How letting go of the idea of a ‘perfect recipe’ changed dinnertime in my home: A guest post by Angie Trueblood

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Wait. There’s no perfect recipe? Nope. There’s not one single recipe that suits my family, your family and your neighbor’s family exactly as written. And I know this because I spent many years of motherhood searching for it. I would scour Pinterest, chat with my girlfriends about it on weekend getaways(totally lame, I know!), and I even started a Facebook group for the sole purpose of sharing recipes. You know...in the hopes that one would be PERFECT.

What I was really searching for, though, was a way to get a dinner on the table (that everyone would at least CONSIDER eating) that didn’t leave me exhausted and frustrated when I sat down to join my family. I wanted dinnertime to be simple AND meaningful. At that point, I was working full-time and all I wanted was to reconnect with each other after we had gathered back together after a long day apart.

After pinning a ton of recipes, learning some great strategies for meal prep, downloading a boat load of pretty printables, trying app after app after app, and tearing out umpteen recipes from magazines, I cried uncle. This search for the perfect recipe had me feeling like that Pig and his Pancake.

I thought I needed a meal plan subscription because I saw them popping up everywhere. Duh. Clearly, I’m unqualified to decide what to feed my family and make a list to go with it. I also needed an app because OBVIOUSLY feeding my family is sooooo hard that I can’t do it just using notebook paper. I needed a binder with a reference section so that I could quickly turn to page 62 to grab the recipe for xyz meal because if I wasn’t following a recipe, then dinner just wasn’t good enough.

Funny thing is, we actually had a core group of meals that we were able to cook and get on the table without much stress. But, as we moms often do, I thought I needed more. More variety. More fancy stuff. More healthful meals. I mean, for the love, what self-respecting mom doesn’t serve QUINOA on a regular basis? #thismom

But, you know what? That binder went unused. The 3 different apps were never ‘good enough’. And, in the midst of all of this, I lost sight of the fact that I HAD BEEN feeding myself (and now my family) just fine enough before I started the hunt for red october the perfect recipe.

So, I scrapped it all and looked at what WAS working for our family. First, I decluttered my recipes and Pinterest boards...something I never imagined I would do. And, you know what I realized? We already had a couple of great seasonings and oils that we could use to marinate most anything. And we had a couple of meat and veggie dishes that worked perfectly for our family.

But, I couldn’t SEE those things when I sat down to meal plan because I was surrounded by the noise of the binder, the cookbooks, and the Pinterest boards. Ahhhh...the Pinterest boards.  Just recently, I created a free audio and workbook for folks who want to do the same. You can grab it here. 

So, I started embracing our theme night rotation of chicken breasts, chicken thighs, pork chops, flank steak, ground turkey, ground beef, salmon, cod, and shrimp. We were sure to serve one of our favorite veggies (broccoli, green beans, asparagus, corn, peas, and carrots) as a side every night. And, usually, we’d throw in something on the side like pasta, rice, couscous, or a salad. So, then, if what we were doing was working, why had I been searching?

Truth is, I was just searching for a bit more variety and didn’t realize it. And, at that point, I had no idea how to work ‘variety’ into this system that I didn’t even realize I had created. So, I wasn’t able to tune out all the noise screaming that I needed to DO more for dinnertime.

These days, I know that when I’m in a dinnertime ‘funk’, I just need to spice it up a bit. But, that doesn’t mean a complete overhaul. I don’t need a meal plan subscription. I don’t need to pin 100 recipes that have 12 steps in the prep section alone. I can decide that I’d like a little different twist on the salmon dish we always seem to make and search for simple salmon recipes.

And then, I go about my day. Would I love if my kids would eat beets when we make them? Um, yes. But, I’m not crafting up some beet hummus to sneak it in on their plate just to say they eat beets. Would I like to envision myself as someone who appreciates bone broth enough to make it? Yep….but I don’t. And, would I would love it if my kids craved quinoa? Um….no. Because I don’t actually like it. So, there’s that.

My being totally fine with serving quesadillas as a way to repurpose leftovers has allowed me more mental margin for other mom tasks than I’ve ever had. Last night, we had BBQ made from a pork shoulder that I had cooked in the slow cooker. Tonight, we’ll make quesadillas with the leftover meat, spinach and cheese. Everyone’s quesadilla will look a bit different, but we’ll all eat together, we’ll all share the highs and lows of our day, and we’ll all clean up together. And, for me, that’s not just good enough. That’s pretty much everything.


About the author

Angie Trueblood is a meal planning expert who spends her time helping busy moms simplify mealtime so they can enjoy their time around the table with their family. The mamas she works with feel more empowered in the kitchen, less stressed when they sit down at the table, and spend much less time scouring Pinterest for the 'PERFECT' recipe. When she's not working, she loves exploring her hometown of Richmond, VA's parks and playgrounds with her two kiddos, checking out new restaurants with her hubs, and laughing about motherhood over cocktails with friends. Connect with her on Facebook, in her Meal Planning Junkies community, and Instagram.

Stalk her on the web


Website: www.mealplanningmama.com
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/mpmangie
Meal Planning Junkies: https://www.facebook.com/groups/mealplanningjunkies/
Instagram: angiemealplanningmama

The ultimate guide to cleaning your rental for a move-out

You’re moving. YAY! The date is set, you have plenty of boxes ready to be filled and your new place is just waiting for you to move in and call it home. You have just one small thing to get done before you finally get out of your rental:

Clean it.

Ugh, right?

But here’s how I always looked at it. Wouldn’t I want to move into a new apartment or house that looks, feels and smells clean? I mean, who wants to spend time before the boxes and furniture even get there cleaning up someone else’s mess? Gross.

The truth is, part of living in a rental, or even a house you own, is maintaining it and cleaning it up so the next person can enjoy the same comforts of the home. Of course, as a mother, the whole job can seem exponentially more stressful as you also have to worry about keeping small humans alive while you deep clean during your move-out. Let's make it a little easier.

Start by getting a list from the building or landlord.

Your landlord or building manager should be able to provide you with a list of things they expect done upon your move-out. This list usually includes things like “Wipe down windows” and “remove all garbage.” If they don't have a dedicated list printed up, ask for clear clarification about what is expected of you before leaving. 

Ask great questions before moving out

Things like, "Will the walls be painted? Do I need to do any painting? Do we need to fill nail holes? Does the carpet need to be professionally cleaned, or cleaned at all?"

Consider hiring a cleaning company

This was one of the largest parts of my business when I ran my cleaning company. I did a tremendous amount of move-out cleanings and honestly, I loved it. When someone hired me, they knew that they could pass off the work to someone else and spare themselves the time and labor of doing it themselves. Be sure to inquire about pricing and get an in-person estimate whenever possible. If you have a list from your landlord, provide the company or cleaner with that list. If you live in a complex, ask the management for referrals. Many times they can provide you a list of names of reputable cleaning companies that they know have done a stellar job in the past. Check out my post on how to hire a professional house cleaner here.

 


 

Ready to jump in and get your security deposit back, but not sure you know how to properly clean everything? Download your easy-to-follow How to Clean Dang Near Everything PDF and audio lesson. Quickly learn how to clean everything in your home. The best part? It’s only $10.


If you plan to go at it alone, here are some tips to help streamline the process:

  • Start from the top and work your way down. It's always best to push the dirt out and down. It also keeps you from forgetting or missing areas.
  • Do as much, if not all, after everything is moved out. While I am usually an advocate for cleaning as you go, it can be pretty difficult to get your house or apartment the deep cleaning attention is deserves with boxes, furniture and kiddos under foot. Maintain the house as best you can the weeks leading up to your move, but plan the majorly deep parts for when everything is out and you can blast some 90's tunes.
  • Delegate your little heart out. This is no time to take everything on yourself. If you aren't in a position to hire a cleaner, delegate what you can to your spouse, your children, a helpful friend, or family. Offer up some pizza and beer as a incentive and ask for help cleaning up after the move is over. Many hands make light work, and a much less stressed mama.
  • Take a final trip around with your checklist. Always check things twice. If it's good enough for Santa, it's good enough for you. The best way to ensure you get your security deposit back is to double check your work to be sure everything is done. 
  • While it doesn't really serve you as a tip now since you're moving out, always be sure to take photos when you move into a new rental, especially if there is any damage, stains or discoloration to keep for proof when you move out. 

Whether you’re given a basic list or are left to fend for yourself, here is a general outline of what most rental clean-outs require.

Bathrooms

  • Scrub tub/shower from top to bottom
  • Polish shower fixtures
  • Clean inside and outside of toilet
  • Clean sink and vanity area
  • Polish sink fixtures
  • Clean out cabinets and drawers
  • Wipe down outside of cabinets and drawers
  • Spot clean walls
  • Remove cobwebs
  • Clean baseboards and molding
  • Clean the floors
  • Clean doors
  • Wipe down light switches
  • Dust light fixtures

Kitchen

  • Clean all food from refrigerator
  • Scrub the inside of the refrigerator, including all shelves and drawers
  • Clean the outside of the refrigerator
  • Clean behind refrigerator (if possible)
  • Clean out food and containers from cabinets
  • Vacuum/wipe down cabinets and drawers
  • Wash the front of cabinets, taking special care near the fixtures and areas touched often
  • Self-clean the oven, if possible, or scrub the inside.
  • Clean broiler drawer
  • Scrub stove top
  • Scrub and wipe down range hood, including underneath (very greasy)
  • Soak and wipe down hood fan filter (if applicable)
  • Clean inside and outside of microwave
  • Scrub sink
  • Wipe down sink fixtures
  • Wipe down molding/baseboards
  • Wipe down any doors
  • Sweep/vacuum/wet mop floors
  • Clean out dishwasher, if applicable

Bedrooms

  • Clean windows, inside and out if applicable
  • Clean window tracks
  • Wipe down window sills
  • Wipe down molding
  • Remove cobwebs
  • Vacuum rugs and/or clean floors
  • Wipe down doors

All rooms

  • Clean windows, inside and out if applicable
  • Clean window tracks
  • Wipe down window sills
  • Wipe down baseboards and molding
  • Remove cobwebs
  • Vacuum all carpets
  • Sweep and mop all floors
  • Wipe down all doors
  • Clean all glass sliding doors and storm doors
  • Wipe down light switches and outlet covers
  • Vacuum/clean stairs and stair molding, if applicable
  • Wipe down handrails and stair railing, if applicable

Outside:

  • Weed any garden/ flower bed areas
  • Sweep front walk
  • Remove any signage or decor
  • Sweep garage or carport, if applicable 

Now that you're in your new home (YAY!), what is the best way to keep it clean? Where do you even start? House cleaning is usually a nagging chore for most moms, which is why I created the Everything and the Kitchen Sink cleaning list. Sign up to receive your free house cleaning list. This list is broken down by room and by frequency of the tasks so there's no more guesswork. Print it out, keep it in a binder, hang it on the wall and use it to create your cleaning schedule. Or just use it as a guide for #allthethings that need to be cleaned in your home. Own your schedule so it doesn't own you, mama.

Homemaking isn't exhausting for me, motherhood is.

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“Exhausted.”

That’s the go to answer of moms worldwide when confronted with the simple question, “So, how are you.” It’s the go to right after the ever popular (and usually untruthful), “Oh, fine.”

Motherhood is exhausting. Fulfilling, but exhausting.

But for me, it isn’t exhausting because of the external tasks and chores I have to accomplish each day. Frankly, I’d have to do laundry and make meals whether I had kids or not. The chores that need to be done to maintain a house aren’t specific to mothers. Everyone who lives in one and doesn’t want to come home to a pigsty everyday has to do some chores. Homemaking isn’t exhausting for me, but motherhood sure is.

I recently read an article by Jami Ingledue that discussed the “mental load” mothers experience. We aren’t just responsible for the management of the home, but the management of each person’s life inside the home. We’re responsible for the calendar, the schedule, the routines, the appointments, the likes, the dislikes, the ups, the downs, the plans, the cancellations, the good, the bad and the very, very ugly.

What is so interesting is that I knew about this mental load before I read about it, but never put a name to it. For me, it is more like a weight dragging behind me day in and day out. It's always there and no matter how long the to-do list gets, or how much I accomplish, the weight is there.

A few years ago, I made a list of all the things I happen to think about as I started my day. I was feeling particularly burdened and a little cheeky, so I wrote it all down, hell-bent on sharing it with my husband in an attempt to show him how much I actually have to think about and remember each day.

  • Is it picture day?
  • Is Ava's dress clean and ready to be worn?
  • Does she need lunch money or is she bringing?
  • Did I sign those field trip forms?
  • When are the kids’ dentist appointments again?
  • Should I make their annual physical appointments now, or wait another few weeks?
  • It’s Tuesday, that means gym day. She has her gym clothes, right? Are they clean? I told her to take them out so I could wash them.
  • Did Everett take his medicine this morning?
  • Did Ava take her medicine this morning?
  • Do I need to refill any medications?
  • What time is Adam coming home tonight?
  • I need to call the babysitter for Saturday night.
  • I need to go get a present for that party on Saturday night.
  • I need to plan on what the kids will be having for dinner on Saturday night.
  • Did I write down those upcoming half days?
  • I responded to that email from her teacher, right?

