Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Minimalist Gardening book by Minimalist Martha

You're probably wondering where I wandered off to. I wrote a book! My garden has done so well that I wrote down how I did it into a quick, short, sweet little book that you can buy on Amazon and read on your computer, phone or kindle. Sweet deal, right?

I'm very excited about it! I hope you're as excited as I am. I have a whole line up of short but sweet books on implementing minimalism to all areas of your life. I'll be sure to update you as soon as I finish each book. If ever I'm not posting - I'm just working on the next book!

I hope you've had a fantastic weekend and going into this new week be sure to lose a bit of stress by losing a bit of clutter!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Kids - A Lifetime of Quilting in a Few Hours: The Jelly Roll Quilt

If you have basic sewing skills you can be an awesome mom that quilts.

Hear me out!

I hear that it is hard to toss out all those cute little outfits. I hear people get hung up on separating with the memories those little outfits hold. And sometimes you want to hold on to them - but wow what a bunch of clutter that can develop!

I have a solution for you and it works for children of all ages (even grown ups!) - the Homemade Jelly Roll Quilt. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, the 'jelly roll' quilt is a basic strip quilt. And that's really all it is. You take strips of fabric (all the same width and mostly the same length) and you sew them together. No matching, no planning really, very simple. Most people can do it in about a day. The HARDEST part is cutting the strips because
1) You need a lot of strips
2) They need to be the same size
3) Most people just buy the strips in a 'jelly roll' and so it's named the jelly roll quilt.

BUT what if you could take something that means a lot to you (the tiny clothes you don't want to part with) and embrace your procrastination in a way that WORKS for you? I assume you procrastinate because I do. ;D

Here is how it works. Get a box (Our girls have cute round hat boxes with their names inside) take clothes you KNOW are either too stained or worn, or you just hate to part with it - you know there are a few of them somewhere) but the kids are too big for and you wouldn't in a million years want to give it away. Okay. Now you need to turn it into one or more jelly roll strips.

"By definition, a Jelly Roll is a collection of 2 1/2" wide by 44" long fabric strips which come in a roll, usually with one strip from each print in a collection." - craftsy.com

Don't have small feet running around to give you an excuse to cut up and make a jelly roll quilt? Not to fear, craftsy.com has thoughts on that too - "One good way to build a supply of Jelly Roll strips is to cut a strip from every new fabric purchased." Great idea!

Just take the one or two or seven strips, however many you made from your new fabric or the clothes you've decided to preserve into a quilt, and stick them in your hat box (make sure they are labeled if you are working on more than one!) Tada! You're done! If you do it a little at a time, the hatbox will slowly fill. Just keep adding more strips as clothes are grown out of. When it starts to get crowded, just start to turn them into a 'jelly roll' to save space and keep on going!

When it is time all you need is a sewing machine with a basic straight stitch and a few free hours. I've heard of some people sitting down and sewing it all together in an hour or two. It's really very simple.

Now how awesome are you, Mom? You didn't hoard those mountains of clothes, you cut them up and made them into a beautiful quilt that you can give your teenager some day or keep for yourself when they have fluttered on out of the nest. Great for tshirts through highschool - you could end up with blankets for every room of any house they'll ever live in! And...it's not that hard!

The best tips I have to offer - Use a piece of cardboard as a template for all your jellyroll strips and keep it in the hatbox. This keeps them all the same. Try for the same materials if possible - all tshirt/jersey, etc. and last but not least - avoid a quilt of nothing but jean/denim - wow what a way to wear out a machine! lol

I hope this gave you some ideas, sparked some creativity and maybe helps you cut down on a little bit of small-children-clothing clutter. And the end result - recycle, reuse, reduce - Say hello to a quilt full of memories.

And remember - it's not cheating to just go out and buy a jellyroll to make a quilt! Nobody says you have to stash away strips over the years in order to end up with a beautiful quilt! But now you know how easy they are to make!

Final tip - Not a pro at backing? Me neither. Option one: Get a lightweight blanket and stitch it to the back of your quilt to 'finish' it - I say cheat all the way! Have the extra funds to spare? Contact a quilter - many will back your quilt as a service they provide. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Cooking - Batch or Cooking Marathons?

After this past week I can say I have officially tried cooking both ways.

1. Batch Cooking - you make multiple batches and freeze or otherwise store the extras to eat at a later time. Like leftovers but a whole meal or more.
2. Cooking Marathons - You make a menu, have a list, do a big grocery run, do a lot of cooking, and make all your meals in one or two days.

And after walking away from BOTH of these methods a little less than impressed I'm going to tell you what I think and my solution. Maybe it will work for you, maybe it wont. We'll see.

The Deal with the Batch Cooking - 

I like batch cooking. The premise being that you are spending the time you would normally spend in the kitchen preparing your meal but just make a double or even a quadruple batch. (Enough for 2 or even 4 more whole meals). THAT is way more efficient than making one dinner - which you were going to do anyway!

If you don't want to plan much, if you don't like a strategy or you don't mind cooking  - this is a great way to have emergency meals prepared in the event that things don't go according to plan. They are also great as last minute additions for parties, holidays, luncheons, dinner guest additions, etc. You name it, an extra meal on hand that just needs to be popped in the oven or microwave is a sure crowd pleaser.
NO additional planning
NO additional time spent in the kitchen than you already invest
You already love what you're eating or you wouldn't be making it to begin with
You use recipes you already know and love
* Very little variety (You'll end up with 6 of the same types of dinners in the freezer - it gets old)
* If you didn't don't regularly plan dinners, you may not want to make a quadruple batch of 'last minute' dinners that you put together because you have no idea what to make
* Your current recipes may or may not freeze and reheat well - you'll want to see if your recipe can!

