Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September Freebies

Here is what I got completely FREE during the month of September. Click here to read a previous post explaining each category.

Publix Mystery Coupon Items:
potato chips
2 pkgs Publix brand "Oreo" cookies
coffee brick
6-pk bottled water
peanut butter

CVS Extracare Bucks With Sales and Coupons:
2 bottles Suave shampoo
2 bottles Suave body wash
CVS Plaque Detecting Oral Rinse
CVS lip moisturizer
4 Right Guard deodorant
Soft & Dry deodorant
Adidas deodorant
2 Colgate toothpaste
2 twin-packs Gum toothbrushes
Goody's headache powders
2 bottles St. Ives moisturizer
Nivea for Men body wash

Great Sale Prices Combined with Coupons:

2 jars dill pickles (these really cost me 10 cents a jar, but that's so close to free that I just had to list them here)
5 pkgs Cottonelle bath tissue
Sara Lee hot dog buns
9 bags frozen veggies
3 cans Muir Glen tomato sauce
4 large Dove chocolate bars
5 dozen eggs
3 2-lb bags sugar
2 boxes sugar cubes
2 boxes oatmeal
2 boxes Lipton tea bags
6 boxes drinkable yogurt 4-pks
half gallon orange sherbet
4 pkg Ballpark franks
3 Pillsbury brownie mixes
2.25 lb red grapes
jar of bouillon
2 boxes Smart Taste pasta
Reach toothbrush
2 GUM toothbrushes
2 tubes Colgate toothpaste
3 small bottles Purell hand sanitizer
2 small cans Edge shave gel
Sunsilk shampoo
(Also, I could have had 2 tubes of free Airborn if I had remembered to pay for it with my Rite Aid gift card!)

Full Rebates:
1/2 gallon Mayfield milk
Pert shampoo
Lypsyl lip moisturizer
Nivea for Men body wash

Free Deals:
Cedar Plank Frozen Eggplant Parmesan
Uncle Ben's Ready Rice Cajun Style
3 loaves Sara Lee Soft n' Smooth wheat bread
Pillsbury cake mix
28 sheets scrapbook paper
scrapbook paper storage tote
2 scrapbook paper envelopes
set of acid free pens

5x7 print

Given to Me:

lots of chili peppers

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Bartlett pears are delicious this fall; I think they are the best we have had in years. I can't keep the fruit drawer stocked.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Best Deals of the Week

Mystery Coupon item, 6-pk bottled water, 1 cent
3 jars (18 oz) Smuckers preserves, sale $2, 35 cent coupons doubled=$1.30 ea
2 Welch's Grape Juice 6-pks, $4.09, $1/2 store coup, (2) $1 coupons=$2.59 ea
Good Belly drink 4-pk, BOGO, $1 coupon=$1
Vlasic dills, BOGO, $1 coupons=40 cents ea
4 Grain eggs, $2, 55 cent coupon=$1.45
2 Motts 6-pk applesauce, 3/$5, 40 cent/2 coupon doubled=$1.27 ea
3 jars baby food, 3/$1
4.5 lb fresh pears, 99 cents lb
Fantastik spray, BOGO, $1 coupon=40 cents
I asked for rainchecks for:
Land o Lakes spread, BOGO, 55 cent coupons=40 cents ea
24-oz Golden Blossom honey, $3.99, 75 cent coupon=$3.24
another Good Belly drink 4-pk, BOGO, $1 coupon=$1

I had a coupon for $20 in free groceries when I transferred a prescription. For the $20, I got:
7 frozen veggies, $1 ea
2 Danactive yogurt, $2, $1 coupons=$1 ea
3 Activia yogurt, $2, $1 coupons=$1 ea
half gallon Country Club orange sherbet, 99 cents
4 pkg Ballpark franks, 99 cents, 50 cents/2 coups dbld=49 cents ea
3 Pillsbury brownie mixes, $1, 40 cent coups doubled=20 cents ea
2.25 lb red grapes, $2.85
Kroger bouillon, $1.49
I also got 2 pkgs Cottonelle bath tissue, 99 cents, 50 cent coupons doubled=free

Adidas deodorant, $4.99, $1 coupon, earn $4 ecb's, paid with $4 ecb's
Nivea for Men body wash, $4.99, earn $4.99 ecb's. I paid with $4 in ecb's and $1 plus change on my gift card.

