Monday, March 30, 2015

52 Places In 52 Weeks: Organizing Your Dishes

The one thing in our home that always seems to pile up is our dishes. We do not have a dishwasher and to be honest, I am perfectly fine with that (most of the time). I feel that house chores are a time to complete projects together with other family members, while also teaching responsibility. Though then the inevitable thought occurs: where did all of these come from?

You may have a dishwasher and you may not. Whatever your source is for washing them, you know they can cause clutter.

In fact, you might have to spend the next how many minutes, trying to fit them back where they belong.

What if you didn't even have to worry about that?

Getting rid of unused and unnecessary dishes is just another step in living an organized life with less.

Here are a few questions to think about:
1. How many people are in your home? Make sure you have enough dishes for all, but just a FEW extra for guests.

2. What is the max number of guests you have had over? Keep the average amount.

3. Are any of your dishes chipped, broken, or stained (beyond repair?)

4. Are you embarrassed with any of the dishes you own? If you don't dare to use them with guests, is there really any reason to keep them for yourself?

5. If you have dishes that you rarely use, pack them in a box and if you don't use them in 6 months to a year, get rid of them: donate or recycle them.

Now it's time to ORGANIZE them:
1. Take all of your pots and pans out, from wherever you store them.

2. Lay them all out so that you know what you are working with.

3. Ask:
  • Do I use it? When was the last time?
  • Do I have a duplicate?
  • Do I have something else that will work?
  • What is it's purpose?
  • It is worn out? (peeling, scratched, etc.)
  • Is it deformed?
  • Do I have a lid to correspond with the pot?
  • Does it need to be fixed?
4. Donate the duplicates and those you no longer need

5. Store the pots and pans that you only use on occasion in another spot, if space is tight (such as large casserole dishes or large cooking pots).

6. Organize! You can organize by type of use - baking pans together, bowls together, and so forth. Find the best way that works for you, maximizing the space you have. You can also use a wire rack or hang them, if that works easiest for you.

7. Do not stack too high - one of the biggest hassles with pots and pans is stacking them so deep that they are a pain when you have to use the middle pan. Avoid burying your pots!

8. It may take a few tries to get the result you are happy with. The biggest thing is to not keep pots and pans for when you "might" use them someday - you probably won't.

I used to have multiples of the same size pot and pan. I realized how much space they were taking up and I rarely used them both at the same time. What I do have is another pan that I can use just as easily - may be a little smaller or bigger, but it works. Living with less doesn't mean just making do, but making the most out of what you have.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Creamy Garlic Noodles

I am a pasta lover!

When we eat out (which honestly isn't very often), I will always glance at the pasta section, seeing what options there are. Usually I am too cheap to pay for pasta, but I always enjoy looking at what restaurants combine to make a delish pasta dish.

I do not necessarily need anything real fancy, but I do enjoy a creamy pasta - like this creamy garlic noodle recipe! Though it takes a little while to thicken (at least to my liking), it is well worth it! The garlic taste isn't too strong, but the creaminess is rich and tastes like you got it from a restaurant!

You may not have thought of making this type of pasta before at home, but give this recipe a try!

2 t. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. butter
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
3 c. chicken broth
8 oz. angel hair pasta
1 c. grated parmesan cheese
3/4 c. heavy cream
1 T. parsley, dried

1. Heat olive oil over medium-low heat.
2. Add garlic and stir, cooking for 1-2 minutes
3. Add butter and cook until melted.
4. Add the salt, pepper, and broth.
5. Turn heat to high and let come to a boil.
6. Add pasta and cook until tender.
7. Reduce heat to medium and stir in parmesan, cream, and parsley until cheese is completely melted.
8. Turn to low, stir occasionally until thickened.

Monday, March 23, 2015

52 Places In 52 Weeks: Organizing Your Books

There is still something inspiring about looking at a shelf of books. Whether it be the desire to learn a new hobby, learn about a new topic, or brush up on an old one. Much inspiration can be gathered from books.

