simplify 101
Creative Organizing Blog

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August 29, 2007

more back-to-school ideas

Later today I'll be sending out the August edition of the simplify 101 newsletter. (If you aren't a subscriber, be sure to sign up here.) This month's newsletter is loaded with ideas to get organized for back-to-school. Here's a little sample from this month's article:

Remember not to forget. Create a simple system by the door to help you remember your new routine or special items you need to take with you each day:  gym shoes on gym day, violin on music day, and snacks on snack day. Hang a bin or basket by your door to corral the items you need to remember, or create a fun little “don’t forget” door hanger with a built in pocket for your daily checklist.


I made this using a Creative Imaginations Bare Elements door hanger, rub-ons and chip board arrow from American Crafts, my very favorite paper line (Romani by Basic Grey) and a storage bin label available from our store at simplify 101. It's super simple to make:

1. Cover door hanger with card stock using craft glue stick.

2. Sand off excess card stock using sanding block.

3. Apply rub-on letters.

4. Cover door hanger and chip board arrow with decoupage. Let dry.

5. Glue arrow to door hanger.

6. Adhere storage bin label and fill with your daily reminder checklist.

Voila! Never forget gym shoes on gym day again. Oh...and don't forget to sign up for the simplify 101 newsletter. ;)

August 28, 2007

ideas for the stuck scrapbooker

Recently I got an email entitled "Help! I'm stuck." I love the question in the email because it really sums up one of the goals Wendy and I had when writing "The Organized & Inspired Scrapbooker"—preventing scrapbookers from getting stuck — especially the kind of stuck that comes from too much scrapbook product. There are so many fabulous products on the market today, it's really easy to get overwhelmed. But, when you have the right things in your scrapbook stash, those that help you create scrapbook projects that are in sync with your reasons for scrapbooking, and when those things are organized in ways that support your scrapbooking process, well, that's what being an organized and inspired scrapbooker is all about.

Here's the question:

"I love scrapbooking, card making, rubber stamping and photography.  But over the past few years I have accumulated a lot of product.  Now, my productivity is nearly zero. My passion has taken a backseat, leaving me stuck in neutral and unable to move forward.  I want to get back in the driver's seat creatively, and I know I need to pare down my resources.  But I don't know where to start. 

Which supplies should I keep on hand, and what do I need to get rid of or put away "in the trunk" for later?  I have an ample supply of basic and specialty tools; paper, vellum and cardstock; kits and albums; die-cutting systems and equipment; computer, printer, and software (scrapbooking and photo arts); books, magazines, DVDs, videos and other resource materials.

Thank you for any guidance you can give to help me reclaim my creative drive.  I know there are many others out there who, like me, find themselves at a standstill."

This is one of those questions that doesn't have a one-size-fits-all answer ... and therefore is a bit tough to answer concretely in a blog post. Each scrapbooker has her own reasons for scrapbooking — from telling her stories, to showcasing favorite photos, to creating things and playing with product. Getting clear about your goals for scrapbooking and what you want to create can help you decipher what tools in your tool box — from alphabet stickers to Xyron machines — will best help you accomplish your goals.

But here are some ideas to help you get un-stuck, and then let's see what ideas all you great bloggers have tucked up your sleeve (right up there with your fabulous crock-pot recipes!)

1. Get back to basics. What are your real reasons for scrapbooking? What do you want to create? And then, what tools and supplies are needed for this?

2. Flip through some of your completed scrapbook projects looking for your favorite pages. Just flip through your books and put a post-it flag on some of your favorite layouts. Then, go back and list the supplies you used.

3. Think back to a time when you were in the driver's seat creatively. What were you doing then? What supplies and tools were you using?

4. Clear out the clutter.  I love the analogy of putting some things in the trunk for a while. It's a great concept. By eliminating some of your choices you'll get back to stretching your creativity. Pare down to just basic items. Here's what Simple Scrapbooks Magazine recommends for a basic tool kit.

5. Scrap-lift! I'm a huge fan of scrap-lifting to get out of a scrapbook rut. One of my favorite new resources is Album Shortcuts. It's loaded with simple scrapbook projects that you can finish in a snap...which does wonders for lifting your creative spirits. what ideas do all of you have for our stuck scrapbooking friend? What do you do when you get in a scrapbook rut? And what about basic tools and supplies...what are your can't-live-with-out-em-scrapbook-basics? I can't wait to hear what you all come up with!

August 26, 2007

happy as pie...


