Friday, July 20, 2012

So long....for now?

This is a post I've been putting off for awhile. Obviously. Since I promised in mid-April to have new posts coming, and now it's the end of July...oops.

But the subject of this post is something that I've known was coming, but I guess just tried to delay? I'm not sure why.

So here goes.

I have to put this blog on indefinite hiatus. I'm sorry.

And yes, it's sort of been on hiatus already, but not intentionally. I've just found myself busy with so many other things in my life, family & other commitments, and keeping up with this blog has just not been a priority. My "free time" has become less, and when I do have some I usually want to spend time with my husband. Or if all three of my children actually fall asleep at the same time (which is when I used to write blog posts), then I take advantage of that & nap myself! You know how it is.

So for the time being, I'm going on hiatus. Maybe someday I'll return. I really hope so, because I did enjoy it!

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's Been Too Long!

via Picable
I'm back! My sincerest apologies for the neglect this blog has seen the last few months. I've been busy chasing my ever-busy children around & my spare internet time has been spent researching a new passion that means a lot to me: changing the way our family eats with an emphasis on "real food" and less artificial additives. But that's another topic. :-)

So now that I've made my excuses, here's the exciting news on the organizing front: I promise some new blog posts are coming soon! Some topics I have planned are toy organization, and a reveal of the closet makeover in my twin girls' room. Please feel free to suggest topics, or even suggest features that you'd like to see (like should I continue Quick Tip Tuesday? Friday Favorites?)  I love feedback, it helps me give my readers what they want!

Friday, January 27, 2012

My Family Binder (aka Home Management Binder)

Hello again. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to do a post on this topic, as I've had my binder for over a year now! I call it my "Family Binder", but many people know them as a "Home Management Binder". Same thing really, I just thought the latter sounded too utilitarian. Perhaps you're familiar with such binders & just want to see another example. Maybe you've never heard of one before & are curious what kind of stuff is in it. Either way, would you like to take a tour? Let's go!

I have my binder split into 10 different categories, as follows:

  • Calendars
  • Menu
  • Cleaning
  • Financial
  • Health
  • Important Contact Info
  • Holidays
  • Babysitter
  • Home
  • Misc.
My categories are by no means comprehensive, they're just what works for me. There are a ton of suggestions out there for categories in your binder, and what to include in each category. But what it comes down to is what YOU feel you need in it. If it's not something that would be useful for you, don't put it in!

I should note that I'm including some pictures of my binder, but I can't really show most of the contents since it includes private information about our family, not meant for the general public!

My first category is Calendars. I have a cute plastic-covered calendar that I keep in there, easy to take out when I have to go to a meeting and don't need to tote my whole binder along. (I won't be including pictures of everything, since a lot of the information in this binder is not meant for the general public!)

Other things included in this category include the school calendar, a schedule for my mom's group meetings, our current monthly church calendar, and some random scheduling items related to my husband's job.

I've chosen to put everything in my binder in page protectors, not only to keep it safe & untorn longer, but because it's easy to swap things out (like the new church calendar each month).  I also use a binder that has pockets inside the front & back covers. The front cover is where I store my stamps & address labels, and the back cover is usually empty but sometimes stores uncategorized things for a short period of time - like receipts from Christmas gifts that I bought online, but only needed to keep until after Christmas.

The Menu section is simply an aid for me, but not where I do my actual meal planning. I like to be able to see my menu plan, so I write it on a chalkboard in the dining room. My binder is home to a general list of dishes that we like, broken down by the main meat ingredient (or meatless!), just so I have a guide to look at instead of flipping through recipes all the time. I also have a freezer inventory for meals that I freeze ahead of time,  and take-out menus for the local food joints, in case we feel like ordering pizza or something.

Cleaning...this is where I store various cleaning schedules - weekly, monthly, spring cleaning, etc. Does this mean that I always follow the schedules? No. Not at all. But I have them, so when I'm feeling motivated I can stick to them. :-)  I also include directions for washing our cloth diapers in this section (as well as posted inside the cabinet in the laundry room), just in case someone else would have to wash them for me.

The Financial section is where I especially love the tabbed dividers with pockets that I chose for my binder. The front pocket here is where I stash all of our bills that need to be paid, after writing the due date on the envelope so it's easy to spot when they're due.  I also include bank information here - just a simple list of where we have accounts & what type they are. Some people choose to put account numbers too, but I figure if somebody is really needing that information, I've probably died & they'll be able to get it from the bank.

I don't have any pictures for the next several sections (for privacy reasons), so I'll just do a basic breakdown:

Health: I keep basic medical information here - insurance company & policy/group numbers, names of our doctors & dentist, and list of pharmacies we use & any regular medications. There is also a list of every member of our family, their birthdate & any allergies they have.

