7 Things To Do Each Morning To Make Your House Look Clean

My house is never completely clean.

A combination of my preferences and our family’s schedule don’t lend itself to one ‘house-cleaning day’.  So, I do a little bit a few days a week; Monday is laundry & a monthly chore, Wednesday is kitchen & bathrooms, Thursday is mopping and Friday is vacuum or dust.

This system works for me, so for that reason, I like it.  However, it means that there is never one time when my entire house is clean.  The bathroom & kitchen surfaces are sparkly clean on Wednesday afternoons, but the floors in those rooms are nasty.

I’ve learned to be okay with it.  Because our house doesn’t look dirty.  

By doing a few small things each day, my house looks and feels (mostly) clean.

The best part?  It takes 25 minutes – max – each day.

1 – Make the Bed

I don’t know what it is about a made bed, but it holds magical powers.  Even when it’s surrounded by strewn clothes and dust bunnies, straightened blankets and propped up pillows amidst the chaos bring a sense of calm and accomplishment.

Make Your Bed - 7 Things To Do Each Morning To Make Your House Look Clean ::maximizingdaysblog.com::

Do it as soon as you can after getting up.  It will help build your momentum.

2 – Empty the Dishwasher

We have reached the stage of adulthood where we run the dishwasher once a day.  I remember a time in my early 20’s and I was talking with friends (who were the age I am now) about how they ran their dishwasher every day.  I couldn’t wrap my brain around it.  How could one family possibly dirty that many dishes in 24 hours?!

It happens.

As part of our evening routine, we run the dishwasher after supper.  It is finished by the time we go to bed, so we open it and pull the shelves out to let it air dry overnight.

Having an empty dishwasher makes breakfast clean up faster.  More importantly, it leaves no excuse not to put that morning’s breakfast dishes in the dishwasher, which means you don’t start the day with the sink and counter piled up with dirty dishes.

Empty the dishwasher - 7 Things To Do Each Morning To Make Your House Look Clean ::maximizingdaysblog.com::

Empty the dishwasher - 7 Things To Do Each Morning To Make Your House Look Clean ::maximizingdaysblog.com::

I do both of these tasks before my children wake up and before the swirl of morning craziness begins.  This helps me maintain my sanity.

3 – Wipe Down Kitchen  Counters

After clearing the table and putting all of the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, wipe down your kitchen surfaces.  I don’t use a cleaner because I use my Norwex rag, but you most certainly could use a countertop cleaner if that’s what you prefer.  Push all of the food and crumbs on the floor.  You’ll deal with those soon.

Wipe down kitchen counters - 7 Things To Do Each Morning To Make Your House Look Clean ::maximizingdaysblog.com::

4 – Supper Prep

(This has nothing to do with a  clean house, but it doing this in the morning will pay off later in the day)

I am a huge proponent of meal planning.  No matter which method you choose, just do it.  Your grocery bill and evening self will thank you.

By knowing what you are making for supper that night, you can do whatever prep is necessary in the morning to make your evening go that much smoother.

More often than not, for me, this is simply pulling meat out of the freezer to thaw.  Sometimes it’s pulling bread dough out to rise.  It can be that simple.  Or, if you prefer, you can do all of your chopping in the morning to cut down on the time it takes to get supper on the table that night.

Do Supper Prep in the morning - 7 Things To Do Each Morning To Make Your House Look Clean ::maximizingdaysblog.com::

This is one more place where my mantra – whatever can be done sooner, DO IT! – is appropriate.

5 -Vacuum Floors

We have the Dyson D8 Animal cordless vacuum, and this bad boy gets used daily.  Our dark floors show everything and we have hardwood on the entire main floor, so having vacuumed floors makes  a huge difference in whether our house feels clean or not.

From after breakfast until before lunch, our floors look pretty good.  After lunch, the effects of a 2 and 4 year-old are visible under the kitchen counter and by the door into the house.  But those crumbs and dirt can wait until tomorrow to be taken care of.  So, if you want to see a clean floor, come in the morning.

