Archive for the ‘Home Organization’ Category

Day 30: A homemaking binder, pt.III

A homemaking binder is one of the most important ways that I keep my home sane and running smoothly. As I wrote yesterday, I keep mine not only for the practical, but for the dreaming and visionary too.

Today I want to show you my practical.

Menu Planning

Ah, food. I have such a love/hate relationship with food. More specifically, I love eating & often hate the time/work that goes into creating good meals for my family. When I was single I always ate well – I just ate whenever I wanted. But now that I have kids to feed, and they have the audacity to actually want dinner at the same time everyday – I have to have a plan. This means making a weekly meal schedule. And that’s not just dinner. I plan breakfast, lunch and snacks too. It is more work in the moment, but so much less stress during the rest of the week.

Here is my menu-making process:
1. I look over the calendar for the coming week & write down all pertinent plans at the bottom of each day (when is my husband on call, do we have any meals out planned, is anyone coming over, do I have an especially busy day).

2. I look in the fridge to see if there are any ingredients I need/want to use. Lots of spinach about to go bad? Leftovers from the week before that need to be used? Those become lunch or dinner plans.

3. I plan dinners first. Since breakfasts & lunches are really on a rotation I usually start with dinners. I think through each day & pick out something to cook. I try to write down our complete meal, not just the main course, so I can make sure I shop correctly. And again, it’s less stress to have it all written out then to get to that night & only know I am making chili. With what? Rolls, cornbread, a salad?
I have another sheet I reference during this time. At the recommendation of this blog post, I created a list of my most well-loved meals. I have been adding to it over the last few months & now have a pretty good list to refer to that help me keep things creative & on a good rotation. I will admit that I often try 1 new dinner a week. It keeps me on my “food toes” and if we like it then it goes on the master menu list. Also, I usually have at least one night a week that is easy – think sandwiches or egg-in-a-holes or leftovers. Sometimes I have two or three nights like this – depending on the week. It’s super important to note that if I have a leftovers night then I intentionally make more food so I will actually have leftovers.

4. Once I have completed my dinners I go back & fill in my breakfasts, lunches & snacks.
I rotate through the following for breakfast: cream of wheat, oatmeal, cereal, toast/yogurt and muffins/yogurt. It’s easy, simple & my daughter and I both really enjoy all of the above items. If my eldest enjoyed eggs I would rotate those in as well, but eggs are pretty much the only food she has never liked since first eating them.
I rotate through the following for lunches: PB&J, ham sandwiches, tuna salad and leftovers. Again, all things I and my daughter like. Also things that are easy, easy, easy.
Snacks are a combination of: fruit, graham crackers, goldfish crackers, pretzels, applesauce, yogurt and the little squishy packets of mushed up fruit. In the summer we also do smoothies.

5. I make my shopping list accordingly. I usually keep my list on the fridge throughout the week & write things down as I notice they are running low. Then when I menu plan I fill in with the ingredients I will need to make the week work.

6. I shop, cook & eat!

I use the weekly meal planner from Money Saving Mom. I actually have two printed & in clear sheet protectors that I write on with a wet erase marker. Each new week I clean it off & write on it again so I am not constantly printing off new copies. Also, having two keeps me from having to wipe off the meal plan for the week I currently am in as I usually plan through Sunday & shop on Saturday.

I really urge you to go read the whole series that OurMothersDaughters has on food prep. You need to watch the far right column on the page as you scroll down until you get to “Happy Home: Food Organization”. Really, really good stuff. Actually, all of it is really good stuff and I might as well wish you good-bye because once you start reading their blog posts you can get lost for months trying to read all the backposts they have! These ladies are some of my all-time favorite female bloggers so enjoy!

