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October 31, 2011

Get Your Home Ready for the Holidays: 28 Day Challenge – Day 5

How is everyone doing on the daily challenges? I hope things are going great! Keep in mind that you don’t have to keep up with the challenges to participate. One thing that I encourage in all of my online workshops (that I’d also like to stress here) is to get your home in shape at your own pace. Everyone’s home is different, and everyone’s life is different. This means the amount of time you need to spend to get things how you want them to be, and the amount of time you have to spend to do so, will also be different!


A terrific way to feel great about your progress (even if you can’t keep up with the daily challenges on a day-to-day basis) is to make the commitment to make progress on your home for a set amount of time each day. I think fifteen minutes is a terrific goal, and you will be surprised at how much you can get done in that amount of time! (This is what your timer from Day 1 is for my friends! Use it. You'll be amazed at what a difference it makes.) Then, post your progress in the comments when you've made progress. It will help motivate you to read what others have done, and sharing your progress here is a terrific way to hold yourself accountable. 


Okay…on to today’s challenge.

28 days-simplify101

Day 5:  Declutter Magazines + Catalogs 

Today’s challenge is to declutter your magazines and catalogs. Not only will this cut down on the visual clutter in your home by clearing flat surfaces of old reading materials, but it will also create space for all the incoming holiday magazines, catalogs, and coupons. Use a wicker basket, or another on-hand container, as the designated spot for these soon to arrive items. Include an envelope for receipts, and then, when it’s time to create your holiday shopping list, brainstorm gift ideas, or look for holiday recipes or decorating ideas in a magazine, you’ll have everything you need in one handy spot! (This is also a terrific spot to hold your holiday planning binder, which is one of the projects from my Get Organized for the Holidays workshop.)



Have a terrific day, and be sure to share your progress in the comments! I look forward to hearing from you.


Monday Morning Check-In

Happy Monday morning, my friends, and Happy Halloween to those of you who celebrate it! I hope you had a terrific weekend! We had a really nice weekend and a great visit with my Dad. Here’s how things turned out with my lists…


Play List

  • Boot-camp. I didn’t go. I decided to have breakfast with my Dad instead. Good choice, I think.
  • Enjoy spending time with my family and Dad. Indeed. We had a whole lot of fun doing things like…Spending Saturday afternoon in St. Charles, Missouri, watching the Cardinals clinch the World Series, shopping for Halloween finishing touches, Trick-or-Treating, and cooking and eating great food.


To Finish

  • Quick run to the grocery store for weekend meals. Oh, yes, there were one or two of these. Reminded me why I usually prefer planning my meals ahead of time.
  • Finish getting ready for Halloween! Check! 


So all in all, it was a fantastic, fall weekend! I hope yours was terrific, too. I look forward to reading all about it in the comments. Thanks for sharing and have a great day!


October 29, 2011

Get Your Home Ready for the Holidays: 28 Day Challenge – Days 3 + 4

On Saturday’s throughout the 28 day challenge, we'll post both the Saturday and Sunday challenges. Here’s what’s on tap for this weekend! 

28 days-simplify101
Day 3:  Focus on Surface Decluttering for At Least 15 Minutes Today

Rather than tackling a big organizing project (like a storage area that guests won’t see), today is about dealing with the clutter that’s in your face (and potentially in the faces of guests in your home). I like to call this plucking the “low-hanging fruit.” It’s easy to get to, and dealing with it gives you a lot of bang for your buck!


Prioritize your decluttering based on what’s urgent and important in your home and upcoming life events. If you have guests coming for Thanksgiving, then focus your decluttering efforts on the shared public spaces or the guest room. On the other hand, if you don’t have any guests scheduled to come for the holidays, but have two kids with holiday season birthdays (like me!), focus on the kids toys and / or closets for your pre-holiday decluttering. 

Once you identify your space, set your timer for fifteen minutes. Then carry a handful (or decluttering container full!) of things out of the room that you’re decluttering (where the items don’t belong) and take them to the room where they do belong. Then, put the items away, where they go. If you come across things you’re ready to donate, drop them into a donation bag or box. Then, see how much clutter you can clear out before your fifteen minutes are up!



Keep in mind you can spend more than fifteen minutes decluttering. If you get on a roll and want to keep going, by all means keep on going! But I always encourage my workshop participants to stop while they’re still craving a bit more, instead of working to the point of exhaustion. (Remember, we're only on Day 3. You want to pace yourself!) 