And so on, and so on....

That’s all usually before 9am.

I have calendars and reminders galore, but eventually, that reminder is going to go off and prompt me to do something and take action, usually taking me away from what I’m currently doing.

The exhausting part isn’t remembering everything for everyone all the time in our family. The exhausting part is remembering that I even have to remember everything.

As a home management expert and a modern homemaking advocate, I see what this mental weight does to moms. It makes even the most simplistic tasks seem burdensome and overwhelming. Suddenly, putting away the dishes is as complicated as solving a high-level calculus problem. The act of taking the dish from the dishwasher and placing it in the cabinets takes a pretty minimal amount of effort and about 5 seconds, but when it’s just another item in a never-ending string of things to do and remember, it can be paralyzing.

We perceive the cleaning, cooking, decluttering, organizing and laundry as the most difficult parts of motherhood. In reality, these are just the things needed to run a home. The homemaking part alone can be pretty simple. Spray some Mrs. Meyer’s cleaner on the countertop and wipe it off. Done and done. But having to move the soccer cleats off the counter to do it, because obviously that is where they belong, reminds you that you need to wash your son’s soccer uniform, and buy more detergent, and put away the towels that are in the dryer.

Motherhood is basically just living inside the book “If you give a mouse a cookie.” because that one thing we do eventually leads us to remembering that another thing needs to be done, then another, and another. This is why I’m exhausted, because the remembering never ends.

Even as I write this post, a Google calendar notification went off reminding me that my son has picture day today. Immediately, I panicked, wondering if I remembered to send in the envelope with money. I did. I did last week. Right? Of course. I’m sure I did….right?

This is probably why husbands often don’t understand why homemaking is so difficult. My husband can do dishes in record time, and line them up neatly to dry like nobody’s business. When the floor needs to be vacuumed and I am staring at it wondering if I have the energy to even move, he grabs it and goes to work. Homemaking tasks aren't the issue, the ever-pervasive tasks of motherhood are.

This isn’t a post bashing husbands. There are enough of those out there. Honestly, my husband is one of the most helpful human beings I know and would take on any burden I gave him just to help me out. He is loving and giving to the core and does everything he can to help in any way possible.

But somewhere along the way, we silently agreed that it would be my duty to take on the mental weight of running the household and raising the kids. I would be the one making doctor appointments and chaperoning field trips. I would be the one buying new socks when the old ones got holes in them. I would be the one that remembered when our daughter’s trombone lessons were each week. We didn’t sign a contract, but somehow, this is what we have agreed on. It isn’t his fault. I made the agreement, too.

To be fair, I silently agreed to never worry about the lawn being mowed, or the trash getting taken to the curb each week, or creepy crawlies being killed in the house.

I don't know what the ultimate answer is or how to cut the cord with the weight that follows me around like a toddler wanting a snack. I do know that part of lightening that weight is asking for help. I don't want to be the mommy martyr that has been glorified by our society. I don't want my children to feel that remembering to give them lunch money is a burden on my life. I went into motherhood knowing that there would be a lot of sacrifice and some servitude thrown in daily. Rather than complain, I want to lift the burden and ask my husband and children for help when I need it. I want open communication and trust that he can handle things just as well (alright, kind of as well...) as I can.

But first, I think I'll take a nap.


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I designed The Reluctant Homemaker Starter Guide for the mom that looks around at the home management tasks in front of her and isn't even sure where to start. It's difficult to feel peaceful when you're drowning in day-to-day tasks and stuck in the "I just need to survive today." cycle. This starter guide is the jumpstart to organizing and simplifying homemaking for the modern mom. No more guessing. Download your free copy, mama.

 

 

How I've embraced peace by not battling my kids

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Choose your battles.

It’s a common saying, but how many times do we actually stop to think about it and what it really means. I mean, I’ve used it countless times throughout my life, but often I say it in a very figurative way. Most of us aren’t in daily knock-out, drag-down fights and battles with others, at least I hope we aren’t.

The thing about a battle is that it requires someone to win and someone to lose. Essentially, there is no middle ground. You fight, you put your all into it and either come out victorious or you come out hanging your head in defeat. While this may be the way we win wars, it isn’t the way I want to live my life as a parent.

So I choose my battles wisely and I have given most of them up.

This isn’t to say that we live a life of total anarchy, where our children are allowed to run amuck doing whatever they please. Instead, this means that I’m not willing to fight so hard to be the winner while my child becomes the loser. I’d rather create a framework of morals and values in our home that we all work toward and let the rest fall where it may.

After almost 11 years of motherhood, I’ve found that battling my kids for most things isn’t worth it and the reason isn’t because I am lazy or too tired to implement rules. We have plenty of rules. The reason is because I started giving a good, hard look at why I was battling. Why did I need to win? Why was this act so important to me? And you know what I came up with? It wasn’t that important to me. I was fighting a battle I didn’t even care about winning. I was fighting a battle that somewhere along the way, I decided I was supposed to fight. Society has done an excellent job of spoon-feeding guilt to us parents if we don’t adhere to the norms of child-raising.

My husband and I have given up the fight on a number of topics, because it just doesn’t matter to us. Love, compassion, trust, honesty, morality, self-confidence and tolerance of others is what we’ll battle to the bitter end with our kids. These things, we won’t.

Rigid sleep schedules: Look, I want my kids to sleep through the night and I am fully aware that a good sleep schedule is paramount while kids are growing and staying healthy, but good grief with the rigidity of bedtimes. I read a hilarious article recently where a mother said that these days, bedtime routines seem to begin at 3:30PM. How true that is. I remember as a kid my mother saying, "I don't care where you sleep, as long as you sleep and don't bother me." That is exactly our philosophy. Sometimes my kids fall asleep and stay on the couch. Sometimes my husband does the same. Most nights at the point, they are sound in their beds by 9PM, but the long-winded sleep routine that just causes fights back and forth isn't worth it to us. We'd rather they understand the joy and purpose of a good night's sleep rather than force them into bedtime rituals that only serve to annoy everyone and require a big glass of wine. 

Society has done an excellent job of spoon-feeding guilt to us parents if we don’t adhere to the norms of child-raising.

Eating (what and when): I am completely uninterested in sitting at the table for 3 hours, forcing my child to down those last 2 peas. That standoff doesn’t serve me and it doesn’t serve my kids. I’ve seen the after effects of what making food a constant issue in the house and it won’t be done in mine. We all have to do what is right for our family and for us, food is something I want my kids to enjoy. I want them to love trying new things. I want them to develop their own tastes and know that they have the ability to say no to things they truly dislike. This doesn’t mean I cater to their every desire (which would probably just be pizza by default) but it does mean that we don’t stress so much about what they eat, how much they eat or when they eat. What works for us, works for us.

Perfectly-matched clothing: “Susie wanted to wear her plaid pants with her striped shirt today, but I said absolutely not. They don’t even match.” Minus the name Susie, which I changed to protect the parties involved, this was a sentence I heard come out of a mom’s mouth once and it stuck with me. I don’t care if my kids’ clothes match. Why? Because of all the things as an adult that I have to worry about every day, whether my cardigan matches my pants ain’t one of them. While I will always teach my children how to dress appropriately for the occasion, I refuse to battle over clothing. Wear what you want, within reason and go to school with unmatched socks for all I care.

Grades in school: I realize there will be people who disagree hardcore with this one and girl, that’s fine. But for me, I refuse to spend my children’s precious time on this earth fussing and fighting over grades or worse yet, making them believe that their worth in this world is determined by test scores. I grew up getting straight As and believed that it was my ticket to an amazing life. I was wrong. While getting good grades helped me get into college, I didn't actually finish college and honestly, it wasn't the grades that brought me to where I am now. I want my children to excel and learn to give their best, all the time, but giving you're 100% doesn't always guarantee an A and I think that'd as important a lesson as any. 

Staying clean: I was at the playground with my kiddos 2 years ago after a rainstorm and of course, at the bottom of the slide sat a rather wide puddle of water. While I watched another mother scurry her child away and say, "NO! Don't go down the slide. You'll get all wet and dirty!" I yelled, "Have fun, Everett!" and let him go. We weren't on our way to meet the president or have dinner at The Four Seasons. We were at a park, where play is the name of the game. I no longer give much attention to how dirty my kids get. We own a shower and a washing machine, both of which can undo any damage done. And if the washing machine can't, well then shame of me for sending my kid to the park in anything that cost me more than $4. I want my children to thoroughly enjoy all aspect of childhood before the getting old and forget how to have fun in the dirt. 

Your battles and which ones you're willing to fight should be about you, not about what society has dictated. We only have a finite amount of energy as moms and I don't want to spend mine getting bloodied in a war I don't even care about winning.

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The one battle we for sure should not have as moms is against homemaking. It really shouldn't be so hard. I designed The Reluctant Homemaker Starter Guide for the mom that looks around at the home management tasks in front of her and isn't even sure where to start. It's difficult to feel peaceful when you're drowning in day-to-day tasks and stuck in the "I just need to survive today." cycle. This starter guide is the jumpstart to organizing and simplifying homemaking for the modern mom. No more guessing. Download your free copy, mama. 
 

The Ultimate Guide to an Organized Bookshelf (with meaning): A guest post by Samantha Munoz of Addison Reads

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Imagine the zombie apocalypse we always refer to as a society has finally happened. You’re in your safe haven and the zombies are coming (you hear them slowly creeping up, dragging their limbs, ready to tear down your door and eat you up). Gruesome, I know, but just buy into this for a second. Now, you’re looking for your weapons. You were prepared, you did at least have the forethought to buy a gun and a dagger, you’ve got an axe and a pair of scissors. You know what tool you need for the job, but unfortunately, you can’t find it. You spend 20 minutes rifling through your big trunk of weapons, but it’s too late. The zombies have come crashing through your door and you have nothing to defend yourself with because you just can’t find what you were looking for.

That’s how I feel when I think about an unorganized, yet intentional, bookshelf.

You have the right idea to curate and find books that fit your family values and unique needs, but you don’t have it reliably organized to actually have the impact it could.

Let’s back up for a minute – what the heck is an intentional bookshelf and who am I?

Why hello, thanks for asking! My name is Sam, and I am the blogger and kid lit expert behind Addison Reads. I teach parents how to find the right children’s books for their home library that reflect their most important values and unique family to create what I call an Intentional Bookshelf.

Instead of feeling parents as though they are responsible for teaching their children all of the amazing things they want to teach them completely on their own, I show parents how to unlock the value of children’s books to do the heavy lifting. Our children become what we read to them, so why not reiterate our most important values into the books they consume? You can learn more about the concept of The Intentional Bookshelf, here.

Anywho, there’s a huge caveat to this amazing resource library specifically curated for your family. Its usefulness is lost as soon as you can’t find a book you need when times get desperate.

It is like the Zombie Apocalypse analogy. Your kid (the zombie) comes home from school crying. They’ve been bullied. You’ve got a box filled with books and there’s definitely one related to bullying but you can’t seem to find it (the trunk with weapons). Unfortunately, because you can’t find the book, you lose your effectiveness and the opportunity to use this children’s book to help your child work through this, is lost (you get eaten by the zombie).

So, an organized bookshelf is key. Here are some more reasons to sort your books:

  • It’s easier to find things – as described above, your ability to locate books when needed directly correlates to how valuable your home library can be to you as a parent.
  • It looks nice -  Who wants to spend hours finding and perfecting and tweaking a home library if no one ever gets to look at it? Trust me, it’s a thing of pride to have a friend come into your home and comment on how nice your bookshelf looks (I know that cannot be just me who appreciates those compliments).
  • It’s a teaching opportunity – Your children pick up on absolutely everything you do. When they see you putting their books away in a certain place and in an organized way, they will pick up on that, too. Plus (as we’ll talk about below) the actual organization and sorting process can be a learning moment.
  • It’s easier to see what you need more of…and what you don’t – One thing I am constantly reiterating to parents is that you don’t need 1,000,000 books to have an intentional bookshelf. You just need to have the right books. When these stories are organized and categorized in a way that showcases what value or topic they address, you can easily see where the holes are (if you only have 1 book in a really important topic for example) or where you have plenty of resources (if you have 60 books in a single topic, that might be a good sign you don’t need to add too many more of that kind right this second).
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The How: Getting started on organizing your books

There are several ways to organize your books, and no one way is preferable over another. What is most important is that you organize in a way that makes sense for you and your family, and increases your chances of finding a book when you need it – and fast. The “How” is broken into two sections: how to physically organize your books and the sorting method.

