Category Archives: Organizing Attempts

Organizing Issues I Need To Solve

I have several organizing issues I need to solve. Some of them I have foggy ideas about what to do swirling in my brain (I guess it could count as one of those organizing issues as well then). Others, I have tried various solutions and they simply did not work for my real-life, we have to live here and use this stuff family.

Then, there are those organizing issues that I have absolutely no idea how to solve and I wait impatiently for the bolt of lightening to strike an idea in my brain (or I just browse Pinterest for a couple of minutes before becoming distracted by food or party ideas).

I thought I’d share some of my organizing issues with you so you could either not feel so alone if you share them or give me a great idea that has worked for you in these areas.

My Kitchen and Pantry Area Organizing Issues:

My cleaning supply area.  The supplies won’t stay organized, the area won’t stay clean (What is it with dirty cleaning supplies?  Why oh why does my broom gather dust??).

organizing issues

This area needs help.

It also has become a stashing point for things that do not belong.  And please, do not get me started on the shelves that are an odd size.

The odd sized shelves in the kitchen.  Does anyone else deal with odd sized shelves in your kitchen and pantry areas?  Please, please tell me how you cope?

organizing issues

It is in an odd place in our hallway so hard to photo but the long narrow space below holds our brooms and mops.

Bags of chips.  My boys like potato chips in their lunches.  We all like chips around here.  However, the bags of chips multiply!  I cannot figure out a good way to store these!  I think if I could figure out the chips, then the rest of our pantry would fall magically into place.

organizing issues

our chip storage

My Living Room Organizing Issues:

Video Game Central

While my teenager has most his video gaming stuff in his basement hang out, my husband and younger son also like to play video games.  Our television stand often becomes littered with games cases and controllers.  I can’t seem to find a functional (meaning they’d actually use it) yet attractive way to contain and organize all their video game supplies (cases, controllers, etc).

organizing issues

One of my current attempts

Shoes and Backpacks

Our couch is the emptying zone for after school accessories and shoes tend to get kicked off right by the door.  Unfortunately, the area by the door is too narrow to accommodate a shoe basket.  The backpacks can go on a hook farther from the door but they seldom make it there so I don’t consider the solution a working one.

My Toy Organizing Issues

Honestly, the boys are older so this isn’t a huge deal anymore as they really don’t play with lots of toys anymore.  However, there are 2 items that I seem to have been searching for organizing solutions since before they were born (okay, maybe not that long):  Nerf guns and Cards (mainly Y-Gi-Oh!).

This Nerf gun rack is one of my most re-pinned Pinterest pins but I’ve yet to talk my husband into making one of these for us.  Right now the Nerf guns just kind of live in a heap on the floor of J’s closet.

The cards drive me to the brink of insanity.  Yes, I know about the trading card notebooks like collectors use to store baseball cards.  They make decks with their cards and spread them out and my children aren’t going to take the time to slide these cards in and out of sleeves.  Honestly, I don’t think I could handle that as an adult.

I’ve tried photo boxes.  G does have some cards in a big heap in the photo boxes.  I’ve tried hanging Ziploc bags.  It worked sort of.  My latest attempt which is not really working:  these little drawers I found at The Dollar Tree.

organizing issues

Seemed like a good idea to me but they didn’t really go for it.

Beyblades used to be another issue for us but the boys have mostly outgrown the need to constantly add to that collection.  I ended up simply storing all the Beyblades in their stadiums.  My husband did give the kids old fishing tackle boxes for Beyblades and parts which worked somewhat well when they were very into them.

My Bathroom Organizing Issue

It may sound silly to those of you with big, spacious bathrooms but perhaps my friends with smaller bathrooms will understand.

Extra toilet paper storage!  I can’t figure out a good and convenient way to do this.  My recycled container did not hold up well under the scrutiny of the husband and kids (they thought it too hard to get the rolls out of there).

My Paper Organizing Issue

Kids’ papers!  I don’t mean artwork.  I mean report cards and test results that I am completely torn between keeping (might need these some day) and throwing away (What if the kids want them some day?  Should I shred them for privacy reasons?)

Oddly enough, the bedrooms around here aren’t unorganized so much as just rather messy.  A good cleaning would be enough to put them in order.

