Let’s Get Organized {Week #1}

Oh yes!  Oh yes!  It’s time to report on my organizing project.  Week #1 went really well.  I’m so pleased that I actually followed through.  Now, I’m not saying that I absolutely reached my goal in its entirety.  Sadly, no, but I did make great progress.

I gave myself the assignment of organizing our four downstairs closets–entryway closet, pantry, livingroom closet, and laundry closet.  The entryway closet was a mish-mash of many odds and ends.  If we didn’t know where an item should go, it went in the entryway.  I wanted this closet to be a sort of “landing zone” for things that go in and out of the house often.  I wanted to know where backpacks were located before the morning rush.  The boys know to put their shoes by the front door, but the shoes were usually in a crazy pile somewhere near the closet.  Here is what the closet looked like before:

And here is my AFTER…drum roll…

I bought hooks for the backpacks and my purse.  They cost $1.20 per hook.  I spent $5.00 on corkboard.  The money bought me four 12 x 12 pieces, and I only used one in this space.  The hanging shoe organizer was in the boys’ room, and it wasn’t being used.  One little plastic wrestler was hangin’ out in there, so I snitched the organizer for the closet.  The tan bin on the shelf has outdoor toys in it.  I found the bin in our garage–not being used.  I would like to buy something to hold the dog food, but it can wait.  I turned the box lids on the shelf into paper sorts for the boys’ school papers and art work.

Here’s our pantry:

Our pantry was sparce but sloppy.  Painting supplies were tossed in there, along with plastic shopping bags and loose papers.  Now, it looks like this:

(I have several more pantry pictures, but they won’t post.  Grr…)

I made little labels for the shelves.  I cleared out the rest of the closet to the right.  That’s the home of our sweeper and steam mop now.  I also made a family emergency kit with candles and matches.  I plan to add bottled water, a flashlight, a first aid kit, and a few other things.

The laundry closet was a really easy fix.  I want to show you what happened there, but my camera battery died before I took my “After” shot.  I’ll save that reveal for next week.  The livingroom closet is not complete.  We need to buy some shelving, and it just isn’t in the budget right now.  J and I organized the toys though, so that’s definitely progress!

I planned to organize the boys’ room this week, but I’ve decided to bump up the master bedroom to the top of the list.  We’ve barely even moved into our master bedroom.  It is basically a bed, a dresser, and mess of boxes, bins, and baskets.  Time to fix that!  {I’m editing last week’s post to reflect the change.}

Are you organizing along with me?  If you are new to the blog, you might want to check out my pre-organizing post here.

Let’s Get Organized!

As I typed the title of this post, I started singing Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical,” and I have a feeling that it is going to be running through my head all day.

I could write a book (well, a really, really long blog post) about my organizational history.  Here’s the quickie version:

I have always been really good at organizing my professional space but not my personal space.  As a kid, my pattern meant a tidy desk and backpack but a semi-messy room.  As a teenager, I had obsessively neat school notes.  I loved color-coding with cool pens (Jessi?  Are you reading this?).  I loved binders and folders and paper clips.  Staples was my retail heaven!  But as my life got busier and my pace got faster, my room got messier.  And messier.  I seemed to be always cleaning it, but it didn’t get better.  I would spend an entire Saturday “cleaning,” but I spent most of my time gazing at old photographs, art work from junior high, and other memorabilia.  The state of my bedroom was always a battleground between me and my mom (in an otherwise wonderful mother-daughter relationship).  College and grad school were about the same.  Organized work and schedule.  Semi-messy room/apartment/house.

Then in 2005, while still studying in grad school and working in various capacities at a university, we added a baby boy to our family.  Suddenly, I could not tolerate our messiness.  I wanted a cozy, clean place to raise our little family.  I tried hard.  I felt like I was cleaning all the time, but the house didn’t get better.  The baby’s room was the single spotless place.  The nursery was super organized and always tidy.  I was frustrated.  Then, in April 2006 when F was 9 months old, my mom and I attended a La Leche League conference.  One of the speakers taught us about home organizing, and for the first time, I learned about the FlyLady.  Now, the FlyLady might not be for everyone, and her methods might seem silly or extreme, but she changed my life!  At least for a little while.

