“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors...we borrow it from our children.”
-Native American Proverb
April 22 is Earth Day...the day we honor and celebrate our beautiful planet! I love Earth Day because this living, breathing, incredible home is the one thing all of us--regardless of race, culture, religion, political ideology, sexual orientation, nationality, or even species--share. This enduring world sustains us, and during the month of April, there are always endless opportunities to return the favor by nurturing nature, conserving and replenishing our natural resources, and cleaning up after ourselves.
And speaking of cleaning up after ourselves, one of the easiest ways we can show Planet Earth some love all year long is to reduce our dependence on harsh chemicals when cleaning our homes. In the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic, there was a heavy emphasis on sanitizing and disinfecting every surface, as fomite transmission was thought to be one way the virus was spread. Scientists have since learned that transmission of the virus through contaminated surfaces is relatively rare. Still, many of us are continuing to overuse chemicals because it makes us feel better. A more effective way to protect ourselves is by improving ventilation, wearing a mask when out in public, social distancing and frequent hand-washing. Definitely once you are vaccinated against SARS-CoV2, you might want to cut back a bit on the harsh disinfectants that can also harm your health and the environment.
“Green cleaning” our homes is also more convenient and easier on your wallet. With just a few versatile ingredients--most of which you probably already have on hand--you can mix up your own non-toxic cleaning solutions anytime you need them.
Compare the cost of a single batch of the commonly-used, chemical-laden cleaners below to the simple, everyday ingredients needed to make multiple batches of the environmentally-friendly versions:
Tilex - $3.99
Windex - $3.19
Comet - $.99
Fantastik - $4.99
Murphy's Oil Soap - $3.49
Windex Electronics Wipes - $2.99
Tide Liquid Laundry Detergent - $8.79
Shout Stain Remover - $2.97
Clorox Automatic Toilet Bowl Tablets - $4.99
Clorox Wipes - $4.99
Total Cost - $54.54
White Vinegar - $1.99
Water - FREE
Rubbing Alcohol - $.99
Dawn Dish washing Liquid - $2.50
Salt - $.89
Citric Acid - $2.97
Castile Soap with Tea Tree Oil - $6.69
Washing Soda - $3.97
Lemon Essential Oil - $6.99
Total cost - $32.97
Savings - $21.57 (That’s a 40% savings on just the first batch, plus you’ll have enough ingredients leftover to make additional batches for free!)
Cutting back on the chemicals in the cleaning solutions you use is just one way green cleaning helps the environment and saves you money. Consider the benefits of recycling as you clean. For example, instead of buying a new spray bottle of commercial glass cleaner or a jug of laundry detergent every month, refill your own spray bottle and jug with the homemade versions to reduce the amount of plastic your family consumes. Keep all those disposable disinfecting wipes out of the landfill by replacing them with reusable cleaning cloths. Recycle old newspapers for cleaning your windows. Heck, you can even put that old mateless sock to good use over and over again on your Swiffer in place of buying the disposable sweeper cloths. When your t shirts, towels, cloth napkins, and dish towels become worn and ratty, downgrade them to cleaning rags. I save the worst-looking ones that are truly nearing the end of their usefulness for washing the car or in place of paper towels for cleaning up the yuckiest messes before finally pitching them.
My family has been green cleaning for several years now and my house feels, looks and smells as fresh and germ-free as ever. I never have to worry about running out of cleaning supplies, and have saved a bundle of money! The best part is that the solutions we use are safe enough for my kids to help with the cleaning chores without the worry of exposing them to dangerous harsh chemicals. Now that’s a win!
Below are some of my favorite green cleaning "recipes". For best results, store them in glass containers whenever possible (especially if the recipe contains borax, which can weaken plastic over time and create leaks). Some ingredients may be harmful if ingested. Keep solutions away from pets and always supervise small children when using.
Hydrogen Peroxide (the king of green cleaners!)
