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Saturday, March 23, 2013

I have an almost 1-year-old

My daughter is almost a year old. 
12 months.

Her birthday is in a few weeks, and since I realized this when she turned 11 months old two weeks ago I've been trying so hard to slow things down. I have noticed every time I upload the pictures from my camera to my computer that they are of things that I haven't stopped to take time to photograph in a while ... her tiny hands as she sleeps; her toes in the high chair; her silly grin as she is drinking from her sippy cup; her hair that we've waited oh-so-long for (10 1/2 months it took to see anything but pure baldness up there!). 

I want to remember everything. 
I realize now that it's flown by so fast, this first year of, well just that, firsts. 

I've taken 1,000 photographs.
You know that if you know me at all. My camera never leaves my side.
I have, thankfully, not become one of those parents who takes a zillion photos of their first child and then gets too busy to take a single one of their second. I vowed I would not do that because photographs are SO important to me.

And yet still, almost a year later, I want to remember all of it. I want to remember more of it.

Because I know how it goes from here.
I remember this from my son, who is now 3 years old and tells me what he wants to eat, who his best friend is, and where he wants to go and what he wants to wear.

I know from here on out we drop the bottles and nursing, we start the cow's milk. I know we stop the rolling and swiftly move to crawling and all of a sudden walking. I know that more words than mama and dada will come from her mouth pretty soon.

It's growth and development. It's natural and amazing, really. I LOVE this part.
I've said to this day my favorite age with my son was 18 months.
So I'm looking forward to that age this summer and fall with my daughter.

Yet lately I'm not ready, I want to scream at the Gods who make her grow too fast.
Slow it down a little bit. I want to memorize this part first.

It's like all of a sudden she's a SHE. I don't mean gender wise. I mean in that she's a little person now. Not just this baby we can sit some place and know will stay there. "She's on the move," I tell everyone we see.

She's been pulling herself up to stand in her crib and at the train table for 3 weeks or so. Then a few days ago she started walking along the edge of the train table. Then yesterday she was standing at the train table without holding on, barely leaning her belly against it for support. That quickly. That's how fast it happened. A month ago she had just learned to crawl on all fours.

And now my two children are on the same level. Of course one is much taller, but when they sit just right or kneel, they are on the same level. That's so weird!

She is learning at the speed of light these days.
This is very, very cool.
And yet mind-blowing at the same time.

I took some pictures the other day of my baby drinking her bottle of milk. I don't even really know why, but I took about 20 of them! I think I wanted to document when she learned how to hold her bottle herself ... something that honestly, makes me proud and sad at the same time. I also wanted to document my milk. That could sound weird to anyone other than a mom who probably gets it, so I'm OK printing it. I also recall a picture I took of her big brother drinking his final bottle of pumped milk when he was a year old and having this urge to take a picture of it. Life is busy with two, I wanted to make sure I got one snapshot of this.

See, these are the moments I'm grasping at before they fly away out of thin air when she turns a year old in a few weeks. Of course some things are normal after that point, "she'll always be my baby," as they say. But it's different. "A year old" is different than "my baby."

I took pictures last week of my daughter sleeping in her crib. You can't have enough sleepy crib pictures. 

And that squishy baby fat diaper swooshy noise and image ... you have to have that on film! 
Standing at the fridge now?! Standing?! 

This photo below was taken a few minutes before we realized, oh OK we're not a little baby anymore, time to get rid of the mobile before she breaks it! I remember being huge preggo and putting this up by myself, thinking I was all set to be a mama again. Wasn't that just a month ago, instead of a year ago?

on the move ... headed toward bigger and better things, I guess!

Yet, she's still my baby. That, I can remember through these changes, amazing developments. It's ALL fun. 

It's the coolest thing - even if it's a little sad, too - to see someone who came out of our belly barely opening her eyes turning into a moving, talking, silly little girl, doing her thing. Love that. 

                                                        Isn't mommyhood grand?!

Onward toward a year. We can do this!

M.O.M. - organized gift giving!

