Hope for the End-of-the-School-Year Parent

Hope for the End-of-the-School-Year Parent

Hope for the End-of-the-School-Year Parent

Hope for the End-of-the-School-Year Parent: 5 Tips for Finishing the year strong!

About this time of year, I start seeing the horrible-end-of-the-school-year-parent posts crop up. You know the ones: where the blogger laughs about how they sent their kids to school with dirty clothes, a lunch consisting of broken graham crackers and wilted carrot sticks, and a sad reading log that hasn’t been signed off in weeks. While I’ve definitely had a laugh in the past at my own shortcomings, I have to admit, I’m personally getting a bit weary of the “we’re all awful, so let’s own it, laugh, and shrug” type Internet musings.

Now I’m far from the most organized parent you’ll find, but I am here to tell you that I’m still at it, making my very best effort to encourage my kids to end the year strong. So if there’s hope for me, there’s hope for you. Today I thought I’d share 5 tips that are helping me make it until that oh-so-amazing Last Day of School two weeks from now!

Tip #1: Keep up your Menu Plan & Grocery Shopping

It’s amazing to me how far the ripple effects of taking time out to plan meals and grocery shop go! Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • We eat better. It’s easier to eat nutritiously when you’ve planned ahead to do so! Eating better means we feel better and have more energy.
  • We save money. Grabbing take out is no longer a temptation when you have a delicious dinner in the slow cooker.
  • It helps us stick with a routine. Having a family dinner in place each night helps structure our after-school activities.

The simple act of planning and prepping your meals will help make you feel more in control and organized, even when your energy is waning. Keep it up! [Read more…]


Amazon: ClosetMaid Adjustable 8-Tier Wall/Door Rack $29.80!



This is one tempting deal! Amazon is currently offering the ClosetMaid Adjustable 8-Tier Wall and Door Rack for just $29.80. This is 52% off the regular retail price and less than a buck off the lowest price its been on Amazon. It’s also the best selling spice rack on Amazon and has an average 4.5-star rating after 700+ customer reviews.

Here are some details, about this product:

  • You can easily reposition baskets to accommodate different heights of items you wish to store.
  • Works great over the pantry door to help store your spices and other pantry items.
  • All hardware for door and wall mounting is included.
  • You can also use it in other spots of your house as needed.

As always, prices can change at any time and without warning on Amazon. If you are interested in this deal, I’d encourage you to snag it now.


One Month In: Update on my 2016 Resolutions

One Month In: Update on My 2016 Resolutions

One Month In: Update on my 2016 Resolutions

One Month In: Update on my 2016 Resolutions

This year, I’ve made three resolutions:

  1. Organize the family photos.
  2. Create a family budget to achieve small and big financial goals.
  3. Floss every day.

As today is February 1st, I thought I’d reflect on how I’m progressing on these goals and share some thoughts with you.

Resolution #1: Organize the family photos.

I’ve not made any progress on this goal, but quite frankly – I’m not worried. I am hoping to finish decluttering our house and tackle a few other pressing items on our agenda first. This goal may not get touched until late spring or even summer and I’m OK with that. So long as I’ve completed it by year-end 2016, I’ll count it a success.

Resolution #2: Create a family budget.

My husband and I had a good conversation about our financial goals for both the short- and long-term. I think this is a very good place to start! I am very much a person that likes to see the big picture first, so this conversation was very helpful in forming how our budget may look.

The other thing we did that was very helpful (and eye opening!) was taking the time to examine our last three months of bank statements. We definitely saw some areas of improvement as well as some patterns (for instance, weeks we didn’t grocery shop properly, we ended up eating out more). I’m hopeful that having actual numbers will help us create more accurate expectations with our budget and goals.

All in all, I’m very pleased with our efforts for January. I know this is going to be a process and something that may take several months to tweak.

Resolution #3: Floss every day.

I’m going to be honest, I have not flossed every day. But, I’ve flossed almost every day. I was sure bummed the morning I woke up and realized I’d blown my flossing streak, but I decided that building the habit of flossing was more important than a “perfect” streak.

I think this is why we often tend to let go of our resolutions. In a moment of weakness or plain forgetfulness, we mess up. And instead of seeing it as a hiccup, we write it off as a total failure and we give up. I truly think good habits take more than a month to form. This was certainly true for me when I was learning to eat and exercise better.

I encourage you if you’re starting to feel your resolve wane to not give up on yourself. Course correct if necessary, adjust your expectations, adjust your method, but keep going.

I will say, in only a month of nearly-every day flossing, I’ve already seen some positive impacts:

  • I’m taking better care of myself in general. I’ve stepped up my skin care routine. I made a check-up appointment with a doctor I’ve been meaning to do for over a year.
  • My gums don’t bleed! Probably after a week and a half of regular flossing, my gums stopped bleeding. I know that might sound kind of gross, but I find the improvement really exciting. It makes me want to just pop by the dentist’s office randomly to show them!
  • My teeth just feel cleaner. It’s kind of hard to explain, but my teeth just feel cleaner. Sure, I brushed my teeth regularly before, but I’m amazed how much of a difference this extra step has made.

But probably the biggest impact all this flossing has had on me is this: I now believe it is possible to form a new, healthy habit. I’m encouraged and excited to take this new-found inspiration and apply it to the other two resolutions I want to make good on in 2016.

What resolutions did you set for yourself for 2016? Are you making good on those resolutions? To read more on my resolutions, please see My Three Resolutions.

family calendar

2016 Wall Calendar (Wet Erase; Laminated): $8.98 (& why we’ve done this for years!)

family calendar

2016 Wall Calendar For at least the last 6 years now, my husband and I head to the office store and purchase a giant at-a-glance laminated calendar like the one pictured above. This calendar gets filled out with my husband’s work schedule (he’s a firefighter, so the days he works rotate), special days/vacations, and birthdays. We then tape it up on the inside of our pantry door, like so:familycalendar

I know it sounds so simple; but it’s really been a life saver! Before implementing this method, I’d never know what to say to friends when we received an invitation three-four weeks out. “I’ll have to check with Terry’s schedule and get back to you!” Now I can just go over and glance at the entire year to see when he’s working and what we’ve got going on.

I know that many people love using their phones and programs such as Google Calendar to track stuff like this, but there is definitely something nice about being able to just glace at your family’s schedule in one spot, easily.

We already have our 2016 calendar up on the door – I can’t imagine not having it there now, because it’s been so helpful!

While we’ve paid over $20 for ours at the local office store, you might be interested to know you can score a similar one for just $8.98 on Amazon right now.


You may also wish to pick up a pack of Wet Erase markers, like these 8-pack  (currently for about $6.50). One idea my husband came up that I love is color coding our calendar. He selects one color for birthdays and another for work days. What else could you track on your family’s calender?

  • Sports schedules
  • After-school activities
  • Volunteer schedule
  • Garbage/Recycle days
  • Home & Car maintenance reminders
  • Date nights
  • Goal tracking (to sync with your New Year’s resolutions!)
  • Many other ideas!

Head to Amazon to check out the calendar and wet-erase markers.

Do you do something similar like this in your home? Other tips for organizing your family’s 2016 calendar?