You don't even need to mix up a solution for this one! This little miracle cleaner has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-mold, anti-fungal and anti-mildew properties and is non-toxic and environmentally-friendly. Use it to:
3/4 c. vinegar
1/2 c. rubbing alcohol
1/2 c. water
5-6 drops Castile Soap w/essential oil
This is great for cleaning kitchens and bathrooms. May not be suitable for all surfaces. Mix all ingredients together in a spray bottle.
1 cup Dawn
1 cup white vinegar
Spray over soap scum-coated surfaces and allow to sit for about 20 minutes. Scrub and rinse clean. (This stuff can be difficult to breathe...be sure to turn on your exhaust fan and/or open a window when using.)
Glass & Chrome Cleaner
1 c. vinegar
1 c. water
Spray onto newspaper or slightly crumpled coffee filters and wipe onto windows, mirrors and chrome in a circular motion.
1 c. baking soda
1/2 c. salt
1/2 c. borax
Works well on kitchen and bathroom sinks and toilets. Sprinkle generously before scrubbing with a brush. Note: this is an abrasive substance and may scratch some surfaces. Do not use on wood.
3/4 c. baking soda
1/4 c. castile soap
1 T. vinegar
1 T. Borax
1 T. water
3-5 drops tea tree oil
Store paste in a small glass jar with tight-fitting lid. Dip clean dish brush into paste and scour porcelain or stainless steel sinks. Rinse clean.
Quick Counter Cleanup Rags
3 c. hot water
2 T. castile soap
1 T. borax
1 cup vinegar
8-12 folded rags
I keep a jar of these at the ready to wipe up everyday spills and crumbs from my kitchen counter and table. Layer half of the rags in a large glass mason jar with tight-fitting lid. Combine other ingredients in a large glass measuring cup or pitcher and pour half over the folded rags in the jar. Layer the remaining rags on top and pour remaining liquid over top, making sure all the rags are saturated. Keep closed and use within two weeks.
Laundry Stain Remover
2/3 cup Dawn
2/3 cup ammonia*
6 T. baking soda
2 cups warm water
*NEVER COMBINE AMMONIA WITH PRODUCTS THAT CONTAIN BLEACH!
Spray onto stain and gently rub (not too hard, or you may cause discoloration) before laundering as usual.
3 T. Dawn or Castile Soap
3 T. Borax
3 T. Washing Soda
4 cups warm water
Combine all ingredients in glass container. Shake before using. 1/4 cup per large load.
Electronics Screen Cleaner
1 part distilled water*
1 part distilled white vinegar
Lightly spray cleaner onto a microfiber cloth and gently rub screen to clean. Do not spray directly on device.
*Use only distilled water!
Wood Floor Cleaner
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon olive oil
Combine ingredients into spray bottle. Spray onto wood floor and wipe clean with a dry cloth. Use no more than once/month. Use a simple solution of vinegar and water for weekly cleaning in between.
1/4 cup citric acid
1 cup baking soda
15 drops lemon essential oil
Combine all ingredients in large bowl and press into ice cube tray. Allow to dry completely overnight. Remove from tray and store in a large glass jar with tight-fitting lid. To use, drop tablet in toilet and let sit for 5-10 minutes; then scrub with toilet brush and flush. Clean back, base and seat of toilet with All-Purpose Cleaner.
With a few simple ingredients and the right attitude, even spring cleaning can be easy peasy!
Got an earth-friendly cleaning tip to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Have you ever tried to have a conversation amidst a lot of background noise? Read the paper with the TV blaring? Focus on work with your kids arguing around you? Or even worse, having someone yelling at you while you’re trying to concentrate on, well...anything? These situations leave most of us feeling stressed out and downright grumpy, not to mention unproductive.
But sound isn’t the only thing that makes noise. Stuff...clutter...mess create visual noise that can distract and stress us out just as easily. If you are surrounded by disorder and frequently feel yourself tensing up for seemingly no reason, it may be time to quiet your environment. It’s not as hard or time-consuming as you may think.
