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4 Night Time Routines For a More Productive Morning

Today I’m participating in the Ultimate Blog Swap. You’ll find me posting over at Happy Little Homemaker about The Spots Most of Us Forget to Clean, and I’m excited to welcome Christine from I Dream of Clean to Cajun Joie de Vivre:

I firmly believe a clean and tidy home leads to a more productive life. However, I also think it is more fun to have a home that’s actually lived in. And when you’re living, breathing, and trying to have a blast with your family, a few messes are going to happen along the way.

Of course it would be nice to minimize the messes, right? That’s where routines come in; specifically, nighttime cleaning routines.

Granted, it can be a challenge to clean while the kids are awake. By the time the kiddos are tucked in, the last thing you want to do is work on the house. The temptation to skip maintenance items to veg out or sleep can be overwhelming.

If, however, you can muster up a little bit of energy to go through the four following routines, you’ll have a much cleaner home and a more productive morning.

4 NIGHTTIME ROUTINES FOR A MORE PRODUCTIVE MORNING

  • Wash one load of laundry each day. If you dread laundry day, you can minimize the task by keeping dirty laundry at a minimum throughout the week. Every night, place dirty clothes and laundry detergent in the washing machine. The next morning, hit start and let the machine do the work. Before you leave for the day, transfer clothes to the dryer and then fold (or get your kids to fold) when you get home. At first blush it seems like a lot of work, but folding one load, compared to ten, takes mere minutes and will eliminate the need for a long laundry day.
  • Spend 5 minutes tidying up every night. Go though each room of the house (or at least the main living areas) to quickly straighten up the area. Fold blankets. Fluff pillows. Pick up dirty dishes and throw away trash. While your working, put anything that doesn’t belong in that room in an empty laundry basket to distribute as you move throughout the house. Set a timer and work quickly. 5 minutes of uninterrupted speed cleaning can do wonders for the tidiness of you home.
  • Go to bed with a spotless kitchen. The kitchen is often in a central location of the home so when it’s messy, the entire house feels messy. Since the kitchen could possibly be the most used room in the house, keeping it clean can feel like a constant chore. There are, however, a few tricks to make cleaning it a bit easier.
    • Unload the dishwasher every morning. I know. I know. But, I bet it will take less time than you think. And it will save even more time later.
    • Put dishes in the dishwasher as soon as they are no longer being used. Train your children to do the same!
    • Clean pots and pans while they are still hot. They’ll be clean in a fraction of the time it would take if you let food sit and harden on them.
    • Start the dishwasher, wipe down and clean up the rest of the kitchen before bed. By spending less than 5 minutes cleaning the kitchen, your morning will be off to a great start.
  • Take time today to prepare for tomorrow. Think through the following day by preparing your todo list. Then pack lunches, put bags in the car, pick out clothes and do anything else that could be frantically completed the next morning. You’ll be less likely to forget something important and you’ll be able to let your coffee kick in before trying to think through the important aspects of your day.

Since I’m a procrastinator by nature, I dread keeping my tired body awake to do something I could easily postpone. However, when I straighten up and prepare the night before, I always have a productive morning and I’m much happier (and therefore a better) mommy when the kiddos wake me up before sunrise.

These 4 tips are a great starting point to implement nighttime routines but there are, of course, many other habits that will systemize your cleaning routine even further. Visit i Dream of Clean to find out more and learn how it only takes 31 days to make cleaning a habit.

Question: What routines have you implemented to become more productive?

Visit Life Your Way to see all of the Ultimate Blog Swap participants!

Easy Way to do Laundry: Closet Divider Organizer

Easy Way to do Laundry: Closet Divider Organizer

I have four boys that range in age from almost 15 years to 18 months. I also have a husband and a dog. This can only mean one thing: I do lots and lots and lots of laundry. I mean like 2-3 loads a day people. Yeppers, I do.

I don’t like laundry. I’ll sweep, mop, clean windows and make beds all day long but please, no laundry. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind the washing and drying of the clothes. It is the folding, hanging and putting away that bothers me. I can’t explain it. I just don’t like it. With that in mind I set out to streamline the process and make it easier on me.

I decided to make them pick up their own clothes.

Originally this presented some challenges. I kept messing up whose clothes were where on the clothes rod in our laundry room and the kids never could find their clothes. No, ma’am. They could not recognize clothing that they wear each and every day. I haven’t figured that out yet but I did solve the problem…

Yes, Mommy Dearest. Those are wire hangers.

With these closet rod hanger dividers (or whatever you want to call them) it is easy for me to hang them up without having to figure out whose stuff is where AND those boys of mine can no longer tell me that they don’t know where their clothes are.

