How to organize “What’s for Dinner?”

Oh no! It’s 5:30 you just arrived home from toddler ballet, the baby is crying and her siblings are getting restless. As you toss them a pretzel rod and rummage through your kitchen cabinets, your thinking I have to be more organized, there has to be a better way. There is a better way to feed your starving children, yourself and significant other without, cutting short on nutrition and making 2 meals (one for you and one for the kids. I used to be so guilty of that) Here are a few things to do, which will get you through those time crunch hours.

1) Always keep ingredients of a few favorite meals in your pantry. I love Annie’s organic Mac and Cheese or a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies mixed with chicken. Anything you can think of that takes about 15 minutes to make.

2) Keep a running list of things you run out of on your fridge or somewhere close by. Soon as you see you are out or low on something, jot it down.

3) Have a meal you and your spouse love, but this kids not so much? Make your meal, but omit the sauce for the kids or don’t combine it all together. Whatever their issue is with it, simplify and enjoy the meal the way you want it too.

4) “Don’t knock till you try it, put a little on your plate! Some kids think it’s great!” This was a little jingle sung by some cartoon on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. It has always stuck with me. Remember your kids watch your reactions to food and should be encouraged to try it before making any “Yucky” comments.

5) Slow cookers can be your best friends. Find a few of your favorite crock pot recipes and take the time to do a least one a week. A great meal that you literally just had to throw together.

6) Resort to take out! I know some days we just don’t have it in us. Find the best 3 take out places around you and ask about their most nutritious dishes. Another option is to stick to a main dish and you add the fruit and veggies at home.

This is a good start! Don’t forget that some stores offer personal shopping and all you have to do is pick it up! Not a bad way to go even if you use it only once in a while. Remember to make you plan, have a few things to fall back on, try new things, Betty Crocker knew what she was talking about with the slow cooker and never be afraid to ask for help. That’s what good friends ( and spouses) are for.

How to pick the best closet organizing system

Picture with me now the typical closet in a home. A hanging bar with a shelf above or the wire shelving with the section for hanging items that is segmented so the hanging clothes only slide so far. I don’t know exactly who these types of closets were designed for, neither adults nor kids. What do you do with a closet that is not useful for what you need but it needs to be practical and grow with your kids.  Oh yeah and we need something affordable too don’t we? Here are a couple things for you to think about and some places to look. [Read more…]

How to Make the Most Out of Errand-Running Time

How many times have you gone to the grocery store and bought everything except for what you really went there for? How about that list of errands and forgetting the videos to return or the dry cleaning for drop off? How do I know all of this? Because I have done it myself more times than I care to admit. We are only human you know, and suffer from “Mommy brain” as well. That is best excuse I can come up with and a rightful one at that.  It is frustrating especially when you have kids that errand time is down to the wire and the window is small. How can we make the most out of errand running time? What can be done so you can get the bang for the buck so to speak? Here are a few ideas that will help you even have time for coffee.

  1. Always, always make a list of where you need to go. Start with the furthest distance stop and work you way back to home base. Keep your “to do” lists in the same note book and that way you can go back and see what there wasn’t time for or things that need to be remembered for next time.
  2. Begin gathering when the thought of running errands enters your mind. If you start thinking the night before “I got to get out the door early to get all this done before the morning nap or lunch.” Start grabbing those library books, videos, and dry cleaning as you think of them. Even snacks for the car. Don’t wait until later because you never know when “Mommy brain” is going to sneak up on you.
  3. Create an errand running drop zone by the door you leave out of.  A basket or open container is great to stick in your front seat so you can visually see all that needs to be done. If it doesn’t get accomplished that time, leave it in the bin for your next run.

That’s it! It’s as simple as 1 2 3. Errand running can be daunting, but with a few tasks ahead of time it can go smoothly until Jr throws up or Katie gets gum stuck in her hair. It happens to the best of us, we keep moving forward because that’s what Moms do.

