It’s Neaten Your Nest’s One Year Anniversary

Exactly one year ago, I wrote my very first post for the Neaten Your Nest blog. I had no idea where the blog would take me or any of the career opportunities I had dreamed up in my head. As I sit here today, I still have no idea where Neaten Your Nest will take my life, but I do know that I’m loving the experience, the challenges, the learning and the adventure I’m getting out of blogging and setting up a business.

Here are few things I have truly loved about this process:

1) I have gotten to ‘meet’ so many amazing people through the blogging world. Though the amount of information is overwhelming, the bloggers I’ve been able to connect with have inspired me in ways too many to count! I have learned about patience, motivation, creativity, creating the life you want, connecting with your family, amazing recipes and inspiring stories. Check out my blogroll page for just a very few of my favorites!

2) I have learned sooooo much about organizing. The wealth of information available has helped me think outside the box when it comes to organizing. I have found great products, clever tips, and beautiful inspiration.

3) I am absolutely enthralled with Pinterest! It has been a great resource for blog ideas, inspiration for my life and it helps me keep some of my many thoughts and projects organized. You can find me on Pinterest here.

4) The blog has kept me motivated to pursue a dream and, in some ways, it also holds me accountable for following through. Just having an audience helps spur me to action every day.

Here are some things that have been not so glorious in the journey:

1) Writer’s block….There are days when I will just stare at my computer, the words ‘New Post’ taunting me as I try to formulate even one sentence that pertains to my topic.

2) Comparison to others. Since there are so many great blogs and websites out there, I am constantly questioning if what I am doing is good enough, do my posts make sense to the reader, have I interjected just enough humor to make people smile a little, do my pictures look ok (this is my biggest struggle!)? It is a hard lesson to learn that comparisons only defeat you and your purpose.

3) Technology!!! I have gotten a fleeting grasp on a few aspects, but I still have a long way to go. HTML code what? I would love to feel like I have mastered a technological skill set, whether it’s web design, Pinterest, photo manipulation, or anything really. But with the constant upgrades and additions to everything technology related, it’s hard to keep up!

The good thing about the bad things is that I am not alone. The more I talk to people, the more I realize that everyone struggles in some areas, no one is perfect and we can all be amazing in our own ways.

Here are a few of my favorite and most popular posts from the last year:

So what does the future hold for Neaten Your Nest???

~Better photographs to showcase organizational processes, products and more.

~An increased focus on ‘green’ topics. Look for new info under the Green Nest page!

~A focus on organizing the business side of NYN. Look for posts on the business of blogging, files, marketing, etc.

~Features from other bloggers who have expertise in areas where I am lacking!

~Additional Pages and Features here on the site, such as the upcoming ‘Mindful Nest’ series, where we talk about the mental, emotional and other health related benefits to being organized. I will also be working on the ‘Nest Egg’ series, where I talk about financial organization.

If you have been a reader of Neaten Your Nest over the past year, thank you so much for all you do. Your readership makes this whole process worthwhile. If I can help someone or inspire a bit of organizational creativity in this hectic life, then I am doing my job. If you are new to Neaten Your Nest, Welcome! I look forward to sharing many more ideas and stories with you for years to come. Thanks!

~Erin

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Saving my sanity – cleaning schedule

We try to keep up with the cleaning at our house. But with full time jobs, kids, dogs, and activities, it’s sometimes hard to keep track of. Even if things get done, its hard to remember when they were done last, especially when it comes to tasks that need to be done monthly, quarterly or twice a year. So I finally made up a cleaning schedule for our house. Here are the basics:

A couple notes on this cleaning schedule:

-I did not include daily cleaning tasks. I figure that if I can’t remember what I cleaned that particular day, then I’m really in trouble.

-The list I made will not ultimately be the final product. I left a little room so that as I think of things that I forgot (I’m sure there will be many), I have room to add a few. I already realized that I left ‘clean windows’ off, so I’ll have to make an adjustment.

– I created a little section for general ‘To Do’ items. I have a calendar that we write events, appointments, etc on, but sometimes I just need a little place to jot down something I don’t want to forget to do.

On to the next step! I couldn’t just tape this to my fridge and be done with it because then I would have to print a new one every week. So I decided to make it into a dry erase cleaning list.