*This post is part of a series about getting organized in 2013, 
from our new Moms On a Mission = M.O.M. project , 
see February 2013 posts for more great ideas!*

Organizing your gifts?!
Sounds strange, I'm sure, but really it's something all moms should be keeping track of. With all the birthday parties

Here are a few ideas to get your gift-giving process in order:

Blank cards - A must-have for those random moments when a co-worker's family member died, or when you are invited to a party last minute and want to send a thank you note, etc.I have tons of blank cards. You can find some great deals on or at Christmas Tree Shops for packs of cards.

Have supplies handy - Stamps and envelopes on hand is key. Make sure you have working scissors that are solely designated to your gift wrapping, not the family or kids' scissors that get destroyed or misplaced. Also make sure you always have tape on hand to wrap.

Updated address book - Keep the addresses updated. I write the date too, for those friends who move often so I'm not guessing if this is the correct address or not.

Keep old birthday cards - The last few years I've cut off the front part of birthday cards that wasn't written on for an easy reusable, recycled card for all those buddies your children meet and attend birthday parties for your child's friends.

Wrapping paper and tissue paper - It's good to have tons of it on hand, various colors and themes. If you like ribbons, too, keep some of that in a neutral color for girls and boys gifts.

Save the gift bags! I don't recall the last time I purchased a gift bag. We save them all from showers, birthdays, Christmas, etc. It's silly to toss these out. They are free to you and are a good thing to recycle when you re-use them. I put them together by category - neutral colors, babies, bridal, birthday, etc. so that it's easy to find one you need when you are rushing to a party.

Find some space -Have a closet or shelf to keep gifts you buy. I have a small closet space designated only for gifts. Because we shop for deals, I'll find gifts for people months in advance sometimes. Having a space for these items is key so that I don't lose anything and so they stay in good shape. Finding space to house the gift wrap, etc. is good, too. Keep it all together so you can find what you need easily.

Look for deals - Shop the Target sales for random gifts to have on hand for the birthday party that snuck up on you. They do a huge sale in July and January, marking kids' toys to 75% off in many cases. Keep a few good presents on hand for those random parties you are invited to. Also shopping early allows you to really think about cool gift ideas instead of rushing at the last minute for something quick.

Keep a Pinterest board going of gifts you could make easily, cheaply, and in a pinch so you can go to this board for ideas. It's always nice to give and receive homemade gifts. Keep craft supplies on hand, and the Pinterest ideas you love most compiled together so you can gather them when you are feeling crafty.

Plan ahead to save money and decrease stress. I shop months in advance for Christmas specifically. This helps me enjoy that busy season a whole lot more not having to stress about money or shopping with the crowds. By planning ahead and having a space to keep gifts it helps you feel organized.

Keep a list  - Keep an Amazon wish list, but instead of things you wish to be given, keep it as a list of gift ideas for your family members or friends who you typically attend parties for. I keep an Amazon wish list of items I know our kids will want. This helps when the family ask me what they need/want for Christmas, birthdays, etc. My Mom Brain isn't always working well, so I'll often forget what my son said he wanted when we were shopping one day near his birthday, but when I jot it down and add to Amazon wish list it's easy to send that to family to get for him.

I also keep a handwritten list in my purse or next to my computer desk of the gifts I've purchased for Christmas. It's hard to keep track of all the people we have to buy for (6 nieces and nephews!). It's a good idea to jot it all down so you know if you've purchased enough or need to grab one more thing for someone.

Wrap it when you buy it - I always try to wrap a gift after I've bought it, even if the party is not for a few weeks. That way it's DONE, you don't have to worry about it on the day of the party when you are already busy trying to make it there on time, in one piece, and with everyone looking nice. Wrap it up when kids are asleep and you have a few extra minutes.

Getting your gift-giving process organized is helpful. 
I know it may seem like a small thing, what's the big deal, we only go to birthday parties once a month, I can handle it, etc. but really it makes life happier when things are in order. This is an EASY one to try organizing. If you have not organized any other space in the house yet with this M.O.M. project, try this one. It's easy, won't take long, and will make you feel accomplished in this organizing challenge!

Check out some more ideas for organizing gifts and gift wrap at my Pinterest board, get organized, mama!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

M.O.M. - organized kids' clothes!

*This post is part of a series about getting organized in 2013, 
from our new Moms On a Mission = M.O.M. project , 
see February 2013 posts for more great ideas!*

Kids - they have tons of stuff, right?! It's everywhere! 

