Restoring Order To My Life: Tip #7

Tip #7: The 15 minute pickup.

This is a technique, again derived from Fly Lady. Here are the rules:

  1. Set a timer for 15 minutes.
  2. Ask everyone in the house to clean whatever they want for those 15 min. Provide more direction for little ones.
  3. No one stops working until the timer goes off.

I recently tried this before going to bed. It was amazing how much stuff you can pick up in 15 minutes and our house looked great when we went to bed.

Some other suggestions would be to play cheerful music, so that kids will find it fun. Or to do mini sessions instead (5 min long) throughout the day to clear the clutter. If you play the same cheerful song every time you clean, kids will begin associate it with cleaning time.

I highly recommend getting kids involved as soon as they can put something in a bin.

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Just remember to keep it fun. If you do this every night before bed, it will gradually be easier to motivate people to do and result in better quality cleaning.

My husband particularly liked this technique, because he could chose what he wanted to clean. This is a major plus in my world. Any cleaning is better than no cleaning. 🙂

One final idea: You could also make a simple list of the top three to five things that need to be cleaned that night, so that you can focus your family’s cleaning efforts.

Good luck!

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Restoring Order To My Life: Tip #6

Tip #6: Digitalize your shopping list.

I love this app. I use it most days. It’s called Cozi.

Cozi  is a free app that allows you and your family to keep lists at your finger tips. Using Cozi, you’re able to keep a running grocery list on your phone and/or access it on the Internet. The same list(s) are available to every member of your family by using a general name and password. No more running to the grocery store and trying to remember what items you need by chanting them under your breath.

We use Cozi practically every day and my husband can access and alter it, just as easily as I can. We actually keep multiple lists on Cozi including: Walmart, Liquor, Clothes, Costco, etc. If we think of something we need, it immediately goes on the correct list.

It’s also really nice to use it while you’re in the store shopping, because you can cross items off as you put them in your cart.

Try this app out. I highly recommend it!

Is there an app you can’t live without? Share it with us!

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A Break From Restoring Order

We’ve been in the process of reviewing one tip each day on ways to organize ourself before the holiday season. I’m going to break from that today and instead share a couple of recipes that I came across this weekend.

This past weekend, my husband and I decided to cook up a mini Southern Thanksgiving. We’re both from Ohio, so this project was fraught with potential calamity. I’ve been to the deep south only once, New Orleans, and loved it. Their culinary style is absolutely delectable. I’m not sure I had anything in Louisiana that I didn’t like with steamed whole crawfish being my favorite.

Here’s what we cooked for our mini Thanksgiving:

  • Honey Bourbon Glazed Ham
  • Cornbread dressing
  • Cajun Corn Maque Choux
  • Classic Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Creole Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
  • Carmel Pecan Pie

My top two favorite recipes were the Sweet Potato Casserole and the Carmel Pecan Pie. They were absolutely delicious. (I’ve had caramel pecan pie for breakfast two days in a row)

So, if you’re looking for something to spice up your usual Thanksgiving menu, try these two recipes. You won’t regret it.

Classic Sweet Potato Casserole  – the only change that I’d consider making to this recipe is doubling the crunchy topping. It’s REALLY good.

Caramel Pecan Pie: I would suggest making your own pie crust to go with this pie. (see below)

Homemade pie crust

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Restoring Order To My Life: Tip #5

Tip #5: Meal Planning

There are many ways to plan your meals. You can get inspiration from magazines, use an online meal planner (like emeals), or come up with your own combination of resources. When I was working full time outside of the house, I relied heavily on Emeals. I didn’t have the mental ability or time to be creative.

Now that I’m home most days, I keep a folder on my desktop called “Recipes” that is chock full of word documents of our favorite dishes and mix them with new recipes I find via blogs, allrecipes.com, and magazines (one of the most consistently fantastic being Martha Stewart Living). Since I love to cook and experiement in the kitchen, this is a fun way for me to plan for our meals.

It honestly doesn’t matter which way you chose to decide what you’re going to eat. What’s more important is sitting down once every two to four weeks and making a plan and a shopping list. This has helped us a lot and prevented us from eating out, by default, due to lack of planning most nights.

This is what I like to do: I sit down once every 2 weeks and plan out my meals. I like to display the meal choices in the kitchen, so my husband also knows what we’re eating for the week. (My husband and I have agreed a head of time that I’ll plan the meals and as long as each includes a protein, veggie, and starch, he won’t complain). Menu planning ahead of time is particularly useful for when we have family staying with us. I display it so that guests can get excited about what we’re going to be eating.

I’ve attached a sample menu that I use (see below).

