Simplified Planner Giveaway!

FREE Simplified Planner Giveaway - Enter here :: maximizingdaysblog.com

This is my first year with my Simplified Planner and to say that I LOVE it would be an understatement.

I’m, like, borderline-obsessed.

And because I love the Simplified Planner so much, I want to share the love by giving YOU the opportunity to win one.

FREE Simplified Planner Giveaway - Enter here :: maximizingdaysblog.com

One lucky winner will receive:

To enter to win this prize bundle, go to my Instagram account.

The winner will be tagged in my Instagram account on Friday, December 14th.

FREE Simplified Planner Giveaway - Enter here :: maximizingdaysblog.com

As the creator of this planner, Emily Ley, would say  – ‘A planner won’t fix your life.  But this can be one of the tools that helps you to reign in the craziness so that you can focus on the really good stuff in this life.’

Start the New Year off right with a FREE Simplified Planner Bundle.  Enter here.

FREE Simplified Planner Giveaway - Enter here :: maximizingdaysblog.com

P.S. Simplified Planner not your thing? Try this free printable to keep track of all.the.things.

Greeting Card Journals

Greeting Card Journals :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I grew up in a family that gives cards for every occasion.

The big (what most people would call normal) events warranted two cards – one funny and one sentimental.  The lesser holidays – you know, like Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day or Arbor Day – only warranted a single card.

Because of growing up like this, I do love giving and receiving greeting cards.

But, what do you do with greeting cards after you’ve read them?

I don’t know the answer to that question.

Greeting Card Journals :: maximizingdaysblog.com

In our immediate family, we no longer give greeting cards, and instead, have, what we call, Greeting Card Journals.

This is just one more idea that was not originally mine and that I got from friends (others being this, this and this).

Each family member has their own journal, and on an occasion that warrants a greeting card, family members write in that person’s journal.  So far, we’ve mostly just written in them for birthdays and anniversaries, but as our kids get older, I can see also writing in it on other “milestone” events.

Greeting Card Journals :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Why Greeting Card Journals?

  1. They Get Re-Read – It is not uncommon for my daughter to ask to have her “birthday book” read to her.  She loves to hear the words written to her by her mom and dad from when she turned 2 and 3 and 4.  Instead of having cards that sit in a box stuffed somewhere, these greeting card journals are easily accessible.  I have been known to grab mine off the shelf and read sweet, encouraging words to give me a pick-me-up on a tough day.
  2. Less Clutter – These journals stay on a family bookshelf.  We don’t have to find a place to keep and pack away stacks of various sized cards.  And they look pretty on the bookshelf.
  3. Cheaper – There is nothing special about these journals.  I got them at Target a few years ago for $8 each.  Most greeting cards are $3-$4.  You can do the math to see how quickly a journal becomes the more cost-effective solution.
  4. Keepsake – If our house was burning (and everyone was out safe) and I had one minute to grab something before we got out, I’d grab these greeting card journals.  In those pages are some of the sweetest memories and words that any of us have.  These journals are a record, not only of some of our best days, but also of the people with whom we shared those days.  And written reminders of how much we love one another.  That is gold.

I still buy and send greeting cars to other family members.  And I still oboe getting cards in the mail from friends and family.  But, for our immediate family, who would otherwise exchange hundreds of cards over the coming decades, greeting card journals are much better way to go.

Greeting Card Journals :: maximizingdaysblog.com

P.S. For those of you who still want to send greeting cards, here’s how I make sure that I don’t miss one.

Bottom Drawer Freezer Organization

Bottom Drawer Freezer Organization :: maximizingdaysblog.com

French door refrigerators are the greatest invention since the wheel.  This may be a overstating things slightly.  But only slightly.

I love having my entire refrigerator at the top.  Like most of us who grew up in the 80’s, until the last decade, I’ve only known a freezer on the top 1/3 and the fridge on the bottom 2/3 of the unit.  A whole new world was opened up to me when some brilliant engineer decided to switch up those two locations.

I don’t love having a big drawer on the bottom.

It becomes a deep abyss of freezer-burned veggies, bread, fruit and waffles that I can never find when I need them.

The top half justifies the button, but a big drawer isn’t ideal.

So, let’s try to make the best out of a non-ideal situation.

Because I will get asked, I will start by saying that we have the Kenmore Elite 29.8 cubic foot French Door Refrigerator.  A unique feature is it’s two slide out trays, in addition to the lower drawer.  If your bottom drawer freezer isn’t like that, don’t let it be a deterrent.  Us the same tactics and tricks for your one drawer that I use for my two.

