Archive for the ‘ Household Tips ’ Category

Declutter Challenge: 7 Items a Day, 6 Days a Week for 4 Weeks! (week 2)

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

I don’t know if it’s because I’m in declutter mode now or what, but this week I found it much easier to find stuff to get rid of.  In fact, I actually got rid of more than 7 things several days because I just was ready to see the stuff leave.  So I guess I’m making progress!  I do know that I’ve been enjoying the extra space in a few of my kitchen cupboards as a result of this whole decluttering process.  It just somehow makes me feel happier when I open the cupboard and see extra space instead of it being jammed full.  Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

I was excited to make a bit more money again this week too.  It wasn’t nearly as much as last week, but I was still happy with it.  Here’s the breakdown of my earnings so far:

Week 1: $36.72
Week 2: $11.50
Total Earned: $48.22

Oh and just in the spirit of keeping things real around here, I have to confess that days 5 and 6 were both collected today.  This week ended up being more hectic than I expected because I got 40 lbs. of chicken that I had to prep and freeze.  I knew it was coming, it just took me longer to do than I had anticipated.  (Will I ever learn that with 3 children 6 and under everything just takes a long time?!)  So yesterday I was kind of catching my breath and never got my decluttering done.  It’s okay though, I doubled up today and caught up.  But just wanted to let you all know that I’m busy and human like everyone else!  And if you are trying to do this too and find yourself getting behind, it’s okay.  Don’t sweat it and just start in again!

And now, here’s all the stuff that got purged from our home this week!

DAY 1:

* Spice tin
* 5 Books
* Soup packet

I kept thinking I’d maybe use the little spice tin as decor and so it just kept sitting in my kitchen cupboards.  But the reality is, it’s not really my type of thing and so it got tossed.  The soup packet was a free sample I had received a long time ago and kept forgetting about.  So this week I made it one day for lunch.  It definitely wasn’t anything amazing, but it filled our bellies and now it’s one less thing filling up our space!  I plan to add the books the ones that I collected last week and will take them to the local bookstore that buys back books.  I’m hoping I can get that done this coming week!

DAY 2:

* Plastic Animals
* Journal
* Huggies Changing Pads
* Scarf
* Pacifiers
* Stationary
* Scotch Decorating Tape

The plastic animals were part of a collection that we had bought at my husband’s grandma’s sale.  I took out the ones that we wanted and since we really didn’t need that many more animals around here, I sold the rest for $1.00 on the local online yard sale.  I also sold the journal ($0.50) and the scarf ($5.00) that way too.  The Huggies changing pads, pacifiers and Scotch tape all went into our yard sale box in the basement to hopefully sell at the next one we have.  And I’m planning to give the stationary to a girl from our church that has Downs Syndrome.  She loves that sort of thing and it’s a perfect way to let someone else enjoy something I no longer need!

DAY 3:

* 4 Tea cups
* 2 Aprons
* Bag

I started a tea cup collection when I was a girl and while I did get rid of quite a few in the past, I still have about a dozen.  The truth is, I’m really not much of a tea cup person any more and would love to get rid of almost all of them but am currently using them as decor in my kitchen.  I thought it still looked okay though after I took these 4 away, so I listed them on the online yard sale.  I’m looking for some decor that is more my current taste to use where I have the rest of my tea cups displayed so that I can get rid of most of the rest of them too!

The aprons were cluttering my one kitchen drawer.  I’m not sure why I even have them because I don’t think I’ve worn an apron once in the almost 8 years we are married!  It feels good to have them on the yard sale pile and more drawer emptier for more useful things!

The bag was an extra one that was given to me somewhere along the way.  It went on the yard sale pile too.

DAY 4:

* Wooden candle holder
* 2 powders
* Journal
* Picture frame
* Glass dish
* Floating candles

I listed the glass dish and floating candles on the online yard sale group.  The rest of the items went into our yard sale box in the basement.

I don’t know how you are, but for me, if someone I care about gives me something, I often find it hard to part with that item later.  That wooden candle holder is an example of that.  My brother-in-law made it and gave it to me as a Christmas gift a number of years ago.  I loved it and used it for a long time but it just no longer really fit anywhere in our small house.  And since I’m slowly starting to realize that less really does feel better, I figured I might as well let someone else enjoy it.  Honestly, as crazy as it might sound to some of you, this feels like a huge step for me!  I told you I was sentimental and a “stuff” person!  Anyone else know what I’m talking about?  