I am including a few different ones to download, edit and print. There are two sets: one set has a larger top for closets with lots of vertical space between the closet rod and the shelf above and the other set has a shorter top for other closet spaces. Both sets have one that is blank so that you can completely customize it yourself and the other has the phrase, “self serve laundry”.

To edit these you only need to download them and open them up in a graphics editor. Two free ones are Gimp and getpaint.net. You can add your kids names, days of the week, clothing sizes, or whatever else you can think of.

I recommend printing these on cardstock and for maximum durability attach to cardboard or chipboard. You can make these as fancy or as plain as you like. I chose white for my laundry room since it just looks clean. Then, since I color code my kids I used their color for their name. I gave them no reason to not know whose clothes were for who. ;)

closet rod hanger label to do laundry organization

Download here:

Many more printables to come! Subscribe by RSS reader so you don’t miss any!

To read the other posts in this series visit here: 31 Days of Free Printables

Are you a 31 Dayer? If so leave me a comment and let me know. If you want to be a 31 Dayer link up with Nester, Darcy, Jen, Jessica, Melissa, Sandy, Emily and Emily.

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money envelope

Financial Forms, Debt Snowball, Budget Printables for Household Notebook – part 6

This is part 6 in a 7 part series. You will find all printables/forms located at the bottom of this post. All printables are in .doc files and can be edited using Microsoft Word or the free open source software called Open Office. This set of printables is from the Simple Magnolia set. Other sets will be released in the coming weeks including the Textured Vintage, Frooty Fun, and Crafty Mama sets. For an index of all posts in this series visit this link: Life Management Notebook.

Our Approach to Finances: Debt Snowballs, Emergency Funds, and Envelopes

My husband and I have made great progress in decreasing our debt and putting ourselves in a much better situation financially but it definitely required effort. We tried several of the systems and plans out there and while nearly each one had something that we found of value for our situation there wasn’t any one that we felt was perfect for us. So, we modified them to make it a good fit. You can do the same.

I’ll share with you how we came to be where we are today but ultimately you and your spouse will have to do what is best for your family.

First, we had to establish where we were financially.

The problem most of us have is that we blindly pay the bills each month never truly letting it sink in just how much money is owed to a particular company or worse, do you even remember what it is that you purchased on credit and is it still benefiting your family? When we finally started asking these questions when the bills came rolling in we were a bit sick to our stomach. Yeah, we were still paying for Christmas 2 years ago. The blender that shattered three months after we broke it – check, still paying for it. And what about the clothes the kids had outgrown? Yes, that was also earning lots of interest for the credit card company.

Once we had that gut check we wrote down principle balances for the debt we had. We also wrote down the interest rate, when it was due, and the payment amount. Then we wrote down estimates of what we spent for tithe, groceries, gas, utilities, and other required expenses. Once we had a total on all of our debt plus expenses we subtracted it from our monthly income. This clued us in on where we stood financially.

Second, we trimmed spending.

We cut out all unnecessary expenses until we felt we could afford them. That meant that we no longer charged anything on our credit cards, we canceled monthly plans like Netflix, texting & data plans (yes, it was difficult), cable TV, magazine subscriptions and anything else that automatically withdrew from our account or was automatically charged on our card. Something else we did was view the history on our checking account to see how much money we had been spending on grocery shopping, eating out, going to movies, and other similar things. Once we knew what we had been spending it was easy to cut back. We did have to change the way we did a few things. We started shopping the sales and using coupons but don’t worry, you can save money without using coupons too. For larger items we budgeted what we were willing to spend and shopped Craig’s List, garage sales, and thrift stores. We purposed not to go into debt for anything else. There were a few exceptions but we’ll talk about those later.

A major help in cutting costs was following blogs that did the research work for me. Money Saving Mom is my go to site for all things frugal and financial. You can find a wealth of knowledge there. Just glance through her series and “start here” section. You can also find location specific deal blogs and follow them. I follow My Baton Rouge Mommy because she lets me know of all the latest and greatest local deals. Just do a search for deals in your closest metropolitan area. Group Buy Girl is another great one since she clues you in on all the best group deals that are available nationally.

The big one: save $1000 for emergencies!

I speak with passion on this one but only because we have experience with just how necessary it is. When we started our journey we were both earning a decent income, receiving some child support from my older boys’ father, and Ryan got a bonus every year. We didn’t think it would be a big deal if we had skipped this step but we did it anyway. I’ll admit it was for prideful reasons. Even though we were in debt, Ryan and I had never, ever dipped below a certain amount in our checking account. We always had that cushion money so we saw this as additional cushion or security. Boy am I ever glad we had it.

