtesy of Jumping Jellybeans
We love this–and it does the job really well!

12) While you’re in the bathroom, lock up that commode! Too often kids play and deposit keys, socks and toys into the porcelain throne…far too often. You can, of course, hit the superstore for an awesome toilet lock, or you can make your own with a few suction cups and heavy-duty elastic cord like this:

13) Don’t forget to anchor all your shelves, entertainment centers, televisions, dressers and other free-standing furniture! Every single year, children are crushed–even killed–by climbing and accidentally pulling down furniture on top of themselves. Anchor them, folks!

Best of luck, Super Mom!

Getting Closets Under Control!

Purge!

Courtesy of University of Iowa
The first step to cleaning anything is to get rid of stuff! Take a day and empty your closet, and consider every item–odds are, if you’re like the rest of us, you only wear a few things regularly (most people only wear 20% of the clothes they have), and you probably don’t need every sundress and pair of shoes you happen to own. You can check out our in-depth purging guide in our Hack Your Wardrobe article, but there are a few good rules of thumb. If you haven’t needed it in a year, you don’t need it enough to keep. Any gently used and never worn clothing and shoes can go straight to your local Goodwill or other donation center. Same goes for all your partner and children’s clothes, as well as purses, hats and scarves!

Shoe Storage

We love this wire rack option for storing your pairs of shoes, but there are plenty of other ways to make finding and keeping your shoes easy! Some folks use those plastic hangers on the back of their door to stash all their footwear, but if you have a large enough closet, you can even grab an inexpensive storage bench to put inside. Also, grab a basket or bin for socks, and keep it right next to the shoes, so you’ve got everything you need in an easy-to-find, user-friendly system! If not, keep out a few regular day-pairs of shoes and stash seasonal and dress shoes under the bed in a plastic storage bin, or in the top of the closet in their original boxes!

Shirts

Courtesy of Eat, Sleep Decorate
Shirts are pretty easy to store because you basically have two options–drawers of hangers. If you go the hanger option, we’d suggest getting color-coded hangers (the velvet type that you see in the photo, so your sheerest tops will stay put) for every family member–that will give everyone a set number, and will help keep the overall volume of clothing low! If you want a new shirt, you have to get rid of another one to open up a hanger! Cool right?
If you choose to store your shirts in a drawer, fold them just as you normally would but stack them vertically instead of horizontally–you’ll be able to store more and see everything!
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/545be3d1e4b097ce1bc8201f/545d83f1e4b04f4c1670ced3/545d8473e4b04f4c1670e160/1415415360152/
Awesome, right?

Pants

Courtesy of the2seasons.com
Those metal dry-cleaning hangers are honestly the cheapest pants-storage solution–you know the ones! They’re thick metal so they don’t bend easily, but the sturdy cardboard tube across the bottom is the real gem here–it’s slightly sticky, so even your silky pants won’t slide off, and the added strength stands up to the extra weight of jeans! Now, for a more space-saving option, pick up a few of the multi-pants hangers (in the photo) at your local Walmart! These are fantastic if you find yourself knee-deep in jeans!
Accessories

Courtesy of imacherrypicker.com
Scarves, jewelry, ties, sunglasses…just a few of the things that get easily lost in the fray. You can store them all effectively and safely! There are so many ways to store your various bits and pieces, but we’ve settled on a few options that we just love!

Jewelry–for storing your tiny jewelry like rings and earrings, look no further than the dollar store. Pick up a pill container, plastic tackle box organizer or any other small case with little compartments. This is the perfect way to keep things organized and spill-proof! As for necklaces, bracelets, watches, anklets, headbands and hair-ties, invest in a multi-pocket jewelry keeper that hangs in your closet like a shirt! They’re awesome, and will only set you back anywhere from $6-$12!

Ties–how do men wind up with so many ties? Don’t hang them up on hangers where they can slip off and get trampled–instead, pick up a basket or a plastic box from Dollar Tree and roll them. Roll them up, box them, and toss in any tie clips, lapel pins and other tiny items too!

Belts–SO easy. Command hooks! Just stick them on and hang the buckle on the hook. It literally doesn’t get easier than that.

Scarves–hang these the way the pros do! Loop them around a bar and tuck the ends into the loop.

Like this!
Now you don’t need a whole ladder–a hanger works perfectly too! You can store seven-to-ten scarves on a single hanger, making this a super space-saving technique!

Odd Items

There are always those weird things that don’t quite fit anywhere else–yoga mats, umbrellas, canes, crutches, maybe those mystery ski poles…our answer? A good old-fashioned umbrellas stand. Set it in the corner of the closet and store away!

