At My House……

I got this idea from one of my favorite blogs (Iowa Girl Eats) and thought it would be a fun little break.  Plus, I think it’s good to be real and show all of my shortcomings and not just the few highlights of my days.  So, here’s a little insight into me:

Household chore I actually enjoy……..
People assume that I love to clean, which actually isn’t true.  I do, however, LOVE having a clean house, so I put up with the required housework in order to have the desired outcome.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I enjoy it, but I don’t mind doing laundry.  I think it’s because of all the household chores, this one requires the least amount of work for the end product.  Taking clothes from one machine and putting them in the other doesn’t actually take that long.  But then there are empty hampers, and it’s the best feeling.  Albeit, a very temporary feeling.  Like I presume for most people, the folding and putting away can be the worst part of the process, but if I stay on top of it and fold each load as it comes out of the dryer, then it only takes a few minutes.  My phone timer trick helps with the feeling of accomplishment and the flip and fold gives me the greatest sense of accomplishment when the stacks of shirts are all folded uniformly.

Biggest House Disaster……..
Right now, it’s our basement “game” closet.  I say “game” because it’s the most predominent group of items we have in there, but there is, unfortunately, also so much more. It has become the destination for all the little things in our house that don’t have a spot (yet).  I just can’t figure out what I want in there and how to store the things I do have in there.  It is a continual WIP (work in progress).

Before Company Arrives, I Hide…….
Food garbage.  Before you judge, let me explain.  We have a trash compactor, so food waste that can’t go in the garbage disposal (banana peels, apple cores, etc.) goes in a plastic bag that fills up throughout the day and ends up sitting on our kitchen counter right next to the back door.  I hate clutter on my counters to begin with, but a bag of food garbage is the worst.  If I know that someone is coming over, that’s the first thing to go.  I’ve often thought about starting a compost pile so that stuff doesn’t go to waste, but the ratio of “brown material” (grass clippings and such) to “green material” (food) is way more than we have access to.

Most Recent Music Download…….
I don’t buy a ton of music – we’re big Pandora and iTunes Radio people – but a couple weeks ago, I bought “Great is Thy Faithfulness” from Chris Rice’s Peace Like a River: The Hymns Project Album.  In the last few months, I’ve really been touched by the lyrics in hymns.  I didn’t grow up singing hymns in church, so it’s kind of a new discovery for me.  I bought “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” from the same album a couple months ago and mentioned to my husband more than once that I should have just bought the entire album.  There’s still time.

The Last Thing I Bought Online…….
This bib.  We use these bibs at home, and LOVE them, but they are a little cumbersome for travel.  I had read somewhere about disposable bibs and looked for them, but couldn’t find them in a store.  My husband and I stumbled upon Skip Hop when I was pregnant.  I was having the hardest time finding gender neutral crib bedding that I liked and fell in love with this the moment I saw it.  Unrelated to that, we couldn’t find  a diaper bag that we both liked until I found this one.  It was only after we added the bedding set and diaper bag to our registry that we realized they were the same brand.  We have been huge Skip Hop fans since then.  It’s become our go-to baby brand.  Which is why I follow them on Instagram.  A couple weeks ago, they posted pictures of these bibs and explained that they are made to fold into their own pocket so they are perfect for on the go.  We are working to live more sustainably and not create so much waste, so the idea of having something reusable that could easily travel and, let’s be honest, is so darn cute, was too much to pass up.
In the same order, I also used a gift card my daughter was given for Christmas to get this towel.  She finally outgrew her infant one, and, of course, if I was going to buy a hooded bath towel, it was going to be the adorable Skip Hop owl.

I Hate to Shop For…….
Swimsuits.  I know.  Super cliche.  But I really hate it.  I always feel terrible about myself and they are so expensive.

Favorite Family Ritual……..
Each year, at Christmas, we take a family picture holding the picture from last year.  It started with my grandparents 22 years ago.  My grandma had just got a new camera that had a self-timer, which was revolutionary at the time, and we were so excited to be able to take a picture of the four of us – My grandpa, grandma, brother and me.  The next year, we started the set things up to take the same picture and my brother had the great idea to grab last year’s picture from off of the fridge.  He held it up in the picture, and so began the tradition.  We continued that until my grandpa’s last Christmas in 2007.
My daughter was born in 2013, and we took a picture of our family (no need for a self-timer when in-laws are right there!).  For her second Christmas, I decided to resurrect that tradition.  However, I didn’t plan ahead and print a copy of last year’s picture.  At the last minute, I grabbed the iPad and pulled up the photo.  We decided that it added a fun element to have the piece of technology in there, because in another 22 years, we will laugh hysterically at how out of date the iPad is and see how technology progressed.

I Sleep In……..
This shirt.  I have this weird thing where I need to have my shoulders covered when I sleep.  If I sleep with just straps, I always wake up in the middle of the night with cold shoulders.  I was so excited when I found this shirt because it is (appropriately named) super soft.  And it’s long enough that if I walk out of my bedroom in it, I don’t feel inappropriate (it’s longer on me than it is this model.  Surprise – another affect of having a crazy short torso).