Expert Mommy, Julie Verleger

How to organize your families winter coats and boots

I have to admit a while back, I didn’t think we would have snow by the Holidays. Two weeks before Christmas I was still going out with just a light coat and shoes that are not snow friendly. Today is a different story, not just with me but also with my kids. All of a sudden they have to wear snow pants, boots, mittens, hats and winter coats to school! Fortunately I have those things for them by now but what about a place to put all the outerwear when the kiddies come home from school or in from playing in the yard? When we first moved into our house the door from the outside entered directly into my kitchen right by the refrigerator. I have to tell you it drove me nuts. There was a trail of hats, mittens, coats, snow pants and boots all through my small galley kitchen. There had to be a better solution that would work for everyone. Not to mention the baby carrier, my purse and all my things, where do I put them? After some grief and lots of thinking I arrived at a couple solutions and I think you can implement them into your own home too.

Solution 1.

If you have an entry like I did there is not any wall space to hang coats and such. I created a “drop zone just outside the door in my garage. Affixed with a boot mat and hooks in the wall for coats and snow pants. Yes, it is cold out there, but when I had a chance I would bring the items in and throw wet things in the dryer and set the boots to dry in our front entry. When the items were dry I hung them on hooks I screwed into the inside of the closet door. Three on the top part and 3 on the bottom so everyone could reach.

Solution 2.

If you have a small entry with either no closet or a small closet, hooks are your best friends. I like the hooks mounted 2 ways. One, hang in 2 parallel rows a high row and a low row. Second, one lower row can work well for all members of the family.  With these ways any child can reach the hooks to hang their own coat. A smaller child can use a step stool so you don’t have to hang the hooks to low and change often. Family hats and mittens can be stored underneath in individual bins, boot can be set next to them or on a boot tray in the hall way.

Solution 3.

This solution is for those of you that have a large hall closet or mudroom.  I am a firm believer in organizing systems. Check out Rubbermaid, Container Store and Ikea there are many organizing systems to choose from for every budget. These systems make the best use of space with many different solutions. You might want different cubbies for all the family members or a row of hooks with a shelf above and below. Whatever you choose examples of these configurations can usually be seen on the company’s individual websites.

Do you see, there is a light at the end of the tunnel with all the shoes and coats. All you need is a little direction and creativity. You are a smart cookie and any of these solutions will add a bit more peace to your everyday routine. Remember if the pile always ends up in one spot think about what you can implement to alleviate the pile and make life simpler for you, the busy, busy Mom. Cheers!

Expert Mommy, Julie Verleger


How to Keep a Sound Mind and Soul with Your Newborn

new_momAbout six weeks ago my dearest friend had her first baby. Her pregnancy and delivery went very smoothly because she was so prepared. When she was finally home with her brand new beautiful daughter, reality sets in. Babies are a lot of work. Who knew that this tiny lovely creature could create so much exhaustion?  My friend told me that she felt so great before the baby and now, not so much. She said, “ Why didn’t anyone tell me I’d be too tired, and tied to my baby due to breastfeeding?”  It can be a very solitary and lonely existence of feeling like a zombie for two months. I told her “this too shall pass”. It seems that two months is the time it takes for the baby to begin to sleep longer and their adorable personality to emerge.  She talked about not even being able to imagine having more kids and how does everyone do it? Do these comments sound familiar? Have they been said to you? Or, have you murmured those words yourself? I have! I think one of the keys here is to realize that all new moms go through this! We are not alone and it is so important to have a special someone you can tell all your thoughts to. Just getting it out makes a huge difference in our psyche. We can have organized surroundings and schedules, but having an organized mind and thought process helps us deal with life. I have some ideas for you to let go and be able to organize your thoughts so you can face some of those solitary moments better.

1. Find a friend, sibling or parent you can just let it all out with. Someone who will just listen without judgment as you unravel all those feelings and thoughts.