Can you identify with any of these issues?  What is your biggest organizing issue?



My Calendar: Why I’ve Started to Go Digital

What kind of calendar keeps you organized? I used to be a paper person. Well, actually, the full truth is I used to be “I can remember it” person. And, I could.

Until, a husband. And then, kids. Add in a part-time job with varied hours.  Now, I can’t remember it all. I have to use a calendar.

When I started needing to seriously rely on a calendar, I went with paper.  I still use my pretty paper calendar hanging on the door to the basement.  I like it.  It’s easy for us all to glance at and know what is happening in a given week.  I keep track of family birthdays on it so I can get those birthday cards sent out on time.  At least, I’m trying.

When I started to need my calendar “on the go”, I started carrying a small planning calendar with me.  I was forever frustrated that I could not find one I liked that would fit in my purse.  I like to travel light.  This meant I would take the small planner with me when I thought I needed it like to a PTA meeting or slip it in my work bag but not carry it with me all the time.  The smart, organized people reading this blog (by mistake?) will realize this meant I would often forget it when I needed it the most and have to tell people I’d need to check and get back with them.


I started using the Google calendar on my phone.  We were slightly behind the curve in getting our smart phones and I still have to hand it over to the teenager on occasion so he can delete the 500+ apps I somehow opened, roll his eyes, and hand it back to me.  I know a lot of people love the Google calendar but I wasn’t a huge fan.  I thought it was kind of hard to use and I wanted a way to track everyone in my family easily.

I needed something else.  I needed some sort of planning app for my phone.

My calendar app criteria:

  • Free!  I don’t like to pay for things on my phone.  I’m just cheap that way.
  • Easy!  Something I could figure out on my own without needing to hire the teenager.
  • Color Coded Activities or another way to tell who belonged where at a glance.
  • Accessible to all of us with a reminder function!

Ultimately, I found the Cozi app.  While I could pay for the premium services, I really find the free version serves my purposes.  It was easy enough to figure out and download onto my phone.  I love that I can also use it on the desktop and often I will upload the dates from my desktop computer (old eyes, sigh).  Each activity has a color coded dot beside it so I can see at a glance who needs to be where and when.  calendar

I get a week at a glance type reminder e-mail every Monday.  I happen to love that particular feature!  I can also input a shopping list and a to-do list although I seldom use these features.  They also have articles to read and sometimes interesting looking recipes pop up on the sidebar.

If my husband and son would download the app, they could use the family password to access the calendar as well plus I could send them messages (a few before I would have to pay to upgrade).  I have not been successful in getting them to do that, however.  It would appear to be more fun to ask me what is going on for a given day 2 weeks and 3 days in the future than look at any calendar digital or paper.

I mainly use this calendar app as I can easily check on my work availability while I’m on the go and give a quick answer which is important in the substitute teaching.   It is nice to look and know at a glance if my boys are off school (the preschool dates don’t always line up directly with our local school district) or have an activity.

I’ll probably always have a paper calendar hanging in our kitchen (and Santa brought each of the boys calendars for Christmas) but I’m starting to really embrace the ease of accessing our family calendar from my phone.  My small paper planner has been gathering dust on my desk since I bought it.

Do you prefer paper or digital or a combination of the two?

**I am not receiving any type of commission from the Cozi app for this post.  I just really like it and wanted to share my thoughts about it.

Gift Card Organization

Did you get a gift card for Christmas or another gift giving occasion?  Me, too!  Gift cards are great aren’t they?

How do you spend your gift cards?  A big blowout use them all and every cent of their balance at once?

I usually don’t do that.  I mean if I drank $25 worth of Starbucks coffee all at once, well, I don’t think the results would be pretty.  Full of energy maybe but definitely, not a scenario I see ending pleasantly.

My problem with gift cards is once I’ve used them the first time, I never can remember the remaining balance.  I end up with a purse full of random cards that I give to the clerks going there might be something left on this but I’ m not sure.  Sometimes, it’s 50 cents and sometimes it’s $5.  Sometimes, the balance is zero and I’ve been carrying a worthless gift card around for no reason.

