Thursday, December 18, 2014

How I Organize My Junk Drawer



Do you have that ONE drawer that literally is a JUNK drawer? 

I don't know what else to call it. It is that drawer that has everything you need at the tip of your fingers, but do not want all of it sitting out on your counter. The phone book, address book, tape, paper clips, screw driver, post it notes, scissors, cords, you know - those things that really do not have a home anywhere else, but all in one drawer.

Even as an organizer, that is one drawer I have struggled with for years. I was too cheap to buy a $20 organizer, but the drawer was so disorganized that I wasn't able to find what I needed, when I needed it.

I decided that it was time to spend the money - but because of Wayfair's amazing deals, I didn't have to spend a fortune! I found this Made Smart Housewares Junk Drawer Organizer Tray, for only $12. TWO trays, offer all the organization you need - you can either stack the smaller on top of the larger, or set them side by side.

Here is how I used the junk drawer organizer to declutter our junk drawer:

Something so simple, that I did not have to spend an arm and leg for, yet allows me to open our drawer with EASE. Before, the scissors would jam at the top, I was ruining our address book because it would get caught on the edge, and my Sharpies were getting lost in the jumble. It was time!

How do YOU organize your junk drawer?


Sign up for SWAGBUCKS! It is FREE to sign up!

Sign up using the REGISTRATION CODE: orgwithless. You will get 70 swagbucks in addition to the 30 you get as you complete your profile. This code expires Friday, December 19, 2014! Of course you can sign up anytime, but you do not receive these bonuses! (To enter registration codes, click the text that reads "I have a sign up code" as you are initially signing up.)

This post is NOT sponsored - I bought this because I LOVE to organize and love Wayfair! Though, this post does contain some affiliate links

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lemon Chicken Bow Tie Pasta


Finding a homemade pasta recipe to make from scratch, that has all the taste and flavor you could ever want, is sometimes hard to come by. That is why when I found this recipe, I was eager to try this one out. Let me tell you, it does not skimp on flavor! It is a simple recipe, and tastes like a pasta bowl you would order from a restaurant! I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Lemon Chicken Bow-Tie Pasta
Ingredients:
1 box bow-tie pasta
12 oz. boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 in. strips
1/2 t. salt-free lemon-pepper seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. oil
1/3 c. parmesan cheese
1 c. chicken broth
2/3 c. shredded carrots
1/2 c. low-fat cream cheese
2 t. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt

Directions:
1. Cook pasta and drain.
2. Sprinkle chicken with lemon pepper.
3. In skillet, stir-fry chicken and garlic in oil. Remove and keep warm.
4. Add broth, carrots, cream cheese and lemon juice.
5. Cook and stir until cheese is melted.
6. Add chicken, pasta, and salt to vegetable mix.
7. Heat thoroughly.
8. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.


Sign up for SWAGBUCKS! It is FREE to sign up!

Sign up using the REGISTRATION CODE: orgwithless. You will get 70 swagbucks in addition to the 30 you get as you complete your profile. This code expires Friday, December 19, 2014! Of course you can sign up anytime, but you do not receive these bonuses! (To enter registration codes, click the text that reads "I have a sign up code" as you are initially signing up.)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How To Reduce Items In Your Home


Do you ever walk into your home and wish you had less stuff? Do you ever read in your favorite home magazine about organizing, decluttering and living only with the minimal?

I used to think about living with minimal constantly. I would scrounge our house looking for what else we could live without. The thing is, I still find myself doing just that, but in a more realistic way. Will I ever become a minimalist? I am not sure I aspire to be a complete minimalist, but what I do aspire to do is to not live with more than I need.

What stops one from decluttering and getting rid of items in their home? Often it is the feeling of what they will be "missing" if they do not have this certain item. The fear of needing it someday, which lets be honest, rarely happens. Really though, we need less than what we think we need - we can do with less than we think we can. We just CHOOSE to live with more, so that we can continue to live in this "safety net" of stuff.

Some things are more or less a necessity, like something to cook your food in - can you completely get rid of every single pan in your home? No, but what you can do is keep just a few select sizes and that is it. Get rid of the rest.

So I want to challenge you to take a look around your home. What can you live with less of?