The Deal with Cooking Marathons -

Can I just say that after the first day, I couldn't walk. The fiance had to rub my feet for thirty minutes just to get the pain to stop. That is how long we spent in the kitchen. I remember looking into his loving eyes and gritting my teeth with affection saying 'We are never doing this again' and he nodded along with me. What's more? He participated for two days (the weekend) and I was still chugging along a third day!

You get all your cooking done up front. The rest of the week or more is a breeze!
(Looking a little light up here!)

You'll end up forgetting a lot of things you need - we did this on three recipes and they didn't turn out great.
You will have to prep and cook and freeze EVERYTHING almost as soon as you get it to make this work - say goodbye to your time off. You'll be in that kitchen - so get in there!
If you don't plan your dinners out on a weekly or monthly basis - you won't survive this. You won't.

What is My Solution?

Sometimes how you react to a terrible solution can be insightful into what your solution could or should be. 
What did I do when I was running my cooking marathon?
1. Wishing my recipes required less prep-cooking
2. Wishing I had weeded out all the recipes that required a LOT of precooking
3. Wishing I had quadrupled instead of doubled the recipes that required a LOT of cooking.
4. Wishing I had a lot of recipes that required less than 20 minutes of cooking at all.
5. Quit before everything was done and put the rest of it off until the next two days
6. Finally decided NOT to finish the Cooking Marathon at ALL and just revert to Batch cooking for the rest of the week. That is - I waited until the day a recipe was needed and doubled the batch, freezing half for next week.

What is my Final Verdict?

1. I had too many complex recipes. Complex and long prep/cooking hours may taste good but it's not a requirement!

2. I don't want to spend more than 30 minutes in the kitchen cooking ANYTHING.

3. I needed to cut down my list of elaborate recipes that I never use.

4. Have healthy meals that I won't feel guilty about giving to my family because I want to skimp on kitchen time.

The Final Solution:

I'm making a cook book. 

It's only logical...

I threw out all my old recipes and started from scratch. I started with what I had been marathon cooking this past weekend. And I got rid of every recipe that was a pain to cook. That doesn't mean toss them forever - but for daily cooking, it's time to get real.

Real food - I needed recipes that I could make from scratch in a short amount of time. But still taste GOOD! Best way - copycat recipes. Make a list or print out a menu of your favorite restaurants. Find the copycat recipes and see which ones are actually pretty easy to make.

Freeze it, jar it, can it, store it - I needed recipes that I could make in large batches and were easy to pop in the freezer. Anything that goes into a slow cooker is great but I don't want to limit myself. I wanted to add appetizers, breads and sides to my list. Because nothing says "Thank goodness" like taking out a bag for each part of dinner, throwing it on a baking sheet and turning on the oven. Dinner. Is. Done.

What does this cookbook mean for you?

Well, for one - I'm going to be testing this first hand. It's "My" cookbook in the way that I'm adding recipes as I prove them for my family in my kitchen.

When I have determined that something takes LESS THAN 15 minutes to throw together then I will add it. If it is too much hassle - I'm a minimalist, I'm going to throw it out.  There are hundreds of thousands of ways to make different foods- there has to be a couple hundred ways to make healthy dinners in less than 15 minutes! Right?!

Not your basic "open the can and throw it on top of the chicken" but real ingredients, real food, and being able to recognize everything that goes in the pan, pot or dish as a real food.

And I'm trying to go inexpensive - not cheap quality, inexpensive - there is a difference.

The Recipes...

Want a good one? Here is my go-to when it comes to dinner that is healthy and takes roughly 15 minutes hands on and no supervision.

You'll recognize this bad boy from olive garden...

That's a page right from my new cookbook (logo added) - I'll post a new recipe once a week!
Feel free to share it, print it, pin it or eat it!

I don't have plans to print this lovely book but I do plan to make it available in digital format.
Stay tuned and don't forget - I warned you about those darn Cooking Marathons!
Until the easy cookbook is finished - just double up your favorite dinners to make your next couple of weeks a breeze.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Preplanned Crafts - Paper Folding Fans!

This is a great preplanned craft because you don't need much.

Where did I get the inspiration? I've been trying to teach my girl's lots of artsy-things. My inspiration is from Pride & Prejudice - those girls are always doing something with ribbon and needle and thread!

We already have daily (most of the time) tea with cute little cookies and sugar cubes. But we need crafts - boy do we ever! And I don't want lots of specialty items - and since it is summer, I need something pretty easy!

The girls have actually been asking for fans since it's warm outside at least once every two weeks. But I have been waiting to get them hand fans because I sort of wanted to get BLANK paper ones and have them color them! And now I don't have to buy the fans themselves - we can make them, start to finish!

We are doing this as a planned craft this week - I hope this has given you some inspiration!

You can't go wrong with construction paper (We're going to use thin paper and add some ribbon to the top!), ribbon and Popsicle sticks! A little bit of glue gun and we're on our way!

Did this give you an idea? Make sure you gather up the supplies for this craft and stick it in your planned craft if you don't plan on doing it later. Just a few items stuffed in a box or bag and with instructions printed out (Found HERE) and you will have a last minute craft that can be LOTS of fun!

Don't forget ... add some small details or lots of details! Im going to watercolor a scene and then fold mine up! Get creative!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Gardening - Seed Organization

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best solutions.

I have a lot of seeds. There are only a few things I 'hoard' - digital books and seeds!

Because knowledge and the ability to grow your own food are pretty darn important.

Storage of my digital book collection is a snap - obviously.

Storage of a seed collection can get a little more complicated... use what you have on hand unless something else better comes along.