...or at least a happy pie. Kailea and I made this Chicken Pot Pie on Friday night...which means:  I used my oven! Which means:  it's (finally!) getting cooler here in the hot and muggy mid-west. Woohoo!

And yes...I am happy as pie about that. In fact, it's cool enough that I organized and swept out the garage today. Not necessarily a photo worthy project, but I will share this organizing tip:  five gallon paint buckets make handy holders for all sorts of tall and skinny sports gear, think baseball bats, golf clubs, tennis rackets, and so on. And at $5 a pop, there's this week's organizing bargain. :)

And that's all I've got folks. Except for the brief update on Collin's room. Progress was made this weekend. Got all the labeling we're almost ready to take some photos. Just need to hang up some baseball caps. Perhaps tomorrow after school. I'm in no hurry...because, see, my real problem has been solved for weeks. We can all walk across the floor again without fear of losing a life...mine or it's all good. The hats can wait. But once they're I will take.   

In the meantime, go forth and bake chicken pot pie. This recipe is the very first recipe, given to me years and years ago when I was single and had my very first apartment. It's still a favorite...which says a lot because I LOVE to collect recipes. (And my kid's love it, too.) And of course, it's super simple!

If you make it, be sure to put a smiley face on will taste better. OK, not really, but at least it will make you happier.

Chicken Pot Pie

2 Cans (10 3/4 ounce each) Cream of Potato Soup
1 (16 oz) can Veg-All, drained
2 cups cooked, diced chicken
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 package refrigerator pie crust (I use Pillsbury)
1 egg slightly beaten (optional...I skip this step)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare bottom crust following manufacturer's directions. Combine first six ingredients in bowl. Spoon into prepared crust. Cover with top crust and crimp edges to seal. Slit top of crust to form smiley face ;) and brush with egg if desired. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. And then...slice and enjoy. 

August 21, 2007

it's gonna' be a diva day

Tomorrow Wendy and I are going to be on the Diva Craft Lounge radio show talking about The Organized & Inspired Scrapbooker. Hope you can join us!

And then when you're done with that, get a sneak peek inside our new book by watching these fun videos we shot at CHA!

enjoy :)

August 20, 2007

a fun, back-to-school project

Today is the last day of summer break. (!) Yes. I'm pretty excited. It was fun while it lasted, but then it got hot, dry and not so fun. So alas, on to something new. School!

We've been getting supplies, lunch boxes, and backpacks have all been purchased. Both kids have freshly cut hair. Just a few things left to finish shoes for Collin, empty three-ring binders for this year's artwork and papers, and putting the finishing touches on their bedrooms (my Dad came to visit this no new progress on that front...but I did make a new Crock Pot recipe thanks to all of your great ideas!)

So while out school supply shopping, I stumbled upon the composition books. You know, the black swirly ones that go for 50 cents a pop this time of year? I picked up two, not really sure what I'd do with them (but at a buck total, it was worth the risk if I didn't come up with something.) So the little books sat there...just waiting for me to come up with something...and then it hit me. I've been wanting to do a shared journal with my kids for a really long time, so why not now? While this may seem crazy, with school and homework starting and all, but it also coincides with a new rule in our home. This new rule is destined to free up a bunch of time for one eight year old boy that calls our house home: no video games during the week! So our shared journal will be a really fun way to fill some of that spare time. At least I think so. We'll see what he thinks.

So here are the journals. One for Collin:


And the inside:


The paper and "i love you" tile is from KI Memories and the letter stickers and rub-ons are from American Crafts. (The letter stickers on the front are the new, vinyl sticker letters from American Crafts. So fun!)

And here's Kailea's:


Kailea helped me make hers. She picked out all the paper for the inside and outside (from Stemma). The inside doesn't match, but she told me it doesn't matter if it matches, as long as we like it. (I always learn something important when I make things with my kids.)

The plan is that we'll take turns writing in the journals. When I finish writing in one of their journals, I'll put it on their bed. Then they write something in it for me, and when they're finished, they leave it on my bed. And back and forth it will go.

It'll be fun to see how their writing changes throughout the year. Collin is learning cursive and Kailea will be polishing up her printing skills. I think it will be fun to ask them questions about their day at school, their teacher, friends, and things like that. And if they want they can draw pictures or tell me what they want for their birthday or Christmas. It'll also be a place to tell them when they make my proud or to thank them for little things like making their bed, and stuff like that.

