My 6 Favorite Organizing Tools As a Professional Organizer

Today I wanted to share with you 6 of my all time favorite organizing tools as a professional organizer.

First up is BINS OR BASKETS. Anyone who has been to my home, or who has hired me to organize their home, can attest to my love of bins!! The number one thing you can do to get organized is to categorize. The easiest way to do this is with bins or baskets. My favorite bins are white plastic bins from The Container Store. They come in several sizes, are cost effective, simple, and durable.

Using UNIFORM HANGERS will always immediately make your closet look more organized. There are so many choices, from wooden to velvet or even plastic – as long as they are uniform it is just more pleasing to the eye.

Next is LAZY SUSANS. Using lazy susans throughout your home is such an efficient use of space to keep like items contained. They come in all sorts of sizes, and they can also come with a standard lip or a deeper one depending on what you are storing. I am currently obsessed with clear acrylic lazy susans!

I also love GLASS JARS. These are especially great for food storage like pasta, rice, or baking items. I love the Fido brand, but I also really like the simple Ball Mason jars as well. When using the Mason jars, I purchase white plastic lids to make taking the lids off and on easier.

Another item I love to use is UNIFORM CLEANING BOTTLES. Whether you choose clear or amber glass cleaning bottles, or even plastic ones, cleaning bottles look so much more streamlined and simplistic when they are all uniform.

What organization project is complete without LABELS? I love using labels for practical purposes so you know you know what is in the container, but I also just love the look of labels aesthetically! There are so many different options for labels! I love the label made by a Cricut, and I also love the look of just an old school embossed label!

Well, I hope this gave you some ideas on how you can take your home organization to the next level!

Here is the video I made with this information! It is a giveaway collaborating with several other YouTubers, so definitely go enter to win if you are reading this blog post close to the time it is posted! *Giveaway ends June 15, 2021*

Chaos To Order, Sustainable Room By Room Organization

Today I wanted to share with you how I keep our home organized room by room! There are several different organization tools that are helpful in keeping your home organized. But, there are also some everyday practices that will help in keeping your home organized.

The first thing I wanted to talk about is decluttering. I won’t be-labor this point as I know I have several blog posts about the value in decluttering. When getting a space organized, there is no sense in organizing items that you no longer love or are no longer useful to you. I’m sure by now you have all heard of Marie Kondo’s Konmari method of decluttering. I don’t necessarily like everything about her methodology, however I do like the idea of decluttering by category. Some people get overwhelmed by pulling everything out in one category, so I suggest working one room or space at a time as well. Start with items that are easier to declutter – like kitchen items, which don’t have sentimental value and work your way up to sentimental items. Generally, the process of decluttering gets easier as you gain momentum. Also, it’s important to note that each room or space in your home will need to be revisited. Unfortunately, decluttering is typically not a one time event but rather a process as most homes continually accumulate items.

I wanted to talk a little bit about a system I learned many years ago from the book The Fly Lady. She has lots of great advice in her book, but the thing I have implemented into my routine is creating “zones” coordinating with different spaces or rooms in your home, and each week choosing one zone to deep clean and declutter. I have 12 zones in my home, and by choosing one zone per week my entire house gets deep cleaned and decluttered every three months. It’s not only important to stay on top of decluttering, it’s also important to stay on top of your organization systems as things can get misplaced or in disarray over time.

My number one advice for client’s is to have a place for everything. When each item in your home has a place, it makes cleaning up and putting things away more efficient and easy. I love to use bins, baskets, and lazy susans throughout my home to house items which are alike. For many of these bins, I use labels, making it easy for everyone in my family to know where things are and where they belong.

The first space I want to talk about is your entryway – whether it’s at your front door, back door, or both! Typically this is a “drop zone” – a place where everyone sets down their everyday items and takes off their shoes. You want to have organization tools which will accommodate this. Hooks for purses and backpacks, a shoe rack or baskets for shoes, a key holder for keys, and bins to hold things like hats, scarves, and gloves. Having a space for each type of item works well, or perhaps you can have a bin and or hook for each family member. These are items that are notorious for getting lost, however if you have a place for these items, each family member will know where they go and where to find their items.

The next location I wanted to talk about is the living room/family room. In this space, it’s important to have functional furniture to store different items that belong in the room, such as game consoles, video games CDs, movies, remotes, and blankets. Once again, if items have a place, everyone will know where to find them. Blankets can be stored in an aesthetically pleasing way such as in a basket, on a blanket ladder, or draped across the sofa. If you’re like me and like to have a variety of throw pillows, you can choose to purchase pillow covers when possible, making it easier to store when not in use. In addition to this, if you like using different decor for different times of the year, find creative ways to store these items. I have a dresser in my office where I store all my extra decor that is not in season. I do have two large bins storing my Christmas specific decor, which I store in the attic. A trick I like is to use dual purpose decor. I use wood bead strings around my Christmas tree as garland, but when it is not Christmas season I use the beads as decor in other areas of my home. Also, you can find a lot of versatile “Christmas decor” that will transition into the winter season.

TV Console with space for Living Room items.
I store extra pillow cases in our side tables in the living room.
I store my extra home decor in a dresser in my office.