Normally I store my seed collection like this...

In a box, thrown in, inside of packets - some open, some sealed, some knocking around in the bottom to create a 'surprise mix' for next spring. I also print out my own seed packets off of the computer to customize with our family name and so I can keep the seeds I save from our own garden and maximize our garden year after year.

But the disorganization...it can become really concerning.
And I kind of like the idea of having my seeds organized by WHEN I'm supposed to plant them! I can't help it if I'm a bit OCD and like to organize with 'tiers' in most cases. I don't just want my seeds organized, I want them organized by expiration date, alphabetically and chronologically by when they should be planted. That should be easy enough, right?

Eight months into my seed collecting - because I hit the bargain sales at the end of the last season - and Im still a mess! Until...today. Today I was picking up clutter I've left around the house - 5 minute or less guarantee- and I had a stack of empty and unused baseball card organizers (for folders).

Why? Coupons of course - I'll save that post for another day.

While I don't *Love* having to fold the seed packets I currently have, I am able to print out my own seed packets and keep them small - so that they fit a baseball card slot. This is perfect! (I'm so OCD I might repackage the seeds I have just so they fit).

Here is a great example - I'll post a photo of mine after I'm done today adding my own collection to my binder.

And that's what I'm sharing with you today. Cost? Very low - I spent no more than $2 on a binder just like the above, and about $10 last year on the baseball card holders. (I bet you could find them cheaper! I didn't shop around!)

I'll continue to refine and update you about my storage ideas - like this one.
Remember - improvise, think outside the box, and work smarter instead of harder if the situation presents itself.

Need some Baseball Card sized mini Seed packets? Print them! These are the ones that are my favorite, scaled down to fit baseball card inserts (A bit prettier than the yellow mini-envelope and perfect for saving your own seeds!)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Decluttering - Hoarding Organizing Systems

This week I want to talk about something close to my heart that I feel most would embrace if they called it a different name. Don't call it organizing, don't call it decluttering, don't call it cleaning. 

You are not a hoarder.
You are not a bad person.
You are not lazy.
But you just can't seem to keep it all together, all clean, all organized.
Heck - you can't even find a place for it. 
But you need it. 
So you'll Organize it.
Is this You?
The picture above is your last stop organizing system. And there is a chance that your basement looks close to this. But if this is how any other room in your house is starting to look - it's time to take a step back.

It always starts with taking a step back.

Now if your living room doesn't look like the picture above but you are still struggling with decluttering I'm going to help you out a little. I'm going to give you some mind blowing insight that is both common and not common.

If you can't find a place for it, if you can't find it, if you have more than one but don't know where the others are, if you don't know where you put it down, if you don't know where someone moved it - you are one step away from the picture above.

Because you're going to hit a wall and finally say "I need to get ORGANIZED" and that is not the answer.

It happened to me ten years ago. I spent HOURS shopping for new organizers because if I just got another organizer for my socks, for my shoes, for my dishes, for my papers, for my furniture, for my EVERYTHING then the mess would disappear.

And I would always find that perfect organizer, the made of wishes and dreams, that was going to fix it. And it would for a while. But you know what would happen? It would only organize one thing. My socks would be organized...until I got more socks and I had to get a different organizer.

An example - I needed more closet space but I had already filled four closets...yes, I had a problem. Did I address my problem? No, I *NEEDED* all of this stuff. What did I need to do? I needed to get ORGANIZED, I told myself.

I did what most people did - I organized the problem away...temporarily. I bet you're wondering how I got around running out of closets after filling four...I bought four rolling clothing racks. Problem solved! Until about three months later when those were filled and I had mess again.

I was an absolute extreme - I will admit that. But this is where it starts. You organize away the mess one mess at a time and it takes FOREVER.

When I stopped and looked, I was able to fill boxes with organizing systems I had bought, filled and outgrown. And it finally clicked - if you can't organize it, you have too much stuff.

Do you find stuff with stickers, tags or receipts still attached? You have too much stuff.
Do you have clothes that are a size bigger and a size smaller just in case? You have too much stuff.
Do you have more than one of something but can't find them all? You have too much stuff.
Can you name something in your house and find it within thirty seconds? You have too much stuff.
Does it take you longer than 15 minutes to pick up your living space? You have too much stuff.

The following excuses are obsolete:
I have kids - Me too! A 5 and a 6 Year old - let's teach them healthy habits now!
I have a spouse - Get them on board! Want to convince them? Box everything up...
I don't have time - Prevention and 10 items a day and you're clutter free before you know it.
We want a cozy home - But Can you can SEE the cozy instead of the mess? Be warm and Minimal.

Next time you try to figure out how to 'Organize' your room - ask yourself if you are trying to organize a life or organize a mess? Contrary to mainstream concepts - life doesn't have to be a constant mess. And you're not a maid. Make more time for yourself.

How do you become an Extreme  minimalist in 30 minutes per room?

Walk into any room with a laundry basket and pick the things in that room that you CANNOT live without. Rule: You only get what fits in the laundry basket. (Furniture are an exception at this point) You are done.
Donate the rest. Let your family have one basket for the room and see what it is you really want to save and make excuses for - and double and triple check:

Do I NEED it?
Do I WANT it?
Will I USE it?

More often than not, the answer is no.

How do you get rid of what is left?

  1. Get big boxes or bags
  2. Throw EVERYTHING in the boxes or bags without organization or review
  3. Donate it by driving it OR having them PICK IT UP FOR YOU!
Done, done, done!
And I mean it when I say done, it's exactly what I did with 4 closets, 4 clothing racks, and the rest of my apartment. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cleaning - Fish, You're doing it Wrong

First, I would like to say that I never wanted fish. And I fully expected them to die quickly. However, after we picked out fish I discovered these little guys (betas) are going to live up to around 7 years! WHY?!

