Tag Archives: organizing

The Wedding Dress

Depending on how you look at things, I may have a problem.

I have made it known on this blog that I appreciate a good possession purge now and then, and clothing is no exception.  We live in a relatively small house, and my closet is downright minuscule by 2016 standards.  I don’t have a whole lot of wiggle room when it comes to emotional attachment; if something doesn’t get used, then out it goes.

Therein lies the (possible) problem:  I have little emotional attachment to my possessions. (Side note:  the exact opposite is the case for my kids’ things.  I have the hardest time ever letting go of their little baby clothes or former favorite toys, so I tend to hang on to those things…please tell me I’m not alone!)

The possession that dredged all this up?  My wedding dress.


I spent four figures on this little beauty of a garment, which also includes not one, not two, but three veils of differing lengths, a tiara, black sash, and “sash pin.”  Not included in that four figure price was the cost for preservation and shipping this grossly overpriced dress to my home after our nuptials.

Four.  Figures.  Four figures for a dress I will never wear again, that is taking up a lot of valuable real estate in my closet, and truly has no bearing on my marriage at all–we will be happily married regardless of the dress.  I wish I could go back in time and tell my 24-year-old self to take the clearance rack purchase, but what’s done is done.

So why hasn’t it gone the way of other clothing items?  Our daughter, Bean.  Because one never knows if she may want to have the option to wear an outdated dress when or if she gets married.

I’m still waffling on this one, though would not be surprised if the dress continues to collect dust in my closet; some things are just harder to let go of than others, even for a professed minimalist.

Ronnica’s 2016 Goal Update

I’ve written a few posts already this year with my goals. Today, I’ll talk about the progress on these goals.

First, how am I doing on my resolutions?

I’m doing a good job cleaning most days for 30 minutes. My apartment is still not where I would like it to be, but it’s much closer than it was in December.

I’ve not been as faithful to distraction-free time with God first thing in the morning. I’m a habit person, but I feel like my schedule keeps changing, so I haven’t had a chance to build the habit. I know if it’s important to me, I’ll make it happen, though it may look differently as I’m temporarily shifting to a much earlier shift.

I’ve completed my organizational projects. I’ve successfully been able to keep no more than 2 pairs of shoes in my entry way. I noticed the other day that I had 3 pairs there for the first time in over a month, and I immediately rectified the situation. I definitely solved my problem without spending a dime.

hanging coats and bagsMy coats and purse problem has also been solved. They’re now hanging at the door, and I love it. My spices and pens have also benefited from their new situations. I was right in thinking that taking care of these things has encouraged me to take care of other areas of clutter as well.

I can’t provide much of an update on my spending goals, as I’m writing this mid-February. January’s “Buy Little” month started me off right. As good as it feels to sock away extra money for the month, my favorite part of “Buy Little” months is how it dampens my spending for the following months as well.

How have you been doing on any goals you set for 2016?

4 Organizational Projects

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I identified a few projects that would help me keep my apartment clean from an organizational standpoint. Today, I’m going to share with you what those projects are.

While I tend to have homes for most things, I tend to be lazy and not take the time to put things back where I know they belong. And once you’ve done that with one thing, you do it with two…

There are 4 areas I identified that could have organizational quick fixes:

1. My shoe pile by the door
2. My pile of coats and bags on the couch
3. My spices in the kitchen
4. My pens on the couch

Here’s how I’m going to address each of these:

1. My shoe pile by the door

shoe pileI always kick my shoes off before I get to my carpet. Problem is, they never seem to find their way to my closet. All the shoes I regularly wear end of up in a pile by my door.

When I read Marie Kondo’s book, I remember she talked about her coming-home routine included putting away the previous day’s shoes. While she didn’t say her reason, this makes sense: today’s shoes are sometimes too wet to be put away immediately and can use the time to breathe.

Instead of a pile, I’m going to allow myself two pairs of shoes by my door: the most recent shoes I wore and my outdoor flip flops.

My first thought was to buy a solution: a small shoe organizer to put my door, but I’m going to attempt to fix my problem by self-discipline, first.

coat and purse2. My pile of coats and bags on the couch

When I come in after work, I not only kick my shoes into the pile by the door, but I put my coat and purse on the couch. You can bet if shoes never walk themselves to the closet, coats (who don’t even resemble feet) never do either.

Instead of the couch, I’m going to put hooks on my entryway wall for these things to have a place that is “away” within easy reach.