I'm super excited. I have my first entry done and will go "hide" the journals on their bed soon! Can't wait to see where this leads us. I figure it will take me maybe ten minutes a day...if both kids get theirs back to me every day (which isn't terribly likely.) But worst case scenario, ten minutes a day to focus solely on writing notes to my kiddos. A good investment indeed.

August 15, 2007

the weather calls for...


HEAT! And frankly, I'm a bit tired of it. Just before I took this photo, the thermometer read 104 degrees. ONE HUNDRED AND FOUR DEGREES! Are you kidding me? Yuck.

So, what better to do but organize (or write about it,) right?


Here's a simple project I did last week. Took about 15 minutes and used some left over supplies from my scrapbook room project. We've stored my daughter's hair stuff in a cabinet drawer by our kitchen table for a number of years...since that's the room where invariably we comb her hair. Before this latest reorg, her stuff was stowed in a few make-up bags, you know one of those freebie-gift-with-purchase deals. Other hair stuff was just loose in the drawer. Honestly, it worked fine. It just didn't look very neat and tidy. So I ran down stairs to my space, found these four extra bowls, dumped out the drawer and sorted away (while sipping wine and chatting with my hubby.) Poof! Minutes later, order had been created in hair care central. Total cost: $0.


Now...if you don't have any hair care woes in your midst, what good is this little blog post going to do you?'s the message, go on a scavenger hunt in your home for containers that you can use to organize and corral some of the little messy stuff in one of your drawers. Ramekins work nicely, and truly, do we have the time to measure our stuff into ramekins before pouring into the bowls like they do on the cooking shows? Not I. So let's put those little ramekins to a higher purpose: organizing! You could also use some spare glass votives or even small jelly jars to corral small things like paper clips, rubber bands, extra staples, loose pocket change, and so on. So go forth and conquer your pony tail holders! Bring order to your office supplies! Organize anything and everything! Just stay out of that heat. ;)

August 11, 2007

Monday Night Chicken Recipe

Once upon a time, on a blog far away (or maybe it was an ezine and maybe it wasn't so far away) an organizer shared with her readers the joy she experienced each and every Monday, when without thought, dinner was effortlessly thrown into the Crock-Pot at the start of the day. By dinner time, a warm and delicious chicken dinner was ready for her family. She loved the simplicity of this meal, fondly known as Monday night chicken, and just wanted to share her joy with her readers, and suggest that they, too, take some of the guesswork out of weekly meal planning.

The organizer, however, never shared the recipe with her readers. Until now, months and months later, when a new (and very dedicated) blog reader named Stacy T. spent an entire afternoon reading the organizer's blog. Stacy's interest was piqued. "What is this Monday night chicken?" And so Stacy emailed the organizer to ask for the recipe. And so, here my friends, is the recipe for Monday night chicken, a token of appreciation to Stacy for spending so much of her day with me. Thanks Stacy...hope you enjoy. ;)

(The recipe, by the way, sounds horrible right now with this ghastly heat. But it's extremely delicious in the winter.) None the less, here she is:

6 frozen chicken breasts*
2 cans cream of chicken soup
salt and pepper to taste

Put chicken in slow cookers and pour soup over top. Add salt and pepper. Place cover on slow cooker and cook on low for ten to twelve hours. Enjoy!

It seems a bit anti-climatic...but perhaps that's the point. It's really, really easy and it can strike one thing off your to do list each and every week. We usually have this with rice and a veggie. Yummy (when it's cooler out) and my whole family loves it (another bonus). For variety try other types of soup ... like cream of asparagus or cream of celery.

*Yes, frozen! You don't have to defrost which makes it even faster and you can always have the ingredients on hand. I love that!

I have to say, I love my Crock-Pot. I love having dinner ready without having to get dinner ready at dinner time. Know what I mean? Do you have a super simple, go-to favorite for your Crock-Pot? Wanna share? I'm always on the hunt for really easy Crock-Pot dishes...and if you had one that tastes yummy even when it's 100 that would make my heart sing.

August 09, 2007

artwork, artwork everywhere!

It's about to happen!

If you have school-aged know what I mean:  the onslaught of papers is about to begin!

My go to solution for dealing with all that artwork and school work is the three ring binder system that I blogged about oh-so-many months ago. Super simple...but it doesn't give the artwork it's day-in-the-sun. So, here's a new idea, a not so simple idea, but a new one none-the-less.