Why indeed. We got the fish to teach the 5 year old and the 6 year old responsibility. They have to take care of the fish in order to 'upgrade' to other types of pets. Gerbils are next on the list. Daddy is going to be cleaning it - because Mommy has been cleaning up after the fish since day 1! Anywho - that is the point - too much cleaning!

Anyone that has a fish will tell you fish are easy to keep. They are lying in hopes that you will suffer through water changes as they have. The betta fish require especially require a great deal of water changes the smaller the bowl. And then as you research you find that you are a horrible person if your fish is in a bowl smaller than 2.5 gallons. This is where you feel guilty until you upgrade.

Things are complicated when you have more than one child - it is a rule of the universe that they will want the fish that cannot be placed in the same tank. Let us look at Betta fish math: Male+Male=Dead fish. Male+Female=Dead fish. Female+Female=Dead fish. Female+Female+Female=Your only one tank solution. Well. That sucks. Moving on!

In order to get a larger tank that would keep both fish happy and keep them in the same tank without them dying (We have one male and one female, I wouldn't recommend this with two males since they would stress each other out until one dies) I got a divider and split the new 10 gallon tank. I probably should have split it LONG ways but...I wasn't thinking at the time. Should have, could have, would have. Now I'm glad I didn't. Because it means a better way to deal with water changes.

Before the bigger tank, I was doing a water change every other day (All the water) for both fish bowls (1 gallon). The fish were boring and didn't have much room to swim. Enter guilty feeling mommy. After about two months of this - I was really sick of water changes. I upgraded to the 10 gallon tank. Now, I do a 10% water change...um, every day or every other day. "This is getting old fast" I have been saying for about 4 months.

I have looked into a lot of stuff - all things that complicated things and cost even more in maintenance, equipment we didn't plan to need for 7 years and lots of science. I'm a smart mommy - but I don't want to get all sciency up in my fish tank that I hate cleaning. I needed something EASY that required little or NO cleaning. Enter "the clams". 

I got clams for the tank, fresh water. It was really strange ordering 'live clams' on ebay but whatever. They got here - the female fish ATTACKED one and killed it about thirty seconds after I put it in the tank. We figure the female has some suppressed aggression issues she's struggling with. I think she needs help. But for now, I moved all the clams into the male side of the tank. His approach is "Whatever" and leaves them alone.

This has increased the 'bioload' of the tank which means I'm still doing daily water changes. Bioload - the simply explanation, is a bunch of animal waste in the water. Fun. The water on the male side of the tank is very clear. The clams are really doing their part! But for whatever reason, it's not helping the female side of the tank (Probably the divider) and there are still large particles caught in the rocks on the bottom of the tank. The problem? The clams need a current and I don't have a 'current' in the tank and I hadn't really planned on giving them one. When I add water to the tank, I do it on the male side to kick the water up and give them a daily current so they get food floating by them. So far it is workin g a bit. But not was well as I wished it was.

Now - what is a Minimalist Martha like myself to do?! I have all these water changes I'm doing, still siphoning water out of the tank almost daily and I have to haul a bucket of (slightly appreciated) nutrients out to my balcony garden. Personally, the garden doesn't *need* it and I don't need to carry buckets of water like this is the 1800's. I'm not wearing a prairie dress here, am I? I didn't think so.

I have been researching aquaponics for a few months. My over all opinion is the following:
  • No more water changes - OH MY GOODNESS WE HAVE A WINNER
  • It takes care of itself - YES!
  • No need to water the plants - This is AMAZING!
  • The set ups are ugly - Oh. That sucks.
  • It's not really designed for a livingroom side table - Double bummer.
  • The set ups are notoriously expensive - Not cool, man.
  • They require a bit of engineering - Hmmm...I have some brain power.
  • They are a more substantial investment then just getting the filtering system for the fish tank and maintaining that. - Extra not cool. More money, different science, same maintenance almost.
Then you go the DIY route and the aesthetics gets REALLY unsightly. I did find this cute little number and I *WANTED* it, almost ordered it but the thing is - we would need TWO. That means roughly $120 for two. Hmm....not cool. 

We're back at the same investment as just getting the tank filtration system and cutting the betta's water down a bit. That would bring back the 'small tank guilt syndrome'. 

But while watching the video they provide, I saw what essentially made it work - a tube leading up is pretty obvious but the part that is difficult is the container on top. How do I suspend the plants above the tank without a really ugly look. It doesn't have to look space-age, but I don't want a wooden structure build on top of my fish tank in the livingroom. During some of the footage, for about 5 seconds, you see someone place a board on the top of the tank with holes cut into it. It is just barely bigger than the tank and that's how it stays up. Lightbulb moment for anyone else?

I had some foam board I save for random projects - well, this seemed worthy. I got the DIY bug and started looking at how I could grow stuff with this information. 

Then I came up with the following in about 20 minutes:

That is a piece of foam board ($1 at the dollar store - I love making stuff with foam board) cut slightly larger than the top of the tank and with a place cut out for a 'disposable' strawberry container. I plan on cutting the lid off incase you were wondering! I also wanted to make a shell that comes down about 3 inches all around the tank out of foam to sort of hide the hanging strawberry baskets. I'm not sure if I want to put that much effort in just yet. 

Now I still need a pump (being ordered) and some tubing for the pump, and a 'tee' split for the hose so it can water both strawberry containers - but in general, I hope that the finished project really will result in ZERO water changes ever again and lettuce/spices growing out of the top. Hello! I can get behind that!