Important Contact Info: Because I'm the only one who really uses this binder, I keep a list of my online passwords in it. There are so many different rules from different sites about how you create your username & password, that I could never remember what they were. I know I'm still missing some random ones that I don't use often, but for the most part the list is fairly comprehensive and has saved me many a time!  I also have a list of my most important phone numbers in case my cell phone were to die someday, as well as emergency contact info including: Our address, directions to our house, phone numbers for doctor, dentist, poison control, veterinarian, plumber, electrician, gas/electric/water companies, and phone numbers for a couple relatives who live nearby & one of our neighbors.

Holidays: I have a perpetual calendar with the birthdays/anniversaries of our close family & friends, wishlists of items that we think of throughout the year (handy for making Christmas lists), and a record of Christmas gifts that we've given to people over the past years. I think the last one is especially great because then you can avoid getting someone the same (or similar) thing that you got them last year or the year before!

Babysitter: Handy sheets to fill out for a babysitter, providing info on where we'll be, when we'll be home, how to reach us (or who to reach if you can't reach us), some of the same emergency-type information as listed earlier, and instructions (food, likes, rules, bedtime) for each individual child. To be honest, I haven't had to use these sheets yet, because we've never had a babysitter who wasn't a close family member, but I anticipate that day coming soon! There's also a daily schedule sheet that can be filled out with a column for each child, detailing when they wake-up, eat, take naps, do whatever else, and head to bed!

Home: This is where I store items like a home maintenance checklist, info on our vehicles (like when the last oil change was), and the paint colors we used in our house.

The last section of my binder I have purposely left Miscellaneous. It's just my catch-all for random pieces of information that I don't want to lose, like a coupon to the zoo, pricing information from our photographer, the YMCA's pool schedule & any unused guest passes, and gardening tips (like planting dates for various plants). So, really, miscellaneous. :-)

My binder has been an invaluable organizational tool for me. There are many great sites out there where you can see other examples of Home Management Binders. Just try googling or use pinterest, you'll come up with a ton!  There are also some great sites that include free printables for your binder. Here's just a short list!

Life Your Way
First Day of My New Life
Organized Home
Laura Williams' Musings
Homemaking Organized

I think the biggest key to setting up your own binder is that you have to make it work for YOU. Create categories that fit with your life, don't necessarily just copy exactly what someone else has done. That's the great thing about these binders - they're so flexible & you can put whatever YOU need in them!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quick Tip Tuesday - Rotating Tax Files

Since we're entering the tax season, I've decided to do a tax-related organizational tip for this week.

For an easy way to store tax returns, consider setting up rotating tax files within your filing system. You'll need 10 file folders, labeled Tax Year 0, Tax Year 1, Tax Year 2, etc. through Tax Year 9. Simply store each year's tax return in the folder marked with the last digit of that year. For example, your 2011 return will go in Tax Year 1, 2010 goes in Tax Year 0, and 2009 goes in Tax Year 9. This will make it super easy to find any past tax return that you may need.

Guidelines generally say that you should keep tax returns for 7 years, in case you are audited by the IRS. With this rotating system, you're actually keeping them for 10 years, but I don't see any problems with that. When you go to file a new return, you can toss (er, shred & recycle!) the return currently in that folder (getting rid of 2001 to make room for 2011).

Here's a shot of my rotating tax files...sorry about the horrible picture quality - they're stored in our dimly-lit basement!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Quick Tip Tuesday - Post-Christmas Toy Purging

via tomeppy

No doubt if you have small children you've probably had an influx of new toys from your recent Christmas celebrations. Take advantage of this time to sort through the "old" toys and decide which ones are rarely played with or often the source of fighting. Toss these toys in a box and either drop it off at your local Goodwill/Salvation Army/thrift store, or set it aside for your next garage sale.

If your children are old enough, have them help you sort through the toys & make the decisions about which ones to donate. Explain to them that another child will love to have this new toy, so they will learn that donating un-needed items is a good thing!

If your children are still too young to understand that, it might be best to do this after they've gone to bed or while they are napping...they probably won't miss the ones you've taken anyway. If you're worried about that, put the donation box in the basement for a week or two & see if they ask for any of those toys. If not, donate as intended!

Also, if after sorting through all of the toys you still find that your toy space is way too cramped, consider starting a toy rotation. Simply grab a large tote or cardboard box & toss some toys in it....and after a month or two bring those toys back out & put different ones away for awhile. For young kids, it can be like Christmas all over again!