2. Take a shower. You may feel like a slob in your post baby body, but a shower wakes us up and just makes us feel better.

3. Have two or three “go to outfits.”  They don’t have to be fancy or expensive,  they just have to fit right and make you feel presentable. For example,  a pair of yoga pants and matching shirt all in black or your favorite color. A set that is the same color is sliming and you can get dressed in a flash.

4. Get a great uplifting book that you can pick up and just read a couple pages. This helps you relax your mind and go to a happy place.

5. So much of early motherhood can be solitary. Try to have your phone or computer close by to call a friend, facebook and twitter to feel that you are not the only person on the planet.

6. A fabulous wash and dry haircut is key to these days of zombie like tiredness. Leave the curling or straightening for later. Get a great ‘do, that you can wash, comb through some product, and look like a million bucks for a new mom.

7. With new babies we are constantly washing our hands before feeding, after diaper changes and everywhere in between. Place hand cream by every sink in your house so you can be properly moisturized and comfortable.

8. Keep a notebook to write down items you need. Since you will be spending a lot of time in your home, this helps you keep track of areas you’d like to change or need tweaking. You may not be able to do it right away, but when your babe starts to take longer naps you will have more time to accomplish small projects.

9. Get out of the house. Enlist the help from a friend, spouse or parent and go to the mall, get a coffee, talk a walk, whatever it is, it will help you feel like a grownup again.

10. Have you heard that question “If you could only take one beauty item to a desert island, what would it be?” What is it? Lipstick? Concealer? Mascara? Chances are if you have that one thing, you should wear it everyday, even at home, it will make you feel great.

Here we have it. Ten things you can do to make yourself feel human again. Remember it takes time and give yourself a break. You just brought a new life into this world. Enjoy, breath and take care of you. Cheers.

by Expert Mommy, Julie Verleger

How to Store All the Family Medicine

cold_medsWe are in the season of sickness.  I don’t mean the feeling I get with the over commercialization of the holiday season, where red and green items are out before Halloween costumes!

I am talking about the cold and flu season (which coincides with the holidays…weird huh?)

Where do you keep all the pain relievers, cough-and-achy-so-you-and-your-family-can-rest medicine. Is it located with all the extra soap and thermometers and Band-Aids.

Take a look at them right now; are all the bottles and boxes shoved in a drawer or on a shelf?  Did they actually make it in a bin but there is no rhyme or reason to the order?  Now don’t start freaking out and think this lady is mad to suggest I’m going to alphabetize my meds just like I did with my spices.. Ha!  You do not know me very well I would  NEVER EVER ask or tell you to do either one of those things.

Frankly life is too short to alphabetize most things unless you only have a few of them and then really…What’s the point?

Okay seriously your first step is to go through and throw away anything that is empty; almost empty; or something that you will simply never use.

If you have several bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion etc that were given to you or purchased but you don’t like. Place them in a bag or box and donate to your place of worship or local family relief center.  These places are always looking for personal hygiene products for those in need.

Once you have weeded out the items you no longer need or use what is left are the things you need to find a home for.  The medicines and vitamins need to be divided into the things you use every day and the ones you use only as needed.

Generally the things you take everyday need to be in a place where you will remember to take them which is usually in the kitchen. Buy or find a basket or Rubbermaid type bin to keep the meds at hand and easy to access.

The other items such as cold meds; extra bottles of hygiene products should be categorized (notice there is no mention of alphabetizing) A bin with all the extra meds you need for you children should be put in a Rubbermaid type bin market KIDS MEDS.  I like the bins that have a locking top and usually have a handle.  When needed you can pull the whole bin out and find what you need easily. The same goes for adult medication and wound care.  Wound care items are things like bandages, antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone etc.

For items like extra shampoo, conditioner, soap, and deodorant can be placed in an open basket.  You will be able to see them at a glance and they are often to tall for a closed bin then you don’t have to wrestle with the larger bottles wondering what to do with them.  This helps when you run out of an item it is easy to see what need to be replenished.