Vacuum Floors - 7 Things To Do Each Morning To Make Your House Look Clean ::maximizingdaysblog.com::

6 – Wipe Down Bathroom Counters

This is a new addition to my morning routine.  With four people now brushing their teeth twice a day and an accumulation of overspray from my various hair products, wiping down the counters goes a long way in making the once-a-week cleaning last.  The best part about this task is that most times I delegate it to my 4 year-old and she just thinks it’s the greatest job on earth.

Wipe down bathroom counters - 7 Things To Do Each Morning To Make Your House Look Clean ::maximizingdaysblog.com::

7 – Open Window Shades (If it’s nice outside, open windows)

When my husband and I first got married, this drove him nuts.  Opening our shades and letting all of that natural light in was a natural mood booster for me.  It was my way of feeling like our house was ‘open’.

Open Windows or Window Coverings - 7 Things To Do Each Morning To Make Your House Look Clean ::maximizingdaysblog.com::

Now that I’m home all day with the kids, this is a must for me.  There are days when we don’t leave the house, but at least I can see the outside world.  And the warmth and sunshine pour in and it warms my soul.

And our house on a cold, Minnesota day.


I follow this routine 4-5 days a week.  Sometimes, I need to sleep a few more minutes, so the bed doesn’t get made and the dirty dishes accumulate into piles while they wait for their spot in the dishwasher.  And some days, my kids need extra reading time, so the wiping of bathroom counters gets cut off of the list.

This is not meant to be an inventory of how good you are at keeping your house clean, but rather, a few simple tasks that when done can make a big difference in how you feel in your own home.

You be the judge of what you need most in a day, and on the days that it’s to feel like you have taken care of your home and made it calm and enjoyable place to be, use this list as a way of accomplishing that task.

7 Things To Do Each Morning To Make Your House Look Clean ::maximizingdaysblog.com::






4 Steps to Organizing Makeup

As you may know, my favorite blogger is Kate at The Small Things Blog.  She started doing this thing called #freshinfifteen a few years ago, which is her way of getting herself ready to go for the day in fifteen minutes or less.  Her first attempt didn’t go so well, and part of the reason was because she couldn’t find the tools or products that she needed when she needed them.

That got me thinking… how much time could be saved (translation: How much longer could you sleep?) in the morning if you didn’t have to waste time trying to find what you need to get yourself out-the-door ready?

This blog might be called Maximizing Days, but really, I’m all about Maximizing SLEEP.  Any place in life where I can change something so that I get more sleep, I am all over that.

4 Steps to Organizing Your Makeup :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Step 1 – Purge!

Does it feel like this is always the first step to any organizing project?  There’s a reason.  Because we have a tendency to accumulate stuff that we don’t need or use.  Minimizing is the first step to organizing.

Start by being honest with yourself about what you use.  Not what you might use.  It doesn’t matter how much you spent on it or how well-intentioned you are, if you’ve owned it for more than a month and haven’t used it yet, you aren’t going to.

There’s also a pretty good chance that a few of your makeup items are expired.  I found this graphic from L’Oreal to use as a guide.

4 Steps to Organizing Your Makeup - Use this guide from L'Oreal to know what to throw away :: maximizingdaysblog.com

The same rule that goes for food goes here too:  When in doubt, throw it out.

Step 2 – Categorize

You can do this one of two ways.  You can do it by makeup type (i.e. brushes & tools, foundations, eyes, lips, etc.) or by container type (i.e. tools, tubes, pots, flats).

I find that organizing by container type is best because it maximizes space.

4 Steps to Organizing Your Makeup - Categorize what you use every day :: maximizingdaysblog.com

However, I don’t have a lot of makeup.  My husband wouldn’t agree with that statement, but comparatively, I don’t have much.  Because I don’t have much, I don’t need to have all of my eyeshadows in the same compartment to see what I have to choose from.

I have some eyeshadow palettes in one spot (flat), eyeshadow creams in another (pots) and mascara in another (tubes).

Step 3 – Get a Makeup Organizer

This can be as simple as a zippered cloth pouch or as elaborate as a rolling cart (I’ve seen both done well), and that will depend largely on the amount of makeup you have.  The organizer should be proportional in size to the amount of makeup you regularly use.