A couple weeks ago, I found an 8″ x 10″ picture frame at a garage sale for 50 cents. Score! I painted the frame with some leftover paint I had and let it dry.

I’m not known for my vibrant color palette, so I went with a neutral gray that I recently painted my pantry with.

Then I just popped the cleaning list behind the glass:

Ta da! A dry erase cleaning list. Now I can write the dates/ months on the list and check off tasks. When the week, month, quarter or year changes, I can just wipe off the marker and start fresh. I even have a little notes field. Here is an example of the board in use:

I only had one dry erase marker in my whole house, so my plan is to go find a couple different colors and maybe one with a finer point, but you get the idea!

I also added some magnetic strips to the back of this so I could hang it on my fridge. Now I have a clear schedule for everyone to reference, and it’s in a convenient place. The other bonus is that since I had all of the other materials, I only invested 50 cents in this project. Yea!

Happy Cleaning!

~Erin

15 Minutes

Have you ever thought about how many activities you probably spend too much time doing on a daily or weekly basis?

Too much TV? (guilty!)

Browsing the endless boards on Pinterest? (guilty!)

Staring into the pantry wondering what to snack on? (guilty!)

Thinking about how you should get started on that big organizing, cleaning, etc but don’t know where to jump in? (guilty)

There never seems to be enough time in the day, but if I really dissect what I typically do, I know there’s ways to be much more efficient. I find that putting a time limit on something will keep you from a) getting sucked in and spending too much time on something unimportant or b) keep you from feeling overwhelmed by a big project. This week I put that theory into practice by breaking down a couple of projects:

-First, I wanted to tackle some of my closet. I try to go through my clothes a couple times a year to weed out what I don’t wear. That task is a little daunting though. So I decided to spend 15 minutes and just go through the sweater and jackets first. I went through and quickly pulled out anything I knew I wasn’t going to wear again and then tried on the rest. I found that I even had time left to try on my dresses. Now I’m not known to be a go-to girl for fashion so I don’t have very many dresses at all. Anyways, I still tried them all on. And here, 15 minutes later, is what I got rid of:

Gone!

9 Items….Gone! 8 sweaters or dresses and I also got rid of a pair of jeans I know I don’t wear. 15 minutes went by so fast and my closet is so much nicer now. And I’m donating all of the clothes, so that little feel-good perk doesn’t hurt! 🙂

Here’s another example:

My nightstand drawer has become the catch all for me at night. It’s where I shove everything to get it out of the way. But I realized this frustrates me when I actually need something out of there (picture me fighting to get the drawer open because one of the 8 books has lodged itself in the open position and is holding the drawer shut somehow). I was sick of this part of my nightly routine so I decided to devote 15 minutes and fix it.

You can see books, pens, paper, remotes and that weird green thing on the far right is one of those exercise band things. I thought “surely, if I have this easily accessible, I’ll exercise!” ….nope.   15 Minutes later:

Ta Da! I did the following steps:

1) Took everything out

2) Cleaned the drawer

3) Decided what items I really needed/ wanted in there (6 pens? no thank you) and put those items back in.

4) Then I put everything else in it’s rightful place…far, far away from this drawer.

So there are two 15 minute projects that went delightfully right! I have a few more 15 minute projects in the works, so I’ll keep you posted on those!

Here are a couple of other small regular projects that I know I can do in 15 minutes or less:

-Do the dishes and straighten up the kitchen

-Go through the mail

-Put away laundry and straighten up the bedrooms

Knowing that each of these won’t take a huge chunk of time makes is easier to motivate myself to do them regularly.

Sunday Survey:

What area of your home could use 15 minutes of your time?

~Erin

 

Kid’s Space – 1/2 Closet, 1/2 Play Area!

I’m so excited to share my most recent organization project….my kid’s closet! We are very lucky that the house we moved into has a ridiculous amount of storage. Whoever built this house was desperately afraid of running out of closet space, so we have benefited from that paranoia! Our kids room has a walk in closet with great shelving and a window for natural light. Love it! Our kids just don’t have enough clothing to necessitate this kind of space. However,  we do NOT have a separate playroom for their ridiculous amount of toys. Soooooo……we decided to use the top half of the closet for their clothes and storage and make the bottom half a mini playroom for them. Yea! Here are the shelves in the closet:

Right Side of Closet

Left Side of Closet

And here is what we did with the bottom half of the closet. Our 3 year old, Evan, is the only one old enough to play in it right now, but he absolutely loves it.