One thing they have the most of probably is clothing. Shoes, hats, accessories, belts, socks, underwear, shirts, etc. And especially during the first year when they grow so fast it seems they are moving into a whole new set of clothes, new wardrobe, every other month or so! During that first year, it's important to be organized so you don't go out of your mind trying to keep up with the clothing wars.

Also, if you're frugal like I am, it's good to know what you have and what you need so you can be on the lookout for deals as you see them. 

Here are a few ideas on keeping your children's attire organized.

I keep on the top shelf of my kids' closets the next size clothing they will be in, stacked in order of like clothes (shirts together, onesies together, pants together, etc.). I hang on the rack the clothes for this size and next size that should be hung (sweaters, dresses, coats, etc.). I put them in order of size, so the things closest to me are what fit now, in the back of the closet are things that are too big right now.

Bins, baskets, buckets, oh my! Get things to store shoes, hats, too big socks, etc. It makes it easier when you are looking for something if it's all right there. I keep all size hats and shoes together so that it's easy to find them when my kids grow so fast.

I keep a laundry basket in the corner of my daughter's room for the clothes that she outgrows. Since she's less than a year old she's outgrowing something basically every laundry cycle I do it seems! So having a basket handy to keep those things in until I have enough time to put them away for good is handy.

This looks messy but is really neat in there, I swear! Below is a picture of our eves, the storage space we use for my daughter's clothes. Everything is in a bucket and/or storage bag, by size. I have a boy and a girl, so everything is also sorted by gender. Each are also labeled and stacked together. I have one tub in there of all older shoes, too. This was the best thing I did when preparing for baby #2. Everything was easy to find, neat and in order when it was time to get it out for the second baby.

My son has a couple of tubs of clothes in his closet, too, for the size he'll be going into next and the size he's in now that he's outgrowing.

I like to get the next size of clothing out EARLY. This summer I got out the 12-18 months clothing for my daughter when she was still in 6-9 months clothing. They grow so fast that you want to be ready instead of having to spend your whole weekend organizing clothes some time because you're running out of options. I also find that I will see something that looks way too big, and my husband will think it fits so try it out and bam, he's right, it fits! Having it out already helps you to get more wear out of the clothes, it seems.

I keep most coats in the coat closet downstairs in our living room. That way I always know which coats we have for various seasons, if we need a new winter coat, etc.

I also shop a lot of sales at Target and consignment sales or shops. My mom is always finding yard sale and thrift store deals for us. It's nice to have the next size of clothing out already so I can see that my son does not need anymore pants in size 4T but yes he desperately needs pajamas and shorts for summer.

Inside my kids' dresser drawers everything is folded with like items, the things we use most are on top (onesies or t-shirts, tights, and socks), shirts and pants are in the middle, and pajamas on the bottom. Make it easy for you to pick out an outfit on busy work mornings. It should work FOR you, remember, not cause frustration.

Figure out a system that works for you, your kids' and your space. Clothes can take over and be frustrating if you let it get out of hand. If you keep up with it, it's easy, manageable and lacks stress.

What are your great ideas for keeping your kids' clothes organized? What type of storage solutions have you found that work?

Check out some more great ideas I found for organizing kids' clothes and closets at my Pinterest board, get organized, mama!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

being a mom to 2 is TWICE as cool!

The last two months I've written many blog posts about the transition from one kid to two. 
I think I probably scared some of you who may be pregnant with your second or considering it. That was not my intention. However, my intention was to be VERY honest with you, because that's what I wanted and didn't find when I was pregnant with my second last year. I wanted someone to really clearly detail what it was like, so I'd be prepared. So that is why I wrote so honestly for you in these posts the last two months.

I also wrote them for those moms who just had their second child and are feeling very alone, confused, and overwhelmed. I want those moms to see they are NOT alone, that all they are going through is normal and that it WILL pass.

So, mom of 2 or about to have 2, I'm with you.
I have already told you that yes, it's hard, it's different. So now, listen closely, sit down for this one... I want to tell you now how INCREDIBLE it is. How amazingly sweet and genuinely splendid having two kids really is.