Keeping House

This tab is filled with my schedules for cleaning my home. I am, by nature, neat rather than clean so it takes work & planning to ensure my house actually sees some form of cleaning solution during the month. On my daily flow sheet I have a few different times in the day I set aside for chores. I am talking about 10-15 minutes a few times a day. And by the way, I count making my bed, prepping dinner, cleaning the kitchen and tazing my house as chores. Then I have a weekly chore chart where I list the “real cleaning” I need to do daily. Monday, for instance, I try to clean our bathroom. Tuesdays I mop the kitchen & dining room. You get the idea 🙂 This helps me tremendously to keep my house tidy & clean without feeling overwhelming. And you know what? I often don’t get to these “major” chores as often as I would like. The days get busy. I blog instead (hello!). But at least I have a plan, right?

The other thing I keep in this tab is a list of all the items I would like to purchase/make/find for my home. I have each room listed as a “heading” and under it I am constantly writing things I would like to invest in for that space. This keeps me focused when I go shopping for my home, and also helps me keep an eye out for deals!

I use the Daily Cleaning List from Money Saving Mom. I also use her Monthly/Semi-Annual Cleaning List. They are both under “Cleaning Lists”. I also referred to the Master Weekly Checklist from Simple Mom to make my own household to-do items.


This tab just keeps things I only need to refer to seasonally. Right now the only thing in it is our “Family Road Trip Packing List“. It’s a helpful list for when we travel so that I don’t forget anything we need. I never needed this when it was just my husband and I – but good heavens, having kids changes that, doesn’t it?
I printed the list from Money Saving Mom & have customized it to fit us.

That’s it!

I hope this was a helpful journey through my homemaking binder. I also hope you are inspired to find your own ways to keep your home organized and flowing smoothly.

Tomorrow is the last day in October! I am just a little excited.
~ Melissa

Click here to see a list of all previous 31 Days of Making a Home posts

Day 29: Homemaking Binder, pt. II

Yesterday I gave a brief and general overview of a homemaking binder. Today, I want to talk about what is in mine.

First, I have links to the places I printed all of my pages from at the end of this blog. Also, I have most of these pages tucked into the plastic sheet protectors. Then I just take a reusable marker & write on top of the pages. This allows me to erase what I wrote earlier & add new ideas without having to reprint the pages. I actually discovered what is called a “wet erase” marker that only comes off when you use something slightly damp, so it doesn’t smudge when I run my hand across it. I use the finest tip I can find so it feels like a pen in my hand & so far I have been very happy with it.

Now, onto the first part of my binder!

Daily Docket

The first page in my binder is what is called the “daily docket”. It is my overview page for each day. It lists my to-do’s for that day, what I am praying & thinking about, and it’s where I jot down ideas for tomorrow. The daily docket I actually show here is one I printed & is actually a little complicated. I thought it looked pretty, but honestly, filling out all that info every day can feel like a task! And the goal of this binder is to reduce stress, not add to it. So, in reality, my daily docket will contain these things:
1. My top 5 to-do’s for the day. If I can accomplish one, it’s been a good day. If I get two of them done, it’s been a great day. Three means its amazing. Four means it’s phenomenal. And five means it’s been miraculous. These “to-do’s” are on top of the regular housework/cleaning work (that I will talk about tomorrow). Whatever doesn’t get done today will get moved to later in the week.
2. My meditation for the season. This is usually a verse, but can also be a quote (or two). These are just life-giving reminders and things that are good for me to see daily.
3. A place for notes – these are reminders I might need for that day, or a place to jot to-do’s for later in the week. Honestly this takes up most of the room in my docket – I am always remembering something I need to do!

That is pretty much it right now for the most “usable” parts of my docket. I am probably going to change over my current page for this one as it’s much simpler.

Life Flow

The first tab in my homemaking binder is called “Life Flow”. In it I keep an updated running flow of the rhythm of the season my family is in. It is essentially a running flow of mine & my girl’s days, starting with waking up and ending at with going to bed. It’s a “flow” rather than “schedule” because although it has general time markers on it, it really isn’t a time schedule. There is a “flow” to our mornings – eat, individual play, playing together, chore time. The afternoons include naps for the girls and “dream time” for me. Evenings are dinner, family time and the bedtime routine. I reference this often as I am looking at the day ahead, because in it I keep ideas about what types of one-on-one activities I want to do with my eldest each day (puzzles, coloring, etc.) I also list what shows on TV I feel are acceptable for her and when they are scheduled so I can include them in her day if I want to. It also just helps me to keep focused on the fact that I am making an effort to have a rhythm to our days & not just a random assortment of minutes all packed together. The idea of having a “rhythm” to my day, rather than a schedule was a result of these two great books:
Steady Days
Simplicity Parenting

I highly recommend them!