There are a bazillion options out there, but there are a couple things to consider when trying to decide which option to choose:

  1. Space it goes in – Will this be stored on a closet shelf? In a drawer?  On your bathroom counter?  If it goes in the closet, think about how easily it moves from the shelf to where you apply your makeup.  If it goes in a drawer, consider your height clearance.  If it stays on your bathroom counter, measure how much space you have.
  2. What it’s made to store – Some containers have designated spots for certain kinds of items, such as lipsticks.  This can be a great asset as it makes those items easy to grab quickly, but it also limits what can be stored in those spots.  Big opens spaces can be good if you have big brushes or large compacts, but aren’t good for containing lots of small items.

I have this organizer from The Container Store and I chose it because 1) All of my makeup will fit in it and 2) The large compartments give me a lot of versatility.

4 Steps to Organizing Your Makeup - Find an organizer that is proportionate to the amount of make up you use every day :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Step 4 – Fill the Organizer

Fill, like the put the stuff in it.  Not fill, like shove it full of so much stuff that you have to pry each item out when you want to use it.

As much as you can, utilize the compartments of the organizer to keep your categories separate.  This isn’t always possible, but start with that as the goal and go from there.

4 Steps to Organizing Your Makeup - Put each category in a compartment in your organizer :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Consider accessibility when you are choosing where to store items.  Something might fit great in a spot, but if you can’t easily grab it, then you’re defeating your purpose.

4 Steps to Organizing Your Makeup - Keep what you use & put it where you can easily access it all :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Just think of how much better you’ll look now that you’re that much more well-rested.  And maybe you can get rid of that under eye concealer because of all that extra sleep you’re getting now that you aren’t wasting time trying to find it in the morning.

The benefits of living a more organized life are a domino effect.


4 Steps to Organizing Your Makeup :: maximizingdaysblog.com








Fall Capsule Wardrobe

How to Create a Fall Capsule Wardrobe - & Lessons Learned from my first capsule experience :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I created a capsule wardrobe this past summer and haven’t looked back.  I learned a lot about myself; about what I thought was important and how my actions were a more accurate representation of what was actually important to me.  There was a lull in my excitement around week 11, but other than that, I drank the kool-aid, jumped on the band wagon and declared myself a capsule wardrobe-er for life.

Then came September, and I just couldn’t make myself do it.  Originally, I had intended for my fall capsule to be for the months of September, October & November.  When September came, it seemed daunting to try to find a wardrobe that worked for temperatures in September in Minnesota and November in Minnesota.  And, this year, September was unseasonably warm.

So, I just kept putting it off.  I’d pulled out my fall and winter clothes and shoved some of them in drawers with my other summer clothes.  As September went on, I found myself wanting to have the capsule there for me, but not wanting to put the work into making the decisions to create it.

By the end of the month, my desire for the outcome outweighed my indecision.  I thought through some of the reasons that I was procrastinating this and remembered why I liked this lifestyle choice and what I had learned the first time.

Lesson Learned #1: Give yourself an adjustment period between seasonal capsules.

I needed a few weeks to have my fall and winter clothes out of storage and in my drawers to choose from while getting dressed to figure out if I wanted to include them or not.  And, frankly, the weather was bi-polar for the month of September, so I needed to wear shorts and a t-shirt on Wednesday and jeans and a hoodie on Thursday.  Narrowing myself to one season of clothes during that month wouldn’t be helpful or the best use of what I have.

Lesson Learned #2: Just because you don’t include it in this season’s capsule doesn’t mean you will never wear it.

When I dug all of my cold-weather gear out of storage, I wanted to include it all.  Over 90% of what I had landed in my ‘LOVE’ pile.  I loved the way I looked and felt in almost all of my clothes, so it felt wasteful to not wear them.  But there were a lot of clothing items that I dug out.

As I’ve mentioned before, there is no hard and fast rule for how many items are included in a capsule wardrobe, but I was looking at upwards of 60 items, and that seemed like it defeated the purpose of the minimalism that I was trying to achieve by creating a capsule wardrobe.    As I was trying to decide what to weed out, I had a lightbulb moment when I remembered that I wasn’t choosing clothes to wear until next June; I was choosing clothes for the next 2-3 months.