Rarely do I think that purchasing containment is the answer to most organizing problems, but this is the exception.

The size and position of bottom drawer freezers require a little more to achieve maximum usage.  Or, at the very least, to not be the bane of my existence.

Since I’ve now suggested finding some containment, I think you can guess what’s coming next…. If you’re going to purchase product, (say it with me…), MEASURE TWICE, PURCHASE ONCE.

Measure the length, width & depth of the trays and the deep drawer.  Search for products using these parameters.  There’s nothing exciting about doing math and looking for fine print in product descriptions, but it’s less exciting to think you found a solution and shell out cash, only to find it doesn’t do what you hoped it would.  (For my own failure with this, check out this embarrassing video.)

The containment that I used in my top freezer tray is mis-match of what I had lying around.

Bottom Drawer Freezer Organization :: maximizingdaysblog.com

The multi-purpose bins that I use in the deep part of the drawer are second only to my beloved shoebox bins on my list of all-time favorite organizing products.  They are at the top of that list for the same reasons: A multitude of uses & they’re cheap!

Thankfully, these multi-purpose bins fit perfectly in the drawer of our freezer, so it was just a matter of deciding on a size configuration.

My brain thinks in categories, so the easiest way for me to divide up the mess of bags in the drawer was to divide it into food groups.

Our freezer drawer categories are Fruits, Veggies, Bread, Meat & Potatoes.

Yours may be breakfast, lunch & supper.  Or they can be divided up by color.  Whatever works for you works here.

Bottom Drawer Freezer Organization :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Measuring and finding the containment will be the hardest part of this organization project.  Once you have the containment, taking your bottom drawer freezer from pile of Who-Knows-What to Place Where Food Can Be Easily Accessed should take you less than 20 minutes.  That’s the commercial breaks during a one-hour TV show.

What do you find to be the hardest part bottom drawer freezer organization?

Bottom Drawer Freezer Organization :: maximizingdaysblog.com

P.S. Feeling ambitious?  Use these tips to organize your fridge.  Sick of wasting frozen food?  This is how we avoid that trap.

Finding Time to Try New Recipes

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Tell me if this is you: Gets excited to find new recipes on Pinterest or in cookbooks, but feel like you make the same thing every week.

*Insert hand raising emoji here*

Me too.

I’m one of those people who actually enjoys cooking.  I really do.  But we are in a stage of life right now – I’m stay-at-home mom to a 3 & 5 year-old – where cooking is done out of necessity and not enjoyment.

But that desire to find new favorites and make them hasn’t gone away, so I’ve had to find ways to try those new recipes.

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes

Be Realistic

The name of my cooking game right now is speed.  How fast can I go from starting to prepare supper to on the table?

The faster, the better.

And I don’t know if it’s just me, but trying something new takes me for-ev-er.  Whatever the cook time is listed on the recipe, I double it.  I’m a slow cooker.

Give yourself permission to try something new when it’s fun for you and not when you’re feeling obligated or guilty.  Enjoying trying new recipes doesn’t mean recreating the wheel every day and utilizing a new cook book doesn’t mean finishing every recipe in it in a month.

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

For Mother’s Day, my husband got me the Magnolia Table cookbook.  I proceeded to read through it and flag the recipes that I want to try – of which there were about 20.

That will probably take me 2 years.

It may seem like  a long time, but if you do the math, that’s one new recipe a month, and I know that’s ambitious for me.  And it’s October, which means I’m five months behind already.

Simplify the Other Parts of the Meal

Go Big or Go Home doesn’t apply to this situation.

When you do have the time to try something new, put all of your effort into one new recipe at a time, and make the other parts of the meal as simple as possible.

For this meal, I decided to go with bagged salad and my favorite bread from my favorite bakery for the sides.

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Be Strategic About When Your Cook the New Recipe

Make the new recipe on a day when you have some margin.  Don’t try to squeeze it in when you’re crunched for time and feeling the weight of getting food on the table ASAP.  Pick a weekend or a random day off.

I had one day last week where I was home taking care of my infant nephew, so I could start supper prep a little early.  And we didn’t have to be anywhere that evening.  So if making the meal took longer than the book said it would (which it always does), we wouldn’t be late for anything.

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

These little tricks allowed me to look forward to trying something new.  All day, I was looking forward to making something yummy (hopefully) and having an outlet for this tiny creative part of me.  And  the recipe turned out awesome and has now been added to our list of family meals.  That doesn’t always happen, but you don’t know until you try, right?

What are you ways to find time to do what you enjoy?

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

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.