Here are a few ideas:
  • Books - will you ever read it again?
  • Magazines - lessen the number of subscriptions or donate/recycle the ones already read
  • Vases - how many do you use at one time?
  • Cookbooks - do you only use a few recipes out of a couple of cookbooks? Write them down and then get rid of the cookbook
  • Kitchen gadgets - would another gadget be a great alternative for the lack of another?
  • Drinking glasses - how many do you really use at one time?
  • Hair supplies - do you need replacements for up to 50 years from now? Probably not because even hairstyles and cuts change. Stick with just a few options.
  • Cleaning supplies - do you have products on your shelves that really do not do the job? That you will really never use? Get rid of them!
  • Craft supplies - do you aspire to do certain projects, but realize after how many years, you have yet to get to them? Let the stress go of what you have NOT done and marvel at what you have already created
  • Office supplies - do you have enough crayons, pencils, pens, and notebooks to supply a school? You only need to keep one little container of each and I will guarantee you that it will probably last a lifetime
  • Candles - how often do you burn a candle? Is it only a few times a year? Do you have more candles than you know what to do with? Donate them.
  • Winter supplies - hats, coats, gloves, mittens, etc. Are there any that do not fit anymore? Have your kids grown out of anything? Do they have holes in them where they will do no good anyways? Time to clean out and clear out!
These are just a few simple items that you can reduce in your home. What else, when you look around, could you live with less of?  You do not have to completely get rid of everything to live a decluttered life. It is about living mostly with what you NEED - not just wants.


Sign up for SWAGBUCKS! It is FREE to sign up!

Sign up using the REGISTRATION CODE: orgwithless. You will get 70 swagbucks in addition to the 30 you get as you complete your profile. This code expires Friday, December 19, 2014! Of course you can sign up anytime, but you do not receive these bonuses! (To enter registration codes, click the text that reads "I have a sign up code" as you are initially signing up.)
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Swagbuck BONUS Sign-Up!




You may have read a post in the past about how much I love Swagbucks in the past, but I want to let you in on a little deal that they have offered all Organizing Life With Less readers! 

You may have heard of Swagbucks, but if you are anything like me, when I first heard about it, I ignored it and thought it was a waste of my time. Swagbucks is basically a search engine, just like Google or Bing, where you can earn FREE merchandise and gift cards, JUST by searching. 

So what's so special about SWAGBUCKS? Swagbucks are "digital dollars" as their website calls them. You can earn merchandise and gift cards via rewards through obtaining points. The more points you get, the more rewards. 



Sign up using the REGISTRATION CODE: orgwithless. You will get 70 swagbucks in addition to the 30 you get as you complete your profile. This code expires Friday, December 19, 2014! Of course you can sign up anytime, but you do not receive these bonuses! (To enter registration codes, click the text that reads "I have a sign up code" as you are initially signing up.)


How Do I Earn Free Giftcards and Merchandise?
  • Sign up - remember, it's COMPLETELY FREE! (see above)
  • Install the Swagbucks toolbar. Why? It is the simplest way to earn points
  • Start searching the internet, by searching in the Swagbucks toolbar
  • The more you search, the more points you earn. You do not earn points every time you search, but it is more often than you think!
  • You can also earn Swagbucks by participating in daily polls, surveys, and shopping. For example, I purchased a mattress from Wal-Mart online, and I earned 2 Swagbucks per dollar spent! I would purchase the mattress anyways, so why not gain even MORE perks, by earning a free giftcard in the process!

To get an idea of what it takes to get an Amazon gift card for example, you can use 450 points to get a $5.00 gift card. This is probably the most common item bought in my opinion. I know it doesn't sound like a lot, but when you just have to use the toolbar and have an account with Swagbucks, the points add up quickly. Buying items online, that participate with Swagbucks (you'd be shocked at how many companys do...just go to their website), makes it so worth your while!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Essential Tips To Prepare For Your Next Trip


How often do you travel? 

Do you find yourself pulling out your suitcases often, filling them with all of your belongings, so that you CAN survive for a week? Or is packing your least favorite part of going on a trip because you know you are bound to forget something?