This, my friends, is a giant artwork collage, created using a 36" x 36" stretched canvas. I wanted some big artwork for our basement family room, and thought it would be fun to make a collage using some of my favorite artwork made by my daughter Kailea. I made this last winter as a possible project for the memorabilia chapter of the book. (We went with something a lot, uh, smaller and simpler but still involving kid's artwork.)

Anyway, I don't know about where you are...but it's super hot here and this would be a great way to pass some time indoors in the air, and get some of last year's artwork taken care of. All you need to make this is: a 36 x 36 stretched canvas (I got mine on-line at a going out of business sale), a really big bottle of decoupage, a foam brush (or two), a whole slew of kids artwork and an appreciation for spending the day with sticky fingers. To make it, I simply adhered the artwork to the canvas with decoupage. I cut some of the art to fit where I wanted it to go. Once all the artwork was in place, I added a top coat of decoupage. Viola! Eight hours later a collage. ;)

In the process of creating this I discovered a few things:

1) Creating a collage is really not as easy as it looks. I become keenly aware midstream that I had no idea what I was doing. But oh well, it was a lot of fun.

2) It's not a great idea to ask your husband's opinion about your collage if you don't really want it.

3) Art created with marker runs when covered with decoupage. It can be a cool effect...but if that would bother you, stick to art pieces made with crayon.

Alright...someone asked for a project, so here it is! It's sort of organizing because now you have something to do with all that artwork. Right? And it should keep you busy for a I can go put the finishing touches on that organizing project I told you about. And then, I will post pictures. I promise.

Have a great weekend!

August 07, 2007

If You Give an Organizer a Messy Kids’ Room

If you give an organizer a messy kids’ room,
She’ll want to organize it.

She’ll get it all organized and decide
the closet door must come down!

You’ll take down the closet door…
and she’ll be happy.

For at least five minutes…
until she notices the wallpaper border.

It must go, too!
It’s far too juvenile for the boy who lives in the room.

She’ll want to take it down.
She’ll get a spray bottle, vinegar, hot water, a Pampered Chef pan scraper and the help of the eight year old boy.

She’ll peel and scrape.
He’ll peel and scrape.
And down the wallpaper border will go.

Seeing the wallpaper gone will remind her that it’s time for a new paint job.
She and the boy will pick out paint for the wall.

She’ll move the furniture away from the wall, cover it with plastic sheets, and get ready to start painting.

Seeing the walls so clean and clear will make her notice the scuffed and dingy baseboards.
She’ll want to paint them.

While she’s painting the baseboards she realizes that the closet should be painted, too,
especially now that the closet door has come down.

And so you’ll take all the shelves out of the closet (and all the newly organized bins and containers)…
and she’ll paint the baseboards, the closet, and all four walls in the boy’s room.

Seeing the room all freshly painted and organized,
makes her remember she has a blog about organizing.

And so (finally) she’ll write a new post and promise to be a good blogger again…
until you give her another messy kids’ room.

August 01, 2007

whacha been up to?

I feel as if I've crawled under a rock. Yesterday was an "in-office" day and it occurred to me at around midnight that I never stepped foot outside. All. Day. Long. I think this is called hyper-focused (or anti-social?) 

Working on lots of new, fun stuff right now and completely freaking out that summer is almost over. Three more weeks. I'm getting the kids' rooms completely reorganized (fun!) so we can start the school year on the right foot. They shared a room for the past year, out of choice, and it worked out great! (For a while.)

Then, the mess started piling up as my daughter kept bringing more and more things into my son's already overcrowded room...the room they were sharing.


It was making me a bit nutty.

On top of all of that, my son had no where to play. Sure, he could go hang out in his sister's pink room, but let's just say, she was much more comfortable hanging out in his blue room than he was hanging out in her pink room. Go figure. So Kailea had 1-1/2 rooms in which to spread out her 100's of stuffed animals, baby dolls, and other trinkets and treasures, and Collin had half a room and barely enough space to spread out a few dozen Lego's. Not the best plan.

So, that's what I've been up to: getting my kids set up and ready for the new (organized) school year. I think we'll go out and buy school supplies this weekend and we register for school today. Can't believe we're doing all of this again, already!

How about you? Are you getting your kiddos ready for school? Do you have any fun traditions you do to celebrate the end of summer or to get ready for the school year? I'd love to hear from you! Once we're done with all this organizing, we'll be ready for some end-of-summer fun. least they will. I'll probably be ready for even more organizing fun. ;)

(Until then, I'm crawling back under my rock.) ;)

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