Lastly - I still have to cut a hole in both sides of the little white 'frame' to feed the fish. Not a big deal!

My roughest estimate is that the pump, the air/water hose, the tee split and maybe some little clay bead things to place in the containers will run about $40. Not bad. No maintenance beyond feeding the fish. If I decide I don't want the pump on all the time, I can set it on a timer to run for 15 minutes on the hour.

So far - Minimalist Martha is planning on crossing "Clean Fish Tank" off the list of things to do - Forever!

I hope that this has sparked an idea or at least given you a warning about the illusion of 'easy to care for fish'!  My suggestion? If you really are going to get a tank - start with this optional DIY add on and save yourself the daily chores that goes along with fish!

Get Smart - Get Lazy - Take back some Mommy time by getting rid of or simplifying one chore at a time!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Kids - DIY Preplanned Craft Kits

I have sworn off my craft room. Every bead, every feather, every stamp block with a surfing dog on it, and all 400 of those skinny markers that never work and are always dried out. You are dead to me.

But girls must craft!

The Problem:

  • I never have a craft ready for the girls
  • When I try to craft with them, we are always missing pieces
  • My craft room was so messy I wouldn't go in for weeks unless forced to
  • Crafting made me cringe because it was/is a giant problem
What I DREAM about:
  • Telling the girls to go 'pick a craft' and have an instant craft already ready
  • Having instructions included so that if I'm not there, Daddy knows exactly what is needed and can read the instructions for every and any craft
  • If I'm not there, Daddy isn't taking stuff I need for another craft to do something with the girls
Moment of Inspiration:

$5 and Below store - They have those chintzy best friend bracelets and other strange kits all ready to go with extra pieces that give you nightmares about. And they are only about $5! Pretty sweet! I wish I could just buy 400 of these for the entire summer...*brain begins working*

The Solution:
  • I want to get rid of the Crafting mess (part of decluttering)
  • I want ready made craft kits with enough pieces for each girl to do one craft
  • I want instructions in with each craft so Daddy can pick a craft to do with the girls too!
  • PrePlanned craft boxes means Daddy won't be able to take stuff meant for other crafts - he won't need to!
  • No more stressing about finding a craft idea - we already did that!
  • Solution for Craft Kit Ideas - Amazon (whatever is selling) and Pinterest!
Possible Complications:
  • What to organize the craft kits in? - I don't want to go and buy 100 clear organizer boxes and stack them in my closet...Answer: Cereal Boxes turned inside out
  • What happens to any extra pieces? - I think we'll donate these to the teacher but over the summer they will be thrown out! Answer - Throw extra pieces out!
Random Observations - We eat a LOT of cereal in this house lately!

Now - How did we do?

I have decided to take a resource that we have a constant stream of - cereal boxes - and turn those into the Preplanned Craft Kit boxes. However - I think the outside is ugly. So I took apart the seams and turned it inside out and glued it back together with a hot glue gun. Very easy. See picture below (if I remembered to post it!)

How I am going to approach the Preplanned Craft Kits - I'm going to go into the craft room and pick something. Anything. And then look for what can be made, easily enough, with as few items as possible, with that one item. If we have everything for that craft idea then everything needed will go into the kit - enough for two, and I'll print out instructions for the kit.

*Tip* If you don't want to use cardboard boxes or cereal boxes - little zip lock baggies work just fine! (And you can see in them much easier). Entirely up to you! I am organizing my crafts by month - to be sure we're not doing Christmas crafts in July!

Now, how to label? You have to print out instructions so you might as well print out a picture of what the craft is supposed to LOOK like. Use some tape and tape it to the outside of your craft box. Kids love pictures!

How to keep up with them? Let your kids help you pick on Pinterest! Make a list of what you need for 5 or 10 projects that have very similar components (if possible) and go shopping for now many pieces you need. Just make it a craft shopping trip - we do it for groceries, don't we? Let them help choose, sort and store the kits! Which pictures go with which craft? Do you have all the pieces? Do you have a checklist? (in the instructions) Or do it when they are sleeping if the thought of sorting 10 craft kits with kids rummaging through everything you bought makes you panic - like me!

I hope that this has given you some ideas and inspiration! This idea takes a little bit of planning ahead of time but is a fantastic way to clear out your craft mess for good. Try a 'use it all up' before you buy anything for a 'new' craft project approach. Then you won't feel so bad about your new minimalist crafting approach. But be careful you don't lull back into "But we might need that some day...."!!!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Decluttering - The Craft Room

This is how my craft room mess made me feel....I say ENOUGH!

My craft room is not a dedicated craft room. It is partially my office. But in general, I have lots of 'crafty' stuff in there. When I inherited the craft room (from my mother in law, a long story!) it is/ was a GIANT mess! I'm sure this is like most peoples' craft rooms, full of odds and ends of crafts long ago dead, done or forgotten. I'm a pretty fantastic organizer and it even had me stumped! I spent about two months trying to redesign layouts, find organizers, figure out what should stay, what should go.

Almost always I heard someone in the house saying "But we could use that some day..." and that, my friend, is the crutch of hoarding and clutter! My minimalist extremes kicked in and I said "That is ENOUGH! It has a purpose or it ALL has to go!" and that was about two months ago.

But with renewed determination - I am tackling the craft room with a VENGEANCE! (Hey, I might be able to do an ACTUAL before and after picture! Isn't that something!?!)

My strategy is simple - It is a tool, appliance or in a kit then it stays. And I'm going to do an entire post about kits, don't worry! As far as odd and end pieces, if it doesn't fit in a rather tall and limiting drawer system (I may get rid of that too!) then it has to go.

