5 Common Clutter Problem Areas & Solutions

Before-and-After-Pantry-Organization-Clutter-CountdownLast week I presented a workshop on decluttering at a local library. The library is conducting a yearlong series on resolutions and organizing was part of the agenda! Some great ideas came out of the workshop and I was excited to see everyone so engaged and offering their own suggestions along the way!

We first talked about the importance of setting your goal. Your goal should be the overall vision for why you want to get and stay organized. Here is a worksheet that you can use to help define your goal. Once you have a goal, I’d recommend saving it electronically. By keeping it in a place you use frequently like your computer, smart phone or tablet, you can refer back to it often as a reminder without having to worry about a physical piece of paper to track down.

Next, you’ll want to compile your list of organizing projects (or objectives). Use this worksheet to jot down your list and then rate them on a scale of 1-5 based on how each impacts your day-to-day life. The objectives with higher scores should be prioritized first.

5 Common Problem Areas & Solutions

Mail Clutter

Problem: Mail comes every day and we all get so much junk mail it can become overwhelming. We often just do a quick glance through for things we’re interested in and then throw the rest on an ever growing pile.

Solution: Create a daily routine for sorting mail. Keep a trash can or shredder in the place where you typically read the mail so you can readily weed out the things you don’t need to keep. File the rest into a “To-Do” folder and a “To-File” folder and check those files weekly to clean out.

Kid’s Paper Clutter

Problem: Kids come home with a ton of papers from school, some things are deadline based and require action, and others may be artwork or other precious keepsakes.

Solution: Invest in a refrigerator command center with pockets. Keep a pocket for “To-Do” items and “To-File” items, similar to your mail files. Make sure to note any important deadlines on your calendar. As you complete items from the “To-Do” folder, move them to the “To-File” folder to recycle them. For keepsakes like artwork, keep a plastic file box with folders for each year (1st Grade, 2nd Grade, etc.) and drop those treasured items into the appropriate folder.

Entry Way

Problem: The entry way is the gateway to our homes and can be a source of stress due to the various items that clutter the space. Shoes, bags and coats pile up, as well as seasonal items like umbrellas and mittens.

Solution: Get a shoe cubby! I like cubbies better than other shoe organizers because they are easily accessible and the shoes are visible so everyone can find what they are looking for easily. I like to put a mat next to, or on top of, the shoe cubby for wet shoes. Hooks make it easy to hang coats and bags instead of having to deal with hangers. Invest in baskets for seasonal items like gloves and scarves in the winter or small items like swim goggles in the summer. Label a basket for each family member so they can keep all their items in the same place.


Problem: Toys, toys, everywhere! They have a habit of overrunning the entire house!

Solution: Create designated areas for toys in each living space where they are used and include baskets or a chest to store them in. This will make for easy tidying at the end of the day. For large scale toys like doll houses, train sets, etc. establish a home base where they need to stay or go back to at the end of play time. Encourage your kids to help pick up their toys but understand that some days will be easier than others and sometimes you’ll have to tidy on their behalf or let things stay messy until they pick them up.

General Storage/Pantry/Drawers

Problem: Out of sight, out of mind. We don’t take time to organize the things people can’t see but we struggle when we can’t find things easily.

Solution: Containers, bins, and a label maker are your best friend! Group like items and always toss or recycle what can be thrown. Once you get these areas organized, be mindful of putting things in the right spot, and not stuffing things that don’t need to be kept in drawers.

Remember, the most important thing is to recognize that no one is perfect and that it takes effort and routine to keep up on clutter. If you tidy daily and schedule a one-hour organizing session on your calendar each week, it can be very manageable.

Finally, don’t forget to ask for help! You can’t be expected to do it all alone. Get your family on board for doing their part and recruit friends for larger projects!

Reading Challenge 2017!