By June, I had my home organized and clean, and I was maintaining the routines that are essential to the FlyLady program.  I felt AWESOME!  On the evening before my baby’s first birthday in August, I was ready for the party.  The house looked good.  The cake was ready.  The food was ready.  That never happens.  On the morning of the party, I was able to attend church, do some final party prep, and just enjoy my birthday boy without the usual frantic race before guests arrived.

My home organization lasted until baby #2 arrived (about two years), and I’ve never returned to that delightful state again.  We live in a state of semi-organization. Thankfully, our summer move left us without much of our old clutter.  I’m great at crisis cleaning.  I can pull together a clean, pretty house without much trouble, but it’s not truly organized.  My closets make no sense at all.  I’m often losing things or frantically hunting for things as we head out the door.  Our second floor has tons of storage near the bathroom and bedrooms, but the drawers and closets are almost empty while our belongs are still in boxes or stacked in corners. Our car is always full of stuff, leaving it unsightly but also unsafe.

On Thursday, I attended a MOPS meeting on the subject of organization, and I’m feeling very motivated.  I also have a sense of community support, and that accountability means a lot to me!

Project: Food Budget has been so helpful, so I decided to do a similar thing with organization.  I will report once per week on my progress in getting organized.  Here is the plan of attack:

Week #1:  (April 16-April 22)  Downstairs closets and begin family paperwork

Week #2: (April 23-April 29)  Master bedroom and upstairs closets

Week #3: (April 30-May 6)  Boys’ room and paperwork

Week #4: (May 7-May 13)  Leftover unpacked boxes, back porch, and paperwork

Week #5: (May 14-May 20)  Home library

Week #6: (May 21-May 27)  Kids’ papers and crafts

Week #7: (May 28-June 3)  Car, kitchen, and finish family paperwork

Notes:  The kitchen is thrown in at the end because it is fairly well organized.  I want to tackle only two spots:  the very junkie junk drawer and the top of the fridge.  Otherwise, I’m happy with the order of my kitchen.  Paperwork is spread out through the seven week project because as I organize each space, I will have more paper to manage.  There are other areas that I could add such as the garage and bathrooms, but those areas are functioning pretty well.  Our bathrooms are basically empty, so no trouble there.  My laundry area is really just a big closet, so I’m including it in Week #1.

Anyone want to join me?

The Brutal Truth

I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog, why I blog, and what others might think as they read Warm as Pie. I recently heard a radio program about the role of social media in a Christian life.  The guy speaking was compelling, and his message really got me thinking.  His main point was that every post we make–whether on Facebook, Twitter, a blog, whatever–is essentially an act of self-promotion.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, we are creating a “brand” for ourselves–an image that we want others to hold of us.  This is not a ground-breaking idea.  We used to talk about the same concept in terms of designer purses, name-brand jeans, and sports cars.  I remember when all the girls in seventh grade were wearing K-Swiss shoes, and I wanted desperately to show that I was a K-Swiss kinda gal, too.  Now, self-promotion happens in terms of the words we choose, the links we share, and the photographs that show us as happy, fun-loving, carefree, creative, and confident with shiny white teeth and toned upper arms.  Okay…maybe that’s just me.  Even this post is screaming “here is my obligatory I-am-so-humble-Aren’t-I-amazing post?”.  So with the self-promotion concept swirling around in my brain, every Facebook status I consider writing and every blog post I begin to imagine comes with a great, big pause.  Talk about squelching one’s creativity.  I can’t help wondering if I’m just trying to praise myself and gain praise from others.  Am I bringing God glory or putting a spotlight on myself?  How can ever know that?  For now, I’ll just say that it’s on my mind, and I’m not sure what to do about it.