I don’t have the same need for wool sweaters in October as I do in February.  There will still be chilly days in October when a fall sweater will be necessary, but there will also be days when cotton t’s and even 3/4 length sweaters are appropriate as well.  My frozen tundra apparel got packed back in the off-season storage and will come out in December or January and be exchanged with the lighter weight sweaters.

Lesson Learned #3: There might not be a wide variety between two seasons of capsule wardrobes.

This is largely dependent on the climate in which you live, and the temperature differences for which you need to account.  My fall and winter capsule wardrobes will look very similar.  I’d guess that over half of the items in my fall wardrobe will be included and winter, and even more so, my spring capsule may very well be a carbon copy of my fall wardrobe because fall and spring temperatures in Minnesota are so similar.

And that’s okay.

When I realized that this was bothering me, I had to remind myself of why I became a capsule-er in the first place; to be intentional about only buying clothing that I love to wear and not accumulating more than I need.

Lesson Learned #4:  Be realistic about what you wear.

I struggled trying to decide what pieces to weed out of my fall capsule because I genuinely loved everything I had.  Then, about two weeks into September, I realized that I was wearing 20% of my wardrobe 80% of the time.

I loved everything hanging in my closet, but a lot of what was in my closet wasn’t realistic for what my day-to-day looked like.  This wasn’t a lesson that was new to me.  I learned it my first go-round, but I had to re-remember it this time.

If I’m honest with myself, I think it’s because I miss the lifestyle that warrants that style of wardrobe and I want to wear some of those pieces more.

I have a few silk blouses that I love.  They look great, and I feel great when I wear them.  But I’m not wearing them on Monday when it’s my day home with the kids and there’s a high likelihood paints and markers will be used.  My lifestyle dictated that I have more cotton long-sleeve t’s and sweatshirts than blouses, but it was hard to admit that.   I didn’t get rid of those items entirely, but I included less of them so that I could include more casual items.

I spend 20% of my days in an office, so approximately 20% of my wardrobe is office-wear.

Lesson Learned #5: Start with shoes, bottoms & layering pieces and go from there:

I found this to be the easiest way to get the ball rolling.  I chose shoes, bottoms and layering pieces and those totaled 25 items.  I had 45 items in my summer capsule and I decided that I could have a few more items in my fall capsule wardrobe (the need for layers in the fall justified this decision for me), but didn’t want to exceed 50 items total.  So, with 25 shoes, bottoms and layering pieces, that meant I could choose 20-25 tops.  That sounded like a lot to me.  Turns out that it was really hard to stay within those parameters.

Again, I didn’t include accessories in my capsule.  This was a non-issue in the summer because I don’t really have summer accessories, but I did consider it for the fall because I own and frequently wear scarves.  I decided not to include scarves because, frankly, there was no way I could include all of the tops and scarves I wanted and still call it a capsule wardrobe.

Maybe that’s cheating, I don’t know.  If you don’t hear from me for a couple weeks, check to make sure that the capsule police haven’t come to arrest me.

Now, after a month of pondering and days of decisions, here is the final product.

My Fall Capsule wardrobe.  A total of 48 pieces.

11 pairs of shoes (23%), 9 bottoms (19%), 5 layering pieces (10%) and 23 tops (48%).

Fall Capsule Wardrobe: Mix t's and 3/4 length shirts with button downs and vests and include lots of layering pieces :: maximizingdaysblog.com

To see photos of daily outfits created from this capsule, follow me on Instagram.



















How To Plan a Kid’s Birthday Party – Part 2

We hosted our son and daughter’s birthday party last weekend and it was a blast.  As is the case with any event you choose to host, there is some planning and work involved, but if you do those things well, you can reap the benefits of that work and enjoy the event alongside your children and your guests.

Read about the importance of starting with a goal, theme, guest list, menu & decor here.

And, if you haven’t already, print off this Birthday Party Planning Printables Bundle to keep track of all of those fund details.

Birthday Party Planning Necessities: Theme, Guest List, Food, Decorations, Activities, Favors, Shopping List & Set Up Printable :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Then, move on to the next steps…….