Now, most of you crafty types (I swear, I'm crafty) are cursing and swearing me off. I'm basically saying 'throw it all away! It can't be organized!' and no, that is not what I'm saying. My approach is geared towards families with children (not you notorious scrapbooking types!) that have wobbly eye things and tongue depressors coming out of your ears.

How do I get rid of everything in my craft room that doesn't have a purpose but still have crafts to do?!

This is the part where you shake me and scream "Make sense!" and I'm getting to that part. It's a whole other post but I'm getting to it.

The problems that goes hand in hand with a 'craft room' or a craft area at all is as follows:

  • Everything is a mess - nothing has a place
  • Every organizer on the planet but still not organized
  • Lots of some craft items, hardly any of others
  • The kids raid the craft area and don't always put things back or wastes things
  • Clean up is so much work - I'd rather not (Me!)
  • You have tons of things pinned on Pinterest but nothing to craft
  • Whenever you sit down to do a craft you are always missing at least ONE thing
To me - this sounds like you LOVE to give your kids crafts to do but HATE the clean up, figuring out what you have enough pieces for, and dealing with finding homes for all the pieces. Well, I hear you!

My epiphany moment - Our mall recently got a $5 and Up store (or whatever it is called). In the very back of the store is a wall of craft things. These are those bracelet kits, keychain kits, all those 'kits' with the pictures of teen girls just having SO much fun putting beads onto plastic stretchy bracelets that always say friend forever. You know what I'm talking about? Let me try to find a picture...

Bingo - right on the money! This is one of those kits exactly! Of course, Amazon is listing this at $15 but the kits at this $5 store are roughly $5 which is pretty good! Now, if I have each girl pick one a week, that's about $50 a month in crafts. Why is it worth it to me to do it this way? Because I don't have to think, they get to pick and I will absolutely not feel bad about tossing all the extra pieces afterwards.

But sometimes...you just can't be so reckless. (And we probably won't do that but once or twice). Sometimes you want to try and salvage what you can of what you already have. (Did that make sense?)

My final Solution for the Craft Room:

I am going to take ALL of my craft materials and separate them into planned crafts (enough for each girl). All the rest of the pieces will be thrown out unless it is something I use often for random crafting - like ribbon or fabric or something.

This will get rid of a bulk of the TINY things that are just floating around. If I have extra pieces, I will have to either donate those to a friend, a thrift store, or just toss them. Of course, I could just have a junk bucket with random craft bits but WOW could that get out of hand fast!

You have teachers - you could always donate a bag of crafting goodies to your kids teachers once a month! If you can't organize it - pass the mess on to someone more able to handle craft stuff galore!

Solution Summary - 

  • Convert the Craft room into PrePlanned Craft Kits containing all items needed for each child and clear instructions with the craft stuff
  • All extra pieces need to fit in a restricted/small area of craft storage or be donated/gifted/thrown away.
  • When purchasing craft items in future - purchase for a craft you are planning, get all the pieces all at once, and know how you are going to handle the extra pieces before you bring them home i.e. donate, gift, add to another craft kit.

  • Sometimes, compartmentalizing a mess just complicates matters instead of making them easier.
  • If you are over compartmentalizing your mess and it is still causing you nightmares, it is time to stop trying to find another organizer and face the music - the size of the mess is too big to organize and must shrink.
  • Kids love gluing and cutting and beads - if it is just a pile of glue and feathers they will still have fun making a mess. Stick it in a kit and call it a craft monster project and let them destroy until the feathers fly! (And then make them pick up their mess!)
  • Need ideas for Craft Kits? Look and see what is for sale. Don't like the price tag? They list what is IN the kit. Make a list and pick it up for a fraction of the cost at the craft store with more personalized options. Now you're ahead of the game! If the kit is on the shelves, it is something your kids will love whether it came prepackaged or mompackaged.
Want to know more about Pre Planned Craft Kits? We've got a post on that!

It all comes down to how much mess you are prepared to deal with. If the clutter starts to get under your skin or you look at it and have to close your eyes because it overwhelms you then that is your cue! 

No time to organize it? Clear out all the craft mess that you don't have a home for and give it to a friend - and go get a $5 craft kit and call it a day! Crafting is about memories - not about headaches and more cleaning. Say no to the extra cleaning - say no to the Craft CraziMess.

Cleaning - Schedule Schmedule

I don't always stick to my cleaning schedule. And as far as schedules go - I've had half a dozen or more. My usual task list is usually a micromanaged list of every single thing I need to do - but cleaning sucks. I would rather spend my energies doing other things -anything other than cleaning. Sound like you?

I don't have a magic wand - but I do have a schedule that I have finally gotten to work for *me*. I hope that it will work for you but don't feel like you have 'failed' if it doesn't work for you - you just haven't found the *right one* yet!

For me - this is the right one - finally! But sometimes, I still just don't clean anything. It's not your fault, Schedule, sometimes I'm just not in the mood despite your awesome color scheme. Want the Schedule? Download by following the link below the picture or follow the link of the photo/schedule!

Why I love this schedule - because it breaks up my cleaning into roughly one or two things a day that are fairly easy given my decluttered lifestyle. If there was clutter - yes this would be harder. Have clutter trouble? Check out the decluttering section!

Where did I find this schedule? Because I didn't make it! I found it on Pinterest. Then again, I found the other half-dozen there too.

Oh - right - back to *Why* I love this schedule!