Blogging allows me to show you our family’s best moments.  Blogging allows me to look back over our best moments and to be reminded that we are filling our children’s lives with good things, good memories, good messages, and often good food–even when the kids are arguing, the garbage is overflowing, and the clean laundry is stacked so high on top of the dryer that it is toppling on to the floor where dog hair has collected on the ceramic tile and is now all over the once-clean laundry.

Blogging allows me to tell myself, “Yes, the house is a mess and there are no clean socks, but you are still a good mom.”  Folks, my house is–indeed–often a mess.  Too often, one child is pouting in his room because I said no to more television time, no to a chance to log on to pbskids.org, or no to cookies before dinnertime.  Perhaps even worse, I sometimes say yes to TV when we’ve had enough, yes to PBS because I’m tired and the baby needs to nurse, and yes to cookies because I just can’t say no one more time!

Blogging is like a family photo album.  I don’t know about you, but I throw away the picture that shows that my shorts were too tight, something was smeared on my shirt, and it looks like I might be getting a double chin.  On the blog, I’m not trying to look perfect.  I’m not perfect, and I’m certainly not trying to pull one over on you.  But I do enjoy reflecting on the positives.  I like recording the moments that reveal to me God’s love, the beauty of the world, and the magic of both marriage and childhood.  I like to share my successes here.  I like to post pictures of my children when thay are smiling or otherwise looking sweet.  I don’t take picture of then scowling, pouting, or swatting a sibling.  Would you?

But let me tell you, the normal, messy craziness of family life happens here.  Daily.

At my sister’s baby shower, a relative commented that she couldn’t believe that Kristy planned to use cloth diapers.  She made the comment with a sense of both disbelief and praise.  Sort of how you might congratulate someone who is training for a marathon while at the same time questioning her sanity.  My sweet sister answered that I (as in me, the big sister) use cloth, and I am her role model.  Well, hello there!  I was really touched and really proud that this dear, wonderful sister of mine would point to me as a role model.  Sure, I am the older sister, and I do have three kids who are turing out okay.  But I was still a little bit (okay, a lot) moved at the thought.  I am the big sister, but I always kind of wished I was more like Kristy.

As I good as I felt about the cloth diaper conversation, I am uncomfortable about it, and I keep thinking that if the kind relative and many others who were surprised by our diapering choices knew what my diaper routine looked like.  They wouldn’t be so impressed.  Cloth diapering doesn’t make me SuperMom.  It’s not that hard.  In fact, it’s easy.  Easy.  I am not being modest.  Diapering takes very little of my time, energy, or brain power.  And get this — When I grab a disposable diaper because I’m behind on laundry or just because, the cloth diaper police do not screech to a hault in our driveway and interrogate me about the state of our nation’s landfills or the chemical content of disposable nappies.  Cloth diapering has not been an unattainable standard for an ordinary family like us.  Cloth diapers are cute.  They are better for my baby’s bottom, the environment, and our budget.  But they don’t make me some sort of mothering superstar.  (I’ll save my thoughts on diapering for another post.)

I’m leaving you with these concluding thoughts:  Most of us admire the qualities of others that we don’t think we have.  We admire some of the choices that other families make, and we tell ourselves, “I could never do that.”  Sometimes we see these “super families” on blogs, or we notice the wonderful things that they share on Facebook.  I’m telling you, if [insert admirable thing] were your priority, you could do it, too.  I admire people who exercise daily, compost their food waste, clip coupons, grow their own vegetables, make their own laundry detergent, totally avoid processed foods, drink tons of water, keep beautiful journals, always print their digital photographs, read dozens of novels, always recycle their magazines, knit sweaters for their families, make double batches of lasagna for the freezer, iron their shirts, and always have a clean kitchen sink.  I am not those people.  I do some of those things some of the time.  I have different priorities, and I’m just starting to feel okay about that. I hope you will, too.

