Cookbook Organization is up on the new site!

Hi Everyone!

Here is the link to the newest post on the official site. I will be posting one or two more links on the wordpress site and then I will be officially switched. Thanks for reading and please follow me over on the new site!

Cookbook and Recipe Organization

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Neaten Your Nest in the news link

Here is the link to my appearance on Fox News ‘Foxy Moms’ segment in Colorado Springs yesterday morning. Just click on the picture!

Foxy Moms Segment

My hands were shaking I was so nervous! It was a great experience though and I’m so glad I got the chance!

~Erin

House Cleaning After Guests

I just had a visit from my mom who came in from Phoenix. We had a good time, but now it’s back to the daily grind. I like to clean and do anything I need to do shortly after guests leave. Otherwise, things somehow get left undone for weeks! Here are the things I do after a house guest leaves to get things on track.

1) Wash all linens, towels, etc. – I try to do this asap, as in the same day guests leave or the next day at the very latest. I’m not a big fan of laundry so anything I can do to quickly get it out of my sight helps the queasy feeling a little. 🙂 There’s nothing like fresh linens to make a room feel clean!

POst on guests

2) Clean the guest bedroom and bathroom. – Again, the sooner the better. This one doesn’t really add too much to my normal cleaning routine because these rooms get cleaned weekly anyways. But it’s nice to refill the soap dispenser and put the extra blankets away and any other extra chore that pops up. I also have baskets on the bathroom counter for my guests because we don’t have any drawers in there…it drives me nuts! So I put those away too. These were a little Container Store purchase which you can read about here.

3) Go through any pictures I took while my guest was here. – This includes downloading them on my computer, weeding out the blurry ones or the one’s where I have crazy hair or crazy eyes (which is apparently more often than not), renaming the good ones, uploading them to a photo site and emailing them to my guest. Whew! Good thing I like that process because it usually takes a while.

4) Catch up on emails and to do lists – Inevitably a few things get pushed to the wayside when you have company so it’s good to take a little time to catch up. This could be emails, mail, dry cleaning, or any other chore that just went unfinished while you were entertaining. You don’t even want to see my to do list right now! But doing this blog post was one of the things on my list so…..cross it off!!

5) Grab some tea and take a minute to relax!

POst on guests

~Erin

The perfect place for sheets!

I have been trying to organize my bathroom closet for months now. For some reason, I just can’t get it where I want it. I finally realized that part of the problem is that I hate the way our sheets look in there. We have a few sets and one of them is a super soft and comfy, fluffy set….but they’re huge! They were all crammed in behind the towels and would topple over. Believe me, I’ve tried the fancy folding…I just can’t get it right. And I usually just want to do it fast and get it over with. So, long story short, my towels decided they didn’t want to deal with the sheets as their roommate anymore. My solution???? Under the bed sheet storage!

Sheets - Under the Bed (1)I bought a rolling under the bed storage bin and my sheets fit perfectly. It also had a lid that can open halfway from either side so it makes it even easier to access the sheets.

Sheets - Under the Bed (2)Sheets - Under the Bed (3)And the best part for me is how the towel shelf in my bathroom linen closet looks!

Linen Closet - Towels

So I’m loving under the bed storage now. I already store my wrapping paper under the bed and I just moved my holiday decor under the guest bed, which you can read here. I love using storage that is otherwise going to waste. The bonus is that I can’t see whatever is under there!

Sheets - Under the Bed (4)

~Erin

Mommy, what can we label?

So my 3 year old came up to me holding my labeler today and said “Mommy, what can we label?” A kid after my own heart, I tell ya.

Labeling (1)

Well, mini-me organizer, I’ll tell you what we can label…everything!

Here are just a few things I label around here:

Bathroom organizers:

Labeling (2)File Folders:

Labeling (3)Spice Jars:

Labeling (4)Fridge organizers:

labeling (5)

Jars for pantry items:

Pantry Jars (3)

Labeling obviously helps me keep things organized. But it has a few added benefits:

-It keeps my family organized. When we are all on the same page about what goes where, it makes it easier for us to put thing where they belong.

