Tips For Putting Together A Homework Caddy

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Raise your hand if you are ready for back to school season. No? I’m not ready either but I figured I better start because, as I shared a few days ago, my boys’ first day of school is just about a month away. There is so much to do but at least I’ve gotten one thing crossed off my list- I’ve made a homework caddy that will make homework time easier for my kids! I wanted to share some tips on how to put one together and what elements you’ll want to include.

Make it portable

We have a small child sized table where the boys normally do homework but sometimes they need to do homework somewhere else. When mom or dad needs to help with an assignment or they are working on an art or building project that can’t be disturbed homework ends up being done on the kitchen table. Because of this, having a portable homework caddy is essential because they can carry it wherever they are working on homework that day.

Keep it organized

Keeping school supplies organized is the best part about making a homework caddy. I recommend using something with dividers already in it so kids can see where things go. The supplies will hopefully stay sorted a little longer that way!

Include all the supplies your children need to complete their homework

Including all of the necessary supplies is important. For children in elementary school this usually just means pencils, coloring tools of some kind, glue and scissors. As children get older they may need rulers, graphing calculators, highlighters and more. Having all of the supplies in the caddy means that your children can easily complete their homework assignments.

Make it easy to find a sharpened pencil

I’d say about half of homework time last year seemed to be the boys going through all of the pencils to find a sharpened one. Make it simple by pre-sharpening all of the pencils, or better yet just buy them pre-sharpened and save yourself some time! I also like buying all of the same kind of pencil so the boys aren’t fighting over that one favorite character pencil ;)

Keep a snack handy

My children start on homework while having a snack so it only made sense to stock their homework caddy with one of their favorites- Goldfish® crackers. I love these individual serving sized packages because it limits how much the boys can eat for snack. (I also love being able to grab a package for myself so I can enjoy a quick snack while I sit at the table with them!)

We found a variety of flavors at our local store. Lucas loves the traditional Goldfish® Cheddar flavor while Jacob’s favorite is the Extra Cheddar flavor. Be sure to check out the Goldfish® Pinterest Page for more back to school and snack ideas!

How are you getting ready for back to school season? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Tips For Organizing Toys In Small Homes

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This post is a partnership with Nakturnal.

Are you overwhelmed by toys? Many parents are and I believe that those who live in small homes have even more toy storage problems. We live in a condo and I was overwhelmed for so long until I came up with some solutions for organizing all the chaos. I’m not saying that all our toys are always put away and our home is spotless but things are much better than they used to be.

I want to start by saying that I’m not going to tell you to get rid of most of the toys. Most posts I read for “tips” on organizing always suggest that and, in my opinion, if my kids didn’t have many toys I would not be looking for tips to organize them in the first place. Obviously getting rid of some toys and having less to organize is the first thing you’d want to try to do but you all already know that I’m sure ;)

So here are my tips for organizing toys. These work for all size homes but I think they are extremely valuable tips for those who have limited space like we do.

First, it’s important that all toys have a home. When everything has a place it’s more likely to be put away properly. I love cube shelving with cubbies (like this Skip Hop one above from Diapers.com) where like toys can be grouped together (ie blocks, dolls, cars, etc). Labeling the bins or containers with words (for those who can read) or pictures makes cleaning up easier for children as well.

If you are not sure where to put your child’s toys because you don’t have much space, you are going to need to get creative with your storage. In small homes it’s all about maximizing the space you do have. I love pieces that can do double duty like ottomans with storage space inside that can double as seats for guests. Utilizing previously “wasted” space is a great idea, too. Shoe organizers or other wall organizers (like the ones above) behind doors work great for craft supplies, small toys, books and other items kids have. Under the bed is another place that is usually not utilized but bins with wheels are perfect for storing train tracks or other toys that children setup on the floor. You can even build your own train table that rolls under the bed and can be pulled out when your child wants to use it.

Another way to maximize the space you have is to use vertical space. I am a huge fan of tall storage units and have some in my boy’s small room that they share. Their small toys are inside the storage unit’s bins and then large bulky toys are on the top of it that they can get down with a step stool. A bookshelf or other tall shelving unit like we have is a great way to store many toys without taking up valuable floor space because it’s utilizing space that’s otherwise not used higher up on the wall. Wall mounted shelves are another way to use the space that normally is empty. (You’ll want to make sure that taller shelving units are secured to a wall to prevent tipping. Find out how to do that and get other safety tips here.)

When my boys were younger and their toys were larger I also rotated their toys. I kept some in our garage and then once a week I’d bring a couple “new” ones in and take a couple of the ones inside to the garage. The boys loved when I did this and it was great when we were really limited on space in the areas they played in. Here’s a great post about how to start a toy rotation in your home.

What tips do you have for organizing toys? I’d love to hear how you do so, especially if you are tight on space!