Obviously, the best way to maintain a visually quiet atmosphere is to purge your excess belongings, designate homes for everything you own, and then put things away as soon as you’re done using them, but getting that set up doesn't happen overnight. And if you have a spouse, roommate or kids, you know they excel at foiling those plans or at least at slowing your progress in reaching that noble goal. But regardless of your situation, there are still a few things you can do right now in just minutes to muffle the visual noise in your home until you have a chance to stifle it permanently. All it takes is regular (1-3 times daily) sweeps of the common areas where you spend the most time to do the following tasks:
Except in extreme circumstances, these tasks will only take 1-2 minutes each at most and the more frequently you sweep, the quicker it will be each time. After a while, it will become second nature and you won’t even have to think about doing it. I like to begin and end my day with a sweep of the main level and also do one before leaving the house. It rarely takes me more than 5 minutes. Doing everything on the list during your sweeps is ideal, but even just doing a few will make a big difference.
It won’t come as a surprise to those of you with little ones that kids are negatively impacted by too much visual noise, too. They often act out or have difficulty focusing in a cluttered environment. Get them to participate in the solution while they are still young enough to enjoy helping. This establishes in them the habit of regular and frequent tidying, underscores that home maintenance is everybody’s responsibility, and creates a baseline level of tidiness they will strive to maintain moving forward. If they are used to living in clutter, they will become desensitized to it (until it reaches an overwhelming or crippling level). If they are used to a more orderly environment, they will be more likely to maintain it.
Even very young children can share in the room-sweeping task before you leave to go play at the park. Assigning them a different “occupation” each day makes it sound more fun. Here are a few ideas:
If you’re not used to regular tidying, it can feel like a big chore to start. You may even try to convince yourself that it’s just a waste of time to put things away that you’ll be using again later. But remember that the purpose of keeping a tidy home is not to just have a tidy home...it’s to avoid feeling frustrated, stressed and anxious. When things are tidy, you will focus more easily, feel better about yourself, and relax knowing that you can find what you need. You’ll actually enjoy your surroundings more without your mess constantly yelling at you to clean it up!
With a quieter environment, life will become a whole lot easy peasier!
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Can you believe we’re already more than halfway through the first month of 2021?!! Time marches on, and every minute you spend stepping over, working around, or shifting the disorder in your home is time you could be spending on something more fun or meaningful. The good news is that you can reclaim your time by establishing just a few good habits that lead to more order, less stress, and better living.
In the past two blog posts, I introduced the first two of ten good habits adopted by most organized people. If you missed them or need a refresher, click on the links below to read them:
Habit #1: Unpack upon arrival
Habit #2: Hang stuff up
Don’t worry if you’ve stumbled out of the gate. It’s never too late to get started or get back on track and keep moving forward.
Habit #3 is to make your bed each day as soon as you get out of it!
Why? It establishes a sense of order and accomplishment from the very moment you get up. Think about it...in the 60-90 seconds it takes (yes, it really only takes that long) to make your bed, you earn your first win of the day! Not only is it the quickest method I know to magically restore some visual peace and order to your bedroom, it makes a statement that you intend to make this a productive day. Let's face it, getting out of bed is difficult for everyone. Making your bed is a commitment to begin your day and really make it count. In his 2014 University of Texas Commencement speech, Adm. William McRaven (USN Ret.) explained,
If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made --that you made--and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
Now, I know there are those of you who will try to make the argument that you don't need to make the bed because you're just gonna get back in it a few hours later. Instead of looking at this as a dreaded chore requiring excuses in order to avoid it, view it as something you do to pamper yourself...a gift to the future you. You’d be pretty disappointed if you got back to your hotel room after a day of sight-seeing to find a rumpled bed, wouldn’t you? After all, one of the perks of staying in a hotel is getting pampered by the housekeeping staff. There’s nothing more luxurious than climbing into a neatly-made bed at the end of a tiring day. It's like unwrapping the well-earned gift of rest.
My husband works the night shift and sleeps during the day. Even though I know he'll be getting into that bed an hour after I get out, I still make it for him every single day, and he does the same for me. It's just one more way we show one another some loving care and say "Welcome to dream world. Enjoy your stay." Making your own bed is just another form of expressing some self-love.
