Wednesday, December 30, 2015

5 steps to live a simple and organized lifestyle in 2016



1)  Re-evaluate - How was 2015 for you?  Did you make goals or try to change your routine, but failed? What do you think caused you to fail?  Many times we learn more when we fail than if we succeed.  Think about how you will change the way you approach 2016.  Obviously you are reading this blog because you want to change your lifestyle.  Think about what needs to change, your eating/exercise habits, finding a way to keep a clean home with a busy schedule, or getting the house in a more manageable and organized state.  Re-evaluate your life in its current state, think of changes you want to make in 2016 and how you want to go about making the changes.  Take time to research using social media, pinterest and blogs like Clean Life, Happy Life to help you get ideas and tips.  Start the year off with one or two goals.  As you succeed in your initial goals you can add additional goals.

2)  Make a Plan -  Write down your goal(s), give yourself a realistic deadline, make notes as to what needs to be done and breakdown each item in a timeline.  Calendar items to be done and keep the plan in an area you'll see it and can be reminded often.  By writing your plans/goals out and dissecting into smaller task it will all seem more attainable, you'll know exactly what is expected of you and by when.  This year we are implementing our POP concept.  Each task, each day, each week we are going to Plan Organize and Prep (POP).   We feel this is a great way to get all your thoughts on paper, organized and completed in a quick and orderly fashion.

3) Simplify - More then likely you are holding onto items you don't need.  Do you really need 4 spatulas? Are you still holding on to clothes that don't fit?  Are you and/or you family involved in too many extra activities?  Having to many items surrounding you may leave you feeling stressed, overwhelmed and unable to think clearly.  By living a simplified life you will have less items to clean, will be easier to get organized, have more free time and you'll feel calm and comfortable in your life.
Go through your home* and look at each item (*Don't think this will be done in a day, schedule yourself a room or two a day).  As you go through each item, ask yourself, "Do I really need this?  Did I use this item in 2015?"  If you answer no, well then it goes!  There may be items that are harder to let go, you know you haven't used them in a while, maybe they hold sentimental value. Put the 'hard to let go' items in a marked box and keep in a closet.  If you find you need the item, you'll still be able to access it and then you'll know you should keep it.  After 3-6 months, any items left in the box can go.   During this process you may come across items that seem to large to tackle right away, like a box full of loose photos.  Put those items neatly aside and add them to your 'plan list'  and either schedule time to take care of those items, or mark with a symbol so you know that on a rainy day you can look back at the list and address those items then.
A great way to simplify your closet is to reverse all of your hangers.  As you wear things, hang them back up the normal way.  After 3 months, go through the items still hanging in reverse, unless it is a seasonal item, special occasion, or has sentimental value.....it goes!   
Remember, most only wear about 20-30% of what they own.  Its good to have seasonal basics.  Try to purchase items that will easily transition with other items/seasons.  Have fun with accessories to change the look of an outfit, cardigans and scarfs can easily turn an evening outfit into work attire.  If you find it hard to let go of items because they still have tags or expensive, look into consignment shops, ebay, have a swap party with some friends or have a garage sale.  Even if you only get a few dollars for each item, its can be a great way to feel a little better about letting go.
Use this flowchart to help you decide if it should stay or go



4)  Organize - Keeping your life/home organized will help you find things when you need them, save you money and you may even find yourself with extra time on your hands.  Usually the kitchen, countertops where mail/bills get tossed, closets and kids toys are the most unorganized, start there.  Make a plan (remember step 2?), maybe start with researching ideas on pinterest (our boards), evaluate your space and get rid of all items you no longer need, group like items, measure the space and shop for organization items like baskets, shelving and containers, lastly, make labels for all items (check out our pantry before/after).  Labels may sound silly to some, but I will be the first to tell you, it really does help to have guidance to where things belong.  If you have young children, use photos on the labels.   
As your home becomes organized you need to make sure you keep it up.  Schedule (more in #5) yourself time to clear off counters, make sure mail/bills don't start piling up.  As you put items away, do a quick check to make sure items are staying organized in their designated areas.
Another great way to organize your home and family is creating a command center.  This area will serve as an organized space for backpacks/purses, keys, mail and family schedule/calendar.  Find an area near your entry/mudroom door or kitchen.  Each family member will have a place to set down their items as they first walk in, instead of just throwing on countertop or floor.  Its a great place to keep the family's schedule/calendar and they can all see what the plan is for the day and week.
NOTE: If you find something is not working for you and your family, don't be afraid to change it!  There are many ideas out there, you may need to tweak an idea to fit your families lifestyle.