Your House is Bigger Than You Think! Hacks for Maximizing Your Space

If there was a number-one, amazing perfect secret to unlocking extra space in your house, it’s to look for those weird places–when you look around, you might be surprised at all the ways you can brush up some space! All it takes is a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing, and suddenly you’ve got storage everywhere…try it and see!

Kitchen

Courtesy of DIY Network

As you can see in the photo above, even your smallest areas can be utilized.

Seating Arrangements
If you’ve got a nook or some of these built-in benches (more common than you think!) then you can edit them slightly to store anything from dishes to pantry items (if you find yourself without a pantry)!

Courtesy of WooHome
Of course, if you don’t have a nook like this with benches, you can build your own, or you can opt for something like this:

Just pick up a few storage benches from IKEA or Walmart, top them with a DIY cushion (or don’t) and set them around your kitchen table. It’ll give you tons of extra storage while also replacing some chairs–which tend not to do much in the way of storage.

Look Up
In a small space, you can give the illusion of openness and space by doing away with cabinet doors. It’ll draw the eye upward and make your room feel taller and larger, while also giving you a creative option for storage. Check out this look:
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Courtesy of Buzzfeed
With books artfully arranged on top and the cupboards full of cute, quirky dishes, this method just has that lived-in look while still being organized! Even better, knowing your stuff will be on display can be a huge motivator to get rid of those dishes that…you know…don’t make sense. And less stuff always equals more space.

Another way to get that tall appearance is to hang your curtains at ceiling-height, not window-height. Adding the illusion of space to your house comes from brightening up your rooms and making your windows look larger. The bigger and more focal the window, the more space it seems you have.

See how much a difference it can make?! It’s incredible–also, it helps to opt for light, flowy, neutral curtains instead of thick fabrics, patterns and loud colors.

Side-Fridge

Courtesy of captainwalt.com
We’ve all seen it–that odd little sliver of space beside the fridge. Sometimes things get kicked back there, sometimes weird things start to happen in that odd little void. But if you snag or build one of these side-fridge beauties, you can take charge of that space and keep all sorts of stuff in a normally-ignored area! You can even build one if you’d like, and can find the directions right here.

DIY LINK: http://lifehacker.com/5992389/build-a-space-saving-roll-out-pantry-that-fits-between-the-fridge-and-the-wall

Common Areas (Living Room, Hallways, Etc…)

The Cupboard Under the Stairs

In a perfect world we’d all have the flawless under-stair storage in the photo above, but even if we can’t, we can still utilize that space! Some apartments and houses already have that space opened up (we’ve seen townhouses that have under-stair closets that offer a shelf and washer/dryer hookups!) and if that’s the case, you might consider adding in some wire shelving and plastic storage boxes to hold anything and everything you can think of! Under your steps is a huge open space just waiting to be made over!

Under the steps is also a great place to put in a reading nook–add in a cozy rug, some beanbag chairs, bookshelves and warm lighting. It’s a great way to give your kids a little space of their own that they can get away to read and relax. You can leave it open or add in doors or curtains for some added privacy. Check these out from amazinginteriordesign.com…

We’re in love with this idea!

Bedrooms
It’s been proven that cutting clutter in your bedroom will help you sleep better and wake up more refreshed! Our space saving ideas will take your space from cramped to cozy…

Headboard Hacks

Getting a headboard that doubles as high-capacity storage is a great way to cut down on other storage methods–some even have enough storage to replace your dresser! The one in the photo above is great for this! You can search your options at IKEA and Walmart–just look for something with super storage!

Another option is to ditch the headboard altogether and go for a painted option instead. Check out Pinterest for all kinds of awesome ideas for filling that empty wall space without taking up any of your precious bedroom! Some clever folks even hang a tapestry behind their bed, and some paint a big bold headboard like this…

No matter how small your space, we promise there are ways to not only give the look and feel of more room, but really achieve greater storage as well! Best of luck, Super Moms!

Across the Street or Across the Country…How to Make Your Move Just a Little Less Miserable

Packing and Logistics…

Courtesy of Buzzfeed

Of course, you’re not going anywhere until you pack up! Stashing everything away in an organized manner that’ll make moving in to your new place easy and quick! Here are some great ways to get a jump on the chaos…

 

Boxes


Courtesy of RSAlaska.com

Even if you use some of our amazing upcoming hacks to pack up your home, you’re still going to need some boxes. The problem? Boxes can get super pricey! Thankfully there are ways to get some great boxes for cheap…or even free. You can check out your local swap pages, craigslist, freecycle and so many more to see if anyone is giving away or selling good moving boxes. If you or a family member work at a retail store, sometimes they’ll be happy to set aside some boxes for you (and they go through a ton of boxes). If you’re a book junkie, as your local bookstore (because believe it or not, they’ve got some great book-moving boxes. Crazy, right?). If all else fails, check out the U-Haul message boards for box exchanges! And when you’re done, hang onto them for another family–pay it forward, you know?