Two is TOTALLY twice as cool! 

Below is my most favorite picture of me as a new mom to two babies. 
I remember asking my husband to please take this shot, as I wanted to remember this. I spent the first 2 months of my second's life like this. She HAD to be held a lot and my son needed my arms open to him, too, so this was how we spent many nights in our home... toys everywhere, dark eye circles, sleepy baby content on her mama's chest, son needing extra attention, and smiles all around. I would even rock my son to sleep with her on my chest like that on nights I flew solo doing bed time routine. You do what you gotta do, right?!

Last year we had our son's second birthday party as a combined baby shower for our second baby, so our theme was Two is Cool! I definitely know now that is very true. Here are a few cool things about being mom to two...

Your heart grows.
You wonder when you have only one child if you could ever love more, share enough of your heart with another child since you feel so full up of love for your first. The answer is YES, of course! I know it's hard to believe, but it happens, almost overnight when you have your second. There IS plenty of you to go around.

You become stronger.
Crazy right? After having one child you think, damn I'm good, I can't ever top that. And then bam a second one comes along and you're freaking an ALL STAR! Not at first, perhaps, you won't feel this way. But take it from me - with my second almost 11 months old - you get to a point - about 6 months and up - where you are like, YES I can do this two kids thing, I'm AWESOME at it in fact! You do learn to juggle two kids' needs at one time. You learn that patience is a virtue. You learn laundry can wait and playing is always a priority. You even become closer to your partner. Doing this once is one thing, but going it a second time is monumental bonding for you and your partner.

You think clearer. 
Well, that whole mom brain thing IS real and it gets slightly worse after the birth of #2, not gonna lie. And yet you really do think clearer with two kids. Your focus is ENTIRELY on those two babies, your  partner and yourself. Your house, your job, your little world. Nothing else matters as much as it used to before the second came along. If you're too tired to go to that play date, you just tell the other mom, "Hey, can't make it this time, bags under my eyes mean I'm going to end up snapping at somebody so we're sticking it out at home, sorry!" instead of making up an excuse or begrudgingly going along with the plan. You now know what works, what doesn't. You realize your shortcomings, too, that perhaps grocery shopping with a toddler and infant and you only having two hands is not the greatest idea, so you forego shopping this weekend or go at night when all are sleeping and partner is home. You do what works. And it ends up WORKING well! Somehow, that becomes true.

You also put things in perspective more with the second. My first year as a parent, my poor husband and I only got out for one date night, the entire year. Sad, I know. Ridiculous really. But you get so tired and so busy with a child you forget about your relationship I think. And honestly who wants to leave their child when it's the first one? Move on to child #2, and we went out when she was a month old, even for an hour! You realize with the second child it's ALL OK. Babysitters are helpful, not dreadful. You are a good parent for leaving once in a while, not a neglectful parent. Relationship matters, not something to put on the back burner while baby grows. Everything just gets clearer.

You have MUCH more fun.
Mom of 2, you just wait. The fun is yet to be had. You say, how can that be? I've had the BEST year(s) with my first so far. It's incredible what else happens when there are two of you and your partner running around the house. Of course in the beginning few months when #2 just cries and sleeps and poops and doesn't understand when the sun goes down at night it's time to stay asleep... well that part kinda sucks at times and you worry you will never reach the other side of  your new version of "normal."

But really truly, listen up, the FUN you will have when #2 is moving, SLEEPING through the night, learning, clapping, GIGGLING... man, those moments you see are doubley amazing as they were with your first because now not only do you and your partner get to witness this growth and awesomeness but also your firstborn gets in on the action. My son gets SO excited when he sees his little sister learn something new: "Mama! She's clapping mama, see, she's clapping!" and he smiles and claps along with her.

Your world is more full with two. 
At one point you think, how on earth do I do this two thing? How will I ever have enough of me to give to both of them so someone isn't screaming for more? The answer is : with time, my friend, with time. Be patient. At first, no, you won't have it figured out, people will be screaming and crying (possibly you in fact!) and you'll not want to leave the house because that can be complicated. But then the baby leaves the infant carrier and it's physically even easier to get out of the house. And your older one can help you a little bit by reminding you to get the baby's hat or sippy cup or Sophie the Giraffe. And you somehow do it, often, with ease in fact. And you have FUN doing it, exploring the world with two babies growing faster than you can imagine.