I'm not loving Walgreen's at the moment because the register wouldn't take my Register Rewards for no reason a few weeks ago, but I had a RR expiring and I wanted the Nivea body wash with a full rebate. So, my purchases:
Nivea for Men body wash, $4.99, full rebate
Sunsilk shampoo, clearance $1.12, $1 coupon=12 cents
Reach toothbrush, $2.99, $1 mfg coupon, $1 Easy Saver coupon=99 cents
Paid with $5 Register Rewards and $1.65 in rebate money
Total OOP: nothing

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Harris Teeter Triples

I read on a blog on Wednesday or Thursday that Harris Teeter was having a TRIPLE coupon bonanza this weekend. Normally I ignore info about Harris Teeter since we don't have that chain of markets anywhere nearby. But we were heading to Charleston on Friday for a competition, and the hotel where we stay is right next door to a Harris Teeter. I borrowed the blog info to match my coupons, drove the six hours to Harris Teeter, and this is what I came back with:

2 boxes Dixie Crystals sugar cubes, $1.39, 55 cent coupons tripled
3 2-lb pkgs Dixie Crystals sugar, $1.39, 55 cent coupons tripled
2 lb Dixie Crystals brown sugar, $2.39, 55 cent coupon but register wouldn't triple it
2 small canisters Quaker oats, $1.50, 50 cent coupons tripled
2 small boxes Lipton tea, $1.19, 75 cents/2 coupon tripled
2 tubes Colgate toothpaste, $1.50, 75 cent coupons tripled
2 travel size Edge shave gel, $1.50, 75 cent coupons tripled
2 GUM toothbrushes, $2.29, 75 cent coupons tripled
3 small Purell hand sanitizers, $1.50, 60 cent coupons tripled
Hillshire Farms sliced turkey, $4.49, 55 cent coupon tripled
Two items we needed for Saturday lunch but I had no coupons for:
Vitamin Water, 99 cents
8 oz sliced Provolone cheese, $2.99

Value of items: $42.62
My total including tax (1.5 % higher than we're used to): $4.84

There was a limit of 20 coupons per household per day. I made these purchases on Friday, and I used only 19 coupons. I planned to stop at Harris Teeter again on Saturday before heading home, but we took a different route and didn't see another store.

The toiletries, oatmeal and tea will all be donated to charity.

Friday, September 19, 2008

An Organized Home: Step 6

Baby Steps to an Organized Home:

Seasonally Re-Evaluate

Just as no home stays tidy on a daily basis, no home stays organized from year to year. My home needs a seasonal (every few months or so) going over to quickly re-evaluate storage areas. This is the time to reorganize cupboards, drawers, shelves, and closets and to get rid of the broken, worn out, outdated, and repetitive items. Here is what I do:

1. I pull out, throw out, and wipe out.
2. I put away what doesn't belong there.
3. I pare down what I don't need.
4. I decide on new or different storage containers if needed.
5. I arrange the keepers neatly back in place.

You will notice that this is the short list of how to get organized in the first place, my steps 1-4. Yes, the same thing needs to be done over and over again, except that it should be the quick version from now on.

Here is an example from my own home; a little reworking of two of my kitchen cupboards:This is a corner cupboard next to the stove and below my main counter work area. The door is only 12" wide and very difficult to reach into. But I'm hoping to fit more casserole dishes inside because the current storage for my microwave-safe casseroles will become toy storage for baby grandson.

This is the high cupboard above the refrigerator. It doesn't have much in it.

1. I pull out, throw out, wipe out:I emptied both cupboards onto the kitchen counter, then I wiped the shelves clean.

2. I put away what doesn't belong there:I decided these items could easily be stored above the refrigerator, rather than in the more convenient lower corner cupboard. Even though it is hard to reach above the refrigerator, most of these pieces are used only seasonally so they don't need to be taking up the lower cupboard space.
3. I pare down what I don't need:On further thought, I decided I don't use these pieces enough, or like them enough, to keep them around any longer. Most will go in the garage sale boxes; one is trash (can you guess which?)
4. I decide on new or different storage containers if needed:
In this case, I don't need any storage containers since this was mainly a reorganization project.

5. I arrange the keepers neatly back in place:The corner cupboard now holds all my casserole dishes and baking dishes: 5 glass and ceramic casseroles, 2 bread pans, 3 9"x13" baking dishes, 1 roasting pan, 6 pie plates, 3 round cake pans, 2 rectangle cake pans, 3 mini muffin pans, and 2 cast iron skillets.

The cupboard over the refrigerator now stores my seasonal pieces: a bundt pan, a springform pan, a chafing dish, a decorative ceramic mold, a Swedish cake pan, 5 mini loaf pans, a gingerbread house mold, a ceramic shortbread mold, and a bag of Tupperware popsicle molds. With a step stool, I can easily access them for the one or two times a year that I use them.