5 – Activities
We have always printed on the party invitations “Please, no gifts”, but our uber-generous family and friends disregarded that instruction.  This year, when we talked to the people we invited, we said, “Please don’t bring gifts.”  And they didn’t.  Which was exactly what we wanted.  However, not having a designated time where the guests watch the birthday boy or girl unwrap presents meant having one less thing to entertain our guests.  And it never occurred to me until after the party was over.

We didn’t even sing ‘Happy Birthday’. *gasp*

Our goal was to enjoy a morning with friends and family eating yummy food and playing, so that was the framework under which we chose our activities.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t sing ‘Happy Birthday’ or unwrap gifts.  But because we weren’t doing those things, we had to think about how people would spend their time once they were done with their doughnuts.

Lawn games are a big deal in our family.  We love them and play them frequently.  And because we do it, our kids love to “play” too.  So we decided to have Bean Bag Toss, Ladder Golf & Lawn Yahtzee.  All of these games were owned by us or our family members, so we didn’t have to purchase anything.

Lawn games are always a great birthday party activity - something for all ages! :: maximizingdaysblog.com

This was the first year that we had an activity for the kids.  There were lots of fun ideas for this on Pinterest, but I chose pumpkin painting because it was simple, fun, and required supplies that we already had (except for the pumpkins).

Pumpkin Painting Party - Pumpkin cut outs, paints, crayons, aprons & wipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

My original plan  was to buy mini pumpkins and give each kid one to paint with sponge brushes.  But when I was shopping for a few party supplies at Hobby Lobby, I came across some wood & paper cut-out pumpkins and decided that was exponentially easier and cheaper.  So we went that route.  And it worked out great.

I’ve wanted to do a Photo Booth of sorts at each of my kids’ parties, but never spent the money or time to create that.  I found these photos on Pinterest and decided that I could do something like this with stuff that I already had.

Pumpkin party photo spot :: maximizingdaysblog.com

My booth doesn’t look nearly as good.  And it shouldn’t.  Those were put together by professional party planners.  Who get paid to create those.  But it served the purpose.  It was a cute spot for guests to take photos – of their family and with the birthday boy & girl.

Create a spot for guests to take photos :: maximizingdaysblog.com

But if I wouldn’t have set some flowers in front of a leftover hay bale, I wouldn’t have this money shot.  Which will end up in each of their wedding slide shows.  If that’s still a thing in 20 years.

Pumpkin party photo booth :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Birthday Party Activities Planning Printable

Party Planning Tip:  Designate someone – a family member or close friend – to take pictures during the party.  My sister-in-law is awesome about this.  I don’t even have to remember to ask anymore.  The only reason any of the photos from this day exist is because she picked up the camera throughout the morning and just starting clicking away.

6 – Favors
This was my first foray into favors.  I refused to do favors at my wedding because I thought they were a waste of time and money.  But I found a few cute and cheap ideas on Pinterest that made me realize that I could put together goodie bags that our guests would be able to enjoy as a token of appreciation for coming to spend time with our kids.

I got the idea to color jack-o-lantern faces on orange fruit cups (from Pinterest) and decided to put two or three other snacks in there that weren’t pure sugar.  I’ve talked before about my love for all things GoGo squeeZ, so that was an obvious choice.  Good old fruit snacks – in orange packaging, of course – rounded out the treat part of the favors.  I went with mini play-dohs and glow stick bracelets.  I figured every kid has play-doh, so they could add to their stash.   The bracelets were a nod to my daughter because she loves all things jewelry and anything that lights up.  I was the least excited about that piece, but I reminded myself that this is HER party and that while I see them as junk, they bring a smile to kids’ faces, so I got over myself and put them in my cart.

Favor bags filled with applesauce, fruit snacks, fruit cups, play-doh and glow bracelets :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Favors are another area where spending can easily get away from you.  Start by making a budget.  Decide how much you will spend per kid or overall, and work within those constraints.  Make a list of the contents, packaging and where you will purchase each item.

Birthday Party Favors Planning Printable

Party Planning Tip:  If your kids are old enough, have them assemble these and talk about how they show gratitude to the people who are coming.