At the very basic - all this schedule is saying is the following:

  • Monday: Dust your house from top to bottom. 
  • Tuesday: Wood! - Anything that needs wood polish gets a good shine (Yay! Jokes on you schedule! NO wood!)
  • Wednesday - *Counter Top Day!* Wipe off all counters in the kitchen and bathroom!
  • Thursday - Appliance Day! Run self clean mode on oven, wipe down the inside of the microwave and do a quick wipe down the shelves in the fridge.(I don't always do the fridge - extra lazy Thursdays!)
  • Friday - Glass Day - mirrors, windows, glass frames, shower glass (I have none), anything that's glass.
  • Saturday and Sunday - Upholstery Day - vacuum sofas, curtains, chairs, anything fabric and spray with Febreze. 

Now - this *Looks* like a lot but that is because of all the detail. If you delete all the detail wording it is less scary. Give it a look now...

  • Monday: Dusting ALL of the Things!
  • Tuesday: Wood Polish ALL of the Things!
  • Wednesday - *Counter Top Day*
  • Thursday - Appliances Day
  • Friday - Glass Day
  • Saturday and Sunday - Upholstery - Febreze ALL of the Things!

Why is it that this schedule works for me where others have failed?
I have a theory but it is just a theory. When I actually manage to get *motivated* to clean stuff it usually fades after about 30 minutes. So I'm good for about 30 minutes before I become depressed from cleaning.

What seems to work is that I only have to find ONE thing to clean with, be it a duster, wood polish, appliance cleaner, a wash rag for each counter, or the windex and a squeegee, or Febreze! Now if I had to find ALL of that stuff on one day and clean ALL of the Things for ALL of the day - I would strike. I mean I would actually strike stuff, like a ninja! (Kidding!) But in seriousness, if I only have to find one thing to clean with and just do that one thing - I'm usually pretty good. Honestly, today I did the appliances on the right day on accident - just because I wanted to clean the microwave.

Oh - and I still have some tips and tricks for cleaning things! Microwaves? Easy cheesy! Check out the post on microwaves and make the Microwave clean itself (almost).

When it comes to cleaning, you really need to figure out how you *like* to clean before you try to force yourself to clean on a schedule. And I really recommend decluttering!

I keep my weekly cleaning schedule in my 'household binder' (which I started this week - cleared out all my coupons *gasp*). But you can just stick that one weekly schedule on your fridge - the side even - and just look once a day. If you cut your cleaning time down to 15 minutes a day you won't stress over cleaning and you'll have loads more time for other things.

As with all things in life, it is easier said than done. I hope that this has motivated you in some small way. If this schedule doesn't work for you - I hope it has encouraged you to find a method that works for you and helps you keep a tidy house on your own terms and your own time. Saving more time for YOU and sacrificing less time to the cleaning of the dreaded MESS!

Cleaning - Microwave Monster

The microwave used to be a beast, a monster, a nemesis. I used to wear my cleaning agents on my hip and shoot from across the kitchen with one eye closed and praying for the best. Just kidding! But I dislike all cleaning so why would I suddenly enjoy cleaning the microwave? Well - easy is pretty pleasing to me.

I don't mind cleaning the microwave ever since I figured out how to soften up all that stupid microwaved on food without giving myself a sprained elbow or wrist from scrubbing (I'm short, that angle also is unpleasant).

I found on the delightfully pinteresting Pinterest of course a fascinating way to clean your microwave faster and easier. I didn't pin it and now there are a lot of posts on Pinterest with this idea so you might have already read it but I'm going to cover it anyway because it is an easy way to clean.

A word of caution: I have heard that some people have had the water explode on them. Please use caution and if you microwave for 5 minutes, be sure to wait one minute for the steam to really work on the inside of the microwave before you open the door. Don't wait *too* long or everything will 'harden up' again. Kind of a pain. I use a thick ceramic bowl but I use closer to 2 cups of water and I sometimes microwave for upwards of 10 minutes depending on how dirty the microwave is. Again - caution, Hot! It might explode!

Remember that every microwave is a little bit different - be careful!

How I clean:

A bowl or cup (needs to be microwave safe for up to 10 minutes!)
1 cup of vinegar
2 cups of water

Other variations:

Just Water


Water and sliced/juiced lemons

Now, if you are like me you will try this out at least once. It works for me, even when it is a really messy disaster which is when we need it most, right? I was surprised to read about people blowing water up in their microwave so seriously, be careful please?

I hope that this has helped you a bit with messy microwaves and helped tame the beast that was!

Remember - don't put so much effort into cleaning! Work smarter - Not harder!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cleaning and Decluttering - The Clutter Catcher

Image Source: Clean Your House in Ten Minutes by SheKnows

"Quick! My husband is going to be home in an hour and the house looks like a disaster!"

My definition of disaster is not the same as most people's level of disaster - because I have decluttered to the extremes. But here is the best way to fight clutter and the quickest way to apply a bandaid to creeping clutter (clutter that is moving from places it SHOULD be into places it SHOULDN'T be is "creeping clutter")

I have a small laundry basket that sits near our basement door. Whenever I feel like the clutter is starting to creep and I don't feel like 'cleaning', but the husband is on his way home - I grab that basket (hopefully empty?) and go through the entry spaces: entry way, living room, dining room.

I pick up anything that doesn't belong in the room and put it in the 'clutter catcher': My laundry basket. It should take five minutes. Your only question is "Does it belong in this room - yes or no?"

Now, set the basket down and deal with it later. I didn't say put stuff away! (Unless you have time for that.)

The fun part is that if you are using the Uh-Oh box and you picked up any children's things - shoes, clothes, toys, what-have-you, you can transfer any of that stuff straight into the Uh-Oh box from your Clutter Catcher and 9 times out of 10 that cuts down what you need to put away by at least 40% or more.

