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Toy Rotation: Saving Time, Money and Simplifying your Life

23 Oct

As Christmas is approaching I’ve been thinking about what we should get Kinley.   This will be her 2nd Christmas but her first one that she’s old enough to get excited about toys.  I want to get her fun things that she will really enjoy, but also be frugal.  I’ve actually been thinking a lot about how I want to do toys for the rest of our children because not only do I want to get toys that they will actually play with, I want to have a good system in place before we add more children to the picture.  I’ve seen way too many toy rooms completely  full of toys and children that get bored too fast with them.  I decided that I want to set up a rotation system so that new (or forgotten) toys  are always being introduced. Toy rotation will help your children appreciate and take better care of their toys, it will help them learn and focus more efficiently, it will save your family money, and it will help you as a parent when you need a little time to get something done.  Once I decided what I wanted to do I got online and was surprised to find many people already do this.  Here is how I plan on doing it:

 

I went through and organized what I had, put all the toys into bins and organizers, and labeled everything.  Throw away any toys that are broken or have missing pieces.  If you have children at different stages, also organize things by age (“baby toys,” Toddler toys,” etc.).  I like to also have things organized by indoor/outdoor, seasonal, and type of play (pretend, active, sensory, etc).  You can be as simple or as complex with this as you’d like.

 

 

Labeling is important because you want this system to simplify your life, not the opposite.  If you are digging through totes trying to find specific toys then you are only complicating your life.  Find a way of labeling and organizing that will make it the very easiest to find what you are looking for.

 

This would definitely be according to your own taste, family situation, and how you want to decorate and organize your toy room, but I like to always have a few things out.  For instance I don’t ever pack up books.  I want Kinley to be able to pick a book out to read anytime she wants and I like to have a good selection to choose from at bedtime.  I also like to keep art supplies at arms reach (MY arm’s reach) because  I want them to be available whenever (not just for the kids, but for me)!  A few other things I keep out at all times:

Big toys like a play kitchen, rocking horse or art easel. (I will pack away all of the play food and everything that goes with the kitchen, but I don’t want to have to haul the big stuff back and forth whenever my kids want to play with them).  When the kids decide they want to play with the kitchen I will go get the toys that go with it, or when they want to play with the crib and stroller I will go get the doll stuff.  Make sense?

Learning Toys.  I like to keep a few things out like legos or blocks that they can play with anytime they want.  I will still rotate them with other learning toys, but less frequently than I rotate everything else.

Also, if you happen to go to a yard sale, or have toys handed down from a family member…resist the urge to give them to your kids all at once.  Put them into rotation and wait for them to be surprised!  They will also spend more time playing with them and they will last longer.

 

This would also be according to your own taste and situation, but I like to rotate things whenever my kid starts to appear bored with the toys she has, or when she is older I will also pull things out as they are requested.  If she wants to play with dolls on a particular day, then I am not going to stop her; but in order to have a new toy pulled out, another one will take its place in storage.  How often you rotate will also depend on where you store the toys.  I have three places:  a closet, a storage room, and a garage.  The things that I want handy at any moment (like art and craft supplies) I will put in the closet.  This is also where I will put busy bags and quiet books(little bags with on-the-go activities when I need to take a child along with me in the car or to an appointment).  The things that my children enjoy playing with more frequently will go in the storage room.  The things that I want to be a surprise to pull out on days that I really need to get something done (or items that I won’t rotate as often) will go in the garage.

Do you rotate your toys?  What are some ways that you do it similarly or differently?  What has worked best for you?

If you haven’t already, please give your input on my post about toys that kids play with the most!

Here are some toy rotation ideas from other moms:

This one is an excellent post on why toy rotation is so great:

http://thelittlestories.com/2011/12/09/shopping-in-your-toy-closet/

This one has ideas from multiple moms:

http://www.imperfecthomemaking.com/2011/11/toy-rotation-bins.html

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Time Management

3 Sep

I’ve been looking for ways to organize my life better, and attended several classes on time management at the local University a couple weeks ago.  Here are some of the highlights that I loved:

For motivation, first visualize all the things you would do if you had an extra hour or more a day.  Keep those in mind as you eliminate those things that aren’t necesarry.

1.  If you’re going to waste time, do it at the end of the day rather than the beginning.  Save Pinterest, Facebook, T.V., blogging, and any other distractions for after you get the important things done (I know, I know….Pinterest is important…But remember how you were only going to look up a recipe?).  Let it be your prize at the end of the day for all your hard work.

