Thursday, January 31, 2008

Reducing Mail Clutter & Helping the Environment: Catalogs

I previously posted about bringing less into our homes...through the mail. Click here to read my previous post. If there is less mail in the mailbox that means less comes inside. This give me more time in my day as I spend less time going through the mail and ripping it up or shredding it. My thinking is if I have less in the mailbox, then there is less waste coming into the house. Thereby saving me time and helping the environment with less paper being sent out.

Here is an interesting article with some suggestions on eliminating catalog waste. To read the full article, click here. The article gives you two options to minimize the catalogs that arrive in your mailbox. How many catalogs do you receive a month? Do you find you receive too many catalogs? If so, can you reduce some of your catalog waste?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How Will You Use Your Tax Rebate?

Yesterday a potential Tax Rebate was announced. If you are unfamiliar with the announcement, click here. Make a plan for your money. If you do not have a plan, here's a suggestion - follow Dave Ramsey's 7 Baby Steps to Financial Freedom. They are:

Step 1: $1,000 In An Emergency Fund
Step 2: Pay Off All Debt With The Debt Snowball
Step 3: 3 To 6 Months Expenses In Savings
Step 4: Invest 15% Of Income Into Roth IRAs And Pre-Tax Retirement Plans
Step 5: College Funding
Step 6: Pay Off Your Home Early
Step 7: Build Wealth And Give!

This is a nice simple plan for financial freedom. To learn more about his program, click here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Try Reinventing!

I decluttered my pantry and rearranged it this afternoon. Then went out and purchased 3 fabric drawers. I used these drawers on the bottom row of wire shelving. I am very pleased with the results!

What tips do you have to keep your pantry organized?

Rather than run out to the store to buy something, I always look around to see if I already have something in the house that may work instead. It may be a similar item - a basket, let's say or something that I can reinvent. One that has a specific function or purpose that I was able to find another use for that item. That's always my first choice - trying to reinvent an item.

Today was easier to make a purchase as I already had the fabric drawers in the house for the Closetmaid cubicles. I just picked one up and tried it in the pantry on the wire shelving. I was already very pleased with this item and knew it was on sale in a local store.

Before you run out to the store next time you need an item, try reinventing!

Project: Organize Pantry

I have a nice size walk in pantry with wire shelving. I am so grateful for this space! Yet it looks disorganized. Hmmm, I've been thinking about this space for the past few days and how to organize it. Of course, declutter first, before even thinking about organizing it. So I started decluttering it out. Then I mulled over this space thinking of some ideas. My children have a Closetmaid storage area for their toys. I really like the fabric drawers they have for them plus they can fit a lot in those drawers. Hmmm, could this be a solution? I pulled out one of the drawers, emptied it and tried it out. It fit nicely!

When I looked online at Closetmaid, I found this pantry. This is similar to mine, but I don't consider that organized. I just want to have a nicer space. I rearranged the pantry. Now I'm off to the store to purchase a few more of these fabric drawers!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Follow Up on Road Trip: Pack Lightly!

Just some follow up on my previous post about our road trip. I can really see the results of my quest for a simple life with this road trip. When I packed to leave on our trip, I packed 6 outfits and underclothes and 2 sets of pajamas for each of us. It was pretty easy to pack for once I picked a goal of how much to bring. I did several sets of laundry while away. It was so nice to have less stuff - less clothes to manage!

When it was time to leave, what a nice feeling! I didn't feel overwhelmed with all of the packing to do. I easily packed up our clothes. Then set out to pack the toys and books the kids received as gifts. I packed the van the day before. I had enough extra time that I even vacuumed the van out before packing! Got a full tank of gas and charged my phone ahead of time. So we had a nice, relaxing night to visit with family before we left to return home.

Plan ahead. Think of a measurable number of clothes to bring with you - 6 outfits worked for us this trip. I ended up easily packing up to go and return home and had time to vacuum as well as relax with family on the last night.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Organization: Children's Clothes

We have visited this topic in my blog before. Click here to read the previous entry. I'd like to expand on this topic a bit. When organizing your children's clothes, do you organize by pants and shirts or do you organize by outfits? Since my children are younger, I usually try to organize by outfits. However, I inevitably end up with a stack of T-shirts and then some jeans leftover. I put those in a separate drawer.

It is a matter of preference. Just wondering how other parents handle their children's clothes?