5) Schedule - Last, but certainly not least, get yourself on a schedule!  This is by far the most important step! Having a schedule will keep you on task, less likely to stray from your goals and easily keep up all your hard work done in steps 1-4.  By keeping a weekly schedule/calendar you'll know exactly what you are doing, where you need to be and what you need to accomplish for that day.  
Many times were so busy and we say, "I wish I had just one free hour to sit and read a book."   
Well, schedule it and it will happen!!  
When it comes to your cleaning routine, try to spread the tasks out throughout the week.  Scheduled yourself a few minutes in the morning to wipe counters down, pick up items on the floor or put a load of laundry in.  In the afternoon/evening tackle a room or two.  Whatever you decide, write the schedule down and try to keep it the same every week.  
Use our weekly POP calendar to help you plan your week.


POP!


It's a new year, perfect time to get a new routine.


This year Clean Life, Happy Life is going to POP!  We are introducing our 3-step POP concept: Plan, Organize, Prep. Every day, every event, every task think POP.  First you'll plan the details,  think about what needs to be done, how do you want to tackle the task. Then organize yourself on paper, dissect the tasks and write down the order you'll need to do things and a timeline.  And lastly, prep anything that can be done ahead of time.
Example: packing my child's lunch for school.  First I plan what I am going to make for lunches for the week, and make sure I have all the items.  Then I organize my thoughts on a piece of paper, writing them down on note pad and hang on the fridge to reference later in the week, I also organize the items I'll need for the week, making sure everything is in a place and easily accessible.  Lastly, I prep.  Every night I bring out the items the lunch will be packed in, make sure ice packs are in freezer and pre-make any items that I can.  By doing these steps each morning everything goes smoothly and I am not spending more then 5 minutes putting together the last minute items and packing it up.  Need ideas for lunches, check out our lunch blog here.
Every Sunday we suggest taking the time to plan out your week, organize your to-do list, and prep items before the busy week starts.  Use our POP Weekly FREE printable to help you.  The weekly calendar will help you plan out meals, get your home clean by doing a lit bit each day throughout the week, get a little exercise in, and help you keep up with your to-do list.  


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Elf on the Shelf Honorary Toothfairy

My daughter recently lost her second tooth.  Since our Elf on the Shelf "Sparkle Cakes" was visiting, I thought it would be entertaining to incorporate him into the fun =)  She absolutely loved it!  In fact, when she woke up at 5am to find her Elf with $5, she was so excited that she ran into our room to show us and was not able to go back to sleep......it was a two cup of coffee morning for mommy and daddy :-\



Below you'll find a template for you to use for your honorary tooth fairy.  Print and cut out each item.  You can use text tool to write in your elf's name, or hand write it in.  

If your family hasn't named your tooth fairy, there are a bunch of fun name generators out there on the internet. 




Thursday, October 8, 2015

Join the Teal Pumpkin Project!

Have you heard of the Teal Pumpkin Project?  If not, just type into google and you'll see story after story of young children that face heartbreak every year because they can't enjoy trick-or-treating like many of their friends/siblings, and its all because the 'treats' passed out by the handful could make them very sick.

The main purpose of the Teal Pumpkin Project is to raise awareness of food allergies and promote non-food/candy treats during Halloween.  1 in 13 children in the US suffer from a food allergy.   Allergies go beyond the common peanut, you also have eggs, milk, soy, other tree nuts, wheat and food dyes.  A great way to accommodate children with allergies is to have a separate bowl of items like glow stick bracelets, bubbles, pencils, coloring books, spider rings or vampire teeth (just to name a few, check out our pinterest for more ideas) and you will guarantee every kid will leave your house with a SMILE! 

I am a huge fan of the Teal Pumpkin Project, even if my family has little to no food allergies. Although I allow my child to eat candy (and I sneak a few pieces myself) I try to keep consumption to a minimum.  I always dread the huge pile of candy that my child collects, and the candy we have left over!  I love when a neighbor hands out loose change or small toys, and its such a good break up of the never ending pile of mini snickers candy.

Head over the Teal Pumpkin Project website to sign the pledge. https://www.foodallergy.org/teal-pumpkin-project/pledge#.VhaBiCs7iec 

Hey, and while you're getting the paint and brushes out, why not give your teal pumpkin a little extra pizzazz!!!  Look at these 8 stunning teal pumpkins we found.....

 More information about the Teal Pumpkin Project and ideas of non-food treats go to:
Free Downloads (signs, stickers and stencils)
Here are the links to all pumpkin ideas
 
 
  




Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fall into an organized closet


The season is changing; days are getting shorter and nights are getting colder.  Time to hang up the short summer dresses and pull out the leather boots and chunky sweaters!

