Category Archives: Routines

The Easiest Meal Prepping System

Do you know what you’re doing for dinner? Are you planning to stop at the grocery store today to pick up something for tonight?

Planning your meals will save you time by cutting down on the grocery trips and mental energy as to what you’re having for dinner. Now that we have a little one and I have Organizing CU (which includes nighttime networking, business meetings and organizing sessions) weeknights can get busy in our house.

Every Thursday night, my husband and I go through our upcoming schedules and discuss what is going on over the weekend and following week (such as date nights, guests, tailgating) as we decide how many meals we need to plan.

Easy meal prepping

To make it easier, we have the same basic routine for our meals: brunch on Sunday morning, a bigger Sunday dinner, two simple meals during the week, and leftovers in between. He digs through the recipes and chooses some options. I keep notes in the upper corner of my recipes that let him know if it’s a weekend, weekday, or Crock Pot recipe so he can choose accordingly.

After picking the recipes, I check the pantry and make my grocery lists. My husband and I divide and conquer: he gets anything from the Co-Op in Urbana after work on Fridays while I will hit the regular grocery store for everything else whenever my schedule allows.

Sunday mornings are usually reserved for cooking. In addition to prepping my two Sunday meals, I also take care of my lunches and the breakfasts for my husband and daughter: an 8×10 baked egg dish with a variety of ingredients (broccoli and goat cheese; mozzarella and tomato; green chiles and cheddar). Each weekday morning, they get a hot, home cooked meal that I only have to heat up during the busy morning.

Meal prepping takes some time and effort when you first get into it. But eventually, you reach the spot where you’re not worrying about dinner at 3 pm and you have something simple ready to go. If your family likes leftovers, maybe you only cook two meals a week, but double it and freeze half for later. Maybe you end up with a themed week: Meatless Monday, Italian Tuesdays, Pizza Fridays. But I’ve found that a basic routine and some organization and preparation will make your entire menu much easier.

If you need some help with your meal prep, contact me today!

Final Thoughts on Organizing Paperwork

A home for all your paperwork, organized for your life
My 4 step solution to organizing paperwork: Find, Initial go-thru, Sort, Home (FISH)

For our month of organizing paperwork, we hit a lot of stuff! Let’s review the four steps:

  1. Find: Put all the papers in one place
  2. Initial go-thru: Organize into keep, recycle, shred
  3. Sort: Sort keep pile into active, current, long term storage, sentimental, receipts
  4. Home: Find a permanent home for each pile

Organizing all of these piles and finding a home for them is the crucial last step. Without a home, you won’t be able to keep up the routine of putting papers in their home spot. You need to figure out a system that works for you and your life. It will likely change over time.

Some people may want to do a shred box that you shred when it gets full, while others can shred as they go. Each kid may have their own bin with one hanging file folder for each school year to save the best of the best while other parents would prefer to keep everything saved electronically.

I know these 4 simple steps make it look like it should be easy, but I know that it is a daunting job to go through all of those papers! I know that you may get stuck at some point. But keep moving forward, even as few as 5 papers a day will eventually make progress and you may even get some momentum! But keep moving forward!

Paperwork is one of the toughest areas of the home to get under control. If you are feeling overwhelmed and need some help, contact me!

Step 4 of organizing all that paperwork!

Step 4: Sort items by category and location. Inbox for your active pile, expanding file for current, filling cabinet for long term, storage bins for sentimental, envelopes for receipts
My 4 step solution to organizing paperwork: Find, Initial go-thru, Sort, Home (FISH)

Now that we’ve done step 1 (Find), step 2 (Initial go-thru), and step 3 (Sort), you have five piles of keep, the next step is to go through each of those piles and find a permanent home for them. If you can do several of them in a night, great. Just make sure you take a break after each one. If you’re short on time and can do one a night, no big deal. This should work within your time constraints. Again, you may run into more shredding and recycling, which is great! Remember our key question throughout this paper organizing process: “What do I need to keep?

Your active pile will be the most fluid with stuff going in and out frequently. Try to keep a small basket in a set location, such as on your desk or in the corner of your kitchen. Schedule a time each day/week/every other week to go through the papers and toss/shred/ file anything that you need to keep. Personally, I keep a small paper holder in my kitchen and go through it every couple of days. That may be too often for you.

