Summer FUN Takes Getting Organized

We’re in full on summer mode now in the Tucker household but this took some doing. School ending doesn’t automatically get us into summer mode. I don’t know about your household, but for us, there is a period of a couple weeks where we all “shift”. It seems we all need a week to just decompress, and then one to get more organized into our new routine. After a few days of chilling, my kids are that much more excited to start “planning” our summer together.

For me, a mom that does NOT come by organization easily, summer planning is important. Here are the things we do to make for a more fun (i.e. less stressful) summer. These depend largely on the ages of your kids:

For your school aged kids set up expectations around the follow (or anything you find yourself nagging them about on a near daily basis as you move into summer!) Do this WITH them so you have their buy in.

1) Wake up and bed times
2) Screen times
3) Chores if different than during the school year. Maybe they take on something extra like dog walking. Charts are key.
4) Activities. Ritual is the key. Have things you do daily. Weekly. One of our readers says, “Take a a trip everyday! And make it early. Even if its going to the grocery store or the park. Some days it will be the zoo or museum. We have a standing 11am departure time everyday. It eliminates the “lay around the house” effect summer always brings.” [Read more…]

How To Pack For Your Family Summer Vacation

Do you ever feel overwhelmed and stressed out when it comes to packing for your family vacation? It doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Why not try something a little outside of the normal routine? Time to take hold of a new concept in packing … sans stress!

[Read more…]

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 Get Our Tax Papers in Order

I got another great tip from our Expert Mommy, Claire Keeling last week… just in time for tax season too. Claire would be very unimpressed with my current (non)system. [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

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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 Help Your Kids Get Organized

When our Expert Mommy, Claire Keeling talked to me about organizational styles, I thought to myself, “Duh!” It makes sense that children, just like adults, are going to have their own natural tendencies when it comes organizing their stuff. Claire works with clients on how to get organized and stay organized and she offers us some great tips on how to help our kids get in the habit early, in a way that respects their own personality and thinking styles.

What do you notice about your child’s organizational style? Have you tailored your guidance to suite them? [Read more…]

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.