How? I find the most painless way to make your bed is to pull the covers up as far as you can and smooth them out while you're still in it and then neatly fold back one corner to make climbing out easier. This way, you are practically finished by the time you are on your feet. Then just fold back your exit flap, smooth and tuck the covers, neaten up the pillows and you're done. If you're a messy sleeper, it might take you a few seconds longer. Regardless, I promise you, it will not take more than 90 seconds, max, to accomplish your first win of the day!
If you’ve already mastered Habit #3, well done! How tidy do you leave the rest of your room each morning? Nothing ruins the calm, peaceful feel of your bedroom sanctuary like piles of clothes lying around the room, a cluttered dresser, or stacks of reading materials collecting dust. If your resting place feels chaotic, focus this week on making sure all clothes are put away and the floor and surfaces in your bedroom are clear before you exit so that you can enjoy a restful sleep in your welcoming bed at the end of the day!
Tip of the Week
One of the most common pitfalls we face when trying to establish new habits is life getting in the way of our best intentions. It happens to everyone, but obstacles don’t have to end your journey toward better habits. You just need to find the quickest detour route and keep going. With the right amount of determination and experience, the little things that used to throw you off track will become nothing more than opportunities to learn and better prepare yourself for whatever roadblocks lie ahead. Commit to never skipping two or more days in a row of performing your new habit. Skipping more than one day establishes a new pattern of not doing it and makes it harder to get back on track.
And always remember: imperfect progress is still progress!
It’s still not too late to join the official Good Habits Challenge! I’ll be introducing Habit #4 in next week’s blog, but after that only those who have joined the challenge will learn the remaining six habits of organized people. Plus, those who join get some free tools to help establish any new habit (not just these ten) and are eligible for free accountability check-ins and a chance to win a prize at the end.
Share your success stories, tips and struggles at email@example.com, and stay tuned next Monday to learn about Habit #4.
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If you've resolved to get more organized in 2021, I've got great news...it's easier than you think! Orderly living is achieved by simply adopting a few good habits and sticking with them over time. Today we’re kicking off the Good Habits Challenge here at EasyPeasy Living. I’ll be introducing the first four key habits of organized people in this blog during the month of January, but it’s not too late to join the official challenge and discover all ten. Plus, those who join get some free helpful tools to promote success in establishing and sticking with any new habit.
New Habit #1: Unpack Upon Arrival. In other words, put away your keys, phone, purse/backpack/wallet, and coat in the same spot the very minute you come in the door.
Why? It saves you time and frustration the next time you depart your home, and it establishes a sense of confidence and control because you'll know just where to find what you need. No more searching for your essentials when you're rushing to get out the door, and no more worrying about misplacing your primary means of communication, funding and escape!
How? Establish a "landing pad" somewhere near the front door, aka your arrival/departure gate. If your home is in chaos, this is the ideal starting place for creating homes for each of your belongings.
Keep a spring-loaded clothespin attached to the neck of your coat hanger to quickly clip your jacket closed and prevent it from falling off without having to mess around with that pesky zipper. No coat closet? No problem. Hooks are actually the simplest and easiest ways to hang things up quickly with minimal effort while allowing you to capitalize on your vertical space. Don't overlook the prime real estate on the backs of doors and cabinets, or put a coat stand in the corner for lots of hanging space with a small footprint. Designate a spot for your phone and wallet too. A shoe basket or boot tray near the door is also helpful. And don’t forget a home for your masks. (We keep a basket of clean, reusable masks on the entry table that I refer to as the “masket”.) The main point is to always put things away in the same spot and as soon as you enter the house...before you do anything else. You’ll be glad you did the next time you need a quick and clean getaway!
If you’ve already mastered Habit #1, well done! Can you always find these commonly-misplaced items? If not, focus this week on establishing a home for each one and making it a habit to put them away there immediately after using them...every time!
General tips for adopting new habits
The hardest part about establishing any new habit is remembering to do it and staying consistent long enough for it to become second-nature. Here are a few tips to help you with that:
Share your success stories, tips and struggles at valerie@easypeasyliving, and stay tuned next Monday to learn the details on Habit #2.