DAY 5:
* 3 Insulated Coolers for baby bottles
* Insulated Cup
* Baby Sling
* 4 Placemats

I’m not entirely sure how I accumulated all those the insulated coolers!  I have rarely ever even used a bottle for any of my babies so it’s not like I would have used these anyway.  I think that maybe I got them from the birth center when each of our kids was born with the package of freebies that they hand out.  But why I hung onto them all?  That I can’t explain!  I just know that they were buried in the kid’s bedroom closet and I knew they had to go!  I’m not exactly sure what to do with them.  Anyone know of a good place to donate them?  I guess I can always give them to Goodwill….

The cup got tossed.  We don’t use it anymore and the lid was cracked too.  The baby sling sold on the online yard sale for $5.00.  I also listed the placemats but they haven’t sold, so they’ll stay in my yard sale box in the basement.

DAY 6:

* 2 Baby blankets
* 7 Cloth napkins

I’m going to donate the two blankets to our church nursery.  Some of the blankets there are not that great and I thought these would be at least a bit of an improvement!  The crocheted one was given to us at the hospital when our daughter Eleni died.  Again, part of me wanted to hang onto it because of that but the reality is, I have plenty of other blankets that I like better.  Plus, I think it will bless me to see other little babies being snuggled in this blanket.  Not sure how to explain it, but maybe that Eleni’s little life can bless someone else in this very small way.

We haven’t used these cloth napkins in ages so I listed them on the online yard sale too!

Did you declutter this week?  Are you finding it hard to find things to get rid of?  Do you think I’m crazy for having a hard time parting with “sentimental” things?

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5 Time Saving Tips for Meal Prep (saves money too!)

Friday, October 17th, 2014

I’m not telling you anything new when I tell you that you’ll save money by eating at home.  A typical meal out for our family of four is at least $20, and usually it’s quite a bit more than that!  While I thoroughly enjoy eating out, it’s something we only do once or twice a month at most because it simply isn’t economical nor do we have the room in our budget.  As a result, I’ve tried to learn how to be as efficient at possible when it comes to preparing our meals.  Here are 5 things that I’ve found that save me time, and ultimately money, on meal prep.

5 Time Saving Tips for Meal Prep (saves money too!)

1.  Keep Cooked Meat on Hand
There’s something about already having your meat cooked and prepped that just makes it so much easier to throw together a meal!  I try to always keep cooked chicken (shredded and cubed), ground beef (with onions or taco seasoning added if you want), bacon and sausage in the freezer.  I absolutely love the convenience!

You can either cook up the meat as soon as you get home from the store or when you are preparing meat for a recipe, just cook extra and then freeze the unused portion for another recipe later.   (I personally love using these freezer boxes for freezing my extra meat.)

Having your meat already cooked makes preparing soups such as Salsa Chicken Soup and Hearty Hamburger Soup especially fast because you don’t even need to take the time to thaw the meat!  It’s handy for other dishes too, you just have to plan ahead a bit more!  For instance, you can use cooked chicken to quickly throw together Salsa Ranch Chicken Wraps or Sour Cream Chicken Quiche.  Bacon or Sausage work well in Easy Homemade Breakfast Sandwiches, wraps and quiches.   And dishes like this easy Oven Ready Lasagna and Crockpot Tamale Pie are a cinch with already cooked ground beef.

2.  Make Double Batches
I often make double batches of things like lasagna, cookies, breads/rolls, casseroles and even soups.  We’ll either just have that food twice in one week or, since I have plenty of freezer space, I’ll freeze it and pull it out later for an easy meal.

It’s amazing how much time this can save!  Not only do you save yourself time doing dishes because you are only prepping once, it only takes a couple of extra minutes to make a double recipe of something saving you quite a bit of time in the long run.

3.  Stock Up On Basics
If you don’t have food on hand to cook with, you are going to find it way too easy to cave and go out to eat!  Figure out what items are regulars on your menu and in your fridge and pantry, then try to keep your kitchen always stocked with those things. 

Some of the items I like to always have on hand: basic baking ingredients such as flour, sugar, cocoa power and butter, spices & herbs, canned beans, bread & tortillas, pasta sauce, a variety of meats, cheese, potatoes & onions, pasta & rice, condiments like ketchup, mustard and mayo.

Keeping your kitchen stocked doesn’t have to break the bank though.  Build your stockpile by purchasing things that you use when you see them at rock-bottom prices.   This post on 5 Tips to Spend Less but Get More might help you if you are new to starting a stockpile on a budget.

Tip: Keep a running grocery list.  As soon as you use one of your “regular” items, add it to your grocery list so that you can restock your supplyHere’s a free printable grocery list from Everything Mom that might help you do this effectively.