You spend more time with your first now, crazy to believe because at first it feels like you'll never have enough time with #1 again... but honestly once the baby is on a routine, sleeping regular patterns, not eating every 10 minutes, you and #1 get TONS of quality one-on-one time. I LOVE my daughter's nap time in the morning, because it's an hour and a half of uninterrupted play time for me and my son. I don't know that before baby we sat around doing nothing but playing whatever he wanted to do for that long in the morning. But now that my time is scarce I take advantage of it and just do what we want together when the baby is asleep.

You start to observe more.
It's like you "stop and smell the roses" now, for real. I know that sounds ridiculous if you've read all of my other blog posts about having a second baby and how busy it is. But really, despite the busy-ness of it all, you start to appreciate what matters. You let go of whatever expectations you had once before your first child was born. You are more REAL as a mother now. It's like you notice now those little moments instead of moving quickly through them to the next stage. I remember with my first wanting so badly for our son to crawl, why won't he do it? when will he do it? when will those teeth come? Waiting and waiting, hoping. And yet with our second we don't care, we take it as it comes and smile every time when she learns something new, realizing now it all goes by way too fast so just enjoy it when it happens instead of wishing for the next big thing to occur.

If this is your last baby, you start seeing things and savoring things you might not have before. You try to memorize how this feels or that looks or sounds like. You take more video, more pictures.

You gave your first a best friend.
Um, hello? Is there anything else in the whole wide world that could be sweeter than that?! I think not. Ensuring your #1 has a BFF for life - even if you know from sibling experience that they will fight and hate each other at times in the future - is the coolest thing in the world. They will always know they came from something that nobody else came from - their own special family and place in this world. You created another mini you perhaps. Or maybe this one is YOU and the first was your partner, so you're ecstatic (like I am about my daughter who is a total mini me!). Despite the jealousy in the beginning that #1 isn't getting all the attention anymore, that goes away when he learns the baby is fun and laughing at him now. So relish these sibling moments - even the tough ones. And know you gave #1 the most amazing gift ever. Someday when you're old or you aren't around, these two will have each other. There is a whole lot of goodness to be said for that. You deserve a medal or something.

blurry sibling love, but the fun moments often are blurry, so be it...

You get a second chance to be great.
If you messed up a little bit here and there the first time around, this is your chance to do it better. With my first, I pushed the whole breastfeeding thing so bad the first week my husband and I were barely speaking in the hospital one day and my son was starving until I gave in and gave him formula to supplement with pumped milk. The second time around I started collecting formula samples from the doc's office in preparation that breastfeeding may not work and that was A-OK with me... fast forward almost a year and all of those formula cans are still on the shelf unopened because nursing worked great this time around. Using formula was fine, but because I let go of expectations it went different this time. The first time I didn't take enough video of my newborn, so I took more this time. The first time I cared what some thought, this time I don't and do what works best for my family above all else. You can change it up, do what worked last time, make new memories. It's exciting!

Make room for #2 - potty training pants in a basket 
next to the diaper changing table and small diapers! Love it.

Two IS cool ... especially when you can manage to get them to fall asleep at the same EXACT time! 
Go you!

My newborns ... both 10 days old, 2 years and 2 months apart :)

HAVE FUN, new mom of 2! 
You will love this roller coaster ride of ups and downs, all full of fun! It's the most rewarding thing you will do, being a mom in general. But to two? It's double the celebration of mommyhood. Shine on, momma. You CAN do this TWO thing!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

going back to work after baby #2

Going back to work after baby and maternity leave is never easy. However, after the second child I found it was easier in some ways, and yet harder in other ways. I'm sticking with "mostly easier" though when I explain it to friends.

Here are a few thoughts on what is easier and harder this time around:

EASIER - You know the babysitter already from the first kid most likely. That was the hardest part about leaving our first child, not knowing who the heck this lady was, sure we trusted her enough to go with her but did we really know how she'd be? With the second, you know that she'll change her diapers, feed him when he cries, say kind words when disciplining, etc. You know you already like her. That's the biggest thing. So you already feel comfortable leaving the baby since you did it once before.You also know it's OK to call the sitter any time you want, they won't hate you or think you're a strange mother.