Day 4:  Dust Cobwebs + Clean Cold Air Returns

A realtor once told Jennifer that we don’t often look up in our own homes, but we almost always look up when we go into someone else’s home. Have you found that to be true, too? (I think I do that!) Today, in the spirit of getting your home guest-ready, walk around your home with a feather duster or vacuum cleaner, and keep looking up. Look for cobwebs in corners, ceilings, window ledges and light fixtures. Once you have those areas taken care of, use those same tools to clean your cold air returns. The inflow of air tends to make dust congregate on these vents. Not only is it unsightly, but it also causes your furnace to operate less efficiently. 


Ah, doesn’t that feel better?


Be sure to tell us about your progress in the comments! We look forward to hearing from you. 


Happy holiday prepping!


October 28, 2011

Get Your Home Ready for the Holidays: 28 Day Challenge – Day 2

28 days-simplify101

Day 2:  Create a List of Trouble Spots

Today’s challenge is to take a tour of your home and create a list of things you’d like to address before the holidays hit. Take a tour of your home, and try to view it as if you are coming in for the first time. Go slowly, look high and low. Sit down in public areas. What rooms or areas are clutter hotspots? What could use some cleaning, decluttering or rearranging? Make notes of the things in your home you most want to attend to before the holidays, along with what actions you plan to take, and what level priority (low, medium, high) this is for you. Capture this info on the “trouble spots list + action plan” printable (which you can download here: Download 28-days-trouble-spots-list.) 



As you put together your action plan, keep in mind these common clutter causes.

  • Clutter items don’t have a home.
  • Clutter items have a home that is far away from where the item is used.
  • The clutter’s home is full of other things.
  • There are no systems in place for the clutter items or the systems are too complicated or cumbersome to use.   


After you take your tour, come back here and tell us about it in the comments! What areas are most in need of attention in your home?  


It’s Time for Finish It Friday

So it’s kind of "to-do list / get things done mania" around here these days! But we thought we would keep Finish It Friday going through the holiday season for those of you who don’t want to do the 28 day challenge and for those of you who want to do both. It’s fun to see what everyone is up to, and it gives you that extra motivation to do those things on your to-do list that you might otherwise talk yourself out of. Right? So Finish It Friday lives on!


My list is quite short this week because my Dad is coming to town for a visit! I’m super (duper) excited! So here’s what’s on tap for me this weekend:


Play List

  • Boot-camp. (I think.) 
  • Enjoy spending time with my family and Dad.
  • Spend Saturday afternoon in St. Charles, Missouri. 


To Finish

  • Quick run to the grocery store for weekend meals.
  • Finish getting ready for Halloween! We Trick-or-Treat on Sunday, so I don’t have a lot of time. Luckily, though, we just have a few minor details to wrap up on one costume. And we need some chocolate Halloween candy. (Apparently Smarties alone just won’t cut it for some of my family members. Who knew?)


I think that’s it! Short, sweet and heavy on the play. The rest of it will get done next week. 


What’s on your to-do list this weekend? Thanks for joining me for Finish It Friday! I hope you have a fantastic weekend!


October 27, 2011

Get Your Home Ready for the Holidays: 28 Day Challenge – Day 1

Yesterday’s storage solution of the week was a sneak peek of things to come. We’ve been busy putting together a 28 day challenge that will help you get your home holiday-ready, which means guest-ready and ready to decorate. Sound fun? 


As of today, there are 28 days until the day before Thanksgiving. This means, if we start today, we can do a little bit every day, and be ready to welcome friends and family into our home for Thanksgiving. If you’re not hosting Thanksgiving this year (or you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving where you live) you’ll still want to join the fun. Because, if you do, you’ll have your home ready to decorate for Christmas before December first, which means, you can spend December enjoying the holiday festivities instead of stressing about your house! 


This 28 Day Challenge is like a free, little taste-test of our online workshops right here on the Creative Organizing Blog. My Quick + Simple Clutter Control workshop offers daily prompts (similar to the ones we’ll be sharing in the 28 day challenge) throughout the workshop. The idea behind these daily prompts is to help you bite-size the process of decluttering your home and / or spring cleaning it (which is the focus of the spring session of this workshop.) So you’ll get a taste of bite-sizing a big project and taking action with online accountability and friendship. 