Sample Menu

An important thing to note is I put special events and work schedules (My husband and I work very different shifts) at the bottom of my menu. This helps me adjust what we’re going to have according to how much time we have and who is available to cook that night.

One of the best things about planning is the assurance that well balanced meals have been thought about and ingredients are in the house ahead of time.  With all aspects of mothering, flexibility is essential.  Just last night, we skipped the meal I planned and ordered pizza.  We watched a few episodes of one of our favorite series, the Gilmore Girls, and had a nice romantic evening after Isaac went to sleep.  It was just what we needed after Matthew coming off of a string of shifts.

After I’ve determined our menu, I add all items that we need from the store on a phone app (I will talk about this app on Monday).

What do you do? Any other suggestions on making meal planning easier?

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Restoring Order To My Life: Tip #4

Tip #4: Make a Holiday Planner.

The holiday season comes in such a rush that I tend to lose track of everything I want to do. I’ll occasionally in January come across pieces of paper with ideas that I never had a chance to implement. I’m also semi famous for making a big holiday meal and forgetting one of the dishes.

So I came across this idea from another blogger and thought that this might be a good idea to try; making a holiday planner. Basically making a binder that will keep all of my ideas for the holidays, so everything is in one, portable place.

If you want to watch a video on on how to make this planner, click here.

This blogger describes in her video a Christmas planner that includes all she needs for the Christmas season. I chose to individualize this idea for my life and expanded it to include both Thanksgiving and Christmas. (I rarely do anything exciting on New Years, so I left that holiday out)

  Here’s what my planner looks like. (Please remember I’m not very crafty)

I expanded mine to include Thanksgiving, so I called it a “holiday planner” instead of a “Christmas planner”.

I chose a simple three ring binder. Nothing fancy here.

Once you open it up, there are tabs to your right and my first page is a general “To Do” list. I divided the list into Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Under each of the tabs I included several sheets of hole punched blank printer paper.

Here are the tabs I’ve included:

Tabs: Thanksgiving, Gift Giving

Tabs: Christmas Food, Traditions, Ministry

What I included under each tab:

1) Thanksgiving:

  • all recipes for the big meal
  • includes any pictures of table settings I want to use
  • includes ministries I want to support for Thanksgiving

2) Gift Giving:

  • includes a list of people I need to purchase gifts for and what I plan to get them
  • homemade gift ideas
  • address list
  • list of thank yous that will need to be sent out in January

3) Christmas food:

  • includes Christmas eve menu and Christmas Day (breakfast and dinner) menus
  • any food that we like to make during the Christmas season

4) Traditions:

  • Special things we like to do during the Christmas season that we don’t want to forget to do. For example: see the zoo lights, put up the Christmas tree, sing carols, send out Christmas cards, etc.

5) Ministry:

  • what organizations we financially support for Christmas, including how much we’re going to give
  • plans for how are we are going to show God’s love around us during the Christmas season

I’m sure some things will get changed around as the season happens this year, but I’m very excited to have a central place to keep all of my ideas. I can also keep this planner and use it again next year without having to start at ground zero. Perfect.

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Restoring Order To My Life: Tip #3

Tip #3: Preset the coffee pot (or tea pot) before going to bed.

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know that I LOVE coffee. It’s practically the air I breathe some mornings. Even Dragon Egg (if he could talk) could tell you that I say very little before that brew is down my throat.

So I started grinding beans and filling the coffee tank with water before going to bed at night. This simple process makes everything just a little smoother in the morning. Most mornings I push the “on” button (I wake up at different times, so a timer isn’t really useful for me) and by the time I’m done breastfeeding Dragon Egg, the smell of life is emanating from the kitchen. 🙂

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Restoring Order to My Life: Tip #2

Tip #2: Clean the kitchen before going to bed every night.

I started doing this two weeks ago and it’s made a huge change in how my mornings begin. Waking up to a clean kitchen helps me feel like today is a new day that’s full of possibilities, instead of feeling like the day is already hard and is just going to get worse. Also, I can begin my day playing with Dragon Egg and getting both of us fed, instead of clearing the counters in order to find supplies for breakfast.

If you follow Fly Lady, then you’re familiar with this concept. Fly Lady recommends cleaning your sink so it shines every night before bed. I honestly don’t care about my sink shining, but having the counters/stove top clean and all of the hand dishes washed before I wake up in the morning increases the chances of me cooking breakfast and having a better, brighter attitude.
I’ve started to make a habit of cleaning the kitchen after dinner. I keep Dragon Egg in the kitchen and set him to play on the floor while I clean up. By the time he has to go to bed, the kitchen is minutes away from being clean and I can rest for the night.

Try this tip and let me know if it improves your day.

If you missed Tip #1, click here.

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