Labels

These are so important. Pick a room, assign it a colorful label and stick that label to every box that belongs in that particular room. The variety above features two sizes of blank labels and stickers (you can find them at Staples or Dollar Tree) or you can opt for this type, that already has the name of the room printed on them. If you want to get your child involved, let them pick a character (maybe their favorite superhero, cartoon character, or if they like kittens or horses), and find stickers featuring their favorites! They’ll appreciate the personal touch, and will let everyone know that the Iron Man boxes go in their room.

 

Label LINK: https://www.amazon.com/Fluorescent-Color-Moving-Labels-4020RL/dp/B00CDU0LWM

 

First Night

Courtesy of hip2save.com

The first night of your move, relax. Don’t stress about unpacking the moving truck that day. Give yourself and your kids a little time to decompress. A great way to make the transition easy is to pack a “First Night Box”–a large, clear storage tub like this one is great for this! What would you put in a first night box? Let’s break it down…

Maintenance and Cleaning

It’s a good idea to toss in some things like screwdrivers, a hammer and some nails, even light bulbs and flashlights (just in case you wind up in the dark). Also throw in some trash bags, plastic grocery bags, paper towels, Clorox wipes and a hand-vacuum. And DO NOT forget the toilet paper! Just don’t. Trust us.

Food and Drink

Toss in some paper plates, cups, forks and napkins as well as some treats, like non-perishable candy! You’ll be thankful to have these on hand when you order-in (because who on earth wants to cook after spending the day moving!?). One reader enjoyed a few pizzas on the back deck with her kiddos using just paper plates and paper towels! Just pretend you’re pioneers on an uncharted trail–if you can get into it, so can the kiddos.
First Aid
Just in case, toss in a first aid kit. A new house means that you and your family aren’t acclimated to your new house, and that means dings, scrapes, bumped hips and smashed fingers. Believe us.
All The Rest
Toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and hand soap, a cheap shower curtain and liner (you can grab rings, curtains and liners for a buck each at Dollar Tree). These are all easily-forgotten goodies that MUST go in that first night box!
Another option is to grab your kid’s backpacks and let them pack anything they want inside–just make sure they grab the next day’s clothes and some pajamas, too! That way each kid can assemble their own “first night” kit that will help them get through the stress. They can add in a favorite book, stuffed animal, action figure, and take them through Dollar Tree to let them pick some of their favorite snacks and drinks, too! This is especially good if you’re driving a long way to your new location (also check out our Road Trip Hacks article to make the drive easier!)

 

Remember, your first night box should be the LAST thing to go in the moving van or car so that it can be the first thing you grab when you get there!

 

Storage Box LINK:

https://www.amazon.com/IRIS-Quart-Modular-Storage-Clear/dp/B00012FER6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1481579863&sr=8-3&keywords=clear+plastic+storage+container

 

Pet Moving

Don’t forget your furry, scaly or feathery friend when you move! It’s as stressful for them as it is for you! But you can make it a little easier for them by packing a “diaper bag” for your pets! Add in an airtight container of food, some treats, favorite toys or blankets, their food dishes and of course their leash or harness! If you’re driving a long way, stop frequently to let them sniff around–it’ll help them stay calm and prevent in-car accidents! When you get to your new home, grab your pet bag and set up a nice, private and quiet area with things that smell familiar–stuffed toys, their bed, blankets, etc… Make sure you let your pet wander on their own and let them retreat to their private place whenever they need to!

FISH OWNERS: you’ve got a challenge before you. We’ve found the best method of fish transportation here

 

Fish Transport LINK: http://www.wikihow.com/Transport-Fish

Amazing Chemical-Free Cleaning Hacks For Your Whole House

The foundation of your new cleaning regimen starts with 6 simple ingredients: olive oil, castile soap, baking soda, lemons, essential oils and vinegar. With these simple things (that you might already have around the house!) you can clean your entire house safely! Let’s take it room-by-room, shall we?