The next space I will talk about is the kitchen. This might be one of the most important places in the home to find an organization system that works well for you as it allows you to be more efficient in meal planning, getting groceries, putting away the groceries, and meal prepping. It’s helpful to have your kitchen organized in a functional way. Store items where you use them. I have a corner of my kitchen where I do most of the meal prepping, and that is where all of my utensils and dishes are stored. Organizing your pantry and refrigerator/freezer space by category helps to keep everything contained and easy to find. I have chosen a variety of bins, boxes, and jars to store items in my pantry. Taking pantry items out of their packaging and decanting items into streamline jars and bins is a more efficient use of space. Using labels will make it easy to put things away, and allow family members to know where items go. It also just looks more appealing! In the refrigerator and freezer, you can use bins to keep things in order, and again using labels so everyone knows where things belong. This also keeps your refrigerator more clean, so if anything spills or leaks, it is contained in the bin. Lastly, using drawer organizers helps to keep drawers neat and easy to maintain.

I also wanted to talk about the office. This is probably one of the most difficult spots to keep organized, primarily because often offices become overrun with papers. Again, organization systems help to keep everything in its place. If you have drawers in your desk, invest in drawer organizers, which can be fairly inexpensive. Having little compartments in your desk drawers to store all the little office type items will help to keep your desktop clean of clutter. Dealing with paper clutter can be time consuming and overwhelming! Definitely invest in some sort of filing system for important documents, whether that’s a filing cabinet built into your desk drawer, or some sort of external accordion style filing folder. Additionally, you can use an app like Adobe Scan, a document scanning app, to keep digital records of your paperwork, eliminating a lot of the paper clutter! In my opinion, it’s so much easier to get work done in a organized and tidy space!

A couple of other spaces that often need organization systems are the laundry room and the bathroom linen closet. Having bins to house like items is definitely helpful in these spaces. I store all of our medicine in three separate bins which are labeled, making it easy for family members to find which type of medication they are looking for. Folding your sheets and towels in a uniform way will also help to keep your linen closet in order. I have a YouTube video where I show you the way I fold sheets so they will look neat in your cabinet! This might not work for everyone, but we own two bath towels per person, two hand towels per hand towel hook, and two sets of sheets per bed in our home. One for in use and one for in the laundry or in the cabinet. Having a system like this will cut back on clutter in this space.

The final space I wanted to discuss is the closet and/or dresser. This is another space that can be hard to stay on top of as we often have a constant flow of items coming in. Again, it’s important to make it a habit of going through your clothing items and donating anything you no longer wear or love, anything that is too small or too big, or anything that has a hole or stain. One of the easiest ways to make your closet look more organized is to invest in uniform hangers. It’s up to you to decide how many! Everyone is different in the amount of clothing they have space for and want to own. Also, finding storage systems for shoes, off season clothing items, and anything else you store in your closet is important. As far as the dresser goes, I want to mention the Konmari method again. I have found using the Konmari folding method to be the most efficient way by far to store clothing. More clothing fits in the space when folded this way, it’s easier to find what you are looking for, and once you learn to fold in this way it is very efficient to get your clothing folded. Once again, I have a tutorial YouTube video on how to fold Konmari style!

I hope this gave you some ideas or information on how you can get your home organized and functioning efficiently today!

Real Life Organizing | You Can Be Organized!

Sometimes while talking to clients or friends they either allude to or say outright that their space can’t be organized. Recently one of my friends hired me to help with her pantry. She came over to my house to see how I had organized my own pantry, hoping for inspiration or maybe to gain some trust that I could in fact get her pantry organized? She said that I seemed to be more of a methodical cook than her, and she wasn’t so sure her pantry could function like my pantry. She still reluctantly hired me as I encouraged her that I was up for the challenge! In the end she was surprised that she did in fact have distinct categories in her pantry! Several weeks after I was finished with her pantry, she let me know how much easier it was to order and put away groceries now that her pantry had a system. She was shocked and surprised that there was a sustainable organization system that worked for this space!

This is my pantry

I share this story because I think people often think that their space (or spaces) cannot be organized. I told my friend that is why she needed to hire me! I had a vision that she couldn’t even imagine. We all have gifts and talents, and my brain just processes things in light of order. Organizing projects can feel overwhelming at first. Even for me, sometimes I feel overwhelmed before starting a project, but I know you just have to take things one step at a time no matter how big or small the project is!

Here is my friend’s before pantry picture

The first step to getting any space organized is always to declutter. You don’t want to organize items that you no longer need, use, or love. 

The next step is to identify categories in the space. The best way to efficiently organize a space is by category. This is why I am a big fan of bins. This will help contain items for each category, making it quick and easy to put items away in the future.

After you have decluttered and identified your categories, you will need to measure your space and then go on a hunt for bins, boxes, baskets, or lazy susans that will fit the space and your style. This can be tricky at times. When we were looking for bins for my friend’s pantry, we were balancing a multitude of specifications. We were looking for bins of a certain size, style, and price point. You have to balance all of these specs and give weight to the importance of each. Just know that this can take time! You may have to scour the internet as well as stores in your local area. It’s not always a one stop trip! Don’t forget your labels too!

Next is the fun part!! Or at least for me!! You will need to remove everything from the space, and I always like to give it a good clean while the space is empty. Then you can begin organizing things into categories. Label each box making it easy to find homes for each of the items.

Organizing a space is certainly not a one size fits all, and it can’t always be done as quickly as a Home Edit Netflix episode. Be realistic, and have your expectations set so that you are not disappointed in how long this process can take.