EASIER - Been there, done that. You've done this before, so you know you can survive this challenging time. You also know your child WILL be fine without you. He won't forget you or like the sitter better. He won't feel neglected or left behind - things you worried about the first time around. You also know that you CAN work AND be a good mother. You did it once before, you CAN do it again. Before, it was all the unknowns that freaked you out and left you uneasy. These thoughts don't help the first day dropping off your precious baby, BUT they do help you get into the swing of things, reminding yourself it is possible to do this again. It's also normal to cry, be sad, worry, the same way you did after your first child went to daycare the first time.

Me and my little monkey, Addisyn, 12 weeks old, when I left her to go back to work twice a week in the summer (I work in a school so was not back full time until two months after this). 
See how tired we are?!

HARDER -  Two babies = twice as hard. It's exhausting ... Everything takes twice as long getting out the door - two sets of diaper bag things to pack. Two kids to physically put in the car and buckle up. It honestly just takes twice as long. It helps to do EVERYTHING the night before - including putting sippy cup of milk in the fridge, picking out outfits, putting cooler for pumped milk on the counter with notes to remember the frozen ice packs, etc. EVERYTHING you can do the night before do it! It helps for a smoother morning. I never used to have to do this with one kid, it was fairly easy getting out the door with him. Now? I could never get out of my house in the mornings if I didn't do all of this before the morning.

HARDER- Figuring out a routine. You had this down, so you thought, the last time you went back to work with one kid. So you thought you could leave the house at the same time, wake up at the same time as you did before maternity leave. It doesn't work that way though now that there are two kids. I had to get up at least 30 minutes earlier and leave the house at least 15 minutes earlier than I did before with one child. You don't know this until you go through it the first few days going back to work. Just give yourself some extra time especially at the beginning. It will take time to figure out how you be a worker and a mom again, just like it was probably a struggle when you returned to work the first time after your first child. Have patience and lower your expectations. You WILL get back into the swing of things eventually, but at first it's a transition period for your family.

EASIER - You kinda enjoy leaving a little bit. It's admittedly nice to have a break, dress up and speak adult talk for a little while in your day. You may not have acknowledged this or appreciated it when you returned to work after #1 came along. So many first-time moms put their entire selves into their kids, never ever admitting that yes, it's OK to be a woman, person, individual, too, not always Mom. But with the second child comes more realistic ideas about parenthood, which involves typically allowing yourself a break here and there. For me, I enjoyed returning to work I loved, seeing my old co-worker friends, trying on all my old work clothes that hadn't fit me in a while. It's OK to enjoy some of this, as hard as it is.

Overall, you realize you CAN get through it. It is mostly easier going back to work after the second child, I promise!

Friday, March 8, 2013

M.O.M. - organized ENTRYWAY!

*This post is part of a series about getting organized in 2013, 
from our new Moms On a Mission = M.O.M. project , 
see February 2013 posts for more great ideas!*

An extension of your kitchen perhaps is the entryway, where you put coats on and take shoes off, where you may keep hats and mittens, hang the keys, etc. This is a top priority on the organizing list because it's a space you use probably more than any other space in your house, even if for a few brief moments twice a day or so. It won't take long to organize this area, so try it out!

Our coat closet is unfortunately in our living room. It'd be better if it were in our kitchen where we walk in from outside, but so be it. Because of this we have some coat hooks near our kitchen door that I make sure we keep clear except for those few coats we are currently wearing daily. All other coats are in the coat closet ... organized by person, so all of mine are together, kids are together, husband's are together. Try using this same tactic - coats near the door are only those you're currently using.

I also have a policy that all coats are in the same place - we don't have them in our rooms (except a few baby ones in the baby room). It's nice to know what we have that is for next season or next year, too.

Do you have too many coats for a certain season? If so, donate them or give away to family. Ask yourself, when did I really wear this coat last season? If the answer was less than a few times then it's time it leaves your closet to make room for other things that are important.