3. My spices in the kitchen

I use a lot of herbs and spices, as I make a lot of things from scratch. When I cook, I don’t always put the spices away in my cute little rack, because I may need them still. The rack is always a few steps away and sometimes blocked by other items.

I’ve decided to fix this issue by moving my spice rack to the counter where I do all my cooking (right next to the stove). By having them more convenient, I’m hoping I’ll be less likely to leave them out.

4. My pens on the couch

I do almost everything at my “spot” on the couch. I use 5 pens (4 fun colors and 1 black), a Bible highlighter and a nail clipper regularly in this spot, so they tend to hang out on the couch cushion with whatever book I’m reading. But as you might guess, they don’t like to stay put, regularly getting lost in the couch or on the floor.

To combat this, I used a birthday gift card to buy a cheap pencil pouch.

I’m hoping by having these 4 areas neater, it’ll inspire me to be neater in other areas as well. I’ll let you know the outcome after I’ve had a few weeks to test them out!

Hunting and Gathering

unnamed (3)Although I have gotten back on the grocery planning wagon, there are still many folks who are really, really passionate about grocery prep–even more so than I am.  Some of the ways some people prepare is by meal planning and/or freezer meals.

While I do try to have a good idea of what to make for meals in between grocery trips, I confess my planning is a bit more haphazard than I would like (for photographic evidence, one need look no further than the picture at left, depicting my “gathered recipes.”)  This is mostly due to the fact that I subscribe to a couple of cooking magazines courtesy of Recyclebank, and when those arrive each month, I manage to find some recipes that sound delicious that I must try as soon as possible.  (I am also a social media junkie, and when a great recipe comes up, I add it to the “to try” list.)

Another reason I may deviate from my meal planning is because I have too much (or too little) of a particular food or seasoning, or it needs to get used up quickly.  When that happens, I find myself searching online for a good way to use up that ingredient.  Many times, those recipes become new family favorites that enter the meal rotation!

One such recipe was for baked potato soup, courtesy of grit.com.  We had several pounds of potatoes that would be going bad soon, and it has been soup weather here in the Midwest, so cook soup I did.  It was fantastic!  Check out the recipe here.

We also had lots of carrots set to expire, and in true “Use it up” fashion, I put my love of baking to work and made carrot cake.  Maybe not the most nutritionally sound, but it was delicious.  It’s my grandmother’s recipe, but not a secret, so here it is for your culinary enjoyment.

Grandma’s Carrot Cake

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup oil

4 eggs

3 cups grated carrots (I grated in a food processor)

Mix all ingredients together, and spoon into a 9×13 greased pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Grandma’s Carrot Cake Frosting

1/4 cup butter

4 ounces cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla

1 3/4 cup powdered sugar

Mix all together and spread on cooled carrot cake.  (And this made me laugh–from my grandmother’s original recipe:  “[Papa] always liked a lot of frosting, so I doubled that recipe.” So I did too!)

Now to organize my cookbooks…

101 in 1001

Have you heard of the concept of “101 in 1001”? It’s a type of mid-term goal-setting where you set 101 things you wish to accomplish in 1001 days (approximately 2.75 years).

I really like the length of 1001 days for goal setting. You can have some reasonable idea of what the future might look like: for me, 5 years is just too far out. I also think it provides a more reasonable deadline than a bucket list does. And as opposed to New Year’s resolutions, you can challenge yourself further (and have more time to make up in areas that you stumble).

I made my first 101 in 1001 goal list when I turned 30…1003 days ago. I was able to complete 93 of the 101 things. I also really enjoyed it, so it was an easy decision to do a second one, which formally started yesterday.

As this blog covers specific topics, I won’t share my entire list here. But not surprisingly, a number of the items on my list conform to the themes found on these pages (you know, if blogs had pages).

Any list is made better by being made into a pretty spreadsheet.
Any list is made better by being made into a pretty spreadsheet.

So here are a few of the things I want to accomplish before June 9, 2018:

– Do another “Buy Little” month.
– Write a will.
– Redirect $1001 from budgeted items to savings.
– Build up savings to $XX,XXX.
– Save $7,000 for a new car (or devote to savings, if I give up car living).
– Build up retirement savings to over $XX,XXX.
Can something (not freezer canning).
– Go through all 20 identified Marie Kondo zones.
– Purge 100 items.
– Forage for wild edibles.
– Grow 3 garden plants inside over the winter.
– Grow 3 new-to-me plants.
– Make something from repurposed materials.
– Save seeds and grow them.
– Keep track of every item brought into the home for 1 month.
– Keep track of every item disposed of from the home in 1 month.
– Buy a piece of clothing from Goodwill.

