Thursday, August 16, 2012

Easily Distracted

I seem to have dropped the bloggy ball again.  Life is blessedly busy and eventful and this little blog has taken a back seat for the past week or so.

I've been busy with a large organizing/redesign project at a client's home, happily preparing my classroom and lesson plans for the upcoming preschool year, and deliriously overcome with joy and thankfulness for this little bundle. . .

Our sweet little granddaughter was born last Saturday and this is a photo of her snuggled in her car seat, ready to leave the hospital.  Everyone is doing fine and we are so thankful for God's little miracle. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Creative Idea For Maternity Photos

We have a new member of our family ready to arrive in just a few days.


Our youngest daughter and her husband are expecting their first child (our first granddaughter) any day now. 

A few weeks ago they had a maternity photo session with Andi Grant at our house.  I missed out on getting to watch the adventure, but Papa got to help with gathering all of the props. 

I love that the photos were taken at Brown Wren Acres, the same place where their engagement photos and wedding photos were taken. 

Each set of photos represents a letter of the alphabet and Ashley and Chris plan to make an alphabet book for little Miss Charlotte to enjoy.  What a special way for her mommy and daddy to show her how much they love her.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday Motivation: Getting Control Of Paperwork

Monday Motivation: Getting Control Of Household Paperwork

Out of control paperwork seems to be the number one problem most of my clients have. I would say it has to be my number one problem as well. I still struggle with it, but I've come up with some systems that help me to create order out of the mess pretty quickly.

If you're overwhelmed with papers, here's how to take control and set up your own system to make your life easier. First we'll start with figuring out what you have.

Let's pretend you have papers all over your house and they are totally disorganized. Don't apologize - just get started:

1. Start with a large surface, like your dining room table, to use as a staging surface. Cover the surface with boxes or other rectangular containers to sort your paperwork in. Some of the categories you might choose are: Bills, medical, car, school, insurance, photos, banking, stationary, taxes, recipes, contact info., appliance manuals, etc.)

2. Working one room at a time, collect every piece of paper you can find and bring it to your staging station. Go through the pile of papers you collected and sort them into the categories you created. (warning: be sure that any papers that require immediate attention, like bills, are kept handy so you can attend to them)

3. Now that you've gone through each room in your house, it's time to sort each category. The next three weeks will be devoted to sorting the categories and developing your systems to keep them organized. Next week we'll tackle mail and bills, followed by household paperwork, and then finally look at recipes.

Quote for the week:
"You've got to think about 'big things' while you're doing 'small things', so that all the small things go in the right direction" Alvin Toffler
Handling Mail and Bills


Now that all of your bills are compiled into one central place, you'll want to sort them again. This time, sort them into sub-categories.

First, remove all bills that are current and must be paid into their own pile. Don't misplace this pile! You'll need to tend to it sooner than later.

Next, decide how you want to sort your bills. These are the bills/receipts you've already paid. These should be kept until the end of the year for tax purposes or to help you prepare next years budget. You don't really need to keep bills that are over a year old when you get a statement and pay your bills every month. I've never referred back to a 2 year old cell phone bill - just sayin'! You can sort them in a few different ways. Alphabetically or by type (power, phone, automobile, medical).

We file ours alphabetically. First comes Auto, then Banking, then College, then Dentist, etc. We use an accordion file that has pockets for each letter. Since we don't have too many bills, this works for us. We also use this accordion file to store warranty information, lists of magazine subscriptions, library cards, etc.

Another option is to use hanging files. These files can be stored in a file cabinet or a portable file box. There are also some really attractive counter top file boxes. If you use hanging files, you can also use smaller manila files as sub-folders within them. There is no right or wrong option. Whatever works for you is fine.

Now that all of your bill receipts are filed, you can turn your attention to your current bills that need to be paid. The method we use is very primitive - we're still very much in the old fashioned paper bill paying world. Maybe we'll change one day. We just find something very "safe" about touching the bills we pay. Plus, it's a little more "painful" to write a check than to click "pay bill" online.