Physical Organization

  • Categorized Boxes: Similar to the pantry method of organizing your food and pantry items into boxes, you can do the same thing with books! When you are organizing your intentional bookshelf, the whole point is that you know what category, topic or value a book is addressing. Each book, therefore, would go into its designated box. That way, when there is a dire need for a book in a particular topic, you can simply grab that box and choose the right book to fit the job.

Here’s a concrete example. Some of our most important topics right now are: silliness, separation anxiety, hitting, potty training and female empowerment. I would have one box for each topic and put our books into the corresponding box. When it’s time for potty training, we grab that box and work through the books. When it’s Sunday night and our daughter is feeling nervous about going off to school, we get a book from the “separation anxiety” box. Our weapon trunk is now split into 5 smaller weapon trunks for each need.

  • Front Facing Wall Shelves: This organization method certainly addresses the “wanting to look nice” part. Front facing wall shelves essentially involve placing the books on low shelves (within reach of your child) where the covers are exposed instead of the spines as they would on a traditional bookshelf. The value is two-fold. This type of organizing makes for instant wall décor and your children are much more likely to grab a book when they can see the pretty cover.
  • Travel Bags: If you’re out and about often, it’s a good idea to keep an organized set of books in the car to keep your children occupied (with something other than a tablet or phone the whole ride). Travel bags or bins in the car keep your books organized instead of sliding under the car seat – which is totally as unsafe as it is annoying.
  • Bookshelves: You really cannot go wrong with a traditional bookshelf. There are so many unique ones to choose from, too. Tall ones with ladders, short ones with low shelves for your kids, even round ones – we are ordering this awesome round one from world market that’s totally unique and very “us”.
  • Keeping Books in Different Rooms: Similar to the idea of categorized book bins, keeping books in designated rooms is a great way to organize them for quick access. Recalling the example of the potty training books, you can keep the books in a cabinet in the bathroom to ease the process as it happens (that way you don’t have to run to another room to grab it, leaving a undie-less toddler in the bathroom alone…dangerous!).
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Sorting method

Sorting the books themselves in their physical state can be accomplished in so many ways and again it’s important to know what works best for your needs. It might even change over time and be dependent on the ages and life stages of your children and family.

  • Alphabetically: The most pragmatic way of organizing is alphabetically (either by author or by book title). Most libraries and bookstores are sorted in this fashion so this method would be useful to get your children familiar with that type of set up. This method also has the benefit of doubling as a teaching opportunity – practicing the alphabet, letter recognition and letter order.
  • By Topic: This sorting method directly correlates with the “categorized boxes” physical organization style mentioned above, but could be implemented in any type of physical structure. In my opinion, organizing by topic is probably the best way to ensure you know what books you need and have at the ready for a particular situation. These might be rotated in terms of accessibility depending on what life stages and situations your family is dealing with at the present moment.
  • By Color: Similar to the alphabetical method of sorting, this can double as a teaching opportunity, helping your child distinguish between different colors and practice the order of the rainbow. I would argue this is the most beautiful sorting method (seriously, there are so many beautiful rainbow-sorted bookshelves that make me totally swoon).
  • By Child: Similar to sorting by topic, sorting by child can help you quickly find a book when you need it for a particular situation. If your youngest child is being bullied, these might be “his books” whereas your oldest might be dealing with female empowerment, so those books might be “hers”. They can all still reside on the same organized bookshelf, but sorted in such a way that it is easy to identify whose books are whose.

These sorting and organizing methods are great on their own, but any combination of them could work well for your family. The important part is identifying what you need your bookshelf to do for you and how you can best accomplish that through organization.

My greatest hope for you is that when the zombies come, when your children need you most, that you can be prepared with a book at the ready and know exactly where to grab it off your shelf.


Are you ready to maximize the value and power of your bookshelf – but you have about 1,000 children’s books to sort? Join the #ReclaimYourBookshelf challenge to get rid of the books that don’t serve your Intentional Bookshelf before you take on the task of organizing them.

At the end of the FREE challenge, you will have:

  • Less book clutter
  • Clarity about what books belong on your bookshelf in the first place
  • The ability to find the right book, when you need it!

We’re starting live September 12 - say goodbye to children’s books you don’t need and HELLO to an intentional bookshelf that’s ready to grow. Click here to join!


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Samantha Munoz is a mother, wife, engineer, bibliophile and avid coffee drinker. She is also the expert kid's lit curator at Addison Reads and author of The Intentional Bookshelf. Sam helps parents as they search for the perfect books for their little ones and helps moms and dads build a library with a purpose. Once a seriously overwhelmed and stressed out parent herself, Sam turns to children's literature for the answers to all of her parenting dilemmas. She loves when it rains because it gives her an excuse to stay inside and read with her daughter!

Follow Sam around the web!
Addison Reads Blog | Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest

Video Blog: How to organize and store the piles of papers and artwork that come home from school

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Here we go again. The summer has been filled with warm trips to the beach, backyard fires and s'mores. There was some chaos amidst the lack of routine, but it was fun. It was exciting. It was free of unnecessary paperwork. And now, seemingly as quickly as the summer started, it has ended and back to school time is upon us and with that, the descent of all the paper, projects and artwork, in droves.

Alright, so that sounded a bit dramatic but then again, is it? The projects and artwork and papers and homework and worksheets and workbooks and doodles and collages and cut outs and coloring sheets and some weird piece of paper made into a fan. It never ends. It just keeps coming home and you’re left wondering “Are there any trees left in the world? Do I now have every sheet of paper even manufactured inside my house?” It’s too much and no wonder that moms become stressed at the mere thought of what to do with it all.

In this episode of The Homemakerish Show (you can go here to view episodes and get notifications when new ones are happening) we had a discussion about this paper and artwork conundrum we find ourselves in as moms. Do we keep it? Will we need it? But he spent so long doodling that circle, I can't throw it away? Here are so tips, tools and recommendations to help make this school year less of a battle with the paperwork.


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Cleaning is a necessary evil. Sometimes, more evil than necessary. The the suckiness out of deep cleaning with the Clean it like you mean it 10 day cleaning challenge. We're diving deep into deep cleaning even if you deeply hate it on a deep level. It's free and it's live, meaning you'll get support and encouragement along the way. Unlike other cleaning challenges, I won't just tell you what to do, but how to do it and what I recommend using. Bonus audio component included everyday so you can listen and learn as you do. Sign up today, mama!

How to teach your kids to do chores without constantly nagging them

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My son constantly wants to help me clean. He even has his own spray bottle filled with “cleaner”, which is really just water. At four years old, he doesn’t let an opportunity pass while I am cleaning to ask if he can help. It’s pretty spectacular, and also not always to norm.

While some kids were just born with the innate need to be tidy, organized and clean, there is also certain level of nature and nurture going on. We can be taught to enjoy things, or at the very least tolerate them and house cleaning is no different.

In my business, I come across moms all the time who ask, “But how can I get my kids to do their chores. It is always such a process and I feel like I am nagging them.” The answer, for the most part, lies within the question. The nagging will get you very little in the long run.

Remind and equip. Equip and remind. It is a circle, a process that will continue until the days when they leave for college, or for their first internship, or to galavant across the world to find themselves. We have to remind our children of what needs to be done and equip them with the skills and tools to do it. Whether it is brushing their teeth, combing their hair, changing their underwear, finishing their homework or completing their chores, children need to be reminded to do things and also equip them with what they need to get it done. We can’t tell them to brush their teeth once, without showing them or giving them the proper toothbrush and expect a thumbs-up at their first dentist visit. Children are tiny, beautiful little sponges absorbing everything around them. Sometimes, they just need a nudge.

Lead by example: If you live in a messy house, your children with ultimately learn to leave in a messy house. It’s as simple as that. Now, this doesn’t mean that the only way to get your children to clean their own rooms and spaces is to live in an immaculate home. This isn’t about perfection, but it is about modeling. If you model that when you make a mess, you clean it up, they will learn.

Teach them: This seems obvious, but it isn’t. We don't expect our kiddos to know how to do things like tie their shoes or ride a bike without being taught first, but somehow we have the expectation that they will just pick up on how to complete household chores without much effort on our part. No ma'am. 

Set up reminders: This could be in the form of a chore chart, a chore wheel or a checklist. There are so many ways to do this. Gentle reminders, whether verbal, written or in writing can really help your kiddos to do what needs to be done without reminders. If you need help figuring out how to design your chart, check out one of my video posts about how to create your own printable with Canva here

Create systems and routines that set them up for success: Maybe they have the same chores every morning or evening, or every Tuesday and Thursday. Systems are just a way that things get done the same way each time. Children thrive on routines if you spend enough time establishing them. If your son knows that the garbage needs to be taken out every Thursday, set up a routine to put it out Wednesday. After a few times forgetting (and having to wake up at 5am to put it out Thursday morning) he will remember to stick to the routine. This works well with those reminders from up above. Kids won't remember to do everything, all the time. Adults needs reminders, too so don't be too expecting of perfection. 

Use timers: I don't know that there are many problems in my life that timers don't solve. My kids love timers. It also helps give an end to the task that when you are young, can seem endless. Heck, household chores can seem endless when you're 33. Timers can also help with dawdling. "These toys need to be cleaned up in 20 minutes." It is really easy for kids to grumble and dilly-dally if there is no end time in sight. Make it a game. Make it fun. 

Avoid using chores as a punishment. There is one aspect of chore setting that I am a pretty firm believer in. I don’t use chores as a punishment. In my experience, this sets children up to believe that cleaning is a negative aspect of life and should only be done under duress. How many people, perhaps yourself included, do you know that hate cleaning as adults because they were forced to do it when they were kids after being bad. I don’t give chores or tasks as punishment. They are not a form of discipline. Rather, chores in our house are a regular part of being in a family. We act as a community, where each person contributes


Your ready to hand off some of the chores to your kiddos and you're trying to decide what to do with all that extra time. But how do you even know where to start with dishing out cleaning tasks? Download your free Everything and the Kitchen Sink cleaning list and take the confusion out of what needs to be cleaned and when. Print an extra copy to give to your newly hired professional cleaner so everyone is on the same page. 

 

 

 

A mom's guide to hiring a professional house cleaner

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You’re finally doing it. Once and for all, you have decided that you deserve to have a clean house without having to constantly be the one scrubbing and wiping. You, mama, have decided it is time to hire a house cleaner. (happy dance and high fives)

Um, so, now what?

Just like hiring a babysitter to take care of your precious little ones while you pretend to go to the gym, but instead go shopping at Target for throw pillows, finding someone you trust to come into your home can be stressful, not to mention confusing. 

After owning and operating a residential cleaning business for the better part of a decade, I saw the pitfalls and confusion that came with hiring someone like me. Most clients came to be befuddled, not even sure what to ask for where to begin. Now that I spend my days helping moms with all things homemaking and home management, I thought there was no better topic to tackle than the nitty gritty of hiring a professional house cleaner.

Ask for referrals from friends. In my last 2 years of business, I did minimal marketing and advertising because almost all of my clients came from word-of-mouth referrals. We all love to brag on our favorite spots to eat, the best places to shop and the nail salons that give the best pedicures, and the same goes for house cleaners. Ask around to your friends and family, put a blast out on Facebook and be sure to ask why they love their current maid service or house cleaner. 

Check out Google and reviews online. If none of your friends have referrals for you, search your local area on Google and be sure to look at reviews as well. Does the company have a website or Facebook page? It is 2017 and as judgmental as it may sound, I don’t do business with any companies that don’t have some kind of online presence. 

Make a list of what you are looking to have done. This can be oddly difficult, like knowing you want a brand new hairstyle but not even knowing where to begin. A great place to start is to walk around your house and make a list of the things you want you to have done. It’s also important to give consideration to how often you are looking to have the cleaning done. Would once a month be enough or would you rather have it done once a week? Do you like the idea of biweekly cleaning or are you hoping to have a crew come in and do seasonal deep cleanings?
 

Need some help with deciding what tasks you want a cleaner to do? Download your free Everything and the Kitchen Sink list.

Large companies versus smaller companies: A question I am asked quite frequently is, “Is it better to hire a larger cleaning company, like one of the franchises, a smaller local company or just one person?” My answer is pretty annoying, because the real answer is, it is totally up to you. Larger companies usually offer numbers in the form of more people, which usually means less time in your home. However, they tend to be more costly and the turnover can be high. That means, you never really know who is coming into your home. 

Smaller cleaning companies or single person operations offer the same services, but can take longer because they are doing the work on a smaller scale. However, having been this type of company, I know that the prices are almost always less costly and their room for flexibility is higher. Need something extra done this time? It is easier to get a hold of one person and deal with them versus trying to speak with a franchise that has rules and standards in place.

House cleaning versus housekeeping. There is a big difference between a house cleaner and a house keeper. House cleaners focus on just that; cleaning. They don’t usually do other tasks like laundry, decluttering, dishes, picking up toys, ironing, etc. They won’t let pets outs or put away clothes. A housekeeper is generally someone that will do all over the above. 