I end up not bothering with the gift card because it is so much easier to just pay the cash amount rather than fumbling around for a card that may have 50 cents or nothing at all on it.  I suppose it explains why when I went to clean out my purse today, I found 6 random (well, not the Starbucks cards…those were much-loved and appreciated birthday gifts!) gift cards floating around in there.

Since we need to save a bit (a bunch) of money in 2016 for a trip in 2017, I decided perhaps I should start putting these cards to use.  Step one of course, find out the balance of each gift card.

3 Steps to for Gift Card Organization:

gift card

No more mystery amount gift cards

*Have a Sharpie handy for this.

  1. Check balance on all gift cards.  Most cards have a number to call on the back or a website where you can check the balance.
  2. Throw away any cards with a balance of zero!  I don’t get the whole reload a gift card thing.
  3. As you check the balance of each gift card, use the Sharpie to write the balance on the front of the card.

I also plan to carry my Sharpie with me and update the balances as I use the gift cards.

Do you register your gift cards?  Some places will send you extra goodies for doing this.  I know Panera is good about it.  Of course, I’m not good about getting to the places to get my extras before they expire.

One last thought on checking gift card balances.  I did have an experience a few years ago with a gift where the gift card was not valid.  Whenever I buy gift cards, I like to ask them to scan it for a balance receipt.  It’s nice to put with the card and it also helps keep everyone honest.  If I forget, I make sure to check my receipt and include it with the card.

How do you keep track of your gift cards?



My Blue Vacation Bag

I have a small blue vacation bag.  It fits inside my suitcase and comes along on just about every trip we take.

My well-worn blue vacation bag

My well-worn blue vacation bag

I’ve had the bag longer since before the kids were born. The items it contains has changed as the boys have grown.  Would you like to peek inside my vacation bag?

A look inside my vacation bag.

A look inside my vacation bag.

Here let me take out the contents so you can see what is actually in there…

Current contents of my vacation bag.

Current contents of my vacation bag.

My vacation bag contains:

  • Small soaps and shampoos.  These are usually extras from our previous hotel stays.  I really had to convince J this time that it was ok for me to take the extra shampoos and soaps from our room.

  • Tums and Advil.  Cures for most minor ailments.

  • Wet ones wipes.

  • A Lipstick sample.  You know because you never want to be without lipstick in an emergency.  I have no idea why that is in there… Actually, I usually throw samples of things like make-up, deodorant, shampoos, and the like in the bag.  They come in handy if I forget any of those things.

  • A small sample of face cleaner.

It usually also contains a few small first aid odds and ends.  I was very happy to have some After Bite in there when we were on vacation this time.  I’ve restocked it with a few other first aid items since writing this post.  If you are wondering about hand sanitizer, I carry that in my purse along with another small first aid kit.  I may have a slight obsession with first aid kits and yet, I still never seem to have the right size band aid when I need one.

When the boys were smaller, I would always add a thermometer, liquid fever reducer medicine, baby bath products, and lotion as well as a small container of wipes.  Now that they are older, I don’t carry quite as much.  I do always make sure to pack some form of Claritin for J though.  I learned to pack that one the hard way.  Poor guy, it’s tough being the only one in the family that allergies really bother.

We are all blessed that none of us requires prescription medicines but if we did, the blue vacation bag would be the storage unit for us on our trips.  The bag usually gets packed inside my suitcase unless I think we might need access to it sooner and then, it travels solo in the trunk.

TIP:  Pack any liquid medicine in a Ziploc bag!  Seal it if you can.  As you can see from the photos of my blue vacation bag, I didn’t always follow this advice.  Things can and do leak.

Do you have a vacation bag for just in case items?  What do you carry in it?




Tips and Tricks For Somewhat Organized Vacations

Even though school is starting up again here, I know it is still vacation season for many.  I confess I still have vacation on my mind.  It seems like once I get myself in vacation planning mode, I tend to stay in it and start thinking of our next vacation almost as soon as we arrive home from our current one.

I’m not the most organized vacation planner out there but we do take somewhat organized vacations.  Honestly, I learned the hard way about over organizing a vacation on a trip my husband and I took to Colorado before the boys were born.  It was fun and miserable at the same time.  Suffice it to say it was a good reminder that sometimes less is more.