The thing is, we tend to stockpile our shelves with books, but rarely read them. We fall more in love with the IDEA of reading a book than actually sitting down and accomplishing the task. Life is full of good intentions, but we often do not move past the intention part.

I have stared and stared at our bookshelves, wondering why we have so many books. I looked at my own bookshelf and realized that many of the books I owned, I would never read again. They sat unused, not useful, and just took up space. That is when I realized that I was liking the idea of having a plethora of books, than actually reading them. Is THAT really what I wanted? What I wanted was for everything in our home to have a use - a purposeful use. That is when my book decluttering began.

Think about these questions:

1. Do you keep books for their sentimental value? How much is that "value" worth to you - for you to keep them the rest of your life? Are you keeping them out of guilt - that maybe if a family member comes over, they might realize you do not have a certain book on your shelf?

2. Do you keep certain books because of the money you have put into them? For example, do you have a large stock of hardcover books, but have a hard time parting with them because you know how much you paid for them? If you got rid of them, they would not be sitting on your shelf, staring you in the face, reminding you how much you paid for them - get rid of them!

3. Do you keep certain books because they were gifts to you? Again, do you think the person who gave you the book, will look through every bookshelf in your house, wondering if you still have it? It is time to let go!

4. Do you keep certain books because you think you will read it again? How many books have you kept and ACTUALLY read again? We often live in this "someday I will..." type mindset. Let's be frank - that someday will never come. Time to part with the books you THINK you will read again someday!

5. Do you keep certain books because of the way it makes your house look? Do you "feel" smarter when you have a bookshelf filled to the brim? Be realistic - it's just a mind-game. Get rid of them.

6. Do you know someone who may appreciate the very book you are wanting to get rid of? Surprise them!

Now it's time to ORGANIZE YOUR BOOKS: 

1. Think about all of the places you have books stored. However many places you may have, you are going to have to go through each and every one of them.

2. Go through each book and think of the questions I listed above. Ask yourself:
  • Why do you have this book?
  • Why have you not read it yet?
  • Will you HONESTLY read it?
  • Is it a book that you can get from your local library?
  • Do you know someone who would benefit from the book more than you?
  • What it comes down to is :WHAT PURPOSE IS IT SERVING ON YOUR SHELF?
3. While going through each book, either put it in a pile to keep or a pile to donate.

4. Donate or sell the books you do not plan on keeping.

  • Sell your books on amazon, ebay, at a paperback shop, or used bookstore. You will not make a fortune (typically), but depending on what the book is, you never know! It is just another way to get rid of your books.

5. Use the library next time you want to buy a book. Libraries offer the ability to look up a book on the internet (instead of physically having to go to the library). If they do not have it in stock, often they can "interloan" it from another library. Yes, you may have to wait a few days to a few weeks (depending on the book's popularity), but it will save you money in the end!

6. Start to read what you own, instead of buying new.

Doesn't this just FEEL GOOD? I know that going through each of these steps will take more than a days work. It may even take months to fully let go of some of your books. But after you are honest with yourself and what you want to fill your life and house with, it will make this process that much easier. It will be worth the effort and will bring you one step closer to an organized home!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Chewy Blonde Brownies

Brownies are one of my most favorite desserts! The ooey-gooey goodness in every bite, keeps me coming back for more! Usually I go for anything chocolate, but there is something about the blonde brownies that I just love! There is still chocolate in them (can it be a brownies without chocolate?)

Again, this is another 9x13 favorite of mine, as they are incredibly simple to make, almost having a chewy cookie-flavor to them. The original recipe is for an 8x8 pan, but decided to double everything so that I CAN have a 9x13 full of this goodness! Your family will love 'em and you will be bakin' 'em more and more!

2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 c. butter
2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. walnuts (optional)
1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line base and sides of a 9x13 pan with parchment paper.
3. Melt butter in saucepan.
4. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar.
5. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
6. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt, walnuts, and chocolate chips.
7. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown (may take longer!)
8. Let cool, lift parchment paper, and cut.
9. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, March 16, 2015

52 Places In 52 Weeks: Organizing Your Craft Supplies

Pinterest. DIY. Handmade.