The Trick? Dont get a BIG laundry basket. This is the exact laundry basket I use for this:

If you get a basket that is TOO big, then you are going to have a beast of a mess to put away. If you keep your basket small, then when it gets full you know you have to sort things out (start with that Uh-Oh box!) before you can use your clutter catcher again. But the basket is small enough that it won't be a nightmare to deal with.

I love my clutter catcher. I can quickly look like I've picked up, 5 minutes before company or the husband or the mother in law shows up, and the basket disappears during the visit and gets sorted when I get to it.

Be in charge of the mess - don't let your mess walk all over you and stress you out!

Now go find your new best friend and give it a cute name like "Clutter Catcher"!

I hope this helps you fight the clutter monsters! aka children...

I better post this and snatch up my clutter catcher - the husband will be home in an hour and I want to do other things besides clean...*wink*

Declutter - Dual Purpose Silicone Ice Trays

I greatly dislike ice trays. They are a pain to refill, they pop out really funny, the trays take up too much space in my freezer, the shapes are boring, and you have to use half a tray for one cup of something cold.

I love cute things. That doesn't need much explanation.

I saw this video with Martha Stewart (my favorite Felon!) while trying to find a solution for our ice cube issues and I have to say that it was pretty darn awesome!

However, I love minimalism and by default - I love things that have more than one use. I also prefer silicone ice trays because they don't crack, they are easy to clean, and they feel cool. While I love Martha and all this Ice Sphere awesomeness, I don't like One-Use-Items or "dodaddy" as she calls it. (I have a tip to add on to her 'balloon' meat hook idea - read tips below!)

So I still wanted silicone - not One-Ice-Cube solutions stacked up in our freezer. Now - have you ever tried to get ice cub trays that are silicone at the store? Ours doesn't carry them. We've checked. However, I find a ton of silicone muffin/cupcake molds that are adorable but I always tell myself "These are one time use! How can I justify this?! I need 40 of these!" and of course they get tossed into my 'organization' system in the basement when not in use so that they don't clutter my kitchen (into an organizational tub for the holiday).

But if I can use it for TWO things...well then, that sort of changes things...

I have to thank my Mother for this because she sends me things against my will all the time. And my Mom really knows stuff so she she sent me this valentines day mold...I had to rethink because I just thought it was so cute...and then it just sort of clicked because we were looking for a better way to do ice.

If you're like my family, you are okay with USING the ice cubes but filling up the ice...is no fun. Often, we had no ice. Instead, when we needed ice we were filling the ice tray up and commenting on how much we disliked the ice tray.

What did I do? I took the heart mold you see above, I placed it in a baking pan(to give it support - these things are wobbly without any support!) like this (see photo below)

And then I filled the mold, not the baking pan, with water and popped it in the freezer. Check it after an hour (or forget it - no harm) and pop them into your ice bin (we have a bin that we put made ice into) or dont, just pop them out of the silicone thing as you need them. I like to make a bunch back to back sometimes just so I can get the baking pan out of my freezer, but it's up to you.

Have you seen any cute holiday molds lately? Any ideas of how cute they would look in a drink?

Hands down, every guest we've had has commented on the ice cubes and has loved them. It's the little touches that make you look awesome and it's the secret you hold that it was easy that makes your smile just a little bit bigger!

Also - according to Sur la Table - "Clever [Tovolo] ice mold combines art and science to make a creative, ultra slow-melting ice ball". Hmmm something to think about. Plus that looks pretty cool!


Just a Few General Tips:
  • You can use most muffin tins but metal tins can sometimes be harder to work with though more stable in the freezer. Ice stuck? No pounding! Just set the bottom (only!) of your muffin tin in some warm water for a few seconds. They should loosen right up!
  • Can't decide what molds are best? Just go by your season! Muffin/cupcake silicone trays go on sale offseason and can be picked up for a inexpensive penny or two. And you only need one or two as each ice cub is big enough for one drink! One tray means 6+ drinks instead of 1 or 2 drinks.
  • Always look for food grade silicone and be sure to rinse between uses!
Want to Dress up your Ice "CUBES" even more? Here are a few videos that add a flair of fancy without much extra work!

Tip: How to make those Spheres without "Meat Hooks" as Martha Stewart References

Tip: Adding stuff INTO your Ice Cubs! Add mint leaves, berries, or fruits in the ice molds for a sophisticated touch! (Just be sure to warn guests so they don't choke if they don't notice your fancy touch!)

Tip: Making Ice Cubs out of Juice and not just Water!

Tip: Take different juices (the photo has kool aid ice cubes!) as above and add the cubes to Sprite!

Tip: How to Make Crystal Clear Ice Cubes

Hosting a Party with a bowl of Punch? Take this idea to the extreme! Silicone molds for cakes are very common and very cute! Get a large enough (not bigger than your punch bowl or so big that no one can get punch!) cake mold that can sit right in your punch bowl! It will take longer to melt and will look AWESOME! (The whole video below is a recap of much of what I've already talked about but if you watch the whole thing- this guy knows his ice!)

I like a bit more flair than the traditional so if we're being completely honest - I would go with the FUN cake molds (not a bunt pan) and look at stuff like this:

And if you have a significant other that really loves sports - you can make sports night a real treat! Get a punch bowl or whatever beverage the party calls for then make a giant football ice cube!

I hope this has sparked some ideas. Ice doesn't have to be boring and you don't have to get something JUST for ice cubes! We got rid of our trays and we use our heart mold for our ice 'cubes' regularly because they are just that cute.

Thanks for Reading! I hope it adds to your holidays and daily beverage delight. And next time you find those holiday silicone molds on sale - give them another look! Nothing screams 'Summer!' like giant frozen roses with mint leaves and berries in them!