Bathroom:

Toilet Bowl Cleaner: this power-packed toilet scrub will not only deodorize, but it’ll kill bacteria and polish that porcelain to a shine! First add ten drops of tea tree or lemon essential oil into the toilet, then immediately follow with ½ cup of standard baking soda and ¼ cup of vinegar. Scrub away while the mixture reacts and foams. Flush, and you’re done!
Standard Surface Cleaner: this is great for day-to-day cleaning. Fill a spray bottle with 1 cup of vinegar and add the essential oil of your choosing–we recommend lemon for the scent and antibacterial power! Spray, let it sit and wipe away a few minutes later.
Tub and Tile: spray pure vinegar on any mildew and discoloration and let sit for thirty minutes before rinsing away with warm water. If the problem persists, repeat and scrub while you rinse! Another great option is to mix castile soap and baking powder into a paste, add essential oil and scrub away!
Air Freshener: add some baking powder and essential oil into a jar and mix well–poke holes in the top of the jar lid and screw on tightly. Super simple, super awesome!
Hand Soap: that’s right, you can use castile soap as a healthy hand soap. Just dilute it, add essential oils of your choosing (optional) and place in a foaming hand soap container.

 

Kitchen:

Courtesy of sheknows.com

Countertop Cleaner: for the best all-purpose surface cleaner around, grab more vinegar! Dilute it with an equal part water and pour into a spray bottle. This’ll take care of most kitchen surfaces and counters, with a few exceptions. If your countertops are marble, granite or stone, skip the vinegar and replace with rubbing alcohol or vodka. Yes, vodka.
Cutting Boards Wash: when it comes to your wood or plastic cutting boards (because we know you would never ever use glass…right?) there’s a super easy way to get them clean and kill all that raw-meaty nastiness right off…a lemon. That’s right, your run-of-the-mill lemon packs enough antibacterial punch to do the job! Just cut a lemon in half, scrub the board with the cut side and let sit for ten minutes. Then just rinse away, and bam–super clean cutting board ready for your next meal!
Oven Cleaner: the harsh fumes and awful stink of normal oven cleaners are a dangerous business…but there’s a better way! Heat your oven to 125 F and grab your vinegar surface cleaner that you made earlier! Once your oven is warm, spray the affected areas with the vinegar and sprinkle them with either kosher salt or baking soda. Turn off your oven, let it cool, and then wipe clean with a damp towel.
Garbage Disposal: these things get so gross. They can start to smell like yesterday’s dinner really quick, and can even play host to some unwelcome critters. (Southerners especially beware–your disposal can make an awesome home for cockroaches if you don’t clean it regularly!) Just fill an ice cube tray with vinegar and add two drops of essential oils to each cube before freezing–you could do different oils for each one, or just make them all the same. Freeze and pop a few in the disposal, letting it run until the ice is completely broken down.
Microwave: take a small, microwave safe cup and add vinegar and lemon juice. If you’re wondering how much of each, all we can say is to eyeball it–there’s not exact measuring necessary here. Microwave on high for two minutes, and then let sit for up to five minutes more. Open, and wipe with a damp paper towel.
Dish Soap: for Dishwashers and Handwashing: no matter if you opt for dishwashers or if you wash by hand, you’re going to end up reaching for the castile soap here. For hand washing detergent, mix 1 cup of castile soap with four tablespoons of water. Shake and use just like Dawn! For dishwashing liquid you can put right into the washer, mix 1 cup of water with 1 cup of castile soap, add a few drops of lemon juice, and store in a bottle of your choice. When it’s time to wash, fill one compartment with the mixture and the other with white vinegar. No more detergent packs or chemical steam when you open the door!

Laundry Room:

Courtesy of hgtv.com

Laundry Detergent: of course, when you think laundry room, you’re going to think detergent. We’ve found a great, borax-free recipe for the best laundry soap out there! This recipe comes straight from myhealthygreenfamily.com, a site that features all kinds of great cleaning hacks just like this. Basically, take and grate one bar of glycerine soap and add it to a jar with 1 cup of washing soda, ½ cup baking soda, ½ cup citric acid and ¼ coarse salt. Mix it all up and you’ve got an amazing, stain-fighting (and cost-effective) laundry detergent. You only need 1 to 2 tablespoons per load!

Fabric Softener: it doesn’t get easier than this! Add 20-30 drops of your favorite essential oils to a gallon jug of white vinegar. Add ⅓ cup to each load of laundry!

All The Rest:

Tile, Vinyl, and Linoleum Floors (No hardwood, please!): put one part vinegar and two parts warm water into a bucket and mop as usual!
Walls: mix ¼ cup white vinegar with 1 quart warm water and scrub. To remove really stubborn marks, scrub with baking soda.

Hack Your Pantry! Ways to Make Your Grocery Budget Go So Much Further

Plan Ahead–it’s so, so easy to impulse-buy a bunch of things you don’t need! If you walk into the store without a plan, you are definitely going to walk out spending far more than you should. Buying that frozen pizza suddenly becomes a necessity, which would totally go well with donuts, and you can’t very well have donuts without milk, and…you get the idea. Sitting down to plan out a week, or even a month in advance can really help curb your “grab-and-go” impulses! We really like this layout for meal planning, which we found on www.thekitchn.com :

mealplan

Beautiful, isn’t it?

