Category Archives: Organizing


Sister Bedroom – 3 girls in a 10X10 room

As we talked about our new house, one definite was that it was time for the 3 girls to have their own room.

They share a 10X10 room which houses all their clothes, a reading spot, (usually) 3 girls sleeping (though the 22 month old is temporarily sleeping in the play room), and their toy baskets of favorite toys.


I chose some consistent neutrals such as the white furniture (that I hope will stay constant despite their changing tastes.)

They chose their wall colors (though I admit – I got the lightest and most neutrally tinted colors I could convince them of). The psychological effects of colors is a super interesting study, and I wanted calming warm tints in with their color choices for the simple pragmatic reason that they’d be more cheerful!

They also have their fun bedding from grandma and picked their colors on their baskets.



Their clothes all fit in the 2

  • The dresser holds diaper supplies in the top drawer, socks and undergarments in the second drawer and PJs in the bottom drawer.
  • The baskets hold their play clothes and shoes
  • Their sweatshirts hang on hooks on the side of the dresser and side of the closet

Their favorite toys are in the baskets at the end of their beds and they have to keep their ‘favorite’ toys down in number to fit in the baskets. (Yes, I do have to confiscate the baskets some nights because as I tell them, they are ‘abusing the privilege of having their toys baskets in their beds …”)

Their Own Spaces:

The picture holders above their beds allow them a spot to . (Refer to article on how we made them and cost break-down HERE)photo 3

Each girl gets her own favorite toy basket and no one is allowed in anyone else’s bed without her that person’s permission. (Not that that always happens, but we are working on enforcing the right to personal property…)

The two older girls are religious about their favorite colors right now, and the baby pointed to the yellow paper when I gave her a choice of colors – so that’s how we got purple, pink, and yellow.



SISTERS became the main theme because they are all learning to be thankful for each other right now. (Yes. We totally did a ‘photo shoot’ for the pictures in their room. It was a perfect Friday afternoon when we were supposed to be doing other things)

Butterflies because I saw this super cute idea of paper butterflies flying around the room. (Isn’t it CUTE!!??)

And yes…I talked the girls into the themes. If they’d had free reign, they would have picked

‘princesses.’ I feel like one of the hardest things as a parent is to allow them to be themselves while directing them to be more. 


They play princesses, make up stories about princesses, save up (usually) for princess dolls, and beg to watch princess movies.(And my kids watch a grand total of 1-2 movies a week so it’s not like they are getting a ton of influence.) I decided that a room that surrounds them with beauty – simply because it’s objectively beautiful and not necessarily magical or royal would be a good reminder that they don’t need to be princesses to be beautiful. I also wanted to play up the beauty of sisterhood, unity, and family love.

The room is usually light filled, and they do spend a lot of time in their. I hope they have a lot of great memories :-)


- Verity


Freezer Meal Swap

​Imagine with me that you have a freezer brimming with “ready to heat” meals. Imagine that your family gets to try several new meals each month that you didn’t even make. Imagine that you could save both time and money while cooking. AND imagine that you have a practical excuse to get together with other like minded ladies for a time of fellowship each month.

​Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it??

​Allow me to introduce the marvelous idea of a Freezer Meal Swap Group. J

​There are different ways you can go about this. The bottom line is that a group of people get together and swap meals they have made. It saves time and money because you are doing bulk cooking and you get the benefit of enjoying meals you may not normally make, plus all of the meals are prepped and waiting in the freezer on a busy day.image

​Here’s how to do it!

​Invite friends to join you. You may think you have a lot of friends who will want to take part, but you might be surprised how few actually do it. It’s a big commitment and involves both time and trust of the other participants, so I always encourage the ladies to just try it for a couple months and see what they think. Some will fall in love with the idea and others will move on, but either way, the variety in participants is lots of fun. J We average 5-6 in our group, but I’ve heard of as many as 12. You want a manageable number but still worth it for people to make the trek to exchange meals.

