Currently….

Currently :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I Am Currently…..

Wearing

All of the same things that I wore last year.  Boring, I know.

But I shop for the current season at the end of it because that’s when stuff is cheap.  For instance, I bought this sweater in April or May on clearance and it’s been sitting in a drawer with the tags on since then.  I wore it on Sunday for the first time, and loved it.

Reading

Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley.

I  said last month that I was reading this, but hadn’t actually started it yet.  I’ve since finished it and am now re-reading it.   This time through, I’m soaking it all in and taking the time to think through the practical changes that I can make to hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.

I got all mushy talking about it here.

Eating

Chicken Pot Pie.

I got this recipe from a friend via The Pioneer Woman.  My friend made it for a group of us and I am proclaimed pot pie dislike-er.  No more.

I made it a few weeks ago on the first “cold”(ish) day and have it on our menu again this week.  You can make the filling ahead of time, substitute a packaged pie crust and add a bagged salad for a delicious meal.

Watching

Ocean’s 8.

The hubby and me have started a new thing where we pick one night each week and designate it “Home Date Night.”  After the kids go to bed, we put away our phones, walk away from to-do lists and spend the two hours before it’s our bed time doing something together.  We take turns planning it and last week was my husband’s turn.

He nailed it.

He got home late, but made up for it with (store-bought) cheesecake, sparkling grape juice (neither of us like wine) & Ocean’s 8.

In our 7 years of marriage, I can count on one hand how many movies we’ve watched, so this was a big deal.  He remembered a conversation from a while ago where I saw a preview for the movie and mentioned that I thought it looked interesting.  He tucked that little nugget away, and cashed it in last week.

We are both big Ocean’s 11 fans.  Ocean’s 12 & 13, not so much.  In our opinion, Ocean’s 8 wasn’t as entertaining as Ocean’s 11, but was better than Ocean’s 12 or 13.

Loving

The new Simplified Line at Office Depot & Target.  I haven’t purchased anything (YET), but I have been looking at all the goods online.

If you like the idea of a Simplified Planner, but don’t want to spend that much money, these more cost-effective options may be just what you’re looking for.  And, ooooh, the accessories…..

Thinking

That it’s time to purchase a giant bag of the really good Halloween candy and stash it in my desk drawer.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Once a week, I clean our kitchen.  And for the 62 minutes after I’m finished when we’re not in it, all is right with the world.

Having a scheduled time to do this each week is what allows me to walk away from a stove covered in grease and a microwave caked in exploded food.  Because I know that it won’t be like that indefinitely.  Having this routine provides the simultaneous freedom of not being held captive by mess or the guilt to clean the mess.

But as much as I love having a clean kitchen, actually doing it is not my favorite task.  So I’ve had to find a way to do it quickly and get the most reward for the least amount of work. #storyofmylife

Weekly Kitchen Cleaning in a Flash

Wash out the sink

Scrub & rinse the sink.  Put the drains in the dishwasher.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Wipe Down Surfaces

The verb “wipe down” is very carefully chosen to describe this task.  I use a Norwex EnviroCloth for all of my kitchen cleaning (except the sink…… although as I’m typing this, I’m not sure why….).  Using this cloth means that water and the cloth are the only two tools I need to clean my entire kitchen.  No messing with multiple bottles, sprays, rinsing and all the stuff that takes time that I don’t want to spend on cleaning.

In our kitchen, surfaces include: Window ledge, Faucet, Countertops, Backsplash and Appliance fronts.

Start at the top and work your way down.  Our window ledge is above the countertop, so that get’s wiped off first and the dirt from the ledge is pushed on to the counter.  When the counters are wiped off, everything gets pushed to the floor.

For the countertops, anything siting on the countertop is moved (another reason to keep kitchen counters clear!) and wiped underneath, then moved back.

Our appliances are stainless steel and the Norwex rag works great for those too.  It works best if the rag is rung out well and, truthfully, the Norwex Polish Rag works best on stainless steel because it doesn’t leave streaks.  Oh well.  We live here.  Streaks and all.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Wipe Down Stove Top

For a gas stove, remove the grates & burner tops and wipe off all of the hardened food.  I scrub what will come off with the EnviroCloth and call it good.  Once or twice a year, when I deep clean the kitchen, I will scrub the grates (with a specific cleaner that is made for the ceramic) and use a more abrasive cleaner for the stubborn spots on the stove top.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Clean Microwave

This is my favorite hack.  Before wiping anything else down, cut up 1-2 lemons and put them in a microwave-safe bowl (or measuring cup) and fill it with water.  Put it in the microwave for 5 minutes.  The steam loosens caked on food and the lemon smells divine.