Oh, and if you decide to include glow sticks, be careful not to crack the sticks when you’re tying the bags.  Hypothetically.

7 – Purchase
Create a master shopping list organized by store.  Using your other lists, write down each item that you need at each store.  This will help minimize unnecessary trips and wasted time.

Birthday Party Shopping Printable

Party Planning Tip: Grab an empty bin and dub it the ‘Party Bin’.  As you collect and purchase items for the party, toss them this bin so that they’re all in one, central location.  A week or two before the party, grab a few more empty bins and boxes and designate each one for an area or activity (i.e. Food Table, Craft Area, Favors, etc.).  Sort all of the items from your ‘Party Bin’ into these separate, smaller bins to make set up easier by taking each bin to it’s location during set up, and then you will have everything you need for that area with you.

Collect party items in a bin as you acquire them. The week before, sort items by where they will be during the party :: maximizingdaysblog.com

8 – Set Up
Do as much as you can ahead of time.  It is key to helping you enjoy the event while it’s happening.  But, there are things that you can’t do until right before the party begins.

Instead of a birthday cake, we had a donut tower, which I obviously couldn’t create until I had the donuts.  I got the idea from Pinterest and the picture had this cute cake topper.  I cut out the flags for the cake topper and got the other pieces needed for it and put all of them on the cake stand that the tower would be on.  This cut the assembly time for the tower in half the morning of the party.  Do this as much as you can.

Make a donut tower for a morning party instead of having a cake :: maximizingdaysblog.com

As you’re making all of your other lists, write down the tasks that you will need to do as well.  Write down any times that are pertinent (i.e. pick-up times or cooking times).  This will be your golden ticket on party day.

Birthday Party Set Up Printable

Party Planning Tip: ENJOY YOURSELF

Once the party starts, do whatever you have to do to enjoy yourself.  You’ve done the work ahead of time to get you to this point so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.  And watch your kids enjoy those fruits too.  If you have a second, think back to your goal.  And enjoy yourself.

How to Plan a Kid's Birthday Party - Without Going Bankrupt or Losing Your Mind :: maximizingdaysblog.com


How to Plan a Kid's Birthday Party - Without Going Bankrupt or Losing Your Mind :: maximizingdaysblog.com


And, if you must, sing ‘Happy Birthday’.



How to Plan a Kid's Birthday Party - Without Going Bankrupt or Losing Your Mind :: maximizingdaysblog.com










How To Plan a Kid’s Birthday Party – Part 1

I love to entertain.  Gathering people together around food and fun to celebrate something makes me all warm inside.  Last weekend, that something was my kids’ birthdays.

On the kid birthday party-planning spectrum, I like to think that I land somewhere in the middle.  I’m a sucker for a fun theme and color palette and a good-looking food table, but I refuse to spend a lot of money on the event or stress myself out getting it ready.  I used to be an event coordinator at a year-round Christian Camp & Retreat Center, so I have some experience with putting together events.  That being said, I am not creative.  I don’t come up with cute ideas all on my own. That’s what Pinterest is for.  Pinterest is my best friend when it comes to planning my kids’ party.  But it can also be a pain in my side.

I’ve found that it’s helpful to think of Pinterest as a springboard, and not a standard.  Pinterest is a great tool to get your creative juices flowing and see lots of options.  It is not good for measuring yourself against realistic expectations.  Remember that.

If you don’t have a prior career as an event planner, or you’re not a nerd like me, starting to plan a party can seem like a daunting task.  Break it down in to smaller pieces and it will be, at least, manageable, and, at most, enjoyable.  It is possible to host an event on a budget and with minimal stress.

Use this Birthday Party Planning Printable Bundle to get you started.

Birthday Party Planning Necessities: Theme, Guest List, Food, Decorations, Activities, Favors, Shopping List & Set Up Printable :: maximizingdaysblog.com

1 – Start with a Goal.
Really?  For a kid birthday party, you need a goal?!


It may seem silly, but I believe strongly in the value of “If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you get there?”