Just a few months after we put that money in the bank our world fell apart. Mark, the boys’ dad, became very ill and couldn’t work anymore. That meant no more child support, justifiably. In an effort to make up the difference in income Ryan decided to take a new job, one that promised more money than he was making. During the transition to that job the economy took a nosedive and the promise of a higher salary went out the window. Ryan wasn’t making more money at that new job. He was making less but at that point it was too late to turn back. I was also homeschooling at the time and wasn’t able to work from home as much as I had been. We were in a bind.

The money that we saved, the corners we cut, and the budget we put in place carried us through until Ryan found his current job. Without that emergency fund we likely would have ended up like so many others: in foreclosure. So whatever you have to do to save it, do it. You can’t afford not to. Sell things. Work a few more hours. Do whatever you must but put that $1000 in the bank.

Next, we created a budget and used cash (the envelope system).

Two of our favorite systems for getting out of debt and having financial freedom are Dave Ramsey’s and Crown Financial’s. Both are advocates for using the envelope system and after applying it to our daily life, we are too. Before creating our budget we did three things:

  1. Figured out how much additional money we could put towards debt.
  2. Filled in and printed out the Accelerated Debt Payoff Calculator. Place a copy of this in your household binder.
  3. Decide which categories and sub-categories would be put into our budget.

We filled out our budget form and then made pretty envelopes to hold the cash for things like groceries, fun money, clothing, home repair, etc. Each pay period we put the proper amount of money in the envelope, added it to a ledger (an index card) that is kept inside of the envelope and stored it in a safe place. When we needed it for say groceries, I would grab the grocery envelope and count the money inside (sometimes there was money left over from before) to make sure it matched what was on the ledger. Whatever was in the envelope is what I had to make last until the next pay period so I would shop within that budget. Once I spent some of the cash then I replaced it with a receipt and deducted it from the ledger. The ledger kept us accountable so I found that very handy to have. Another benefit of only using cash is that I second guessed every item I picked up to purchase. I would ask myself if there was an equivalent that was less expensive or if it was really necessary. For the record, a Coca~Cola and a Whatchamacallit at the check out counter are not necessary. I know. It made me sad too.

Our budget changed as we paid off debt. Each time a new debt was paid off (we started with smallest balance first then worked through) then we took the amount we paid on that debt and added it to a new debt. For example, we determined that after canceling subscriptions and cutting back on spending that we could put an additional $200 towards our debt so we paid the $200 plus the minimum payment toward the debt with the smallest balance. That is the beginning of the debt snowball.  We paid that amount until the debt was paid off. Once the first debt is paid off we took the amount we were paying on it (about $50 for the monthly payment plus the $200 debt snowball for a total of $250) and we paid that along with the new minimum payment towards our next smallest debt. So basically if the second debt’s minimum payment was $30 then we paid that plus the $250 for a total of $280. We paid that until the debt was paid off. The debt snowball continue from there.

Exceptions to our rules.

Like I stated earlier we had certain exceptions to our rules. One of those rules what that each year when the big home improvement store had their 6 months same as cash option going on then we took advantage of it. We would make a big purchase for something like new carpets and we’d charge it without having to pay interest for six months. We always paid that off in full, before interest was applied. That was one way we knew we could charge without paying extra for it. We feel that home improvement is a necessity and this was a viable option. I know others would advise against this but it is a choice we made and it has worked for us. Again, you must do what is best for your family.

Our other exception was taking a family vacation each year. Some years that was just a trip to Florida but we found that it was more beneficial to us to have that time together as a family and away from work and responsibilities to just enjoy each other. God even started blessing us for our efforts. Carsten received a full paid scholarship to the Little People of America Conference and I received a full paid scholarship to She Speaks. That is just a couple of the ways God blessed us. We were also careful to listen to His voice through all of this. There were times that He told us not sell things but to give them away and we are talking about stuff I could have made some good money on. But, sometimes He blesses us so that we can bless others: not ourselves.

Financially, we are much better off today than we were just two years ago but we still use most of these principles to have financial freedom. We save for big things, buy previously adored items, and shop for the best deals. We still have some debt to go but we are on track to have everything (including the mortgage) paid off in a few years. I’m pretty excited about that.

Below you will find some of the forms we use in the financial section of our Household Binder. In addition to these, we use some printables from Dave Ramsey and Crown Financial.

NOTE: Fonts used are Lainie Day and Courier New. Install them on your computer before downloading printables. Download the printables for this section:

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use only cash

How to Make “Pretty” Envelopes for the Envelope System

We have been using the envelope system control our spending. It has helped tremendously. I’ll share more about our road to financial freedom in the next post but first I wanted to share with you how I make our envelopes a bit more pleasing to the eye.