Also another idea in regards to I noticed this week, my children seem to have a lot of clothes! I'm still keeping up with the weekly laundry for the kids' laundry. See my previous post. Meaning I still have one day of the week that I do all of the kids's laundry. I've been doing this since I posted about it and it's been working out really well. Anyway, it seems no matter how much I simplify the children's clothes, it seems the clothes continue to multiply. I was thinking about this earlier this week and decided, at my Mom's suggestion, that I would take an outfit out for each of them and just leave it in a canvas bag in the bag of my van. A "just in case" bag of clothes. Inevitably just as their clothes seem to multiply all on their own, there also seems to be a tendency at times to be in need of an extra pair of clothes! Usually it's a visit to the beach, where we don't plan to go in the water (read: we are not in bathing suits) and the kids end up in the water and soaked! An extra outfit in the van would come in handy at these times. Last week, it was during our visit to the zoo. My son went down the slide at the picnic area and there was a puddle at the bottom! We could have used an extra outfit then too.

Plan ahead, if you can relate to my experiences, just pack an extra outfit for each child in a bag and leave it in the back of the van or car. It won't take up much space.

Road Trip

We are back home from our extended visit with family and friends. We had a fabulous time. The trade off was I would have to drive home by myself with the kids. Hmmm......the trip is usually 14 hours during the day! Yikes! I was intimidated, but wanted to spend the extra time with family, so I took the plunge.

It well amazingly well! I was able to make it in 13 hours with only 2 stops! Unbelieveable! The kids were so well behaved! That's what really makes or breaks the trip. Their bellies were filled with a nice breakfast before we left. I had a good supply of snacks in the car as well as water bottles. I prefer the small ones for the kids - the 8 ounce ones. It seems to satisfy their thirst yet they don't seem to guzzle it, so fewer potty breaks. =)

They received a new DVD from the holidays, which I saved to watch on the trip home. They also received a new book each just for the trip home from their Grandmom. She gave them to the kids as they were getting in the van. That helped to keep them occupied.

Other suggestions for road trips:
* Consider buying a few small gifts (books, workbooks, etc) for the ride and giving them our intermittently during the trip.
* Make sure kids are fed before trip and have gone to the bathroom.
* Bring goodies (food and drink) for the road trip. I try to keep it healthy - water, apples and granola bars; these are some of my kids' favorites anyway. This trip Grandmom also made us some yummy chocolate chip cookies for the way home. The cookies are another one of my kids' favorites and a big treat for all of us. =)
* Pre-plan as much as you can, but remain flexible. I planned to drive to a certain exit for my first stop. Kids did so well that I was actually able to go further than I planned - an unexpected bonus.
* Since we traveled this distance previously, we have some exits we like to stop. Keep a little notebook in the glove box. I write down some of the exits we stopped before that I liked and why I liked them. For example, we usually will stop for a meal and I plan for Chic-fil-a if I can. My son loves chicken and it gives them a place to stretch their legs and move around in the play area.
* This is a great opportunity to learn while you travel. Bring some books or maps, workbooks or worksheets about the states you are traveling through. My kids really enjoy this.
* Bring some music your kids enjoy and you also.
* Try an audio book from the library. Something the whole family can enjoy. Another idea is to rent an audio book from Cracker Barrel. You can rent from one location and return it to another location on your trip.

Relax, enjoy your family and the trip. Pre-plan your route, have adequate supplies and be flexible!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Take a Look Back

How did you do with your holiday spending this year? Did you make a list of people to give gifts to? Did you have a spending plan? Did you pay cash? =)

Take a quick look back. Go over your receipts. Write it down and see how much you actually spent. One of the holiday items on my spending plan is photos and/or cards that I send out. I include them in my spending plan, however I usually forget to include the cost of stamps!

Write down your spending plan and the amount actually spent. Tuck it away in a Christmas or Holiday folder or even better, create a manilla folder labeled "Christmas" or "Holidays" and put it with your bills. So you'll be prepared for next year.

Also look at your spending plan. How much did you spend? According to The Buffalo News, the average cost of holiday spending is $923.36. Let's use that an an example. If you spent $923.36 for the holidays, divide it by 12 months in a year. That's $76.95 a month. Is that affordable for you? Is that what you'd like to spend? Whatever the cost of your holiday spending was, divide it by 12 and save that amount per month. That way you'll be ahead for next year with your spending plan and your money already saved, so you can pay cash and enjoy spending time with family.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Set a Goal to Simplify Your Life

Happy New Year! How do you want to simplify your life this year? What steps can you take this month? Give it some thought. Can you come up with a goal this month? Follow up with a few steps you could take toward that goal. Let's call them action steps. Write them down and get to work!