If you want to see my entire list, you can do that here. I can’t wait to get started on these things!

Moving Like a Minimalist

I’m not sure I would call myself a minimalist. I would like to…minimalists are my people. I simply have too much stuff to be a minimalist…but I’m constantly fighting the fight to reduce.

Last month I shared a little about my cross-country move from North Carolina and what I didn’t need to bring with me. This was my 2nd cross-country move (the first being when I moved from college in Oklahoma to North Carolina), but I’ve made a half-dozen in-town moves since being an adult.

While my credentials as a minimalist are a little lacking, I feel well-qualified in moving. While I don’t like some aspects of moving (like the actual hauling of furniture or boxes), I actually really enjoy packing. I love that everything gets a place (somehow, I’ve never been able to accomplish that in an unpacked apartment).

So what can you do to move like a minimalist?

1. First, unpack EVERYTHING.

Oh, don’t tell me that you don’t have anything still in boxes from your last move. Even if you’ve de-cluttered, you probably have out-of-season decorations or personal mementos in a box somewhere. Pull all things out, and only put it back in a box if you’re sure that you want to keep it.

In my big move, I pared down my Christmas decorations by half, and got rid of an entire box of personal letters: after I sat down and enjoyed them all again one more time. Just because you thought something was worth keeping the last time you opened the box does not mean that it is still worth keeping.

numbered boxes stacked2. Number and record the contents of every box.

For me, this entailed an Evernote file on my phone where I kept track of the contents. I would record something like, “box 1 – Christmas decorations, wreath.” I didn’t list everything, but the general contents and listed specific items I would want to know where was when I got to my destination.

3. Use your belongings to pack other belongings. 

Towels can be used to brace dishes. Mason jars can be used to transport smaller items. Plastic containers can be used as filler in heavier boxes.

Doing so, not only means that you’ll have fewer boxes to unpack, you’ll also have less of a need for packing materials.

4. When in doubt, throw it out.

(And by “throw it out”, I mean preferably sell, donate or recycle.)

Consider each item for it’s value to you. Does it retain it’s value when you consider the time and energy it will take to pack, move and unpack?

If you don’t know whether or not to get rid of something, do it. You will almost surely not regret it.

5. When unpacking, find a place for everything.

This is the one that I’m not as good at. But the truth is, if you can’t find a place for something, it has to go.

Now, I just need to finally empty that last box in the corner of my bedroom…

last box to unpack


How it Works: Grocery Shopping, Part 2

On Monday, I talked about the first half of my preparation for a grocery shopping excursion.

Like other outings and activities, since kids have come on the scene, grocery shopping has gotten a bit more complex, but a little organization goes a long way toward saving us money, and ensuring a smooth, productive trip to the store!

Today, I discuss what actually happens during the trip, and include a few of my own tips and tricks.  I hope you find them helpful!

Before I even get in the car, I make sure I have the following:  my “master list”, all my coupons and deal papers (or apps readily available on my phone, depending on how technologically adept I feel), cloth bags (our store credits you a nickel per bag, which adds up), phone, car keys, and wallet with method of payment (the last two have been forgotten before…many times, actually).

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Many stores will give you a few cents per reusable bag.

As an aside, I try very hard not to shop with anyone.  This is not because the kids are poorly behaved in public–quite the contrary, actually–but rather because they take up valuable real estate in the cart!  Since I go shopping for two weeks worth of items at a time, every single inch of the cart is taken up.  Rather than make Bean walk or wear an increasingly-heavy Peanut in a baby carrier, they stay at home with Riley for some quality Daddy bonding time.  Bonus:  I get some time just for me!

Once I’m at the store, I just follow the list!  This is where the preparation before  the trip comes in really handy.  I am usually able to get in and out in under an hour.  If it isn’t on the list and I feel we “need” it, I make a note to add it to the next grocery cycle.  Impulse purchases are the perfect way to completely blow your budget out of the water…I speak from experience!   I use my phone to keep a rough estimate of the total cost, so I’m not surprised at the check-out counter.