If it all feels too overwhelming and you can’t hire a professional organizer, enlist a friend to help! Oftentimes it helps just to have accountability even if they are just as clueless as you!

Here is what her pantry looked like after!
Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post

10 Habits of An Organized Person

I think most people would say they would like to be more organized, or they would like to be an organized person. Friends and family often ask me how I stay organized. They may even comment that I’m so lucky to just be naturally organized. People who seem naturally organized really just implement habits in their lives that lead to an organized life. Today I wanted to share with you 10 habits of people who are organized.

The first habit is that they have a place for everything. The number one advice I give to people who want to get organized is to have a place for everything. When everything has a place, over time you don’t even have to think about putting things away. Your brain makes neural pathways as you repetitively put the items away in the same location. Eventually you do it as second nature. Also, if something does not have a home, it just continues to float around your house and every time you use that item, you must think about where to put it down when you’re finished using it.

In addition to having a place for everything, organized people actually put things away in their place after they are done using it. I call this the “one touch rule.” When they are done with an item, they immediately put it back where it belongs. They don’t drop the towel on the bathroom floor, or kick off their shoes wherever they want to take them off. A great example – and a problem place for many people – is the mail creating paper clutter in that dreaded drop zone where everything seems to pile up in your house. Someone who is organized has a habit of immediately dealing with the mail. They make it a habit to get the mail when they have the time to go through and discard junk mail, pay bills, and file papers that come through the mail.

In order to be able to deal with things like mail, functional systems must be set up and used. An organized person has these systems, which they continue to tweek until it works well for them. They have a paper filing system, a place for shoes, hooks for backpacks and jackets, a location where dirty laundry goes (and family members know this as well), and any other organizing bins for everyday used items.

Along with functional systems, organized people have daily routines set up. Having routines will allow you to get things done almost without thinking about it. Not only general routines like exercise, daily Bible reading or meditation, and getting up and going to bed at approximately the same time each day; but also cleaning, decluttering, and organizing habits. We all have a fairly consistent inflow of things into our homes, whether it’s junk mail, kids artwork, or gifts. Having routines set up to deal with the inflow and the organic daily messes that are created, help to keep you organized.

Another habit of an organized person is that they are constantly decluttering. Like I just mentioned, we all have a constant inflow of items into our homes. No matter how minimalist someone appears to be, there is still a need to declutter items from the home.

To help make the decluttering process a bit easier, another habit of an organized person is that they are intentional about what comes into their homes. Some things we don’t have control over – mail sent to us or what our family members bring into our home is out of our control. However, an organized person closely evaluates their purchases to decide if the items will add value, particularly in the long run.

Along those same lines, organized people only own what they use and what they love and declutter the rest. The less stuff we have, the less stuff we have to organize. The less stuff we have to organize, the easier it is to be and stay organized.

Another habit of an organized person is that they keep lists. Keeping lists for different aspects of life help to keep things organized. If you get ideas or to dos out of your head and onto paper (or digitally if that is your thing), your head is clear and you won’t worry about forgetting anything. It’s great to keep separate lists for different aspects of life – a work to do list, a daily to do list, a long term to do list, and an ideas list to name a few.

Organized people create deadlines for themselves. Oftentimes we organically have deadlines – whether that’s for work, school, or things that must get done related to our children or our personal lives (like appointments, preparation for events, etc.) When an organized person doesn’t have a set deadline – like with home projects or cleaning, they make deadlines for themselves. Having a deadline helps motivate you to get tasks and projects done. Of course there is always room for grace when unexpected things come up!

Lastly, organized people don’t procrastinate. Oftentimes people put off decluttering, putting things away, or everyday tasks. People who are organized, deal with things immediately, and then tasks don’t pile up and get to the point where they are overwhelming. It’s easier to stay on top of things when we don’t procrastinate.

I hope this gave you some practical tips on how you can become a more organized person. It’s never too late to make changes in your habits!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post.

7 Reasons We Keep Clothes + Ideas To Declutter Clothes

Today I wanted to share with you common reasons we tend to hold onto clothes, and some ideas for letting go. It can be overwhelming to downsize our wardrobe, especially if we are not in the habit of purging items from our closet and the job has gotten out of control. The best advice I have if you’re feeling overwhelmed by a decluttering project is to take it in bite size pieces. Choose one drawer a week to go through, or set a timer for an allotted amount of time. Oftentimes getting started is the most difficult part. Once we start, we have momentum to continue forward.

{{ONE}} We feel guilty about the amount of money we spent on the items. This is probably the number one reason we find it hard to declutter clothes – and really any items from our home. It can be difficult to just give away items that we have spent money on. If the items are in relatively good condition, an alternative is to sell these clothes. You could choose a consignment platform like Poshmark (my go-to), or Mercari. You could send it to Thread Up if you don’t want the clothes just sitting in your home as you wait for them to sell, or you could bring them to a local consignment shop to get some of your money back. You won’t make as much money with Thread Up or a consignment shop, but then the clothes are out of your house. If you have enough items in general that you are wanting to get rid of, another option is to have a good old fashioned garage sale. I have found it much easier to let go of items that I am on the fence about when I can make some money back. Lastly, if you have taken a basic economics course, then you learned about “sunk cost.” Basically, sometimes we make poor financial decisions, but keeping the item doesn’t get us the money back. If anything, every time we see that item we think – either consciously or subconsciously – that we spent money on that, but no longer love it/want it. It might be better to just get it out of our field of vision!