You can use an expanding file for the current folder. I’ve also used these in a filing cabinet with a “Current” label. Again, this one will have some in and out documents. Take a look at the documents you have in there and that may lead you to the right place to store them.

Long term storage can be kept in a filing cabinet with labeled hanging file folders so you can easily file anything away. You may prefer to scan these items and keep them saved electronically. If that works for you, awesome! As I’ve said before, I’m a paper girl so I don’t keep too much saved electronically, but that’s just personal preference.

For the sentimental stuff, we like to keep bins in our storage area (basement for us, but it could be your attic, garage, under bed). If you are short on space, you may want to go through them yearly and clean out anything that is outdated or that you no longer think you’ll need. Each person gets a set amount of space: one bin for each person. Again, electronic storage is a great option for this. I keep all of my kid’s art stuff saved in a folder on Google Drive, then I don’t feel bad when it doesn’t make it into her scrapbook or to a grandparent.

With receipts, I keep all of the current month’s receipts in envelopes (one for each account) and then reconcile them with my bank statements once a month. Anything that may have a return at some point, such as Wal-Mart, Target, Lowes, etc, I move to a new envelope that is “Saved for returns.” Every couple of months, I clean that out. Since most of our stuff is groceries and food, it’s a very small folder. You may want to just keep a folder for the possible returns and not worry about the rest. Again, that’s totally up to you!

The best part of this step is that you can totally customize it to fit your life! If your family doesn’t keep receipts, then don’t keep them! If you already have bins in the basement for some of your sentimental stuff, then go through them and purge/add as necessary. If you have a place that paper tends to pile up at, then add an inbox right there. This is the part that you can customize to your life, which is a great way to make it a habit!

Paperwork is one of the toughest areas of the home to get under control. If you are feeling overwhelmed and need some help, contact me!

Step 3 of organizing all that paperwork!

Step 3: Sorting the keep pile into categories (active, current, long term storage, sentimental, receipts)
My 4 step solution to organizing paperwork: Find, Initial go-thru, Sort, Home (FISH)

Now that you’ve done step 1 (Find) and step 2(Initial go-thru), and you’ve gotten rid of the shred and recycling piles, you are left with only the keep.

This will likely be the hardest step for most people.

Go through them and Sort everything into one of five piles:

  1. Active (‘to do’ items like bills to pay, RSVPs, rebates, forms to fill out and mail back)
  2. Current (‘use for the near future’ like tax docs, sports calendars, paid bills from last 3 months)
  3. Long term storage (previous tax returns, medical records, warranties)
  4. Sentimental (old papers you wrote in college, kids artwork)
  5. Receipts

Keep in mind, you may now be in the mindset of tossing stuff and you need to create more shred/recycle piles. If so, that is awesome! Remember our mindset shift: “What do I need to keep?” instead of “What can we get rid of?”

Like I said, this one will be the most daunting one. For every 30 minutes you work, take a 5 minute break! Sorting everything in one night may not be possible and that’s fine! There is no need to rush through all of this! As long as you continue to make progress, you’re moving in the right direction! Step 4 is coming up next!

Paperwork is one of the toughest areas of the home to get under control. If you are feeling overwhelmed and need some help, contact me!

Step 2 of organizing all that paperwork!

Sort into 3 piles - keep, recycle, shred
My 4 step solution to organizing paperwork: Find, Initial go-thru, Sort, Home (FISH)

In step 1, we put everything in a huge bin (Find). This next step is doing an Initial go-thru putting everything into three bins: keep, recycle, and shred. Decide for yourself on the best time and place to work on sorting. Typically, I like to do all of the organizing in the house by myself, but you may want or need some family member’s input on this step. I prefer to do this when my husband is watching TV that I have zero interest in, such as basketball games. He’s nearby in case I need his input on a certain document, but he is not getting in my way!

For this step, it is absolutely key that you DO NOT SORT THE KEEP PILE NOW! I repeat, DO NOT SORT THE KEEP PILE NOW! As a client recently told me, this is where she was getting hung up before we worked together. She was trying to sort as she went through everything.

Types of items in the recycle pile: junk mail, old lists, old catalogs, expired coupons, old magazines

Types of items in the shred pile: outdated bills, old receipts, bank statements, investment/retirement statements over a year old

Remember our key question from step 1: “What do I need to keep?” instead of “What can we get rid of?” If you’re unsure, put it in keep since the next step is sorting that pile.