4.  One Pot Dishes/Crock-pot Meals
Unfortunately I’m not one of those people that does well at making a menu plan and sticking with it, so another life saver for me is to make one pot dishes, many of which also use the crock-pot.  Being able to just throw everything together into one dish and call it done keeps meal prep easy and saves the night when I fail to plan ahead like I should.  And even if I decide to cook a separate veggie or make a salad, it still feels very manageable!

5.  Freezer Meals
Remember how I mentioned that I love making double batches of things and then putting half of it in the freezer?  Being able to pull out that dish/bread/dessert later for an easy addition to our dinner helps me so much.  My biggest challenge is remembering to get it out in time to thaw!

I don’t do this as much as I’d like to, but occasionally I’ll have a freezer meal cooking day where I make a whole bunch of food specifically to put in the freezer.  If you are interested in doing lots of freezer meals this is an ideal way to pull it that off.

Tip: Happy Money Saver has a great post with lots of tried and true freezer meal ideas as well as a few tips on how to do a big freezer meal cooking day.  Check it out!

What do you do to make meal prep at home easier? 

* 8 Best Money Saving (and money making!) Apps

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Declutter Challenge: 7 Items a Day, 6 Days a Week for 4 Weeks! (week 1)

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

I made it through my first week of the declutter challenge and actually survived!  Whohoo!  Okay, so that’s kind of dramatic, I know.  But it does feel like a rather big accomplishment.  And while there were parts of it that were hard, I’m excited because I also caught a glimpse of how freeing this whole thing of getting rid of stuff is!  I’m determined to stick it out and finish these next three weeks, although I’ll admit, about two days into this challenge I was second guessing myself and almost feeling panicky wondering how I was going to come up with 168 things to get rid of.

Before I show you all the things I got free of this week, I wanted to share a question that Meghan asked on my Facebook page about how I’m handling selling things.  She said:

So are you counting it if you’re “trying” to sell it or would you count it if it actually sold? This is what I’m torn on b/c if it doesn’t .. then it’s still cluttering somewhere.

And here’s a summary of my reply:

Good question! If I try to sell an item and it doesn’t sell then I’ll either give it to Goodwill or put it with my yard sale pile.  Several years ago we started designating a small corner in the basement as our “yard sale corner” and whenever we find something that we want to get rid of, if we think it is yard sale material we put it there. Then every summer we have a yard sale using that stuff. So I guess while some of my items might not technically leave the house now, they will eventually and they are designated to leave if that makes sense.

(You might be wondering why I’m decluttering now if we do this throughout the year. Well, it just feels like we still have too much stuff and I thought by being really intentional and looking throughout the house specifically for things instead of just waiting for it to hit me that, “Oh, we don’t really use this anymore!” we could become even more free of our stuff!)

All that to say, do what works for you! The goal is to declutter and so if you find something that works better for you, go for it!!

And now (insert drum roll), here’s what I purged our house of this week!

DAY 1:

* 7 baby food jars/container
* Starbucks jar

I kept the baby food jars/container thinking that I’d use them to put homemade baby food in.  But the fact of the matter is, I have never really needed to use baby food that much anyway with our other two children and so far our 8 mo. old is exclusively breast fed and so I’m guessing by the time she is actually interested in table food she’ll be able to just eat regular food that is mashed.  I posted them for free to a local online yard sale group because I knew several people had been looking for some a couple of months back.  But so far no one has wanted them so they’ll be going in the recycle container shortly.

The Starbucks jar?  I use them for my homemade salad dressing but this one was missing a lid.  Why was it still in my cupboard?  I have no idea.  One of those great mysteries!  Ha!

DAY 2:

* 2 pieces of fabric
* 3 books
* cookbook
* magnet

I posted the fabric to the online yard sale group, and the one piece sold for $4.50.  The other one is on our yard sale pile in the basement and if it doesn’t sell online, then I’ll try to sell it when we have our next yard sale.

The cookbook sold for $0.50 on the online yard sale!  It was the first thing that sold for me so even though it was just $0.50 I was pretty happy!  And I know I’ll be able to sell the books too.  There is a local book store that buys some kinds of books and the owner said she would take these.  I was going to drop them off this week but unfortunately she was away on vacation so I’m hoping maybe it will work for me to drop by next week.  I might even be able to find a few more to add to the collection!  I’ll keep you posted on what I make on them.

The magnet was annoyingly cluttering up the side of our fridge.  I have no idea why I didn’t just take it off and trash it earlier.  But it’s gone now and my fridge looks happier!