Do you dream about being a Martha Stewart? A Pinterest queen? A daily DIY-er?

I used to have high aspirations when it came to crafts. I would have these grand ideas, buy all of the tools and items needed to complete the project, but not always follow through with it. My problem? I enjoyed the idea more than actually doing the project. Crafts became more of a collectors item than a hands-on task. I realized as I was trying to simplify our life over the past few years, that I had to start to move on. I had to move past the idea of being the next suzy-homemaker. Yes, I still enjoy home-making, but I am not aspiring to be someone I am not. I now have all of my craft supplies in 3 bins (includes fabric, yarn, scrapbooking items) and I feel MUCH less pressure to be this Martha Stewart.

Decluttering and organizing crafts takes a whole lot more work than just donating the unused. It's deciding whether or not you will ever use it - and THAT is the hardest question to answer. So this week, I want you to spend some time going through all of your craft supplies!

1. Think about all of the hobbies and projects you have going on right now. (This may include: jewelry making, knitting, crocheting, DIY projects, any crafts, etc.)

2. Here are some questions to think about:
  • Do you still enjoy those particular projects?
  • Why have you abandoned them? Not enough time? Do you anticipate yourself finishing them someday?
  • Do you have all of the supplies you need to finish the project?
  • Why have you started another project when you already had one you needed to finish first?
  • Can you FIND all of the projects you started?
  • Would someone else get more use, appreciate, or enjoy finishing the project instead?
  • What are the projects/hobbies that you want to keep pursuing? How often do we keep supplies for those things that we will do SOMEDAY (and that day has yet to come?). 

3. This is the time consuming part: Go through each project you have going on

  • If you haven't used it, get rid of it. The thought of "well, I will use it someday, I'm sure!" still lingers. How hard and costly will it be to buy new IF you end up needing it someday?
  • How often do we buy craft supplies in hopes that we will actually use it someday? Again, and that day has never come. Even though it may be unopened, get rid of it. Someone else will appreciate it much more. When that unopened packaged isn't staring you in the face anymore, your guilt for NOT using it, will be gone too.
  • Are you keeping anything because you feel you have to use it? Are you keeping fabric or scrapbooking paper because you have it and feel you should use it? Why? If you have to talk yourself into using it, get rid of it. Crafting and DIYing is something you should enjoy doing - not something you need to talk yourself into.
  • Scraps. Scraps of paper. Scraps of fabric. Scraps of ribbon. Scraps of you name it. Half-used bottles? Will you ever use them? Probably not.
  • Age. How old is the item you questioning whether to get rid of? Like I alluded to above, stick to the rule of thumb: if you haven't used it in a year, get rid of it. Simply said and make it simply done.
4. Whatever projects you have left, put them all into one container/bin/box. Why? So that when you have some time to do a project, you know which ones you need to do first and finish, instead of starting a new one.

5. FINISH the project. Don't just do it to just finish it. If you are not going to enjoy the time it will take to finish it, you need to just get rid of it.

6. Prevent the "abandon project syndrome" by being intentional about what you buy. If you have projects sitting at home, those need to be done first or they will never get done.

And for all of those patterns you have lying around the house?

1. Find an unused binder in your house.

2. Find ALL of the patterns and ideas you have printed or have loosely sitting around the house. This is also a time to maybe PRINT all of the patterns or ideas you have saved on your computer or have on your Pinterest boards.

3. Use a hole punch (3-hold punch works best) to punch holes into paper.

4. Organize patterns/ideas by category (ex. crochet, knit, crafts, sewing, papercrafting, etc. or by type: hats, gloves, blankets, etc.).

5. If you have a lot of patterns, consider using dividers to divide them into categories.

6. Start a project you have been waiting and wanting to do!

Don't let your craft supplies overwhelm you. Hobbies are meant to be enjoyed; not dreaded to start. PURGE, PURGE, PURGE so that you can set new goals, see what you have, and accomplish those DIY projects you've been wanting to.