This is his tent fort and a football that holds all of his stuffed animals (except the 4 million animals that are on his bed).

There are 2 bins here, one for trains and one for animals. The top shelf has a basket for blocks and his ‘Alphie’ robot. He loves (I mean loves) this toy. This was a gift from Evan’s Aunt Maria and family (shout out!) and it’s great. Highly recommended!

The left side of the ‘play closet’ has a mini rocking chair (family heirloom!) and a magnetic board from Nanny and Pap (also a favorite!). Notice the very subtle subliminal message on the board. The boys’ laundry basket is also here.

The right side has a Lego table, car racey toy thing (technical term) and a shelf for books. The basket under the Lego table holds additional Legos and I got the basket at a dollar store…score!

Now that’s the fun part for Evan. Here’s the fun part for me 🙂  First, I took all of the non-toy items out of the closet. Then I sorted through and organized the clothes. Here was the process:

-Separate everything into piles: keep, donate, sell

-Then I went through the keep pile and put all items that I wasn’t using for a while in one place. This included things my older son had outgrown, but my younger son would not be in for a while. These were separated by size and placed in bags or bins for storage (and labeled of course!).

-Then I separated the leftover keep pile into short sleeves, pants, long sleeves and outerwear.

-Then I decided that my younger son, Owen (we call him O-Man) would get light blue and dark blue hangers and my older son, Evan (we call him Ev-dog) would get green and white.

-Then I re-arranged the bars in the closet so that I could put O-Man’s stuff on top and Ev-dog’s stuff on bottom. Here are their clothes!

That was the longest part of the project by far! Then I moved onto organizing everything else.

I found some cute baskets somewhere in my house and put them in here. Since there are so many shelves, we aren’t going to use them all, so I added some photos of the dogs!

Shoes…and more dog photos!

Baskets and bins gathered from around the house! These will be used for mittens, hats, sheets, and extra baby wipes.

A personal and sentimental touch. This is a beautiful decoration my sister Kelly (more shout outs!) brought us from India when I was pregnant with Evan. I hung it by the window in the closet.

So excited about this one! I had a pile of blankets that didn’t fit nicely into any bin I had. They always fell off the shelf and if you wanted to get one, you couldn’t do it without making a mess. I hung a bar from this shelf and just hung them up. Easy! Love it!

This is the left side of the closet now. I love how open the space is and how everything has a home! You can barely see it, but at the top of this photo is a plastic bag filled with clothes. Those are the next size up for my younger son. He is growing so fast that I wanted to keep them accessible. When I take them out, the current clothes will go into that bag and a new label will go on.

Also, I hadn’t mentioned the drawers yet, but the bottom 3 are used for larger toys for Evan since he can reach them. The upper two are hats and swimsuits.

This is the right side of the closet now. I had an extra square of space so I just hung up an old Chutes and Ladders board on the wall! This was actually my husbands game when he was younger. My son has the new version and loves it so I thought it would be so neat to have this hanging up as art!

Now you may notice that the walls are blank and I don’t yet have any fancy labels for my bins. Well, that will eventually come. But for right now, my favorite part of this whole project is….it only cost $3.00! The only thing I had to buy was a couple packages of plastic hangers. Everything else I already had. This has been a great project for both me and the kids. We can now all use the space effectively and enjoy all of it’s functions. I’m elated!

Lessons Learned:

-Don’t be afraid to use a space for something other than it’s original intention.

-Shop your house before you shop the stores.

-Using personal touches in organizing and decorating will make a house into a home and a ‘Good Space into a Great Place’. Write that one down people! Should I just trademark that phrase now? I think I will.

Have you all had any successful organizations lately? I would love to hear about them! Til next time…

~Erin

Memories all around

Wow, where did yesterday go? I completely missed Things I Love Thursdays! We’ll be back next week with that feature!