My 3 New Year's Resolutions

My Three Resolutions for 2016 (and the Ideas that Didn’t Make the Cut)

My 3 New Year's Resolutions

My 3 New Year's Resolutions

I find it funny that so many people abhor resolutions. While I don’t think we have to wait until January 1st rolls around to set on pursuing something we’d like to accomplish, I do think many people could benefit from some good old fashioned self reflection.

As I explained in my post on 4 tips for writing resolutions that stick, I think the problem is often people write unrealistic or unachievable resolutions. I actually have followed through on resolutions in the past where they were clearly defined and achievable (like in 2009 when I wanted to start a blog, or in 2014 when I wanted to lose 30 pounds, or this year when I wanted to run a mile in less than 7 minutes and spend an hour a week volunteering or serving others). It’s a pretty amazing feeling when you’ve hit your goal and can say, “I did it!”

The other night, I brainstormed dozens of resolutions. Next, I gave myself several days to mull them over. Which ones kept popping in my mind as important, significant, compelling? In the end, I’ve decided on three. I wanted to share what made my list (and what didn’t) in hopes you might find it helpful in nailing down your own plan for 2016. [Read more…]

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

7 Books to Help with your New Year’s Resolutions

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

7 Must-Read Books for your New Year's Resolutions!

The New Year is upon us! I love the possibilities of a New Year, and a chance to start fresh. Today I wanted to share some of my favorite books to help you jump start your resolutions. I have personally read and/or owned all of these, so they are coming with my hearty recommendation.

For convenience, I’ve included Amazon links to each of the titles below. However, in many cases you should be able to locate these books at your local library if you wish!

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Better Than Before: What I Learned about Making and Breaking Habits – to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life by Gretchen Rubin

This was my book club’s pick for December and what a great discussion it produced! You might recognize the author, Gretchen Rubin, because she wrote the bestseller The Happiness Project. Better than Before would be an excellent read no matter that your New Year’s Resolutions are. In this book, she uncovers the role habits have in our life – both good and bad. She shares how to develop habits that you want in your life, and how to protect them from self-sabotage. It was a very thought-provoking, yet easy read.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Chances are you’ve seen this title floating around: and for good reason, it’s a #1 New York Times Bestseller that’s easy to read, yet offers solid advice. I picked this book up myself last month and managed to read it in three sittings. There are a couple things that made this book different from other organizing books I’ve read: 1) Kondo claims that none of her clients have relapsed to disorganization (um… wow!) and 2) she advocates decluttering by category, not room.

[Read more…]


10 Storage Solutions for Handling Kid Paperwork


10 Storage Solutions for Kids' Paperwork #organization #storage

Kids Paperwork Organization Ideas

Just yesterday, I was chatting with a friend about how difficult it can be to stay up on kids’ papers! It’s one of those categories that can create real clutter really quickly if you don’t have systems in place to handle it. This week, I’ve been getting my house ready for fall and back to school and organizing those papers is very much on my mind. I thought I’d share a few items I found on Amazon that may help create control.

These items cover a number of situations you may encounter with kids’ paperwork – storing it, dealing with the day-to-day homework, and displaying the very best pieces.


#1 – Alex Art Expanding Portfolio: $14.50 (ships free with Prime)

My friend said she ended up buying these expanding portfolios for her kids. They have 9 pockets so you can store special projects from grades K – 8. There’s even a slot for the child’s photo on the front! I love how these portfolios hold over-sized artwork up to 12″ x 18″. I’m definitely thinking of picking up a couple of these to store my kids’ very best work. This is a best-selling item that has received very solid ratings on Amazon from other customers!


#2 – 3-Compartment Folder Holder: $12.44 (ships free with Prime)

How do you handle all the papers and homework that come in on a daily basis from school? This attractive paper holder could fit on a kitchen counter or other space to hold paperwork and folders until it’s time to deal with them.


#3 – Classroom Keeper 6 Drawer Storage Shelf: $19.75 + FREE shipping

There are so many possibilities for how you could use this organizer! Give each child his/her own drawer, store filler and computer paper, create incoming/outgoing slots, use it for sorting mail. I am envisioning cute labels on this one and I think it would tuck nicely in a pantry or counter space.


#4 – Classroom Keeper Magazine Holders, set of 6 in assorted colors: $16.37 (ships free with Prime)

Here’s another option for dealing with paperwork: color coded holders! One could be for homework that needs to be done, another could be for items to be filed, another still for your own bills/action items.


#5 – Set of 10 Bankers Boxes: $19.71 (ships free with Prime)

[Read more…]

Soccer Parents Survival Guide

Soccer Parent Survival Guide: Our Family’s Favorite 7 Items

Soccer Parents Survival Guide

Soccer Parent Survival Guide: 7 Top Items

Fall means something special around here: SOCCER SEASON! I’ve been a proud soccer mom for several years now! Here’s my little soccer player – he’s playing at the U10 level this year and we’re doing year-round soccer at this point:

DSCN9774 (600x800)

My husband spent a few years coaching his team, we’ve enjoyed participating on several tournaments, and we’ve watched our son play in rain and shine. Over the years, we’ve learned from other parents (and trial and error) and have slowly acquired a few items that have made our experience more enjoyable. I thought I’d take the time out to share what some of those items are, particularly if you’re new to soccer.

Without further ado, here are the items that frequently make their way into the trunk of our car:

Coleman Camping Chair

1. Folding Camping Chairs. I’d put this as THE most essential item for soccer parents! Only rarely do we arrive to a field where there are bleachers or benches. The Coleman chair pictured sells for about $22-$36 on Amazon (depending on color) and includes a cooler. Given that you’ll be using it a lot, I recommend you go for comfort. During the summer, you’ll find many parents with chairs that include umbrella tops. Other places to watch for a deal in my area: Costco and Fred Meyer.

Rolling Sports Cart

2. Rolling Sports Cart. At our first tournament, we found ourselves lugging chairs, sports equipment, snacks, and water bottles all over God’s green earth. That’s when we noticed that many soccer families were using a rolling sports cart like this one (currently $68-$80 at Amazon, depending on color). We found one at Costco this summer and lemme tell you, it’s not gimmicky. The thing gets used! In fact, we used it just last weekend at an away soccer tournament.

You’ll often find that you do a fair amount of walking to get to your kid’s soccer field from the parking lot and it’s so handy to be able to throw all your gear into one of these bad boys and save your back! I love that they also have places to store your water bottles in the front. Other places to watch for deals: sporting good stores, Costco.  [Read more…]


Zulily: Save 60% on Garage Organizers (plus free shipping when you use VISA)


The Garage Organization Shop - up to 60% off At Zulily

Please note that I’m using affiliate links in the post below. Should you choose to make a purchase, I make a small commission which helps keep this site running. Thank you!


I’m in love with the current sale happening today at Zulily – it’s called the Garage-Organization Shop and you’ll find a variety of organizers priced at up to 60% off.

Here are a just few highlights from the sale:

Sporting Goods Storage Rack

Sporting Goods Storage Rack: $25.99 (reg. $45)

Contains special hooks to hold bats and rackets! Organize footwear, balls, apparel and more.

Bike Storage Rack - Holds 6 Bikes

Gray Six-Bike Rack: $74.99 (reg. $99.99)

Get those bikes up off the garage floor!

Bin Storage Unit

30 Bin Wall-Mounted Storage Unit: $21.99 (reg. $50)

Great for sorting small items such as nails, screws, nuts, bolts, or craft supplies. We own something similar to this and it’s been great to keep small hardware organized for house projects!


6-Compartment Over the Door Organizer: $14.99 (reg. $30)

This organizing unit would be great behind the door headed to your garage… or maybe a utility closet or laundry room door! I bet you could clean out your junk drawer – store duck tape, super glue, small tools, batteries, and other important household items.

Non-slip Glow in the Dark Mats

Glow in the Dark Non-slip Mat (Set of 4): $11.99 (reg. $25)

For indoor or outdoor use – perfect for stairs!

If you use VISA checkout, you’ll score free shipping on your Zulily purchase today too! This Garage Organization sale runs for just a couple days, so I encourage you check it out now.


How to make a Vacation Folder (Simple Organizational Idea)


How to Make a Family Vacation Folder - Simple Organization Idea to make your next trip stress-free!For the past four vacations our family has gone on, I’ve assembled a simple Family Vacation Folder. Prior to this, I used to suffer from what I’d call Vacation Planning Anxiety. You know, those nagging thoughts that may come: Did I book the airfare for the correct dates? Do our hotel check-in/check-out dates line up with our schedule? Have we forgotten anything? 

Not only has putting a folder together like this reduced so much stress, it’s become a wonderful document to refer back to. We can see where we stayed, how much the trip cost, and how we laid out past itineraries. I keep the folder in the car or plane with me and typically find I use it constantly during the trip. Even if you’re a person that likes to handle everything via mobile, I believe you would find a folder like this to be of good use and a nice “back up” plan.

I like to use a simple pronged portfolio with 2-folders on the inside. You can often find these on sale during back-to-school season in the summer. Even off-season, you can probably find one for under a $1.

Here are some of the components I put in mine. Of course, you could add whatever applies to your particular trip:

Make a budget for your family's next vacation.

A budget. 

I love having these high-level pieces in place. We have an upcoming Disneyland trip and we’ve been budgeting for it since last June. It really helps to pay for things in stages like this! On my budget I’ve made notes about how we paid for it, if we still need to pay for it, etc. I’ve also estimated incidentals.

Ideas for organizing a simple family vacation itinerary.

An itinerary.

An itinerary is useful, particularly if you’ll be going to different places on different days.

I loved the way I laid out my itinerary on last year’s roadtrip: I included important phone and confirmation numbers right on the sheet. I loved being able to email this to a few family members for emergency reference, too.

Here’s another easy method for laying out a rough itinerary:

Easy method for planning a vacation itinerary.

I just printed out a blank calendar for the month of our trip in Outlook (but you could also find a similar template online, I’m sure). Then I made rough notes about where we’d be, and when. This may be useful for the initial planning stages of your vacation too.
Printing out hotel and air reservations for your family's vacation folder.

Hotel and Transportation Reservations. 

I know many people may like to have this available on their phone, but I personally like to print out this information as well and keep it tucked in my folder. Our folder for our upcoming Disney trip includes reservation print outs for hotel, air, rental car, and dog boarding. I still need to reserve our airport parkingIncluding maps & directions for a family vacation folder.

Maps, directions, and other helpful notes. 

I don’t print many maps, because we do use a phone and atlas for bigger roadtrips, but I may print out directions to points of interest or things that I’m curious about during my vacation planning. Here, I printed out a map with directions from our hotel to Disneyland because I was curious about the distance.

Using receipts to track vacation expenses.

Envelopes for Receipts. 

I very much use this folder throughout the trip, which means stuff often gets added to it along the way. One tip you might find useful is to put some envelopes for sorting receipts. At the end of the trip, you’ll be able to see how much you spent on food, gas, souveniers, etc. This can help you more effectively budget for your next trip.

Here are a few additional things I’ve put in my folders before:

  • Copies of insurance cards and paperwork. Good idea if you’re planning on renting a car! Last year, I also ended up at an urgent care clinic on a trip (don’t worry – nothing too serious!), and realized I’d left my insurance card at home. Thank goodness my husband had his in his wallet. I now have a copy of all four of our cards that goes in the folder, along with a copy of our most current car insurance policy and roadside assistance information. You may wish to use this as a gentle nudge to call your insurance rep prior to your trip to make sure you’re adequately covered.
  • Car rental agreement. If we rent a car, I like to put the agreement with any receipts into the folder for safekeeping.
  • Attraction & event information. One of the reasons we’re headed to Disney is so I can run the Star Wars Half Marathon. It’s important to me that I’ve included information about the Expo, my race waiver, and course map in my folder. If you have a special event or attraction you’re hoping to hit on your trip, you could include necessary information in your folder.
  • Brochures and mementos. A trip folder is a good way to keep those postcards, brochures, and other similar souveniers neatly organized when you get back from your trip!

I love having these vacation folders as reminders of special memories our family has shared. Not only do they help you stay organized for your vacation, they serve as a nice token of your trip after you return, too.

Now it’s your turn: have you ever put a folder like this together before? Do you have any ideas on what else you might include?

PS you might want to check out these posts for more reading:

101 Resolutions You Might Not have thought of

101 Resolutions You May Not have Thought Of!

101 Resolutions You Might Not have thought of

101 Resolutions you might not have thought of! - {perfect for brainstorming this year's goals!}

Yesterday I shared a post entitled 6 Tips for Achieving your Resolutions. But what if you’re stumped about what your resolutions should (or could!) be for 2015? To help get you thinking, I’ve brainstormed a list of 101 Resolutions. Of course, these are met to help get you thinking. Feel free to take them, modify, and expand to apply to your life. The idea is to provide you with some inspiration!