 

Easy Pantry Organization

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I was so excited to move into a home with an actual pantry. In our old home we only had a cabinet and it was so hard to find anything in it because of it’s size and location in our laundry room. Our new pantry is just a closet but it has space galore compared to what we used to have. It’s a nice size but I also discovered that it quickly became a mess. With wire shelving everything would tip over and it was hard to keep track of what food items were in there and what we were running low on since new groceries were just piled wherever there was space on the shelves. It was driving me crazy.

After checking out beautifully organized pantries on Pinterest, I headed to the store in search of wicker baskets. I quickly decided that I needed to find a new solution once I looked at the prices of the baskets I was hoping to buy. All the baskets I found were around $10 and, because I wanted to purchase a number of them, that just wasn’t in my budget.

I decided to try my local dollar store and discovered they had a variety of bins and baskets that would work and each was only $1 so, even if I bought 30 of them, I would still be organizing my pantry for cheap. I was going to get a couple different colors but in the end decided to stick with one solid color.

Before I went to the store I had looked in my pantry to group items in like categories. Some broader categories, like snacks, ended up being split up into more than one bin. I then counted to see how many bins I would need. I added a few extra for things I might not have thought about. For my extra shelf space, I made a note about what I wanted to store there and kept in mind what storage I might need for that.

Here is how I organized my pantry:

The top shelf is most of my holiday partyware (plates, napkins, cups, tablecloths, etc) and special serving dishes that I don’t have in my photo prop cabinet. I have bins for the following: Christmas, Thanksgiving/Fall, Halloween, 4th of July, Easter/Spring, Valentine’s Day, and Birthdays.

The second shelf is mostly for large pots that don’t fit in my cabinets and some of my small appliances. One corner is for paper products and disposable items like straws, plastic silverware and extra ziploc bags.

The top food shelf is mostly for baking supplies. I have mixes for cakes, cookies and muffins here along with frosting and other ingredients needed to make my favorite treats. We keep drink mixes, tea bags and single serve hot cocoa packets on this shelf as well.

The middle shelf holds mostly canned goods like fruits, vegetables and soups. I also have all of my pasta, noodles, and boxed meals on this shelf. I have one bin for extra condiments so if we ever run out I have spare ones in my pantry.

The bottom shelf is for the snacks. This is where I keep the cookies, chips, crackers, pretzels and things like that. I debated putting all of this on the lower shelf since I didn’t want the kids sneaking into it but I like that the kids can help make their lunches or pick out their own item during snack time. (I also have one basket in the fridge that is for their snacks so stay tuned for my fridge organization post coming soon!)

I chose to label my bins with cardstock shapes. I wrote what was in each bin with a sharpie and then stuck each one on with a glue dot. You can label them however you’d like to by using stickers, labels, or laminated paper. I hope to make some stick on labels for mine in the near future.

That’s pretty much it. Hope you all enjoyed my pantry organization post and got some ideas to organize your own food storage area. Leave a comment below if you have any questions or want to leave a link to your organized pantry. I love getting a peak into other people’s homes :)

 

Creating A Home Office With ClosetMaid & Staples {Giveaway}

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(Disclosure: I received products from Staples but all thoughts are my own.)

Working at home is a dream come true for me but it does not come without challenges. I often find myself working into the wee hours of the night because it’s hard to stop working when you are at the office 24/7. While trying to find balance I think it’s also important to have a dedicated space to work so that’s why I’m really excited to be partnering with Staples to offer one work-at-home parent the chance to win part of this amazing set along with a Staples gift card!

While I’m blessed to have a loft in my small home that is dedicated as an office space that doesn’t mean you have to have a room that’s simply dedicated to working. Be creative with the space you have. You can always create a mini-office nook in a closet or corner of a room. The ClosetMaid® Shelftrack Elite Home Office Kit sold at Staples is perfect for those who have limited space! Check out the image below for three different ideas.

This line is made up of seven different products and whether you use all of them or an assortment of them, ShelfTrack Elite creates a perfect home office (or study area). The pieces are made of chocolate laminate finish with Satin Nickel hardware. The set includes the following:

  • A Home Office Kit – with desk and 4 shelves
  • A 3-Drawer Mobile File Cabinet
  • A Bookshelf Kit – including 3 shelves
  • Fabric trays (in brown and light brown)
  • Fabric bins (in brown and light brown)

GIVEAWAY:

One winner would receive a Bookshelf Kit along and a $50 Staples Gift Card

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me why you want to win

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Comment on another one of my posts

4) Follow ClosetMaid on Twitter

5) Follow Staples on Twitter

6) Follow me on Twitter

Giveaway ends November 8, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be a US resident, age 18 or over to win.