Every time I go through this process, the hardest step for me is #3, paring down what I don't need. I still struggle with keeping and accumulating too much. It's an emotional thing to get rid of what I no longer need: What if I need it later? What if someone I love might need it later? What if I never find one again if I need it? Eventually, I learned that I should keep only two types of items: Items that are used at least once a year, and very special mementos. The rest I make myself let go of, and I found my life to be more calm and less stressful. I much prefer it that way.

My two final thoughts for you:

Remember, there is not one “right” way to organize. Find a method that works for you and do it. Don’t be concerned about others’ methods or opinions.

It’s OK if your house looks lived in. After all, you really do live there. Don’t get caught up in magazine pictures that show spotless homes.

Now, go, enjoy your clutter-free home!

Previous posts in the series:
My Story
Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5

Thursday, September 18, 2008

An Organized Home: Step 5

Baby Steps to an Organized Home:

Declutter Daily

There isn’t a home anywhere that stays orderly by itself. Picking up, putting away, and decluttering needs to be done every day.

You don’t have to do all the decluttering by yourself (unless you live alone). Involve the whole family in decluttering. Make it a game, such as race to see who can put away the most in ten minutes (set the timer), or race to see how fast each person can put away 20 things that don’t belong to him or her. Another day, give children specific jobs, such as “pick up all the trucks”, then “put all the books on the shelf”. Or, don’t serve dinner until the family room is in shape.

When the Professor and I were first married, we both worked nine-to-five jobs. I had a longer commute, so I left for work first while the Professor was still asleep. I usually got home first too, arriving home about 20 to 30 minutes before he did. Every evening, I walked into a home in serious disarray. At first I was annoyed, but then I decided to have a race: Would the Professor get home before I had the house tidy, or would I finish the house and be getting dinner ready before he got home? The Professor didn’t know about the game; I played alone. But I began to look forward to getting home so I could start playing.

I always began at the front door: Mail in the mail divider on the desk, purse on the hook. Then I raced through the house opening the curtains because I think a dark, closed-up house is dreary and depressing. Back in the living room, I ran as I picked up books, dishes, towels, old mail, pillows, and clothes. I distributed them to their rightful places. Then to the dining room I went, to scoop up dishes, food, mail, books, and anything else out of place. Those I distributed to their rightful places. Quickly to the bathroom: towels hung, bath mat up, hairbrushes and toiletries in the cabinet, clothes to the laundry basket or closet. Next the bedroom to make the bed, collect the clothes, books, mail, magazines, and dishes. Into the study for the same. Lastly, the kitchen, where I unloaded the dishwasher, reloaded it, put away food, wiped the counters, and finally, began dinner preparations.

Sometimes I won the game; sometimes the Professor won. But I got the job done, quickly. And I had fun while I did it.

I learned to work quickly; I learned many jobs take just five to ten minutes. This was not the time for house cleaning, but only the time for decluttering. Cleaning and decluttering are not the same thing. I also learned that, with limited time, it was best to minimize our decorative items. I didn’t keep decorative pillows on the bed, nor did I keep open shelves of knicknacks. I threw out last month’s magazines when the new issue arrived. We dealt with our mail every evening. We had a mail sorter, and we designated one slot for bills to pay, another slot for receipts we needed to keep.

Now, I have a daily routine to tidy my house. Each morning, after I get back from walking, I quickly move through the house, just as I did many years ago as a newlywed.

I begin in the master bathroom. I hang towels and the bath mat, put away toiletries, hairbrushes, and pill bottles, toss dirty clothes in the hamper, and wipe up loose hair with a damp tissue. Into the bedroom, I make the bed, open the blinds, hang up clothes, reshelve books. Down the hall, I peek in the kids' bathroom. Usually I don't do much more then hang the bath mat, and I ignore their bedrooms.

In the dining room I might find books, shoes, old mail, musical instruments, and crumbs on the table, all of which I quickly deal with. The living room is often tidy, but I always open the blinds, and usually I need to replace the sofa pillows to the position I prefer.The family room seems to always have a lot of clutter. After I open the blinds across the back of the house, I collect shoes, phones, mail, dishes, books, socks, CD's, newspapers and magazines. All get put away. (Sometimes "away" is dumping on the owner's bed. My children really are old enough to take care of their things without a reminder from Mom. I always hope the bed dump will remind them of what they are supposed to do. I can dream, can't I?)