Under the tab “Dreams”, I have several pages.
1. Goals
My “goals” page is where I keep a running list of some of the things I hope to accomplish in the short-term. These are divided up into several categories – Beauty (of the homemaking sort), Cleaning, Out with the Old, Organizing, Planning, Blessing, Marriage & Leading (things I want to do in conjunction with the Bible Study I help lead for the wives in my husband’s residency program). This is the list that I refer to often when making my daily “to-do’s”, and I try to keep it updated often with not only the practical (cleaning, organizing, etc.) but with some bigger picture things that really speak to my heart (blessing, marriage, etc.)

2. Blog Weekly Calendar
This is where I plan out my blogs. I keep a list of running ideas I want to talk about, as well as the schedule I need to keep to stay on top of it. I don’t always do great, but it’s a place to keep my personal goals/dreams and ideas for my writing.

3. My “dream time” calendar
This is just a short list of things I want to do during what I call “dream time” (i.e. the few hours..or minutes in the day where both of my girls are asleep or content). For instance on Tuesday I like to try & bake something for my home for the week.

My Dreams tab is so important to my heart because it reminds me that life is bigger than just the daily tasks of cleaning my home & cooking dinner. Those are important things (which I will talk about tomorrow), but opening up my binder to see ideas for things bigger than just today keeps my heart energized.

I hope getting a peak into the very practical way I make my house a home is helpful! Tomorrow I will talk about menu planning, keeping house & seasons. Do you use a homemaking journal? What is most effective for you to keep your home organized & running smoothly?

~ Melissa

P.S. Here are those links I promised you:
My current daily docket from Ann Voskamp – she has much better explanations for what the various sections are
My “steady days” routine came with the book, but you can essentially write down your own daily schedule on paper (like I show in the picture above)
My Goals This Week printable from Money Saving Mom
My Blog Weekly Calendar from Amy Locurto

Click here to see a list of all previous 31 Days of Making a Home posts

Day 28: A homemaking binder

Today I am going to start a three-day series about what helps me to keep my life sane. See this little folder? This stands at the center of what helps to make my home tick.

It’s my homemaking binder. These are all the rage all over the Internet, but I thought I would post mine and share a little about what it containes so you can get a few ideas for yourself.

Okay, so what is a homemaking binder? It is one central place where you can keep all of the details, ideas, dreams and to-do’s for your life in the home. It is a vital tool for a stay-at-home mom like me, but I honestly think a pared down version could work for any person (including singles!). A homemaking binder (or home organization binder, or home management notebook – whatever you decide to call yours) is your one-stop shop to running and managing your home. The truth is, if you run parts of your home like a business – well, it will be more successful & much less stressful. So, lets get into the details 🙂

First, I do think it’s important to note that your homemaking binder doesn’t have to be pretty. I just happen to like pretty. But, it does have to be usable. I knew I needed at least one or two “pockets” to help organize my loose papers I have sitting around – bills & etc. I don’t really want to three hole punch all of my papers – that is way to much work for someone who has much, much more important things to do. Like play with littles. Or make chai. Or blog. But again, that’s me. You may get engergized by having all your papers three-hole punched & put into slots. Rock on, paper organizing guru.

Also, you will want to decide for yourself what “sections” you will want in your homemaking binder. Here are mine:

– Life Flow
– Dreams
– Menu Planning
– Keeping House
– Seasons

I will be getting into these tabs more specifically over the next two days, but suffice it to say (for now), that these areas are not necessary for each persons notebook. You do what makes sense to you & allows you to flow. As a stay-at-home mom most of my life centers around the home right now. But if you are single, your homemaking binder may just contain the more utilitarian parts of life (menu planning & keeping house).