You’ve got this!
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Piles of papers make me anxious. You will not find stacks of paper anywhere in my home. I dispose of any random slips of paper found in my pockets, purse or car as eagerly as tossing out used tissues. When I see unfiled papers, I see unmade decisions, incomplete tasks, and uncertainty, all of which provoke in me a sense of dread and anxiety. So keeping up with my daily influx of paper is my #1 organizing priority. Believe it or not, taming your own paper dragon can be as easy as changing a few bad habits and adopting one new one.
Nine bad habits that can lead to paper pileup:
1) Clipping coupons - Let's be honest...there are a very few people out there who do couponing well. The rest of us are just kidding ourselves. Unless you are a serious couponer who has a proven system that works, accept the fact that the time and effort you are wasting on clipping, saving, and organizing coupons that rarely get used before they expire might be better spent actually processing your mail instead. Toss all coupons but the ones you know you will 100% use. No, you don't need to look through them to see what you're missing. Your time is worth more than the few cents you might save.
2) Saving articles, ideas, recipes, or brochures for "future reference" - These days, very little of what we find in newspapers and magazines is not also available for free online. Chances are that it will take more time/effort for you to find a clipping you saved when you are ready to refer to it than it will to just Google it and find it online instead. Information on events can usually be found on an organization's website. Pinterest is great for finding and bookmarking decorating, entertaining, fashion, gift, and cooking ideas. You can bookmark links to relevant articles which are also often archived online by publication. If you really need to, you can maintain a list in your phone of places you hope to someday visit, helpful websites, names of recipe or other topic sources, etc. to help you find something later. There's no need to keep a stash of old clippings.
3) Using paper piles as a tickler for action items - Instead of creating an action pile, create an action file. Put the papers away and enter a reminder in your phone or calendar or on your to-do list to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Get in the habit of consulting these tools daily, or ask Alexa or Siri to remind you. Using the papers themselves as your tickler is ineffective because over time, as the paper clutter increases, they are likely to get lost or overlooked. By filing them, you will know exactly where to find what you need when you are ready to complete the task. The key is developing a system you trust for keeping your action tasks front and center in your mind, rather than on your desk or table.
4) Keeping papers out of fear/uncertainty - Do you really need to keep those old statements...receipts...canceled checks? Many people save old records unnecessarily because they think they may need them later. While it is true that there are definitely some important documents you should archive, many of us save papers unnecessarily "just to be on the safe side". it's worth taking the time to educate yourself on what you should keep and what can be tossed so that you can free up some space in your filing cabinet and make the filing chore less cumbersome. You'll find a downloadable guide here to get you started. Download the FREE Easy Peasy Paper Tamer Guide for suggestions on what documents to keep and for how long. You can also check with your accountant or financial advisor if you're uncertain if you really need it. Just don't keep papers by default simply because you don't know whether or not you can safely get rid of them.
5) Saving information for others - Stop saving clipped articles for someone you think might find them interesting! Chances are, you will forget to give it to them, and they may prefer a text telling them where to find it online anyway. While it's nice that you are thinking of them, most people don't want more paper to deal with!
6) Saving papers to scan later - If you really want to scan it, scan it right away or schedule an appointment in your calendar for scanning everything and keep it. Almost everyone I know with a "to scan" pile never gets around to scanning it and ends up eventually just tossing the whole pile.
7) Hoarding old magazines/newspapers - Keep only the current issue. If you haven't read it by the time the new issue arrives, toss it. If you find you aren't reading most of them, you should cancel your subscription. I'll bet you've never heard of anyone dying or suffering a significant consequence simply because they missed reading an issue of their favorite magazine...BUT, stacks of magazines and newspapers can present a dangerous fire hazard!
8) Reading/opening junk mail - Ignore the obvious junk mail! It's only purpose is to get you to buy something. If you truly need something, you'll remember without the solicitation and will seek out information on available options at the time you're ready to actually make a purchase. Tossing your junk mail will help you resist the temptation to acquire unwanted items that will only clutter up your home. If you feel a cursory glance is necessary, do it on the way in from the mailbox and then trash the sales pitch right away. It should never even touch any surface in your home!