Lastly, I deal with the kitchen. Dishwasher unloaded then reloaded, air drying dishes put away, sink scrubbed, food put away, counters sprayed and wiped, stove scrubbed.Because I do it every day, and because I work fast, this usually doesn't take even 10 minutes every morning. A dream I have is that all the tidying would be done last thing in the evening so that I could wake up in the morning to a spotless house. But it's only a dream...

Come back tomorrow for the final post in this series..

Previous posts in the series:
My Story
Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I finally finished our 2006 scrapbook! it's been a work in progress for a LONG time. Now onward to 2007, then 2008, then Heather's wedding, and baby Luke's album. And the college kids should have school albums too...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Organized Home: Step 4

Baby Steps to an Organized Home:

Arrange Neatly

Now, is your trash cleaned out, your extras and unnecessaries donated or disposed of in some way, your space wiped clean, and your new storage units ready to go? It's time to arrange what you are keeping back in your space.

But don't just shove it all back in! Remember Baby Step #2, where you decided on a place for everything. Now is the time to put the things in their places. Some will go easily in place. Some will take arranging and rearranging until you see the best fit. Remember, you may still need to pare down more if it's not all fitting.

Keep those items most often used in the easiest to reach spots: up front, on top, or by itself.

Label! Your family cannot actually read your mind, and you might forget where something goes too. Labels keep your decisions obvious. I have used a Dymo label maker for many years.

Fold linens to fit the shelf. And put linens on the shelf with the folded side out. This way you know where one towel or sheet ends and the one under it begins. Have you ever slid your hand under a sheet to pull only it out, but two sheets come out, both unfolded? Folded sides out prevent this.

Just a side note: When you put away clean laundry, always put the clean items at the bottom of the stack so your clothes and linens get rotated for even wear.
Back to our bathroom cupboard: We designated our new drawer to be the spot for backup containers of beauty products: facial scrub, shampoo, deodorant, etc. The drawer was not the place for the still-homeless cleaning supplies and bath tissue. Ideally, a second drawer unit on top of this one could have housed the bath tissue rolls. Then our spray bottles of cleaning products could have stood either in the center of the cabinet between the two towers, or in its own box on top of our new drawers.

The ideal doesn't always work out, so we went to option #2. We raided another closet for a plastic shoebox (clear and white to match), lined up the spray cleaners in it, and put it on top of our new drawer unit. Then we stacked the bath tissue next to it. It works well enough, and the cupboard is much easier to use now.
Our new drawer isn't labeled in this photo yet, but you can see the labels on the original drawers to the right. Our bathroom cupboard project is complete.

Come back in a few days to learn how to maintain your hard work.

Previous posts in the series:
My Story
Step 1
Step 2
Step 3

Friday, September 12, 2008

An Organized Home: Step 3

Baby Steps to an Organized Home:

Use Storage Aids

Before you arrange the keepers back in your space, you need to decide if you need dividers or boxes or any other organizational helpers. Buy or make what you need. You might as well make them pleasant to look at while you’re at it. A uniform look is pleasing to the eye, as well as soothing. A jumble of different sizes, shapes, and colors is jarring. So go for uniformity.

Drawer dividers in dressers, desks, and kitchen drawers are helpful if too many unlike things are thrown together in one drawer. With dividers, you’ll be able to separate items into some sort of categories and bring order to the chaos.

In bathroom storage areas, keep toiletries in bins or small drawer units.
We decided our cupboard would work best if we had another stacking unit in the left side too. We measured carefully (noting the water shut-off valve coming through the back wall), then we headed to Big Lots.

We found a drawer unit that looked like it would be a possibility, but we weren't sure if we could get two of them stacked one on top of the other in our space. Even though we had measured before we left, there are so many odd protrusions under a bathroom sink. So we bought just one unit. We also discussed other options for open storage to sit on top of this unit if there wasn't room for two units stacked. We chose white and clear plastic to match what is already in the cupboard.
As it turned out, the one unit fit our space very well. It clears the cupboard door opening, it slides in under the sink plumbing and the shut-off valve. If it hadn't fit well, I would have returned this drawer unit to Big Lots and tried something else, probably from Target.There was not room for a second unit on top, so we went with option #2. Read the next post for the rest of our story.

Through the years I have discovered some other helpful hints on keeping other areas organized:

It’s best to keep all electronic equipment behind closed doors whenever possible. All the cords, power strips, and yawning black screens are not soothing or restful to the eye. Also, electronics have a nasty habit of attracting dust. Behind closed doors cuts down on that dust.

For children, contain toys in bins on shelves. It’s important to give your children enough easy-to-use storage so that they are able to clean up. It’s also helpful for school age children to have their own file box or drawer for their artwork and papers. They can keep their memorabilia here during the year, then in the summer add these items to their scrapbooks.