I Have a Style Crush On……
Kate Middleton.  Who doesn’t?  I’ve never seen a picture of her where I didn’t think she looked stunning.  She has this classic, sophisticated elegance that is enviable.  Even at the Olympics in London a few years ago, she was wearing skinny jeans and team jacket, and she looked amazing.  Why is it that when I wear my fleece-lined tights and quarter zips, I don’t look like that?

I’m Currently Reading……
Does Real Simple magazine count?  My husband got Unbroken as a gift for Christmas and I’m hoping to start that soon.

What’s Up With the _____ Trend?
Super bushy beards.  Seriously, I can’t possibly be the only person who thinks they are ridiculous.

How Did I Ever Live Without______ ……..
Smartwool socks.  A good friend of mine swears by them, so when they were 75% off on Black Friday, I tried a couple pair.  There’s no going back.  I own a couple pair of Margaritas, Secret Sleuths and Ski socks.

Tie a string around your finger….

I remember when I was kid being told that if I needed to be reminded of something that I should tie a string around my finger.  I have a vague memory of doing it once.  I’m not sure if that really works or if people actually did that in real life, but the premise is good.  Put something out of place so that it sticks out and when you notice it, it reminds you of what you were thinking.

More often than not, those “I need to remember fill-in-the-blank” moments happen while I’m lying in bed.  Why is that?!  And once I’m in bed for the night, I’m in for good.  I HATE having to get out of bed (who doesn’t?).  But I also need to remember whatever thing was so important that it only occurred to me as I lay still trying to fall asleep.  One time, I jokingly thought ‘if only I had a string….’.  But the string would probably fall off by the time I woke up anyway.  So I tried to come up with something that achieved the same purpose.  I pulled the TV remote out of my nightstand drawer and threw it on the floor.  Sure enough, when I woke up the next morning and got out of bed, I saw the TV remote laying on the floor and had a thought progression that went like this:

“What is the TV remote doing on the floo..?  Oh, yeah, I need to fill-in-the-blank!”

And I’ve done that ever since.  We no longer have a TV in our bedroom, so now it’s usually my bottle of vitamins from my nightstand drawer (PSA: If using a bottle of vitamins, make sure to forewarn your husband that you’re throwing them on the floor, otherwise the sound that they make when they land may startle him so that you have to peel him off of your bedroom ceiling). 

One caveat to this trick is that in order for it to work, you have to have a tidy bedroom.  If you’re just throwing an item on top of another pile of stuff, then you’re just adding to the mess and not making something stick out so that you will notice it.  And if you’re a piles-on-the-floor kind of person who also happens to forget things you think of while lying in bed, then maybe this is just the motivation you need to get rid of those piles!

Container Store Gift Card Giveaway

To celebrate the launch of the blog, I am giving away a $25 Gift Certificate to one of my all-time favorite stores, The Container Store.  Whenever I need some sort of organizing tool, I’ve always been able to find what I need there.  I also like to walk through the store and drool over their Elfa closet organization system.  I digress……

There are two ways to enter to win the gift card.

1) Like the Maximizing Days Facebook page
2) Subscribe by entering your email address in the ‘Subscribe’  box on the right side of the page.

The winner will be announced March 7, 2015 at 9 AM.

 

What’s this all about?

I love order.   I love systems. I love lists.  Even more, I love crossing things off of lists.  

I despise clutter.  I despise chaos.  I despise wasted opportunities.  

For as long as I can remember, I have been making lists and categorizing and sorting.  It’s an innate trait. When I was young, I would put all of my mom’s refrigerator magnets is a straight line across the front, with the bottoms of the differently sized magnets all sitting on the same baseline that, apparently, only I could see or appreciate.  I couldn’t understand why my mom didn’t like that and would immediately spread them out in a random fashion.  Who wants that?! 

This propensity toward organization became more of a blessing than a curse as I got older.  I quickly learned that there was a direct correlation between establishing systems of order and getting the most out of whatever I was doing.  When I wrote down homework assignments that were due, I didn’t forget to do them.  When I made a packing list for an annual beach vacation, the visor that I wished I had the year before was packed in this year’s carry on.  When I planned a weekly menu, I didn’t waste 30 minutes of precious evening time with my family standing in front of the pantry trying to decide what to cook (only to resort to frozen pizza – again).  

Ideally, I’d like each day to end knowing that I got everything out of it that I could.    I hate regrets.  I know that they are a part of life, and it is not possible to live without them, but I still hate them.  When I was young and would make a mistake or break a rule, my Grandpa would say, “Well, you can’t go back and un-do it.  All you can do is learn from it and, from this point on, try to make it better.”  Wise words.  Dwelling on past mistakes is a waste.  Learning from them is necessary.  So, with each regret, of which there are many, that thought crosses my mind.  Instead of just wishing things were different, make them different.  This lesson has many applications, many of them to bigger lifestyle and character decisions.  For the purpose of this blog, the application will be sharing tricks, methods, tips, and lots of lists to alleviate those occurrences and habits that cause us to miss out on the really good stuff in this life.  