(Disclosure: As stated above I received the ClosetMaid® Shelftrack Elite Home Office Kit line.)

 

 

How To Create A Functional Sports Nook In Your Home {Giveaway}

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For over a year I have been trying to develop a system for organizing all of our sports gear and clothing. I created a space near our front door since our home is small and that’s what worked best for us. I had been using some hooks, a laundry basket, and a tin basket to keep everything organized but it just wasn’t working. When I was contacted to review a Rawlings Flexible Sports Organizer I thought it would be a great help for storing some of the smaller items that always found their way throughout my downstairs.

I have been using the Rawlings organizer for a few weeks now and it has really helped keep everything in one spot. With sports 5-6 days a week this Fall I wanted to share how we are staying organized and what works best for us.

What’s hanging: I love the over the door hooks. I found this one at either Walmart or Target. I hang the baseball bag up top. The Rawlings organizer is made to be hung on the wall but since i don’t have much wall space I have it hanging off the hooks on our coat closet. I love how sturdy this organizer is and how many pockets and spaces to put everything it has. We keep our balls, sports socks, extra bats, shin guards, water bottles, and extra cleats (for out of season sports) in it. On the wall I have a coat hook where we hang up the sports jackets and, in winter, the kid’s winter coats.

What’s on the table: I use an old side table to hold a variety of other items. The white basket has all of the sports clothing in it. We used to have all of their clothes in their bedroom closet upstairs but it was just a pain to find everything we needed mixed in with all of their other shirts and pants. No more wondering where the uniform shirt is or missing soccer socks. Everything is washed and put into this one small basket so when we are getting ready to run out the door I have quick access to what I need. In the tin container next to it I have cleats. I keep the soccer bag here, too.

Do you have all of your sports gear organized or can it be found around your house and garage? If you want to create a sports nook of your own you are in luck because I am giving away a Rawlings Flexible Sports Organizer to one of my lucky readers!

Organizing sports equipment and outdoor gear can be a challenge. Kids’ balls, bats, gloves, helmets and sticks can create an obstacle course, taking up valuable space in the mudroom, hall closet or garage. Throw clutter a curveball by using the new Rawlings Flexible Sports Organizers.

Available in three varieties with roomy ball caddies and vertical mesh compartments with hooks and cinches to store all kinds of gear, these vertical smart storage solutions can hold up to 25 lbs. of equipment. The Rawlings Flexible Sports Organizers are made of mildew- and abrasion-resistant durable vinyl and mesh, making them as perfect for the garage or shed as for the basement or closets.

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a Rawlings Flexible Sports Organizer

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me what sport(s) your family plays

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Leave a comment on another post

4) Follow @rawlingssports on Twitter

5) Follow @aliciamarie112 on Twitter

Giveaway ends September 6, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 18 or older and a US resident to enter.

(Disclosure: I received an organizer to review but all thoughts are my own.)

Rainbow Monkey Hangers {Kickstarter Project}

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I’m kind of a neat freak when it comes to my boys’ closet and it drives me nuts when they just pull things out and everything ends up piled around their room. I know there’s no magic wand to get them to be as O.C.D. as I am but I think these Rainbow Monkey hangers might at least get them interested in putting their clothes back in their closet. If cleaning up is made fun kids will do it happily and I don’t think anything could be more fun than animal shaped hangers. And they come in fun colors!

Moms of little girls get an extra organizational bonus of being able to clip bows and hair accessories on the monkeys. How much easier would that make your morning?

Another bonus? They make a cute room decoration when not in use. Check out the hanging monkeys:

Seriously these are adorable! Now for some bad news… these aren’t on the market! This cute product was created but now it’s up to you, the consumer, to help get them on the market. You can do so by taking part in the Kickstarter campaign. Find out more details here and help get these on the market!

(Disclosure: This is a compensated post but all thoughts are my own. Images are courtesy of Rainbow Monkey.)

Kitchen Organization Ideas

Slow cooker meals in bags!

Here are 10 great kitchen/food related organization ideas. Click the pictures to be taken to the websites they are from:

Slow cooker meals in bags!

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Grab N Go Snack Stashes

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Organize your pantry by grouping ingredients for meals together in bins (with the recipes)

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Clearly labeled food storage containers

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This is great for all those people who (like me) can't ever find the measuring spoons and cups they need.

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Great idea for organizing pots and pans. We really need this!

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Look how this freezer is organized! (She gives the whole kitchen tour in her post and wow! Awesome!)

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Great storage solution for under the sink.

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This magnetic door panel creates extra cabinet space.

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Perfect for the pantry door.

10 Holiday Planning Tips

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The Holidays are just around the corner so I wanted to share some ways that you can start planning now for a less stressful Christmas season. Here are my top 10 tips:

1) Start now! Once the Holiday season gets going you are going to have tons of events to go to and things to do.