Come back next week for Step 4.

Previous posts in the series:
My Story
Step 1
Step 2

Thursday, September 11, 2008

An Organized Home: Step 2

Baby Steps to an Organized Home:


Find a Place for Everything You Own

Once the junk is gone, the rest will very likely be easier to act on. As you clean out, you will undoubtedly find things that don’t belong in that particular storage spot. For example, did you find coloring books in the bathroom cabinet? Or a baking dish in the bedroom closet? Take it out and put it away where it belongs. If you can’t put it away where it belongs because the proper area is presently too cluttered, then designate a temporary storage spot.

In our bathroom cupboard we found a cup from the kitchen, medicine that belongs in the master bathroom closet, a rubber duck for the box of baby toys, and a few things for the garage sale box. We temporarily piled these in the hall.

Look at what remains. Is there too much of it? Do you really need that much? It’s most likely time to pare down what you think you need. Start by getting rid of your least favorite whatever-it-is, then the next least favorite, and the next, until you have the right amount: both in terms of what you need, and in terms of what will fit in the allotted space.
Some of the toiletries that fall in the category of "too much". All these things are perfectly fine, but there are too many for the size of the storage area.

How much is enough? The answer is different for every family. But I keep only two sets of sheets per bed and two sets of towels per person in the family. I limit the number of clothes in our closets to about eight changes of everyday clothes. I also limit my cleaning supplies to the basics. I have a large pantry, so I can keep more than someone with only standard kitchen cupboards can keep. My pantry is full, but only with food items we eat. Food we end up not liking gets donated or tossed. I have casserole dishes of varying sizes because we entertain, and I keep a dozen place settings of tableware because we have a large extended family. But I have made purposeful decisions about what our needs are.

A method that works for me, once I have reached my limit of any type of item, is I tell myself that when I buy a new one, such as a sweater, book, or Christmas decoration, I must get rid of an old sweater, book or Christmas decoration. That usually keeps my accumulation tendency in check.
Every storage space in your home needs to be assigned a job to do. And everything you own needs a home. Some things are obvious: clothes in the dresser drawers and hanging from the closet rods, envelopes in the desk drawer. Other things are less obvious, especially things seldom used, such as Christmas ornaments. Seldom-used items could be stored in boxes in the attic, or boxes on shelves in the garage. Or, lacking those storage areas, they could be tucked on the high shelves in closets, or even under the bed. Just be careful that you don’t make decisions by default. “That’s where it is, so that’s where it stays” is not a good way to decide.
Here are two rules of thumb that help me in deciding where to store things, especially in the kitchen:
  • Store similar objects together.
  • Store supplies near where they are used.
For example, I store all my table dishes in the cupboard nearest the dining table, my saucepans in the cupboard nearest the stove, and my pitchers in the cupboard over the sink. I keep all my crafts and sewing supplies in drawers and pretty boxes in my project room, where I have a table to work on. Gift wrap is kept together in boxes in a closet off the back hall. It is kept together, and it’s kept somewhat near where it is used, since I usually wrap gifts on the kitchen table.
Kitchen and bathroom counters should be bare. You already have a lot to clean in these rooms; why make your job harder by adding clutter? Find a home in the cupboards for the toaster, mixer, food processor, hair spray, and hot rollers. Pull them out when you need to use them, then put them away again. Besides cleanliness, it’s also more visually appealing to look at a bare counter.
You probably also have things sitting out on counters and furniture because you previously had nowhere to put them. But now you will be freeing up space to store those things that you really want and need to keep. So things sitting out can now go in (into drawers, closets, cupboards, boxes, shelves). If you can’t find it a home, you probably still have too much. Keep paring down and paring down until it all has a home.
When you organize a child’s room, involve him in the process as much as possible. Children need to be trained to clean up after themselves. Once his room is organized, teach him where each of his possessions goes, and expect him to tidy his room regularly. You can rotate toys in and out of the primary and most accessible storage area. Toys seem new to children when they have been out of circulation for a time.
Some people have a very hard time getting rid of stuff, just like I did. Then I found a quote some years ago that really resonated with me, and it still helps me if I'm hesitating over some particular item. I wish I knew where it came from so that I could attribute it to the author, but I don't. (Please let me know if you know who the author is.) Here it is: "Material goods sitting in your home unused are just going through the decomposition process. Pass them on now so that others can get some good from them before they are good for nothing but the trash." So I pass on, and I've almost never missed that item later. In fact, I forget all about nearly everything I donate or sell.

