Category Archives: organization

Minimizing (Without Becoming a Minimalist)

We live in a 1,000 square foot house.  While this is by no means a one bedroom apartment, or a home with no storage, or a shack in the woods, it’s on the small side.  According to the National Association of Homebuilders, the average home size was 2330 sqaure feet in 2004.  Even by 1970’s standards, when the average square footage was 1400 square feet, we have a small home.

About two years ago, before my husband moved in, my house was full to the brimble.  I had no storage left.  The basement shelves were full, the garage lined with boxes, the closets bursting.  When Paul (and all of his stuff) moved in, I revamped my ideas of storage.  Instead of cramming items into every possible nook and cranny, we got organized.  Rubbermaid bins, storage ottomans, wicker baskets, grouping like items.  We arranged in a way that allowed us to keep the majority of both of our items.  Success, right?

Well, I suppose it depends on how you define success.

I was trying to find a few books for my classroom that I knew I had a copy of.  Copies of, actually.  I hauled out four large boxes of books, sifted through them, and didn’t find what I was looking for.  Then I realized I had four more boxes in the basement, also packed with books, that I hadn’t touched yet.  At that point I decided I’d rather just check out the books from the library.

Which leads me to the question… is it worth owning and storing something if you can’t find it, don’t use it, or don’t remember you have it?

Books are one of our biggest storage problems, but it goes beyond that.  Food, kitchen supplies, electronics, decorations, photos… it all just ends up sitting because it’s too much of a hassle to retreive.

I know I won’t end up becoming a minimalist.  I don’t have it in me.  I do think it would do me some good, however, to embrace the theory behind it a bit.

On my reading list, then?

I’ll keep updating as I read these (and hopefully internalize their messages).  This is mostly for my own good – I’ve got to be held accountable somehow – but hopefully you’ll reap some benefits as well.


The Sock Project

We have a plethora of mismatched socks.  Some of them have been in the singleton sock bag for … well … I’m not eve sure.  Years, perhaps?  Some of them are ALMOST the same aside from a slight variation in length or ribbing size, which leads me to believe that there are, in our sock drawers, some mismatched socks that are parading around as a couple.

For this reason, the sock project has been developed.

This is my plan, should my wise and kind husband agree.

  1. Wear socks.
  2. Launder socks.
  3. Put all individual socks in a bin, including those with mates.
  4. Continue steps 1-3 until ALL socks have been worn.
    1. If socks are ugly, uncomfortable, or holey enough to be thought unwearable, the may be delegated to the discard pile, where they’ll be cut up and used as rags or fashioned into sock puppets.
    2. If socks are unseasonable (i.e. hiking socks), unfold the pair and add to the bucket.
  5. Group all socks into pairs.
  6. Put lonely, leftover socks into the discard pile and cut them up immediately, lest they become the new group from which to frustratedly match single socks against.

The Grocery List Unveiled

And now, in all it’s glory, my completed grocery list!  Okay… so I don’t think it will ever be ACTUALLY completed – I’m sure I’ll keep updating it as the months go on.  But with the help of, I managed to create my official grocery list with prices.

According to their website, Grocery Hop is “free, online, printable grocery price list to track lowest unit prices and receive instant spending tips & analysis.”  It’s a pain in the buns to remember to enter my grocery lists – typically I shove them in a little drawer until it overflows, and then I enter them all at once.  Inconvenience aside, though, t’s really helpful to keep track of grocery prices – much better than my old system of keeping track.

I blogged about my grocery list a few weeks ago, and a half a year before that.  Sad that it’s taken so long to get to this point!  But it’s finally happened, so I suppose that’s what I should focus on.  I took my last regular grocery list and the recorded the lowest grocery price that I’ve bought each item for in the last few months.  I don’t track every single purchase – I’m not quite dedicated enough for that – but it’s a pretty good sampling.  I just finished it fifteen minutes ago, so I haven’t put it into action yet, but I predict it’ll come in handy!

Grocery List

A Well Stocked Pantry Means A Well Stocked Stomach

In the past year, I’ve gotten exponentially better at cooking.  I’ve gone from a repertoire of grilled cheese and frozen pizza to … well … you name it and I’ll try to cook it.  (Successfully?  That’s another story.  But at least I’ll try!)

We’ve had dozens (perhaps hundreds) of different main dishes, side dishes, snacks, and desserts over the past year, and our grocery bill has shown it.  I’ll tell you one thing – cereal and milk for supper is quite a bit less expensive than spinach and ricotta stuffed shells or bangers and mash.  In addition, I find myself making several trips to the grocery store every week, when I’d really like to spend my time doing anything but standing in a long checkout line.

To streamline, I chose our ten favorite main dishes, and I’m going to become an expert at them.  I’ll stock up on ingredients (ideally at low prices on less frequent trips to the store) so we always have them on hand, and then have a larger base of recipes to choose from without having to stop at the market for eight ounces of mozzarella or a pound of ground sirloin. Hopefully, as I continue to make them, I’ll memorize a few recipes and they’ll be no problem to whip up.

Here are the main dishes we chose:

  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Chicken Pot Pie

Can you tell we live in Wisconsin?  Pretty hearty food.  Sometimes I wish we were the salad eating kind, but it just doesn’t do it for us on a regular basis.  Once in a while – absolutely.  Could I base my diet around salads?  Definitely not.  We balance things out by eating light lunches and veggies on the side.