A note about coupons:  do the math.  A perfect example of this came up at the last grocery shopping excursion just a couple of days ago.  This last shopping trip found me in front of the children’s pain relief section.  I had a coupon for a name-brand pain reliever, but even with the coupon, the generic brand was still two dollars cheaper.  I wound up not using the coupon, and going with generic.  The contents were identical, even down to weight, but the price difference was significant.  This type of scenario is the one time I don’t follow the list to the letter.

When you think you have found everything on your list, pull aside and double-check everything.  I just went grocery shopping a couple of days ago, and had I not pulled over, I wouldn’t have realized I overlooked getting avocados!  Just as in math class, double-checking your work can save you time and effort down the line, and get you the “right answer.”

Check out!  As much as possible, try to monitor the screen as you are being checked out.  This can be problematic if you are the only one unloading your cart, but this is where keeping a rough idea of the total throughout your shopping comes in handy.  Worst case scenario:  if, while reviewing your receipt later (to see how much you saved!), you spot an error, many stores will reimburse you the difference.

Check out is also the time to use your reusable bags, as many stores credit you a few cents for them.  Plus, it is a good, environmentally-sound practice!  Any store loyalty cards also go a long way to save you money.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will share with you how my grocery trip went a couple of days ago.  I blew the budget by about fifty dollars (we needed a new shower curtain and mat, and both cost a bit more than anticipated), BUT I saved well over one hundred dollars through the coupons, apps, price-matching, purchasing generics, and the store card.  I was pretty pleased overall.

I don’t know many grocery trips that go according to plan, but a little preparation can go a long way.  It takes a lot of practice to get proficient in this method of grocery shopping–organizing ahead of the trip certainly requires effort and time, but in the long haul, you will save money.

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to save money at the grocery store–do you have any tips for me?

How it Works: Grocery Shopping, Part 1

When I was writing this post, I was expecting it to only take one post.

Silly Amanda.

Apparently my grocery shopping is a bit more complicated than that, because it’s taking today and next Tuesday to fully convey how I do grocery shopping.

(I suppose that makes sense, given the strong emphasis we place on healthy living, good foods, and sticking to a budget…but it was still a bit of a shock for me!)

Pre-stay-at-home-mama days, I scoffed at coupon cutters and deal devotees.  I never made lists.  I was very good at winging it, and spending money like water at the grocery store.  I averaged several trips a week to get “necessities” (because ice cream totally counts as a necessity…right?).

Now that I’m in a different season of life, I look back on how much money I could have saved and cringe.  I feel that one of my jobs as a SAHM is to make Riley’s paycheck go as far as possible, and that requires preparation.  In fact, as I type this sentence, I am printing coupons for my upcoming shopping trip, scheduled for this Friday.  Proof:

unnamed (13)

I am by no means an extreme couponer, but I do spend about an hour before each shopping trip (trips happen every other week, on average) printing and organizing coupons, ensuring all smartphone deal apps are in working order, and price matching, if applicable.

Typical grocery shopping preparation looks like this:

1.  Keep a list on the refrigerator; add items as necessary.  Say it with me:  if it isn’t on the list, it isn’t in your cart.  A list saves money on groceries!  N.B.: When I say “groceries”, I am also including things like castile soap and vitamins.  We have a subscription to diapers, which saves money and ensures regular delivery, and the dog food is purchased with cash from our “Pet Care” envelope, so these do not get added to The List.

2.  About five days leading up to The Trip, I start the coupon/app hunt.  Since we don’t get a newspaper, my in-laws graciously save their coupons for us.  I also print coupons online.  My favorite deal app of the moment is the Cartwheel app, though there are certainly countless others.  It’s at this point where I also purge any expired coupons, or coupons we can’t use.  Remember that it isn’t a deal if the coupon encourages you to buy something that isn’t on your list or that you won’t need.  We only save about a sixth of our grocery budget courtesy of coupons and sales, but for only an hour of my time, that’s a lot of money kept in our pockets.

3.  Organize the refrigerator list into a master list.  Since I usually have strict time constraints, my time IS money, so I organize the original list into a “master list”–that is, I list the items in the order they are in the store.  For me, that means I put frozen items and produce on my list last, since I hit that area of the store right before check-out.  I also notate which items have coupons or sales, so I ensure those are credited to me at check-out.

See how important organization is to this whole endeavor?  This pales in comparison to The Trip itself however–be sure to come back Friday for how all this prep comes together!


Updates on the Striving Stewardess

Since the Striving Stewardess has been around for a few months, we wanted to take a few minutes today to update a few of the previous blog posts we’ve done. After all, we’re constantly learning and adjusting.