You see it really is not that complicated.

Before you start to categorize the things in you linen closet get rid of all the things that you no longer need, use or are outdated.

Categorize the rest and find the correct size bin that will fit in you closet and holds the items you need it to.

I know you can it!! A task that seems so over whelming sometimes can become very doable when you simplify the steps!  Hint Hint that works with so many other things all of us attempt to conquer in our quest to tame our homes.

So go ahead and set aside some time to clean out all those half full bottles that expired in 2000.  You have time before going out to shop for Valentines Day.

How to Manage All The Toys!!!

toysDo you remember having sooo many toys when you were a kid?  I swear I didn’t have near the number my own children do!!  Why is that?  Are we not as frugal as our older generation?  Is the selection way more broad and have the advertisers aced their GET THEM TO BUY test.  I don’t want to just say we’re all suckers.  I guess it is a combination of the above.  In most cases it’s not only just us buying for our children.  Add to the mix parents, in-laws, aunts and uncles, Godparents, family friends and just plain friends.  That equals loads of toys.  Depending on the age of your kids determines how you can handle them.  I am a firm believer in NOT micro categorizing.  You will see that in many of those organizing shows.  Micro categorizing is great if your kids are into model planes or some sort of specialty hobby.  The goal here is (and I’m sure you can agree with me) is to simply not have the toys all over the house.

How on earth am I going to do that?! Julie’s Top Toy Clutter Tips:

One thing that I find when working with clients on organizign their home, is that if they have small children, the master bedroom often becomes a children’s play room.  I firmly believe this is a no, no. The master bedroom needs to be a haven of adult-ness!!!  If your kids are small and need to be entertained in your room while you, say, take a shower, a basket with a small selection of toys tucked away is sufficient.  Bring these out only during shower times so they don’t tire of these toys.

To keep track of small toys around the house and to insure a quick pick up, place visually appealing baskets or containers that match the décor of your house in strategic spots.  Instead of keeping all the pieces and parts together, toss them in the nearest basket.  Once a week or so travel around your home and put the parts and pieces together. This will make clean up time much less overwhelming.

Take a look around your home.  Where do the toys tend to congregate?  What can you use to contain them and keep your home together?  If you have a specific room where the toys are kept, use a simple wire or wood-shelving unit to keep rubber maid bins for each category of toy (legos, barbies, babies, play mobile etc.)

And finally, most importantly… and worth a re-mention… remember, it’s not worth it to keep the Barbie clothes and shoes in different containers/ Avoid micro-categoizing like the swine-flu. They will all get dumped out at the same time to be played with.  Subcategorizing the gazillion toys your kids accumulate causes more work for you and less willingness on their part to put them away.

Final tip (and always helpful when it comes to getting and staying organized): keep it simple.

Expert Mommy, Julie Sprouse Verleger is the owner of Organized Home.

How to Store Outgrown Clothes

clothesIt seems like you just brought your baby home and she is already growing out of the newborn clothing. Where do these articles of clothes end up? In a grocery bag on the floor? In a pile at the bottom of the basement stairs? Our little ones are going to grow out of everything you put on their little bodies and faster than you can wrestle a wiggly arm into a sleeve. Being the miserly smart parents we are, do you have a plan for those to little clothes?

5 ways to keep clothing organized as your kids out grow them.

1.  Place an open container in a closet or under the bed. This allows you to quickly place out grown clothing before moving to longer-term storage.

2.  When the bin is full, transfer clothes to a Rubbermaid bin and mark the outside with the sex and size of the clothes.

3.  Be sure to toss any articles that are stained or worn.

4. I know we occasionally get clothes that we don’t care for. If you don’t feel obligated for your child to wear them, place in a separate donate bin.