So, that’s it for today. But tomorrow I will talk about what my first two folders hold as well as something called a “daily docket”.

Enjoy your day!
~ Melissa

Click here to see a list of all previous 31 Days of Making a Home posts

Day 23: Tackle the master

Yesterday I wrote about the heart of your home, and I make the case that it is the master bedroom, rather than the oft-quoted kitchen. Allie left this comment, “oh my gosh… our bedroom is ALWAYS a total mess of clothes and stuff. We often put things in our bedroom that we are not sure where else to put them. Any organization tips or advice on making the master room a place to cherish instead of a place to throw stuff? The furniture, decorations, bed/sheets/pillows are SO inviting, but we just cant seem to keep the whole room to stay inviting”

I thought that this was an excellent question as I will admit to my master bedroom having the same tendency. Especially with little kids – it’s a room I can stick something in and close the door knowing they won’t get into it. All of that being said, however, I do think there are some practical ways you can fight for that space.

1. Realize you are in a war, not a battle
This room is something that, both literally and figuratively, you are going to have to fight for. Spiritually and emotionally it represents your marriage – the oneness, unity, friendship and covenant that are the bedrock for your home. Practically, it’s the space you want to keep beautiful and clean. But both of those things are wars, my friend, not battles. You are in it for the long haul. You can’t expect to do it once & then *tada*, it will remain that way for the rest of your life. (Not gonna lie though, I wish this daily with laundry – why does it always get dirty again??) You know how you have to wash dishes every day or the kitchen will be filthy? Your master bedroom is the same. Take the time to taz it daily – to make the bed and clear the clutter.

2. Start off right
If you have never truly tackled your master bedroom, then the advice I gave above to taz it will seem completely overwhelming. You have to start with an organized room to easily pick it up. So you may need to dedicate yourself to one really good, deep clean to get that room right. Take the afternoon or evening to shut the door and start to wade through all of the clutter you keep in there. Make piles (give away, throw away, put away) so that you don’t leave the room until it’s done.

3. It’s okay to procrastinate
When you are cleaning your room, beware of rabbit trails! So often when I clean a room I get sidetracked by another task. I am putting away the clothes on the dresser when I see an old T-shirt and think “I really need to go through my clothes and get rid of some stuff.” The next thing I know I am knee-deep in stockings and pants – not the original goal. If it helps, bring a notepad in with you so you can jot down ideas of things you want to do in your bedroom in the future.

4. Appearance is everything
Sometimes it can be easy to distract yourself from some of the purposes of your master bedroom as you plan and dream for it. It’s important to be practical so that you can keep this room clutter free. If you usually get ready in here & you try to move all your stuff into a drawer – well, it might just end up right where it started…cluttering your dresser top. So be practical – get a few baskets you can easily dump things in that really help to hide your clutter. Because sometime appearance can be everything. So do you need a new clothes hamper that makes your room look nicer? Or maybe a curtain over your open closet so that you don’t see all the clothes? Take a look at your room to see what might help your room be both useful and beautiful.

I hope this gives you some ideas about how to practically tackle your master bedroom where clutter is concerned. Of course, making your master room beautiful is such a personal thing, but a clutter-free room is important for everyone. Thanks, Allie, for the question. I am actually tazing my own master bedroom today & planning for this room to be my big project for November. Go & make your home today!

~ Melissa

Click here to see a list of all previous 31 Days of Making a Home posts

Day 18: It doesn’t have to be perfect

Early in our marriage, my husband and I started to encourage each other with the phrase “It doesn’t have to be perfect”. I married an awesome guy who happens to have perfectionistic tendencies. He is the one who originally came up with this line, and it has become a routinely quoted one at our house. Remember that values poster I talked about wanting in our home? This line will definitely be on it.

This morning I had a playgroup at my house. I had envisioned having these cute muffins out, and a morning filled with coffee and chatting as we watched our little ones play. I would lead “circle time” with the littles and it would just be lots of good, clean, organized fun.
Or not. The muffins finished about 15 minutes before everyone left. The coffee? Yea, didn’t even make that. And circle time with the littles? There wasn’t any. Not to mention that I offered at least 3 different types of snacks to the kiddos that I had either run out of, or they had gone bad, or I didn’t have enough for everyone. Perfect.

