Archive for September, 2012

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Maintaining the weekday routine

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By now, school has been in for a little while for most of us. The excitement of a new year is starting to fade into routine. Fall can be especially busy with sports practices and other activities, and before you know it, all the promises of being organized and early to bed begin to fade when suddenly you find it’s 7:30 pm and dinner’s still on the table and homework isn’t done, yet.

It’s tempting to just get everyone off to bed and worry about the rest, “in the morning”, but (oddly enough) that just shifts the chaos to the next day, and before you know it, the week becomes more about survival than anything.

Over the years, I’ve found there are a few things that I have to do consistently (no matter how tired I am, or when I have to be at work the next morning) that are essential to making the week run smoothly:

1. Commit to keeping the family calendar updated - We write things on a monthly calendar as they come up, and each Sunday I transcribe the upcoming week to a larger M-F format and the whole family meets briefly about it for any updates. I’ve also started maintaining it online so we can have it on our phones as well.

2. Keep up with the laundry and the dishes each night - Maybe it’s just me, but after a long day at work, I can easily talk myself into dealing with those “tomorrow”, and then they somehow reach critical mass. I’ve been working hard at clearing the sink each night before bed, and it’s much nice to wake up to a clean (OK, clean-ish) kitchen where there’s room for everyone to get ready. I may not do laundry each night, but I gather dirty clothes each night and sort them to make sure there’s nothing we need to clean for the next day.

3. Have kids do homework in the same place at the same time when possible - Our evening routine gets in trouble when we change up the homework routine. Even if it’s a late night with sports practices, things always go better when we do things in the same order.

4. Prepare books, lunches and clothes the night before - I struggle with this, but no matter how late it is, I’ve been working hard at making myself prepare lunches, get out clothes and supervise the kids packing backpacks before bed. It makes a big difference when it’s time to get out the door in the mornings.

5. Deal with clutter spots each day - Our kitchen counter is a clutter magnet. We tend to pile things there when we’re in a hurry. If I do a little sorting each night to throw away trash and return stray items to their rightful places, I find that I’m much less stressed and it’s easier to find what we need.

These are some things that I’ve learned to do that help us during the week. How about you? What are the tasks you have to do consistently to keep your week running smoothly?

Organize under the kitchen sink

Categories: Organization

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The other day, I reached under the kitchen sink to get something and I realized there was a lot of stuff under there, but I wasn’t sure exactly what was under there. It seems that we’ve really only been using about 1/4 of the things under there because it was hard to tell what we had.

As a matter of fact, there were even a few things in there that we’ve had since we moved in 20 years ago. There were also a lot of duplicates under there because it was hard to know if we were out of something, or not. (Note to self: you can lay off buying dishwasher detergent, we’ve got enough.)

When I couldn’t find something I needed that I knew we had in there, I decided it was time to do something about the mess under the kitchen sink.

Here’s what I did:

Empty - Resist the urge to scoot things around and just rearrange the mess. Get a trash bag, have a seat and pull everything out where you can see it. Then, clean the cabinet. It’s amazing how dirty a space that holds cleaning supplies can get.

Purge - Put that trash bag to use. Get rid of any trash, items that are expired or rarely used, unidentified items (yes, I found a couple of those) and things that don’t belong there.

Organize - Take what’s left and divide it into like groups. I ended up with groups of polish, air freshener, cleaning tools, cleaning sprays, soaps, trash bags and a fire extinguisher. Be careful not to have too many things called “miscellaneous” because that makes it easy to treat the space as a catch-all.

Plan - Is there room for everything so that you can get to it easily? Do you need some containers? I have to be careful about overloading on baskets and boxes because we’re not always good at putting things back in them and the mess gets bigger than it was before you started. I try to only use them if I have several small items.

Return - Put it all back in the cabinet and make sure everyone in the family knows where to find everything, especially if you’ve relocated items.

While organizing under the sink may seem like a small thing to do, I’ve been surprise at how happy the difference has made me, and how I can actually find things, now:

As always, if you have small children, be sure to safeguard the undersink cabinet and don’t forget a fire extinguisher in the kitchen!

5 items for a great guest room

Categories: Entertaining, Organization

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We’re fortunate to have a guest room, and we really enjoy having people stay with us, and we’ve certainly put it to use, lately. While will never be mistaken for a 5-star hotel, I enjoy making sure it has what it needs to make people comfortable.

Here are 5 items I make sure that we provide for our guests:

A good bed - The guest room isn’t really a great place to put your oldest mattress. Test out your own guest bed and make sure it’s comfortable. If a new mattress isn’t in the budget, consider investing in a good foam mattress topper or even a high quality air mattress to make things more comfortable for your guests.

A place to put luggage - I always try to make sure guests have a place to put a suitcase or a bag besides the floor. We have an empty, low table near the bed that’s a great size for a suitcase, but I’m in the market for a luggage rack.

Guest toom

Clock - While it’s true that most people have cell phones to check the time when they’re on the road, it drives me crazy when I’m staying somewhere without a clock. Sometimes, you just need to glance at the time quickly in the middle of the night. It’s also important to make sure the clock has the accurate time, so be sure to check the guest room after a power failure since a flashing “12:00″ isn’t an accurate time.

Power outlets - These days, people travel with all sorts of electronic gear that needs to be charged. We live in an old house where power outlets aren’t always conveniently located, so I keep a power strip on the guest room table so our guests don’t have to crawl under the table or behind a dresser to plug in a computer. We also have an iPhone dock on the table that several of our guests have appreciated.

Wifi information - We keep a card by the guest bed with the wireless Internet information on it. I know I always appreciate that information when I travel, and I’ve been known to do some “sleuthing” in friends’ houses when I find that it’s late at night, and I’ve forgotten to ask my host for it.

How about you? Tell us in the comments below what guest room touches do you like to provide or receive?

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