Ask if they provide free estimates. I never, ever charged to come to someone's house and provide a quote and I don't know of many companies that do, but it is a good idea to ask beforehand. I viewed that visit as a time for us to get to know one another, discuss their needs, discuss what I do, the cost, the frequency, etc. I rarely, if ever, committed to cleaning a home or property without providing an estimate first. 

Should my house cleaner be insured? I won't mix words here. Yes, they should. Under no circumstances would I allow someone into my home, especially on a regular basis and when I was not home, without knowing that they were insured. This protects everyone. As with all kinds of insurance, you hope you never need it, but on the off chance that they break your antique vase or worse, burn down the house by leaving the oven on, their insurance should cover it. Be sure to ask for a copy of their policy. You have a right to see this and shouldn't feel badly about. I always offered this to potential clients so that everyone had peace of mind.

"But how much do house cleaners charge? I don't even know how much I should be paying!"

Oh dear. The dreaded "But how much will it cost me?" question. Of all the questions I have ever been asked, including my kids asking for the three thousandth time if they can have a snack, this one is by far the most frequent. And I understand why. When you're hiring someone to do a job, it is hard to know how much the norm is when you've never done it

The answer is, it depends. Ugh. I know. I'm the worst, but it's the truth. Pricing varies greatly not only from region to region, but from company to company. It depends on what you are looking to have done, how often, the state of your home, how large your home it, and so on and so on. What is considered affordable in NYC would be outrageously priced in my neck of the woods in upstate NY. 

Another thing to take into consideration is if the cleaning company or individual charges by the job or the hour. In my business, for example, I charged by the job. Whether it took me an hour or 5, it was the price that I quoted. This was because not all cleaning jobs or hours are created equal (if you don't believe me, spend an hour lightly dusting the house and then an hour scrubbing a shower or an oven...) There is no right or wrong way to charge, but you should be away before hiring someone.

The best way to determine pricing in your area is to ask around. Get a few different quotes, ask your friends, and compare. Remember, with service based business, you usually get what you pay for. If someone is willing to come in for $5 an hour and isn't insured, you are opening yourself up to be disappointed (and probably have your belongings stolen. #truthtime)

Here is a list of important questions to ask someone during an interview

  • Ask specifically what they do and/or don’t do
  • Ask if they work alone or as a team. If they work as a team, how many people and will it be the same each time?
  • How do they price? By the hour or by the job? If they charge by the hour, will they keep it within a specific budget?
  • Do they bring their own supplies or will you need to provide the supplies?
  • Are they insured? Can they provide proof of insurance?
  • Are their employees bonded?
  • Do they do background checks?
  • Do they have references (I would take at least 3) ALL reputable cleaning companies, even a one-person operation, should be able to provide references for you. Be sure to check those references.
  • What kind of payment do they take? When is it due? How do you pay?
  • Do you have to sign a contract?
  • Do they have any guarantees?

My last tip and tool of the trade is, trust your gut. If someone seems sketchy, or off, or if after a few visits, things just don't seem right, move on to someone else. I did my very best in my business to make my clients feel comfortable with the fact that I was in their home and treated their belongings as if they were my own. Anyone coming into your home should afford you the same respect and fill you with warm feelings of trust. This should take the stress off of you, not create more. 


Whether you are looking to hire someone to help on a weekly basis or just once every few months, there are always things that need to be done in between. But who has time to keep up with track of all of that? Download my free Everything and the Kitchen Sink cleaning list and take the confusion out of what needs to be cleaned and when. Print an extra copy to give to your newly hired professional cleaner so everyone is on the same page. 

Why I am grateful on even the crappiest of days

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Yesterday, I had a plan. I had a to-do list and my Trello board held what was to come for the day. I woke up energized (the coffee a few minutes later helped..) and ready for what I needed to get done. It all started out so well. I showered without interruption, I got dressed in grown-up clothes, which is a real coup for me seeing as though I work in my home office. I had a mastermind call with some of my favorite business ladies and friends. I was on a roll. I am productive business mom, hear me roar.

Then, the proverbial ish hit the fan.

Just like that, a minor incident with my bank and debit card turned into an all day fiasco that needed my full attention. I spent hours on the phone throughout the day, listening to classical hold music with bad audio quality, waiting for someone to give me an answer and begging this person wouldn’t pass me off to the next.

The whole ordeal raised my anxiety levels to new heights and made me consider more than once taking all of my money out of banks and hoarding it inside my mattress. I ended up having to cancel a call I had with a business associate and a live video I had planned on my Facebook page. I waved goodbye to my pretty to-do list as I watched it get flushed down the drain while I dealt with (in comparison) low level minutia.

I was angry. I was furious, actually. I felt cheated out of a perfectly good work day. As a mama, my work moments are precious. I try to fit in everything I can before my kids come home. Not because they won’t let me work, but because I value my moments with them. It didn’t seem fair that I had to deal with my bank and an error on their end at the expense of my own fabulously planned out day.

At some point in the afternoon, all while trying not to cry, I felt a smack upside my head. Figuratively, of course. It was a smack coming from deep inside of me in the place where I keep my joy and happiness, and it told me loudly and without any hesitation, “You should be grateful you even have money in the bank to have to deal with this.”

Ouch. The smack hurt, because it was hard and real. I spent hours dealing with something I wasn’t planning on, but even more of those hours angry and upset and feeling cheated, all the while sitting at a nice desk, on a comfty chair, in front of a three month old Mac, on a cell phone, talking about my money. I then got into my functioning car, backed out of my garage attached to my safe and warm home, drove to my mother’s house to pick up my son who got to spend the entire day with his grandmother and cousin all while the sun was shining down on me. And the only thing I could think about it how much more work I would have to do the next day because I spent my day dealing with the card company.

I’ve never wanted to tell myself to shut up more.

Because, you see, I preach gratitude. A lot. I discuss it with my kids, my husband, my family and my students. I talk about it on social media and with anyone who will listen. Gratitude runs my life and I practice it as often as possible, yet here I was, once again, getting myself worked up about nonsense that I wouldn’t even remember in 3 weeks.

Gratitude is a hot topic these days. A quick Google search of the term will bring up all sorts of blog posts and Ted talks and memes and quote cards. It’s amazing, but how many of us are actually taking this to heart and showing gratitude? How many of us are doing more than re-sharing a "Have an attitude of gratitude" quote card every few months? 

It is easy to be grateful for the good stuff in our lives. It’s easy to be grateful when our kids sleep through the night, or are husband puts away all the laundry before you can even get to it. It’s easy to show gratitude when the sun is shining on the day you planned a picnic, or when you find a $5 bill in your old coat pocket. There is nothing simpler than showing gratitude for the outwardly great things in our life.

But what about the crap?

What about the three hour long phone calls to the bank on a day you had other things to do? Or the gallon of spilled milk on the kitchen floor after your 4 year old tried to get her own cereal? Or the flat tire on the side of the road, in the pouring rain, with screaming kids in the car and a trunk full of groceries? Where’s the love then? Nowhere to be found.

When everything goes to hell in a handbasket, our first inclination is to pick up our hand and point the finger. Then we wag that finger angrily at the things and people we blame, because it’s their fault for our crappy feelings. We never take the time to think about how we can find something to be grateful for in that moment. The kind customer service woman on the other end who desperately tries to help you. The sweet daughter who spilled the milk helping you with all she has to clean it up. The AAA membership you forgot your father gave you for Christmas. There is something to be found in every situation if we are looking hard enough, but most of us don’t.

Blame is easier. Blame means we don’t have to do much to fix the problem. It’s someone else’s fault, therefore it is someone else’s job. We’ve become a society full of blame and it has bled into who we are as women and mothers. Worst of all, we now put blame on ourselves for things that need no blame, only responsibility. We hate ourselves, feel guilt or feel undeserving. Blame is the opposite of gratitude. Gratitude heals, blame wounds.

Our language doesn’t help matters. Everywhere you look, it’s “FML!!” or “Only me, of course!” or “Ugh. Why me?!” And what’s worse is that people are saying these things to the most trivial, obnoxious things. What started as a joke has now become the norm. Have to work an extra shift this week? “FML! WHY ME?” Are you serious? You have the luxury of a job and extra pay and you’re basically telling your life to go screw itself? We complain and judge and blame, all the while ignoring the beauty surrounding us that we could be grateful for in every moment.

This isn’t about being a Pollyanna. It isn’t about shutting our eyes to the negative or pretending that crappy days don’t exist, but it is about shifting your mindset from an attitude of thanklessness to an attitude of appreciativeness. It’s about looking around everyday at your home, your life, your children and yourself and finding the things that you’ve overlooked in your moments of unhappiness. There are infinite things for each of us to be grateful for if we look hard enough and nothing will spark more joy in your motherhood than carrying around an attitude of gratitude. Don’t let it be another quote on a bumper sticker.


I try to practice gratitude in every area of my life, even for the mundane and sometimes annoying things that need to be done. My job as a mother and a homemaker is ripe with mundane and annoying tasks, but I'm grateful just the same, because my mundane is someone else's goal or dream. I designed The Reluctant Homemaker Starter Guide for the mom that looks around at the home management tasks in front of her and isn't even sure where to start. It's difficult to show gratitude when you're drowning in day-to-day tasks and stuck in the "I just need to survive today." cycle. This starter guide is the jumpstart to organizing and simplifying homemaking for the modern mom. No more guessing. Download your free copy, mama. 
And I am grateful for you.
 

How to embrace simplicity in homemaking: A guest post by Kelsey Van Kirk

Homemaking is one of those things that all of us have to do, too often we let running our household get more complicated than it has to be.

With so much that could be done, it's easy to feel like you should be doing something at all times.

There’s laundry to wash and put away, floors to be swept, dishes to be cleaned, bills to be paid, voicemails to return, doctor’s appointments to make, and the list goes on, and on, and on….

But what kind of life would it be to spend all your precious moments cooking, cleaning and taking care of business, without ever taking time to stop and savor the reasons you do all these things in the first place?!

Not a very good one, let me tell you!

But this begs the question….how are you supposed to keep up with all the things that need to be done without spending every waking moment of your life being a slave to your homemaking??

The answer: simplify!

I'm a big fan of figuring out ways to simplify the necessary parts of life - the tasks and responsibilities that are a part of maintaining a home and family - in order to create more time and space for what matters most.

Simplifying doesn't necessarily make everything easier, but it does make things less complicated (which means less stress for everyone!)

Here are a few basic ways to begin embracing simplicity in your homemaking so you can begin enjoying life more without getting completely overwhelmed by keeping up with your household tasks and responsibilities.

1. Get rid of the excess

This is by far one of my favorite ways to simplify and reduce the burden and stress of keeping up with everything in your life.

The less you have to keep up with, the simpler and better life is!

Pick somewhere to start that will produce the highest impact, whether that’s minimizing your family’s wardrobe to just the essentials so there’s less laundry to deal with, or clearing your schedule of any inessential activities that are sucking up your time and energy.

Learning how to ruthlessly edit what you allow to take up space in your life will make a huge difference - all you have to do is start!

2. Adjust your expectations

I decided against using the phrase “lower your expectations” because I don’t love that it seems to convey the idea that we should settle for less.

However, I am a big advocate of adjusting and reframing expectations to have a lower bar, for the sake of both ourselves and others.

When we set the bar of our expectations from a place of grace, we’re much more likely to be consistently satisfied with what we have, what we accomplish and with the other people in our lives.

Acknowledging the season you’re in is also super important when setting expectations for what your home and life should look like.

If you set standards that aren't appropriate for the season you're in you'll constantly feel overwhelmed, frustrated and discouraged (which will get you absolutely nowhere!)

Learning how to decide what really matters and what doesn’t will help you know where to set the bar of your expectations, freeing you up to focus the best of your energy on the things that DO matter, while letting go of everything else.

3. Streamline with systems

Anyone that knows me know that I am a big sucker for a good rhythm, process or system….and for good reason!

Implementing rhythms and systems in my life, my home and my business has been a total gamechanger for me and my family.

My biggest suggestions when it comes to getting rhythms and systems in place are: keep it simple and use technology to your advantage!

We don’t have big, complicated chore charts, cleaning schedules, meal plans or task lists. Instead we’ve identified what the most important things are that need to be done each day and created daily morning and evening routines that help our family stay on track and get the important things done.

We also have a list of favorite go-to recipes that makes meal planning a breeze, eliminating the 5pm middle-of-the-kitchen meltdowns over having no idea what to make for dinner, nothing in the fridge and a bunch of crazy kids screaming at you because they’re hungry.

My personal favorite tool for managing our family’s rhythms, routines and responsibilities is Trello.

This free, digital management tool has completely revolutionized the way I plan, organize and manage #allthethings in my very full life….so much so, that I created a free training to help other busy wives and mamas experience the amazingness that is Trello for themselves!