I love the movie Goodwill Hunting.  There’s a scene where Will’s girlfriend, Skylar, is trying to understand Will’s genius.  He explains it to her by asking if she plays the piano.  He says that the great composers could look at a piano “and just play”.  Trying to understand the analogy, Skylar asks if Will plays the piano.  He says, “No, not at all.  But when I look at organic chemistry, I’ve always been able to…….. just play.”I don’t have a musical bone in my body.  And I’ve never understood what organic chemistry is – let alone studied it.  But when it came to creating order out of chaos, I’ve always been able to just play.  I’ve been told many times in my life that I should become a professional organizer.  And, to be honest, if I thought I could make a living out of doing it, I would have started that a long time ago, but the reality is that there are few people who are willing to pay for such a service.  So, I resorted to doing what I do and sharing ideas and tips with people whenever they ask.  But I’ve always wondered if there is a way to have a more public forum in which to share these ideas.  The idea of a blog has been running around in my head for some time now.  Another cliché my grandpa always used to say was ‘There’s no time like the present.’  Carpe diem.  So here it is; my attempt to share my little insights with anyone else who may be interested.  My hope is that life would be made more simple and gratifying through the implementation of these little ideas.  

Card Sending

Card Sending 2I grew up in a card-giving family. For birthdays, you always gave and received two cards; a humorous one and a sentimental one. And we were those people who sent “just because” cards on a frequent basis. Most college students spent more money than they should have at bars and at the mall. I did so at Hallmark. (Okay, I spent more than I should at the mall too).
After I graduated from college, I moved to Washington, DC and I still sent birthday and anniversary cards, but I wasn’t as on top of it as I used to be. By the time I moved to Minnesota a few years later, I was doing well if my grandma got her birthday card a week after her birthday. And the ‘Thinking of You’ cards? Forget about it.

Now, I know many people will say that sending cards is outdated, and they may be right. But I’m old school – at least when it comes to this. Even in our instant gratification culture, I still get excited when I receive (real) mail. I like getting texts; my phone dings with a message, I read it, and it ends there. But when I open my mailbox and there’s a pretty envelope with my name and address hand-written on there, it means a little more. See, old school.

I decided that I needed to make this a priority. I needed to find a way to make sure that the people I cared about knew that I cared about them. An action plan was put in place and it looks like this:

  1. I did what I always do when I need to come up with a system for something: I created a spreadsheet. Use this one page printable  or this three page printable and put it in your card-sending station. Use old calendars, your memory and whatever else you used to use to keep track of these things to find all of the “card-sending” events for your loved ones. It’s a quick, at-a-glance way to see how many cards need to be sent in a month and to whom.
  2. Get the cards.  You can buy them individually, in box sets or make them.  I’ve done all three at different times.  Don’t get hung up on this.  Whatever works best for you.Card Sending 1
  3. Create a card-sending station. Having everything you need for a task all in one place is the difference maker when it comes to these kinds of tasks. Have your cards, envelopes, pens, return address labels, address book and stamps all in the same location so that you have everything and you don’t constantly get interrupted to go get something to finish the task.
    Card Sending 2
  4. Write the cards. Once a month find a time to sit down and write all of your cards for the next month. Pull out your list, choose a card for each occasion and write all of the cards for the next month. I have found that the middle of the month is the best time to do this because then I don’t miss those beginning of the month events. In addition to the event cards, I also pick two people each month and send them a ‘Thinking of You’ card. I wish I could do this more, but I have learned that if I don’t do it during this time, it doesn’t get done. Writing the messages in the cards is the most time-taking part of the process. But it is also the best part. When I make myself sit down and put in writing how much I love and appreciate people, it makes me love and appreciate them even more. And it reminds me how fortunate I am to have such wonderful people in my life.
  5. Address and stamp the envelopes. I have a spreadsheet that is saved on Dropbox, so I can look up everyone’s address on my phone. If you’re more old-fashioned and prefer an address book, use that and keep it in your card-sending station.
  6. Put a post-it on the envelope with the date it needs to be mailed. To be on the safe side, I pick a date that is six days before the event. Card Sending 3
  7. Put them in a high-traffic area where you will see them and be reminded to stick them in the mail. I put mine in our outgoing mail holder in our ‘Command Center’ which we walk by each day.

Card Sending 4

Card Sending 5

That’s it. You will be amazed at how little time this actually takes. I love the feeling I get when I grab an addressed envelope and drop it in the mailbox; knowing that in a few days one of my favorite people will know how much they mean to me. The only downside is that they may call you to tell you how much they appreciated what you wrote, but because you wrote it over a month ago, you can’t remember. Not that that has ever happened……