In all seriousness, we had a car in the shop, my husband went out of town, I had both kids, and then went to dinner with friends. It was a busy, productive and fun day overall. Of course, I can hardly let a day go by without getting bitten by the organizing bug, so I was in my room at 10 last night going through boxes of pictures and memories. I have tried numerous systems over the years, but none of them allow me to completely reach my goals with these types of items. Here is what I want from photo/ memory organization:

-I don’t want to keep too much. There are so many little trinkets, tickets, photos, maps, boarding passes, etc that you have to draw the line somewhere.

-I want to be able to look through all of the photos and memorabilia easily and share them with my friends and family.

-I want them stored in a manner that’s out of the way, but still pretty to look at.

So there are the 3 main goals. Here is what I started with:

Not the prettiest photo storage I’ve ever seen

So many boxes (all completely uncoordinated) and they were in several places in my house. Also, they were so difficult to go through…fun, but difficult. So here’s my plan to streamline:

-Go through each item and carefully consider whether I need it or not. (So far I’ve gone through several boxes and you wouldn’t believe how much I threw away.)

-There are some items I want to somehow keep, but they take up too much room (such as thicker greeting cards) or I don’t see a reason to keep the physical item. For those items, I’m going to scan them in to my computer. Then for scrapbooks, I’m going to print small, flat versions of them. That way I have them scanned and printed, but the amount of space taken up is greatly reduced. (Sidenote: Even for some of the stuff I kept, I still scanned them in case something happened to the actual photo album they end up in)

-I’m going to actually put these into my scrapbooks! This part will take a while, but then the items will be out of boxes and they will be easily accessible to look at and to share.

Between last night and today, I’ve already spent about 5 hours doing this and I’m only completely through 2 boxes! And that’s just sorting, purging and scanning…not even putting them in albums! Wow.

Lessons Learned:

-I have to keep up with this from now on. I have 7 years of memories piling up in the batter’s box waiting to go into albums. That’s not even counting pictures printed from previous years and stuff from when I was a kid. I mean I literally had a whole box of stuff for each of the last 7 years.  Let’s do this!

-I have to be more selective of the memories I keep. Looking at the pile of stuff I threw out, I realized that I should have been a tad (understatement!) more picky about what went into the boxes in the first place.

-I have to plan ahead for future storage. Whenever I needed a new storage box, I would go buy one, but they were always different than the previous ones so nothing matches. I’m going to buy enough boxes to store my current stuff, but then add a few extra so the ‘memory’ corner can look more uniform. I have found so many I like, but most are pricey, so I’m thinking “can I possibly make something beautiful and functional from a cheap blank slate of a box?” I think I’m gonna try! Here is some inspiration for me though:

This is actually home made! I’m so jealous of the skills!

 

This is a plain box which has been decorated with stencils. So many possibilities here!

 

I’m ‘kind of’ obsessed with cube storage so this might be an interesting way to get my memories corralled but still have them look great!

 

There are so many ways to store and present your memories, but it doesn’t make much sense if you can’t keep up with it and easily enjoy them once in a while. I will keep you posted on the progress. This is a HUGE project people!

~Erin

In honor of Dads….

In honor of dads and Father’s Day:

Here are a couple ways we organize my husband’s stuff. To be honest, he is as much of an organizer as I am….he just doesn’t have a blog 😉

Ladder on Hooks

Ok, so hanging a ladder on hooks isn’t a new idea, but I thought I would point it out for two reasons:

1) We have a shed where we keep most of our larger items, but we use the ladder fairly often. So by making a space for it in the garage, it is easier to access and saves us time and hassle.

2) This ladder is fairly lightweight so even I can get it off the hooks. It doesn’t make sense to organize something if it isn’t functional for the people who are using it. If this ladder was heavier, we probably would have it lower. But because it’s light, I can get it down and it stays way out of the way!

Our camping supplies are also in our garage. However, they are on a high shelf which is hanging from the ceiling. It created a ton of storage space but still allows easy access using the aforementioned ladder. 🙂 We have labeled bins which make various supplies easier to grab.

My husband keeps his most often used tools on a pegboard in the garage and the ones he doesn’t use often are kept in the shed. Even I know where each tool goes and I try to always put them back. 🙂

Here fishy, fishy

Sidenote: I just thought I would snap a photo of his tackle box. He keeps this super organized as well and is constantly refining the system!