I start off with a regular envelope and some coordinating cardstock. Next I measure the envelope and I create a template. I do this because envelope sizes vary depending on the brand. Having the template avoids me having to measure it each time. The cardstock should be equal width to the envelope. The bottom portion should fold up to just slightly above the v-shaped opening and then it should fold around to just cover the flap. After measuring the first one simply mark it on the paper by scoring it or using a pencil.

Cover one envelope at this point just to be sure your template is accurate. Be sure to fold or score each one in the appropriate places prior to gluing.

I use snail strip glue across the bottom portion of the envelope then I glue the bottom portion to it. It should just reach or go slightly above the v-shaped opening.

Next I use the snail strip glue to cover the front portion of the envelope. Glue it down.

Next you can glue the remaining cardstock to the top flap. I usually leave a small overhang to make sure I have enough to cover it. After I glue it down I just trim the excess.

When you are done your envelope should resemble this one.

TIP: To prevent the glue on the flap from ever sticking in the future due to accidental spills and humidity, what I do is wet them with a wet cotton swab prior to using them and then sprinkle them with baby powder.  After coating it dust off any excess. This ensures that they never get sticky again.

Much better than a plain old envelope, right?

Now you can decorate and label them any way you like. The categories I use are groceries, auto (covers gas, repairs, car wash, etc), fun money, home repairs, clothing, gifts, personal, and education.

I store these in our home safe when we aren’t using them and take one out when it is needed. The fact that they coordinate just makes me giddy. :)

We make ours because, well, because the whole point is to save money and use what you have but, if you want to buy some pretty envelopes then this girl is the person to go to. She sells sets of money envelopes in her Etsy shop and they are purdy if I say so myself. You can find them here: Kelleigh Ratzlaff Designs.

For more information about the envelope system you can check out these posts:

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last set printables

Crafts, Design Planner, House Rules, Kids Chores, Family Tree, etc for Household Binder – Part 5

This is part 5 in a 7 part series. You will find all printables/forms located at the bottom of this post. All printables are in .docx files and can be edited using Microsoft Word or the free open source software called Open Office. This set of printables is from the Simple Magnolia set. Other sets will be released in the coming weeks including the Textured Vintage, Frooty Fun, and Crafty Mama sets. For an index of all posts in this series visit this link: Life Management Notebook.

You may have noticed that I skipped the section on finances. That is because it is a big post that requires a “pre-post” on how and why we use certain forms. I want to make sure you understand the hows and whys so I am taking my time with that one. ;)

Hobbies and Crafts Section

Project Planner:

We are always doing projects. Whether it is for leisure, home improvement, kids’ education, or work related, we always have one in the works. This sheet helps us to stay organized and on task. I also keep my receipts from the project in an envelope inside my binder.

Design Layout:

This printable was originally created for scrapbooking but I have also used it for cards, altered composition notebooks, and other paper projects. Also, with a little bit of tweaking, I use it for interior design projects. :)

Quick Reference for Kids, House Rules, etc. Section

Family Tree:

I like having a family tree in our binder so that the kids can use it for reference and also so that I have it if I need it. I put all of the names on here but then I also put medical notes by each person so that I have the information handy when I need it.

House Rules:

There have been times when mom and dad forget that they have instituted a new rule. This is confusing to kids and frustrating for us parents. So what I’ve done is listed all of our house rules in our binder and if they change due to seasons of life or change of circumstances then we have to change it on the sheet and print out a new one. This is also helpful when the grandparents come over to watch the kids and they pull the ever famous “mom and dad let me do it” scheme. Grandpa can whip out the binder and look at the house rules and know instantly whether or not Junior is telling the truth.

Kids Daily Routine:

One too many times my children have said, “I forgot” in reference to their responsibilities. Can I tell you that I understand? I forget things too that is why I made this reminder for them. If they are even in doubt as to what they should be doing each day then they can glance at this sheet and get right back on track. You can personalize it with your kids’ names, chores, etc.

Child Quick Stats Sheet:

Each child has a “Quick Stats” sheet. I update this sheet once a year. On it I have a recent photo, the child’s fingerprints, and important information like date of birth, height/weight, allergies, medical conditions and such. I keep these quick stats sheets in a page protector. Behind this sheet I keep copies of other things that are relevant to that child: birth certificate, shot records, medical documents and anything else we may need.

 

NOTE: Fonts used are Lainie Day and Courier New. Install them on your computer before downloading printables. Download the printables for this section: