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  • Working on my home instead of shopping

    These last few weeks, I’ve been feeling reluctant about going shopping, even when the deals are good. I finally realized that I didn’t like the idea of bringing more stuff into the house, even when it’s stuff that I know we will use, when I feel like there’s too much stuff in the house already.

    So I’ve been concentrating on getting my house in order and I feel better for it. In the last week, I’ve filed three months and shredded three bags worth of papers. I’ve thrown out stuff we don’t use. I’ve scrubbed my foyer floor and gotten it cleaner than it’s been in years.

    I keep looking around for more stuff to get rid of, but a lot of what I see is stuff that needs to be used up. So that’s part of what’s keeping me from wanting to shop too – we already have so much, and even a rock bottom price isn’t enough to lure me into a store. Pretty much all the shopping that I’ve been doing has been for perishables, or to replace things that we’ve used up.

    I don’t know if this is a cyclical thing or if I’m going to feel this way long term now. Either way, though, I’m okay with it, even if it does end up costing us a little more money in the long run. I’ll always have some extra stuff around, and maybe once I’ve gotten rid of stuff, I’ll find that I have a greater storage capacity.

    The important thing, though, is that I want my home to be a peaceful haven. And if that means not stocking a lot of extra stuff, then I’ll keep my shopping to a minimum.

    Prepare for the weekend with a Weekly Home Blessing Hour

    The most valuable thing I’ve learned from FlyLady is that I don’t have to clean my house perfectly to make a difference. One of the ways FlyLady teaches this lesson is through the Weekly Home Blessing Hour, which is “the time FlyLady spends slipshod cleaning her home” by vacuuming, dusting, mopping, polishing mirrors and doors, purging magazines, changing the sheets, and emptying the trash.

    My favorite part of this is the vacuuming because, as she puts it, you only vacuum the middles – i.e., the middle of the floors. “Just the middles” has been my mantra more than once when I haven’t felt like vacuuming.

    FlyLady does her Weekly Home Blessing Hour on Mondays; I’ve been trying to get in the habit of doing mine on Fridays, so that my house is ready for the weekend, which is when we spend the most time together in it as a family. My habit is very much a work in progress, but I try to at least vacuum and clear the floors and tables. I find that this makes the house as a whole look and feel clean, especially when you first walk in. And that’s always a good feeling.

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    My New Housecleaning System (Work in Progress)

    Ever since our oldest child was born, I’ve struggled with the housecleaning. I can keep our house clean enough, but the house never feels really clean to me. I neglect anything that’s not day to day, like the blinds, the baseboards, etc. And I struggle to get all of the day to day done, like the vacuuming, the bathrooms, the kitchen floor, etc.

    The only things I really have a handle on are the laundry and the kitchen sink. The laundry, because I spend enough time at home to do it all. And the sink, because I’ve never been the type to let dishes pile up overnight, and because of Flylady‘s first lesson of housecleaning: Shine your sink.

    I’ve mentioned Flylady before as someone who gives great advice on cleaning your house. I get a little put out by all the product pushing they do in their daily emails (testimonial after testimonial about how wonderful their water bottles and scrubbers are). But I read the emails regularly because their basic premise is sound and inspiring. I love the message that housecleaning done imperfectly still blesses my family, and there are helpful tidbits that I pick up on.

    Like this one: A couple of months ago, there was a note from a “Flybaby” who said that she never knows what she’s going to feel up to doing when she gets home from work, so she keeps a list of her weekly cleaning chores and crosses them off as they get done.

    I thought that was brilliant – and so in the last few weeks, I’ve created my own list. There’s a section for weekly chores, like vacuuming, the bathrooms, etc. There’s a section for monthly chores like more detailed vacuuming (with the hose), a donation trip to Goodwill or the Salvation Army (decluttering!), scrubbing the dish rack, etc. And there’s a section for less frequent chores like oiling my wood counter tops (twice per year), cleaning the blinds in each room, etc.

    I printed off the list and slid it into a sheet protector which I taped to the inside of a kitchen cabinet (I don’t really need visitors knowing that I haven’t cleaned the blinds in the family room yet this year). I use a dry erase marker to cross off activities, and I can wipe the marks off as needed (weekly, monthly, and so on).

    This system is working for me because I can see what’s been done and what’s left to be done, and I really enjoy the satisfaction of crossing things off. Plus I don’t have a nagging feeling in my head of “I need to do that” – it’s on the list and I’ll get to it.

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    Ten Tips for Decluttering Your House

    As I mentioned last week, I’ve been decluttering like crazy. But the wonderful thing is, I haven’t driven myself crazy doing it. Instead, I’ve embraced the Flylady tenet that you can do a lot in a little bit of time, and that you don’t need to be perfect. Here are some concrete tips that I’ve been following that have helped me get a lot done:

    1. Start small, and keep it small. I want to declutter my house from top to bottom, but that’s an overwhelming task. What’s manageable is decluttering one shelf, one box or one drawer at a time. Even one file at a time, which is how I’ve been going through my filing cabinet. It also means that I can declutter even when I have only five minutes to kill before I leave the house.

    2. Plan ahead on how to re-organize. Planning ahead will help you figure out what to keep, what to toss, and how to arrange the space as you purge.

    3. But don’t get caught up in perfectionism. Sometimes you just can’t figure out what the space should look like, or how it should function as you’re working on it. And that’s okay. I’ve been decluttering boxes by pulling out the things that I know I can get rid of. Since I don’t yet know what I’m going to do with the stuff that’s left, I just put it back in the box and stick the box back where it was. Eventually, I’ll figure out what to do with that stuff and it will be easier to put away because there won’t be unnecessary extras that I have to weed out.

    4. Use three groups: Keep, Donate, Toss. As you purge, separate your things into three piles: Keep, Donate and Toss. The Keep pile should be put away as soon as you’re done purging, even if, as I just said, it goes right back into the space. Keep it out of the way for now and find a permanent home for it later if you need to. The Toss pile should find its way into the trash bin immediately. For the Donate pile, you’ll need to find a system that works for you.

    5. Don’t procrastinate on the donating and tossing. As mentioned above, the Toss pile should leave your home immediately. I keep the Donate pile around for a while until I can create an itemized list for tax purposes, but I’ve learned not to wait too long or the Donate pile itself becomes an energy drain. If possible, plan a regular monthly or weekly run to Goodwill, or schedule a pick up so you have a deadline.

    6. Set boundaries on what you’re going to keep. Before you start purging, decide on the reasons something makes it into the Keep pile. Among the questions I ask are: Do I need this for legal reasons? (E.g., tax documents should be kept for at least seven years.) How likely will I need this? (I have a bunch of kitchen gadgets that I may not use often but will definitely use again, which makes them keepers.) Can I get another one? (I keep only a few extra towels and sheets, on the theory that it’s easy to get more if I end up needing them.) How many do I need? (I finally realized that I don’t need a hundred unmatched card envelopes!)

    7. Do little projects when inspiration strikes. On the spur of the moment, I have taken fifteen minutes to clean out dresser drawers, a box on my desk, a book shelf, etc. And I felt great afterwards.

    8. Shred as you go, or have a place for paper clutter. I am purging a lot of paper clutter, much of which needs to be shredded because it contains personal information. After Alex was born, I started keeping my shredder in a closet for safety reasons, so now I have a box under my desk for papers that need to be shredded. Every so often – preferably when the kids aren’t home – I plug in the shredder and shred a bunch of papers at once. It’s not a particularly fun task, but I can do it while watching TV, and it feels good to get all of those papers out of the house.

    9. Reward yourself. It always helps to have something to look forward to, so whether it’s sitting down with a cup of tea and a magazine, or buying something you love for your newly decluttered closet, plan to reward yourself when you’re done.

    10. Keep the end in mind. Having less stuff means your house is easier to clean, you can bless others with what you no longer want, you have less stress, your house is more comfortable and cleaner for your family, etc. I’m also finding that it makes me think twice about buying more things – even things that we will eventually use, like toiletries. I have a good stockpile thanks to The Drugstore Game, so I’ve decided that I can wait for absolute rock bottom prices (which often means free) on just about everything.

    Adjusting to Kindergarten: Desperate for a Routine

    Today is the last day of our first week of kindergarten, and I am desperate to get into a routine. Because once I have a routine for school, then I can create a routine for myself. This first week has really been about adjusting to kindergarten and definitely not about me adjusting to not working.

    I am trying to get the timing down for our morning routine – when my son should eat breakfast so that he’s not hungry well before morning snack time at school, how long it takes me to pack his snack and lunch, how long it takes to put on sunscreen, how long it takes us to walk to school, etc.

    The biggest adjustment I have had to make is in packing snack and lunch. I packed his lunch every day for preschool (see my previous bento posts here), but after the first day, when he came home with half his lunch still in his lunch box, I remembered something I’d read over at Lunch in a Box last year: kindergartners have a lot less time to eat than preschoolers.

    Back in preschool, lunch was a leisurely affair. Since most of the older kids don’t need naps, lunch time often lasted an hour. The kids all ate at their own pace, and it was a fun, relaxing time – especially during the summer, when the class ate outside. They could even be noisy, since they didn’t have to worry about waking the younger kids who were sleeping.

    Now, though, the kinder kids seem to get forty-five minutes to eat and use the bathroom. (I’m not clear on whether there’s any play time during this period.) My son came home on Wednesday with his container of fruit untouched, so I decided to try something different yesterday: I packed his fruit in his snack instead. And he ate it.

    I’m packing smaller lunches now, and trying to think of foods that he can eat quickly while avoiding foods that take more time, like anything that requires assembly (such as homemade “Lunchable”-style kits). I need to pick up a small thermos that can keep foods warm, so I can pack some chicken nuggets, pizza and pasta. He’s been pretty hungry in the afternoon when he gets home from school, so I think I will increase the size of his morning snack next week (he’s always been able to finish the snack).

    Homework starts next week, and that will probably require another adjustment. I am hoping to tackle homework together right after his snack so that it’s done by dinner time. Is it too much to hope that by the end of next week, I’ll be feeling settled in? 🙂