​I am very careful who I invite. Your situation might be different, but here is my criteria: A woman in a similar stage of life as me, with a similar family size, like-minded, has a clean home, is dependable, is able to cook. This way, the time of getting together each month is profitable for fellowship and encouragement. It’s crucial that the ladies are dependable because no one wants to go through all that work and not get a meal in return. And most importantly, I make it clear to anyone interested in joining that the ladies all have clean homes. NO ONE wants to eat food from a dirty kitchen.

#2.​Decide what type of swap you will have. You can ask the other ladies what their preferences are as you prepare for your first swap, but here are some options. Some of this is listed in our QUESTIONNAIRE if you just want to use that.

• Have each person make multiples of the same meal. This way they are just making 1 recipe times the number of participants.
• Have each person make different meals. This way they can just double various recipes they are already making throughout the month.
• You could assign people certain ethnicities or food types to prevent duplication. Some ideas are: Red Meat, Poultry, Meatless, Crock Pot, Breakfast, Ethnic, Italian, Soup, Freebie—anything. Or you could just have them bring anything they want. Regardless, it’s like a treasure hunt every month when you arrive to see what meals you will get. J I remember we were all pretty giddy when we arrived at 2nd freezer meal swap to see what we would get that month!

#3. ​Decide how often you will meet and when.

​Some groups meet weekly while others meet bi-weekly or monthly. We meet the third Thursday of every month at 1pm. We always meet at the same person’s home because she is centrally located and some of us live nearly an hour apart. This is nice because we never have to question when or where we will be. I send out an email about a week before each swap, but if I forget, it’s okay. Everyone is independent on this and I think that’s really important. We are EXTREMELY blessed to have very dependable ladies in our group!!

#4.​Decide how the meals will be stored

• Freezer bags
• Disposable containers
• Containers that they re-use and pass around each month
• Each person does whatever

​We mostly do freezer bags flattened and folded in half to save as much space and money as possible. Sometimes though, you need a container and that’s okay, but we try to be conscious of freezer space.

#5.​Decide how the meals will be labeled
​Some of this will depend on how they will be stored, but some is basic. Ask the ladies at the beginning if it’s important to them that you include the recipe of the meal. For our group, it’s not important, but if it’s easy, we include it. These days, most recipes are off the internet so that helps. If not including the recipe, you can simply write in a permanent marker the following information. Or you could print it on paper and rubber band it to the bag. Tape and Staples don’t work very well.

o Name of meal
o Date it was made—they last about 3 months safely, so it’s good to know when it was made!
o Preparation instructions including whether or not it needs to be thawed
o We started including the word, “Raw” if the meat was uncooked so we had a better idea of what we were working with if we were in a hurry when prepping. J

#6.​Determine any food allergies or strong preferences in the group.
​This is important yet you want the food prep to be as simple and generic as possible, so I stress the STRONG preferences. For example, my husband will eat anything, except he really and truly cannot stomach onions. He won’t eat anything that has them, so we use onion powder for ALL of our cooking and this has to carry over into the swap. I, on the other hand, am an EXTREMELY picky eater and have more foods I dislike than like, but I don’t list any preferences on the sheet because I can always pick things off, eat around things, and so on. There is definitely some give and take in a freezer meal swap group. To be honest, we have had meals we didn’t like at all, we’ve had several some loved and some hated, but mostly we’ve had a lot of really wonderful meals, obtained several new recipes and ideas, and rounded out our overall menu.

#7.​Decide how the meals will be distributed at the swap.

​There are several interesting options for this. Here are some I’ve seen and how to implement them.

• Some groups lay out all of the freezer meals from everyone in the group on the table. The person who brought the most meals chooses an equal number of meals first. The person who brought the next highest amount, chooses her equal number of meals next, and on down the line until all of the meals are gone. This works well if the participants bring various types of meals (from doubling recipes throughout the month) or if they bring several of the same meal. It’s also a good option if you choose to meet weekly. This method also gives the ability to bring a few meals or several if someone has had a busy or quiet month. Lots of flexibility here.
• Some groups make a meal for each person in the group, but they make lots of different recipes (like doubling recipes throughout the month), then they lay them out on the table and people just choose the appropriate number of meals randomly.
• Other groups make several of the same recipe and lay them out in organized piles on the table. Each lady walks around the table and gathers her own meals from each pile to fill her container.
• Our group currently has 5 members. We fluctuate between 5 and 6 regularly. We each have our own large container with our name on it that stays at the hostess’s home to be used each month. We each make 5 of the same meal and distribute them into each person’s appropriate container as soon as we arrive. Then we go off to fellowship as long as we want. Afterward, we package up our meals into our coolers or bags and head home. J We require that the meals be completely frozen when each lady arrives so that thawing isn’t a concern if we have to run a few errands or get delayed.