-The labels help my older son learn to read. He loves typing out the word and hitting the ‘print’ button on the labeler. And he loves being able to put his own belonging where they go. As my younger son grows, I have no doubt he will love to read and learn just as much!

-It helps house guests keep your house the way you want it. I have to admit, I sometimes stealthily follow guests around making sure things are in their right places. I try not to, but I can’t help it! When things are labeled, I tend to ease up a little because my systems tend to stay in place.

-It helps to unclutter my mind. When I don’t have to think about where things go, I don’t spend time worrying about it nearly as much. I just put things where the labels tell me to put them!

-It takes less time to clean a room when everything has a designated space. It also takes less time to put away groceries, do laundry, file papers, pay bills and countless other tasks. And who doesn’t want more time???

~Erin

 

Taxes be done!

Ah, the dreaded tax season. I know just the word ‘taxes’ can make people’s stomach turn into knots and anxiety creep into the forefront. It’s an important task, it can be time consuming, it can help or hurt a financial decision or big purchase you’re planning on. So there is a lot riding on doing them correctly. Right now, taxes are a big focus in blog land, so I won’t go too much into how to do your taxes this year so I don’t repeat too many of my fellow bloggers! However, I have decided to list out my tips and tricks for staying prepared for taxes all year long. Hopefully that way, they won’t be such a burden at the beginning of each year.

Banner - Tax Preparation

1) Designate a folder for the current year’s tax documents. – This is the first and most important step into staying organized for tax season. I just label mine ‘TAXES’ and anything that comes up tax related goes in the folder. Throughout the year, if you get a receipt for a charitable contribution, a 10-99 or other tax statement from an individual or organization, a copy of a real estate tax statement, etc, put them in this folder so you will have them when you need them. If there is an item I also need to file somewhere else (such as a real estate settlement paper in the real estate folder), I make a copy for the tax folder. There are some things (such as medical records) that I don’t copy throughout the year because there are a lot of papers for some categories. I do this all at once at tax time if I’m itemizing these or another type of document. But for the most part, I try to keep track of things in the ‘tax folder’. This helps in two ways:

-You won’t be searching through endless folders and piles when it comes time to pull all of the necessary papers together.

-You won’t forget about a crucial transaction, deposit, donation etc and miss claiming it on your taxes.

2) Keep tax returns from previous years together and in a safe place.  – The typical statute of limitations for the IRS to audit previous returns is 3 years, which means that you should definitely keep your returns for the previous 3 years. However, several states have longer statutes of limitations so it’s best to check with your state’s guidelines. The S.O.L. also increases to 6 years automatically for you if you fail to report more than 25% of your gross income in a year. There are also recommendations on how long you should keep documents concerning the sale of property, securities, retirement fund rollovers and many other types of documents. It is always good to discuss these kinds of concerns with a CPA or other financial professional if you have detailed questions. Simple Tip Time! My personal preference is to keep documents for 7 years. This covers the Statute of Limitations by the IRS as well as time limits for other misc transactions. The returns only take up about 6″ worth of space in a file cabinet and I know I’m covered.

3) Know the supplies you will need when you start doing your taxes. Here is my list:

-Pen and pad of paper – As I start going through the tax preparation documents, I know I will have questions and will also be making a list of any papers I need to submit. Before I even open my file drawer, I make the list so I know what I’m looking for. That way, I only have to pull the files one time. Our accountant sends a questionnaire so I have that as a guideline when making my list.

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-Post it notes and paperclips – Once I start pulling out documents, I want to be able to keep everything straight. I use the large Post-its to make 3 categories – ‘Documents to send’, ‘our copies’, and ‘originals-no copies sent’.

photophoto(2)

There are items which I note in my taxes (such as medical bills), but I don’t actually send in copies of the papers to our CPA. So that is why I have the ‘originals’-no copies sent’ pile. If you are doing your taxes yourself, you probably won’t need the ‘documents to send’ pile. The key here is to keep everything organized and to use a system that works best for you. I use the small post its to separate other misc piles that I might want to keep separate.