When our bills come in the mail, we immediately open them up, throw the junk filler stuff into the shredder and fold the envelope around the bill to be paid. Then we write the day we need to mail the bill in the upper right hand corner of the envelope where the stamp will cover it up. Then we use an antique napkin holder that my grandfather made to hold the bills; with the next bills to be paid sitting in front of the stack. Here's a
modern day version that would work well.

Every week we check the holder and pull out any bills we need to pay. We reconcile the statement with any receipts we have before paying the bill.

Before filing the statement in our accordion file, we write the date, the amount paid, and the check number on the paperwork. If I have to call the company about the bill, I write the name of the person I talked to as well as the date and time and what information I gleaned from the phone call onto the statement. This little tip has been very helpful when handling discrepancies. There's not too much arguing when you can name the person, date, and time you first called about a problem.

Is your mail overwhelming you? When you bring your mail into your home, handle it immediately. Stand over your recycling bin and toss any junk mail. Take any mail that has your personal info on it and shred it. Place magazines into the magazine basket, place invites into your day planner so you can RSVP and plan to buy a gift or send a card.

Cut out coupons and put them in your purse, coupon organizer, or set them with your keys to keep in your car. I keep all of my coupons for stores in my car so I will always have them available without lugging them in my purse.
General Household Paperwork

Now we're ready to tackle other household paperwork that tends to spread around the house. Some of that paperwork could include:

Appliance manuals and receipts
Mementos and keepsakes
Phone numbers/addresses
School work
Personal and confidential paperwork
Tax records
Emergency information
Command center for daily paperwork

For each category of paperwork, I'll give you some tips for how to weed through the mess, and some options for how to organize the information and be able to retrieve what you need.

1. Appliance manuals and receipts:
First, go through each piece and toss out any information for items you no longer own. Then, sort paperwork according to type. (kitchen appliances, camping gear, electronics, etc.) I'm a fan of binders, so I keep my appliance info in a large 3 ring binder that has labeled pocket dividers. For more information, check out my previous post about making a household manual binder.

2. Mementos and Keepsakes:
This category will be different for everyone. Some people like to save every item pertaining to a specific memory and some will save nothing. If you have more of a hoarding tendency, you'll have to make some firm rules for yourself. Decide how much room you have for keepsakes and that will help you determine how much you can save. Not much room? Then, photos are better. They give you a lot of bang for your buck - lots of memory on one or two card size pieces of paper.
I've kept a few Rubbermaid bins for each of my children and stuffed them full of mementos of their first 21 years. I have a few things I've kept for myself and I keep them in fabric storage boxes on the top shelf of my bedroom closet. Every time I go through the box, reminiscing, I actually throw something away. That goes to show you that the more time that passes, the more those memories are stored in your heart and you don't need so many reminders.

3. Phone numbers and addresses:
It's a good idea to have addresses and phone numbers recorded in several different places in your home. You can use your cell phone, an address book, a day planner, a Rolodex, or a 3x5 card file. Having two different places to record the information will make sure you always have one handy in case you loose one.
Be sure to keep updated contact information for your doctor, dentist, veterinarian, child's coaches, church contacts, neighbors, school contacts, and hair dresser (most important). LOL

4. School Work:
If you have young children at home, this will be your number one angst during the school year. If you don't have kiddos at home, skip to number 5.
If you have a pile of school related information in your staging area, sort through it to make sure it is all relevant to your child. Before the school year starts again, throw out all outdated information. There is no need to save last November's school lunch menu.
Prepare a binder or file box to handle the children's incoming paperwork. Every day, after school, immediately go through each child's backpack, with them, and look at every paper. Any paper that needs to be saved goes in the child's labeled file or section in the binder. Any paperwork that needs to be returned to school is signed and put back in the child's backpack to go to school the next day. Any homework is set out to be completed as scheduled.