#8.​Back up Plans

​First, I’ll just add this here: The #1 thing we ask of the ladies in our swap is that they be on time. Most of us are able to stay and chat each month and we all look forward to that time, but sometimes we can’t. 1 person has 4 kids and often had to leave immediately early on. We didn’t want her to have to bring all of her kids in and wait unnecessarily for who knows how long before she could leave. This way, she can (theoretically) leave her kids in the car, dash in to grab her meals, and be off. It’s just a courtesy to the other ladies and I think everyone appreciates it. Of course, we all have our times when we’re a few minutes late, but we try really hard. J

​Life happens, so sometimes someone has to miss a swap. Here is how we handle it according to our guidelines which each lady receives up front.

If you can’t make it to a swap and would still like to participate, please arrange two swaps with another person because they will need to bring your food to the swap and bring your new food back to you. Just be aware that freezer food is heavy, so this will add a challenge for the other person and also take up their freezer space.

We’ve all had to do this, and no one really minds. You just need to have a plan in place. We’ve never actually had anyone randomly miss a swap, but you could just have them drop out for a month instead.

We are all in the childbearing stage of life, so we have fun with it! Each lady who is going to have a baby picks a month to take off. It is usually the month before or just after her due date so she can rest. (It’s HARD, if not impossible, to make several freezer meals post partum!) Then we each make our normal number of meals and one person is designated to take them to the new mom. It’s an enormous blessing to her to receive several new meals during that time (plus all she’s stockpiled leading up to her baby’s arrival) and we all enjoy being able to help her in that way. We are short one meal that month, but it’s worth it and we know our time will come too. J To give you an idea of what a blessing this is: For my last baby, I stockpiled nearly 30 freezer meals before her arrival! I barely cooked for several months afterward, so my kids started asking me every night at supper who had made their meal. J

As you can see, there are many blessings of a Freezer Meal Swap Group. We are coming up on 2 years as a group, and we love it. It has stretched my creativity, motivated me to do more freezer cooking, saved us time and money, but most importantly, I have cultivated relationships with other like minded women I never would have taken time to fellowship with. My kids also love playing with the other kids—there will be 13 kids by next month!

I hope this is a help to you if you would like to start a group in your area. Here is the QUESTIONNAIRE that I sent out when we first started and here is a copy of our current GUIDELINES if that information is helpful as you begin. Also, here is an article I did on 10 Freezer meals from your pantry to get you started.

- Lydia

Hair Storage Pic

Easy Hair Accessory Storage

Looking for easy hair accessory storage?

Ponytail holders, clips, bows, headbands, brushes… it all adds up—to a lot of little items to work around and keep track of. I love my daughters immensely and I truly love doing fun, new hairstyles on them, but the amount of hair clutter reached a breaking point for me last summer. I spent a ridiculous amount of time on Pinterest searching for some great way to organize their hair supplies and still keep them out of the way. You see, I have 3 children sharing a very small bedroom and counter space is limited. I never did find the right idea for us, but through a series of concepts, I’m EXTREMELY pleased with what I did scheme up.IMG_3405

I went to Dollar Tree and bought a 4 pack of these cute bins. They are small, but not too small. Notice it was a 4 pack. My grand total investment in this project was $1 plus tax!! ☺ I decided to use all 4 of them: 1 for brushes, 1 for ponytail holders, 1 for clips and barrettes, and 1 for headbands.