Springtime Shift

The first day of spring was a major cause of celebration in our old northern life.  Spring meant a few warm days might slip in even if a snowfall could still happen.  Spring meant that the little heads of daffodils pushed up through the earth.  Those tiny pops of green and yellow were so welcome, and everyone hoped that a heavy frost or flurry wouldn’t leave them blighted.  Spring meant putting away snow boots, cleaning out gutters, and sweeping away the old leaves from the fall that accumulated along the sidewalks and the front steps.  These little changes were made with great hope, but we all knew that cold weather could still reign in those early spring days.  I can recall many April mornings that began with a beautiful blanket of the white stuff, so the vernal equinox brought no promises!  Even so, I loved to make a big deal of the start of the new season.

Now that we are living in a very different climate, I wasn’t sure what to do about the start of spring.  It’s been rather “springy” in these parts for…well…since it wasn’t blazing hot.  Since November perhaps?  None of the usual activities celebrating the newly blooming flowers seemed appropriate, but I didn’t want to pass by the important shift into springtime.  For the last few years, I have been organizing our children’s books seasonally.  Of course, we have many books that are year-round favorites; however, I love to pack up our books about autumn, Christmas, and winter and pull out the spring, Easter, and summer choices.  The stories feel new again.

Even though we aren’t going to experience spring in the same way, I want this season to be about new life.  I need a fresh start in several areas of my life.  I’m longing for some new recipes, some new additions to my wardrobe, new commitment to prayer and study, and most of all–a new sense of organization.  What are you hoping for this spring?

Ah…Clean Slate

Do you feel that clean, fresh breeze blowing by, clearing off the dust of old ways?  For some of you, that “breeze” might feel like an icy gale, but for my family, the movement is crisp and pleasant.  It promises a fresh start, a new beginning.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  I love beginnings!  In my first Warm as Pie post ever, I wrote briefly about how much I love a new start, no matter what time of year.  The beginning of 2012 is exciting.  We started the year on the road as we made the long drive from North to South.  (Having watched Gone With the Wind over the holiday, I was particularly aware of the Mason Dixon line and Charleston, SC.)  Oh, I was so sad to leave Home to go home, but as we made our way southward, I felt the excitement growing.  We left our new house in a bit of a scramble, and now I get to truly be a “homemaker” as I empty boxes, hang pictures, and set up new routines.  How I’ve missed our routines!  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could do parenthood without them.

I have several goals for the new year.  I prefer the word “goals” to “resolutions” because, to me, a resolution is a promise and a goal is a process.  I cannot promise that will have my new ways set in stone on January 1.  No way.  Instead, I will be working all year to make positive changes for me and my family.

My very most important goal is to make our house open to guests at all times.  I want to practice hospitality in its truest form, ready to share the joy of friendship at any moment.

Secondly, I want to treat our bedroom as a sanctuary for me and my husband.  Our bedroom is always the place where I mindlessly toss things.  I usually avoid going there for any reason other than sleep, but with a brand new bedroom to design, decorate, and enjoy, I figure this is the time to commit to making a little refuge for us.

I hope you are refreshed and ready to write something beautiful on that clean slate before you.


Project: Food Budget (Week #4)

{Don’t forget my giveaway tomorrow!  You can win a copy of MomSense: A Common-sense Guide to Confident Mothering by participating in tomorrow’s blog post.  Just leave a comment, and you’re entered in the drawing.  Comments will close on Sunday at 11:59pm.}

Hey, food budget fans!  Week 3 was a tough one.  In my last post, I was at $120 for the week, and I was at a loss as to what we would eat over the weekend.  We went out to dinner at a little fish place on Friday.  We were a bit surprised to leave $50 lighter.  Ouch.  I was determined to not head back to the grocery store, so I opened the cupboard and turned on the creativity.  On Saturday, we did a breakfast supper.  I made these pancakes using ingredients we had in the house and a big batch of scrambled eggs.  We had only a drip of maple syrup on hand, so I defrosted some frozen blueberries and made an impromptu compote. The boys thought this was the greatest supper ever!  On Sunday, I made spaghetti with items we already had.  So $170 for the week.  Not great, but I was really proud of us for not going out to eat for two full weeks (ignoring the quickie drive-through run last Wednesday).