We love the color-coded layout, broken down by day and food group! While we think this is sooooo cute, you definitely don’t have to go this far. A simple sheet of grid paper and a pen will do the job! Feel free to plan by week, or even by month, depending on what works for you!

Don’t Pay for Something You Can Do Yourself–fact is, stores will charge extra for things that come pre-sliced, pre-peeled, pre-shredded, pre-divided and pre-packaged. Lunchables are usually just glorified cheese and crackers, but you’ll end up paying two and three times more to buy a single packaged Lunchable than if you assembled it yourself! Let’s take cubed or shredded cheese–the bagged stuff can run you twice as much as buying a brick of cheese and shredding or cubing it yourself. We suggest buying the staples and raw ingredients and learning to assemble those “convenience” foods yourself!

Fine Print–if you’re an avid couponer (or if you spotted a great deal at the store), take a few extra seconds to read the tiny print. We know that the big, red-and-yellow $1.99 price tag is eye-catching, it can take a little research to get the best deal. You may not have to buy three items to get the “three for five” deal–often the same discount will apply to just one item. It also pays to take a close look at unit prices–the price per ounce will help you decide between brands, but also dodge a common manufacturing trick. Packaging can be deceiving, remember, and it's wholly possible that what looks like a good deal may not be!

Waste Less–this is huge. Forty percent of all food purchased in the United States is never eaten, and on top of that, folks don’t realize how much of their “trash” is actually useful. You really can utilize your food offcuts to new things! Bones and scraps can be boiled to become stocks…fruit and veggie pieces can be made into pestos, dressings, teas and flavored oils. The real secret to getting the most bang for your buck comes with a new trend called regrowing. From just a piece of different fruits and vegetables, you can grow a whole new plant! Your one-time investment in a high-quality organically-grown produce item can be used for a lifetime supply of regrown goodness! Here are just some of the things that can be regrown from your offcuts!

-Lettuce -Garlic -Peppers
-Bok Choy -Potatoes -Tomatoes
-Cabbage -Sweet Potatoes -Herbs
-Celery -Ginger -Pumpkins

-Avocados -Carrot -Apples

re-growing-celery

An image of celery being sprouted from offcuts, courtesy of www.davidwolfe.com

There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest for how to grow your scraps into brand new food! What’s even better, whatever you don’t regrow can go on the compost pile to make good soil for what you do choose!

Freezer Force–your number-one money saving tool is in your kitchen right now! Your freezer can do some amazing things–you can preserve your produce and meats for long periods of time…and you should! Your freezer can save you almost $3,000 every year in grocery costs by allowing you to buy in bulk, buy seasonal, and just buy better! Take advantage of great sales when you see them and you can have food on hand year round. When freezing, it’s important to freeze as quickly as possible, to maintain the integrity of the cell membranes (especially in things like berries and softer fruits and vegetables). To do this, we took an idea from food guru Alton Brown–spread your foods out on a single layer on a metal baking sheet and freeze away! Then bag, tag and store for six months to a year. This’ll help you take advantage of sales, seasonal specials and much more! Take a look at this wonderful seasonal produce chart to see when you should be stocking up!

 

producechart

Courtesy of www.beacheslife.ca

Befriend the Butcher–when hunting for your protein of choice, it’s a good idea to talk with your friendly neighborhood butcher! They can help you snag the best deals–all you have to do is ask! Questions like when the meat gets marked down will help you save some serious coin! Also, remember that purchasing certain types of meats can help. Instead of buying skinless, boneless chicken breast (which can cost up to two dollars more per pound) consider opting for whole chickens, bone-in options, even legs and wings! The less processed and broken down they are, the cheaper they’re going to be!

Loyalty Cards–have you got a favorite grocery store? Does that store offer loyalty cards to help you get the best deal? Sign up. Now! They’re almost always free to sign up for, and they can save you big money. Kroger, Acme and Giant Eagle all have wonderful options that also offer fuel discounts if you fill up at their respective gas stations! We’ve got a Kroger card, which saves us twenty percent easily on our purchases, and often more! For example–for a 12 pound thanksgiving turkey, we spent less than ten dollars with our Kroger card! And yes, it was delicious.

Hack Your Wardrobe! More Options with Less Laundry? Yes, It IS Possible!