Next, well, I enlisted my husband to hang them, so I’m not a lot of help in the details, BUT what he did was easy! He simply put a screw through the center of each bin and lined them up on the wall. He used dry wall anchors to ensure they wouldn’t rip the drywall over time.


IMG_3404Start to finish: About 10 minutes.

Cost: $1 + tax + screws and drywall anchors = CHEAP!

Finished product: AMAZING!


Seriously. These make me SO happy every single day, I can’t even tell you! I love having plenty of space for other things on my changing table, and I love that I can see and quickly grab the exact item I need when I’m trying to do my daughters’ hair. I highly recommend this easy hair accessory storage concept. ☺ 

It is so nice and easy! Hair accessory storage right at my finger tips!


PS: Check out the organizing system in Verity’s kids’ room HERE


Cut Your Christmas Decor Take-Down in HALF!

A few years ago I started using an easy trick that cuts

my Christmas decor take-down time in half!!!

(-And also helps with set up next year!)

Here it is!! TADA!!



I realized that if I just gently take down the garlands/wreaths/swags (WITH THE ORNAMENTS AND LIGHTS STILL ON) and put them each in their own garbage bag [which I re-use year after year], I wouldn’t have to re-decorate and re-pack all the ornaments and lights.

-The Lights DON’t tangle because they are already spread around the garland

- The ornaments (most of ours are plastic) are padded by the garlands/swag/wreath or whatever I’m packing up.

-Everything I need to put the garland/swag/wreath back up next year is all together!


Then I stack the bags (about 5 to a tote and stack the totes in the basement.

image(This year, I got organized and listed on the outside of each tote what I’d packed inside.)

Of course if you have a lot of glass ornaments this may not work as well.

I estimate I save at least an hour and a half on take-down and another hour on set-up next year, and it helps a lot with trying to keep track of everything with four little kids ‘helping.’

So there is my tip. :-)



Decluttering the Kids’ Room for Christmas! :-)


It is amazing the difference of focus!

EXAMPLE: I am not a huge fan of cleaning – but if I get a brand new scented candle and focus on  displaying it on a clean table in a clean house … Well, that changes everything!

I clean my house in record time and light that thing with pride. ;-)

Kids are the same way :-)

So, in the easiest indeaver yet, the kids helped me clear out the extras in their room to make room for Christmas presents. (BOY, were they excited to get rid of stuff!!)


(I think this will be normal thing for us each year! What a great excuse to clear out.)

Here’s everything we cleared from their room. :-) (A lot of it was just out of place, but some will be donated.)

Focusing on the future is my approach to decluttering in general. (And a lot of areas in life).

We get rid of things to make room for the things we want in our lives (whether it’s goals, items, responsibilities, people).

The FOCUS should NEVER be on the clutter – that is the past – past, hopes, objects, and identities.

The focus needs to be on what we are walking toward. (The relationships that we want more time for, the career goals, the ministries, the hobbies…)

I also took the time to apply some of my favorite Julie Morgenstern organizing techniques!

She suggests evaluating a room – then determining what IS working and what is NOT working.

What WAS working:

1. 4 kids’ favorite toys and almost all their clothes in one closet using baskets and shelves.

Working great!!!! :-) Very little clutter there. Easy to maintain and keep up.

2. Top Two Drawers of the Diaper Changing Station – (almost) perfectly organized and contained. Rarely got out of hand- even on our craziest days.

What was NOT working:

I’d noticed that despite the small quarters, 90 % of clutter gathered in ONE spot – right in front of the bed. That told me that the problems were probably right there. Here were the problems.

1. Overstuffed PJ drawer

2. One broken stuffed animal that was spreading

imagestuffing everywhere (Duck tape should do it…right?)

3. And one organizing system that was not working.  (A box with a lid under the bed for my son’s toy swords. He was so responsible with his basket in the closet that we let him have a second toy box in the room. At first he did well putting his toys away, but when we added the lid,  it became too hard to pull the box all the way out and put toys away – [especially since clean-up happens with 4 littles and a mom in the SAME room] so the lid will need to be take off for a while. Then he can just toss his swords in without pulling the box out.)

image image

Here it is! Finished product!