{{TWO}} We think we might lose – or even gain – weight. Sometimes we hang onto clothing items that used to fit us, but no longer fit because we have gained weight. We hold onto them as though it was an incentive to lose the weight to get back into that size. Or perhaps you have the opposite problem where you went through a weight loss journey and you’re concerned you will gain the weight back. Either way, I personally don’t keep items that are too big or too small. It can be discouraging to have that pair of jeans two sizes too small sitting in the back of your closet. Instead, perhaps you could use the incentive of purchasing new items when/if you do lose the weight. And if you went through a weight loss journey, it could be cathartic to get rid of all of those large clothes believing you WILL maintain the weight you are at currently. Certainly there are exceptions. If you are expecting a baby, you will likely need different sizes in your wardrobe to account for different stages of pregnancy and postpartum.

{{THREE}} We have sentimental attachment. This is a tough one. It may take time to be ready to let go of some of these items. When beginning the process of decluttering, I agree with Marie Kondo, it is wise to leave sentimental items until the end. This gives you momentum, and you also begin to “learn how to declutter.” You begin to feel more confident in your choices to part with things. If you have things like school or sports team t-shirts that you don’t want to let go of, consider having a quilt/blanket made out of the t-shirts/jerseys so you can still appreciate and enjoy them without having a box of them stuffed in the back of your closet. Other items that have sentimental value could be displayed in your home so you are able to appreciate them. Get a shadow box for that special jersey, or the outfit you brought your child home from the hospital in. Find a way to display/enjoy it, instead of continuing to allow these items to sit in a box in a closet or attic space. Perhaps you could pick your favorite few – maybe you don’t need to keep an entire tote of baby clothes from when your children were babies. Choose a couple of memorable outfits. Or perhaps you can keep a couple of school t-shirts instead of 13 from every year of school from kindergarten through 12th grade!

{{FOUR}} We don’t have time/don’t want to spend our time this way. I understand this. Honestly, in the end, it comes down to what is important to you. If you are okay with and not bothered by overflowing closets and drawers, then you do you. But, I would imagine if you’re reading this post, you are interested in paring down your wardrobe. As I mentioned, you don’t have to do the Konmari method and pile all your clothes from every drawer and hanger into the middle of your room. You could focus on a little at a time – choosing one drawer, or one section of your closet. Another idea is to purge clothing items by category. Sometimes you don’t realize how many of one category you own – so taking inventory of all of your shorts, or all of your sweaters at once may give you a better idea of what to get rid of. Think realistically about how many items in each category you might need. Think about the climate you live in and how often you do laundry. Another idea would be to set a timer. If you don’t have hours to spend decluttering. Set a timer for 10, 15, or 20 minutes, then grab a bag or box and start filling it with the items you know you no longer wear. Another trick I use is to turn your hangers backwards, then turn them back forwards as you wear/wash each item. After 6 months to a year (depending on how temperate your climate is) you will get an idea of which clothes you are wearing. If turning your hangers around seems like a lot of work, push all your clothes to one end of your closet, then hang them back up at the other end as you wear/wash them.

{{FIVE}} It was a gift. I think it is a universal feeling to feel guilt getting rid of something someone gave to you. Even if you are someone who doesn’t attach sentimental value to things readily, it is difficult. I’m sure it’s even more difficult for those who do attach sentimental value to items. The truth is, when someone gives you a gift, that item now belongs to you which means you can do with it what you please. You can appreciate their gesture and experience the joy of the act of giving in that moment, but if this item is not useful to you or does not bring you joy then it is silly to hold onto it just because it was given to you. If the person who gave you the item would be upset because you didn’t use it or you gave it away – that is a boundary issue they have, not you. Usually, your friends and relatives would not want an item they gave you to cause stress or clutter in your home. I think most people would rather the item that they spent money on be given to someone else who would use itl than for it sit in a drawer or closet in your home.

{{SIX}} We have space in our closet.  I relate well to this one. I used to not purge things that were difficult to purge because I had the space for it, so why not just leave it. The truth is, physical clutter can cause mental clutter. If every time you open your closet or drawers and they are filled to the top, your brain has to process everything that is in there. With less stuff, it’s less the brain has to process. I am beginning to enjoy having empty spaces in my home! For me personally, I realize that one day we will likely downsize and live in a smaller home. I like the idea of being able to slowly over time purge my items rather than being forced into it when we do choose to downsize. Even further down the road (or not since we never know!) when we leave this earth we will leave our things behind, and our family will have to make choices about what to do with those things. I don’t want my stuff to become a burden to my children or family members.

{{SEVEN}} We think we want lots of options. This may be true for some people. I have thought about trying to transition to a capsule wardrobe, but even I like to have a variety of choices when it comes to clothes. One thing I have found helpful for myself is to have a “uniform” then having options within that uniform. I pretty much assemble the same look every day, just with different items. But, some people want all different kinds of styles and options within those styles. I think having too many options can be overwhelming and contribute to decision fatigue. This may be the main reason people want to declutter their closets in the first place. They might not be able to put their finger on why, but ultimately it’s that there are too many choices in our closets. By using some of the techniques and tips mentioned earlier, you can pare down your wardrobe so it’s easy to get dressed each day and you love what you are wearing EVERYDAY! Can you say that now??