Last but not least for today: He always keeps a cover on the grill when we’re not using it. He is of the opinion (and I agree) that if you have something nice, you should take care of it and protect it.

Speaking of taking care and protecting something, I just want to thank my husband for being such a caring and protective father. I can’t think of any way he could be more devoted or set a better example for his two boys.

Fishing

And I also want to thank my own dad for being so wonderful and caring.

Me, My Dad and The Boys

I’m lucky to have such wonderful men in my life. Happy Father’s Day!

~Erin

Sunday Survey!

Things I Love Thursdays – Once A Month Cooking

I’m going to borrow a little here…..

The concept is widely known, but I’ve chosen to use the Once  a Month cooking from:

http://onceamonthmom.com/

I’m also borrowing from a post I already posted on my other blog:Self Pursuits.

Self Pursuits is a blog I started with my friend Katie and the plan is to pursue a new hobby, activity, etc for one month within a given category. We are on a small hiatus for June because we are busy and exhausted people. But come July, we’ll be back in Pursuit!

Anyways, one month the broad category was food/ cooking so I decided to try ‘Plan Ahead Cooking’. This involved going through my cookbooks, organizing my pantry and Once a Month Cooking! I made about 18 meals in one day. It was the craziest day, but it fed us for weeks and the meals were delicious. You can read the full post on my adventure here:

http://selfpursuits.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/i-must-be-crazy/

So even though it makes your kitchen look like this:

It is totally worth a try!

Why I love Once  a Month Cooking:

-It gave me loads of food for a whole month and all I had to do was heat everything up.

-I saved a decent amount of money. Not only did I not go heavy food shopping every week, but since I wasn’t going to the store as often, I was foregoing those extra purchases that just kind of come up when you’re at the store. I’m notorious for going off the list at the store, which is something I’m working on….”Don’t I need more paintbrushes? …Oh look at that bathmat! I have to have it! … Maybe I should get 2 gallons of ice cream since I can’t decide.”

-The meals were delicious and unique. I’m also notorious for slapping a piece of chicken or fish and a side f broccoli on the plate next to a piece of bread. No fancy dishes served here friends! So the new flavors and recipes (read Peanut Butter Crock Pot Pork, Chicken Stuffed Shells and Chicken Calzones) were a fun treat for my family!

-My freezer was so organized! It was just full of yummy, unique dinners and all I had to do was grab a bag!

-Not only did I not have to cook for most of the month, but I hardly had to clean the kitchen for a month. We just cleaned the crock pot or pan and the plates we used. No other cooking dishes necessary. Yeah!

For someone who likes to be organized and does NOT like to cook very much, this is the project!

~Erin

The Office Reveal

Well the office reorganization is finished….for now! I made a lot of changes and I can’t believe how much more calm of an environment it is to work in. Here’s the breakdown:

Remember this?

Ok, so I couldn’t see the top of my desk and my shelves were completely non-functional. I had some decent ideas going on with the shelves, but none of them were working right. My drawers and cabinets were a mess and I hardly used the space at all. Time for some changes!!!

First I took every single thing off the desk, shelves, out of drawers, etc. As I looked around, I realized how much unnecessary stuff there was. I had a huge box of stuff that didn’t belong in the office at all. And then another box of stuff that just needed to GET OUT OF MY HOUSE! I realized I could have literally opened my own office supply store (how many pens does one girl need?) so I got rid of a lot of stuff I didn’t have a real use for. Clutter be gone!

After I got rid of all unnecessary items, I reevaluated what I needed access to most. In this case, it was folders for work, my stapler, my shredder and better access to files. Those were my priorities. Let’s take a tour of the new digs!

Top Drawer – Before & After

Most of the stuff in my top drawer I didn’t use regularly (wait, are you saying I don’t need constant access to 6 rolls of packing tape???). So I designated this area as a place for my most frequented supplies. One basket is just for ‘mail’ and includes my address stamp and labels, letter opener and stamps. Then there are a couple of the other usual suspects. Notice the stapler is no longer there. It is on top of the desk now because I use it all the time.