I keep the kids' items in our entryway. Most are in a large plastic bin, by size (things that fit now are on top, too big on bottom). Mittens are in a ziplock freezer bag, easier to find that way. The couple that my husband and I wear are in a basket in this space, too, so they're easy to grab. We have extras in our coat closet. I know this probably sounds way too organized for you, but think of those spur of the moment days where it's actually warm enough to go out sledding, you're trying to get yourself and impatient kids ready before they change their minds about going out in the first place - you NEED it all to work smoothly, and that only happens if it's organized!

If you have things that don't match or don't fit, holes in them, now is the time to get rid of them. Stop holding on to clutter!

We keep necessary shoes by the door, others are in our rooms in shoe racks, door hangers, etc. Keep going through the shoes - same as above, if they don't fit or aren't in great shape, move them on. We keep kids' shoes that they've grown out of in a plastic bin in storage space upstairs.

I'm sure you have all sorts of bags, too - diaper bag, your work bag, your purse, kids' backpacks, etc. Finding a place for these is important. I wish we had a huge entryway where everyone in our family had their own hook, cubby, and even white board or tack board for papers. Unfortunately our house is not that large so we have this tiny shelf thing where we keep a few bags.

Our diaper bag is always restocked after we return from some place. Why then? Because it's when I remember what we just used and therefore need to replace. Make your life easier by doing this before you really need it done, that way you can just grab it and go.

Speaking of diaper bags... An organized one always has these things in it:
of course diapers, wipes and extra clothes - including socks and hats
diaper cream or vaseline, hand sanitizer
toys, small books,coloring book and crayons (for outings like restaurants where kids should be quiet or occupied)

What's your system for always knowing where your keys are? They should be in the same place every time you come and go, that's a start. We keep ours on top of our fridge.

Do you keep a grocery list some place in this area, or on your fridge? It's a MUST! Writing something on the list when you run out of it is the best way to remember it at the store the next time you're there. A large white board calendar in the kitchen/entryway is key, too to keep track of those play dates, doctors appointments, permission slips, etc.

Make this space work FOR you.
Reflect next time when you come and go from some place and see what works, what is frustrating to your family, what needs improvement. Then start there. If all you need is fewer shoes near the door so you have enough room to bring in groceries, great, that's an easy one, find a new place for shoes to live or once a week remind yourself to go through those shoes and move them elsewhere.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

M.O.M. - organized KITCHEN

*This post is part of a series about getting organized in 2013, 
from our new Moms On a Mission = M.O.M. project , 
see February 2013 posts for more great ideas!*

We are swiftly moving through the house with our organizing skills. The kitchen is a slightly more complicated one to organize, mainly because there is a lot of STUFF in here and it's a larger room in the house typically, but you can do it. It will just take longer than a week to tackle. But don't be scared.

Pick ONE idea below and try it out this week or weekend, then keep crossing off ideas from your list and in a month or so your kitchen will be totally organized. Remember: the key is NOT to make organizing stressful or overwhelming to you, so break it down into pieces and you'll get there.

Start with asking yourself:
What's frustrating, annoying, difficult, challenging in this kitchen?
What do me and my partner argue about in here?
What could I do in here to make our lives easier, less stressful?
What works in this kitchen and how can I do more of that in here?


Good reasons for organizing this: So you don't buy new cleaning supplies when you already had 3 bottles under there you couldn't find when it was messy. So you don't pull your hair out every time you simply need a trash bag and can't find it because 10 things are on top of it!

How to organize this area:
Start by taking everything out. Put it on the floor next to you.
DO NOT do this with kids around. Nap time is good or at night for this task. Too many dangerous things under there.
Toss whatever is old, has not been used since you moved in, etc.
Put like things together - cleaning supplies, vases, candles with lighters and matches, trash bags and grocery bags, etc.
Get some plastic bins, baskets, etc. for organizing things together.
Done! Make it work FOR you.

Good reasons for organizing this: So you don't pack the kids up and rush to the store at night to get cupcake liners because you forgot you said you'd make cupcakes for work the next day... only to return to clean the spices cabinet and find you had 3 packages of cupcake liners already hidden in there! Save money and time! Also, our spice cabinet was overflowing, things fell out every time we opened that cupboard before I cleaned it out. Then after I tossed out old things we had plenty of room in there! I threw out TONS from this cabinet when I cleaned it. It was embarrassing what I found in there from years ago - chocolate chips from 2008!