-I also pull a blank manila folder out that will hold this year’s return and all related paperwork.

4) It is also a good idea to put a blank piece of paper in the front of your revolving ‘tax folder’. If you think of questions throughout the year, write them down on this paper so you won’t forget them when the next tax time comes around. This is particularly true if you have had an event that is outside your norm, such as the birth of a child, purchase or sale of a property, or atypical charitable or gift contributions.

5) If you file your own taxes, make sure you are up to date on any changes to the tax laws which have occurred in the previous year. There may be an added allowable deduction that could help you out!

I’m no tax expert, but I am a believer that if you have a system for something that is tailored to your individual needs, any project can be made easier and more manageable!

Now it’s time to start preparing your taxes for next year 🙂

~Erin

Guest room closet switch out!

One of the hardest organizational challenges I have in our house is that we don’t have a playroom. Now I know plenty of people get along just fine without a playroom, but it’s just a room I would really love to have. But for now, we have a guest room that doubles as a playroom when people aren’t visiting. However, that means that our ‘guest room’ is continuously filled with airplanes, books, magnets and a mini trampoline. When people come and visit, I try to rearrange a little so that guests feel like they can have a space of their own. However, I do leave the trampoline because I know people secretly love to jump on mini trampolines and I honestly feel like every guest I have will actually sneak a jump on it in the middle of the night. Here is what the closet normally looks like when it is completely playroom time.

20130216-152850.jpg

Now I just make a few little changes when someone is coming to visit. Most of the toys actually stay in the closet because if I had another place to put them….well….they wouldn’t be in the guest room in the first place. 🙂 Here are the changes:

20130216-152954.jpg

-I clear off an entire shelf so that people have a place to put things if they choose to. You can see that there is a plastic bin on the high shelf in the closet. This is holding all of the toys that came off of the toy shelf.

-I hang up a couple of closet organizers since there is not a dresser or regular shelving. Hopefully this helps guests feel like they can unpack and, you know, stay a while!

-I also put a basket of magazines on the top of the toy shelf. This is just a nice touch, I think.

-I also have extra hangers, pillows and a portable heater in there.

Hopefully these little changes create a more welcoming space for guests so they don’t completely feel like they have to sleep inside a Toys R Us.

What rooms do you have that serve multiple functions? How do you create a space that works for both?

~Erin

Cute Valentine’s Craft and Art Organizing Tips!

When I was helping my mother-in-law clean out the Playroom Closet in her house, we came across the cutest little Valentine’s craft called the ‘Lovebug.’ Here is the one we found:

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I actually have no idea if this was made by my husband or if it was one of his siblings, but I loved the idea. Soooo…I stole it for my own kids.

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It’s so simple and we already had all of the supplies, so that made it even better! Just a Popsicle stick, construction paper, pipe cleaners and crayons. Easy!

I am constantly trying to find new ways to store and organize photos and art projects so that they don’t take over my house. I do have a scrapbook for the kids crafts, but since Evan started preschool a couple of weeks ago, I know the sheer volume of felt, crayon drawings and tissue paper animals will soon overwhelm me.

I take pictures of the kid’s crafts whether I decide to keep the actual craft or not. That way I always have a record of them. For my husband’s birthday last week, I gave him a framed collage print of my favorite of Evan’s art from 2012. Here is what it looks like:

Evan's Art - 2012We are going to do a new one every year for both of the kids. When the frames get to be too much, we will just put the 8″ x 10″ prints in a photo album. And of course, I will always have the files on my computer too.

I love to have some of the actual crafts, so I will keep on doing my scrapbook for my favorite pieces. However, I try to keep the paper in our house to a minimum, so I’m hopping on board the technology train to help me wrangle in some of the paper clutter. Scanning, JPEGs, and collage prints are some of my very favorite ways to preserve memories.

How do you preserve your family’s memories but also contain the paper clutter?

~Erin

 

Loving these products!