2.  If you have to do it again, create a routine.  I too wish that laundry could just stop existing in my life, but let’s face it…naked isn’t an option.  Laundry, household chores, vactions, and many many other things will continue to exist in our life…so create a routine for each of them.  For example, I will wash my whites every Tuesday, I will wash my darks every Wednesday, I will wash my sheets every other Friday, etc.  Chances are you will go out of town more than once in your lifetime, so make a packing list and refer to it each time you pack so that you never forget something again.  Attend a lot of weddings?  What is your routine once the announcement arrives in the mail?  Do you immediately put the date on your calendar or do you put the pretty picture on your fridge and then 5 days after the wedding has past try to come up with the perfect excuse for why you forgot (hmm..this one’s a little too familiar)?

3.  Have daily planning sheets and fill them out the night before.  Start each day with a plan.  Same goes with weekly and monthly planning.

4.  Always Buy 2 and never go to the grocery store more than once a week.  If you can’t buy a year’s supply of all you need, at least buy backups for everything.  Never just buy one.  This will not only save you hours and hours, it will save you many frantic trips to the store.  Best case scenario is you buy in bulk and only buy household items once a year, but if you can’t do that, at least buy two!  Once your first one runs out, put it on the list to get during your next scheduled shopping trip.

*side note:  Our budget doesn’t currently allow for me to by everything for our home in bulk so I do one item every shopping trip.  For example, last week kitchen garbage bags were on sale so I bought enough for a year.  That means I don’t have to buy them again for quite awhile.  Next week I will be stocking up on toilet paper for a year.  I allow a small amount of my grocery budget for buying one item in bulk every shopping trip.

5.  Buy gifts ahead of time.  Have an area in your house designated for gifts of different categories (birthday, thank you, small child, baby shower, etc.)  This will save you lots of time when you have a last minute party to attend and you don’t have to run to the store to get it.  Also buy greeting cards in bulk.  Why spend 15 minutes trying to choose between your favorite Father’s Day cards?  Buy all ten and you don’t have to buy another one for 10 years.

6.  Cook and Bake in Bulk.  Making cookies?  Double or triple the batch.  Put extras in the freezer for those times you need to run something over to a neighbor or say thank you to someone.  Making tacos?  Make extra and freeze half of the meat so that next week (or two weeks from now) all you have to do is thaw.

7.  Create a Master Menu.  Find 30 different meals that your family loves and assign them a day.  If you repeat this menu you will always know what you’re having for dinner, you will always know what you need to buy at the grocery store and if you never deviate fromm your master menu (which you will) you will only have had that meal 12 times in a year at most!  If that is too boring for you, create two master menus and switch off month-to-month (you will only have that meal 6 times in a year).  Of course you will switch things up every now and then for holidays and special guests, but this way you will always know what you’re having for dinner.

8.  Purge items from your home at least every three months.  If we don’t have clutter, we aren’t wasting time organizing it again, and again, and again.  Most of us could get rid of 50% of what we own and not even miss it.  Holding on to that Yoga instructional video just in case you want to learn Yoga one day?  Chuck it.  First because no one uses VHS anymore, and second, because chances are if you haven’t desired to use it in the 3 years you have been storing it, you never will.  A good rule of thumb:  If it’s been a year and seen no use, get rid of it (exceptions of course would be taxes, journals and important documents).

9.  Take care of small things before they take care of you.  Yes, mail can be a daunting task but it is much easier to sort through it the moment you check the mail, rather than 3 months later when you no longer have any counter space left.  Yes, sorting and folding laundry totally and completely sucks, but not as much as running out of clean underwear because you can’t tell clean from dirty in the Mount Everest of clothing you have built up in your laundry room.  From now on, fold all your laundry while it’s warm.  Make it a game not to fold one piece of laundry long after it has dried.  If you need to carry a timer around your neck to accomplish this, DO IT.

10.  Eliminate and delegate.  Eliminate silly tasks from your life.  Yes, it would look super awesome if you took a veggie tray to the party that was in the shape of a turkey, a Christmas tree, or a flower garden (are you serious?), but only if you want anyone who actually eats it to feel full on shame and guilt for ruining such a masterpiece.  I’m all about having fun in the kitchen and creating a visual appeal to my dishes, but if your kid’s sandwiches look like this, you might just be trying too hard.  Remember: It’s okay to take store-bought cookies to a potluck every now and then.

Delegate tasks to other family members.  Have your children prepare a meal every now and then, let your husband take a stab at the dishes, and if now is a bad time don’t be afraid to tell the neighbors that now is a bad time.