9) Believing you have to shred everything - It may come as a surprise to many that your address is public information. Shredding everything will not keep it out of the hands of nefarious forces, unfortunately. You only need to shred items with sensitive information such as complete account numbers, your social security number, your tax ID, etc. Receipts that only contain the last four digits of your credit card number do not need to be shredded. Reviewing your credit report each year from each of the major reporting companies is helpful in protecting yourself against identity theft. If you have a large amount of old papers that really do require shredding, consider paying to have it shredded, or look out for free community shredding events in your local area to get it out of your way. Invest in a home shredder and keep it handy to shred as you go so that it doesn't continue to pile up.
One new habit to adopt:
Go through all incoming papers and mail each and every day before you go to bed and decide what to do with each piece. If you keep up with this, it should not take you more than 5-10 minutes per day to keep your surfaces clear of paper clutter once you get rid of your backlog. Set up a simple paper triage system to help you keep your papers neat, organized and put away out of sight (yes, that's right...see #3 above for why this is a good thing!) until you can complete any next steps like paying the bills or making a follow-up phone call. There are specific instructions in the FREE Paper Tamer Guide on how to set up and use a simple daily paper triage system to help you convert your paper piles into labeled files that are easier to manage.
With a little discipline and a large recycle bin, even preventing paper pileup can be easy peasy!
Raise your hand if you’ve ever used a first aid kit, makeup kit, or sewing kit. 🙋If so, you’re already familiar with the concept of what I like to call “kit (or “task) organizing"...storing all the items you need to perform a specific task or complete a certain activity together. We tend to do this naturally with certain items, such as cooking and laundry, but there may be other opportunities you've overlooked.
Why organize this way?
Think about the steps required to complete a task...any task. Step number 1 is always to assemble all the tools and materials you need. At least it should be. Otherwise, you end up having to interrupt the task to go find what you need, and who has time for that? Well, kit organizing takes care of the first step for you. Assuming you remembered to put your tools and materials away the last time you performed the task, you only need to get out your kit again and voila! Everything you need is right there!
An even bigger benefit to organizing this way is that it’s actually much easier to put your tools and materials away when you're done. Rather than putting the scissors back where the scissors go, and the tape back where the tape goes, and the ribbon and gift wrap back where they belong, you simply put everything back in your gift wrapping kit and store that away for next time. Let’s face it...searching for the scissors and tape because they didn’t get put back in the right place the last time you used them is often the most challenging and time-consuming part of wrapping a gift. Kit organizing just simplifies the getting-out and putting-back (and consequently, the finding-of) everything you need to complete your task.
What’s the best way to store kits?
Contrary to the mental image you may have in your head, a “kit” doesn’t necessarily always involve a cute little carrying case. Many may, but what makes it a "kit" is not what kind of receptacle it's stored in, but rather that all of the items in it center around a specific activity. Some kits may include large items that take up an entire closet, while others are better stored in a small, transportable pouch. How you contain it depends on what type of task/activity it’s used for and where that activity is performed. Tasks that are always performed in the same location and have room to store the kit there don’t require a carrying case. For example, if you always put your makeup on at a makeup table with drawers, you can just use a drawer to hold the components of your makeup kit.
Conversely, if you like to do your nails at the kitchen table but don’t have room in the kitchen to store your nail kit, putting those items in a small bag you can retrieve from the bathroom makes a lot of sense. Anytime you have to carry stuff around, having everything already stored in a transportable receptacle makes it more likely you won't leave something behind by accident. Open caddies, small backpacks or totebags, lidded or open bins, baskets and zippered pouches are all great options for containing your kits. Pick the one that best suits how you use that particular kit.
Kits aren't just for home use!