2) Look through your Holiday items and take stock of what you have. I have found in years past that I have bought items I already had because I thought I ran out the year previously or needed more. I think I have enough gift wrap for the next 3 years now!

3) Consider making Christmas gifts this year. Everyone loves handmade gifts and it saves you money! Look through magazines or search Pinterest for great ideas and buy the supplies you will need to make them.

4) If you will be making Christmas dinner or having family over start planning your meals and send a “save the date” email to family so they can put it on their calendars now.

5) Plan and schedule family Holiday pictures. Figure out what your family will be wearing and what you will need to purchase. Does anyone need haircuts before the appointment?

6) Prepare to send Holiday Christmas cards. Do you have everyone’s address that you need? You can send out store bought ones or create something special by going online to a place like Storkie.com and personalizing cards.

7) Create a budget. I know how easy it is to head out shopping on Black Friday and spend way more than you planned on so I suggest making a budget for your Holiday shopping before you go out to the stores.

8) Think about traditions. Pull out a piece of paper and a pen or your ipad and make a list of all the traditions you enjoyed as a child, have enjoyed with your family in the past, or want to do with your family this year. Add any to your calendar that need to be scheduled ahead of time. Keep the list with you to refer to during the Holiday season to make sure that you don’t forget any of the important traditions you want to continue or start.

9) Along with all of the the things you feel you have to do, make sure that you plan in some time to relax with your family.

10) Start early! Yes, I already said this one but when this Christmas is over start preparing for next year. Buy toys, gift wrap, and decor on sale so you don’t have to pay full price for anything next season.

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I wrote this blog post while participating in the Storkie holiday blogging program. I received compensation for my participation. All opinions are 100% mine.

Organizing For A New School Year

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Jacob starts preschool next week so I am busy preparing our family and our household for everything that this new season of our life will bring. I thought I’d share 10 things I’m doing to get ready for the start of the school year and hope that you will share some of your tips with me (especially if you have done this whole school thing before!)

1) Establish a weekly schedule. Things won’t be exactly the same every week but for the most part our routine will not change that much from week to week. I suggest writing the schedule down and posting it so everyone in the family knows the routines. Consider adding in details such as when to leave the house if you are going to be having dad, grandma, or a sitter help with some of the routines. Make sure to also schedule time for yourself!

2) Pull out the calendar. Add all school meetings, days off, and events to your personal calendar.

3) Organizing clothes. First, start by catching up on laundry if you aren’t already. Go through all of the kid’s clothing you currently have out and put aside anything that doesn’t fit or is unwearable. Pull out the fall/winter clothes and put them away in the closets and drawers. It’s still going to be hot here for another month or so but this saves you from having to do this later on. I also am going to be putting out a week’s worth of outfits every Sunday night so I have one less thing to do in the mornings. If your child picks out their own outfits they can do this ahead of time, too.

4) Establish new routines. Every year something in your schedule is bound to be different. A week or two before the first day of school start practicing the routines. For me I need to see how long it will take me to get to Jacob’s school during rush hour so I make sure he’s not late on his first day of school. I also want to figure out where his soccer gymnasium is located so I’m not searching for it on his first day of soccer. I will also be practicing getting myself out of bed and ready before the boys need me so I can see how long our morning routine will take us and plan accordingly.

5) Cleaning. I will be making sure my house and car are clean so I can start the school year off right. I am also going to create a cleaning schedule for my family so I can {hopefully} stay on top of things.

6) Meal planning. I’ve tried menu planning in the past and not followed through with it because I often cook whatever sounds good in the moment but I am planning on trying a loose meal plan of just a few meals to make throughout the week. I also hope to get some freezer meals prepared ahead of time for nights that are really busy. This will save me from picking something up on the way home that isn’t very healthy.

7) Contain the paper piles. Establish a place in the home for school/extracurricular papers. For some families this might be a binder, folder, or shelf in a kitchen cabinet. Also, find a home for the mail so it doesn’t overtake your kitchen. For school papers I will be using a binder. For mail I use a basket that I stick mail in and then go through it once a week while I watch TV.

8) Put together an emergency bag for the car. This should contain an extra set of clothes and whatever else your child may need. This is good to have in your car for a last minute sleepover, an overnight at Grandma’s, or a muddy day on the playground.

9) Gather the school supplies. Look at what items you already have and what you need to purchase. Consider buying extra supplies while they are on sale so you  have them on hand if your child runs out during the school year.

10) Get yourself ready! Maybe that means scheduling a Doctor’s appointment for yourself, getting a haircut, or investing in a new planner. Whatever it is, make sure that in all the craziness of getting ready for a new school year you don’t forget about yourself.

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So those are my top 10 tips. What tips do you have for me? What have you found works to help you start the school year off right?