Here are a few more great reminders:

Meal Planning Made Easy

28 Aug

Does this sound familiar?

It’s 5:00 and you open the door to the fridge, “darn it, I’m such a goober.  I have no idea what to have for dinner tonight.”  The fridge isn’t completely empty but at this time of day your brain seems completely incapable of deciding which items from your fridge and which items from your cupboards could be good enough friends to make a good meal for the evening.  So you stand there and stare.  Wishing one of 3 things:  That dinner would magically make itself, that you had your own personal chef, or that the Mr. would come walking in the door with dinner in his hands.

Well in the unlikely event that one of those wishes come true for you…go have a party for yourself.  For the rest of us, it’s time for things to change.  Set aside one hour each month for planning a master menu! True, it will be a painful hour (at least it is for me).  But once it’s done you will love yourself (and so will the Mr. and/or the kiddos) for the rest of the month.

Plan out 30 meals that your family loves (give or take a few depending on your lifestyle and preferences) and write down the recipes for all of them on index cards.  Organize them into an index card box and you now have the recipe ready to grab each day.  This also makes grocery shopping much easier; just transfer the ingredients for that week from your index cards and run to the store on a very full stomach (we all know what happens when we go grocery shopping hungry).  If you follow this method you will have only had the same meal 12 times in a year.  If that is too dull for you and you want a gold star for over-achieving, go ahead and make two master menus and switch off every month.

Here is what my master menu looks like:

Click Here for a Larger View

And here is what it looks like filled out:

 

Click here for Larger View

I like to print my sheet and laminate it so that I can just fill it out each week with a dry erase marker

How do you do your meal planning?  What is effective for you?

Daily Planning Sheet

23 Aug

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I got on Powerpoint yesterday and spent a few hours making this daily planning sheet.  I’m not one for a day planner or a calendar per se, but I love daily sheets like this and they always make my day go better.  I like to fill it out the night before so that I start my day with a plan.  I also laminate my sheets and use a dry erase marker so that I am not wasting a piece of paper every single day.

Organizing 101: Don’t Throw These Away!

16 Jul

My baby girl is just starting to appreciate solid foods.  I went to throw away her Gerber baby food container yesterday when I had the thought “Wait a second!  This is as good as Tupperware!”  Perfect size for packing small snacks, dressings, or condiments in lunches!  And if they don’t come back to me…no biggie.  They also would work great for organizing small office items (paper clips, rubber bands, etc.) hair elastics and crafting items.  They would also work great for making individual lunch-size portions of jello!  Awesome.

And…if you don’t have a baby but love to organize small items you can usually find these empty and cleaned containers in bulk on Ebay for pretty cheap.

The Hair Bow–Headband–Flower Clip Dilemma

8 Jul

Flower clips, hair bows, and headbands.  They’ve started showing up everywhere in our house and I’ve been needing a place to organize them.  I’ve seen a bunch of different flower clip holders and organizing systems, but none have suited my liking enough to make them.  The different ideas I have looked into were ribbon hair clip holders, chicken wire hair clip organizers, and hair bow ribbon boards.  All are very cute ideas (A cute ribbon board was even given to me at my baby shower) but I just don’t like the idea of hair bows or flower clips taking up wall space in the nursery.  At first I stored them in a cute little frog:

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But then they usually ended up looking like this:

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But alas…my problems have come to a hault.  As I was getting dressed the other day, my eyes took notice of the jewelry organizer I had hanging in my closet and I realized it would be even more perfect for my baby girl’s bows!  As I began organizing the bows in the nursery closet I started thinking of many more things it could be used for.  Socks!  I can never find matching baby socks when I need them!  Small toys!  Pacifiers, ointments, baby nail clippers, and all those samples I get in the mail!  All neatly organized in a closet and not taking up any room at all.

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For now this is working for me great!  Once my baby girl actually grows some hair this will even work perfectly for all the little rubber bands and elastics that seem to be swallowed up magically by bathroom drawers!  I’m a personal fan of anything that takes up vertical space rather that another tote, or another wall hanging.  Heck!  it even adds an organized glow to the nursery closet.

Have another idea that has worked for you?  I’d love to hear!

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***Update.  These organizers are double-sided, so I put some baby basics on the other side and started getting giddy!  I also have to buy another organizer now because I just found out the pockets are the perfect size for baby shoes!  (One pocket for each shoe…so 18 shoes on each side, or one side with 18 shoes and the other side full of socks!) These would also work great in a hall closet for easy-to-reach first aid items.  I think I’m in organizational bliss…

If you’re interested in getting an organizer, I got mine here.