Kit organizing can be particularly useful for items you use outside the home. Grab-and-go activity bags for trips to the pool, sporting events (or practice), or picnics take the stress out of preparing for fun outings. Being already packed and ready whenever the mood strikes will make you more likely to go enjoy yourself! And you'll be less likely to forget something if you've invested some forethought in what belongs in your kit and store everything together between outings. Just make sure you remember to remove anything you've accumulated during your trip that doesn't belong in the kit before you put it away.
What should go in a kit?
Chances are, you are already organizing this way for some tasks/activities. If you store all your camping equipment together, that’s a camping kit. But there may be items you can add to your existing kit to make life even simpler. For example, does your camping kit include all the "staples" you routinely take camping with you, such as paper towels, aluminum foil, and utensils...or do you still have to retrieve those from the kitchen each and every time you pack for a camping trip? It may not always be feasible to store everything you need in your kit, due to space or financial considerations. The idea is to make your kit as complete as you reasonably can in order to simplify assembling and putting away your tools and materials before and after use. (Tip: for camping or other away-from-home activities, consider including with your kit a list of additional items you know you'll always need to take with you but for one reason or another cannot store with the rest of your kit. This will help ensure you don't forget something.) How often you use your kit will also determine what goes in it. If you go camping multiple times each summer, it may be worth investing in a second set of cooking utensils to keep in your kit; if you only go every couple of years, perhaps not. Think about the types of tasks/activities you perform most frequently and make a list of all the items you use. Begin building your kit from there.
Would having any of these kits assembled and ready to go make your life simpler?
If you have kids at home - especially young ones - no doubt you are well-acquainted with the pain of walking through a minefield of Legos. If you haven't had the pleasure, just imagine walking across a floor covered in broken glass. Or maybe you've encountered the slip-n-slide effect of stepping on a stray paper or magazine left on the stairs...or discovered a new life form growing in the sweaty clothes strewn across your teenager's bedroom floor. Ah yes, kids seem to have a special knack for sowing chaos, destruction and grossness, but they are equally capable of creating order and finding solutions with the right guidance, encouragement and opportunity. Which is a good thing, because you won't have the time or energy to keep up with their messes without a bulldozer...and not many of us have room for storing one of those. You'll need some help!
Maintaining an orderly home requires solid teamwork from the entire family, and raising a generation of organized, clutter-free adults begins at home with consistent coaching from you. Even if you struggle with organization yourself - in fact, especially if you do - there are still things you can all do together as a cohesive unit to transform your home into the calm and relaxed sanctuary you all deserve to live in.
Start early by training your young children to sort objects, put their toys away and make thoughtful decisions about their belongings. Establishing routines for everyone in the household (including you!) and stating clear expectations will help all of you stay on track. Instead of barking out orders and making chore-time feel like a punishment, underscore the unifying effect collaboration will have on your family unit. Offering age-appropriate incentives and finding creative ways to make the process fun for everyone will teach them that with a little planning and teamwork, orderly living and a home they can proudly share with others can be easy peasy!
No matter how old your kids are or what state your home is currently in, it is never too early or too late to start adopting some of these strategies:
Keep it Positive
Lay the Foundation
Go on Autopilot Whenever Possible
Evolve and Adapt
Make it Fun!
Parenting is at its most challenging when we are faced with the prospect of teaching our young ones something we, ourselves, are still trying to learn. But in my experience, some of the most special experiences I've shared with my children are the ones where I was learning alongside them. You don't have to be an expert at cleaning and organizing to begin teaching your children the importance of learning those skills. You just have to be willing to make the effort to model how to learn them.
With a little effort and collaboration, even maintaining an orderly home can be easy peasy.
I love candles and enjoy them all year round. They add a warm, cozy glow to our dinner table during the cool months and a bug-free "stay-just-a-bit-longer" ambiance to summer nights on the back deck. They are romantic and comforting, mysterious and hypnotic all at the same time.
But the neat freak in me gets uncomfortable when they start to warp and droop. I never know whether to pick off the excess wax or wait to see how long it can burn without caving in on itself. It both fascinates and frustrates me simultaneously. I much prefer a brand-new neat candle with a flat top and thus used to throw my candles away prematurely...until I found a way to keep my candles looking new until they are all used up. Best of all, it takes just a few minutes and doesn't make a huge mess.