Reading Challenge 2017I decided to significantly reduce my reading goal this year, mainly due to the fact that I’m expecting a baby at the beginning of June and I don’t yet know how much that will impact how many books I can fit in. I set my goal at 20 books which is about 15-20 books less than a typical year for me.
So far, I’ve made it through 4 books and am on track! I’ve started a few others but haven’t made much traction on a few of them as well.
Common Sense PregnancyCommon Sense Pregnancy: Navigating a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth for Mother and Baby by Jeanne Faulkner
I found this book at the library and liked that it was about common sense. I actually liked this book so much that I’m planning to buy a copy to keep at home. There are some really good post-birth tips that I’d like to have handy. Great read, true to its name with very practical advice. Learn more!





The Fringe HoursThe Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica Turner
This book has been on my list for a long time. As part of my resolution to spend less time on social media from my phone, I moved all of my social apps to a separate page on my phone and installed my kindle app to my home page. This made it super easy for me to get this read in all those times I would normally mindlessly check facebook. Incidentally, this tactic fell right in line with the themes of the book which is focused on using those underused pockets of time to make time for yourself. I liked this book a lot and am glad I finally got around to it! Learn more!



Carve the MarkCarve the Mark by Veronica Roth
Veronica Roth is the author of the Divergent series which I loved so I was excited to see that her new series launched with Carve the Mark. This book is more science fiction/fantasy based than the Divergent series and I loved it. The characters are well developed and the universe it’s set in is very engaging. If you’re a fan of young adult sci-fi/fantasy, go pick this up, you won’t regret it. Learn more!





All the Missing GirlsAll the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda (Book Club)
Our first book club read of the year! This was a great pick, we had been doing a lot of historical fiction lately so switching over to a mystery thriller was just what we needed. This book is told in reverse, day-by-day, leading up to a big reveal. Ten years earlier, the main character, Nic, leaves town after one of her closest friends mysteriously disappears. Now, back in town to help clean out her family home so it can be sold now that her father is in a nursing home, another girl goes missing. Each day the reader finds out more about how the two cases may be connected. I will say that I didn’t find the reveal to be that surprising, although some of my other book clubbers were very surprised! I also don’t think I liked the ending much but overall it was a quick and fun read. Learn more!


Goal Standing: 4/24

Adventures in Pregnancy: My Second Trimester

As I mentioned in my last post, I fully intended to document things week to week, unfortunately, I didn’t get around to this until this week (week 28 and the start of my third trimester), so I decided to compile things by trimester with a few outliers on more specific topics.
It’s true what they say, the second trimester is the sweet spot. It took me a few weeks to get over my near constant nausea after the first trimester and then I almost immediately got heart burn. So bad in fact that I actually threw up. I hadn’t thrown up at all to this point and it was horrible. Luckily for me, it was only one day! Around 20 weeks I hit my stride and was feeling pretty great for about a month.
Gender reveal:
As you can probably guess, I’m a planner. So when people asked if we were going to find out the baby’s gender, it was a no-brainer. We wanted to know. We were a little worried that the baby would not cooperate, at an earlier ultrasound the baby was kind of shy and turn in on itself. But it was very easy for the ultrasound tech to spot our baby’s little penis. It’s a boy!