1. Read one book a month.
2. Host a dinner party once a month.
3. Take a cooking class.
4. Write a handwritten letter or card once a week.
5. Try a new recipe once a week.
6. Run a 5k.
7. Get your SCUBA license.
8. Go skydiving.
9. Return your library materials on time, every time this year. (*AHEM!*)
10. Make regular time for your children, one on one.
11. Read a book aloud with your spouse.
12. Grow a vegetable garden.
13. Sign up to volunteer for a cause you believe in.
14. Sponsor a child.
15. Run a 5K.
16. Complete a triathlon.
17. Volunteer in your child’s school twice a month.
18. Declutter your home.
19. Climb a mountain.
20. Travel somewhere you’ve always wanted to go.
21. Fund a $1,000 emergency savings. 
22. Pay off your credit cards.
23. Start a blog.
24. Meet with a friend for coffee at least once a month.
25. Take up a new exercise (kickboxing, yoga, crossfit).
26. Keep your kitchen counter clear of clutter.
27. Get up a half hour earlier every morning.
28. Go to bed a half hour earlier every evening.
29. Reduce the time you spend watching TV/surfing the web and invest it in a new hobby.
30. Start logging your food intake.
31. Run a half marathon.
32. Run a full marathon.
33. Clean your closet.
34. Drink 6 glasses of water each day.
35. Swap out your second cup of coffee for a cup of tea each day.
36. Take a multivitamin.
37. Adopt a pet from the local shelter.
38. Teach your kids something they aren’t learning in school.
39. Learn a new language.
40. Complete a nagging home repair project.
41. Make amends with someone you’ve wronged in the past.
42. Help a friend meet one of their goals.
43. Seek out and support locally-owned businesses in your city.
44. Take a photography class.
45. Create a better system for handling your mail.
46. Create a scrapbook of your memories from last year.
47. Organize your kids’ artwork.
48. Stay on top of doctor and dental visits.
49. Seek counseling for an issue that’s been difficult or painful for you to face alone.
50. Make conscious efforts to befriend someone you know who’s lonely.
51. Make dinner from home 5 nights a week.
52. Limit the coffee you buy out to twice a week.
53. Have a date night with your spouse twice a month.
54. Put a will and estate plan in place.
55. Review your insurance policies.
56. Review your credit report and identify areas for improvement.
57. Move to using cash for certain expenses, like groceries and entertainment.
58. Find a way to earn $100 extra per month.
59. Start planning a dream vacation.
60. Try a new fruit or vegetable once a week.
61. Visit someplace in your city you’ve always wondered about, but never stopped to explore.
62. Find an accountability partner.
63. Start journaling.
64. Write a book.
65. Make a career change.
66. Learn to paint.
67. Go hot air ballooning.
68. Pursue a pilot’s license.
69. Go back to school.
70. Organize your family’s photos.
71. Organize a family photo shoot.
72. Plan a family reunion.
73. Plan a reunion with old friends.
74. Learn to sew.
75. Get regular manicures.
76. Run a faster mile.
77. Schedule at least 30 minutes of “me time” everyday.
78. Read the Bible through, chronologically.
79. Watch 100 of the best films ever made.
80. Watch all the films Wikipedia lists to be the worst ever made.
81. Learn to do a handstand.
82. Learn to do a back flip.
83. Learn to do the splits.
84. Repaint your bedroom.
85. Learn how to restore furniture.
86. Go back and complete a goal from last year that you didn’t finish.
87. Make a pen pal.
88. Mentor someone.
89. Learn to can.
90. Eliminate impulse grocery shopping trips.
91. Learn to salsa.
92. Learn how to make salsa.
93. Face something that scares you.
94. Clean out your car and trunk once a week.
95. Organize your garage.
96. Make regular time for social outings.
97. Bring a friend or family member in need a meal once a week.
98. Start each day by identifying your top 3 goals. 
99. Start a Facebook accountability group with your friends.
100. Start a new family tradition.
101. Tell your family you love them every day.

Phew! I hope you’ve got some good inspiration for your goals today! What else would you add to my list? 


6 Tips for Achieving your Resolutions


How to make resolutions that matter - and how to achieve them

Over the past few weeks, I have been reflecting a lot on my resolutions for 2015. Part of that process has been thinking about goals from prior years. Some of them have been successes while others, failures. What has made the difference? After consideration, I came up with six tips that can make a difference in turning your goals into realities.

Tip #1: Make clearly-defined, actionable goals. 

If your goal for the year is to “become more healthy,” I’d encourage you define what that looks like. “Lose 20 pounds,” “attend kickboxing lessons once a week,” or “cook from home 5 nights a week” are all better goals because they are specific and most importantly, you’ll know when you’ve met them.

Sometimes the process of writing your goals out will force you to define them. Have you taken the time to do that yet?

Tip #2: Break a large goal into smaller parts. 

When I set out to lose 30 pounds last year, I decided to break it out into increments of 4-5 pounds that I would focus on monthly. Each month, I’d print out a calendar and write a workout schedule. On the top of that month, I’d write my current weight and then my goal weight. I would then tape this up on my refrigerator where I’d see it frequently. Every day, I’d refer to that schedule and make that day’s workout one of my 3 Most Important Things to accomplish.

While it sounds very simple, it absolutely worked. It’s much easier to focus on what you need to do in a given day or even month than the space of 6-12 months. For 2015, I’m approaching our financial goals in a similar fashion.

Tip #3: Share your goals with a friend. 

The tendency a lot of us have when we start a new goal is to blab about it on Facebook. “Hey everyone! I’m going to start a new workout program this month!” I get it, trust me I do. I’ve done this before (and probably will continue to do it!). But you know what’s far more effective? Finding one or two friends or accountability partners you can meet with and discuss your goals at length. I’m so grateful to have a dear friend in my life that I share this with. Currently, we’ve decided to come up with a goal for a number of categories (spiritual, physical, family, community, etc.) and then we’re going to meet for an hour or so next week and discuss. We meet regularly which means I know I’ll be asked about my goals throughout the year. Even better, she challenges me and I know she’s going to have some great thoughts and suggestions for how I can meet my goals in 2015!

Tip #4: Consider coming up with a word focus. 

Last year, I was inspired by a number of blogs that I read that encouraged coming up with a one word focus for your year. I came up with the word Intention and it was perfect for 2014. That word frequently would come to mind as I’d go about my day. It was among my most successful years, ever. Even though we’re into 2015, that word will continue to have a huge impact on my life.

This year, my word is “Serve,” and so the majority of my goals will tie into the focus of giving to and helping others. Some of the words my friends have chosen for 2015 include home, minimal, discipline, conquer, and focus. I love all of these words and the potential for how they could inspire a year’s worth of goals and action! You could also use an image or symbol if you tend to be visual.

[Read more…]


12 Favorite Items for Top New Year’s Resolutions (hint: some are free!)


12 Resources & Products: for top new Year's Resolutions

Can you believe it’s New Year’s Eve already? If you’re like me, you’re madly planning your New Year’s Resolutions! What will your goals be – to finally declutter your home? Pay off that nagging credit card bill? Maybe lose those 30 pounds you’ve been carrying?

For fun, I thought I’d share some of my favorite products and resources to help you with your New Year’s Resolutions this year. I’ve worked to include a number of low-cost and no-cost resources for this list, too.

Resolution: Weight Loss


I know I’m starting this list with a shameless plug, but what can I say? It’s free! Yesterday I kicked off my January series – Losing Weight on a Budget. I’m going to be talking about everything I did to finally lose weight in 2014 and reach my goal! The series is going to cover all aspects of healthy weight loss including the mental aspects, how to make peace with food, fitness tips, and more. I promise: I’m not endorsing any weight loss product. I truly believe you can lose weight without spending money and I invite you to join me. Read the introduction, and then watch for new posts every Friday and Monday through January.


If you have a goal to lose weight, get in shape, eat better, or any combination of the above – please do yourself a favor and check out MyFitnessPal! It’s a free website and free app that you can use to track your food and fitness. MyFitnessPal can be custom tailored to ANY diet you are already following – Paleo, vegan, Whole30, reduced calorie, etc. MyFitnessPal was one of THE most instrumental tools in helping me get real about my eating in 2014. It was easy to use and didn’t consume large portions of my time because many foods and their data are already in the massive food database that millions of users have contributed to! Now that I’ve reached my weight loss goal, I’m still using MyFitnessPal to track my maintenance calories. I also regularly make use of the forums and community there to support my journey.