DAY 3:

* Digital Scales
* 2 Bread Pans
* Boyd’s Bear
* Pancaker Turner
* Shoes

I sold the digital sales for $5, the bread pans for $6 and the pancake turner for $1 on the online yard sale group.  I love making my own bread but I had 8 bread pans and only ever make 6 loaves at a time.

The Boyd’s Bear was given to me by a dear co-worker friend of mine when I left for college.  I often thought that I should get rid of it, but I’m kind of sentimental and it was tiny (only about 3 in. tall) and so I kept passing over it.  But I finally admitted that it had served it’s purpose and was no longer doing anything for me other than cluttering my space, so it hit the yard sale box too!

Those shoes?  Again, I have no idea why I didn’t chuck them earlier.  They were very worn and I haven’t used them in a couple of years.  I noticed them hiding in the back of my closet when I went to get another pair of shoes.

DAY 4:

* 2 boards
* OxiClean laundry booster
* boys vest
* 3 pairs of torn jeans

Those 2 boards came with a box of stuff that we got recently at a sale and I had initially thought they’d work great for a base for my homemade birthday cakes (covered with something obviously!).  But you know what?  If I need a base for a homemade birthday cake I’ll worry about that then.  I don’t really feel like storing these 2 things for a “what if” occasion.

The OxiClean went to the yard sale pile.  I got it free as part of a blogger promotion I think and I never really used it.  The boys vest was part of a batch of clothes that I got for my son at a yard sale and it didn’t fit him.  It’s on the yard sale pile too, although if I find more clothes to get rid of, I might try to sell them all on the online yard sale group.

I usually try to keep 2 pairs of not nice jeans for our 6 yr. old to wear.  You know for things like helping my husband with a house project such as painting or for when he plays football by himself outside (major grass stains).  Well, I was helping him get his jeans for school one morning and realized he had 5 pairs of not nice pants filling up his drawer, so I grabbed 3 of them and sent them to the trash.  And now his dresser drawer actually closes without trying to stuff the clothes in!

DAY 5:

* Doll house
* Text books
* Magnet clips
* Cloth bag

This was the best day of the whole week!  We bought that huge doll house early this summer at a yard sale.  I saw it and I think I was trying to relive my childhood or something because I was just sure that we needed it even though we live in a small house.  My husband bit his tongue and went along with it and truth is, the children did have fun playing with it for several weeks.  But after that, it just kind of sat there and cluttered up their bedroom.  And did I mention that it had a gazillion little pieces that got strewn everywhere too?  We had talked to the children about selling it and they were fine with it.  Friday, I was cleaning their room and yet again picking up the gazillion little pieces from the doll house and decided that I had had enough!  So I stopped sweeping and hauled the thing out to our front steps and within an hour or so I sold it for $5!

I sold the textbooks through Sell Back Your Book and got $14.72 for them!  I’ve used them before- their prices are fair and it’s super easy.  They provide you with a mailing label and even pay for your shipping if you use the USPS.

The magnet clips were something I no longer use and they went on the yard sale pile.  The cloth bag was tearing and wasn’t that nice to begin with so I just trashed it.

DAY 6:

I went through my laundry and cleaning supplies.  The spray bottle in the back was empty.  I had intended to make some more of my Homemade Bathroom Cleaner and put it in it so that I’d have a bottle downstairs and a bottle upstairs just to  make things easier.  But I decided to just leave it and stick with one bottle for now.  The Clorox 2 and Ammonia went to the yard sale pile.  The duster went to the trash and the other things were random packs of detergent and the like that I used up while doing laundry this week!

Total Money Made from Selling Stuff this Week: $36.72

So did you declutter this week? How did it go?  What was the most bizarre thing you got rid of?

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Declutter Challenge: Rid Yourself of 7 Items a Day, 6 Days a Week for 4 Weeks!

Monday, October 6th, 2014

I wasn’t aware of how much of a “stuff” person I was until I married my wonderful husband almost 8 years ago.  My man is a minimalist and is of the mindset that less is more.  He’d much prefer only having a few things and needing to sometimes improvise as a result, than have to deal with the clutter of owning all sorts of things that we rarely, if ever use.

Over the years he’s been gradually rubbing off on me and I’m starting to realize that there really is something nice about not having so.much.stuff.  Still, when it comes right down to it, it’s amazingly hard for me to actually declutter!

For the last several weeks I’ve been thinking about tackling this thing of decluttering and have been trying to figure out the best method to do it.  Then over the weekend it occurred to me that maybe other people would enjoy reading about my experience too.  Obviously, this would also give me the added benefit of providing a kick-in-my-pants so to speak.  There’s nothing like accountability to motivate you!  And so I asked on my Facebook page if anyone would like to follow along as I worked at decluttering.  Wow, I had no idea that this was such a popular topic!  The answer was a resounding yes!  And so, there is no turning back now!  My house is going to get purged of the excess and hopefully our lives will be better as a result!