But you know what? It was still fun. And I hope to do better next time. I was able to enjoy myself, even though it didn’t go as I planned. And that is because I know that it truly doesn’t have to be perfect. Embracing imperfection means that you don’t have to have a perfect home to host. It means you don’t have to have a perfect life to befriend someone. It means you don’t have to have a perfect marriage to pray for and speak into someone else’s marriage.

Today, embrace the gift of imperfection. And invite someone in to your life anyway.
Because that speaks home.

~ Melissa

Click here to see a list of all previous 31 Days of Making a Home posts

Day 14, 15 & 16: A welcome & the present

Hi again!

So sorry I have been absent. We had a wonderful weekend with my husband’s newly married brother & his wife. It was really refreshing & terribly busy, and I had to make some choices about what my priorities were. So, the blogging didn’t happen. But you know what? That in itself is a testament to what I want my home to be.

In the first month since we have moved into our house we have hosted four times. And without a proper guest room, at that. But that is how I want my home to be – a welcome place for others to come. I want it to be a place of rest for a weary soul. Even if it’s on an air mattress. This weekend I worked hard to try and make my home as welcoming as possible. So I abandoned blogging for warm meals, tea and laughter. I tucked in close to my husband and we, together, created a picture of what it means to love each other, parent two littles, and welcome others. Late nights and early mornings bookended full days, and I am glad that we made the choices we did.

This weekend we made two statements to the world about our home:
It is a welcoming place
It is a present place

We opened our doors and our hearts to family. And we made choices to shut out some other things in order to be fully present. We could have spent the time on our computers, but instead we played cards.  We could have fought for eight hours of sleep, but we contended ourselves with six. Because that is what it meant to be present this weekend. And we nodded our heads at Jim Elliot’s quote, “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

So forgive me for not being here. I am excited to continue to share my heart concerning home with you through the next few weeks though!

~ Melissa

Click here to see a list of all previous 31 Days of Making a Home posts

Day 9: Less is more (except when it’s less)

Yesterday I talked about what it means to “taz my house“. Today I wanted to show you why this is possible.

Here is my 18m old’s toy stash. And yep, that’s pretty much it. She does have a little table in her room and a few other books scattered about. We also keep a small box of toys put away that we rotate through. And, actually, it would be nice if she had a few more to play with. We are going to concentrate this Christmas on getting her “little helper” toys as she LOVES to do what mama does. A small broom, a “cleaning basket” her size, and possibly this pretty awesome learning tower (hoping to find it for sale somewhere…this guys is not cheap!). I would also love to start really expanding her “dress-up” clothes (via Goodwill) as she really enjoys putting on hats, etc. And I have dreams of a small play kitchen. But I can promise we will also do a little downsizing with some of the less-played-with toys.

I have mentioned the book “Simplicity Parenting” before, and it is one of my all-time favorite books about how to help you learn this important principle – less is more.

When making a home – less is more. Except of course, for when less is just less and it causes frustration. Sometimes you really do just need “more” of something. But in our society? That is very, very, very rare.
The really crazy thing about stuff is that it just accumulates. Seriously! Without you even trying, I promise you will have more stuff this time next year than you do now. Stuff shows up.

In order to be able to pick up my house quickly; to make my home a place of peace and rest – I have to get rid of excess. Less stuff helps to bring peace to your home.

And even though it was only 2 years ago that I went on a “less is more” rampage, I am already culling through our possessions once again in an effort to simplify. Things we needed or wanted two years ago we don’t need or want now. Looking to yard sale in the spring & excited for less!

What about you? Do you need to declutter? Tomorrow I am going to be talking about a famous quote that can help you in that process.

Until then,
~ Melissa

Yep, one of my daughter’s toys is a mail tube. It came stuffed with small rubber ducks that she likes to “count” while she puts them in the tube. Just keepin’ it real. 

Click here to see a list of all previous 31 Days of Making a Home posts