Decluttered – Check!

Problem Solved – Check!

(And the kids don’t know it, but for Christmas, I’m going to add all the castle decorations I’ve been collecting for them. Tune in for that in a couple weeks! :-) )


So all set for Christmas!

How is your pre-Christmas decluttering going? (If you don’t have much time, grab a box and spend ten minutes grabbing garbage and donations. It is SO MUCH more fun to declutter with Christmast just 2 days away!)

- Verity

How I do ALL My Errands and Cooking in ONE Day



Every couple weeks, I get my two least favorite activities (ERRANDS and COOKING) done in the same day. When I decide to do it, it opens up the rest of the week to so much productivity!

Here’s the general schedule and how I do it.

(BEFORE the day)

- Write grocery list (I’ve written about this before, but I write my grocery shopping list in the exact order everything is located in the store – helps a lot with speed and sanity when we are 17 minutes in and one or two kids start to whine.

- Have kids’ clothes laid out so I can throw their clothes on and we can leave first thing in the morning!

photo 3

- Have kitchen cleaned up. (The one morning a week that is my nemesis is MONDAYS so this is harder than it sounds!)


8:00 Clean up Breakfast & Get Kids Dressed

Spend 10 minutes clearing toy clutter that they pulled out so we can walk into a clean(ish) house.

9:00 Walmart – and usually only one other place because that’s all we can do if I want to get home in time.

12:00 Home – Make them something fast like microwave burritos, Ramen or Mac N Cheese. (Errand day comes once a week so I figure they’ll survive with that type of food.)

12:30 All my kids take naps. (Errands wear them out too so even the 5 year old who is usually skipping naps now sleeps!) :-)

12:45 This usually gives me a solid hour and a half!

Now, at this point – all the food is sitting on the counter still. 

So (AFTER making coffee!) I put away what needs to be put away, but I end up keeping MOST of it out because I’m going to use it to make all the meals. (LOVE the excuse to not put stuff away!)

Here is a typical meal plan of the meals I make. I usually need to make ahead 5 meals:

1. Stuffed Green Peppers (Hamburger)

2. Thai Chicken Casserole (Chicken)

3. Burritos (Chicken)

4. Potatoes and Hamburger Gravy (Hamburger)

5. Tacos (Hamburger)

I make a graph to see at a glance what I need to use each main ingredient for.


The top left shows the hamburger uses.

The top right shows the rice uses.

The bottom left shows the chicken uses.

And the bottom right is just a reminder of other main ingredients that are only used in one dish each.


I usually start the rice or potatoes (because they take so long).

Then I cook ALL the meat.

Finally, I add in the vegetables and extra seasonings to make the rest of the food.

And put them all together!

(USUALLY, I have most of the ingredients made but not much mixed together yet (i.e. NOTHING finished but everything pulled out when the kids get up from their naps.

But when they get up, we have my sanity saver of “MOVIE MONDAY” which I put in about 3:00. This gives me another much needed hour and a half! :-)

That’s it!

I usually can get the living room cleaned up (though not often the kitchen) by the time my husband comes home. Usually though, I can finish the kitchen after supper and enter Tuesday with a 5 day stretch of pre-cooked meals, no errands, a semi-clean house (and well…time to catch up on the laundry). :-)


The Biggest Secret to a ‘Magically’ Clean House!!

My mother always seemed to have a magically clean house.

I don’t remember her ever saying to us (the phrases that I’ve used umpteen times on my kids – )

“Okay guys! Let’s get this place cleaned up!!”


“Daddy’s coming home in 5 minutes and EVERYTHING is a mess. Ready…set…Go! Go! GO!”


(This one accompanied by aa threatening – every so slightly hysterical tone – ) DON’T MOVE the couch/ chest/ dresser! We don’t have time to clean out under it before our guests come!!

Growing up our house was just always clean.

Now that I ‘get’ cleaning and housekeeping a little more, random phrases she’d say every so often make a lot more sense and hold the key to my mother’s effortlessly clean house.

I thought I’d share today some of those magical phrases.