I gave my grocery list a bit of a makeover to correlate with out new meal plan.  My next task is to figure out the best price of each item using Grocery Hop and add that to the list.

So what do you think?  Is this going overboard, or do you do something similar?

Mission Accomplished

With only 13 school days left to go, I took a sick day yesterday.  I’m nursing a nasty sinus infection, with a good dose of nausea on top of it.  While I wish I wouldn’t have needed to take a day off, I think my body is thanking me.

With all of that down time, I managed to be totally unproductive in nearly all areas… however… my Google Reader is now looking stellar.  I am down from a high of 250 blogs in February to… drumroll please…

77 !

I have an addictive personality when it comes to the computer, and I do need to reign myself in every so often.  My previous attempts at organizing my Google Reader were working well, but oh so slowly.  I was in a ruthless mood today, so I went through each and every blog that I hadn’t already assessed and looked at the last ten or so posts.  If I didn’t love it, it was out the door.

Now, the only challenge is keeping it that way…

Remembering Birthdays

I don’t have a knack for remembering dates (or names, or faces…), so I’m working on a way to track and celebrate birthdays.  I have a few ideas, so far, but haven’t settled on one.  Maybe you have something to add to my list.

  1. Gift Elephant, which I’ve posted about before, will e-mail you a week before a birthday.  I added my closest friends’ and family members’ names in, but haven’t taken the time (yet?) to enter cousins, acquaintances, etc.
  2. I use Google Calendar, in which you can repeat an event so it shows up every year.  I think you can have it remind you, as well.  Again, I have immediate family members’ birthdays entered, but that’s it.
  3. Facebook does a fantastic job of reminding people of acquaintances’ (and in my case, some cousins’) birthdays; however, in order to use this feature I’d need to actually log in once in a while.  I know that I’m not committed enough to Facebook to log in daily just to see if it’s anyone’s birthday, but I could do a better job of checking birthdays the times I do sign on.
  4. During my organization month in April, I set up a tickler file – a system of 12 file folders labeled by month and 31 slots (for days of the month) in a bill organizer.  This would be handy to keep cards in – for example, I could make an anniversary card whenever I have the time, and stick it in the August folder to plan ahead for my parents’ anniversary.  I could even attach a list of important dates in each folder, and on the first of the month plan ahead accordingly.
  5. I love the idea of having a hanging paper calendar on the fridge.  I could fill in birthdays at the beginning of the year.
  6. My grandma buys cards in advance, and as soon as she purchases them, addresses the envelope and puts the delivery date in the top right corner.  When the date approaches, she sticks a stamp over the date and drops it in the mailbox.  Maybe I could somehow combine this with my tickler system.

I have two birthdays to remember in May, so hopefully I’ll have my system worked out in the next week or so.  Any ideas would be appreciated!

The Camping Countdown

We aren’t RV campers, or electricity loving campers, or showering campers.  We’re the pop a tent, ditch the cell phones, bring on the pudgy-pie type of campers.  That being said, I don’t think I’d necessarily want to abandon all creature comforts.  After all, there is special equipment needed for a pudgy-pie, and I don’t think I’d enjoy filtering lake water in order to brush my teeth.

I enjoy planning for a weekend of camping as much as I actually enjoy the trip itself… which is why I’ve started dreaming about our great outdoor escape that will take place in 36 days.  Coincidence that this falls on the last day of the school year?  Of course not.  As the last bell rings, I’ll be sprinting out the door one step ahead of my students, pencils and notebooks flying behind me as I go.  This may be a slight exaggeration, but the moment my room is packed up for the summer, I’ll be ready to roll.

This past weekend, I took a good hard look at our camping supplies and came up with a plan.  It being organization month and all, I figured there was no time like the present to get things into order.  We already had three large Rubbermaid bins, and all were overflowing.  (Gosh, I wish I’d remembered to take a “before” picture.  Or an after, for that matter.  It would probably make this post better.  I promise, there will be pictures to come when the camping trip draws nearer.)

I unpacked the bins, took an inventory, and sorted to my heart’s content.  We now have extremely well organized three bins (none too full to close, either), with all supplies inside and accounted for.  I even made note of what needs to be added or changed each time we go (washcloths, for example, and my glasses).

You may ask, “Why in the world would you take the time to do this?  Doesn’t this seem like a waste of a Sunday?”  Well… number one, I don’t have kids, so I have a quite a bit more free time than many of you probably have.  And number two… let’s face it, I’m a nerd.  I loved every minute of this packing experience.  This is what I do for fun, folks.

So here it is, in all it’s glory…

Packing List

And just in case you dislike opening Word documents as much as I do, here’s a sneak preview.  The actual document contains much more info, but the list below will at least give you an idea of whether it’s worth opening.


Bin Three

Meal Preparation

Small Bin

Bottle opener/corkscrew

Can opener

Collapsible cups

Dish soap

Hand sanitizer

Large knife

Large spoons



Plastic silverware

Small cutting board

Small knives



Large Bin

Aluminum foil



Coffee maker


Dish pan

Kabob makers

Large cutting board





Pot holders


Pudgy pie makers

Scrub brush


Tablecloth clamps


Wet wipes

Don’t forget…

    • Coffee/tea
    • Dish cloth
    • Drying cloth