Why are you having the party?  What do you want to get out of it?  Answering these questions before you do anything else takes minimal time, and it gives you something to come back to when you’re going overboard, stressing out, or spending too much money.

P.S.  If you’re goal is to plan the most beautiful party on Pinterest or to get the most likes on Facebook, I’d suggest that you seriously consider if your child’s birthday is the best vehicle for achieving that purpose.

The goal for our kids’ party is that it be a time for our kids to be celebrated.  We want them to be surrounded by people who love them and reminded of how fortunate they are to have this tribe in their lives.  It is also our goal to have fun.  ALL of us.  We want our kids to enjoy themselves, but we also want to have fun ourselves and we want our guests (kids and adults) to enjoy their time as well.

Their party is not about an opportunity to get stuff.

My mom did a great job when I was a kid making my birthday special.  I loved my birthday.  But I didn’t love it because I got toys.  We didn’t have very much money and my mom couldn’t afford much, so the toys were secondary.  I don’t remember a lot of specifics of birthdays or parties.  But I remember looking forward to my birthday and loving my parties.  Because I felt loved and special.  That’s what has stuck with me all these years later.  And I want my kids to have that too.

Party Planning Tip: If coming up with a goal for a kid party seems lofty, just think about what you want your kids to say about this event in ten or twenty years.  That’s your goal.

 2 – Choose a Theme, Date & Guest List
Now you get to the fun part.  Our kids’ birthdays are six weeks apart and after having two identical parties six weeks apart last year, I decided to do one party for both of them this year.  My daughter turned 4 on September 2nd and my son will be 2 on October 19th.  That meant finding a gender-neutral theme for a two and four year-old and finding a date between their two birthdays.  We scheduled the party at the end of September, and went with a pumpkin/fall theme.  The guest list included family, godparents, close friends and a few of my daughter’s friends from pre-school.

Theme Worksheet Printable

Guest List Printable

Once you have a date and a theme, and you know how many people for which you are planning, you can go one of two ways.  If you’re independently creative, start brainstorming ideas relating to your theme.  If you’re like me, type “pumpkin birthday party” into the search bar on Pinterest and get excited at the possibilities.

Notice that I didn’t say “feel obligated to do everything you see” or “feel inferior because of the way others have done similar parties”.  The moment either of those feeling creep up on you, walk away.  And go back to your goal.

As I browse through ideas on Pinterest, I ask myself these two questions:
1) Can I do this cheap?
2) Will this take me a lot of time?

If the first answer is yes and the second is no, then I Pin it and move on to the next great idea.

There are lots of cute ideas that get passed over.  And, again, go back to your goal.

Party Planning Tip: Make your Pinterest board private so that your friends don’t see your ideas until party day.

3 – Pick Food
Some themes lend themselves easily to a pre-determined menu, others do not.  Time of day will also factor greatly in this decision.  Our party was in the morning, so we had breakfast foods and doughnuts.  Because our family loves any excuse to have doughnuts.

Choose food that does double duty as decor :: maximizingdaysblog.com

We also had some other “theme” foods, like rice krispies treats labeled as hay bales.

How to Plan a Kid's Birthday Party - Without Going Bankrupt or Losing Your Mind :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Pinterst, again, is a great resource for this.  But as you’re looking at the food, ask yourself the same two questions.  Also, ask yourself if it’s food that people will actually eat.  Because, if not, then you’re just wasting.

Choose party food that are time of day and age appropriate - and throw in some candy for good measure :: maximizingdaysblog.com

One thing I like to do is to find creative, theme-oriented ways to serve the food.  I found this picture on Pinterest, and loved the idea.

Super cute pumpkin party idea

I knew we’d serve fruit in some way, and this would look super cute on the table.  For a few reasons, I decided not to stick the skewers in a pumpkin, but put some candy corn in the bottom of mason jars and put the skewers in there.  Fruit in a bowl or fruit on skewers in decorated containers tastes the same, but little details like that can be really fun.

Put fruit on skewers for an added party touch :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Again, remember to check yourself as you go through this process for when you’re having fun and when it becomes stressful.  No kid’s birthday party should be a reason for you to worry, stress or lose sleep.  If it’s not worth it to you to skewer fruit, put it in a bowl and call it good.