At the end of the day, there are probably a million different things you could to simplify and streamline your busy life, but the basic underlying idea is this: focus on what is truly essential, eliminate anything that isn’t, and prioritize creating rhythms and routines that work for you and your family.

The less you have to do and think about each day, the happier and more peaceful you will feel - guaranteed!


If you are ready to conquer the chaos and overcome the overwhelm by embracing simplicity in your busy life, I would love to invite you to join me and thousands of other mamas for a free 21-day challenge called #Get Simplified: 21 Days to a Simpler Life, beginning on August 1st.

Each day we will be taking baby steps toward simplifying all.the.things. in our everyday lives, and it is going to be a great way to prepare for entering the busy fall season which is sure to bring with it many new demands on our time, energy and resources.

To join us just visit www.kelseyvankirk.com/challenge and sign up today (you can jump in anytime, even if it’s after August 1st!)

What are some of your favorite ways to simplify and streamlining your homemaking? I’d love to hear your tips, tricks and experiences in the comments below!


 

Kelsey Van Kirk is a blessed wife, mama to four beauties, writer, podcaster, and joy-seeker on a mission to help women embrace purposeful simplicity in everyday living. She is the Founder of Simply, Life on Purpose, Co-Host of The Purposeful Home Podcast, and a lover of good books, good wine, and salty sea breeze. You can connect with Kelsey more on Facebook, Instagram or in her online community, The Simply Life on Purpose Sisterhood.

How to easily use Canva to make your own home management printables

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Printables, worksheets and checklists, oh my! 

They are all the rage right now. You can find just about any kind of printable you could ever want by scrolling through Pinterest and it seems that every home management blogger or business has free or paid worksheets you can download.

Pre-made printables are amazing because you don't have to do any work and your home organization gets to benefit from someone else's design. You can use them to keep chore lists, meal plans, recipes, password, household finances and anything else your mommy heart desires.

But what about those times when you don't like the design of someone else's pre-made printable? Or the colors? Or the layout? Or the text? Or it just doesn't fit your particular lifestyle? It's time to make your own.

And now the question becomes, "But, how? I'm not a designer and I don't know how to make my own pretty, colorful printables. I only know how to use Clipart in Word from 1999." That was my basic sentiment when I started getting into designing my own workbooks.

Luckily, I was introduced to Canva, a design program used by over 10 million people to easily create their own designs, either for print or digital. While programs like Photoshop are far superior, there is a steep learning curve and it can be frustrating if you've never touched an Adobe product before. Canva is more user-friendly, especially for the beginner.

Why keep writing about it when I made a video to walk you through exactly how to create your own printables and worksheets, with the exact colors, fonts and designs you want even if you have zero design background. Moms deserve to not only have managed homes, but have that management look cute, too.

To follow along with the video or start your Canva journey, head over to www.canva.com.

Watch the video below


Even with the right printables and checklists, reluctant homemaker-itis can still seep in. Download your free Reluctant Homemaker Starter Guide and get moving on managing your home the easy and modern way
 

How to unclutter your family calendar

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Clutter has become a very negative, very bad word, and for good reason. Clutter is just an unnecessary accumulation of stuff you don’t need.

But what happens when the clutter isn’t just the piles surrounding you in your physical space? What happens when the clutter that surrounds you is in your life, your schedule?

We live in a society that thrives on, and glorifies, being busy. It isn’t just a way of life now, it’s the answer to a question.

“How are you guys?”
“Oh good. Ya know, just super busy.”
“Oh, us too.”

I’ve made a conscious decision not to use that word or that answer. Instead, I answer honestly and say “Great! We have a lot going on, but we’re doing great.”

I get that my answer doesn’t have the same allure or sexiness as “busy”, but being busy is a state of mind I don’t want to live in. Being busy never got me anything and certainly never got me anywhere.

Being busy gives us the illusion of productivity and I have my own theories as to why this is happening now more than ever.

FOMO. Fo’ sho.

If you aren’t familiar with FOMO, don’t worry. I wasn’t either until about a year ago where I finally googled the damn thing because I was sick of feeling like that old woman who didn’t understand the young, hip lingo. It stands for Fear Of Missing Out and it has become a real thing in our lives, causing us to bulk up on activities in our schedules that we otherwise wouldn’t even care about doing.

Social media has now made it possible to see not only what your friends and family are doing, but how minor acquaintances are spending their time. Rather than being content with the glimpse into one another’s lives, we are on a mission to outdo one another. If her kid can be in ballet, tap, gymnastics, horse riding lessons, archery, robotics and underwater basket weaving, then my kids needs to be, too!

However, there is another way to live your life. It’s called FOBBAE and I just made it up. That is the Fear Of Being Busy And Exhausted. That is how I live my life. Watch out, because FOBBAE will be sweeping the nation.

I don’t want to be exhausted. I don’t want to be a taxi driver all day. I don’t want to not have down time, or flex time to spend with my family. I don’t want my home calendar to be illegible from all the activities being squeezed in. I don’t want to be running from one thing to the next, both physically and figuratively. I want to be present. I want to do only the things that bring my joy and I want my kids to do the same. I don’t want to be busy.

Whether you believe it or not, or want to admit it or not, you are in complete control of how busy or relaxed you are. Being overwhelmed isn’t due to the activities on your calendar, it is your state of mind. You can choose to live a busy, frazzled life with a schedule that rivals the President, or you can choose to be more mindful about what you do with your time. The choice is yours, always.

Here are some of the ways you can declutter your family schedule and become more present and less exhausted with all the “stuff” you have going on.

Decide on and set your priorities: Have non-negotiable tasks and events in your schedule: Just like uncluttering your physical space, sometimes it is easiest to get rid of the things you don’t after setting aside the things you absolutely know you can’t live without. There are things on your calendar that are non-negotiable, or at least you would like to think they are, but how often are they being pushed aside for less important events or tasks? Let’s say that going to church each week is highly important to you, but you can’t remember the last time you got yourself up early enough on a Sunday to go workshop with your friends and family? Perhaps the reason is because you’ve scheduled brunches for Sunday mornings with friends, or stayed out too late on a Saturday to even consider getting up to a Sunday morning alarm, or maybe the rest of your Sunday is so filled with running around, you’d rather snooze a few hours longer so as to prepare for the day. Whatever the case is, if heading to church with your family is important to you, you have to make it important. It is up to you to put those things on the calendar and make them non-negotiable. If the calendar says church, then come hell or high water (excuse the pun) you are going to church.

Say no: This tip is basically my go-to in almost every situation, because most clutter, whether it be physical, mental, emotional or in the form of a schedule is the result of saying yes to too many things. Saying no is your way of drawing a line in the sand. It sends a message that you are in control of your own life, schedule, calendar and priorities. The great author Greg McKeown says in his book Essentialism that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will. Saying no doesn’t always feel good in the moment, but it is the ticket to living a life on purpose. Saying no is the currency you need to buy back your own time from people who, whether they realize it or not, want to become your priority.

Divide and conquer: If you have a spouse or a partner, divide up your errands or activities so that one person isn’t doing all the driving or brunting the stress of being in 20 places at once. If you are finding that you are doing this constantly, however, it probably means that something has to go. This is a great tip for that season where everything seems to be happening at once, but you know there is an end in sight.

Batch the running around: I can’t tell you how many times I hear moms say that they are constantly running out to complete errands. This gives you the illusion of having a much more cluttered schedule and is a waste of time. Give your errands more thought and plan out your trips. Having to “run” out multiple times a day wastes time and fills your schedule will unnecessary traveling.

Only allow the most essential activities to be done: This is very similar to priorities, but takes it to another level. Every time you feel pulled to say yes to an activity, ask yourself if it is essential to your life’s purpose or your family priorities? Will this bring you closer to your goals as a family? Will it be something that brings you joy or will it just be another things cluttering up your calendar, making you resentful that you agreed to it in the first place?

Work in seasons: When it comes to having kids in sports or other extracurricular, I know many families who allow one per season and no more than that. That is an excellent compromise between doing all the things and doing nothing at all. This can also work for your entire family. Perhaps choose one thing you will say yes to each weekend, or month, or season. We do this at home and it has been a great way to feel like we are giving our kids fun experiences, but also allowing us downtime without the constant running around (that I loathe, by the way.)

Give up the superhero mentality: You, my dear, sweet, beautiful mom, are not a superhero. You have superhero qualities, don’t get me wrong, but you cannot do everything. The more easily you embrace this fact, the easier it will be to totally unclutter your life. You can’t be everywhere, see everyone, do everything and the moment you stop trying (and failing) at this is the moment you will find peace in doing only the most important things to you.


Ok, so we've got your schedule uncluttered, but what about the rest of the house? Is the clutter taking over and causing you to think "It would just be easier to move to a yurt." The problem is, you don't even know what a yurt is and you love your home, so let's find a better way. I've designed a checklist just for moms like you who are ready to take the junk by the proverbial horns and get uncluttered for good. Download your free copy of the Purge it Like It's Hot list. Room by room, you'll find out what to toss for good.

How to keep your mom productivity up during the summer

“Summah summah summah time.”

Admit it. You just sang that line.

Ah, summer is coming really soon and while the thought of sun tans, pool days and lounging on the beach is enough to take all your stress away, the thought of your “it took me 7 months to get this schedule into place” routine being through into turmoil brings all the stress back.

Whether you stay at home with your kiddos, work outside the home, own a business or have the summers off thanks to a teaching job (we applaud your hard work!), summertime can throw a real wrench in our routines. It is hard to stay productive when you have children at home who insist on being entertained and ya know, having meals made for them.

And then, just when we get a handle on the summer routine, it’s back to school season and once again, time to start over again.

So how do you stay productive during the summer and not fall victim to the summertime blues?

Create boundaries: A really important aspect of parenting in general is to create boundaries. This means letting your children, your partner, your neighbors, your family, whomever what will and will not be acceptable. For the purposes of summer, this can mean setting up quiet times, proper bedtimes, wake up times, work times, etc. Summer can easily become a free-for-all of activities with no set limits or boundaries which causes stress for kids and adults. Before summer even begins, set up some boundaries and stick to them.

Set expectations: Now expectations are a slippery slope. You don’t want to set them so high and unrealistic that you feel let down when they don’t happen (like, my kids will have pristinely picked up rooms for the entire 8 weeks they are home) but setting up expectations for your home, your kids and your schedule allows everyone to know where they stand. Do you expect a certain level of chores to be completed each day before play time starts? Do you expect your older children to get a job? Do you expect to spend a certain amount of time outside? (weather pending, of course) These expectations are pretty important if you want to keep from pulling your hair out by mid-July. Most of the disappointments we face in life come from not fully communicating what we expect of a situation or communicating what we need from others.

Allow for flexibility: Listen, as structured as we all may want to be, kids are kids and life is life. The overarching mantra for motherhood should just be “Stay flexible or die.” Things come up, both as an emergency or a chance to have fun you weren’t expecting. A last minute BBQ invite, a beautiful day when you were expecting rain, or an unwelcome stomach bug. Whether it is a happy occasion or not, being flexible will make it a whole lot easier to enjoy the time you have this summer. Don’t become so strict the little pop-ups create havoc.

Wanna get 27 hours out of a 24 hour day? Download my free "Maximize your Mom Time" video and learn how to earn back your minutes and hours, mama.

 

Give your kids more responsibility: During the year, kids have chores. During the summer, if you ask me (which, uh, you’re on my blog), kids should have more. If there are more people home to make messes, more people should contribute. Keep your productivity sanity by dishing out more chores and responsibilities. Especially if you are working outside the home, create chore routines that must be accomplished while they are home alone so that you don’t come home to a sink full of dishes each day. This goes hand in hand with setting clear expectations.

Utilize your rainy days: Rather than seeing rainy days as a reason to cry because you’re all cooped up in the house, use them as days to finish indoor projects, chores or fun activities. I try to use the rainy days during the summer to be super productive in areas I don’t want to give my attention to when it is nice out. Maybe that is throwing in a few extra loads of laundry, scrapbooking, decluttering closets, cleaning the refrigerator or diving into your meal plan. Or, perhaps it is finishing up those lingering house projects. Don’t let rainy days ruin your productivity. Use them as a reason to be more productive.

Have some freakin’ fun: Summer was meant to be enjoyed and productivity and schedules don't have to be all about getting the most done, but rather making the most out of the time you are given. So, get out there. Lay in the sun. Play in the mud puddles. Slide and swing and skip and jump with your kids. The rest can wait.


Now that you know how to stay productive during the summer, what about the *gasp* cleaning?! House cleaning is usually a nagging chore for most moms, which is why I created the Everything and the Kitchen Sink cleaning list. Sign up to receive your free house cleaning list, broken down by room. Print it out, keep it in a binder, hang it on the wall (it's colorful and pretty) and use it to create your cleaning schedule or just as a useful guide for #allthethings that need to be cleaned in your home. Own your schedule so it doesn't own you.