I’m excited once again to be participating in the Collectively Creative blog post, dreamed up by Kelly over at Cobwebs, Cupcakes and Crayons! This month’s editions is ‘Lovey-Dovey’.

The Lovey-Dovey Edition Logo

To show my lovey-dovey side, I’m going to talk about products I can’t live without. I can hear you now….’Isn’t she such a romantic?’  I know, I know, home products aren’t exactly the most lovey-dovey thing I could talk about, but when your life is clean and organized, don’t you just feel lovey-dovey all over? 😉

There are not many products or items that I love so much I consistently recommend them to people. However, there are a few:

1) Paper Shredder – I’m KIND of obsessed with my shredder. I use it all.the.time.  I try to regularly shred anything I want to throw away that has any account number or other personal information. Also, twice a year, I go through my entire file cabinet and shred anything I no longer need. This keeps my file cabinet from getting ridiculously out of control.

Paper ShredderMy best tip for buying a shredder…get a cross cut shredder. This cuts the paper both vertically and horizontally so that pieces are much more difficult to put back together should you happen to have someone digging through your trash (insert creepy music here).

2) Vinegar –  I keep a spray bottle on my kitchen counter at ALL times. Vinegar is one of the few cleaning products I use and I use it everywhere….counters, toilets, mirrors, trash cans, dog food bowls, you name it, it’s probably getting voraciously sprayed with vinegar as you read this. It’s a natural disinfectant, a deodorant and a safe alternative to many of the chemicals used every day in so many households. Over at Pinterest to Panache, vinegar is mentioned as a great drain cleaner along with baking soda. Who knew that elementary school science fair volcano we all did could turn into a great natural cleaning product.

3) My Labeler – I can pretty much label anything. Clothes, baskets, bins, drawers, garage items, paint cans.  Now maybe if I label my dogs and kids, I’ll actually call them by the right name when I’m yelling!

4) My Kindle – I am one of those true converts who said I would never get an e-reader. I just love flipping through the pages, the smell of the books, blah blah blah. It’s all true, but I’ve also come to realize a few things. When you’re juggling baby #2 and don’t have a hand to flip the page, the Kindle is AMAZING!

kindleI have also recently jumped onto the Ipad bandwagon. I absolutely love this little machine too, but I’m still learning about it. One of the great things about the iPad is that I have downloaded the Kindle App and my husband and I can easily share books on our Kindle account.

Organization bonus!  Since we are now downloading a lot of books instead of buying the actual books, we are saving space and reducing clutter in our home.

6) My minivan – seriously, have you ever driven a minivan? If not, you’re missing out. They are not the best in the Colorado snow, but hardy nonetheless.

caravan

And it’s an organizers dream car! So many bins and cubbies, two glove compartments, enough cup holders for a football team and stow and go seating so the seats can completely disappear from view without taking them out of the van. We can fit ridiculous amounts of stuff in this vehicle and just took a cross country trip with 2 kids and 3 dogs and all of our stuff. Again, I am a true convert here. This was me 4 years ago…”I will NEVER own a minivan!” Hmmmm….here I am listing it on my favorite things post. How times have changed.

All of these things help me to stay organized and control the clutter in my life. They are useful, practical, reasonably priced and used every day at my house. What products do you use all the time that make your life easier?

And what else do I love? The posts listed below brought to you by some lovely bloggers all sharing in the Collectively Creative ‘Lovey-Dovey’ edition!

I Love You More Than… – (Cobwebs, Cupcakes & Crayons)
Heart To Heart – (Pillows A-La-Mode)
Top Ten Romantic Movies of All Time – (The Thinking Closet)
DIY Heart T-Shirt – (NorthStory)
[DIY] 12 Pre-Planned Date Cards – (Inspire and Indulge)
The Love Letters – (Mrs. And The Misc.)
Valentine’s Day Bon Bon’s – (Happy Little Kiwi)
Lovey Dovey School Lunch Ideas – (Time With Thea)
Give a Fortune of Love – (Green Door Hospitality)
Kniting Hearts – (Gentle Stitches)
A little Lovie magic – (The Thing About Joan)
Sending hugs – (Cul de Sac)
Give a Fortune of Love – (Green Door Hospitality)
Will You Be My Valentine? – (A Ponytail Kind Of Day)

Playroom Closet Makeover

It’s time for a playroom closet makeover and reveal. I am super excited about this project.