What Should I Purge?
Ooh boy, where do we begin…there’s always something to get rid of in your closet and wardrobe–remember that! And while you may want to save every sock and shirt of your child’s (because when will they ever be this small again?!), it may be time to let go of some of their baby clothes! Here’s what to look for…
Oldies: For each piece, ask yourself if you have worn the item within the last year. No? Give away.
Holey: Anything with holes you can’t fix, anything threadbare, anything that’s just falling apart at the seams.
Too Small: Those high school jeans of yours? Let ‘em go. Anything that’s too small for your kids that isn’t sentimental (things like an average pair of jeans, shoes, socks, underwear, non-keepsake t-shirts), get rid of them! If you notice your kid’s underpants are getting too small, swap them out for a larger size right away!
Things You’re Saving for Your Kids: If you’ve stashed a bunch of t-shirts or shoes that you could maybe, one day give to your child…let them go. If it’s something sentimental, like your wedding dress, a baby blanket, etc… put it in storage.
Bridesmaid and Formal Dresses: be honest…you figured you might be able to wear it again, but…you never did. Let them go–sell or consign them, or look for a local charity that provides dresses to underprivileged girls for prom!
Accessories: purses, wallets, scarves and hats that you never wear and never carry.
Old Bras: if they’re too small or broken, it’s time to let them go. Not only is a broken bra a dangerous bra (has your underwire ever snapped and tried to stab you? And people don’t think women have it rough…), but bras that are too small are bad for your health! Any bra that’s too tight can trap toxins in the lymph nodes under your arms and cause some serious problems (breast cancer or lymphoma).
Anything From Last Season: this especially goes for kid’s clothes and shoes–any summer stuff you’re holding onto for next year will be too small by the time they can wear it again. Dump it!
Clones: anything you’ve got several of, or many similar styles of. You probably don’t need four floral sundresses…just saying.

clothes

Remember that new and gently used clothes can go to women’s centers or the local Goodwill!

 

What Should I Keep?
Simple! For your kids, hang onto their appropriately-sized, appropriate-seasonal clothes. Good t-shirts, tough jeans, thick, kid-proof shoes and socks. Remember that they don’t need six different flannels or twenty t-shirts–minimize your kid’s clothing collection…and yours too!
Having fewer clothing items will mean that you’ll have to do laundry more often (probably once or twice a week), but you’ll have less to do!

Keystone Clothes
There’s a new trend out there that we absolutely love–where you minimize down to just a few items that are versatile enough to make several outfits. You can do this with your whole family’s wardrobe, too! Here’s what you need…
Black or White Tank Top–these can be paired with jeans, flannels, skirts and shrugs…even PJ pants! Having a black one and a white one is a must.
Black or White T-Shirt–same as above. You can pair these with darn near anything!
Sturdy Pairs of Jeans–dark, light, blue, black, it doesn’t matter! You can grab a few pairs of jeans for each of your family members and wear them on alternating days.
Sweater or Cardigan–great for spring or summer, can be worn with just about anything on this list!
Dress Pants, Skirt, and Button-Up Shirt–just for formal occasions! Or you can piece it out and pair that button-up with jeans, the skirt with your tank and cardigan, or whatever!
Flats and Pumps–these can go with anything. From shorts to jeans and skirts and dress pants…go with a grey or black, or maybe a navy or red, for a versatile splash of color!
Black or White Shrug, Scarf or Tie–for obvious reasons! Accessories that go with everything.
Nice, Cotton Polo in Black or White–a slightly nicer and more casual pairing for your work pants or even jeans! Also great if your work or child’s school calls for plain shirts.

The key is to pick things that can go with everything–like you can see here from these photos from Pinterest…

outfits

…choose multiple-use clothing! And yes, it works for guys too…

outifts1

Cut down your cluttered closet and massively downsize your collection! You’ll be amazed just how much you can do with less–for you, your partner, or your kids!

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Bullet Journal Basics–The World’s BEST Organizational Tool

So, What IS a Bullet Journal?
A bullet journal is a quick and easy way to log all your events, deadlines, reminders, practices, chores and literally anything else you want to remember! All you need is a notebook of your choice and a pen to drastically change your whole life. We’ll walk you through the setup and use of the bullet journal (complete with useful pictures and resources)–you’ll love this miracle journal by the end!

Supplies
First thing you need is a journal–a spiral notebook, a composition book, a moleskin field journal, a few pieces of paper folded and stapled together…whatever you have on hand will work, but if you’d like to purchase a journal, you have a few options.
–Dot Paged Journals
You can head to Staples or Office Max (or hit Amazon) to pick up a specialty journal with dotted pages. What are dot pages? Take a look:

dot-grid

These are favorites of bullet journalling masters, but don’t feel obligated to splurge!

–Grid Paper Notebook
You can go with your classic grid (or graph) paper notebook, which helps if you’re going to add illustrations (and we recommend you do, as it makes it so fun.)
–Classic Wide or College Ruled
You just can’t go wrong with a classic.