 

The 6 biggest house cleaning mistakes you're probably making

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Cleaning. Bleh.

Is there anymore we really need to say?

I mean, for me, it isn't bleh because I love doing it. Yep. I love to clean. I find it comforting and therapeutic. I also got paid to do it for many years, so that doesn't hurt. Most moms don't share my enthusiasm for cleaning, though and I get that. 

I have come to find that the reason cleaning is such a proverbial pain in the backside is because there are a lot of mistakes being made that make it harder than it has to be. Imagine learning to walk, but instead of going forwards, your parents taught you to walk backwards. It would have been much harder, taken longer to learn and you'd bump into things all the time.

Cleaning incorrectly is the same way. It isn't anyone's fault that these mistakes are being made. I used to make a lot of them, which is why it took me far longer to clean a client's house than it should have (and why in the first few months, I did such a terrible job, I don't know how I still had clients) When I started to realize and fix these common issues, I found that my productivity soared and cleaning wasn't half bad after all (again, I was being paid so that totally sweetened the pot.)

But fear not, mama, for today, I shall break down some common house cleaning mistakes and give you the solution to fix them. Huzzah!

Ok, here we go...

1. The mistake: Not letting products work

Ohhhh is this a popular one. You buy that swanky new all-purpose cleaner. It’s derived from natural ingredients. It smells like springtime. It is wonderful. You spray it on your countertops and just as quickly as the product has hit the surface, you wipe it up. (Cue me behind you in slow motion screaming, “Nooooo”) Cleaning products need to sit for a bit to do their job. In fact, many cleaners, especially those that are meant to clean up grease or soap scum, actually have directions that state you should let the products sit for a while. This is how they work best.

The solution: Let your products sit for a while before you dive in and start scrubbing or wiping.

2. The mistake: Winging it

You know you need to clean, but your schedule looks more like “Crap! Company is coming. Someone grab a broom, for the love of God!” Winging it can make your life a lot more stressful than it has to be because you are basically in reactive mode instead of proactive mode.

The solution: Create an effective schedule. I created an entire mini course all about creating a cleaning routine for this very reason. Schedules create more freedom from cleaning, if you can believe it. It seems like a paradox, but in reality when you know what you will be doing and when, you stress far less about what needs to be done. Get on a schedule and you will find oodles of cleaning stress lift off your shoulders (You can check out the mini course here if you are interested.)

3. The mistake: Overusing paper towels

Paper towels are amazing. Let's not mince words here, but they don't need to be used to clean your entire house. Not only is overusing them wasteful, it also isn't as effective. Most paper towels leave bits of lint behind. They also don't do much in the way of preventing streaks.

The solution: Use rags and microfiber cloths. You can get cloths at just about any store now, or order them online. I would avoid using the "old t-shirt" standby as they weren't intended to clean, don't do a very good job and can even scratch surfaces. Good cloths don't have to cost an arm and a leg, and will do a phenomenal job of cleaning and polishing your surfaces.

4. The mistake: Not caring for your cleaning tools

If you are finding that your old standbys aren't doing the job anymore, it probably means they haven't been given the TLC they need. This includes vacuums, mops, steamers, brushes, brooms, etc. Much like a carpenter, you are only as good as the tools you use.

The solution: Routinely clean your tools. Be sure you are regularly washing your vacuum filters, cleaning out the canister, cleaning the brush bar out, changing the bag if needed, cleaning your brushes or buying new ones, properly storing your tools and maintaining their use.

5. The mistake: Spraying dusting solution directly on your furniture

This is a big no-no that I see people do all the time. I admit, I used to be guilty of this in the beginning, too. Spraying your furniture directly can leave a wicked film, not to mention can also damage or leave "spray" marks.

The solution: Spray your product on a cloth first and then do the dusting. In fact, I recommend doing a dry dusting with no product before you spray anything. Having the cloth too wet can leave a lot of yucky film on a surface that is covered in dust. Imagine mixing water with dirt...

6. The mistake: Neglecting the “little things”

We all know we are supposed to scrub our toilets and vacuum our carpets, but what about all the little areas in the house that get just as dirty over time? Neglecting these areas can really build up and can actually be responsible for the spread of germs. Yuck!

The solution: Make a weekly sweep of the light switches, remotes, phones and door knobs. You can do the whole house in under 5 minutes!


See, now that wasn't so bad. If you can change even a few of these in the next week, you will see a significant increase in your "I don't hate cleaning as much as I thought" feelings.


Now that we've gotten a handle on those mistakes and know exactly how to fix them, what's next? House cleaning is usually a nagging chore for most moms, which is why I created the Everything and the Kitchen Sink cleaning list. Sign up to receive your free house cleaning list, broken down by room. Print it out, keep it in a binder, hang it on the wall (it's colorful and pretty) and use it to create your cleaning schedule or just as a useful guide for #allthethings that need to be cleaned in your home. Own your schedule so it doesn't own you.

Household chores even your toddler can do

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I’m just gonna say it: Kids are capable of doing a lot more around the house than we give them credit for or allow them to do.

There are quite a few reasons we shy away from assigning chores to our children.

  • We think they are too young.
  • We don’t want to spend the time to teach them.
  • We are worried they won’t do it right and we’ll just have to do it again ourselves.
  • We want them to live a fancy-free existence with absolutely no work involved.

The most popular of those for mamas seems to be the time we have to put in to teach our children how to perform the chores. It usually ends up being a case of "Oh just let me do it!" While that works in the moment, it is pretty harmful to our mama schedules in the long run. When we forgo teaching our children how to do things for themselves immediate ease of doing it quickly, we set up a future where our kiddos aren't capable or even interested in helping at home.

While I am pretty opinionated about giving kids chores and tasks to help within the home, I have zero opinion on whether to or how to incentivize chores. Choosing to give allowance is a super personal choice as a parent. Don't fret if you aren't ready to do that. You can always give incentives in another way, like trips to get ice cream or to the park. 

Kiddos in the 2-3 year old group are capable of a lot more than we adults think. The key is to teach them and allow them to help. We're not striving for perfection here. I mean, have you ever seen a 3 year old fold socks? The more they do, the more they will learn.

Here are some of the best ways to get your toddlers involved in 


Load the dishwasher: Sure, your 2 year old won’t be the one loading the sharp knives and all the dinner plates in every night, but a small child can absolutely help load spoons, plastic cups and small bowls. Not only is this a help to you, but it sets them on the right track for doing this chore later on.

Sweep the floor: I bought a tiny, sweet little kid broom for my son when he was around 2 years old and I swear that was his favorite toy for years. Sweeping is a pretty easy task and doesn’t require a whole lot from children. It is however an annoying task when you are an adult and feel like you are sweeping up Cheerios all the live long day. Even better than a broom is a Swiffer, which if you weren’t already aware, you can make smaller by removing the middle piece. Talk about easy. This makes it just the right size for small children. Slap on a dry dust pad or a cloth and let them sweep away the dust bunnies until their heart’s content.

Fold clothes: It may not be pretty. It may not be perfect, but even taking their tiny pants and folding them up is one less thing for you to do.

Wipe down low surfaces: From the time my son was about 2, he loved to use the spray bottle with “cleaner” (it was actually just water) to clean his small table and the dining room table. I gave him a small spray bottle, a cloth and let him clean the surfaces. Truth be told, he did a darn good job.

Pick up toys: I will make this one quick. If they are big enough and old enough to take the toys out, they are big enough and old enough to put them away. No exceptions.

Feed the pets: Can you let them pour food into the kitty or doggy dish? Let them fill the water dish?

Ready to own your house cleaning schedule so it no longer owns you? Grab your free copy of the Everything and the Kitchen Sink house cleaning list

Dust: A Swiffer duster costs about $3, or less if you shop at the Dollar Store and they can easily dust surfaces, especially those without many knick-knacks or breakables.

Pick up and sort books: Just like toys, books are easy for small children to sort and put away. Plus, this is an excellent lesson for them in sorting and categorizing.

Wipe up small messes and spills: Although my son is 4 at the time I write this, I don’t remember the last time I cleaned up one of his small messes or spills. He has access to small towels and knows how to wipe the spill up. Kids as young as 2 can be taught how to properly wipe up a little spilled juice.

Put laundry in the hamper: If you child can hold a tiny little shirt and pair of pants in their hands, they are able to throw them in the hamper. It is a small task, but creates a lot of independence for them. Maybe then they will grow up understanding that clothes go IN the hamper and not right next to the hamper (to all the men out there...hint hint…)

Make the bed: So, I will say that my son has trouble with this because he has a large bed. He never had a small toddler bed. If your children have toddler beds, they are perfectly capable of pulling the sheets and blanket up each morning.

I have found that the most important chore your child can do is the one you teach them to do with love. They won’t do it right the first time, and maybe not even the thousandth time, but the joy they will get from helping is worth the slightly crumpled mess of clothes they call folded.


Now that you've got a handle on the chores for your kiddos, what about the rest of the house? House cleaning is usually a nagging chore for most moms, which is why I created the Everything and the Kitchen Sink cleaning list. Sign up to receive your free house cleaning list, broken down by room. Print it out, keep it in a binder, hang it on the wall (it's colorful and pretty) and use it to create your cleaning schedule or just as a useful guide for #allthethings that need to be cleaned in your home. Own your schedule so it doesn't own you.

Why Does My Baby Wake So Many Times at Night?

A guest post by Jessica Bryant of Sleep Happy Consulting

Because your baby is:

  1. Hungry

  2. Needs your help to calm back to sleep

  3. Conditioned to wake up

  4. Lacks adequate day sleep

  5. At an age where frequent night wakings are appropriate

Infants sleeping constantly through the night is a myth.

Babies who “sleep through the night” have brief wakeful periods throughout the night because of their short sleep cycles.  Infants over 3 months of age begin to learn to go down drowsy but awake. An infant’s sleep cycle is typically around 45-50 minutes.  Babies who go down awake calm to sleep and begin first part of their cycle which I call active sleep.  This portion of sleep is noisy sleep where you may see a lot of movement. Then babies transition into the quiet sleep portion with regular breathing and no movement.  Around the 45-minute mark there is a brief wakeful period before restarting the sleep cycle all over again.  

If an infant goes to bed overtired or overstimulated they tend struggle more with smooth transitions and are often more wakeful at night.  If an older infant is nursed to sleep or is put to sleep in their parent’s arms before laying in the crib, when their cycle comes around to a transition older babies recognize that they are in a new environment which is enough of a stimulus to wake their bodies all the way up instead of smoothly transitioning into a new sleep cycle.

What do I do if I want my baby to sleep age appropriate stretches at night?

  • Consider your baby’s age?

  • Consider your baby’s feeding?

  • Are there any weight or developmental concerns?  

  • Is it developmentally appropriate for him to sleep longer stretches at night?

If yes, consider your baby’s day feeding?  Is he breastfed or bottle fed? Is he an efficient eater or is he eating most of his calories during the night?  Have you started solids?

 

Does your baby need you to help soothe him back to sleep?  Consider age, gross motor skills, and your pediatrician’s recommendations before creating a plan to help your child sleep longer stretches safely.

Can you read your babies cues?  Reading your babies cues is hard.  Knowing what they are communicating can be a game changer in knowing how to respond.  Keep this list near by and make notes on what cues your baby uses to communicate his individual needs.


Jessica Bryant is an expert on infant and toddler sleep.  She founded her company, Sleep Happy Consulting, with the mission to empower sleep deprived parents of restless children by providing knowledge and support to create the sleep routines of their dreams.  Jessica has worked with over 100 sets of parents of little ones ranging from 3 months to 6 years since she founded her company in August of 2015.  Jessica is a mother of three well-rested children, including twins and married to Alan, a well-rested father.  For more information, contact Sleep Happy Consulting at 214-856-0341 or visit www.sleephappyconsulting.com.  You can also find Jessica at @sleephappy on Instagram or Sleep Happy Consulting on Facebook.

How to stop managing your time and start owning it

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Hi, my name is Kendra and I am a recovering to-do list junkie.

Boy, did that feel good to say out loud, err, in writing.

But seriously, I am. Crossing things off to-do lists gave me a high like no other and I used to get my jollies from making as many lists as possible just so I could feel that rush.

That should have meant that I was getting mad things done, yo. Right?

Wrong. Very, very wrong.

In fact, I was less productive than ever when I was in the throes of list-making madness.

I should probably say that making lists has been a hobby of mine since I was a youngster. Even as a kid, I can remember making lists of what I needed to “do” on a weekend, or what I needed to bring to a sleepover, and eventually the workflow of a school project. In hindsight, these lists helped me, but they quickly turned on me and became a dark obsession and form of procrastination.

You see, making the list became more fun than the actual doing of the list items. Raise your hand if you can relate. Lists make us feel productive. They make us feel important. They make us feel powerful. They give the illusion that we are managing our time and isn’t that the phrase of the moment, time management?

