The problem with getting organized it that it seems like a really overwhelming task when your house is currently a disaster zone. But, if you break your goal down into smaller tasks, it becomes much more manageable.
Here are a few suggestions for quick 10 minute cleanups. If you do just one a day, your house will be looking better in no time!
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
I’m a big fan of fluffy towels and soft blankets, but I hate to throw anything away. So, when I’m replacing my household linens, figuring out what to do with the old stuff is always a challenge.
I used to pass along old linens to friends who were moving and needed help furnishing their new places, since I was the first one in my social circle to get married and move into my own home. However, I’ve finally run out of people eager for my castoffs.
Since I love Pinterest, I’ve seen all sorts of cool sewing projects made with recycled fabric. But, I’ve finally had to admit that I lack the skill to actually accomplish any of these nifty ideas.
If you’re in the same boat, I think the best option is to take these items to a nearby animal shelter. Animal shelters can use donations of towels, blanks, and other linens to help pad cages and make them more comfortable for animals.
If you don’t know where the animal shelters in your area are located, visit PetFinder.com to search for contact info.
If you’re trying to teach your children about the importance of giving back to the community, consider buying a few bags of pet food to take with you when you drop off the blankets. Even if your kids don’t have pets of their own, most children are sympathetic to the plight of animals in need. You can look for coupons and sales to cut costs, if you’re having your kids pay for the food with their allowance money.
Photo credit: PetFinder.com
I have a serious book addiction. Even though I’ve been trying to stick to ebooks to cut down on the amount of clutter in my home, I tend to go a little crazy every time I get near a Barnes & Noble. Plus, I’m a sucker for ordering children’s books through the Scholastic Book Club fliers my son keeps bringing home.
When I was weeding through my book collection to try to make space for all the titles new titles we purchased, I came across the Operation Paperback website. This great charity sends books to soldiers stationed overseas, those who are in military hospitals, and military families with a deployed loved one.
They will accept both adult books and children’s books, as long as your books are in good condition. They won’t take books with missing covers; loose, brittle, or missing pages; stains; or water damage. Books that are considered pornographic or racist are not allowed and religious materials are only acceptable if the solider has specifically requested them.
The website mentions mysteries and westerns as being in high demand. The children’s books go directly to the families of the soldiers or are sent to the soldiers so they can read to their kid via webcam or DVD.
To donate books, you log onto the Operation Paperback website and list the titles you have. The books are then matched with addresses of soldiers who have requested either the specific book or something from that genre. Choose someone to mail your books to, then package them up and drop them off at the post office.
If you don’t have any books to mail out, but still want to help support the cause, Operation Paperback accepts cash donations. A $5 donation will ship one medium-sized box of books to any overseas military location. A $20 donation will help pay for the purchase and shipment of one box of high-demand special request books.
Photo credit: Operation Paperback
Lotion bars look like decorative soaps at first glance, but they’re actually a unique solution for dry skin. When you rub them on your skin, your body heat melts the bar into a soothing lotion.
You can use the lotion bars all over your body, but they’re especially useful for dry hands and feet. I like to rub a little on my feet each night before putting on thick socks.
You can either store your lotion bar in decorative tin or keep it in a soap dish on your bathroom counter. If you keep it in a soap dish, make sure guests don’t mistake it for hand soap.
Photo credit: Dana Hinders
I consider my self to be a crafty gal when it comes to projects involving paper, stickers, glue, beads, or glitter, but my patience for elaborate baking projects is pretty limited. So, when it came time to make my son a birthday cake, I waited until the last possible minute to decide what to make.
I really wanted to do a pinata cake like the one on Claire K. Creations. My son has been a huge fan of pinatas since Grandma brought one to his third birthday party. But, the actual assembly of the traditional pinata cake looked beyond my limited patience.
In a stroke of brilliance/utter laziness, I realized that I could get a really similar look with an angel food cake pan. I used a box white cake mix, baked the cake, then tossed several colorful Chewy Lemonhead candies in the center. Once I frosted it and added sprinkles, it looked no different from a regular cake.
The look on my son’s face when we cut the cake was priceless. Even though it wasn’t picture perfect like the Claire K. Creations cake, it was close enough to make his day.
This idea could be adapted in any number of ways. You can use any kind of cake mix in an angel food pan, but a regular cake mix won’t rise as high as angel food cake.