Remove the lemon water and wipe out the microwave – remembering to start at the top and work down so that you don’t have to repeat cleaning a surface.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Wipe Down Refrigerator Shelves

This is not a full clean out of your fridge.  Just move stuff around as you wipe to get most of the surfaces.  Good enough is good enough in this case.

Wipe Floor Mat

We have a Wellness Mat in front of our kitchen sink that gets picked up off the floor one time a week and this is it.  Once I have no more uses for my rag, the floor mat is the last item that rag cleans.  The Wellness Mat is a non-porous material, so it cleans very easily.  If you have a different kind of mat in front of your sink that requires laundering to get it clean, toss it in the washing machine.

Clean the Garbage Disposal

Remember the lemon water that cleaned your microwave?  It’s not done working yet.  Pour the contents into the disposal and run for a long time with lots of cold water.  The lemons deodorize any residual food smells.  For extra credit, toss in a few ice cubes to sharpen the disposal blades.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Clean Floors

Now that everything that used to sit on a surface in your kitchen has been wiped on to your floors, it’s time to take care of that.  Sweep (or, in our case, vacuum) the floors.  This is part of my daily cleaning, but on kitchen-cleaning day, if I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I will bust out the crevice tool and get in those hard to reach nooks and crannies.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Total, this takes 20 minutes (if I’m not interrupted – which almost never happens).

The kitchen is 90% clean when I’m done which is good enough for me for everyday life.  This routine has helped me find the balance between taking care of what we have and maintaining it, but not being a slave to a perfectly clean kitchen.

I enjoy being in our kitchen and cooking a meal for my family.  And when I make a huge mess, I do the dishes and wait until Monday morning to take care of the rest.

Kitchen Cleaning in Less Than 20 Minutes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

If you’re feeling ambitious and want to deep clean your refrigerator, start here.  Or, get the inspiration for a cleaning routine here.  

5 Steps to Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters

5 Steps to Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters :: maximizingdaysblog.com

It’s a head-to-head race between kitchen and bathroom counters as to which gets used more.  Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to keep them clear.

In our home, the kitchen is the center of everything and the kitchen island is the first flat surface as we enter, which is an equation for everything getting dropped there.

I am a big believer in using spaces for which they’re created and in order to do that with kitchen counters, you have to have usable counter space.

5 Steps to Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters

Create a Place for the Stuff that isn’t Cooking/Food Related

I get it.  I totally do.  This is where we spend most of the time AND there’s a flat surface.  That’s the perfect recipe for stuff to land where it shouldn’t.

To combat that, create a “drop zone” for the items that are not food or used for cooking food.  Don’t over-complicate this.  Pinterest can be your best friend or your worst enemy in this situation.  It can be as simple as a mail tray that collects all the paper and 3 tiny hooks for keys.  That’s it.  Done.  No paint.  No DIY.

Another option is to use vertical space on the side of your cupboards.  I finally splurged and purchased a few pieces from Pottery Barn’s Daily System to put on the wall next to our fridge that is right inside our door.  By using the vertical space on the wall behind the door, we’ve created a landing zone.  Keys, wallets, sunglasses, mail, pens and even our iPad live here.

5 Steps to Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Make Items Earn their Right to Live on Your Kitchen Counters

Hold each item that currently lives on your counters, and weed out items that don’t get used often.  You get to decide what warrants “often”.

I get tight in the chest when there’s stuff all over my counters, so my rule is that an item has be used at least once a week to earn the place of living on the counter.

What doesn’t get used often gets stored in cupboards, drawers or closets with other like items.

Use Vertical Space

Look at what you have remaining and decide what could be hung under counters or on your backsplash.

This is a preference thing.

If you simply do not have enough cupboard space for what you need, hanging items underneath cupboards is a way to get stuff off the counters and can double as decor.  It can also double as clutter, which is where the preference piece fits in.  If mugs hanging under your counters isn’t your idea of cute decor, then don’t hang them.  But, find another spot to store them where you have room.  Or get rid of some mugs.

A great example of using vertical space well in a kitchen is a paper towel holder.  It’s not so much decorative, but it’s really practical and it can get a big, bulky piece off the top of your counters.