I consider MyFitnessPal to be a budget-friendly alternative to Weight Watchers.

garmin152The Garmin Forerunner 15 made my list of My Favorite 10 Products for 2014 and for good reason! This GPS running watch tracks my pace, my distance, and my calories! It has been so helpful for my running this year. The other day I was shocked to see my sprinting pace was 5:30! And, the watch helped me keep pace to hit a 5K PR! I also love that I can just head out my front door and run for 6, 7, 8+ miles without having to map a distance out ahead of time.

The other benefit to the Garmin Forerunner is that it tracks your steps per day, much like a FitBit. I set my goal to 10,000 steps daily. (This morning I’m only at 195 thanks to all my blogging, so I’d better get cracking!)

The Garmin Forerunner 15 is currently priced at $139.99 on Amazon, down from $169.99. While it’s not cheap, I think it’s worth every penny if you are serious about running or planning on getting into racing this year. When compared to the added functionality it gives you over the FitBit, I think it’s a much better choice for the runner.

[Read more…]


“All out of” Magnetic Grocery List Reminder Pad: $5.60 shipped!


alloutofHave you ever had the unfortunate experience of getting home from the grocery store only to realize you forgot you were out of kitchen waste bags? Or flour? Or canned tomatoes?

If so, I found a (cute!) solution to this problem: this “All out of” pink pad is selling for just $5.90 on Amazon and ships for free with Prime. It contains 60 sheets and has a magnetic backing so it can fit on your fridge. As you run out of items, just tick the boxes. There are even blank lines so you can write in your own items, too. While there are several colors available, the pink seems to be the best deal at the moment. This item also has an average 4.5-star rating after 300+ customer reviews.

But wait – it gets better! There is a Subscribe and Save option for this item, which means you can save an additional 5% and score free shipping (whether or not you have Prime).



To take advantage of that discount, just schedule a recurring delivery of this item. Your price will then drop to $5.60. After your first item ships, you can easily change the frequency or even cancel future deliveries through your Amazon account without obligation or hassle.

Even better, if you end up having 5 or more subscriptions in a month – you will save 20% off ALL of them (this particular deal would work out to $4.72). For more information, please see our post on How to Maximize your Savings with Subscribe and Save. As a reminder, we also publish a weekly list of the top Subscribe and Save deals on Amazon. Take a look – adding a few low cost subscriptions (such as this one) to get your goal of 5 per month, means you save 20% on your higher cost subscriptions too!

Head to Amazon to check out the All out of” deal! As a reminder, prices and availability can change at any time and without warning on Amazon.



MIT Challenge Month Recap: Reflecting on Goals

MITThe funny thing about time: it  goes by fast whether you make the most of it, or do nothing at all.

This month, I challenged you to join me for one month to identify your 3 Most Important Things every day – the 3 tasks or “to do” items that you wanted to make sure you got done, no matter what else did (or did not). I’m going to share how my month went, and then I want to hear how yours did, too.

My Monthly Results

June went really well for me. I got a lot of stuff done, yes, but the biggest benefit of prioritizing my to-do list has meant I feel calm most of the time. This is very unusual for me, because I am normally a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants girl and typically feel chaotic and frazzled. I know it sounds cheesy, but this is honestly the first time I’ve ever felt this balanced with everything that’s on my plate.

Here are some of the things I accomplished in June:

  • I lost 5 pounds! One of my monthly goals was to lose 5 pounds. I *just* made that goal today. I worked out very hard this month, between 40 and 70+ minutes 5 or 6 days a week. I’ve now lost a total of 11 pounds. I still have a few more to drop, but I’m feeling so good about my fitness level right now. The other day I cranked out 5 miles on the treadmill and did 20 minutes on the stairmill and woke up, not sore a bit!
  • I organized our family’s photos. This was another one of my goals for June. I purchased a back-up plan for my computer (so if my computer ever crashes, I won’t lose all my photos!). I then went through thousands of photos and organized them into neat and tidy folders. This is one of those tasks that sounds like a lot worse than it really ends up being. I just listened to some This American Life podcasts and cranked it out.
  • I made most of our meals at home. I made a meal plan every week this month and a corresponding grocery list. This greatly reduced meals we ate out and random middle-of-the-week purchases.
  • My house is more manageable. I don’t want to paint the picture that my house is super clean, because it’s not. But I’m finding I’m doing a much better job of staying up on things like keeping the dishes clean and laundry done.
  • I read a couple books! I finished The Alchemist and The Fault in our Stars this month. I just started The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of those who Survived the Great American Dustbowl over the weekend. (I was in the mood for something non-fiction. PS – those are my Amazon links, if you click on them!)
  • I made time for friends and family. I think often the first thing to go on our schedule is hanging out with friends. But relationships are so important. We got to have a couple dinners with friends this month, and a couple others with family. I met with my spiritual accountability partner a few times, made time for church, and book club. I like feeling connected!

While this might sound like a lot, again, it was accomplished by simply prioritizing the 3 Most Important Things I needed to accomplish in a day. Of course, my to-do list is always much longer than that, but knowing that the most important things are getting tackled leaves you feeling satisfied and that you are making progress.

Now It’s your Turn

So, enough about me – I *really* want to hear from you now!

If you participated in this challenge, sound off! What benefits did you see from it? Challenges? Do you think you’ll be sticking with this method, even beyond June? Please leave a comment!

If you didn’t participate, but have another method that works for you, I’d love to hear about that too!

Previous posts, in case you missed them:


MIT Challenge Monday Inspiration: Setting Weekly & Monthly Goals


For the month of June, I’m running a Most Important Things challenge! Participating is free and easy. Every day for the month of June, I want you to note on your to-do list the three most important things (MITs) you want to accomplish that day. If you are just joining me – it’s not too late. Please head back to my Most Important Things Challenge post to learn more about what this simple method has done to transform my life over the past several weeks and how you can get started, too.

Each Monday, I’ve been sharing a simple tip/inspiration post to keep you going with this challenge. Here are the last two Monday tips I’ve shared, in case you’ve missed them:

Why Set Weekly & Monthly Goals

Getting back into the habit of setting daily goals was nothing short of amazing for me. As the days and weeks wore on, I found that I was reaping all kinds of benefits, such as:

  • My house was getting cleaner
  • We were eating more meals at home – and saving money
  • I started to get fit, and drop a few pounds
  • I actually had more free time, not less
  • I began to feel calmer, more balanced

As I felt like I was achieving some semblance of order in my life, I realized there were other goals (some I’d been procrastinating on, quite frankly!) that would take me more than a single day to achieve. I began to realize that in addition to ticking off the boxes on my daily to-do list, I wanted to start to think about my weeks, and even my months.

For June, I decided to try setting just two goals: 1) lose 5 pounds and 2) organize our family photos. Are there other things in my life I need to do and work on? Absolutely. But I wanted to come up with two meaningful goals I could really make a dent on, given my time. Too many goals (or too vaguely written) and I knew I’d just be setting myself up for failure. Three weeks in, I can tell you, I’m making good on those two goals and should be able to meet them by June 30th!