If you’re wondering why I’m doing this in addition to my Get Organized for the Holidays workshop, it’s because Get Organized for the Holidays doesn’t focus on getting your home organized and ready for the holidays. That workshop is about getting yourself organized for the holidays. You learn how to put together a customized holiday plan that you can use year after year. Best yet, I show you how to create a plan to create your ideal holiday season, one that is stress-free and enjoyable, because it focuses on what is most important to you and your family. So if you decide to join the 28 day challenge here, it still makes sense to join in the fun inside the holiday workshop to get the rest of your holiday to-do list planned out. That workshop is open throughout the holiday season (all the way through December), so you have ongoing support and friendship as you navigate through the season.


So do you want to know what the first challenge is? Here we go:

28 days-simplify101
Day 1: Decide to Join + Collect Your Supplies 

Today’s challenge is to decide to join in the fun (by saying "I'm in" in the comments). Then, collect the supplies you need get your home holiday-ready.


Here’s a quick checklist of items that will come in handy as we move forward with the daily challenges. Keep in mind you can always add to your toolkit as you go, so don’t worry that you have to have everything on hand already before you start.


  • Basic cleaning supplies corralled together into a handy container.  (By the way, Mrs. Meyers has a coupon through the 31st of October if you want to splurge on some super yummy smelling and earth-friendly cleaning supplies. Totally not necessary, but it could make this even more fun.)
  • A handled basket or laundry basket for decluttering and moving items to other areas in your home. 
  • Trash bags.
  • A pen, note pad, clipboard and Post-It Notes. 
  • A timer. 


Alright...all that’s left to do now is say “I’m in” in the comments! Then, check back here tomorrow for your Day 2 challenge. 


October 26, 2011

Storage Solution of the Week: The TubTrug

What it is:  This week’s storage solution is the TubTrug. 




Where I got it:  I got mine (a different brand) at Target late this summer. But you can find the original TubTrug year-round here. (And while you’re there, check out their pink broom. Fun, right?)


Why I love it:  The first thing that caught my eye was the color. See, I’ve got this thing for green and you may also recall that I have a thing for buckets. So this green, flexible, bucket-shaped container, well, it just sort of jumped in my cart. (Containers have a way of doing that when I’m out shopping.)


Anyway, I use mine for all sorts of thing around the house such as corralling cleaning supplies. They’re also handy for stowing items for short term projects like sewing supplies. And with the holidays right around the corner, I think they’ll be super-handy for hiding stocking stuffers, organizing birthday party goody bags, and fun things like that. They’d also be great for gardening in the summer (picking fresh veggies or collecting pulled weeds). And they’d be super cute in the toy room or a kid’s bedroom holding stuffed animals or other small toys. The original TubTrug is made of food grade plastic (which really opens up possiblities for use) and they come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. So really, what's not to love? 


What do you think of the TubTrug? Could you see uses for this container in your home or garden? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas! Thanks for sharing.  


October 24, 2011

Monday Morning Check In

Happy Monday my friends! I hope you had a happy and productive weekend. I look forward to hearing your weekend progress reports. Here is mine. 


Play List:

  • Tae Kwon Do belt test. She is now officially a red belt!! The test was quite intense. Thanks for sending your well wishes to her. :)
  • Do something fun and relaxing with my family. We went to the pumpkin farm and out for dinner. It was so gorgeous here this weekend—the perfect day for a trip to the country. 


To Finish:

  • Pull out hats, gloves and scarves, and put them into their winter storage locations. This didn’t happen. It was so nice here that I had the itch to do other things…like…
  • Clean the windows. (Check!) I figured this might be my last warm weekend, so I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to wash the windows. I always love how nice it looks when the windows are clean. Happy about this.  
  • Wash the cold air return vents. (Check!)
  • Laundry. (Check!)
  • Plan Meals. (Check!)
  • Clean. (Check!)


So it was a good weekend, really the perfect fall weekend. I hope yours was great, too! Enjoy your Monday!


October 21, 2011

Finish It Friday Returns

Yep, it’s Friday again, which means Finish It Friday is here once again! My list is going to super short at the moment, because I really haven’t thought about the weekend yet! I will add to it as the day goes on, but wanted to give you a chance to share your lists early(ish) in the day. 


Here’s what’s on my list so far:

Checklist-copyright-simplify101Play List:

  • Tae Kwon Do belt test. (My daughter is going for her red belt! This means no boot camp, which is fine. I wouldn’t miss the belt test for the world.)
  • Do something fun and relaxing with my family. (TBD.)


To Finish:

  • Pull out hats, gloves and scarves, and put them into their winter storage locations. (It’s getting colder here!)
  • Laundry.
  • Plan Meals.
  • Clean.