As soon as you have these three piles, stop. DO NOT SORT THE KEEP PILE NOW. Take a break and move the recycle pile to the recycling bin and shred all the stuff you can.

Now go take a break – you deserve it!

Paperwork is one of the toughest areas of the home to get under control. If you are feeling overwhelmed and need some help, contact me!

The 4 Step System to Organize Your Paperwork…For Good!

Step 1: Put all of the paperwork into a box. From every corner of your house. Toss it all in.
My 4 step solution to organizing paperwork: Find, Initial go-thru, Sort, Home (FISH)

I want to share the system that I find works the absolute best when you feel overwhelmed by all the papers in your house. There is a fair amount of stop and go with this technique, which makes it a more-than-one day-project, but it will stop you from feeling overwhelmed and let’s be real – your papers didn’t get like this in just one day!

As you’re going through this process, walking away and coming back fresh is a HUGE help when going through piles of paperwork. It may make one part of your house a mess for a few days or weeks, but it’s a fair price to pay to get it all under control and to get your new system in place to avoid this in the future!

The question I want you to remember throughout is “What do I need to keep?” instead of “What can we get rid of?” It’s a small shift that will pay dividends for your mindset when tackling a huge project like this! You’re then thinking of getting rid of everything, unless you need it for a certain reason. You are setting yourself up for success.

Let me reassure some doubters by saying that I’m not a paperless person. I still get my bills sent to my house (though I pay them online). My mind and system work better with physical reminders of my tasks, not electronic ones. However, this technique could also be used if you want to go paperless. Once you get to the end, you can scan all the documents and save them electronically and then create an upkeep system.

The acronym I use is FISH. Find, Initial go-thru, Sort, Home.

The first step is to walk around your house and find every sheet of paper and put it in one bin such as a laundry basket. Find every single one and toss it in. Go through every filing cabinet, every drawer, and every shelf. And then stop. Don’t do anything else. Give yourself some time to be in the right mind space for the next step! As more mail and papers come in this week, go through it as best as you can and toss them into the basket as well.

Paperwork is one of the toughest areas of the home to get under control. If you are feeling overwhelmed and need some help, contact me!

One Step Closer

Transformation doesn’t come in one big step. It comes as a result of a thousand small ones. Every single step is one step closer to your goal. Many of my clients want to jump in and get everything organized in the entire house and garage in one day. It’s a great way…to feel completely overwhelmed. Your house didn’t become disorganized in a day (though it sometimes feels like it!), so don’t plan on it getting organized in a single day.

My technique is to work as hard as we can for a few hours and then give manageable little projects to do during the time between visits. It will help teach some good habits and hold you accountable!

Quote by Robert Collier: Success is the sum of small efforts. Repeated day in and day out.

I know it’s sometimes tough to see that the little things add up, such as making your bed in the morning. Or that donating one shirt a week will make a dent in your closet. But it does. Just like losing weight, it comes off a little bit at a time. At first, it’s hard to see any real change. It is the same with your clutter. Slowly, it will start to disappear, little by little.

Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. If you need some help either taking that first step or moving beyond it, contact me today.

Toy clutter

You are probably living with toys all over your house: in the family room, on the kitchen floor, in every bedroom. When you’re on top of it and you get the entire house picked up, BOOM! Everything manages to come back out before you can make yourself a cup of tea (or pour a glass of wine) to celebrate your awesomeness. Every birthday and holiday brings even more into your house with no hope of ever keeping up.

Living room with toys strew all over the floor and fireplace

Come join me in my dream land: the kids are in their playroom, taking out blocks from their designated container, building towers together for 20 minutes by themselves before cleaning them up and putting everything back on the shelf.

Short of getting rid of most of the toys when the kids aren’t looking, you’ve got to come up with a plan to deal with all of this stuff. Toy rotations and organizing toys by type are the best ways to keep everything corralled. Toys are easier to locate when kids want to play and easier to pick up when they’re done. When they have less choice and less stress, everyone is happier.