I hope this gave you some motivation or inspiration to reassess how many clothing items you own! It can be tough to declutter clothes, but if you do a little at a time it can be less overwhelming!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post!

Things I Wish I Could Quit Buying, and Why I Don’t

I often will see creative content from minimalists who share a list of all the things they no longer purchase now that they are minimalist. Sometimes this type of content makes me feel bad, because I think I should not purchase some of these items, but when I think about it, I know  it’s just not practical for me and my family. I thought I would share the 15 things I wish I could quit buying and why I don’t.

Paper Towels and Paper Napkins. I do try to use cleaning cloths as much as possible, however there are times when jobs are so messy or unsanitary that I prefer to use something disposable instead of something I will need to wash. Also, we use paper towels to cover our food when we are cooking it in the microwave so it doesn’t splatter in there. As for napkins, I actually used to have cloth napkins and we used them every night at dinner. But, probably some time around the time our third child was born I gave up on keeping up with that extra laundry. To be honest, now that my kids are older, we don’t use napkins all the time. We only use them if it is a messy meal.

Disposable Plates, Cups, and Silverware. Truthfully, we RARELY use these, but I do keep them on hand for emergencies or if my kids have friends over. If we have a large gathering at our home, we will use disposable plates, cups, and silverware as well.

Plastic Bags (Ziplocks), Plastic Wrap, Tin Foil, and Parchment Paper. Again, I don’t use these items frequently. I have reusable plastic bags, and beeswax paper to replace plastic wrap. But, there are occasions when I use these items. I don’t like to use any reusable plastic bags  with raw meat. Also, I don’t have a large collection of reusable plastic bags, so if all of the reusable ones are used then we will use a disposable one. I use foil on our grill to cook our food on, and to line a baking sheet with some of the items that I cook. I use parchment paper when I bake cookies, and for some other recipes. I think there might be reusable parchment paper? I’ve never looked into that though.

Individually Wrapped Snacks. I recognize that it’s a lot of extra wrapping to purchase these types of snacks, however it is nice to have some snacks that are already portioned out. I’m not talking about chips or crackers. I’m talking about protein bars, oatmeal packets, and easy one person meals to name a few. Some things like the individual easy meals are great for teens to make on their own, and it doesn’t create leftovers.

Home Decor. I would like to be a minimalist, but there are just some areas where I enjoy having beautiful things. I don’t have an excessive amount of home decor, but I do like having it as I feel like it makes our home feel cozy and inviting. Along these same lines, is seasonal decor. I don’t keep a lot  of seasonal decor, but I do have decor for Easter, spring/summer, fall, and Christmas. I have tried to curate an intentional collection of seasonal decor.

Decorative Pillows. I have to say, it has been a while since I last purchased decorative pillows. For those of you who don’t know, in 2019 I did a “No Spend Year” with regards to clothes and home decor. I did not purchase any pillows during that year, and now we are in May of 2020 and I still have not purchased any new ones! But, I do like using throw pillows as a way to make spaces more warm and cozy. When I can, I use pillow covers to change out my pillows making it easier to store.

Fake Plants. I would REALLY like to be able to have all real plants in my home, but the reality is I’m barely keeping the four real plants that I have in my home alive! I have killed so many real plants – including cacti and succulents {{how do you do that??}} I love the look of plants, so I have included fake plants and succulents throughout my home.

Clothes. As I mentioned, in 2019 I did not purchase any clothes (with some exceptions! You can read my blog post about my reflections from my No Spend Year.) During that year, I did learn about fast fashion and how some brands do not ethically source their clothing items. I am now purchasing clothes either second hand, from small boutiques/business, or from brands that have ethical practices. I love beautiful things! I love putting together outfits, so yes I do still purchase clothes. I have been doing the one in, one out rule – if I purchase an item I remove one of a similar type of item from my wardrobe. This helps me to be more intentional with what I purchase.

Disposable Feminine Products. Okay, skip on to the next one if this is TMI for you! I did try two different brands of the period cups, both of them were $20-30, and neither one worked for me. I decided I’m probably close enough to menopause that it’s not worth it to try yet another brand!

Q-tips and Cotton Pads. I have thought about purchasing reusable Q-tips and cotton pads, but as of now I am using the disposable kind. For those of you who have reusable Q-tips and/or cotton pads, are they difficult to clean? Do you wash them in the washer? Or just in the sink?

Cleaning Products. I have to admit, lately I’ve been really pondering if I should make my own cleaning products with simple items I already have on hand (vinegar, baking soda, rubbing alcohol, and essential oils), but as of now I do purchase pre-made cleaning products. I use the Grove Collaborative website to order what I need. It is a subscription based service that will send cleaning products to your door once a month! They have a lot of essential oil based {{more}} all-natural products. I do recognize that these products aren’t as natural as just making your own.

Candles and Essential Oils. There is conflicting data on the health hazards of both candles and essential oils. The data on the candles being hazardous is probably more legit, as even scented soy candles have chemicals in them to create the scent. I more often diffuse essential oils than to light candles, but either way, I do love my home to smell good! I used to use those Glade or Yankee Candle plug-ins, but I stopped using those several years ago. I may eventually give up lighting scented candles, but I would have to find some all-natural, unscented ones because I love the cozy ambiance candles create.

Books. If there is a book I would like to read, I typically buy or borrow the physical book. There is just something about holding a physical book and turning the pages. Especially now that we are quarantined, I have thought about trying out the library service where you can rent audio books, or ebooks.