Bottom Drawer – Before & After

Wow, this bottom drawer was a disaster. I didn’t use a single thing in this drawer on a regular basis. Correction…I didn’t use a single thing in this drawer…ever. Useless stuff out, file folders in! I took all of the stuff which was previously housed in harder to access storage and put them hanging files. So much easier to reach and sooo much prettier to look at!

Desk Cabinet – Before & After

Ok, so this cabinet technically didn’t change a lot. But let’s keep in mind that some of these boxes were previously stacked elsewhere in the office. Now all of my envelopes and blank folders are in one place. Should have done THAT a long time ago.

Desk – Before & After

I really have nothing verbal to add here. The picture says it all. Clearly I needed to just get that stuff off the desk and put it where it belongs. 🙂 Note the addition of the file cabinet which also gave me a great place to set my shredder. Yeah!

Shelf – Before & After

Ok, here’s the big change, so take note. At first glance the actual shelf organization doesn’t look much different between the before and after. It really looks like I just got stuff off the floor. However, what you might not know is the function of the space. In the before picture, I had stuff for my regular day job and then… a lot of other useless fluff. In the after picture, I not only have all of my day job stuff, but I have 4 drawers for extra office supplies, I have folders for the new Neaten Your Nest Organizing business, I have a file cabinet for all of my personal files and I have all of my scrapbooking supplies! I cannot believe how much I was able to fit into this shelf! It is amazing to me how using space efficiently can change your life. Not only was I able to use this space so much more effectively, but I was able to clean up several other areas of my house. Before, I stored my craft supplies in my room. I stored my personal files in my closet. I stored misc papers on my kitchen table. I stored extra office supplies on my kitchen counter. So the before picture at the beginning of this post isn’t completely accurate. Here is what the ‘real’ before picture should look like:

And here is the official ‘after’ picture:

I love, love, love it! It’s easy to use, easy to clean up, and let’s admit it, a lot easier on the eyes than the ‘before’ picture. Now I have a clean office, a clean kitchen counter, a place to hang my clothes in my closet, a place to access my craft supplies easily and a place to be efficient. I could not have asked for more in this reorganization. I would say that it took me about 7 total hours, which includes cleaning, purging, filing, shredding and reorganizing. I probably spent an additional 1 1/2 hours just staring at the space to figure out what I needed to do.

Lessons Learned:

-Don’t put off an organization task because it seems daunting. Large tasks can be broken down into a series of smaller tasks and be made much more manageable. Also, progress encourages you to continue so just get started!

-Create easy access to the things you use the most. This will save you time and sanity!

-Consolidate! There’s no need to have office supplies in 4 different rooms. There’s no need to open mail in one place and sort it in another. There’s no need to make a pile on the stairs, to be put in the room on a box, to be filed later. If you can consolidate like items, you are MUCH more likely to keep them organized and clean.

-Take time to look at a space. Even if you feel like you’re not being productive because you are just sitting there, you will actually save a lot of time because all options are carefully considered before you dive in. This was absolutely invaluable in this project!

So I’m going to take some time to live with all of the changes and see what works and what doesn’t. I also plan on revisiting this room to ‘gussy it up’ a bit. I’m going to eventually get some fun wall decor and make it just prettier to look at. But for now, I’m going to be uber excited about how much an improvement I have made. I actually love working in the office now!

~Erin

Introducing ‘Things I Love Thursdays’

There are so many things that I love: people, food, gadgets, places, the list goes on and on. However, when it comes to Neatening the Nest, there are some that make a bigger impact than others. To start off the Things I Love series, I present to you:

Ode to My Shredder:

Oh shredder, gadget of plastic and razor sharp teeth!

How you simplify my life, how you clean off my desk!

Ok, I can’t continue with the Shakespearean feel for more than 2 lines with a straight face. But I do love my shredder. It is one investment that has made itself worthwhile again and again. Now it doesn’t actually save me money in the strictest sense, but it saves my peace of mind. And it could save me money if it helps to prevent people from stealing my identity.

Now data varies on how many identity thefts actually occur per year, but it’s no secret that there are a lot and the number is growing. While you can’t prevent every piece of personal information from falling into the wrong hands, it’s important to do what you can. That means keeping certain info out of your trash can, such as social security numbers, credit card #s and passwords. The way I do that is through shredding them.