5. Correspondence:
We all get cards, invitations, and letters in the mail that we should respond to. The temptation is to set them aside and answer them later. Well, you know where I'm going with this, right? We set them aside and then forget about them. Oops.
As soon as you get a card, etc. write down, on your to-do list, that you need to answer it. Is it an invitation? Write the date in your calendar immediately and either call the person to RSVP or write down who you need to talk to before you can RSVP. If you'll need a babysitter, write down that you need to find one.
If you get a letter that you want to respond to, grab a note card and either immediately write them a note or stick the card into your day planner and you'll be one step closer to answering the letter. I've found that it really doesn't take as long as I imagine it does to write a little note to someone.

6. Personal and Confidential Paperwork
Any paperwork that would be hard to replace or that you would not want someone to read should be kept in a secure location. Papers that you might need to have handy like a birth certificate or passport can be kept in a fireproof safe that is bolted to a floor in your home. Other papers that don't need to be in your home can be kept in a safety deposit box at your local bank.

7. Tax Records:
Any receipts that you'll need to have for your taxes should be kept in one place to make tax time easier. Designate one place, a file, envelope, or box that you can quickly drop the receipts into. You'll be patting yourself on the back when tax time rolls around.

8. Emergency Information:
Any paperwork that your loved ones would need to have access to in an emergency should be readily available and neatly compiled. We have a large binder that we call the "I Love You Binder". I named it that when my husband showed me all the preparations he had made to ensure I'm taken care of if anything should happen to him. Copies of all of the paperwork are also stored with our financial planner. Here is a post I've already written about the "I love you binder".
Organizing Recipes
If you're one of those cooks who can whip up dishes without using a recipe, I applaud you.
I'm not one of those cooks. I need recipes - printed recipes.

Actually, I love written recipes. Especially ones written in the handwriting of the person who gave me the recipe. I have recipe cards from grandmas, aunts, cousins, neighbors, co-workers, and church friends.

My problem is having too many recipes and trying to keep them organized so I can find them when I need them.

I've tried a few different types of organizing tools over the past 10 years and I've finally come up with a system that works for me. Because every cook is different, there is no perfect system that will work for everyone.

I found that I really like to use recipe boxes. I have a nice solid oak box and I'm looking for an additional one as my current one is a bit "stuffed". I'd like to have all of my baking recipes (breads, desserts, and various breakfast foods) in one box and savory recipes (entrees, salads, sauces, side dishes) in their own box.

I also have a small binder with pocket dividers where I keep recipes that I'd like to try. After they pass family approval, they get transferred to my recipe box. I tried using a photo album with pocket sleeves to hold my recipe cards, but I wasn't happy with how the cards slipped around the book.

I've come across several recipe systems around the blog world lately and thought I'd share them with you.

1. Online Options:
Mom's Online Recipe Organizer (MORO)
one tsp. - keep your recipes online so you can access them anywhere
Tip Junkie's guest blogger shares how to use Delicious (a bookmarking site) to organize recipes
2. Binder ideas
To The Moon and Back - uses several binders for different categories
Prudent Baby - cute templates to download for your binder
The Organizing Boutique - great step by step instructions

3. Recipe Card ideas
Simple Organized Living - uses a large photo box as a recipe box
Source of beautiful recipe boxes
Displaying heirloom recipes on Complete Organizing Blog

I'd love to hear how you organize your recipes. Please share your ideas in the comment section or even better, send me an email with photos of your system and I'll share them in a future post.
Have any paperwork solutions you'd like to share?  Let's talk about it in the comment section - or shoot me an email if you need some help with your own paperwork.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wrensday: Simple Life

One of the great things about having grandchildren around is that they help you to slow down and look at things.  I tend to rush through life and in the process miss the fun.  In my effort to get to the end I forget about the journey.  I might be pleasantly surprised if I took the time to explore something I've never seen before.   

curious boys

Littlest grandson climbed up onto the truck box in the back of his uncle's pickup to checkout the view through the window.  He sat very still for several minutes, staring into the truck and didn't say a word.  Finally, he turned around and shared his thoughts.  "Big truck". 

Why, yes it is.  Just the facts.  No other details needed.  Plain and simple.  Life should be simple. 
                                                                        Simple Life.