Coffee at a Coffee Shop. Most of the time I make my coffee at home, but every once in a while this mama needs a treat!

Hair Dye. I’m 45 years old and that is old enough to have gray hair, but I feel like it’s young enough to cover it up to continue looking young. I know one day I will give this up, and I recognize that many people may find this vain, but that is not how I currently feel about it. I think it’s okay to take care of yourself – eat healthy, exercise, and do things to make you look and feel younger!

Well, I hope this may help you to feel better about the things you continue to purchase, if you’re like me and are striving for minimalism but am not quite there yet. Let me know if you purchase these items too, or if you don’t why you don’t!

10 Areas To Declutter Without Donations

In case you missed it, in my last blog post in which I made some suggestions on staying sane during quarantine, I mentioned that while you’re stuck at home it’s a great time to purge and organize. I realize that many donation centers are not accepting donations at this time, so I thought I would share with you 10 types of things you can purge that don’t need to be donated.

{{FIRST}} Physical Photos. If you are in the group of people who still have physical photos in your home, now is a great time to go through those photos and decide which to keep, which to throw away, and how you would like to store them. Some people don’t like just throwing photos in the trash, I would suggest shredding them first if you don’t want some dumpster diver finding a random photo with your likeness. The photos you do choose to keep could be stored in a storage box, placed in a photo album or scrapbook, or you could scan them before throwing the remainder away.

{{SECOND}} Digital Clutter. This could be a variety of things. It could be going through your email inbox, deleting photos you no longer need (often people will take several shots of the same setting to make sure they got the shot they wanted – you  can delete the ones that didn’t turn out), downloads you no longer need stored on your computer, social media declutter (deleting any people you no longer want to follow). This is a great time to organize your digital files in general.

{{THIRD}} Paper Clutter/Files. You could spend some time getting rid of any paperwork you no longer need or is no longer pertinent in your life. Or you could spend time scanning in files so that you can store those files digitally as opposed to having physical files taking up space in your home. There are several great apps to use to capture these files if you don’t want to scan them in. Another area where we accumulate paper clutter is through instruction manuals. Many of these can now be found easily online through the company’s website. You could check to make sure, and often you are able to download those instructions onto your computer.

{{FOURTH}} CDs/DVDs. Whether this is games or movies you no longer watch or play, or if it’s something you could convert to a digital version to get rid of the physical copy. Perhaps you could determine if you have some CDs that came with a camera or a printer which are available to download from the website now so you no longer need the physical copy.

{{FIFTH}} Kids Artwork/Crafts. Somehow these seem to pile up fast – at least they did around my house when my kids were younger! Go through and assess which ones are worth saving, and which you can throw away. You could even take a photo of the artwork before throwing it away to be able to still have that memory. If it is truly a masterpiece, you could create a scrapbook to store the artwork neatly to be able to go back and easily look through it. I created a scrapbook for each of my kids of the artwork they made when they were younger.

{{SIXTH}} Old/Broken Craft Items. Go through your craft items stash – see if you have broken pencils, worn out crayons, or items that aren’t in good enough shape anymore to be used.

{{SEVENTH}} Random/Broken Pieces. Likely you will find these items in a junk drawer and floating around the toybox. Assess if you have any items that you have no idea what they are or broken items and get rid of them!

{{EIGHTH}} Expired Food. Assess what food you have in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. See if there are any foods that are expired or have gone bad. This is a great time to assess what food you have to make sure you are being efficient in using what you already have!

{{NINTH}} Unused/Empty Toiletries/Make Up. Do you have an empty shampoo bottle sitting in the shower? Or maybe you have that eye shadow that you tried once three years ago and it just didn’t work. See if you have any toiletries or make up that you are no longer using.

{{TENTH}} Paint/Chemicals You No Longer Use. This one is tricky, because technically these should be safely disposed of at a chemical recycling center. However, you could grab a box and fill it with these items and store it in the garage until the lock down instructions have been lifted. Then, those items will be ready to go to the recycle center.

Obviously, you don’t have to tackle all of these areas while in quarantine. I just thought I would share with you some ideas of things that can be thrown away instead of taken to the donation center. I hope this inspired you to pick an area in your home to declutter!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post!

Surviving Quarantine

All of our lives were turned upside down just a few short weeks ago. With the spread of the Coronavirus, COVID-19, it’s almost like we’re living in some sort of thriller type movie. With many being quarantined at home, we’re trying to find a new normal. We’re searching for ways to keep some normalcy from what our lives used to be like, but the truth is life has changed. And it has changed dramatically.

As someone who considers herself a homebody – and does a good portion of my work from home, I wanted to share some tips on how to keep sane in this time. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing that you are required to stay at home. It can be a time when you evaluate what your life looked like – how you spent your time, energy, and money, and decide if there are any changes you want to make moving forward once life “gets back to normal.”

The first thing I would suggest is to make a schedule and write it down. Make a schedule for you and for your kids. I understand that not all people “like” to live with a schedule. For you, it could be more of a loose schedule. But when we don’t have a schedule, it’s easy to waste time and get side-tracked which ultimately can lead to feelings of depression. Prior to this pandemic hitting the world, many of you had a routine which happened organically. Likely your children had the same experience, especially if they are school aged or went to daycare. Although you could fly by the seat of your pants everyday, it would benefit you to create some sort of routine.