NOTE: Head on over to my friend Hannah's website at The Wild Mint Shop, where I have a guest post featured on 9 Tips To An Organized Refrigerator! While you are there, check out what The Wild Mint Shop has to offer - especially their eco-friendly products!

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Oh-So-Good Coffee Cake

I am always looking for something to make in a 9x13 pan.

Every week I make supper and a dessert for our youth group kids on Monday nights, and sometimes coming up with something "new" can be hard. I recently decided to make breakfast, but wondered what to have for dessert then? Let's be honest, that is often the part of the meal that the kids look most forward to anyways! I decided a coffee cake would work, but I know the ones that you buy from the store, can be so dry. I decided on a chocolaty coffee cake, but after making it, realizing you can really add any type of pudding you want, to make it whatever flavor you would like!

I used a vanilla and chocolate pudding mixture, but you could use butterscotch, french vanilla, you name it! That is the fun about making something from scratch, versus buying something from the store!

This ended up being such a moist coffee cake, that I would hardly call it coffee cake! It was so incredible that I couldn't help but share it with you so that you can enjoy this goodness as well!

2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
3/4 c. vegetable oil
1 t. vanilla
1 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1 c. water
4 eggs
1 pkg. instant vanilla pudding, dry
1 pkg. instant chocolate pudding, dry
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. nuts (optional)
1 t. cinnamon

1. Mix first 10 ingredients.
2. Pour half of dough into a 9x13 pan.
3. For topping, mix brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon in separate bowl.
4. Sprinkle with half of topping mixture, then add rest of dough.
5. Sprinkle top with rest of topping mix.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes.

Monday, March 9, 2015

52 Places In 52 Weeks: Decluttering Your Make Up

How much time do you spend putting on make-up?

Simple question.

Does each day consist of a different mix of colors? A standing in front of the mirror, wondering what to put on today? Or maybe you spend 2 minutes gathering everything you need to even start this morning ritual?

What if your make-up accessories were simple, organized, and easy to find? Would your morning begin more smoothly? It's a simple fact: fewer items mean fewer decisions, which means saving time. Here are a few ideas on how to clear out the clutter when it comes to your make-up, so go and grab all of the make-up you have!

1. Decide how much you want to have. If you only want to use two eye shadows, that means you ought to get rid of the rest. If you have 3 different shades of lipstick, pick your favorite if you only want one. Be okay with less!

2. Use up what you have, first, before buying something new.

3. Get rid of the old. Have you stopped using the "old" and only using the new that you recently bought? Will you ever use it? Unused items cause physical clutter and the need to make a decision in the morning of which one to use.

4. Try purging your make-up by creating a "travel bag." Whatever you put in your travel bag, that is what you should keep for everyday use. Whatever is left, get rid of the rest. This has done wonders for me! If I wouldn't take it with me on a trip, then why would I have it? Now each morning, all I have to do is pull out the little bag and I have everything I need.

5. Decide what the essentials are. As simple as that!

6. Decide how much time you want to spend putting on your make up. Time is of the essence!

7. Think about how much you spend trying to find the "right" product. This is where the issue starts - we buy, and buy, and buy, trying to find what looks and feels best, to LOOK our best. Will you ever find it? I can't answer that. If you find something that works, STICK WITH IT. Don't keep searching for a "new" product. There are so many ways to obtain sample products, but if you find something that works, don't switch it up!

We allow our cupboards to be filled with so many multiples! I had eye shadows that I had not used in forever, but kept thinking "oh I will use it..." and never did. I now can grab my little pouch and know that I only have a few things I need to put on my face. I am not brave enough to go no-makeup yet, but I am enjoying an organized make-up bag with MUCH less. Don't let indecision, the need to have the "right" item, and the need to look perfect, overtake your cupboards and drawers. Purge. Get rid of the unused and the non-essentials.