For younger kids, especially the immobile ones, I like to put one type of toy in each box (one touch and feel book, one board book, one car, one rattle, one teether, one stuffed animal). You rotate through 4-5 boxes, changing them out every day, week, or whenever you remember. As our kid has gotten to toddling around the house on her own, our main play areas are the family room and playroom so the main bin is in the former with the extra bins in the latter. Every so often, I switch what’s in the bins so that we can make new combinations of toys: balls in the stacking cups, then next week, we can do stuffed animals on top of the stacking cups.

You can try the toy rotation if you have older kids, but they tend to notice (and comment!) if something specific is gone. Your daughter may always want the Legos available and cars may be your son’s favorite toys. If that’s the case, then keep them available, even if you rotate all of the other toys.

Another idea I’ve given to clients is to separate them into containers by type of toy: all the cars in one bin, all Legos, all markers. The kids can pick and choose which specific bin they want to play with at the moment. The key to both toy rotation and toy compartmentalization is that they must pick up each bin before getting out a new one!  If your kids are struggling with the idea, read about toy time-outs and how you can make kids more accountable.

You may find that a combination of the two works for your family: rotating the crayons for markers, the stuffed animals for the cars, and the blocks for the balls, while keeping their go-to toys always available.

What works for my family may not work for yours. Every family has its own dynamic that will make the perfect solution different. And your perfect solution may change over time.

If you need help personalizing your toy clutter solutions, contact me today!

Should I get rid of that?

When you look around your house as you begin to declutter, you will see something that you initially refuse to part with because either you or someone else spent a lot of money on it.

Crown with fleur-de-lis diamonds
Please feel free to donate any tiaras you have around your house that you no longer wear (Full disclosure: I have one in my house that I refuse to donate.*)

“It’s too nice to donate” you think. Spoiler: nothing is too nice or expensive to donate. If it has run its course in your house and your life, you are free to let it go. You don’t need to hold onto something because it was expensive. When you come across this situation, ask yourself these questions: would I keep it if it were originally free? And would I bring it to my house today, even if it were free?

You should not hold onto something that is taking space in your house simply because of its price tag. Period.

The other common excuse I hear is “Someone gave that to me, so I need to keep it.” Unless it’s a family heirloom, don’t think twice. (Please ask your family before donating any heirlooms!) Would you expect someone to keep a book you gave them three years ago if they were done reading it? Realistically, how many of the gifts you’ve given do you keep tabs on?

If you’re really not sure about something, put a box or designate an area in your house as a donation spot. My closet has a corner on a shelf that allows me to keep a pile of things that need to go to Goodwill. When it gets full, everything goes. Personally, I know that once something is in the pile, it’s on its way out the door. Some people may be more likely to remove stuff after it’s been put there. Having a system is a great first step!

Using the questions above, take another look at your home and the stuff that is filling it up. Once you stop attaching monetary value to donation items, it gets much easier to let them go.

If you need some help deciding what you should keep and what should go, contact me today to help you figure it out!

*I was not joking. It says ‘Mother to be’ and was given to me at my baby shower, which I later took to the hospital and wore during labor.


Searching high and low

Growing up, everyone in my family knew dad’s keys and money clip were kept on top of the refrigerator. I remember looking up to see if his keys were up there before looking around the house. If he was home, they were up there; no keys, no dad.

Binoculars sitting on a ledge

At the same time, no one ever knew where mom’s keys and purse were: in her pocket of yesterday’s coat, near the door, on the kitchen counter, on the dining room table…somewhere in the house was usually a good bet. You always had to shout to find out if mom was home!

Nowadays, my family has a landing zone in our mud room where my purse, husband’s wallet, and our keys stay. For us, we have a getting home routine: come in, shoes come off, purse and wallet go on the table, and keys get hung on hooks. I go through my bag(s) and take everything into the kitchen that I need to go through tonight, such as mail, notes from school, or papers from work.

This routine helps keep our entire family organized. Our mornings are much smoother because the same landing zone also acts as a departure area. If I need to take some papers to work, they go on the mudroom table. Books need to go back to the library? Same place. Throughout the day and night, items get placed there for the next time we leave the house. It take a lot more brain space to have to remember: “what do I need to take to school and work?” versus “Pack up what’s on the table.”

Having a set departure area makes it much easier to ensure we have everything we need when we leave the house. There is never a “where are my keys” moment in the morning because they are always right where they belong.

If you spend a lot of your day searching for stuff, contact me today to help you get it organized!