Unfortunately, it is all an illusion and the thing that brought me back from the brink of drowning in a pile of sticky notes and iPhone note reminders was giving up managing my time and instead learning how to own it.

It seems like such a small change in words, but it makes all the difference. Managing your time means to take charge or care of it, while owning your time means to take possession of your time and make it belong to you. Subtle, but crucial.

You don’t just manage your car, you own it. You don’t just manage your favorite pair of shoes, you own them. You don’t just manage your wine bottle collection, you own it, girl. It is yours to do whatever you want with it. When you stop trying to manage the time we are given and instead take ownership of it, it’s a whole lot easier to be productive and let go of the crap we don’t want to be doing.

Now, because I am so good at my job, I can already hear some of the moms out there rolling their eyes (eye rolling makes a distinct sound) and saying, “Right. Sure. I’m gonna “own” my time with 3 kids involved in activities, a husband, a job and volunteer stuff on the side.” Well, yes. Because everything you’re doing each day is a choice and while most of us live our lives thinking we have no choices, those of us that take time by the throat and lead it where we want are the ones that become fulfilled and happy, rather than constantly complaining and stressed. That’s just a hard pill for some people to swallow.

To make the pill a little easier to take down, here are some tips for taking ownership of your time and get rid of the antiquated time management thought

Stop making long lists. I was the queen of the long list. “No, no. You don’t get it. I have to get these 27 things done today or the world will implode.” There isn’t a person on earth that needs to get that many things done in a day, and if they do, they have others do it for them. You are only as productive as the things you do in a day. Long lists only waste your time on minutia, usually filler that we put on the top of our lists so we can avoid the really important things near the bottom. Which brings me to my next tip…

Start with priority one and don’t move on until it is done. If I told you that you could pick one and only one thing to get done today, how would that affect your to-do list? You’d be a lot choosier, right? The truth is, you can be that way every day. What is the most important thing that you need to accomplish on this day? It doesn’t have to be big or grand or even exciting. It could be that you need to make dentist appointments or pay that bill that’s been sitting on your desk, or perhaps you need to call a caterer for a party you’re throwing, or declutter the linen closet. Whatever the task is, own it and put it at the top. Everything else you accomplish that day is gravy. When you start with tasks that don’t matter, you fill your day with busy work and never actually accomplish the things you said you would (I speak from experience.)

Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.
— Greg McKeown

Start saying no. If you want to become an owner of your time, say no, a lot. I think this is just a rolling tip of mine for every situation in life, especially for moms. Want more time for yourself, for your kids, for your family, for your spouse? Say no. Say no to things that people ask you to do. There is a quote that has been going around lately that is so true, it hurts. “If it’s not a hell yes, it's a no.” Has someone asked you to bake 4 dozen cupcakes for the PTA bake sale? Unless you can say hell yes, it’s a no. Has someone asked you to watch their kids after school for 2 weeks while their sitter is on vacation? If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no. The only person in control on your time is you, so own it and say a hearty no to the things you don’t want to do, so you can make room for the things you do want to do.

Keep and share your electronic calendar. I am a Google calendar freak. I put everything on it. Every appointment, every reminder, every call. Why? Because if it isn’t on that calendar, I’m not doing it. The trap I see many moms fall into is keeping only a paper calendar at home. While I have and use a large calendar at home, it is a backup for my main phone calendar. We live electronic, busy lives and when we rely only on our calendars at home, we end up over-committing ourselves and not realizing it. Also, electronic calendars can be synced with everyone in your family, so everyone knows what is going on and when. Boom.

Start delegating. The most successful people in the world do something that the rest of us need to take serious note of: they delegate. Delegation is just a way of giving away tasks to others, whether that means in your own family or someone you hire. Your kids can and should be doing chores. You spouse should be helping around the house. You should not be doing it all. Plain and simple. How you delegate is totally up to you and your lifestyle, but if you make it a point to be a mommy martyr and do it all, you will find that it is not only hard to own your time, it is actually impossible. Look into hiring a mommy’s helper for a couple hours a week so you can get work done, go shopping, take a nap, get your nails done or take a walk. Hiring a young teen is much cheaper than you’d expect and those extra hours of focused time and self-care can make all the difference.

Ready to own your house cleaning schedule so it no longer owns you? Grab your free copy of the Everything and the Kitchen Sink house cleaning list.

Go to bed later or get up earlier (or both) This is a delicate subject when I bring it up with mom clients. I will say right off the bat that if you are in the season of “my infant doesn’t sleep”, perhaps this isn’t the tip for you, but the rest of us should take note, myself included. Every time I find myself complaining about not getting things done, I ask, “Well, Kendra. What time did you get up this morning? What time did you go to bed last night?” The answer is usually embarrassing and shines a bright light on how much more time I could have had if I had woken up even 15 minutes earlier. Again, this is all about ownership. Your kids don’t control your time, you do. Your alarm doesn’t control your time, you do. If you know you need an extra 15-20 minutes in the morning to get a quick workout in, take a shower, or just drink coffee in peace, then wake up earlier. Complaining won’t fix the problem. I know, I’ve tried.

Use timers. If keeping tabs on your time just isn’t your thing and you fall into the Pinterest rabbit hole easily, use timers. If you want to clean the house, but only have 30 minutes, set a timer. If you want to research the best curtain for your living room, set a timer and don’t go over it. Timers keep you in control of your time by forcing it upon you. Most of us could easily fall down the black hole of busy work, so set a timer and only allow yourself a certain amount of time to get it done.

Make decisions fast. One of the biggest time wasters I see moms making is hemming and hawing over every single decision. Taking 5 weeks to decide on the perfect car seat for their toddler, making Pinterest board after Pinterest board for meal plans, but never actually making them. Knowing they want to declutter the toy room, but sitting on it for a month deciding which day to start. This, my friends, is called procrastination. It is wrapped in a pretty bow and sold as decision making, but the truth is, it is a waste of time if you aren’t make decisions swiftly. When you take ownership of the decision, you take ownership of your time and can move on to other things that need your attention. So do the research on that car seat, narrow it down to two and make a decision, today.

Be flexible and give yourself grace. Moms aren't nearly flexible enough and don't forgive themselves as easily as they should. Don't be a slave to the clock or the schedule. Have fun, be flexible,  show time who's boss. And every now and then, give yourself grace to write down "Keep kids alive." on your list just so you can have something to check off.


Now that you know you've got a better handle on how to own your time like a boss, applesauce, it's time to get down to business with what you use that time for. House cleaning is usually a nagging chore for most moms, which is why I created the Everything and the Kitchen Sink cleaning list. Sign up to receive your free house cleaning list, broken down by room. Print it out, keep it in a binder, hang it on the wall (it's colorful and pretty) and use it to create your cleaning schedule or just as a useful guide for #allthethings that need to be cleaned in your home. Own your schedule so it doesn't own you.

11 ways to easily speed clean your house

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Oh, house cleaning. It is either the bane of your existence or the happiest joy of your life. Unless you're a freako like me, house cleaning probably doesn't fill your heart with happiness, but no matter how much we like or despise cleaning, the one thing we all have in common is a desire to do it faster.

For moms, most things are about speed. How fast can I clean this up? How fast can I get dinner on the table? How fast can I suck down this glass of wine before anyone notices? Ya know, the important things. Time is of the essence and becoming more efficient AND effective at what we do is the key to gaining more minutes in the day.

As a former professional house cleaner, I've spent years perfecting the art of speed cleaning. As a mom, I'm constantly trying to perfect them. There are tutorials galore on the methodology, but I much prefer these quick tips and strategies from my time in the trenches. House cleaner tested, mom approved.

1. Declutter first. The only thing worse than a dirty home is a clean home with a bunch of clutter in it. When you really think about it, what is the point of hemming and hawing over cleaning when you’re just going to throw junk back on top of that clean countertop? Decluttering your spaces is always numero uno when it comes to speed cleaning. Set a timer and declutter everything in 5-10 minutes. Put it back where it belongs and if you’re on the fence about keeping it or needing it, there is a good chance it can be chucked in the garbage.

2. Start in one area and work your way out. When I had my cleaning business, I was a big fan of starting in the top corner of the house and working my way out. This works in a lot of ways, but mostly it just meant I could do it faster. It made no sense to clean the downstairs floor, then walk on it to go upstairs, then have to come back downstairs and reclean that floor. See what I mean? Make you life easier (and the whole process faster) by “working your way out.”

3. Always clean top to bottom. Along the same lines as above, always start from the top and work your way to the bottom. Seriously. No exceptions, unless you are a fan of cleaning things twice. Ain’t nobody got time for that. What does this mean? It means dust and wash the areas highest up and work your way down. Ceiling fans, cobwebs and the tops of furniture should be done first, then work your way down to the floor.

Ready to makeover your cleaning routine? Grab your free copy of the Everything and the Kitchen Sink house cleaning list.

4. Have your supplies handy and accessible. I talk about this all the time, but it is basically professional/speed cleaning 101. When you don’t have your cleaning supplies right at your fingertips, it just takes up more time. Imagine having everything you need in a bag or a caddy, rather than having to search around the house of the spray bottles, clothes and sponges you need. Huge. Time. Saver.

5. Stick to a routine. I LOVE a good cleaning routine. In fact, I developed a course on that. You can take a look at it here. Having a solid cleaning routine allows you to not only get more done in the house, but do it far more quickly. Once you develop a routine, you’ll notice how quickly things become. Think about how easy it is for you to brush your teeth or tie your shoes. You don’t even think about the steps, you just do it. That’s because it is a habit, created by a routine. Routines create speed.

6. Clean as you go. This may seem like it goes against the tip above about routines, but hear me out. If you have your kitchen scheduled to be cleaned on Tuesday, but you cooked a baked a lot on Sunday, don’t wait until Tuesday to clean. Clean as you go. Wash the dishes while the food cooks, wipe down the stove immediately after it gets dirty, run the self-clean oven setting when you’re done. Cleaning as you go is a speed cleaning tip not many people take advantage of. If you want your house to stay clean, clean it as you go.

7. Leave the floors and glass until the very end. Cleaning can put dust and dirt into the air that will eventually fall onto the floor and usually stick to glass. Leave it for last. Doing it first will just mean you have to do it again, and that is a speed cleaning no-no.

8. Clean the shower in the shower. I can’t believe how few people take advantage of this super useful tip. When are you closest to the shower and all it’s soap scum glory than when you are in it. No stretching over the sides of the tub or worrying about getting wet, because you’re already there. Keep your cleaning supplies right in the bathroom (or even in the shower itself) and go to town while you’re in there. You’ll be amazed how clean your shower stays.

9. Stop worrying about it getting dirty again. The one thing I hear over and over again is, “It just seems futile. It’ll just get dirty again.” Well so will your hair, but that doesn’t stop you from washing it. Dirt is inevitable. Dust is inevitable. Kids are messy. People are messy. Stop focusing on the negative aspects of not keeping a spotless home and instead, focus on how it feels to have it clean, even if that’s for 20 minutes. Your mindset plays more of a roll in how you view cleaning than you think.

10. Set a timer. If you really want to get motivated to clean your fast like Speedy Gonzolaz, set a timer. Do as much as you can before the timer goes off. Boom. Speed cleaning at it’s finest.

11. Be like Nike. Just do it. Don’t worry about not being “good” at cleaning. Stop focusing on what you should do, and how, and when. If you see some dust, grab a rag and go to it. Clutter piling up on the end table? Take care of it now. I can give you tips, tricks and tools for days, but the most important one of all is to just do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be done.

 


Now that you know you've got a better handle on how to clean the house faster, what about the nagging question, "But WHAT should I be cleaning and when?" Sign up to receive your free house cleaning list, broken down by room. Print it out, keep it in a binder, hang it on the wall (it's colorful and pretty) and use it to create your cleaning schedule or just as a useful guide for #allthethings that need to be cleaned in our homes.

Sign language for every age and stage

A post by Melissa Droegemueller of Rolling Prairie Readers

It was January 2010 when we heard the question for the first time: “Have you considered using sign language with Addie?” We were halfway through our daughter’s initial speech therapy appointment, sitting on our living room floor with a therapist we had just met.

Addie was 18 months old and not yet speaking, although my notes from that first session say she “had some sounds.” Born 14 weeks early, she had already undergone several surgeries and was affected by significant developmental delays like speech and walking. We were eager to try anything our experts suggested, so the next day we headed off to our local library to check out two Signing Time DVDs.

Seven years and another daughter later, we have the hindsight to say that learning sign language with our children has been one of our best parenting moves so far.

And in fact, baby sign language has become much more mainstream over the past few years—many parents are teaching their infants the signs for milk, more, please, and all done. However, many families stop signing once their child begins using speech regularly. Today, I’d like to share with you the countless benefits of signing with children of all ages!

