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Quick Kitchen Tips

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks, so this weekend, there’s a two-fer!

For this post, I’m going to chat about a few small changes I have made in our kitchen that have already made me smile.

First problem:  The top of our fridge had become a breeding ground for daily use items.  A few years ago I contained our boxes of cereal in a metal bin we acquired along the way.  The rest of the top of the fridge became a crazy mess of prepackaged snacks to throw in lunches, cereal bars, protein powder, etc.  It was a visual catastrophe.  Add to the that the Gatorade bottles that usually took up residence on the floor near our pantry, and we had two areas crying out for help.  (And, no, there was not room in my small pantry…)

I didn’t really want to buy anything new–because that would require me making an extra stop on an already busy day…  And I really wanted to take care of the problem right then and there.  Patience is a virtue I strive for and sometimes miss.  Luckily, I have storage solutions hanging around all over my house.  I didn’t want to use a plastic milk crate or anything that wasn’t “pretty” since the whole point was to make the area look nicer.  Instead, after wandering around my house, I decided to re-purpose a basket I bought a few months ago.  (I had read in blogs about having a basket in high traffic areas to take things back where they belong.  This was in place of piling things on the stairs–a bad habit my hubby was glad to see disappear.  I bought one for the bottom of the stairs and one for the top.  I found I used the one at the bottom all the time and the one at the top not really at all.  So this basket has been moved to the top of the fridge.)

A view from the top...

A view from the top…

A place for all our lunch making items.

Finally, a place for breakfast and lunch making items we use every day.











The basket now houses most of our top of fridge clutter–except for two large containers of powder drinks.  They have found a home in the pantry for now.  It looks so much better!  I wish I had before and after pics–but once again I was so much in the zone that I forgot to snap the before.  But here is the lovely after!

My other problem kitchen area was my process for leaving notes on food containers letting my family know if they were to be saved for meals or safe to eat whenever.  I was using little post-it notes, but ran out–and the moisture/cold of the fridge usually meant they didn’t stick very well.  I KNEW there had to be a better solution.  Then, like a sledge-hammer, it hit me.  I was standing in front of the fridge looking at my dry erase calendar and menu planner and thought–DUH!  Write on them with dry erase marker!  So, I am.  Since the lids are plastic, the dry erase marker comes right off.  Yeah!

Easy does it!

Easy does it!

I love it when a few small details come together to make life easier.  Maybe that’s why I’m somewhat of an organizational junkie.  I wonder what other quick tips could make the kitchen function even better.

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Spicing Up the House with Holiday Decorations

For the first time this year, it actually feels like fall.  Since we are already a month into school, it’s felt far overdue.  And, maybe I feel that way more than some because this is hands down my favorite time of year.  The crispness to the air.  Being able to cuddle up in sweaters without the need for snow boots or heavy coats.  The smell of pumpkin spice candles.  And, festooning the house in all of our fall and Halloween decorations.

Some of our fall goodies.

Some of our fall goodies.

For most of this blog I have talked at length about downsizing, not holding onto every little thing, donating and gifting items, etc. to keep the clutter at bay.  Holiday decorations seem to be my one exception to the rule.  I absolutely LOVE to decorate for the holidays (fall/Halloween, Christmas, Easter), and I am not a minimalist when it comes to doing so.  Part of it has to do with the fond memories I have of decorating the house when I was a kid and having special decorations that my brother and I had that were just ours to put in our rooms.  And, part of it is sharing that same joy with my daughter.  When I told her it was time to get out the fall decorations, she was so excited.  I’m pretty sure a happy dance was involved.  Everything we took out of the boxes produced a smile–and usually solicited the question, “Can I put this in my room?”  I did try to say yes as much as possible.

So, how does a minimalist in every other aspect of her life handle holiday decorations?  With organization and a plan, of course.  To begin, we need somewhere to keep all this stuff.  The small storage room in our basement is home to our holiday decorations, among other things.  One full set of plastic shelving is home to our main holiday decorations.  And, we also have a few rubber tubs that house decorations as well.

This is one of the bigger grapevine wreaths I have made.  I always have fun designing them for us or for gifts--glue gun burns and all.

This is one of the bigger grapevine wreaths I have made. I always have fun designing them for us or for gifts–glue gun burns and all.

I separate out our fall and Halloween decorations into two separate boxes.  This works out really well, because when it’s time for the Halloween stuff to go back in storage, the fall items can stay out until we are ready for Christmas to descend upon our humble abode.  To store the fall, Halloween, and Easter decorations, I used small cardboard bankers boxes.  They take up less room than some of the plastic versions, plus I had them hanging around.  The Easter decorations take up two boxes, mainly because ceramic Easter baskets take up an awkward amount of space.  At some point, when my daughter is older, we may downsize these.