Before you finish for the day, make sure you have taken care of all the “store-somewhere-else” items. Box up all of your pared down items and get them out of your house ASAP. Donate them, sell them, or give them away. Then, please come back tomorrow for Part 3.

Previous posts in the series:
My Story
Step 1

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An Organized Home: Step 1

This is the second in my series on organizing the home. Go here for the first entry, my introduction to the series.

Baby Steps to an Organized Home:

Clean Out

Our main problem is we usually have too much stuff.

Whether it’s your entire home that is in disarray, or just one drawer or cupboard that needs some work, the process is the same. I will show you how I do it if you would like to come with me as I work around my own (real) home.

Choose your spot. You might want to start small, perhaps a drawer or a kitchen cupboard, to learn the process. On the other hand, you might like to jump right in to the worst spot in your home. Success there will probably energize you to keep going, and you will also realize that once the worst is over, nothing else will be as bad.
Greta and I chose the cupboard under the sink in the hall bathroom.

Go to your chosen spot with a trash bag in hand, open it wide, and look at it with your neighbor’s eyes. Or your mother’s. Whatever eyes you borrow, just get the idea of what your stuff looks like from the perspective of someone else . What is wrong with the spot? Is it too full? Too cluttered with stuff that shouldn’t be stored there? Is it mostly junk? I my opinion, junk is the same as trash. Evaluate your spot carefully.

This cupboard is the only storage in our hall bathroom, and it needs to hold teenage toiletries, paper goods, and cleaning supplies. At one time, I had designated a set of small plastic drawers for each child, as well as a plastic box for cleaning supplies and paper goods. Over time, the girls had outgrown their small drawers so the area became too cluttered and disorganized. You can see in the photo that tucked behind the bath tissue and sitting on top of the cleaning sprays is a sack of new hair and skin care products.

Once you make your decisions, it is fairly easy to pull out the junk and start throwing things away. Be serious about it and dig deep. The reason you are doing this is to clean out. Pull everything out onto the floor if you want. You might need to make a bigger mess temporarily in order to clean it up completely, but that's ok. Remember the point is to get rid of clutter, not store it, so look carefully in the depths to be sure you really need everything in there.
Our junk includes empty bottles, a dirty toothbrush, an old tub stopper, several empty plastic bags, and a very dirty shower cap. It is all trash.

While everything is out, wipe, scrub, or vacuum the space.

Come back tomorrow for step 2 of this series. In the meantime, take your trash bag(s) to the trash.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

An Organized Home: My Story

I decided to do a series on organizing the home, based on my own years of experience. I'm calling it "Baby Steps to an Organized Home", borrowed from Dave Ramsey's financial baby steps. I was asked to give my thoughts on the topic at a womens' event at church, but I declined because I am not an effective public speaker. I do much better writing on my blog; so, in seven parts, here are my thoughts.

Baby Steps to an Organized Home:
My Story
Recently, a friend told me that she thinks I am "organized beyond belief". I often hear from various friends, "You are so organized!". People assume that I have always been organized; that I must have been born that way. They think it comes easily to me, and I just have a natural knack for it. But...

Just ask my mother! Of five children in the family, I was the messiest, most disorganized one. My room looked like a tornado had hit it, and my younger sister could hardly find her way across our bedroom floor to her bed. More than once I slept on top of the toys littering my bed. I dropped my sweater or jacket on the floor as soon as I walked in the door from school, and then later I had no idea where I had left it. I left toys outside overnight because I forgot all about them when we were called in for supper. Mom found a rotting, half-eaten apple in the back of my closet one day. I lost my little red purse in the grocery store because I put it down on a shelf and walked away. I made Christmas cards at school for my family, then I immediately lost them for about two years. I lost my Mary Jane's (church shoes) somewhere in the depths of my closet, so I had to wear my saddle shoes to a wedding. I forgot to take off my socks before I climbed in the bathtub. I'm sure I was more than enough to try the patience of any mother.

As I got older, I learned a few skills such as remembering what I needed to do for school or after-school activities. I learned, along with my sisters, how to do housework and dishes. But I didn't learn how to maintain a tidy, organized environment. At least, it didn't sink in when I was taught.

As a young teen, I began developing many interests in crafts, sewing, and sports. By my late teens I owned many crafts supplies, such as paints and brushes, papers, glues, inks, and decorations; I had a stash of fabrics for making clothes, as well as patterns and notions and trims; I collected yarns and floss, needles, hoops and transfers for embroidery; I had tennis rackets and balls, volleyball equipment, backpacking equipment, and bicycle equipment. I taught swimming, I sang in the choir. I read a lot of books. I had a lot of stuff and my bedroom walls were bulging.