When it comes to other tools, the sky's the limit–writing utensils can vary from the standard ballpoint pen to felt-tip markers or fountain pens. Also, having colored pencils on hand for color-coding and a ruler for pinpoint precision isn’t a bad idea either!

Setup
You’ll want to go through and number all your pages from start to finish–even if your notebook has page numbers. It’ll make it easier for you to control your page order and blocking. Then, right in the front, write INDEX on your very first page. Your index will be where you keep track of everything. It’s your entire journal, condensed so you can find whatever you’re looking for…fast!
On the next two pages, you’ll put your future log–this is where you can store everything you expect for the next year. You can break it down by month like this:

future-log-2-1024x768

Once you’ve got your future log set up, it’s time for your month-at-a-glance! This is a more in-depth look at what you need to do each month. We recommend only making the next month’s page at the end of each previous month…and to remember, it’s something you can add to the journal!
Your month-at-a-glance can be set up however you want, but we really like this option–it’s clear and organized and super fun with the cute illustrations:

monthly-spread

The next pages are for your weekly spread. Every event, chore, shopping trip, deadline can go in here. What’s great about this, is that your tasks and events only need to be a few words. Like “Walk Dog”, “Wash Car”, “2:30 PM Practice” and so on. It’s also is where your bullet journal key comes into play. Here we have two examples:

–The “bullet” part of “bullet journal”! Every task is a bullet point, every cancelled or completed task is a bullet with an “X” over it, and a migrated task (we’ll get to that later” has a forward-facing arrow over the bullet, as you can see here…
keytasks

–You can also use other symbols, too. It’s part of the amazing flexibility that makes bullet journalling so appealing! Check out this legend, which we like a whole lot!

tasks

How it Works:
Let’s take an average monday–you have to cook dinner for a neighbor, write a blog post, do a load of laundry, and pick up your son at 4:30 from soccer practice. You’d make a bullet for each of these:

  • Walk Dog
  • Blog Post
  • Laundry (1 Load)
  • Pickup James 4:30 @ Soccer Field
  • Cook Dinner for Marjorie  

After you’ve walked the dog, finished your laundry and picked up your son, your list would look like this:

X Walk Dog

X Laundry
X Pickup James 4:30 @ Soccer Field

But then let’s say you’ve run out of time–you have to cook for your neighbor and you never got to your blog post. That would mean that your post needs migrated to tomorrow–so on the Blog Post bullet, draw a-forward facing arrow and add it to the next day’s entry!

Check it out…

 

img_3544

But the awesome doesn’t stop there–you can add all kinds of amazing modules– things like quote walls, series logs, books to read, music you love…write down whatever is on your mind! Your bullet journal is meant to be a flexible reflection of your crazy life…make it yours!

House Hacks–Organizing Your Life! Tips and tricks for a spotless space

First Thing First–purge! No matter what room you decide to start with, please please purge. You need two containers–a trash bag, for any garbage you find (like wrappers, old magazines, old mail, etc…); and a box or bag– we’ll call that one “Give Away”.

        Once you’ve got that squared away, ask yourself these questions for every item:

        -When’s the last time I used this? (If your answer is “longer than a year ago”, it’s time to let go–stick it in the “Give Away” container. If you’ve used the item within the last six months, hold onto it for now.)

        -Do I suspect I’ll need this by the end of this year? (If you answer “no”, it belongs in the “Give Away”.)

        NOTE: there are a few things to look out for! Shoes that are too small, clothes you’ve never worn (or worn only once), that shirt you hate but still keep for some reason, any gently used toys and books that your kids haven’t touched since Christmas…two years ago. These are all quick and easy “Give Away” items!

        After you’ve purged the room, you’ve got to figure out what to do with whatever’s left…

Bathroom–an orderly bathroom is a clean and safe bathroom! Once you’ve gotten rid of old loofahs, those weird slivers of soap, and mostly empty shampoo bottles, organization comes easy.

        -For your large, clunky bathroom appliances (like blow dryers, curling and straightening irons, etc…) check out your local dollar store for Command hooks and plastic baskets. You can mount the basket to a wall, cabinet or just the side of your sink counter for easy storage.

        -Two recycled milk crates make for amazing, waterproof under-sink storage. In one, you can put extra toilet paper, paper towels, pads, tampons and the like. The other, put cleaning supplies like mirror cleaner, rubber gloves, scouring pads, Clorox wipes, and a toilet brush and plunger!

        -Shallow wine crates can be mounted flat against the wall (four screws through the bottom of the crate into the studs in the wall) to create awesome shelves. You can make one for every member of your family to hold their toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, perfume, retainers, glasses, etc. You can add even more by installing a ring holder (so you can take your rings off before your shower and store them safely), and screw a hook to the bottom, to hang your loofahs or washcloths!