Next, cover the surface of a non-stick pan with a sheet of aluminum foil. This makes clean-up a snap and doesn't ruin your pan. Place the candle upside down on the foil and turn the burner on to medium heat. Press down on the bottom of the candle with your hand for about 30 seconds to two minutes or until the rough cut edges are smoothed out. If you cut your candle unevenly, simply press down a little harder on one side to even it out.
That's it! Turn your candle over and let it cool. Turn the burner off and allow the wax in the pan to cool until it is solid enough to easily remove the foil from the pan and throw away.
Our Lenten candle is now back in business. Easy Peasy!
It’s never a good sign when it starts raining in your garage…especially when your kitchen is above the garage and you’ve just stepped in a wet patch near the dishwasher!
So yes, we need a new dishwasher and no, there is no room for one in our budget right now. At first I was so busy being grateful that it wasn’t an issue with the kitchen plumbing that I forgot to groan about having to hand wash all my dishes for the foreseeable future. It didn’t take long for me to remember just how much I hate it. I mostly hate not having any room on my tiny counter to put all the clean dishes and how quickly I run out of dry dish towels since I don’t have a drainer and have to drain them on a towel. (I’m actually anti-dish drainer because I think they invite you to leave the job unfinished and take up valuable space even when not in use.) But once I figured out that I could use the empty dishwasher as my drying rack, my perspective began to change. I began to see the silver lining to this cloud and realized that what at first seemed like a curse may indeed become a blessing.
For one thing, washing and drying dishes is something everyone in my family can do…even the more “spatially challenged” among them. My kids have finally completed the Dishwashing Badge in our Life Skills Badge Program. My husband is more sensitive about helping with dinner clean up, and I don’t have to worry about whether the bowl I really want to use is going to take up too much space in the dishwasher later. Maybe now we won’t have to take out a second mortgage just to pay the water bills that also fund my daughter’s showers. (She’s the only 11-year-old I know with permanently wrinkled hands.) And once the kitchen cleanup is done, it’s done…no more dishes to put away later since I ascribe to the dry-them-and-put-them-away-now philosophy.
Best of all, I’m no longer worrying about what will happen if my dishwasher breaks…I already know. My children will enjoy an excuse to play in some sudsy water before school. My husband and I will giggle and flirt as we snap dish towels at each other. I’ll imagine my mother, now gone to her rest, washing that very same serving spoon back in our kitchen on Timber Trail Rd. The clean scent of the dish washing liquid will remind me of my grandmother’s kitchen.
Sometimes we need something to break to realize how truly unimportant it is. And often in our never-ending quest to simplify our lives, we end up complicating them instead. The modern conveniences designed to free up our time wind up stealing our opportunities to forge that time into something memorable. Think about your funniest family anecdotes. Chances are they felt like catastrophes at the time. (Someday I’ll share my “Mom in a Manhole” story…a real family classic.) Next time “disaster” strikes, look for the hidden blessing instead of feeling cursed.
I suppose we will replace the dishwasher eventually, but I’m not in any hurry. It might be kind of fun to share KP duty with my sister after a family holiday meal just like the old days. But only if she dries.
If you are anything like me, you have a gazillion little household tasks that are too-often neglected. Things that would take about five minutes or less to complete, but just aren't high enough on the priority list to be remembered until your disgust or frustration with the results of having neglected them for so long forces you to take action. Often, you are in the throes of some other project when this occurs, so the trick is to make note of them as you think of them and use the little pockets of available time you have (the ones you don't consciously acknowledge and probably deny that you have) throughout your week to accomplish them. Keep the list where you can easily add to it the next time you notice something that needs doing.
Before you say it, yes you do too have pockets of available time, especially if you have a spouse or kids who are never ready when it's time to go somewhere.
Here are a few items on my list to help get you thinking:
Aliquid magnum ex parva! (Click here for translation)
Valerie Sheridan is a professional organizer, wife, mother of two, and Founder/Owner of EasyPeasy Living.