I’ve learned that somewhat organized vacations are a bit more relaxing and fun for everyone.  It’s actually okay to have days with nothing in particular planned and sometimes those days end up being the best ones of the whole trip.

Here are a few tips and tricks to pulling off vacations that are somewhat organized:

Pre-Vacation Planning:

  • Order the state travel guide.  You can look at these on-line but there is something about having a magazine to hold in my hand that I prefer.  They’ll usually send you a state highway map as well.  Use these things together to determine if the things you are planning to do are within a reasonable area of where you are staying.  The TripAdvisor forums for the general area are also often a wealth of information (even the older posts).
  • Vacations take money.  We always cash in our coffee can change jar prior to going on vacation and use that as the spending money for any souvenirs we buy on our trip.  Generally, we don’t purchase a lot of souvenirs but I do like to make sure everyone has at least one t-shirt from our trip.
  • While the travel sites like TripAdvisor are great for seeing the top rated sites in an area, I always also Google “free things to do in (fill in your destination)” as well as checking out things like Groupon or the entertainment book sites for the area.  Note:  I’m seldom organized enough to order the coupons in advance but looking at these sites will sometimes give me insight and ideas into things in the area we’d have otherwise overlooked.  It’s also fun to see if you can find a few blog posts by locals about what they are doing.
  • Repurpose a folder to keep all your vacation planning papers in one easy to locate spot.  I like to use one of the kids’ old school folders.  This rides in the front seat with me while we’re on our trip.

    My info folder from our vacation.

    My info folder from our vacation.

  • Let everyone choose one to two things they’d like to do while on vacation (it’s okay if more than one person in your family choses the same thing).  This is really helpful if you are traveling to an area that has hundreds of things to do.
  • Pack a “just in case” bag.  While yes, I know that most places have drug stores, I like to have my blue bag when we travel because it seems to generally be late at night when illnesses flare.  Who wants to drive around a strange location looking for a drug store?  Not me.

In The Car:

  • Have some (non-messy) snacks and water available.  We like Twizzlers and Chex Mix for our vacation treats.
  • Carry paper towels.  Spills and messes will happen even with non-messy snacks. Be prepared.
  • Also make sure you have hand sanitizer and a small first aid kit.  By the way, J always hated hand sanitizer (and it’s never been a favorite of mine) until we found this Honest Company Spray Hand Sanitizer.  It doesn’t drip everywhere or hurt if you happen to have a small cut on your hands.  I found mine at Target.

While on Vacation:

  • Find the local welcome center and make use of it!  These visitor information centers are a wealth of information.  They can share knowledge of road construction, what is going on in town, and even suggest restaurants if you just ask.
  • Embrace the GPS.  I fully admit this one was tough for me to do.  I’m used to being the map reader on our trips.  It became a bit of a family joke that I despised the GPS lady.  I may or may not have referred to her as “the other woman.” However, she was great at finding restaurants when we were all tired and hungry.
  • Have a rough outline for the days.  However, don’t make concrete plans for every single day.

    The boys loved just spending time at the pool relaxing err racing.

    The boys loved just spending time at the pool relaxing err racing.

  • Have a plan for dirty laundry.  Can’t even escape from this stuff while on vacation!  We always put our dirty clothing in a different location than our suitcases.  Usually, we take a large black trash bag and fill it with our dirty DRY clothing.   If necessary, take the bag to a Laundromat (we’ve only had to do that on one vacation).
  • Make sure you pack enough clothing.  Too much is always better than too little in my opinion.
  • Hang wet beach towels and swimsuits up to dry immediately upon returning to your room. If you need to pack them wet, use a separate bag.

Home Sweet Home Sanity Savers:

  • Unpack the car as soon as you get home.  It won’t turn into any less of a job the longer you wait.
  • Start a load of laundry immediately especially if you have to pack damp clothing.
  • Have at least one quick go to meal ready in the freezer or be prepared to order a pizza.

I used to always feel like my vacations had to be super organized as if I’d never return to a place again but I’ve learned it’s okay to go with the flow a bit and just enjoy a place thinking you never know, we may return someday.

What about you?  Do you prefer a more organized or more relaxed approach to your vacations?

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