Its a boy
This came as a big surprise to the majority of our family and friends. I think we had only 3 or 4 people guess that it would be a boy and literally everyone else thought girl. So it was fun to take everyone by surprise!
Growing bump:
Between 24-26 weeks I think baby had a major growth spurt. I’m a very small person, with very limited space for my growing nugget, so everything just pops way out front making me look very, very pregnant. I actually love my bump! It makes me feel connected to my baby because he’s right there for me to snuggle all the time.
That being said, I’m over people asking me my due date and then looking shocked that I still have a few months to go. I try to be nice but I’m about ready to scream “You try fitting a soccer ball in your uterus when you’re five feet tall and see how it looks!”
What’s worse is that I constantly get told things like “my friend is due around the same time as you, and she’s barely showing”. To which I usually reply, “how tall is your friend?” Ninety-nine percent of the time the person they are comparing me to is at least 10 inches taller than me. So yeah. My baby is the right size, I’ve gained the appropriate amount of weight. So let’s all just get over how “big” I look.
Glucose testing:
At 25 weeks I had my first glucose test, it wasn’t nearly as bad as people made it out to be. The sugary solution just tasted like flat sprite to me. Unfortunately, I didn’t pass that test and had to come back for the three-hour glucose test. That was not my favorite. The sugary drink was way worse for the three-hour test and then I just got to sit there (on an empty tummy because you have to fast) and get poked every hour for three hours. I didn’t pass that test either and so I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Not news anyone really wants to get.
You may be thinking, “she did just finish telling us about how big she’s getting, this totally makes sense.” Nope, not so much. I actually didn’t have any major risk factors other than being over 30 years old, sometimes this stuff happens. My body just doesn’t want to make the amount of insulin needed during pregnancy. So now I’m watching my carb intake and poking my finger four times a day to keep an eye on things. This has only been going on for about a week so we’ll see how things go.
Here are some pictures to see how my bump has grown in the second trimester:

Adventures in Pregnancy: My First Trimester

First, I’d like to start this by saying that I had every intention of blogging my way through my pregnancy and sharing weekly updates. But then life happens and I my best-laid plans got derailed. Mostly for two reasons. First, it was all I could do to just go to work every day, get home, take a nap, try to eat and then go to bed in my first trimester. Second, I didn’t feel like there was anything particularly unique or strange about my pregnancy that warranted writing about, honestly, once we got past the first few weeks, it was pretty uneventful that first trimester.
Getting Pregnant:
Backing up a little further, let’s go back to the very beginning. Getting pregnant is tricky business. I started tracking when I was due to ovulate, researched the right kinds of foods to eat and best yoga positions for fertility and we were on our way. It took a full year after I went off the birth control and about 9 months of trying regularly. I remember thinking to myself, “If I’m not pregnant this month I’m going to the doctor to see what’s going on.” And then the delightful “Pregnant” displayed on the home test!

Pregnancy Test
I knew that the doctor’s don’t really want to see you right away so I waited a little while to call. Unfortunately, in the next week or so after getting the positive test, I had some cramping and a little bit of spotting. I know this is fairly normal early on, but one night I got cramps so bad that I started sweating and shaking so I called the doctor the next day. They did an ultrasound and blood tests and found that even though the math suggested that I should be around 7 weeks pregnant, I was really closer to 5 weeks. I have irregular cycles so it was hard to nail down at first. But after a few weeks of follow-ups, everything was progressing normally. I was legit pregnant, or as Juno would say “For shiz up the spout.”
Keeping it under wraps:
It’s really hard to keep things under wraps those first few months. First, because many of our friends knew that we were trying and so whenever we went out I had to make realistic excuses for why I wasn’t drinking. My favorite excuse that I used was that I was feeling really gassy and bloated and didn’t feel like drinking. It’s super funny to see reactions when you tell someone you’re gassy. By the way, that was 100 percent true, I just didn’t tell them that the reason I was so gassy and bloated was because I was pregnant.
Sidebar: If you’re wondering if someone is pregnant, and you know they are trying (or even if you don’t know), please don’t ask. It’s so annoying to have to either lie or tell someone before you’re ready when you flat out get asked if you’re pregnant. This happened to me at least three times and it was so frustrating.
First Trimester Symptoms:
My main symptoms during early pregnancy were extreme exhaustion (forget working out ever, all I wanted to do was sleep) and nausea. I didn’t actually ever throw up in my first trimester, but I was almost constantly nauseous and most of the time I had to force myself to eat because I knew I needed to, but nothing sounded good.
The Big Announcement:
While it’s hard to keep things secret, there was a part of me that just wanted to keep this between me and my husband for as long as possible. I was really excited but then once it’s out in the world, it’s not just yours anymore and you also have to come to grips with “what if something happens?”
There is so much pressure around how you tell people these days. We decided to avoid that and went the simple route. My parents are divorced so we told each group separately but in the same week. And we wanted to do it in person so the first group came over for dinner during the week, and we went to the other group a few days later for dinner (we were going to be there anyway to see my brother perform in a play, so it was perfect timing).
We made sure to ask (almost) everyone not to say anything until we publicly announced it ourselves. Unfortunately, we forgot to mention that tidbit to one person who promptly posted about it on Facebook.
Note to loved ones out there: I know you’re excited, but this is not your news to share. Wait until you’ve seen something posted on the parents’ pages before you go spreading the word on their behalf. Not cool.
Luckily, we didn’t have too many common connections and the news was still a surprise a week later when we made the reveal!