Next time I try this, I think I’ll make yellow cake with M&M’s in the middle and chocolate frosting or do an angel food cake with a fresh strawberries in the center and strawberry frosting.
Photo credit: Dana Hinders
Cooking is an important life skill that your children will need to be independent adults, since eating nothing but fast food for three meals a day is not good for their wallets or waistlines. Cooking also teaches children to be more adventurous eaters, since they are more likely to try unfamiliar foods if they’ve helped assist in the meal preparation process.
Most experts don’t recommend letting a child use the stove until age 11 or 12, but younger children can assist you in the kitchen by washing fruits and vegetables or measuring the ingredients for a recipe. With some guidance, they can also be taught to make simple salads or cold sandwiches independently.
When teaching your children how to cook, remember that mistakes are part of the learning process. My own mother loves to tease me about the time I confused sugar and flour and made the world’s worst tasting cookies. My nine-year-old can can sometimes be a real help in the kitchen, but he’s dropped more eggs on the floor than I can count.
Recipes from cookbooks designed for kids can be a fun way to make cooking more enjoyable for your child. Cooking classes are another way to help kids build confidence in the kitchen.
If you’re lucky enough to live in the San Francisco Bay area, your children can take part in the COOK! Classes for Kids from Paulding & Co. These culinary courses are for kids ages 9 – 18 who want to learn basic skills, as well as how to prepare specialized types of cuisine.
When your children complete a Paulding & Co. course, they’ll gain the confidence they need to cook for themselves, friends, or family.
Photo credit: Paulding & Co
I love lip balm, but I’m terrible about keeping track of the lip balms I’ve purchased. Since I lose them so often, I decided to see if I could make a cheap homemade lip balm so I’d always have plenty of extras on hand.
This lip balm seems comparable in quality to most purchased lip balms that I’ve tried and I like that it is made from all natural ingredients.
However, I should caution you that it’s not a good idea to carry it around in your pocket. I normally carry a tube of lip balm in the front pocket of my pants. When I tried carrying a small tin of this lip balm in the same way, my body heat turned the mixture into a liquid.
If desired, you can leave out the cocoa powder and peppermint essential oil to make an unflavored lip balm or use different essential oils and flavorings. The peppermint chocolate is my favorite combo, but I also like this recipe with a pinch of cinnamon.
Photo credit: Dana Hinders
A garage sale can be a great way to declutter your home and earn a little extra cash in the process, but planning a successful garage sale can be tricky.
Timing is everything when it comes to garage sales. I highly recommend trying to have your sale when several other people will also be hosting their own garage sale.
In my town, there is a community wide garage sale event twice per year. People come from a three or four county radius to attend the sales, so we’re guaranteed a huge traffic boost if we plan our sale for that day. There is a neighboring community that does a large indoor group sale at the fairgrounds a couple of times per year, which seems like a good plan if you have a way to easily transport your stuff to the needed location.
Attractive looking signs are a huge plus when it comes to getting people to stop at your garage sale. Don’t just scrawl a few words on a scrap of cardboard! Make signs with bold, colorful, and easy to read letters. Consider adding a few balloons to the signs in your driveway to draw even more attention to them.
Instead of marking all my items individually, I usually save time by creating a few different price categories. For example, I’ll sell all my books for $1 each or all the DVDs for $2 each. I might make more if I took the time to mark them individually, but not having to haul away stuff that didn’t sell is worth the sacrifice for me.
For clothing, we’ve had great success with the bag approach. I sort out clothes from my husband, myself, and my son, then stick a box with plastic grocery bags at the end of the table and make a huge sign saying the clothes are $5 per bag. The last time I did this, we sold out of clothes in about an hour.
For me, a garage sale is more about decluttering and less about getting rich. If we have high value items, I normally try to sell them through other means first.
When it comes to setting up, I think it pays to make your garage sale items as neat and organized as possible. Group like items together so they are easy to find. Place big items like furniture or oversized toys near the road so people can see them as they pass by. Remember to allow plenty of room for people to walk between your tables, since nobody likes to feel crowded when they are shopping.
Photo credit: Eastlake Times
Are we there yet? There’s no doubt that road trips with children can be a challenge, but you don’t need to resort to using iPads or handheld video game systems to save your sanity this summer.
Here are five easy ways to plan a stress-free, old-fashioned family road trip that your kids will love:
What are your favorite ways to keep your children entertained during a family road trip?
Photo credit: Ben Francis