How to organize this area:
Take everything out.
Check expiration dates.
Toss whatever is old and you don't need.
Combine things if possible (we had 3 things of parsley, I combined them into one container).
Put like things together (baking, spices, etc.).

We keep our kids' pain medicine, the thermometer and our daily vitamins in this cabinet, too so they are easy to find, so we put those all together on the bottom shelf.

To the right of those is my cake/cupcake decorating things, which I want to get a small basket for so it's easier to use those when we are decorating with my son.

Biggest thing about these is putting like things together.
Make sure you are USING these dishes. Don't hold on to things you hope to use someday but realistically have not used since you got married. Donate them or give to family instead of them taking up space.
Are they in an area that works for you? Or are the kids' plates far away from the counter where you make their lunch every day? Move them closer! Make life easier on yourself.

This one's easy to start with - just take everything out, sort in like order, and clean out the drawer before putting things back in. Voila!

Because you probably go into this one more frequently than other cabinets in the kitchen when you're making dinner or getting snacks for the kids, this one is important to make sure it's organized. You don't have time to check expiration dates every time your daughter asks for a snack, so make sure it's all clean the first time around. Same goes for the fridge and freezer. I clean those out every month at least, top to bottom making sure it's not old, putting things in an order that makes sense to us (salad dressings on one shelf, butter in its drawer, fruits and veggies in their spots, etc.).



The above before and after photos show small changes, I'm sure, but to me it's TONS of time saved. Everything is TOGETHER where it needs to be. The bottom shelf has the stuff we use most often. Snacks are all together. It all needs to make sense or else it's not organized and not going to make your life easier. The goal of organizing is an easier, stress-less life.

It's the most annoying ever when my son needed a cup and the pieces were all over the place. He whines more. I get agitated. It turns into an unnecessary stressful moment. If I can open the cabinet and just grab his cup and go out the door, we're all happier!

Ask yourself: What doesn't work in here? What is stressful in this cabinet? What could make my life easier in here? Start there!

Reasons to organize this: Because it's the most annoying thing when packing lunch at 5:30 a.m. or the night before to search for a tupperware lid to the bowl you put your food in. Tupperware gets old quick, so toss it (recycle!). Don't allow things to clutter up your house and therefore your life. Give old tupperware to your kids for their play kitchen, to play with in the tub or outside in the sandbox or the beach bag.

How to organize this area:
Take it all out.
Put lids on each thing. If there is no lid, toss in recycle bin or give away to the kiddos.
Stack them up with like sizes together.

Doing this last week made my entire week WAY easier! Packing my lunches was a breeze. My husband even commented on how easy it was in the morning for him to pack snacks or breakfast on the go having everything organized like this. AKA less stress in our home in the morning = a great thing! Keeping up with this has been easy this week, too, when putting away clean dishes from the dish washer - everything has a place and lid that matches so it's easy.

Reasons to organize this: Because otherwise you are never going to use those books that sit on the shelf or in my case on top of the fridge. I had books that have not been opened since they were given to me at my wedding 4 years ago. Really? What a waste of good food we could have been eating. Now that I organized it I one, know they are there, and two, found great ideas in there to get cookin' with!

How to organize this area:
Take them all off the shelf.
Dust them off.
Put in like order if there is some type of order to them.
Get rid of something you find you'll never use. Flip through them if you have to.

I put post-its on recipes I want to make. This makes it MUCH easier when looking for something to cook on a weekend instead of wasting time going through many recipes I'll never make.

I also have magazines that always have great recipes. Or friends at work who give me recipes or even moms on Facebook groups who share recipes. For those I keep a binder with dividers (soups, salads, appetizers, desserts, meals, breakfast, etc.). I have the large binder for magazine type cut-outs and the small binder is a real recipe card holder for those recipes I got at my wedding shower and from family members throughout the years.

I keep my cookbooks on top of the fridge.
While at it I cleaned up the rest of the fridge. The only things that go up here are my husband's phone charger, change jar, keys and wallet.

There are probably 1,000 other great kitchen organization tips out there. Check out some at my Pinterest board, get organized, mama!