Okay…I’ll add more later! Gotta’ run for now. Can’t wait to see your lists! Have a great weekend.


October 20, 2011

Organizing a Meal Swap Can Save Time, Money and Sanity

By teaming up with a few friends, Jennifer has found some great solutions for meal planning. Plus, she's got some great plans for easing meal-planning stress during her busiest time of the year!

Here at simplify 101, we’ve mostly got the holidays and kitchens on the brain this week! So, I guess it’s no surprise that I’ve been thinking a lot about cooking for the holidays. In years past, I've spent a great deal of time considering and preparing for the major holidays meals, and somehow I'd forget until the last minute that we need to eat at other times during the crazy month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thing are already tight – both in terms of money and time. I definitely dislike having to dash to the store for overpriced convenience meals, or having to dine out more than the budget allows. I don’t need that extra stress or expense! So, I’m planning ahead.


I’m in a better place this year to begin with, largely because I’ve been participating in a weekly “meal swap” with friends. I have to tell you I get a little bit giddy at how all this works out, and what an enormous benefit it’s been to my family! Picture this: I spend a few hours of one day each week cooking. I try to do this when I’m home alone. I throw on a pretty apron, play some good music, and give my knives and cutting boards a work out. And because I do that, I literally spend a few minutes each evening doing dinner prep. Minutes! Oh, it is such a load off… I just love it!


I have actually turned my husband down on offers to dine out. Why would we when we’ve got a delicious, healthy, home-cooked dinner on hand that's already been paid for? It’s fantastic when the reasons to dine in far outweigh dining out! I really look forward to the meals my friends prepared. Take tonight, for example... I’ve got a beautiful mustard- and herb-rubbed roast with veggies waiting in the fridge. All I have to do is pop it in the oven when I get home from work.  Oh, those veggies look and smell amazing!




There are so many ways to set up a meal swap, but here’s how we do ours. We are four very dear friends (which is a crucial point, as far as I’m concerned) who cook for each other each week. We made some agreements up front for how we wanted this to work. Most of our meals can be frozen. The meals serve six. We make a lot of casseroles and slow cooker recipes. Every week, we each make four of whatever dish we're preparing. Then we meet up on Monday afternoons to trade, and we leave with three different meals for our families. 



Some meal swap groups use a pattern to rotate through so that there is good variety each week and it ends up being fairly equitable. We have opted to be a little less formal, and we use a Yahoo group to keep us organized. We have it set up to send an automatic reminder to us on Friday, and we each reply with what we plan to make. It helps us avoid having four Mexican dishes in the same week! We also post our cooking directions there. This is especially helpful when pulling out a frozen dish from several weeks back so we don’t have to hunt down where we put the recipe!


We have a “don’t make = don’t take” rule so that we can opt out of any week, which we notify each other of through the yahoo group. I know that with calendars getting super busy, there are going to be a lot of weeks between now and January when one or two can’t swap. I had an a-ha moment about the approaching holidays, though, and have decided that I’ll go ahead and make four meals each week even if not all four of us are participating. My freezer is going to be majorly stocked up! Even if we have weeks where none of us can swap, I know I’ll still have meals on hand.



If you’d like more ideas on how to set up a meal swap, this web site was a huge help to us. I refer to it often for all the links they have to freezable meals and make-ahead recipes. If you don’t think a meal swap would work for you, Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) is another idea to consider. It’s largely the same concept, except you are doing all your meal planning and cooking for yourself just one day a month. And if all that sounds like too much, consider making just one extra dish each week to pop in the freezer. Double up your family’s favorite enchilada recipe, and freeze the second one. If you start this week, you’ll have seven extra meals in your freezer by the time December rolls around!


I’m super happy with how the meal swap system works out for my family, but I have to tell you honestly that keeping it all organized is tricky. I’ve gotten the planning/shopping/cooking part down pretty well, but I definitely need a better system for keeping track of what’s in my freezer. The hardest part for me is thinking ahead to make sure I let the food thaw before I need it. Trust me, it’s aggravating to still have to dash out to buy a lasagna when you’ve got a delicious homemade version in your freezer! Especially with the hectic holiday pace approaching, the timing of Aby’s Organize Your Kitchen workshop is perfect. Honestly, if her tips help my family avoid eating out just twice, it'll pay for itself! I can hardly wait to see what amazing tips and techniques she’ll reveal!


How about you? We'd love to hear your meal-planning/sanity-saving tips, too, as well as any tips for freezing meals!


Happy Organizing and Cooking!

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