Think Creatively About Other Storage Options

Do you really need that knife block?  Do you use all of the knives in your knife block?  Donate the knives that you don’t use and put the rest in drawer or on the wall with a magnet strip.  Are your drawers too full?  Go through and see if can make room by purging unused silverware.

5 Steps to Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters - Store the few knives you use most often in a drawer :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Do you really need that k-cup stand?  Clear out a spot in your cupboards (near the mugs!) for k-cups.  In their box!  Or get fancy and put the cups in a basket (like I do).

5 Steps to Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters - Store k-cups in a basket in the cupboard next to mugs :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Corral Small Items

If a coffee station with all of the fixin’s on your counter is what bring you joy, then corral everything on a tray.  It gives boundaries and makes it look cleaner.

5 Steps to Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Cooking is enough work as it is.  Don’t make it harder by having a workspace that doesn’t work well for you.

What do you find to be the hardest part of keeping your kitchen counter clutter-free?

Read more about how to Reign in the Mail Clutter or that other Kitchen Trouble Space – the Refrigerator.  

Black Bean Avocado Salad

Protein & Veggie Loaded Black Bean Avocado Salad :: maximizingdaysblog.com

A few months ago, my husband and I strongly considered doing Whole 30, but couldn’t commit to the time it would take to prep all of the food every.single.day.  That and #iheartcheese.

We decided, instead, to be intentional about eating mostly vegetables and lean protein and limiting refined sugar and carbs.  Breakfast was easy; Scrambled eggs & berries.  Supper was doable by making meals where carbs could be left out.

But I really struggled with lunch.  By lunch time, no matter how much lean protein I ate at breakfast, I am starving and I want something fast.  And by fast, I mean from empty to full plate in less than 4 minutes.  I’m not exaggerating.

About this time, I found this recipe when Kate at The Small Things Blog posted a link.  I decided to take her suggestion and add some chicken and give it a try.  I made a few adaptations the second time I made it, so feel free to do the same.  Add stuff you like.  Take out stuff you don’t like.

Protein & Veggie Loaded Black Bean Avocado Salad :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I’ve eaten it every day for lunch since then.  A huge bowl of it.  I may add some pita chips, fruit or cheese to the side.  Or not.  It’s that sustaining.

This salad also keeps really well – even the avocado!  I usually make it on Sunday and it’s good all week.

Black Bean Avocado Salad

(Recipe Adapted)

  • 1 seedless cucumber, diced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 1/4 cups corn
  • 1 orange pepper, diced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 package pre-cooked chicken breast strips
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Protein & Veggie Loaded Black Bean Avocado Salad :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Instructions

  1. Place the cucumber, black beans, corn, orange pepper, cherry tomatoes, red onion and chopped cilantro in a bowl.
  2. Squeeze the fresh juice from the lime onto the salad & stir well.
  3. Mix in the chicken & avocado, season with salt and pepper.

Protein & Veggie Loaded Black Bean Avocado Salad :: maximizingdaysblog.com

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Simplified Summer Challenge PRIZE

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

This past summer, a group of people from this community read through Emily Ley’s A Simplified Life together and used the book as a guide to simplifying our lives.  At the end of each chapter, Emily Ley has a ‘Simplicity Challenge’, which are 5 steps that you can do right now (most take less than 5 minutes) that make big strides toward achieving your goal.

I’m giving away all of these goodies to the person who completes the most Simplicity Challenges by Friday, September 28th.

Prizes include:

Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley

Grocery List Pad by Emily Ley

Y-Weave 5 Piece Basket Set

Kenra Volume 25 Hairspray

Essie Gel Couture Set

Post-It Page Markers

Cable Clips

Go-Go squeeZ Variety Pack

To earn these prizes, comment on each blog post with the number of simplicity challenges you completed from that chapter.  I will track each person’s progress (this is a total honor system thing) and the person with the most challenges completed will get this swag.

I’ll make things easier once you’ve completed challenges, by linking below to each chapter’s blog post.  Log your challenges in each blog post’s comment section, and I’ll add them all up to determine the winner.

Chapter 1 – Simplified Space

Chapter 2 – Simplified Style

Chapter 3 – Simplified Meals

Chapter 4 – Simplified Schedule

Chapter 5 – Simplified Finances

Chapter 6 – Simplified Hospitality

Chapter 7 – Simplified Technology

Chapter 8 – Simplified Self

Chapter 9 – Simplified Motherhood

Chapter 10 – Simplified Faith

Happy Simplifying!!!