When you take the time to define your weekly or monthly goals, it will help you more readily focus on what you need to do each day. For instance – my goal of losing 5 pounds in June meant making sure I had “working out” as one of my top 3 goals most days. You might take one of your monthly goals and divide it into small, manageable chunks that can get added to one of your daily to-do lists.

The Funny thing about Achieving a Goal

When you make a goal that is realistic and then you achieve it? You feel empowered! This is totally how I feel going into July. I’m nearly done completing my June goals and I’ve already begun brainstorming of what I might tackle for July – organizing and backing up important family documents, organizing my closet, updating our family portrait wall, losing another 5 pounds. I truly feel like I’m living up to my 2014 word of intention.

Yesterday as I was walking the dog, I was taking stock of how amazing things are going for me right now. It’s taken a few weeks of persistence, but for the first time in longer than I can remember (maybe, ever?), I’m finally feeling balanced and less fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants (my usual MO). I am NOT a disciplined, super organized person. I’ve just found a system that’s working for me.

Now it’s Your Turn!

Do you take the time to set weekly or monthly goals? I’d love to hear about it, and what works for you. If you are following my MIT challenge this month, how are you feeling, now that we’re in week 3? What kinds of benefits are you reaping? Any challenges you’re encountering? Please leave a comment below!

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MIT Challenge Friday Check-in: Week #3

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This month, I am running a challenge: every day for them month of June, I want you to note your 3 Most Important Things to accomplish for that day. The goal is to encourage productivity, as well as help you take stock of all you are likely accomplishing on a day-to-day basis!

Every Friday in June, I’ve been providing a quick check-in for those that have accepted this challenge, as well as share how my week has been going with you.

Meeting Goals

The photo at the top of this post isn’t super flattering, but mind you – I’d just completed a 12K race – that’s 7.46 miles! I have to admit, I’m rather proud of myself. You see, for the last year or so, I’ve been a real funk when it comes to fitness. I just could not seem to get on a good workout regimen and managed to pack on more than a few pounds.

In the last week of April, I decided to start running again. That week, I ran 2 miles Monday through Friday. By the end of the week, on a complete whim, I decided to register for the Sound to Narrows 12K race, which was less than 2 months out. I’d run this race several times before, but mind you – the last time had been 9 years prior! In order to stick to my goal, I printed out a monthly calendar and created a training plan. I then plastered this to my refrigerator. Every day, I consulted it and made sure to include that day’s workout as one of my Most Important Things to accomplish.

I’m now completing week 8 of working out like this – and it’s been nothing short of amazing. In just a few weeks I went from feeling like I could barely run 2 miles to completing over 7 and feeling great at the end of it! Some days, like yesterday, I’ve felt so good I’ve actually gone above and beyond what I scheduled myself to do in a day.

Whether or not running is your thing, I really encourage you to think about setting a fitness goal. There are few things that “click” with me and encourage me to stick with working out like signing up for some event where I’ll *need* to be in shape to do well.

Monthly Goals Update

Before I set daily goals, I set two monthly goals for June. Here they are, and the progress I’ve made on them.

Goal #1: Lose 5 pounds. I’m so proud of myself – I’ve already lost 4 pounds for June! I should easily meet my goal of 5 pounds this month, and possibly exceed it. This brings my total weight loss to-date to 10 pounds. I’m starting to feel like myself again and a lot less “bloaty” (for lack of a better term).

Goal #2: Organize Family Photos. I haven’t done anything related to this goal in the last week. I am hoping to make time this weekend to make some progress on this one. Some of you have asked how I’m doing this – let me finish this project myself and then I’ll do a post on how it went along with some tips.

I feel that my goals are realistic and achievable given the transition of this month from school to summer vacation.

Now it’s your Turn!

If you’ve been following this challenge, I’d love to hear about your week! How did it go? What kinds of tasks did you complete? Are you having to adjust your expectations/routine now that end of school is here? Please share!

And if you’re just finding this challenge – it’s not too late to jump on board! Please visit the MIT Challenge postto learn more how to get started, a free Daily Docket download, and what it’s done for my life.



MIT Challenge Monday Inspiration: Creating Downtime


For the month of June, I’m running a Most Important Things challenge! Participating is free and easy. Every day for the month of June, I want you to note on your to-do list the three most important things (MITs) you want to accomplish that day. If you are just joining me – it’s not too late. Please head back to my Most Important Things Challenge post to learn more about what this simple method has done to transform my life over the past several weeks and how you can get started, too.

Last Monday’s tip was Setting Reasonable Goals. Make sure to check out that tip, too!

Structuring Guilt-Free Downtime

One of the misconceptions of a system like this is that you’ll always be go, go, go. Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth! When you know you’ve accomplished your Most Important Things for the day, you’ll begin to feel like you can truly relax and kick back at other parts of the day – without feeling guilty or like there is something else you should be doing.

Here are some of the ways I’ve worked to create downtime in my week:

  • I strive to get my MITs done early to match my natural motivation and energy levels. I find I’m usually best mid-morning (after a cup of coffee – *cough!*). This is when I generally do my best work. Today, for instance, my goal is to complete my MITs by 2pm so I can take my kids to the park and library this afternoon and enjoy a leisurely summer evening with them.
  • I spend most of my weekend unplugged. I’ll admit, I love catching up on Facebook and blogs over the weekend – but the time I’m online is very limited. I have structured this blog in such a way that neither I or my content developers do much (or any) work on the weekends. For me, weekends are about family and building my faith.
  • I monitor my media time. Increasingly, I’ve come to believe that one of the reasons we feel busy so often is due to the fact that we are never unplugged! Computers, phones, tablets… these things can be great tools provided we control them and not the other way around. After a small stint with a smartphone, I’m back to using a plain ol’ dumb phone. It’s just not for me right now anyways. I moved my computer back to the office so it’s not as easy to just plunk down and waste time online. Being deliberate about your time online, in particular, how you use social media sites, can really help you cut out wasted time in your day. You might be amazed that if you can cut back in this area, you suddenly have time to join that book club you’ve been thinking about, getting back into running, or going out to the movies with your spouse.

Making time for hobbies and just “downtime” is so essential to my health and well-being. To me, it takes work and intention to make sure that downtime happens. The truth is, there is always something that can be done, isn’t there? It takes real work to pull in the reins and say, “no, I’ve ticked enough boxes today – I can feel good about what I’ve done today. Now is the time to rest and enjoy being with my family and doing the things that bring me fulfillment.”

Now it’s Your Turn!

Do you feel that you have enough “downtime” in your life? If so, how have you worked to create that balance in your life? If not, how do you think you can get to a place where you can create even a small amount of downtime to recharge?

If you’re following the MIT Challenge, I’d particularly love to hear from you. How is it working? What changes are you beginning to see? Any observations or tips you can share? Please leave a comment below!


MIT Challenge Friday Check-in: Week #2


This month, I am running a challenge: every day for them month of June, I want you to note your 3 Most Important Things to accomplish for that day. The goal is to encourage productivity, yes, but also begin to feel better at the end of the day knowing that you have a way to measure your success.

Every Friday, I’ll want to provide a place to check-in for those that have accepted this challenge, as well as share how my week has been going with you.

End of Schoolitis

Today is the last day of my kids’ school and I’ll be honest, I’m kind of freaking out! All year long, I’ve enjoyed having concentrated time to work, clean, run errands, and workout during the day, which has meant I’ve also had concentrated time to spend with my kids in the afternoons, evenings, and weekends. I’m about to head back into work-family mode and I’m nervous how my new MIT routine is going to mesh with the change in pace.

This week, I’ve crammed in some last-minute activities…

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MIT Challenge Monday Inspiration: Setting Reasonable Goals


For the month of June, I’m running a Most Important Things challenge! Participating is free and easy. Every day for the month of June, I want you to note on your to-do list the three most important things (MITs) you want to accomplish that day. If you are just joining me – it’s not too late. Please head back to my Most Important Things Challenge post to learn more about what this simple method has done to transform my life over the past several weeks and how you can get started, too.

Setting Realistic & Measurable MITs

Every Monday this month, I want to share a little nugget with you of what I’ve learned…  a little inspiration to keep us going! Today I want to talk about how to set MITs that are realistic for your life. Here are 5  key tips I’ve learned through trial and error:

#1 – Make one MIT a small, quick item. 

If all three of your goals are time consuming, you’re liable to feel discouraged at the end of the day! I like making one of my MITs something small, yet still important. For instance –

  • Write and mail off a thank you card to a friend.
  • Schedule the kids’ dentist appointment.
  • Order a new filter for the fridge.

I find you gain momentum early on in your day if you have a goal you can cross off right away! Notice these are still important tasks – things you may have even been putting off or wouldn’t get to otherwise. I actually recently created a list of small “naggy” things (I really need a better name for this list). This has helped me fill in some of the MITs this month and cross off items I’ve been procrastinating on.

#2 – Make one MIT about self-care. 

If all I’m doing is this, that, and the other for work or my family, I’m going to feel really burnt out! One of the best things I’ve done for myself is make one of my standing MITs working out.

Since I’m currently training for a 12K, I created a month long training schedule and taped it on my fridge. Every morning, I consult with the schedule and plop that workout on my MIT sheet. It’s amazing to me how I’ve actually been able to stick with working out 5-6 days per week for the last 6+ weeks now!

#3 – Make your MITs specific. 

Your MITs need to have a start and a finish so you know exactly at what point the item gets crossed off. For instance, I’ve stopped writing, “do the laundry” and started writing things like, “complete 2 loads of laundry and put away.” Make them measurable and adjust your expectations, if need be.

#4 – Temper high activities with low activities. 

You don’t want to have clean the whole house, do this year’s taxes, and plan the garage sale all in one day. You’re just setting yourself up for failure – or burnout. No one can sustain that.

At the beginning of the day, I like to consider what activities we have naturally going on. Today, for instance, we have swim lessons and a special school event in the evening. I also have some work projects that need to get addressed. I will factor in the blocks of time I will have left to determine what can get done, and what can get moved to another day. Also consider your energy level! Today I do have a few higher-level energy activities that need to get completed. Given that, I’m going to make sure that tomorrow or Wednesday is a bit lower key.

#5 – Break bigger goals into smaller ones. 

Last Friday, I shared that one of my goals this month is to organize my family’s photos. They are just on my computer, which is a huge liability in case anything happens! I knew it would be foolhardy to write, “organize family digital photos” for an MIT. It’s just too big and overwhelming of a task!

Instead, over the weekend I researched options and bought a digital backup plan. I started organizing one year’s photos, but I know I still have several hours to go. Some MITs that I might consider over the next few weeks for this goal could include:

  • Spend one hour on family photo organization project
  • Purchase flashdrive for family photo project
  • Organize family photos from 2014 (or whatever set amount of time)
  • Create a list of photobooks I’d like to create from the past several years

You might find it’s helpful to even write down your larger goal first and think of the smaller steps you’d need to complete to make it happen.

Now it’s Your Turn!

I’d love to hear how this process is working for you. Did you find your week was more productive or successful? What kinds of MITs are you including each day? What goals do you have for this week?

Please leave a comment below.


(Most Important Things) MIT Challenge Friday Check-in: Week #1

Most Important Things Challenge - June!

This past Monday, I kicked off a challenge: every day for them month of June, I want you to note your 3 Most Important Things to accomplish for that day. The goal is to encourage productivity, yes, but also begin to feel better at the end of the day knowing that you have a way to measure your success.

Every Friday this month, I want to provide a place to check-in for those that have accepted this challenge, as well as share how my week has been going with you.

When Life Interrupts

I’ve been following the MIT process now for several weeks and have seen real, measurable results with it. I’ve dropped a few pounds, started to gain traction on keeping my chores up, and even made time for friends and hobbies that I enjoy. This week I had high hopes for getting a lot done and entering into the final training week for the race I’m running next Saturday (Tacoma’s Sound to Narrows – 12K).

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June: Most Important Things (MIT) Challenge Month at The Coupon Project!


Most Important Things Challenge month = join in!

Imagine if I told you you’d just won $10,000.

I can almost guarantee you’d start ticking off in your mind how you’d use it. Maybe you’d pay off a pesky loan, make a nagging home repair, set some aside in savings, and perhaps even donate a portion to charity.

Now suppose I told you that the $10,000 would be paid to you in $5 daily increments. That’s right, for the next 2,000 days (5 years and 5 months!), you’d receive a $5 bill. Would you apply the same amount of discipline in how you allocated that money as if I’d paid it to you in one lump sum?

So it is with time. Every day, we have a finite amount of hours. We make choices, most of them small, that lead up to the sum of our lives. Those small choices can either build patterns that drive us to achieve our larger goals, or take us farther away from them. The older I get, the more I’m convinced of the importance of making wise decisions about the small stuff.

What the MIT process has done for me

I’ve been pondering the importance of small decisions a lot in 2014 and in the last several weeks have decided to do something about it. In the month of May, I:

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Proctor -Silex 1 Liter Electric Kettle

Proctor Silex Electric Kettle for $8.99 – Boil Water without Using Your Stove!

Proctor -Silex 1 Liter Electric Kettle

Proctor -Silex 1 Liter Electric Kettle

For a limited time you can get this highly-rated Proctor Silex 1-Liter Electric Kettle for $8.99 + free shipping with Amazon Prime (or get free Super Saver shipping on orders of $35 or more).

This is the lowest price this kettle has been on Amazon and $7 off the list price of $15.99. It’s highly-rated with 4.2 out of 5 stars from over 2,000 customer reviews!

I can think of a bunch of ways to use this: boil water for tea, coffee (instant or French press), oatmeal, ramen noodles, hot chocolate, etc. all without having to turn on your stove! What other uses can you think of for this electric kettle?


Anchor Hocking Jar, 1 Gallon for $7.44 (Great for Pantry Storage, Frugal Decor!)



These beautiful 1 gallon Anchor Hocking 1-Gallon Heritage Hill Jars have dropped back in price to $7.44 right now on Amazon! They have an average 4.5-star rating after 200+ reviews. These would ship for FREE with your Amazon Prime account or total order of $35 or more.

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE beautiful glass jars like these… there are so many uses!