There are several areas in life where a schedule would be beneficial. One area would be a cleaning schedule.I have found that spreading out the chores for your entire house over the course of the week, as opposed to doing it all in one day, is much less overwhelming and stressful. In addition, when you choose one or two chores to do each day, keeping the house clean seems more manageable. You don’t need to worry about the entire house every day – each day choose one or two chores to complete and those are the only chores you will need to think about that day. Typically this won’t take longer than 45 minutes. You could even break it up into a couple “cleaning sessions” in the day.

Here is my schedule for the spring semester (this was prior to the lock down instructions.)

A few more things that need to be worked into your schedule is of course work (your career), checking in with your kids and their work, exercise, and downtime. I recently heard in a news story that a good balance would be to work for 45 minutes, then check in with your kids for 15 minutes each hour (this will obviously depend on the age/independence of your children. My college-aged kids are on their own! Hahaha!) Building in time to exercise and downtime is really important in this time too.

The second thing you can do is to keep things as normal as possible. While this is difficult since many of our lives have changed dramatically, there are small things we can do to keep normalcy in our lives in this uncertain time. Keep routines that you previously had that still work. Take a shower, get dressed, put on makeup, make your bed – anything to make things feel routine. It could be easy to not keep these regular routines since you aren’t leaving the house, but it can make you feel more normal and maybe even more productive.

Something else I wanted to suggest {{OBVIOUSLY}} is to take advantage of this extra time at home by purging and organizing your spaces. Perhaps choose one room/space per week to focus on and do a little each day. It may seem counter intuitive to purge in this time where there is a worldwide crisis because the tendency in this sort of environment is to hoard, however if your space is neat and only has those items you love and use, it will be a lot easier to get work done and stick to your routines. Oftentimes (not for everyone), a cluttered external environment causes your mind to feel cluttered making it difficult to focus and get work done.  If you’re leery of getting rid of things at this time, collect items in a bin and store them in your garage or basement for 6 months to see if you can go without these items. If you do in fact need any of them, you are able to easily retrieve them. There are several places in your home that could be tackled, and I have a couple different blog posts if you need some direction, but a great place to start would be with your food – your pantry and refrigerator/freezer. Across the world, it has grown increasingly difficult to acquire the foods we want and just to go out to get it with the lock down instructions in place. It can be a great time to assess what food you already have and find creative ways to use what you have! I know many people feel emotionally drained at this time, which can also make you mentally and physically drained, making it difficult to tackle something like decluttering. Just remember, you can start small. Do one drawer or one cabinet, and that can give you momentum to declutter other spaces.

Lastly, I wanted to share that this is a great time to instill new, positive habits. They say it takes 21 days to create a true habit. Who knows how long we will be asked to stay on lock down, but you can start today to create new habits while you are forced to stay at home and potentially have more time on your hands. Some ideas are to create cleaning routines/habits, make exercise (even just walking!) a regular part of your life, or begin to spend time in prayer and/or mediation (this doesn’t even have to be “spiritual.” You can meditate on positive affirmations). This is also a great time to focus on drinking lots of water and getting enough rest. If we do contract this worldwide virus, it’s best to have healthy practices to give our bodies the best chance to fight it off.

I hope this encouraged you to see the silver lining in this time that you are stuck at home. Enjoy the slower pace of life, reevaluate what you do with your time and money, instill new positive routines and habits into your life!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post.

My Intentional Spending Year Reflections, Part 1

For those of you new to my blog, last year in 2019 I did a no spend year. You can read my reflections from each month by clicking on the “No Spend Year” link under categories on the right side of the home page. After that experience, I didn’t want to go back to my old spending habits. The reason I decided to do the no spend year was to reset some of my negative spending habits. Moving into 2020, I decided to do an “Intentional Spending Year,” focusing on being more intentional with what I brought into my home. I wanted to give an update on how that has been going now that we are well into the third month of the year.

At the beginning of the year, I was struggling to buy anything. Since I took a year long spending fast, it almost felt like “cheating” because my brain became so accustomed to not spending. So far, I feel like I have been very intentional about certain purchases, while other purchases I don’t feel like I am being as intentional as I had planned on being.

My biggest struggle so far this year has been with Poshmark. This is a clothing resale app in which you can buy and sell clothing to other users. There were several clothing items which I had “liked” even when I wasn’t purchasing clothing. For those of you not familiar with the app, it is set up similar to social media where you can follow certain people (their closets) and you can “like” certain clothing items. I did purchase several items from my “likes” over the first couple of months of 2020.

The other struggle I had was having items “stored up” from the year that I had my eye on or needed to replace, and really still wanted. Where I would only purchase 1-2 items like this per month in the past, I had several items I wanted. I needed a new black leather jacket (as my old had an obvious worn spot). I also had my eye on a specific pair of shoes that I had first seen probably 6 months ago. In addition to that, I had some workout clothes that were no longer fitting me right, and needed replacing (whoever designed high waisted workout pants are a genius! No more slipping! I replaced a couple pairs of tights that were not high waisted.) I needed to replace one of my white t-shirts that had a stain. And the list could go on!

Leather jacket and basic white t-shirt which I replaced.

Another struggle, which I mentioned in several of my no spend year reflections – was this idea of the slippery slope. I think I purchased some items just because it was “okay to buy things.” I realize now that my biggest struggle is with SHOES! I definitely make excuses as to why I “NEED” a pair of shoes.