Our fall decorations are spread out through our living room and kitchen.  The Halloween items live in our guest/kiddo bathroom and my daughter’s room.  We have a variety of decorations ranging from a large homemade grapevine wreath, to ceramic pumpkins, to a family of scarecrows.  About half are handmade and half are purchases.  And they are all crafty or cute–no scary decos in our house.

Some of the Halloween fun in the bathroom.  The fall wall hangings stay up through November.

Some of the Halloween fun in the bathroom. The fall wall hangings stay up through November.

I really have tried to limit the amount of decorations we have for the fall and spring holidays.  They only take up one shelf in the storage room, which isn’t bad in my book.  Whenever we get offers from family members to take their old decorations or we walk down the holiday aisles at the store, I try to think about where exactly that piece will fit in our home and if it will later on fit in one of the small storage boxes.  Sometimes this is an internal battle, because there is so much cool stuff out there.  If I had more storage space, we might be in trouble.

Our Christmas decorations are an entirely different story.  The number and scope of them definitely outdoes the other holidays.  Just our tree and village of Christmas houses take up a large amount of display and storage space.  We even have enough decos that I am able to create theme rooms.  We have the Santa room, the snowman room, the moose room (don’t ask–family thing), etc.  I think the themes is the organizational monster in me rearing it’s garland wrapped head.

Even though we do have a larger collection of Christmas items, I have tried to keep some of my organization strategies in mind.  Last year, I noticed that there were a number of items that I hadn’t put out in the last few years that I had been given or purchased from a variety of places.  They always seemed to take up half of one of our large tubs once everything else was out on display.  And, I knew it was time to let them go and donated them to a local thrift store.  We have also tried to corral most of the Christmas goodness onto a few shelves and a couple of large bins.  We did notice that quite a bit of the space was taken up by boxes for the ceramic houses and consolidated them into plastic tubs when possible.  Again, I try not to add items unless I know exactly where I would want to put and store them.

Decorating for the holidays is a family tradition–one that I want to keep going with my family.  We all love them and they help us enjoy the seasons even more.  I think every person out there has their one area they have trouble downsizing.  I’m glad this is mine.  What’s yours?

p.s.  After really looking through our storage room, I think it’s time to go at it again and give it a good once over.  I usually do this a couple of times a year–and I always plan to keep it in better shape in the future.  This does not usually happen.  I’m hoping by adding labels and creating zones, I will really be able to use this space to its full potential.  More to come on this one!

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Putting Our Routines to the Test

Back to school time has really put our routines to the test.  We have so much new going on in the lives of all our family members that it has been a very interesting start of this new year.  I can honestly admit I have been successful in some areas and not so great in others.

Let’s go with the successes first!

1)  Meal planning and meal prep are still happening each week.

2)  I am prepping our lunch and school bags every night before bed.

3)  Clean routine is going strong.  I am pretty much keeping up on the daily goals-or get to it the next day.  I am even back in the swing of my swing days–chores I do once a month like vacuum the furniture.

4)  When I ask my daughter if she wants to do this or that activity, I actually listen to her and go with the flow.  Some activities she has no choice in (mainly because I think they are fun and we haven’t done them before), but there are others that are up to her.  She’s still way more interested in staying home and playing than most outings–unless they involve her friends or family.

5)  Everyone going to bed at a decent hour.  All of us have been zonked at night, so this has not been a problem yet.

6)  Keeping a running list of what I need to do.  Yes!  Doing that.  Writing it on the pretty laminated form I made–epic fail!  Must find better location or way to do this.  I would like to eliminate the little slips of paper from my life and keep everything in on place.

Not so great:

1)  Checking things off the daily charts.  I think this is mainly because they are so routine to us that I don’t really need the chart, but I also want to make sure we are still accountable–so we’ll be focusing on that this week.

2)  Exercising every morning.  I have been plain worn out every night, and it has been very difficult to get out of bed each morning at 5:00.  It’s usually about 5:20-5:30, and by then I only have time to get my other AM duties done if I want to get to work on time.  Another goal for the week.  Get up and exercise!

3)  Extra weekly chores.  I thought it would be a good idea to add in some extra weekly chores like cutting my daughter’s finger nails, brushing the cats, or vacuuming my car.  These are all things I want to do each week, but they just aren’t all getting done.  Maybe the exhaustion has something to do with it or the lack of space on or completion of our charts.  But, I am hoping to get them into our routine more…well routinely…soon.

That’s all I have for now.  Hopefully I will be able to post something more in-depth in the next few weeks if and when things slow down around here.

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