My husband and I really enjoy traveling. Exploring new parts of this world, is very intriguing to us, with new explorations and sights around every corner. By all means, even though we love traveling, we do not travel as often as most people. Our traveling consists of family vacations, vacations together, and mission trips with our youth group. All of these different trips require a different system of packing and planning, but each of them has taught us something about the traveling and packing process. I had received a lovely email from a reader, asking some really good questions about our process. It wasn't really something I ever put much thought into, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that really, packing and traveling really can add a huge stressor to the whole trip. 

So... 

I want to share with you some tips that I find essential when it comes to preparing for your next trip. 

1. Decide where to go. Simple statement, but sometimes this is the biggest decision. For instance, if you are looking to get away with your family, there are multiple things to consider: expense of traveling there, meals, lodging, gas, activities, length of time off, etc. For my husband and I, over the past few years, we have chosen to do vacations where we can rent a condo. The idea dawned on us one day when we were looking to go to South Carolina and started to research hotels. We realized that we were going to spend a fortune in lodging, and that did not even include our meals! We decided to look at VRBO (highly recommend this website), and found a beautiful condo on the ocean, where we could prepare our own meals, have a pool to lounge by, and have the freedom of a "home" instead of feeling like we were stuck in a hotel room. By far, the best choice! We have been hooked ever since!

  • So what do we look for when it comes to renting a condo?
    • Room Amenities - does it have a full kitchen where we can cook our own meals? Trust me, our meals are very simple - cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and suppers (salad, pasta, even a frozen pizza here and there). 
    • Condo Amenities - If we are going somewhere warm, we always look for a place with a pool, condo on the water, kayaks (definitely a perk), free parking, and close to other attractions
    • Price - the whole point of a condo is to save money, for us. We do not stay in elegance, but we stay in a place with a bed, kitchen, bathroom, etc. It has to be worth the price! 
    • Reviews - it is amazing what you can gain from the reviews of others! Everyone has a different opinion, but if most would say they would go back (considering most come from different backgrounds), you can pretty much guarantee it's a good place

  • Airlines - we watch prices for usually a month or 2. I know they say there are "ideal" times to book airline tickets, but we have found that really, they change so often, that you can't depend on anything, except just keeping an eye out for a deal. We have found round trip tickets to Florida for $100/person, but we have also paid close to $200. Which is still a GREAT deal, but quite a difference. You can sign up on Kayak.com for email notifications when prices go down or up, so that is an option too. 
  • Look at different cities around the area. We recently flew into Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami, because we could save over $100. Plus, then we did not have to deal with the bigger city. 
  • We also pay attention to the flight schedule. Yes, we could save $50, but is it worth 12 hours vs. 6 hours of travel time? 
  • Look at car rental prices. A drive from Minnesota to Florida, would not be worth our time and money, considering the gas it would take to go down there! So flying is our best bet. We once made the cheap choice of renting the cheapest car out there - an economy size. Now, we both are over 6'1", so a little Mazda 2 was interesting to say the least. We learned our lesson, that a dollar more a day, is worth the comfort of a vehicle. Next time, we rented an intermediate, but still only paid slightly over $100 for the week, for the rental itself (fees not included). Well worth it in our minds! 

2. Packing
  • Check the weather forecast. Yes, forecasts change dramatically at times, but you obviously wouldn't pack your winter clothes if you were heading to the south in the fall or spring. Even if it would rain, you at least know what TYPE of clothes to bring. 
  • Decide what activities you might be doing. Laying on the beach and hiking require different clothes. But if you will only be hiking 1 or 2 days, that is all you need to take clothes for. 
  • Decide how many you need of anything, TO GET BY. Do not bring clothing items so that you have choices. Bring enough for one outfit each day - this eliminates choices and overpacking. 
  • I have created a personal packing list that I use for EVERY over night trip I ever go on. Some things on here I rarely take, but that means I just get to cross them off! This helps me to never forget a single thing. If it's not on the list, it's not coming with me. I keep it in a plastic sleeve that I keep in our home management binder, and use a vis a vis marker so that I can reuse this list at anytime. You can create your own packing list by using this printable packing list.
  • Make packing something you ENJOY. Yes, you can enjoy it, by not bringing more than you need because when have you ever not packed enough? Honestly? Yes, you may have to wear a pair of shorts a few times, but who cares? I guarantee you the only person who cares is you. 