So, how am I going to do this Declutter Challenge?  Here are my rules.

1.  Get rid of 7 things a day, 6 days a week for 4 weeks.

Why 7 things?  Simply because I was trying to decide between 5 and 10 and decided to compromise and settle right in between the two.  Besides, 7 is the number of perfection so I figured that was a good sign!

Why spread it out over 4 weeks?  Well, my life is very busy right now and doing this in small chunks feels more manageable and will make it easier for me to succeed at actually getting it accomplished.

2.  Do one of the following with each of the 7 things.

  • Use it up (as in food items or cleaning supplies etc.)
  • Throw it out
  • Sell it
  • Find a new use for it
  • Donate it

I’m especially anxious to see how much money I might be able to make through this.  I really have no idea if I’ll even be able to make anything, but there is nothing like knowing I can make money on something to help motivate me to get rid of it!

3.   Do a blog post each Saturday showing you all what I got rid of each day that week and what I did with it. 

I’ll admit, this is going to probably end up being pretty humbling for me!  But I’m hoping that by seeing the things that I am purging and what I did with them, it will help encourage you do also consider diving in and work at decluttering too!

Do you find it hard to declutter?  What motivates you to get rid of things?  I’d love to hear about it!

Want to declutter your home too?  Join me in the challenge!  Each Saturday when I post about how my decluttering went that week I’ll give you a chance to chime in with your thoughts and what your experience was like too. 

You might enjoy…..

* ThredUp: $20 Off Your 1st Order = 4 Items of Kid’s Clothing for $6.42 Shipped!

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5 Tips to Make Kid’s Packed Lunches Easy and Fun

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Lunch Tips

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Del Monte. The opinions and text are all mine.

Back to school season is here and if you are like most parents, one of the things that you are not looking forward to is packing your kid’s lunch. Somehow it is just one of those jobs that can get boring and tedious pretty fast, not to mention the fact that a lot of kids can be hard to please when it comes to food!

Take heart! Here are 5 tips that will make packing your kid’s lunches easy and hopefully make them a hit at the same time.

1. Prep Ahead

The more prep work you do ahead of time, the easier your mornings will be. Mix up sandwich spreads, portion out bags of snacks and chop any veggies or fruit. Then all that you need to do in the morning is simply throw the sandwich together and grab your other items. And actually, if you want to make it really easy, you can even make the sandwiches the evening before too!

Want to be even more efficient? Prep a whole week’s worth of lunches at the beginning of the week!

2. Have a Designated Spot for Lunch Food

It makes things super easy if you can always find the items for your lunches at the same spot in the fridge and pantry. Designate a shelf as the lunch shelf or get a small basket and keep your lunch things in it. This not only makes sure someone doesn’t make a snack out of someone’s prepared lunch food, it also will save you time and hassle in the morning when you are rushing around trying to collect everything.

3. Allow Variety

Chances are your kids will be more excited about their lunch if it’s not the same old boring peanut butter and jelly sandwich every. single. day. Add some variety by switching the sandwich for a slice of pizza, a cheese quesadilla, hummus and crackers or even the occasional hot dog.

Prefer sticking with sandwiches every day? That’s fine! Just change things up and keep it interesting by making different kinds such as chicken salad, meat and cheese, tuna salad, egg salad or even cream cheese and banana. Of course you could easily sub a wrap for the bread some days too just for something fun and different!

4. Make it Easy to Eat

If your child is anything like mine, they have a hard time getting their food eaten in time. Packing easy-to-eat foods like sandwiches and wraps, cheese, carrots, trail mix, No Bake Energy Bites and Del Monte Fruit Burst Squeezers and Plastic Fruit Cups make it easy for them to get their lunch eaten.

5. Keep it Simple

Above all, keep it simple! Yes, you could spend extra time and make a sandwich that looks like an animal. And if you enjoy doing that kind of thing, go ahead and make them occasionally. But fancy looking sandwiches are totally not necessary to give your kids a healthy, delicious lunch. Chances are that you’ll stick with packing healthier lunches if you keep it simple and therefore easy to do.

Enjoy a little contest? From August 1 through September 1, share a photo of your kids’ favorite Del Monte snack- Fruit Burst Squeezers or Plastic Fruit Cups (Squeeze or Spoon?).

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Del Monte. The opinions and text are all mine. 

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