 

Babies

  • Signing with your baby can offer you a view into your baby’s thoughts and needs, aid in bonding, and empower your baby to express him/herself and feel understood long before speech develops.
  • Your infant will also enjoy watching your facial expressions and body movements as you begin using signs to communicate.

Toddlers

  • Signing with toddlers is fun and rewarding because toddlers have a passion for communication.
  • Toddlers’ first attempts at speaking are not always clear. Signing can empower them to express their wants and needs in a way that is easy to understand, which can help reduce tantrums. (Would you rather your child point and whine or show you a sign?)
  • Signing helps toddlers notice details. American Sign Language uses specific hand shapes, and children who are learning signs must first look carefully at the hand of their teacher or parent and then replicate the sign. This type of visual discrimination builds memory, stamina, and other pre-reading skills.
  • Sign language also develops fine motor skills. Toddlers learn to isolate fingers to make the signs correctly, which leads to good pencil control down the road.

Preschoolers

  • At this age, many children are kinesthetic learners, using their bodies to support their brain acquiring new information. Learning the alphabet, counting to 20, and identifying colors all becomes easier with visual and tactile cues like sign language.
  • These movers and shakers LOVE to sign because it gives them an approved outlet for moving in the classroom.
  • Learning American Sign Language is also a great way to build your child’s vocabulary (eg. use the sign for SAD when you come across the word distressed in a story) and clarify what he or she is trying to express when struggling to find the correct word.

Older children

  • Elementary age and older can learn ASL as a second (or third) language, like French or Spanish. Many high schools and colleges offer American Sign Language a foreign language credit.
  • American Sign Language is used by millions of Deaf Americans, and learning some basic signs can empower your child to interact with someone who is Deaf in the future.
  • Finally, sign language is a great way to communicate to a family member across a crowded room or during times when talking would be disruptive.

Over the last seven years, our girls have blossomed thanks to sign language. Both girls are confident, friendly, and strong readers, which seems to be quite common with children who learn ASL as young children.

So today I pass the question on to you: “Have you considered using sign language with your children?”


Melissa Droegemueller is a classroom teacher-turned- homeschooling mama to two girls, ages 8 and 5. Her family lives in small-town Iowa where they go on long nature walks by the lake and even longer bike rides through town to their one (or both) of their two favorite places—the library and the hometown bakery. Melissa is passionate about empowering all parents to be their child’s first & best teacher and nurturing a community of families on a small corner of the Internet called Rolling Prairie Readers. http://rollingprairiereaders.com/

How I stay unfrazzled even as a busy mom

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There is a new word popping up and making the rounds in the motherhood world. I mean, it’s been around for a while, but in the era of social media and everyone knowing everyone else’s business from moment to moment, we’re more aware of the word’s existence. The word many moms are using to describe their current situation at any given moment is frazzled.

This word has become such a part of the parenting lexicon that they even use the word parent in the dictionary definition example. “To cause to feel completely exhausted; wear out: a frazzled parent.”

I’ll be honest and say I didn’t feel a stitch of exhaustion or frazzle until after the birth of my son, who is our second child. My first was a gem. She still is 10 years later. She was the kind of baby that makes you say, “If every kid was like her, I’d have 10 more.” My son is the type that makes a mom say, “If he had been the first, he would have been the last.” God bless him. He didn’t mean to make me frazzled. This feeling isn’t really coming from our kids. It’s coming from us.

Because I had become so accustomed to an easy, breezy child, the birth of my son was a shock to my system and brought my complete lack of routine to the forefront of our home. No longer could I get away with going with the flow every day, nor could I say yes to every single opportunity that came my way. It was a lot to handle and to say I was frazzled is an understatement.

But there is a beautiful ending to my story and it involves a lot of good ‘ol fashioned hard learning that brought me to the place I am now, the place where I don’t feel that exhaustion and frazzle every day. The place where I don’t identify as a hot mess. The place where I am allowed to be a good mom, a good wife and a cool chick all at once without feeling like a big lump of insanity.

Now, I’m going to say something that may strike people as controversial. It may hit a nerve, and that’s ok, because a little raw nerve hitting is exactly what we all need sometimes. We have glorified this way of life in this country. We have glorified the over-worked, stressed-out, messy hair, haven’t-showered-in-a-week, frazzled to the max mom. We’ve glorified busy and made it cool to work yourself to the bones. We’ve glorified mommy martyrdom where mom is the only one doing anything around the house and gets no credit for it. We’ve decided that being a hot mess is just the way it is. And it isn’t. I’m proof.

We’re all so busy being busy that we’ve forgotten what we’re even busy doing. Busy doesn’t just mean “lots to get done” anymore. It now means filling your schedule from morning to night with things you don’t want to do and don’t need to do, all for the sake of saying you did. Somewhere along the way, being a mom who just does the things in a semi-orderly fashion became uncool. Having your ish together is something we roll our eyes at. Homemaking became the butt of a joke, except no one is laughing because we’re too busy being frazzled.

We’re all so busy being busy that we’ve forgotten what we’re even busy doing.

To say my daily life as a mother is imperfect would be an understatement. The fact that I don’t identify as frazzled doesn’t mean that I don’t have moments in Melt Down City, population me. I’ve cried in the shower, I’ve locked myself in my room, I’ve yelled so loud, I thought I’d get the attention of the people the next down over. I’ve lost my shit, found it and lost it all over again. But the truth is, those moments get fewer and further between as each day passes.

I’ve been asked, especially now that I act as a coach and strategist for moms on all things home management, how I am able to keep it “all together.” I’ve laid out a bunch of the ways I keep my cool as a mom below, but the cold hard truth is that the reason I am not frazzled is because I don’t want to FEEL frazzled. In much the same way I don’t want to burn my hand on the stove and therefore keep my hand away from the red hot burner coil, I keep myself away from the things that give me those stressed out feelings. I don’t want to be a hot mess. I don’t want to be perfect, but I don’t want to feel so overwhelmed by life that I forget to live it. I don’t want motherhood to take over who I am and what I stand for in a way that forces me to be a different person, a person who is sad, stressed and sluggish. So I choose not to be that way.

Rather than give a long list of my tips and tools for staying off the frazzle bus, I thought I would instead tell you what I do personally that keeps me away from that stressful feeling.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what works for every mom. Some days I’m not even sure the things I am doing are right, but I do know that these are the actions and feelings I have made an abundant part of my everyday living that allow me to see motherhood through the lens of clarity and general unfrazzlement (a word a just made up. Feel free to make it a hashtag)

I prioritize everything I do. Only the most important things get done first. I’m not saying this is without its challenges, because being a mom, wife, friend, sister, daughter, Girl Scout co-leader, business owner and coach makes a girl feel like everything is a priority. It isn’t, and the sooner we all realize that, the sooner we can let go of the stress that holds us down under a pile of bricks. When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

To that end, I don’t do anything that isn’t a priority. After I become clear about what my priorities are, I refuse to do anything that isn’t one. Again, it aint always easy, but it is necessary. I’d also like to add for good measure that our priorities can and will change regularly, sometimes by the hour. If your priority was to paint the living room this weekend and your 5 year old ends up with pneumonia, your priorities will change faster than you can drive to urgent care.

I say no to a lot of things, both in my personal life and in business. I think I could write any entire post just on the fine art of saying no. Saying no feels both scary and deliciously wonderful all at the same time. When you say no to something, it feels like you’re letting people down, but remember that every no you say makes way for a big, fat, awesome yes to something else. Something you really want to do, not feel obligated to do. Side note: This also means saying no to your children. While this isn’t a blog about how to parent your kids (because I am no expert), it is my humble and honest opinion that your kids don’t need to hear yes to every question. Let them learn how to deal with the word no, and maybe even learn the fine art of negotiation.

I have very set and clear routines. I developed these even more so after my son was born. While dealing with a nasty case of postpartum anxiety and throwing myself into a dizzy almost everyday over what was or wasn't getting done, I realized a clear routine was going to be my best friend. Just like priorities, these change over time. As the kids grow and change, so do our routines, but we stick to them like glue. When everyone knows what to expect each day at very specific times (think bedtime), then it becomes much easier to eliminate stress.

I don’t keep clutter. This probably goes without saying as I spend my days teaching other moms how to manage their homes and let go of clutter to make it easier to keep their homes. Clutter is a stressor that can not only cause you to feel frazzled, but can bring on feelings of high anxiety and depression. In short, your clutter can make you feel downright unhappy. Being surrounded by stuff that doesn’t fill you with joy or serve a purpose is a recipe for stress and chaos. Remove the clutter and make more room for the joy and peace.

I stick to a schedule. My routines are a part of my schedule and I make sure that everyone knows the schedule for the week. We have white boards for notes and a big calendar that sits in the hallway that everything goes on. I use a Google calendar and I literally put everything into it. It has become such a habit now that if it isn't on the schedule/calendar, it isn't getting done.

…But I am also flexible. Because stuff comes up. Life happens. Kids happen. Spilled chocolate milk on the front of your already-late-to-preschool daughter happens. Flexibility is just as important as routine.

I let a lot of things go (physically and emotionally) Hi, my name is Kendra and I am a recovering worrier. I spent much of my life as someone who worried. A lot. The funny thing is, I never worried about the same things other people did, but when I did worry, it would consume my every thought. Learning to let go of the things I cannot control has been a life changer. If I can't control it, I release it and move on. Sometimes, that means letting go of toxic people and relationships because they cause more stress than they are worth. Mama doesn't have time for that.

I have an awesome husband as a support system. I realize that not everyone is this lucky, but I thought it was worth mentioning because there is not a day that goes by that I am not eternally grateful for this support. He keeps me sane and I like to think I do the same for him. If you don’t have that in a spouse or partner, seek it out in your community. Find support. Find the village that it takes.

I ask for help when I need it. This is probably the toughest one of all, especially for us moms with a superhero complex. “Oh, just let me do it. I can do it faster. I can do it better. I can do it all!” Until you’re huddled in the corner, rocking back and forth crying because you can’t remember the last time you peed alone.

I block my time. Whoever invented or first discovered time blocking and brought it to the masses is a genius. This method of scheduling myself has literally changed how I make and use my schedule and created a world where I am not longer stressed about everything that needs to be done (or at least I don't need to be stressed.) Parkinson's Law saws that tasks will expand to the time you allow, so if you mindlessly throw things on a to-do list (yoohoo, exactly what I used to do!) it will take you the entire day to do those things. If you put those tasks into specific time blocks, magically they will get done in that amount of time. The brain is silly that way. Frazzle be gone.

My kids have chores and help with a lot around the house. We are a community in this house and in a community, everyone participates and everyone helps. Rather than play the martyr who spends her days cleaning up constantly after others, we have set very clear rules and chores for everyone in the house. Do they always get done the way I want? Nope. Do I sometimes have to remind them 3 or 4 times? Yup, but I figure that's just part of this motherhood deal I signed up for. In the end, when everyone helps, I can let go of control and let go of the frazzle that comes along with it.

My kids do NOT rule our schedule. This. Is. HUGE for us. Our children don’t run our lives, we do. Our children are not in charge of what we do or where we go, we are. We have them involved in only the things that are important (those dang priorities again.) I personally refuse to spend my adult life running my children to every single possible sport or extracurricular activity. The thought of doing that stresses me out, so I avoid it. We prioritize the most important things and let the rest go.

I embrace the season I am in. At the time that I am writing this, I have a beautiful, talented, totally individualist 10 year old daughter and an empathetic, energetic, stubborn little 4 year old love bug of a son. The season we are in now is vastly different than the one I found myself in 3 years ago, when I struggled to keep my baby from jumping off the stairs every 6 minutes. Things are easier in some ways and more difficult in others and I suspect that it will be this way forever. I'm ok with that. I recognize where I am and when I start feeling that stress creep in, I remember that it won't always be like this. Someday, I may even miss it.

I choose grace, for others and myself. I am not sure I ever fully understood what grace was until recently, but it has become the backbone of my life. Allowing myself to make mistakes every day and learn from them is why grace is so important for me. Realizing that I don't need to chase perfection, but instead be the mom I want to be is paramount to my staying unfrazzled daily. Understanding that others are doing the best they can is just as important. Are you giving yourself enough grace or do you beat yourself up? I suggest grace over perfection every time. You're giving your all and that deserves all the grace in the world, frazzled or not.


If I had to choose one of the above habits that contributes to my unfrazzlement (remember, hashtag that baby) it would be that I keep my house and life uncluttered. Excess stuff is a huge stressor in our lives, but deciding what to toss and how to get rid of it can be an even bigger pain. That is why I put together the "Purge it Like It's Hot" decluttering checklist to use in every room of your home. If you're looking for a way to get off the Frazzle Bus ASAP, this checklist will help you purge your clutter today. No special skills or equipment needed. Just download it, print it and use it all over to remove the things that aren't serving you or the amazing mom that you are.