Party Planning Tip:  When considering what food to serve, in addition to time of day, also consider ages of guests and have something for each demographic.

I knew that we’d have a few little kids there, so I wanted to make sure to have something for them too.  The good folks at GoGo squeeZ sent me their new seasonal applesauce blend, Apple Pumpkin Spice.  Those paired with Go-Gurts were the perfect option for littles.

Party food for little ones :: maximizingdaysblog.com

GoGo SqueeZ Apple Pumpkin Spice pouches - a great snack for a pumpkin birthday party :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Birthday Party Food Planning Printable

Once you decide on a menu, write out all of the ingredients needed for each menu item, along with where to purchase ingredients and a serving piece for each item.  If you will be serving food in more than one location, also write at which location each item will be served.

4 – Decor
This is where I start to feel inferior.  Decorations is so not my jam.  I like pretty things and I like coordinating everything, but the separation between seeing what I like and knowing how to create that on my own is massive.

And I’m lazy.

I have zero desire to spend a lot of time on menial tasks; partially because I know myself and I know that taking the time to do those things will cause me to be stressed.  But there should be some cuteness.  It’s a kid birthday party for pete’s sake.  So, I find that balance.  At my daughter’s first birthday party, my sister-in-law made a photo collage of my daughter’s first year in the shape of a 1.  A dear friend who is blessed with the gift of artistic-ness created the cutest chalkboard with all of her first year milestones.  We’ve continued doing that each year, so those are always my starting points.

Make a photo collage of pictures from the year in the shape of the year they are turning :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Make a photo collage of pictures from the year in the shape of the year they are turning :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Photo collages in the shape of the year kids are turning :: maximizingdaysblog.com

My sister-in-law still makes the photo collages, but she jokes that I’m going to have to find someone else to do it before my daughter turns 8 because she refuses to do that one.

*By the looks of this picture, we’re celebrating someone’s 42nd birthday.  In hindsight, I should have separated the numbers a little bit more.  Live and learn.

Use party decor to show how kids have grown :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I found a bunch of cute milestone prints that I could purchase on Etsy, but I didn’t want to spend that kind of money and there were parts of each one that I wanted to change.  So I put on my creativity shoes and designed their milestone images using a computer design program.  Then I had them printed at Staples.

One reason that I love a cute food table is that it can double for decorations.  When your table looks good, you can do less decorating, and I am all about that.  Make the food multi-task.

Use the space above the food table to display decor :: maximizingdaysblog.com

When deciding on decor, I err on the side of using what we have.  This is one area where you can so easily get out of control in the spending category.

Because we were doing a pumpkin theme, the color scheme for the event was set to be orange and green.  Naturally, I wanted to get orange and green tableware because cuuuuuute.  However, we had plenty of navy and yellow tableware that I stocked up on when Target was clearancing them out years ago, so the color scheme became yellow, navy, orange and green.  And I didn’t have to buy plates, napkins, silverware, tablecloths or banners.  Score!

The party was in our backyard and the best way to get there was to walk through our garage, so we needed something to direct people that way.  I made a sign on the kids’ easel and stuck in the driveway.  I moved the mums from my front door to next to the easel, and now it’s cute.  Easy peasy.

Use what you have around the house for party decor :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Birthday Party Decorations Planning Printable

After finalizing decor pieces, think through what needs to be purchased and what tasks need to be done to make those decorations come to fruition.  Write in stores for all need-to-be-purchased items and locations for each decoration.  If you think through these details ahead of time, you will thank yourself when you’re shopping and even more so on the day of  when you are setting up.

Party Planning Tip: The fewer decisions you have to make the day of the party directly correlates to your ability to enjoy the event.  If you are stressed and feeling overwhelmed getting everything ready, it can be hard to turn that off and unwind, which can make enjoying this shindig hard.

There you have it.  A goal, theme, guest list, food & decorations.  This is going to be a great party!  Next week, I’ll lay out tips for planning party activities, favor, shopping and set up.


How to Plan a Kid's Birthday Party - Without Going Bankrupt or Losing Your Mind :: maximizingdaysblog.com