Ronnica’s Updates

The Art of Sabbathing
My schedule has changed since I wrote the post on Sabbathing. I now have Sundays and Mondays off, so I’ve moved my weekly Sabbath from Saturday and Sunday.

I’m still figuring it out, though, as I don’t find purposeful rest natural. I still find it a useful practice to be purposeful in work and in rest (even if that purpose is to remember that I’m limited).

debt thermometerDebt Loss Motivation
My thermometer is filling up! I’ve been blessed with extra income opportunities which has helped me pay down my debt faster than I had hoped possible.

My Buy Little Month has also helped,  allowing me to put an extra $200 towards my loans, but more on that on Monday.

At this point, I’m trying to stretch myself to have the debt paid off by August. The thermometer continues to be a great visual to excite me towards my goal of being debt-free in six months.

How It Works: Going No ‘Poo
Ironically, shortly after I posted this, I shampooed my hair a couple of times. Even shampooing it once throws it off a lot, so it takes a while to get the natural oils in balance. I’m still getting used to the dry Colorado climate, too, but I’m still pretty happy with my hair routine.

I plan on giving up conditioner as well (replacing it with vinegar) in the next months. I just want to simplify even more.

Amanda’s Updates

More Thoughts on a New Year

I chose to make some New Year’s Resolutions, some of which I shared here with you. January was a challenging month for the “Reduce expenses by 5%” goal; since we get paid every other week, that extra paycheck was super tempting.  Fortunately, there are eleven more months to work on this!  The others are progressing nicely—especially the “Mama Time-Outs.”  I find I’m better able to do all I need to do if I can take a step back and approach a challenging situation anew.

The Fall Purge

What can I say?  Christmas happened, as did a third birthday for Bean.  We are back to clutter central, especially in the upstairs portion of the house, where the bedrooms are.  The good news:  the fall purge will help make the spring purge go much smoother!

How it Works:  One Car

Since starting this blog in early November, we have added to our family—an 85 pound 10404208_10102487618250049_7789266923233122086_n“teacup mastiff” who answers (most of the time) to Wally.  This addition has made extended journeys involving all six of us something of a packing challenge, to say nothing of a smidge uncomfortable.  Looking at what our future may hold (kiddos in school and activities, for starters), we have discussed getting a bigger car more seriously.

We have also toyed with the idea of getting a second car, though that’s certainly not in the short-term plan, and is definitely a last resort.  Right now, priorities being what they are, we make do with our family of six in a Honda Civic just fine—so long as no cross-country trips are in the future!

The takeaway:  Flexibility is key not only in making a one-car household work, but also in making plans for the future.  Stay tuned to see how we continue to “manage the gifts we’ve been given with grit and gumption”!

The Fall Purge

It’s done!  It took over a month, but the first annual fall purge has been completed.  Here’s a sampling, taken from the playroom/laundry room/storage area:

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And here’s the during:

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As a reminder, here is the “before.”

I learned a lot during this exercise.  I hope one of these tips will help you in your own minimizing!

Apply the rule of five.  Taken from The Get Yourself Organized Project: 21 Steps to Less Mess and Stress, I found the idea of five containers (in my case, trash bags and diaper boxes) to help clean up very helpful.  Each of the containers was given a purpose:  Trash, Recycling, Donate, Items that Belong Elsewhere in the House, and Items that Need a Place Here.  Next time I do this, I will actually label each bag, instead of trying to just remember its contents.  I almost recycled my daughter’s doll, which would not have gone over well…

Go it alone.  No kids present during purges.  Ever.  I don’t know about the kids in your life, but mine are little hoarders.  It doesn’t matter if they haven’t seen a toy in over a year–if they spy it while I am working, they want it.  Plus, having no one else present gave me some much-needed alone time to watch my movies, which brings me to the next point…

BYOE (Bring Your Own Entertainment).  Be it an audio book of The Third Plate or, as was the case with me, movies like Little Women, this offers a welcome distraction to the task at hand.

Remember you are dealing with things, not people or memories.  Attaching meaning to an object is something I struggle with; I kept the pair of socks I wore on my first date with my now-husband up until recently.  (Why socks?  It’s a long story.)  The point is:  don’t substitute things for memories.  Free up space to make new memories!

All in all, this was a worthwhile exercise, and one I hope to do again in the spring.  Hopefully the next one will take less time since there are fewer things to deal with now!