“Leave every room a little better then when you entered it”

 I’ve been trying hard to implement this. When I remember to do this, it is SO effective!

Our room

My childhood room – looking much more sophisticated. :-)

The living room can be a NIGHTMARE, but if I just straighten, toss or de-clutter two things each time I walk through – not even stopping in my steps – just straightening and grabbing as I go – it may only take a dozen walk-throughs, and it’s clean! (Well – cleanish anyway – this is my toddler-zoned house we’re talking about here!!)

“As you walk through a room, just glance around and see if you can take anything with you.”

Along those same lines, this works so well. When I remember to do this, my house is much more put together at the end of the day!

If I’m headed to the kids’ room by way of the spare room, I [should] scan for toys on the floor that belong in their room.

“Just do a little more each time you do something”

We never had sticky rings left on shelves in our frig. If Mom saw a little residue left on the refrigerator shelf, she’d grab a paper towel and wipe that spot – and around the other shelves too.

It took an extra 10 seconds tops.

It saved her from having to clean the refrigerator very often.

(I on the hand,  have to do a complete overhaul ever month or so.)

”Just keep your hands moving”

 Mom was just always moving – calm – very rarely stressed – but always moving.

Now that I’ve matured, I see tmy mothers’ secret.  SHE was the secret.

If there was chaos, she’d grab every 3 second window to calm it.

If there was mess, she’d take a 5 second walk-through to clean it.

Every task she did ‘a little’ more instead of ‘just enough.’

Her attitude and care came out in everything – even if it was as simple as walking through a room, listening to her two VERY TALKATIVE twin girls, or helping  us with a project.

She wasn’t looking to take ‘a break’ from housekeeping. Just because she cleaned yesterday, didn’t mean she would not wipe ‘a little extra’ today.

Making her home ‘a little’ nicer for us was her lifestyle and heart.

Thanks Mom! :-)

mom and I

Mom and I at Lyd’s wedding

- Verity

Our Minimalist Toddler Closet

photo 1

We are prime candidates for a minimalist toddler closet!

Soon we will have 4 children in a 10X10 room!

(I’m so excited, and so are they! They love the idea of the baby sleeping in their room with them!)

In preparation, I made some major changes into their closet.

Our old closet was really cute but impractical and definitely NOT a minimalist toddler closet.

photo 4


The new closet has 9 identical baskets.

- Each Child Has Their Own Toy Basket

- Each Child Has Their Own Clothes Basket

- A Joint Shoe Basket

(The 3 Drawer Dresser has a diaper/cream drawer, joint sock drawer, and joint pajama drawer. Sunday clothes are hung on the child-sized fuzzy hangers, each child has a hook on the left to hang 2 hoodies)

I’ve become very obsessed with hyacinth baskets. Their metal frames are durable, but the hyacinth weave is light-weight enough for the kids to lift easily. (Even though the five-year-old’s toy basket is kept above his head, he can lift it down multiple times a day.)

The kids helped put up the shelving, and they enjoyed filling up their new baskets.

photo 2

Each child has about 5 play outfits so there was plenty of space.

When we fold clothes I can bring them out to the living room where we are folding together, and the kids can help put their clothes into the baskets.

photo 5So that is our new system. It’s not really the classic system you see, but it is working perfectly for us, and I would say that it is minimalist! Toddler closets are a fun project too, and it was fun to have the kids help! :-)



Letting Them Help – Part 2

House 1Well, 3 weeks ago, I glibly promised that I’d post the following week on how we do chores in our house.

Of course after promising that we had a couple messy days  (followed by a couple naughty days) which made me feel unsure of writing about something in which I’ve not yet arrived.

However, it’s been a helpful couple weeks for me – nothing like promising all my digital friends that I’d share about our chore systems, to help me reevaluate!

So I’m going to share what works for us, areas we are working on, and areas we need work – and then I’d love for my readers to share suggestions and thoughts!

What is Working for Us:

1. Having a Cleaning SYSTEM

My Mom is the best housekeeper ever. She is a natural, and she always made cleaning look SO EASY.