Just one of my three shoe racks! I also have some shoe storage boxes on the top shelf of my closet to store out of season shoes!

I do feel like I’m slowing down on the purchases now that I’m through those first couple of months. Part of it is now I’ve purchased those things that I’ve had my eye on, or needed replaced. Another part of it is just being disappointed in myself – wanting to do a better job at being intentional with what comes into my home.

Pair of shoes I had my eye on for over 6 months!

If you read my past reflections from last year, you will know that clothing items were much more difficult for me to not purchase versus the home decor. I feel like I have been much more intentional with home decor purchases. In addition to that, I feel like I’m getting to a place where I can appreciate something in a store without having to purchase it. I probably am erring on the side of NOT purchasing when it comes to things other than clothing.

I purchased these brass birds from my friend’s vintage Etsy shop.

Even with clothing items, I did have a couple of “wins.” Unfortunately, in February, I had to travel back to my home town for my Grandma’s funeral. Ordinarily, I would want to purchase a dress for this occasion. I remembered back to my experience with wanting to purchase a dress for my son’s graduation, and realized I have plenty of dresses to choose from (even though they were all sleeveless or short sleeved and I was traveling to Indiana in the middle of winter! But I added a blazer and it worked!) I also went on a trip at the end of February. I often will purchase clothes specific for trips, but I chose to wear what I had – and I made it work!

Me with my four sisters at the lunch after my Grandma’s funeral.
My son and me at Magic Kingdom!

One other thing I wanted to share, which is difficult to open up about, is one of the reasons why I may have been spending more (other than I was “allowed to.”) I learned while on my no spend year that when I was tempted to shop, I replaced it with other habits – like watching Netflix for instance. As I reflect, I realize that oftentimes I am tempted to shop when I am stressed out or going through something difficult in life. It was my way of numbing out life. I have gone through several difficult personal things over the last few months – making me more susceptible to seeking out ways to find comfort. I’m thankful for the no spend year, and how it has contributed to my ability to see more clearly reasons behind my habits. Moving forward, I will find more healthy ways to deal with the stressors of life. I used to journal a lot, but have not been consistent for several years now. I want to use journaling as a way to brain dump my thoughts and feelings. I also want to turn to meditation and prayer when I recognize that I’m going down that path of self medication.

Moving forward this year, I would like to be more intentional than I have been thus far. Practically I am going to do this by doing a few things. First, I want to come up with more concise “rules” for my year. For my no spend year, I had specific rules that helped me stay on course. I didn’t really come up with specific rules for my intentional spending year. I think this will help keep me grounded. I plan on cutting way back on looking through the Poshmark app. I also plan on just not going into stores. This will be easy now that we are staying at home more with the Coronavirus pandemic. In addition, I plan to shift my focus. I found during my no spend year that I had so much extra time, and this was because my focus was shifted away from things! I will also, as I mentioned find healthier ways to deal with difficult circumstances in life.

How To Keep A Tidy Home

Keeping a tidy home can be a difficult endeavor. Life is busy, and filled with responsibilities other than just housekeeping. I wanted to share with you some tips on how to stay on top of household duties in order to keep a tidy home.

One of the main things I do in order to keep my home tidy is to deal with things immediately when I can. A perfect example is our mail. I don’t get the mail until I am ready to deal with it – sift through and throw away all junk mail, then immediately pay bills or deal with mail. If it is something I can’t deal with immediately, I hang it on our magnetic calendar dry erase board, which is located in a prominent place in our kitchen. I will see it every time I’m in the kitchen as a reminder to take care of it. Another way to deal with things immediately, is when you get home from somewhere – put everything away in its place. If I have some trash and/or a glass of water by my bed from the night before, I bring it downstairs with me when I get up in the morning and throw away the trash and put the glass in the sink with the dishes on deck for the dishwasher. If I see a mess, I will take the extra 2-3 minutes to clean it up right away.

Another tip is to have a schedule. I have a schedule for all of my household chores. I choose one or two chores per day to get done, making it less overwhelming. In addition to this, each week I choose one room to deep clean and declutter. Sometimes I do it all on one day, and other times I spread it out throughout the week depending on what my schedule is like for that week. 

This is a screen shot of my Google Sheets document with my schedule.

If you’re interested in learning more about deep cleaning one room per week, check out my blog post on zone cleaning!

Another thing that can help keep your home tidy is to enlist the help of others. Our kids had consistent chores by the time they were in upper elementary school. We can teach our kids not only about helping out as part of a family through consistent chores, but taking care of their own things. This can help tremendously in keeping things from getting out of control. If your partner doesn’t have this bent to naturally put his/her things away, then you can communicate your desire to have him/her take care of their own things.

It is much easier to keep your home tidy if everything has a place. When everything has a place, you and your family members will know where things go. You will be much more efficient in putting items away if everything has a place. If certain items don’t have a home, you will waste time and brain power deciding where it should go temporarily. Ultimately, you are less likely to put items away if they don’t have a home. Having organization systems in place will help with this issue.

Lastly, just don’t own a lot of stuff! I’ve said this many times before. The less stuff we own, the less we have to take care of. I know there are certainly areas where I could do a better job at owning less, but each day I work on only owning that which is useful, or that which brings me joy.

I hope this inspired you to stay on top of keeping your home tidy!

Here is my YouTube video with this information if you’re interested!