This week I spent $108 on groceries.  I will have to return for some drinks to take to a pot luck on Friday night.  My $108 includes two splurges: real maple syrup ($4.99) and Breyers ice cream ($5.99 BOGO).  Here is our menu for the week:

Monday: Chicken stir-fry with brown rice

Tuesday: Egg salad on yummy bakery rolls, cantaloupe, and homemade oven fries

Wednesday: Dinner at church ($8)

Thursday: Roast beef subs and white bean salad

Friday: {Pot luck}, bringing beverages

Saturday: Baked ziti

Sunday: Fried fish, mixed veggies, and brown rice

Week 1 ($168) + Week 2 ($90) + Week 3 ($170) + Week 4 ($108 + $8) = $544

After a month of being mindful of my food budget, I came in $56 under budget.  I’m pleased, but my goal is $400 per month.  I’m $144 over.  I’ve got 48 weeks left to accomplish my goal.

Please check out my fellow bloggers:

Project: Food Budget (Week 3) {Post #200!!}

Don’t wise people, sages and people like that, talk about the connectedness of all things?  Yeah.  Well, this week I had a nice illustrative experience along those lines.  Our Jeep was misbehaving over the weekend, and that simple fact screwed up my food budget for the week.  So here’s the story.  On Friday, the Jeep seemed off.  We noticed a smell.  Not good.  On Saturday, we noticed significant noise and weird shimmying.  That’s never good.  As we jiggled down the highway, I had a sinking feeling in my gut.  When we prepared to move, I had two things on my “Please NO” list:  illness and car trouble.  On the way home from the botanical gardens, the “check engine” light blinked steadily like some kind of red S.O.S.  Car trouble, great.  We decided to risk the drive to Sunday School and church, and that evening, my hubby asked if he should run to the store to “get some things” in case the Jeep ended up in the shop for a time.  Normally I make my weekly menu and grocery list on Sunday night, and I grocery shop on Monday.  I didn’t have a menu or list ready, so I quickly jotted down some of the basics and a quickie menu for Monday and Tuesday.  We have dinner at church on Wednesday ($6), so I figured I could get the rest of the week figured out later.  Error one:  I let one impromptu shopping trip alter my whole routine.  I like routines, and apparently, a routine is essential for food budget success.  Cory came home with the items on my list and a few “extras” for a grand total of $75.  Hmm…not great for a menu of only two dinners.  Error two: I let someone else do our shopping.  I’m stating that but not complaining one bit!  I’m thrilled to have a husband who shops.

So anyway…I just never got on track.  We made several stops at the store, accumulating about 30 extra dollars and only a vague sense of how accurate that number really is.  When you aren’t mindful about shopping, money seems to slip from the bank account like spaghetti through a too-big collander.  (How’s that for a foodie simile!)  Error three:  Too many stops at the store.  I’m currently reading Save More Clip Less (available for download from The Peaceful Mom), and the author discusses the relationship between time spent in stores and money spent.  I learned about that relationship this week.

And I still don’t know what we’re eating on Friday or Sunday, nor do I have the food to create anything.  More money will be spent.

So far, the project looks like this:

Week 1 ($168) + Week 2 ($90) + Week 3 ($75 + $30 + $6 + $9 {quick lunch out}) = $378 (for now)

Let’s see how the others are doing:

Project: Food Budget 2.0 (Week 1)

So exciting!  The first week of Project: Food Budget 2.0 has arrived.  The project is a year-long commitment, so I  imagine that I’ll spend the first few weeks collecting information about our family’s  eating habits and spending  habits.  I am realizing already that this challenge is going to push me out of my comfort zone.  One’s food choices are very personal, and  financial matters are usually private.  Well, I’m sharing my food choices and our money choices right here on the internet.