Nan & Gary - 2013 January - Playroom Closet (10)

It was another room to tackle at my in-laws house and it was fun for me in a lot of ways:

1) This was a fairly big project and I LOVE a challenge! And who isn’t ridiculously excited about organizing a playroom closet? Wait, I’m the only one?

2) This is now the place where my kids play when we visit my in-laws so there was an added benefit for me too!

3) I also got to help go through so many toys that belonged to my husband and his siblings while they grew up. How adorable is that?!

So let’s start with the before pics of this daunting task:

Left side of Playroom closet - before

Left side of Playroom closet – before

Right side of playroom closet - before

Right side of playroom closet – before

This is a large closet and the door is in the middle so when you walk in, you can go to the left or the right. Or, NOT go to the left or right because of all of the stuff. The space was filled to capacity and partly dark because you couldn’t get to the burned out light bulbs to change them.

The first step was to take out everything! This took a long time and resulted in the main playroom area looking like this:

Nan & Gary - 2013 January - Playroom Closet (3)Holy Moly! My initial thought was that we would never get all of that stuff back in there. Then came the realization that if all of that stuff had to go back in there, I wasn’t doing my job. We quickly started a sell/donate pile that eventually grew to about the size of a dinosaur.

Nan & Gary - 2013 January - Playroom Closet (12)There was also a pile for trash that started growing out in the hallway.

After everything was out of the closet, we looked at our organization options. There were three existing shelving units that were perfect for toy storage. There were also 5 large storage bins and 2 of these were completely empty!

We got our general layout in mind and put the storage bins and shelving back in the closet with nothing in them, just to make sure we liked the flow and that everything fit well. We also moved a smaller shelf from the playroom into the closet.

We decided the left side of the closet would be mostly focused on non-toys. There was a large file cabinet with activities and papers that we pushed back against the wall. There were also numerous boxes of items that my husband and his siblings needed to go through because they were filled with their memories and personal storage. All of those items got piled up next to the file cabinet. Now obviously these need to be gone through, but my mother-in-law was the only one there with me and it wasn’t her stuff so we designated that as a safe zone for the clutter. We did try to make it as pretty as possible. Here is the left side now.

Left side of playroom closet - after

Left side of playroom closet – after

You can also see the small wood shelf which now holds clear plastic bins of toys. These separate smaller items like toy cars, dinosaurs etc. They are great because the kids can see exactly what is inside each bin without taking it off the shelf. There are also a few baby/ toddler toys on lower shelves which my one year old can pull off and play with.

Since this closet has an angled ceiling, I thought it might present a problem with fitting everything in. However, it turns out that the 5 large storage bins fit perfectly underneath the angled edge. You can even open the lids without them hitting the ceiling. These bins became storage for larger items. One for stuffed animals, one for balls, etc.

Nan & Gary - 2013 January - Playroom Closet (11)

The best part is that one of these bins is still empty so if another storage need comes up, there’s an option!

The right side of the closet is my favorite part. We put the 2 large shelving units and the smaller shelf on this side. The small shelf is now for books and board puzzles.

Nan & Gary - 2013 January - Playroom Closet (10)

One of the large shelves is for games and the other is for misc items (though they are all grouped and/or containerized).

Nan & Gary - 2013 January - Playroom Closet (7)Nan & Gary - 2013 January - Playroom Closet (8)

Basket for dress up hats

Basket for dress up hats

I am beyond thrilled with how this turned out. The space is clean, bright and organized. The best part was that when my 3 year old went in there, he stayed in there for more than 2 hours playing….in a closet! See, even 3 year olds rather be in a space that is organized!

Ok, one more time with the Before & After photos!

Left Side - B&A (3) Right Side - B&A (3)I love it!

~Erin