Mom was quite exasperated with me, so she just closed my bedroom door if we had visitors. By this time, Mom was hosting a weekly morning Bible study in our home. The group needed to break into small groups and meet separately, so Mom assigned each small group to a different room in our house: one around the kitchen table, one around the dining room table, one in the family room, one in each bedroom...except my bedroom. There was no space in my bedroom, and, besides, how embarrassing for Mom if her friends saw that mess! But, over time, the Bible study grew until they needed to add another small group ~ and that meant needing another room to meet in. My bedroom was the only room left.

One evening, Mom explained all this to me, then she asked me if I could please manage to get my room cleaned up every Monday evening so that a group of ladies could meet in there on Tuesday mornings. She said I had one week to get it under control. I agreed to clean up, but underneath, my feelings were hurt. I didn't think my bedroom was a problem. I thought of myself as a person of many interests, not a dull couch potato. I took my hurt feelings downstairs to my room. But then I looked around, and slowly I saw my room through other people's eyes. The bed wasn't made, the flat surfaces were littered with papers and homework. The floor was covered with clothes and half-finished projects, the closet was spilling its contents, the drawers weren't closed, collections were scattered from desk to dresser to windowsill. Various arts and crafts materials were stashed here and there. Drawers, shelves, and under the bed groaned from more supplies and equipment for all my various hobbies. My bicycle occupied the space the desk chair needed if a person actually sat in it. Books. Sewing supplies. Volleyball and knee pads. Yikes! This room was a disaster, and I finally saw it as such.
For the next week, I did a detox. I analysed my interests and all the supplies and equipment I owned for each one. I analysed my allotted space. I knew my allotted space did not extend into other family members' space. Except for about five square feet in the attic allotted to each kid for storing mementos, I had the space contained within my bedroom walls and that was it. I knew I needed to learn to live within my means, in an orderly way. But I also didn't want to give up any of my hobbies.

As I cleaned out the trash and nonessentials, I planned how to organize and store all the rest. The dresser would be for folded clothes only. The closet rod would be for hanging clothes only, while the closet shelf would be for crafts and sewing supplies. Would Dad be willing to add another shelf to my closet? Yes! That would double storage there. The shelves already on the wall above my desk would be for books and school notebooks only, and sewing tools and desk supplies would be in the desk drawers. I looked around for inexpensive containers, and I found a set of file-size matching cardboard boxes in our garage. Dad said I could have them. I covered them with contact paper, and then I divided up my crafts supplies into categories and labeled each box with a category. I had boxes labeled "needlework" and "painting", "patterns", "yarn", nature crafts", "leather", "paper", and several others. These boxes fit neatly on my closet shelves, and they looked pretty too.

My closet floor held my shoes and also my volleyball because it was quite dirty. Other than that, nothing was on my closet floor. When clothes didn't fit, neatly folded, in my dresser drawers or on hangers in my closet, I realized I had too many, so I pared down. I got rid of my least favorite clothes, then the next least favorite, then the next, until the remainders, my favorites, fit in their allotted space.

I did the same with my sewing and craft supplies, my books (I had only six linear feet of book shelf space), and all the special widgets I was saving as mementos. If one category of crafts didn't all fit into its designated box, I cleared out repetitive supplies or supplies I didn't like as much as others, until all the remaining supplies fit neatly in the box. My least-favorite clothes, books, and craft supplies that didn't fit in their designated area got donated to the charity bag. The worn out sports equipment got tossed.

Before the week was over my bedroom looked like a new person had moved in. As I saw the transformation of my space, I was more and more energized to continue the proces, and to even go above and beyond. The evolving tidiness propelled me to get out the cleaning tools and do a thorough vacuuming and scrubbing. I said goodbye to months'-old dust bunnies under the furniture. I realized the wood furniture needed a stiff dose of oil. The windows and mirror got spritzed with Windex. Bedding and curtains washed. Bed made. Dresser tastefully decorated with only my jewelry box and one other decorative item on the top.

Lastly, I understood that my varied collections were really just dust collectors. Whatever they were, I wasn't really all that excited about them, except for my china teacups. It was time for them to go too. I kept my china teacups, but I decided to pack them into a box and store them in the attic until I had a home of my own and a more appropriate place to display them.

All these years later, I cannot remember Mom's reaction to the final result. Perhaps she was afraid the transformation would be short-lived. But it hasn't been; I have maintained my habits for over 30 years. Through the years I have fine tuned my processes, partly by experimentation, partly by reading organization books, and partly out of need as life changes. But one thing that hasn't changed is that I still battle the tendancy to keep too much.