When you can pack a week's belongings into one suitcase, it begs the question - how much do we really need? There is something simple about looking at only 7 days worth of clothes and possibly even wearing the same thing twice. 

How much can you live WITHOUT? How much do you own - more than you have room for? More than you would  and could ever wear? What if your choices were consistently narrowed down to a suitcase each week? 

Hopefully these tips help you prepare for your next trip and help ease the stress of packing for your next vacation. Then you can actually ENJOY every minute of the vacation - from beginning to end.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Declutter FIRST, Organize SECOND


You may think that just by the title of my blog, Organizing Life With Less, that I am always about just organizing. As much as I LOVE to organize, one thing that I am just as passionate about it organizing my life with LESS. I feel I cannot fully organize our home (which in reality I am never done doing), until I get rid of all of the unnecessary. I have been in this process for a few years now, and I am still not done. In fact, I have a large box in our spare room, filled with items for donation. 

I feel the best way to organize, is to declutter first. To start with LESS, so that it is easier to organize in the end. We are all sinking in our possessions, wondering where they all came from. Wondering how in the world, our homes ended up looking like they do. Well, I have to admit, it is the choices we have made, to allow EACH and EVERY one of those items to step foot into our homes. 

Here is the problem with JUST organizing:

1. We spend too much time and money looking for the "right" tool to organize with. So we buy more bins. More boxes. More organizers. But all we are doing, is just shifting our stuff from one place to another, in hopes of finding a permanent home for it.

2. Organizing is a never ending job. Think about it - as soon as another item comes into your home, you have to rearrange what you already have, to make this item fit. You are only re-situating all of your possessions from one location to another. Is this your idea of simplicity?

3. Organizing doesn't stop you from buying more. In fact, organizing can end up making you buy MORE because you are trying to find that right item to make your stuff look more neat and presentable.

That is why I strive to organize my life with LESS. How many of your possessions are boxes, that are maybe seen once a year, if that? We close the lids on the them, shut the flaps, as to hide all of our unnecessary belongings. Out of sight out of mind, right? But what we fail to do by just putting our stuff in boxes is decide what is most important to us. What is truly important? Do you only keep what has value to you?

That is why decluttering before organizing is the answer. Think about organizing a space that has less "stuff"? When you declutter and get rid of items, they leave your home, and you never had to deal with them again! There is a certain level of freedom that comes along with that. That is why organizing your life with LESS, offers a life of simplicity. Your stuff isn't screaming in your face "organize me" as it sits unused and in the wrong place. Imagine a home of simplicity where every space is decluttered AND organized? In order for this to happen, start the decluttering process first (link). 

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Monday, December 1, 2014

20 Holiday Season Preparation Ideas


Shelves are starting to overflow with Christmas decor. Literally. Did you ever realize how narrow aisles get during the holiday season? How quickly they fill up with items that they want you to buy?

I absolutely LOVE Christmas. Always have, for the fact that there is something about the peace of God and the reflection of what the birth of Christ means, that is incredibly inspiring. That is why making sure that Christmas is NOT a stressful or overwhelming holiday, is important. When it comes to buying gifts, I am a straight up list person. If it's not on the list, it's not going to be in my cart. I get too easily overwhelmed with all of the choices. Choices of every kind - no matter what you are looking to get.

So how do you prepare for a season, when our culture is just overflowing with consumerism and an explosion of the checkbook? It is possible to not let the true meaning of the season get lost in the process. It is possible to actually ENJOY every minute of CHRISTMAS.

Here are some holiday season preparation ideas that will hopefully allow YOU to enjoy every minute of the season!

1. 
Say NO! Saying yes only adds one more obligation, one more present to wrap, and one more event to work around. We do not need to prove that we can do everything. Saying no is the most freeing word. It may offer guilt for the first 5 minutes, but for the season, you will feel free. Don't be afraid to say no!

2. Stick with what works. You have been living in the Christmas season for years. Think about what stresses you out. Think about what is most overwhelming. Think about what really works. Make a list! If you know this certain dish always is a hit, stick with it. Don't spend time trying to find something new. If you know how you like your house decorated, don't change it up. Stick with what works.