5. You bins should be labeled something like this,

Boy clothing

Newborn to 3months

Be sure to purchase several bins that are clear and the same size. This will make it easier for you to stack and see what is in there. Little socks and bibs can be stored together in a lingerie bag, since they tend to get lost in the shuffle. A plastic bag does not breath and tends to smell after awhile.

Some of the benefits for keeping out grown clothing organized.

  1. Allow you to quickly set up for a garage sale. Did you know that kids clothing is a hot commodity? A great way to make some extra cash.
  2. Easy access when saving the clothing for hand me downs.
  3. You will always be able to see what you have. (The bins work great for clothing that are to big right now)

This simple but useful system works for any age. Hmmm, what else would work with this system? Toys? Your clothing? Household items you no longer need or want? This list can go on and on, but for now concentrate on all those clothes that seem to only get worn once because our children grow so fast. Enjoy, recycle, reuse.

Expert Mommy, Julie Sprouse Verleger is the owner of Organized Home.

How to Pick Your New Mommy Wardrobe

postnatalLast week a very good friend of mine had her first baby. When I went to see my friend and her beautiful daughter in the hospital we talked about how the pain is more that one can imagine, but its all worth it. We talked about what the best clothes were to wear for breast-feeding and recovery. For those of us who have been through or are going through babydome, the first 2 months become somewhat of a blur. We almost robotically feed, change diapers and rest whenever we can. Somehow we manage to eat, shower and actually be a Mom to our other children and half the time not even remember how we did it. Then we take a look in the mirror with dark circles under our eyes, no make up, wearing what ever our burry vision could direct us to and undone hair. Some would say welcome to motherhood, but we know it’s just a temporary glitch because we have little lives to care for and get into a pattern. What can we do to get ourselves through the time and beyond? How can we organize ourselves to look the best with out to much hoopla? I have some ideas for you and if you organize it now before the baby or take a little time after the baby is born, you will save yourself time, stress and feel better. Sounds great doesn’t it?

  1. Select a drawer or section in your closet to place an entire outfit that fits you in post baby body. For example a comfy but not sloppy pair of pants and top such as yoga pants and roomy top. If you wear all one color it adds a sliming effect. Keep several of these outfits in a drawer so you don’t even have to think about what you are grabbing. It will save you time, energy and a lot of grief.
  2. Buy yourself a super cool hat. Hats are back and in all kinds of cute styles. If all you can manage is to brush your hair, throw on a great hat and look like a million bucks. This is perfect for the times when you can’t get in to get your roots touched up or just need a boost.
  3. Shoes, what can I say? We all need shoes don’t we? At this time in your life comfort is key but they need to be easy to put on. Fortunately there are so many cute styles out now for slip on flats. The reason I’m suggesting this is to save you time getting yourself together. When you have a toddler in one hand and a baby carrier in the other fiddling with shoes that have a lot of bells and whistles will prove to be tiresome.

The point here is to keep it simple. Save entering the high fashion world for a bit and focus on recovery and you kids. By creating an area in your closet or dresser for quick grab outfits, getting dressed and looking pulled together can be easier. When you are comfortable and feel like you look assembled it directly affects our psyche. You will be ready for visitors and trips to preschool. Simple basics can pull the whole look together and the only thing you will have to prepare yourself for are all the “Wow, you look great for just having a baby!” compliments that will come you way.

Image of Nursing Top from Due Maternity.

Expert Mommy, Julie Sprouse Verleger is the owner of Organized Home.

How to Maintain Your Home with a New Baby

dishesIt’s 9:30 in the evening. The baby has been asleep for at least a couple hours and your other kids are tucked in bed. What’s next? The dishes, a load of laundry and pick up toys? You know, I’m just tired writing about this. Those are the last things you feel like doing aren’t they? I can’t help you have less dishes or laundry, but I can give you a couple tips and sure fire ways to make some of those tasks easier to handle. Yes, even your tired mommy self can do it, get to bed and be the “bestest” Mom in the world the next day. [Read more…]