Several shredder tips:

1) My number 1 tip is to get a cross cut shredder. This mean that the paper is not just cut into vertical strips, but it is also cut horizontally. That makes papers exponentially harder to put back together.

2) Get a decent shredder. It doesn’t have to be top of the line, but if you plan on using it, you should get one that will work hard for you. My shredder will do 6 pages at a time and I have had it for about 7 years. It’s still going strong!

3) Shred the obvious stuff (like items with your social and credit card #s). However, consider some of the other items that might not be so obvious. I shred every credit card offer I get. Though the only information they have on them is my name, the thought of someone using one of these applications to open an account in my name is enough to freak me out. I also shred old utility bills and anything else that has identifying information. I probably go overboard, but I don’t care. I have a shredder and I’m using it!

4) Keep it where you will use it. If you keep your shredder in the bottom of the closet, chances are you won’t be shredding as often as you should. If you have kept up with my posts this week, you will notice that I just moved my shredder from the office floor to the top of a file cabinet. I now can shred things the instant I realize they aren’t needed and they are out of my life and mind forever! Yeah!

Trust me, this is a worthwhile investment that can actually save you a lot of hassle in the long run. Happy Shredding!

~Erin

My life in plastic

When you have kids, everything changes. One big change I’ve noticed is that everything is plastic! Plastic tables and chairs, plastic toys, plastic bins, plastic trays. And it all gets dirty, dirty, dirty! Play-doh, crayons, food, mud, and all sorts of things I don’t want to mention.  And how do I clean up this assortment of messiness? Well, not with an assortment of cleaners, that’s for sure. Almost exclusively, I use plain old vinegar and water to clean. Now I have several other novelty cleaning products, but vinegar is my cleaner of choice. Here’s why:

-It’s a natural cleaning product, none of the harsh chemicals found in most cleansers. This is a great quality when you’re constantly cleaning kid’s items!

-It is also a natural disinfectant. It can be effectively used against bacterial, mold and mildew. While it won’t kill all bacteria (for certain areas, such as cutting boards used for meat, I still don’t use plain vinegar), it is extremely effective as a basic cleanser.

-It has so many other uses. How many of your other cleaning products can you use to soothe a sunburn AND make a baking soda volcano?

-It is oh-so-cheap, which I oh-so-love!

Anyways, I keep a bottle of vinegar in my kitchen and also in my bathroom for daily upkeep. It works great on all those plastic kid’s items so I always keep it full!

Speaking of plastic…if you have small children, chances are you are familiar with these:

My kitchen looks like Rainbow Bright swooped in and swapped most of my ‘real’ dishes with hers. So many small pieces can cause an organizational headache. So I decided to re-organize my kids dish cabinet. Here is the before:

Kid’s Dish Cabinet – Before

Now it wasn’t completely horrible before. I could still get to everything. But there were certain things about it that were so inefficient and I hate that! I also have a baby who is just about to start on bottles, so I needed to be able to access bottle stuff AND toddler dishes. So here is what I did:

-I got rid of stuff I didn’t use. Now this seems obvious, but there were a few things I couldn’t let go of for the longest time, like that cute cup with the kid’s name printed on it (but leaked when you actually used it) or the spoon that was part of an adorable gift set, but that was completely flat, so it couldn’t be used as an actual spoon (it was really more of a cute stick).

-I put hooks on the cabinet door for bibs.

-Instead of a silverware basket, I switched to a cup as a silverware holder. Well, it’s technically a can covered in scrapbook paper. (idea from http://iheartorganizing.blogspot.com/)

-I then just did a basic organization of everything that was left.

Here is the after:

Not only can I get to stuff for both crazy kids, but it looks nicer, uses the whole space well, and I got the bibs out of my ‘dish towel drawer’! This took about 30 minutes to do and has such a great impact already!

Lessons Learned:

-It’s not always necessary to keep things just because they were gifts. If they are not functional or you don’t like them, then dig deep and find strength to get rid of them!

-Organize up! Maximizing vertical space creates more places for things. For example, when I got rid of the basket of silverware and switched to a can, I created space for teething rings and pacifiers.

-Small projects can make a room so much more functional. By concentrating on a small area that you use a lot, you can create a much more organized environment without investing a lot of time.

My life in plastic is so much nicer now!

~Erin