The change from summer to fall is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the changing of wardrobe and do a little CLOSET CLEANING!!  Your memory should be fresh as to what you did wear the past 3 months, making it easy to immediately toss unworn items.  It also could help to pick up a fashion magazine or hit Polyvore to brush up on the current fashions too.  This will help you say good-bye to those items that are "so last season"  Our Step-by-Step guide will help you declutter the closet and get ready for Fall, with minimum frustration.

Before you get started you will want to think about where the discarded items will go.  I believe its best to have 3 labeled bins: Trash, Donate, Sell

Sometimes its hard for us get rid of items because we feel we are loosing money or they hold sentimental value.  Well, no one said you had to throw it away!!  Have a garage sale, sell newer items online, look into consignment shops in your area (some will give you cash or store credit up front) or take the tax break and donate to local shelter/thrift store.  For the sentimental items, consider making something useful out of it, maybe a throw pillow, small doll for child or frame the item in a shadow box.  You could also pass it down to a sibling or friend that you think would get good use out of the item.

Ok, lets get started......

First you will want to go through the Spring/Summer attire: 
  1. Quickly go through all spring/summer items and discard items you know you do not want to keep.  Maybe its stained, torn, doesn't fit, out of fashion; whatever the reason, this will give you quick gratification of progress (even if it's only 2 items).  Place items in appropriate bins.
  2. Pick out the following essentials you want to keep for next year: 3 pairs of shorts (white/khaki, print and pop of color), 1 black/blue tank (solid or striped), 1 white fitted shirt (preferably with boat/'v' neck), 1 pop of color shirt (tank or fitted t-shirt), 1 pair of white jeans/capri, 1 Maxi dress, 2 dresses (one cotton and one flirty), 2 bathing suits, 2 pairs of sandals.   Set these items aside for now.
  3. What are you left with??  Use the flowchart (below) for each item to see if it will stay or go.  Place all "go" items in appropriate bins.
  4. Neatly put all items back into the closet or pack in air tight containers.  If placing in closet, place the out of season items towards the back, you'll want your Fall items up front and easy to access.  If packing and storing summer items, I would recommend keeping a good 'transitional' outfit in your closet if weather were to warm up unexpectedly.

After you have cleared out the Spring/Summer, now work through your Fall Attire:
  1. Quickly go through all items and discard items you know you do not want to keep.  Place in appropriate bins.
  2. Choose the essentials that are in for this season:  2 pairs of denim jeans (skinny is on its way out, flare is back in for 2015), 2 pairs of colored jeans/pants (black, plum, olive are popular this year), 2 pairs of slacks (if you do not require office attire you can substitute leggings), 2 dresses/skirts, 3 lightweight long, half or quarter sleeve shirts (flannel, white and denim recommended), 2 Blouses, 2 sweaters, 1pair of boots (ankle or calf) and 1 pair of ballet flats/loafers.
  3. What are you left with??  Use the flowchart (below) to see what items will stay or go.  Place all "go" items in appropriate bins.
  4. Neatly put all items back into the closet and arrange items by type and color. 




Optional Step: 
Feel like you didn't clean out enough?  Flip your hangers =)   Take all you hanging clothes and reverse the direction of your hangers.   As you take items out of your closet to wear, hang them back up the regular way.   By the end of 4 weeks evaluate all items that are still hung in reverse.   Works with stacked items too.   Fold and pile as usual, place a book or flat item on top to use as a maker.  As you take items to wear, replace items on top of the pile maker.  At the end of 4 weeks evaluate all items that are stacked under the marker.




Here is the Printable/Pinable Photo for "Fall into an Organized Closet"

Friday, September 4, 2015

3-Day Quick Clean

Summer is almost over, and the much anticipated Labor Day weekend is about to start. 
Having a 3-day weekend is a great way to take advantage of the extra time off work to get the house back in shape.  Its been about 6 months since spring cleaning, so things are probably in need of a little sprucing up.  Here is a quick 3-day weekend clean up guide.  Trust us, this list will leave you plenty of time to still enjoy the Labor Day BBQs and soak up the last sun rays of summer!