3. Make what you can, ahead. Many desserts and even side dishes are freezable. What if you took the time to make those items now and froze them? Then when party time comes, all you have to do is pull it out of the freezer, and maybe warm it up, but that's it! How easy is that?

4. Be okay with enough. You walk through aisles and aisles of food, Christmas decorations and think "I want it all"! Let's be realistic. We can't do it all. Set boundaries for yourself and know when enough is enough!

5. Start exercising. Sounds odd, but the best way to relieve stress sometimes is to exercise. Exercising for me personally, is more of a must than an option. I feel so much better about myself, which makes me feel better about others (it's true), and I know I can enjoy some of the sweets I like to indulge in because I know the next day I will hopefully be exercising them off. Exercising has so many benefits - even if it's a short walk. Get outside, get some fresh air, and air out your stress!

6. Think about your values. It is easy to get caught up in the buying mode, where we buy to impress others. What are you letting influence your values - magazines, ads, websites, blogs, media in general? Decide what you want YOUR Christmas to look like - don't try to reflect someone else's.

7. Does your faith play a part in your Christmas? Faith is what drives ours. Every year, we try to find different ways to grow in our faith and every year, we are more and more humbled at the gift of Christmas. It is easy to lose sight of the reason for the season, but keeping a right mind and heart, is a great place to start.

8. Don't buy a Christmas tree or decorate: before you call me the Grinch, the reason I say that is because maybe buying a tree and decorating isn't even worth it? Are you going to be gone for a good chunk of December? If so, is it worth buying a tree? Is decorating your house, going to cause you too much stress? If so, consider scaling back on the decorating for a year and then reevaluate the next year. We personally do not buy a tree at the moment because we do not have room for one. We live in a small house and a tree, well, there isn't even a shot at fitting a 3 foot tree. It is one less thing we have to think about, and plus, we travel to our parents' homes during Christmas, so we aren't even home DURING Christmas to enjoy it!

9. Don't send out Christmas cards: again, not trying to be negative nelly, but if it's too much stress, don't do it. You will still be loved (hopefully) by family members, even if you don't send them out.

10. Ask for help - don't be afraid to ask your family to assist you in wrapping, baking, cleaning, etc. You maybe are not the only person living in the house, so rally the troops! Turn up the Christmas music, make some hot chocolate, and have fun TOGETHER.

11. Check your gift wrap supplies BEFORE. Do you need to buy more paper? Or do you have so many scraps, that you could stand to use UP what you have? Don't try to bring a fashion statement to the party with your presents - just use what you have.

12. Create a Christmas center in your home. You are probably thinking "but WHERE?" That is a good question. Maybe this "center" is a traveling center. Maybe it's on a card table. Maybe it's on the floor. Wherever it may be, it is a wise idea to have all of your gift wrap, gift bags, ribbon, scissors, tape, pens, twine, etc., all in one area. To spruce it up, plug in a cd player and play your favorite Christmas music!

13. Don't forget to breathe. Christmas is supposed to be memorable and enjoyable - don't let yourself get too wound up. Enjoy the presence of family, of being together, and take time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the season.

14. Stick to your budget. If you wrote down a number, don't go over it - there is a reason why you set a budget!

15. Consider not doing a gift exchange. If you are buying gifts to just BUY gifts, opt out of your work's gift exchange, your friend's, your family's, whatever. Don't buy to just buy.

16. Get specific ideas from people if you can. This means emailing, calling, asking that person what they would like IN ADVANCE! Try to ask them as soon as you can to prevent last-minute, stressful buying.

17. What is the most thoughtful? Not every gift can be handmade (or maybe not any), but if there is someone who would appreciate a homemade, handmade gift, don't hesitate to make it.

18. Watch the sale ads. Starting early means you can compare prices more, which in turn means saving some cash!

19. Be positive. Nothing creates a more crabby shopper than a negative person. If you are only walking up and down the aisles fuming, it is going to do no one any good.

20. Have fun. Think about the person you are buying for. Say a prayer for them. Encourage them. Think of ways they have influenced you. This keeps gift buying in perspective and helps you realize that waiting in line 15 minutes IS worth it - especially for this person!

Are you ready? Do you feel ready? Following some of these principles, it will make your holiday season much more manageable. And enjoyable!

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