Our Thanksgiving pregnancy announcement.

Reading Challenge: 2016 Final Standing

The last two months of my 2016 reading challenge left me with 8 more books to read, and I almost made it! I finished with 34 out of 36 books. Not too bad, but still sad that I didn’t quite eek out the last two.

The Orphan TrainOrphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (Book Club)
This is the story follows two storylines, one of a young Irish Immigrant who loses her family and is forced into foster care in the 1920’s and takes the Orphan Train from New York to Minnesota to be selected by foster parents; the other, set in present time about a girl who is about to age out of the welfare system who helps an elderly woman clean out her home as community service to stay out of juvie. We read this for book club, it was a very interesting story and I’m a sucker for those split timeline books. Definitely, recommend for those interested in historical fiction.  Learn more!
The TrespasserThe Trespasser by Tana French
I’m a big fan of Tana French and have read most of these Dublin Murder Squad books, this is the latest in the series and was not my favorite. It was a little slow for me and honestly, I just really didn’t like the main character. I thought she was whiney and it got old. It won’t deter me from reading upcoming Dublin Murder Squad books, I was just a little disappointed with this one. Learn more!
Full BellyFull Belly: Good Eats for a Healthy Pregnancy by Tara Mataraza Desmond
This book was recommended by a friend, it has lots of healthy recipes that would be great to eat during pregnancy. However, most of these recipes require a lot of ingredients that most people don’t stock, you’d really only have to go up and stock up on these things but these recipes take some planning. The other problem is that they are relatively involved. I was so exhausted during this time in my pregnancy, there was no way I was going to make time for this. I think it just depends on how you’re feeling and how much effort you want to put into good meals. I love cooking and making meal plans but it wasn’t something I had energy for at the start of my pregnancy. Good news is, these recipes are just as delicious and healthy when you’re not pregnant so it’s a good resource for the future. Learn more!
Belly LaughsBelly Laughs: The Naked Truth About Pregnancy and Childbirth by Jenny McCarthy
I actually read this book a while back and thought it was hilarious, so I figured reading it as a pregnant person would be more relevant and a good laugh. I actually found it kind of annoying. Nothing that crazy really happened, most of the things Jenny wrote about were pretty typical pregnancy issues, albeit she describes them in much funnier ways than most people can relay. I found myself annoyed by her constant whining. Learn more!




Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
This illustrated edition came out in the fall and I always save them to read at Christmas time. As you know, I’m a Harry Potter nerd and I love the illustrated edition even more than the original books!  Learn more!





Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult
In this story, a black nurse, Ruth, is asked not to treat the baby of white supremacist parents, when things take a tragic turn Ruth finds herself in the midst of an ugly legal battle. Picoult addresses both the overt and subtleties of racism through the voice of three characters, Ruth, Tuck (the father of the baby), and Kennedy (Ruth’s public defender). I really enjoyed this book and it definitely makes you think about the small ways that racism seems into our lives. The only thing that I didn’t really like was that Ruth was written in a way that made me think she was much older than she was. She’s only in her 40s in the book but she comes across twenty years older, that might have been the audio book voice actress, though. Learn more!

And that’s a wrap on 2016!