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tips to packing fun & easy school lunches

Kids love a homemade school lunch, especially when they are fun, colorful and include a note/prize!!  So many times as a busy parent we tend to lean on pre-made food items, anything quick, pre-packaged, grab-and-go items.  Unfortunately, we all know these items tend to lack on health and nutrition, and can be costly.  Here are some great ideas and tips to help even the busiest parents pack amazing, fun, healthy school lunches.
Lunches don't have to be difficult.  My child would totally be fine with a ham sandwich everyday.  While I do pack a lot of sandwiches, I have fun mixing up sides, creating some fun plays on her favorites and providing her healthy alternatives.
There are so many fun and colorful lunch containers and accessories available these days, its easy to get carried away.  You can easily spend a pretty penny on Bento boxes and accessories.  There are plenty of low cost options too!  My best advice is keep in mind, these items will be REUSABLE!  Although some items might tip the scale at $10 or more, I can guarantee you will get YEARS of use, and its great for the environment =)


1) Fun, timeless, sturdy lunch box & ice packs -  Average $8 -  Last year I did add another 2 lunch boxes to the mix, deeply discounted after school started.  My favorite is Target's Circo Lunch Bags, with side drink pocket, perfect fit for plastic divided containers (#2 on the list)

2)  Divided lunch containers - Average $15 (set of 3 or 4) - Can be found on Amazon and/or grocery stores - try to get leak proof. 

3) Reusable napkins - Average $5 (usually set of 4) - Great place to look would be discounted home stores, like TJMaxx or Tuesday Morning.

4)  Small condiment containers - Average $2 (set of 4 or more) - Perfect for salad dressing, dipping sauces and other condiments. I found a great set at my local Dollar General.  Sometimes you'll find them hanging randomly in the cereal or snack aisle at the grocery store.

5) Plastic flatware - 18 pc set for $1.99 at IKEA!!  

6) Reusable snack bags - Average $10 - I have seen a huge variety, ranging in prices.  The ones pictured are Bumkins (found on amazon) and I love them, easy to wash and still look new after a year of use.  Also, don't be afraid to wash and reuse plastic baggies!

7)  Fun Accessories -  Wide Price Range -  You can find fun, seasonal, decorative picks at the dollar stores, craft stores and grocery store (cake aisle).  My daughter LOVES personal notes.  Get a pack of stickers, card stock/sticky notes and fun color markers from $1 store, and write/decorate a note every day.  There are also great FREE printable lunch notes you can download from internet.  I even went a step further and laminated, using self seal laminate sheets found at craft store.

8) Silicone cups - Average $8 (set of 12 -24)- fun way to add color and divide foods -  a huge variety in color, shape and sizes.  They come in such large quantities, team up with another mommy friend and each ordered a different set then swap shapes and colors. 

9) Hot/Cold containers - Average $7 - Great way to pack before/after school snacks or send items that need to stay really cold or hot.  We live in Florida, so not many 'soup' days here, but my daughter loves pasta dishes kept warm.   The containers with ice packs (found at Marshall's $4.99) are great to pack snacks or side dishes.   My daughter loves school pizza day, so I let her order one slice (a la carte) and then pack a salad or veggies and dip.

10)  My daughters all time favorite - silicone pops - Average $9 - Amazon has a great selection of colors/designs and quantities.  You can pack dry items, like trail mix, but my daughter loves when I make smoothie pops.  I make a large smoothie during the weekend, fill up the molds (don't top off, leave room to close and expansion) and freeze.   She says they are still frozen in middle when she eats at noon. 

Here is a quick shot of of how I keep all the items organized with bins found at Dollar Tree

Mornings are a big rush for us.  We usually wake up at 6:45 A.M., make and eat breakfast, clean-up, dress, pack lunches and backpacks and get out the door within an hour.  How do I do it?  Easy answer - PREP and ORGANIZATION!

Ever night my daughter and I pick from our lunch list (<-----attached for your printing pleasure), then lay out containers, nonperishable items (bread, chips, fruit snacks), pre-make any items that won't get soggy or spoil quickly and have a solid idea of what needs to be made in the morning.  By prepping the night before, I usually only need 5-10 minutes to finish lunches, pack and place in backpack.

Pre-make homemade items, weeks or months ahead.  You can find so many great homemade, HEALTHY, kid friendly recipes online.  I love items that I can sneak in whole grains, fruits, veggies, and reduce/substitute sugar without anyone noticing. Many of our favorites are muffins, breads, smoothie pops, cookies and no-bake granola bars.  All these items keep very well in freezer.  I can grab the night before to defrost in the refrigerator overnight, if needed, or grab and pack in the morning.

Other great morning time savers.....have the kids pre-pick breakfast.  Again, any items that can be prepped the night before, do so.  Clothes is a huge one!  My child wears a uniform, which saves me plenty of argument, but still, I lay out her outfit so as soon as she is finished with her morning routine she can dress herself.

Plenty of Inspiration can be found at:

Pinterest
http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/school-lunches/
http://www.familyfreshmeals.com/category/lunch-box-ideas