I am not a natural – and even though I KNEW how to do everything (since she had taught me), I NEVER knew where to start. I wasted so much time the first couple years of marriage just standing in the middle of clutter-filled rooms staring blankly around and feeling defeated.

I finally realized that I needed a system – (I think it barely even matters what the system is – just to have one. It is a starting point, a map, and the oil that helps you move faster down the track to your day and sweet productivity.)

Here are our systems. If you ask my 3 or 5 year olds. They will (hopefully) be able to recite it to you.

It is my heartfelt goal that they not get overwhelmed but always know where to start. (On anything – but we’re talking about cleaning today.  

Our system when cleaning is always in this order:

(Left to Right)

(Top to Bottom)

1. Clear Big Items

2. Clear Garbage

3. Put Away In-Room Clutter

4. Put Away Out-of-Room Clutter

Example of Dining Room Table after Breakfast Using This System:


I clear the big items (Crockpot or Gallon of Milk)image

Kids clear the garbage (Napkins)

I grab the in-room clutter (My husband’s iPad)

(I wasn’t fast enough – they cleared other stuff too for this pic)


Kids Carry out-of-room clutter to the kitchen table to be put away. (Small food items and dirty dishes.)


Wipe off High Chair on Left then Table then Bumbo Seat and Tray on Right (Left to Right)

Sweep Floor (Top to Bottom)

imageThis System works really well for us in any room. We use it daily in the living room and their bedroom as well. (So at least three times a day you’ll hear me say “what do we look for first?” and hear my son say “garbage!”)

 2. Having a Cleaning Routine

Again, it doesn’t matter the order, but it helps to do the same tasks in the same order.

Less decisions – more productivity!

As soon as my husband leaves in the morning we clear the table, straighten up the living room, get dressed, straighten the bedroom, clean the bathroom (If we have time), get the laundry and feed the dog.

A routine helps us start each day strong. (Of course things may be messy 10 minutes into the day… but oh well! LOL!

3. Each child has their own chores first thing in the morning – before we start our day.

If we are doing well, we are dressed and have everything cleaned up half an hour after my husband leaves for work. (About 8:30) But that can range. (9:00 is our average.) 9:30 is a bad day. 10:00 is a really bad day. :-/

I wrote about their chores here.

4. Each Child responsible for their own basket of toys

A year ago, I got rid of the big toy box and each child has their own basket of toys to take responsibility for.

(We also have a play room downstairs in the basement that I will eventually write an article about. )

I wrote about their separate upstairs toys here.

5. Children Allowed to Earn Money

imageSince my oldest was 3, I’ve allowed the kids to do extra jobs for money. They each save up for items.

This has helped them understand the value of a dollar, and they know that while I rarely buy them new toys, they always have the option of working for something themselves.

(The pic is ash. It’s messy, but I let him clear it because he LOVES to help clean the fireplace. It’s not smoke.)

Areas I’ve tweaked that last couple weeks:

1. We Clean Each Room TOGETHERimage

As mentioned in my previous chore article, the kids have picture chore lists.  This way they could refer to their lists and complete their chores themselves. Lately we’d had problems with them not staying on task so I’ve we now do our chores together.

- We ALL clear the table

- We ALL clean up the clutter in the living room

- We ALL sweep (they move chairs) and I do most of the sweeping while they help with their little brooms

- They ALL change at the same time. (Jedidiah sometimes takes to the bathroom. He has days when he’s suddenly obsessed with modesty and days when he’s …not.)

-  We ALL wipe down the bathroom,

- Jedidiah usually finishes getting the laundry and feeding the dog while I get school books.

This way I help stay on task

It also became more essential to have their toy baskets stay on their shelves to help them stay on task.

2. Toy Baskets that actually FIT on the Shelves in their room!!!

It also became more essential to have their toy baskets stay on their shelves to help them stay on task.

(Out of mind and out of sight!!)

Before they each had their own baskets, but I let them leave them on the floor or in their beds because they did not fit on the shelves.