I know organization of my home is an ongoing process that will never be finished as long as I live.

Please join me tomorrow for the second installment of this series.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Publix This Week

Publix has some good BOGO's this week, especially when I matched them with my coupons. Here is today's shopping, with the prices listed after the sales and coupons I used:3-lb bag onions, sale $1.99
4 1/2 lb peaches, sale $6.79
tomatoes on the vine, sale $1.47
fresh spinach, sale $1.99
2/3 lb fresh Brussels sprouts, sale $1.35 (Ick! But the Professor likes them)
3 dz Egglands Best eggs, sale and doubled coup, $1.30 dz
2 cartons cottage cheese, sale $1.67 ea
Crisco oil, sale $3.50
Publix olive oil, sale $4.29
Lawry's garlic salt, coup 79 cents
2 Old El Paso salsa, BOGO and coup, 70 cents ea
2 jars Earth's Best baby food for Nana's pantry, BOGO, 50 cents ea
2 cans ravioli, sale $1 ea (school lunches)
4 cans Campbells Chunky soups, sale and coups, $1 ea (school lunches)
Trueblue blueberry juice, sale $2.50 (I wish I had a coup!)
2 bags Azteca four tortillas, BOGO, 65 cents ea
2 bags True North almond clusters, store coup and mfr coup on each bag, $1.29 ea

FREE Items:

Publix fake oreos, Mystery Coupon item, 1 cent (That's FREE to me)
Sara Lee hot dog buns, coup for FREE item
2 cans Muir Glen tomato sauce, coups, earned 11 cents on ea
2 bags Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers veggies, 50% off and coups, earned 10 cents on ea
1/2 gal Mayfield milk, FREE! (Mayfield sent me 2 coups for free milk when a carton went sour after a few days)

For charity:

3 Tuna Helper BOGO and coup, 55 cents ea
2 Quaker oats, BOGO and coups, 20 cents ea

Friday, September 5, 2008

Product Review: Scrubbing Bubbles Action Scrubber

As a member of the frugal-minded club, I have always preferred cleaning products and tools that are basic, simple, and multi-purpose. I'm not happy about one-job cleaning tools or chemicals, such as special bathroom sprays. I prefer sprays for general use: bathroom, kitchen and all around the house. (I do understand the need, however, for a dedicated toilet cleaning brush.)

Not too long ago I noticed a revolution in cleaners and equipment. As the rest of our society was becoming more environmentally aware, cleaning supplies were becoming less environmentally aware. Suddenly the market exploded with disposable everything. Wipes for bathrooms. Wipes for kitchen stoves. Wipes for kitchen counters. Wipes for mirrors. Toss away dusters. Toss away toilet scrubbers. Toss away mop pads. And on and on. And, sadly, it all ends up in the landfill.

Then I fell off the wagon when I cut out a coupon for a free Scrubbing Bubbles Action Scrubber Kit. I thought I would try it since it was free, even though I just knew it would be a piece of junk.

Surprise, surprise! I actually like it. I think it works much better than my usual bathtub cleaning technique: I used to spray or squirt a chemical around the tub or shower, let it sit a bit to work its magic, then scrub, scrub, scrub to loosen the dirt/soap scum/body oils cemented to the surface. I used a large scrub brush to begin, then I changed to a sponge to get the details and stubborn areas. When I needed to call in the big guns, I poured on a pile of gritty Comet and scrubbed hard until the surface was slick and shiny. I always needed a rest after that bit of vigorous housecleaning.

The Scrubbing Bubbles Action Scrubber is made up of a soft foam handle piece (it feels like a pool noodle) with velcro stuff on the bottom. It sits in a plastic tray, which is the lid of a box containing a few disposable blue pads. The pads are impregnated with the chemical, and they have the opposite velcro surface on one side. You wiggle velcro side to velcro side to attach the pad to the handle and then scrub away. The unit slides across the tub surfaces, around the curves, and into crevices very easily. The chemical in the pads must be more potent than typical sprays, because it cleans the dirt/scum/oils away in a snap. Cleaning the tub and shower is no longer the dreaded chore it once was for me. I am really impressed.My one gripe is the disposable nature of the pads. I wonder, if I just spray my own cleaner on the tub and reuse the pads, will the unit be as effective? I haven't priced the replacement pads yet and I'm rather afraid to do so. Now that SC Johnson has me hooked, I suppose they can charge an arm and a leg for the replacements.