I’m feeding two adults and two children.  In several months, I will also been adding fresh foods for our baby.  We currently  have $600 in the monthly budget for food.  That includes eating out.  My goal is to decrease that amount to $400 per month by the end of the 52 week project.  In the past, we had eating out under our “fun” budget, but we always broke that category, so we’ve made a change to the way in which we account for eating in restaurants.

Here is this week’s dinner menu:

Monday – fish with a broccoli dish with lemon, walnuts, and parmesan  cheese  (Everyday FOOD, October 2011)

Tuesday – Sloppy Joes with sweet potato fries

Wednesday – {church meal}
Cost: $8.00

Thursday – spaghetti with “Super Veggie” sauce

Friday – BBQ chicken pizza with fruit

Saturday – chicken & squash dish  (Everyday  FOOD, October 2011)

Sunday – {church potluck}  We’re bringing a creamy pasta salad with ham and peas.

I went grocery shopping on Monday.   I had a list of ingredients for the dinners and odds & ends for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.  My purchases came to $130.  I was aiming for $100, so I was kind of bummed by the total.  Where did the extra spending happen?  I have a good excuse!  About $8.00 was spent on  materials for J’s school project.  We had to make a triple batch of orange play dough for his preschool class.  For the play dough, we purchased a bag of  flour, a package of food coloring, and cream of tartar.  I don’t even know what cream of tartar is!  Since we moved, we have to buy lots  of ingredients that would normally be already in our pantry.  Eventually, we will build up our “must haves” again.

The Wednesday night dinner at church is a big help.  I never have to plan a Wednesday meal.  How nice. The meal includes a hot dinner for $3.00/adult.  Pizza is available for $1.00/slice.  This week we spent $8.00.  Sunday’s potluck is also a help on the budget since we are only responsible for the salad.   Plus, it’s a wonderful chance to make friends in our new community.

TOTAL: $138 (Groceries + Wednesday)

Week One down!

Let’s see how our friends are doing:

The participating blogs (so far):

Thinking about Writing…

I love a new notebook.  Have I mentioned this before?  I get really excited–unreasonably excited–by a fresh, clean, untouched notebook.  I’ve felt this way for, well, forever.  I know I’m not alone in my passion for empty pages.  I guess I open a new notebook with the expectation that I will craft the greatest novel of all time or finally perfect the Shakespearean sonnet rhyme-scheme.  Or at the very least, I’ll make an awesome to-do list that actually gets done.  Imagine.

This blue beauty actually belongs to my three-year-old son, and I am proud to say that he is pretty excited about it.  We’ve been having writing time after lunch.  He makes big, happy swirls on his pages while I’m working on some brainstorming in my hot pink composition book.  (Does it get any better than a composition book?  Truly?)  Some time this summer, I realized something exciting and scary:  the itch to write has returned.  Now, don’t let me lead you to believe that I stopped enjoying the written work.  No, no.  But to be honest, seven years later, I am still recovering from MFA burn-out.  The tremendous pressure of the whole MFA atmosphere left me to question (again and again) the role I want writing to play in my life.  I do not have an answer, but I do know that I want to be more deliberate about including writing in my life–giving it value, giving it time.  If my life were a pie chart, the nifty little wedge for “writing” would be just a bit bigger than microscopic…at least lately.  It would be bigger than, say, computing statistical proofs, but it would not be as big as doing laundry or picking up socks or changing diapers.  Laundry must continue to be done.  Diapers certainly need to be changed, but I want writing to show up on the chart.

I want to do more than just-about-weekly blogging and more than e-mailing.  What role will writing play in my life?  If the writing wedge in my hypothetical pie chart grows, which portion will necessarily shrink?  Not laundry.  I need to think about this, and then I need to do more than think.  I need to do.  I need to write.