Since we are moving the baby, (CHILD NUMBER 4 into their 10X10 room) in a couple weeks, we needed to rethink their closet system.

(I wrote about having the 3 kids in a 10X10 room here.)

(Thank you, sweet husband for the $125 worth of [super-cute, Container Store,  hyacinth, I promise this was an important purchase, complete life-saver] baskets.)

Old baskets were traded in, and now (Exciting music), they each have their own toy basket (and will soon have their own basket to put away their play clothes.)

(Pictures of their new closet system coming soon!)

Areas We Need Work: (Suggestions Welcome!)

1. Breastfeeding Baby

We have a 10 month old, and (though neither Lyd nor I have written about it) breastfeeding is not a 10 minute thing for us. On growth-spurt days, everything else falls apart because Mama is attached to baby.

Such is life. :-I

2. Getting up Before Them

My husband is a night owl, and I choose to stay up with him. I used to rise before the house. Now I grudgingly roll out when I hear the first child’s steps in the hall.


I even set my alarm early a few times a week thinking I’ll get things pulled together before the house wakes, but I rarely do. (Except Sundays – no choice)

3. Just Being with Them

Digital friend Jeanne commented last week that “What helped me a lot to enjoy it is when I decided I would just not care about the mess WHILE doing activities together and just deal with it later on. Then, I could relax and enjoy.”

I’ve been thinking about that a lot the last weeks.

This is probably the biggest area that needs work – MY ATTITUDE! I need to enjoy the time with them even when our ‘morning routine’ fell apart or when the clutter takes over. Pray for me here friends!

There is what is working, is a work in progress, and what needs work!

Any thoughts? What works in your routines?


make a small room feel big

10 Ways to Make a Small Room Feel Big

We have 6 people living in our 900 square foot single story home. *

Our Living Room is essentially a hallway.

And 3 of our family member excel at making messes.

However, when people walk into our living room, their usual response is one of surprise and usually the comment. “Oh, you have a nice house.”

I attribute this in part to my long-running efforts (helped by my mom and mother-in-law and innumerable blogs) to make our living room feel roomy and spacious.

Here’s what I’ve used and a couple things I hope to use someday:

make a small room feel big

1. Hang Curtains High

Hanging long light-colored or sheer curtains will make the ceiling feel taller then it really is.

2. Dark Floors Drop Away

We have a white ceiling, neutral walls, and dark mahogany floors. The result is a feeling of openness. (Though if you have kids, I can’t say that dark floors are easy to upkeep…at all). They show every scratch and speck.

3. Solid Colored Matching Furniture

Patterned or furniture in a variety of colors is harder on the eyes. Multiple pieces in the same color have a calming affect. (Especially if it is a neutral color that blends with the walls.)

4. White or Light Walls

When we first moved in, we had the brilliant idea to paint our living room DARK forest green. While it was very striking, it felt VERY tiny! When it was repainted 3 years later, it felt like it doubled in size!

5. Mirrors Double Feeling of Space

I situated 2 large mirrors across from our single window to double the light.

photo 3

6. Get Rid of Clutter

Other then pictures on the walls, I’ve gotten rid of all decor and I’ve tried to store as many utilitarian items in nearby drawers.

7. Light Colored Curtains and Furniture

Light colored pieces will blend in with walls.

8. See-Through Furniture

My only piece that kind of does this is the high chair since its legs are so skinny.

9. Light

photo 1

We installed another light in the center of the room. Before that they just used lamps that gave off dim attempts at brightening the space. (ugh.) We also have bright sunlight-type of lights above the dining room table.

10. Quick Clean up System!

By the jumper you’ll notice a basket, that’s where I throw any toys that the kids leave in the living room. ThenI just pick up the basket and carry it into their room. Voila! Clean living room! :-)

I am by no means saying that my house is Better Homes and Gardens worthy. (What person with 4 children under 5 could attain that??), but by using these tricks, I am saying that our living room, the main room we eat, play, cuddle, tickle, do preschool, fold clothes, relax, do computer work, talk on the phone in, organize, feed baby, and umpteen other things in, usually feels clean and calming – even with 6 people!