       

Master Bedroom–your bedroom should be a place of peace. This means cutting clutter and creating balance in your space, so you can sleep easy and wake rested and refreshed!

        -No Tech! If you’ve got a TV or game system in your bedroom, that’s already a big no-no. Experts even suggest keeping your cellphone in a separate room, to cut the temptation to stay awake playing Candy Crush.

        -Laundry hack! You know those awesome one dollar tote bags you can buy at most stores, in lieu of using a million plastic bags? TJ Maxx always has really cute ones! Did you also know that those hold exactly one load of laundry when full? For just five or six dollars, you can cut your laundry clutter big time. Even better? They store flat (unlike bulky baskets and hampers) and come with built-in handles!

        -Under-the-bed storage is a godsend, especially if your bedroom is on the smallish side. You can store shoes, extra bedding and pillows, a keepsake box, even a box of extra cables and chargers right under the bed! Need some more space? Consider picking up a set of bed risers, that’ll add some extra inches!

        -TJ Maxx offers an awesome closet accessory that’ll help keep your jewelry organized and out of that junk drawer! A hanging jewelry keeper—it hangs just like your favorite blouse, but holds up to 75 pieces of jewelry in clear pockets so you can find what you’re looking for, fast!

       

Kid’s Bedroom—your child’s bedroom(s) offer a whole new challenge. Why? Toys. Legos, Hot Wheels, tiny Barbie shoes, marbles, puzzle pieces…otherwise known as vacuum killers. Kids tend to play with reckless abandon, and thus, that spotless floor will get wrecked faster than you can say “My Little Pony”. But adding some fun ways to organize might just save your vacuum…and your sanity.

        -Back to the dollar store for their amazing plastic shoeboxes and a stack of sticky labels. They’re clear and durable with locking lids and they stack like a dream. We recommend grabbing at least five per child, but you’re definitely going back to get more. We promise. Store anything from toy cars to dolls and accessories, as well as art supplies and much more. They’re so versatile, and they fit nicely under beds or on shelves. Once you’ve designated a box (as say, the “paint” box), write out a label and stick it to the front so you can quickly and easily find what you’re looking for!

        -Color code your hangers! Buy a different color set of hangers for each of your children—then you don’t have to look through each item to find what belongs to who when you’re putting the clothes away (or trying to dress the kids in the morning!) You can do the same with baskets of socks and underwear, too.

        -Twice a year (around the child’s birthday, and around Christmas, go through a “give away” purge with your child. They’ll learn what it is to give, and you’ll have room to arrange their new gifts.

       

Kitchen—this is the big one. Kitchens are the heart of the home! This is where you cook, you clean up, you eat with your family…and it can become a crazy dumping ground for backpacks, old homework, mail, lunchboxes and coats if you’re not careful!

        -Makeshift mudroom—not everyone has a buffer zone between the outside world and the kitchen. If you don’t have a mudroom, pick the next best thing—maybe a stretch of wall or an entry hall. Add a bench (either with under storage or someplace to store shoes) and a set of hooks on the wall. Each family member will get their own hooks and own place for their shoes. You can even use smaller Command hooks to hang lunchboxes or a basket for gloves and hats! While you’re there, add a place for keys and mail, to keep them off the counters!

        -Look at your ever-growing stack of kitchen utensils. It’s out of hand, we know. You can upcycle an oatmeal canister by covering it with contact paper or paint to make kitchen tool holders!

        -IMPORTANT TIP: if you’ve still, in this day in age, got metal kitchen tools (like spatulas, tongs, whisks, ladles, slotted spoons, etc…), get rid of them! Most of us have a nonstick coating on our pots and pans, and all-metal utensils scrape the dickens out of that coating until it’s non-nonstick, if you catch our drift. Switch out for nylon or silicone kitchen tools to protect your pans! Same goes for glass cutting boards on your precious knives—just don’t do it. Bamboo or plastic. It’ll save you money and hassle!

        -Consider putting a multi-tiered lazy Susan in your spice cupboard—so you can find every spice you’re looking for easily, as well as any other tiny kitchen essentials, like bamboo skewers, toothpicks, twist ties, etc…

        -You can use Command hooks to hang up your pots and pans and their lids! Enough said.

        -Dollar Tree carries some wonderful drawer organizers for your silverware drawer! Made of durable plastic, they’ll stand up against all kinds of abuse. Even better, you can buy them in sets of three and move them around however suits your drawer. And if they ever get dirty, just pop them in the dishwasher! (Oh, and while you’re over at the silverware drawer, now might be the time to find all those weird, lonely spoons and mismatched forks that clearly migrated from some other universe and get rid of them!)