  • Store your own homemade dry laundry detergent
  • Store your bulk food purchases in your pantry
  • Display holiday-themed or seasonal objects
  • Use as a candy or cookie jar
  • Store fruit for decor or kitchen use

Here’s my favorite use for over-sized jars like this… I have a rock and shell collection! I actually have a rock in there from the first time I went out with my husband 13 years ago (we were hiking with some of his friends at Deception Pass). I also have shells from around the sound, and sand friends have brought back from tropical locations. I think this makes for fun and beautiful decor without having to spend a lot of money! In this photo, I have them on my bedroom dresser, but I also think they look great in the bathroom.

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I’d love to know any additional ideas you can think of! As you probably already know, prices on Amazon can change quickly and without warning.


Zulily: Stylish Curtains $40 and under


If you are in need of curtains, get thee to Zulily! Right now, they have a curtain sale with very deep discounts! If you’ve never shopped Zulily before, you will need to set up an account (this just requires an email address and a password you create).

Check out some of the deals I spotted just now:


Blue & Chocolate Bridgette Thermal Curtain Panel – Set of Two: $24.99 (reg. $150!)

  • Includes two panels
  • 40” W x 84” H
  • 100% polyester
  • Machine wash
  • Imported


Gray Behrakis Chevron Curtain – Set of Two: $29.99 (reg. $200!)

  • Includes two curtains
  • 80” W x 84” H
  • Polyester
  • Imported


Silver Southport Diamond Thermal Curtain Panel – Set of Two: $27.99 (reg. $150!)

  • Includes two panels
  • 40” W x 84” H
  • 100% polyester
  • Machine wash
  • Imported

These are just a few of the many styles you’ll find. I found several other thermal-type blackout curtains as well as curtains as low as $14.99. This is actually quite timely for me as I have a couple rooms in need of curtains!

Head to Zulily to check out the curtain sale.

Thanks, Frugal Coupon Living!


Organized Simplicity: My FAVORITE book about Living Simply & Decluttering!



Now that Christmas is over, perhaps you’re a little like me… looking at the aftermath that is your house! I currently have decorations and wrappings strewn about, a serious lack of empty floor and kitchen counter space, and a very sad excuse for a laundry room.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, can I recommend a fabulous book? It’s called Organized Simplicity and it is the best book hands down I’ve ever read for how to live simply. It also includes one of the most helpful step-by-step (or should I say, room by room?) instructions for how to declutter your home.  I appreciate that the author (Tsh of Simple Mom) starts by helping you define your family’s values and lifestyle. This will then inform how you keep your home, versus imposing “systems” or “methods” you’ll only fight.

I actually followed the methods with GREAT success a couple years ago. Below is a photo of how my kitchen looked just after decluttering, thanks to the methods outlined in this book. I think I need to tack this photo to my fridge and get started today!


Organized Simplicity is currently $15.07 on Amazon for hardcover or $9.99 for Kindle (please note, prices subject to change at any time). I assure you it’s worth every penny and is not some of the “fluff” you’ll find in other similar books. I also love that the decluttering plan is doable enough to tackle in a week, unlike a site like FlyLady (which I found was way too much for me.) It’s a book I’ve read through at least a couple times now and will probably pick up and read again as I approach 2014. Warning: once you get started reading it, I doubt you’ll be able to put it down!

Incidentally, Simple Mom was also the one to develop the Daily Docket download which I’ve written about before and found to be THE best daily “to do” list I’ve found yet.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you own or have read this book. I’d also love to hear if anyone out there has a plan for decluttering their house? 


Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas


Homemade Christmas Gift IdeasOver the course of my blog, I’ve shared a few tutorials and recipes that would lend themselves well for Christmas and holiday gifts! Here are some of my favorites:

Homemade Sugar Coffee Scrub.  Easy and quick to make. Would make a nice gift for a hostess or teacher.

Homemade Spa Gifts in Jars. Additional ideas on the homemade bath salts and scrubs. Easy to customize and very simple to make.

Candied Fruit Tutorial.  I’ve candied ginger, pommelo, and citron (Buddha’s hand). While they all turned out great, citron is my absolute favorite!

Mommy & Me Aprons. Requires basic sewing ability and equipment.

NOEL Boxes. Cute decor for your home or creative gift wrap idea!

Brownie Mix in a Jar. Easy and inexpensive to make. Another good option for a teacher’s gift when paired with box of cocoa!

Peg Doll Nativity Set. Beautiful homemade gift idea!

Christmas Almond Bark. A nice treat to bring to a holiday party.

Homemade Coffee Liqueur Recipe. For the person that has everything.

Fruitcake Recipe. Because what would Christmas gift giving be without a fruitcake? Warning: this recipe takes at least a couple weeks to make and requires copious doses of brandy. Not frugal. Not quick. But, delicious!

Miniature Mince Pies. These things … are amazing. If you’ve never thought of making this traditional recipe, or you think mincemeat just sounds wrong, you need to take a second look. STAT.

Figgy Pudding. Another forgotten about, brandy-laced dessert from Christmas Past. It’s time to bring it back, baby!

Soup Mixes in Jars. An easy, inexpensive food gift idea that doesn’t involve sugar or butter.

Candles in Baby Food Jars. Simple way to repurpose old baby food jars. Easy.

Vintage Snowglobes. Adorable snowglobes using old jars. A fun one to do with the kids. Warning: these might turn out a little *too* cute and you might not want to part with them. (Speaking from experience here.)

Pear Vanilla Bread. Deliciously different sweet bread! Would make a nice gift for a teacher, hostess, coworker, or friend.

snowglobeWill you be making your own gifts this holiday season?


Save $5 on Household Management Downloads, Inspirational Prints & More!


My pal Kelly is super talented. Not only does she come up with easy ways to organize your meals, she also has a fabulous Etsy store!

You might recall me mentioning the Life Notebook she designed before. The concept is simple: one place to store all that important information you need to manage your household and life. Right now, the Life Notebook is selling for $55 on Kelly’s site:


(You might want to visit her blog, Bringing Crafty Back, to learn more about the Life Notebook.)

Kelly has also informed me that she now has all the downloads of the Life Notebook available for $25. The benefit here is that you can just print off the sheets you need, when you need them.

I personally own a Life Notebook and I can tell you, they are very cute!

Make sure to check out the other items at Kelly’s store. I love this print, in particular (Dave Ramsey fans should know what’s up with this one!):


Coupon Project users can use coupon code TCP5OFF TCPOCT5 to save $5 off ANY purchase at Kelly’s store through October 25th!

Anchor Hocking Penny Jar

Anchor Hocking Penny Jar: $5.96 (Free shipping for Prime members)

Anchor Hocking Penny Jar

Anchor Hocking Penny Jar


These Anchor Hocking Penny Candy Jars, 1 gallon size with lids, are currently selling at $5.96 on Amazon!  These would be perfect for storing bulk food goods in your pantry or homemaked cookies on the counter. I also wonder if you couldn’t remove the lid and create a terrarium or other centerpiece.

These have received an average 4.5 stars after 16 reviews.

I also wanted to remind you that the Anchor Hocking Jars with Glass Lids I shared with you last night are also still selling for $7.44!



Either of these styles ships FREE with your Amazon Prime membership or total order of $25 or more on Amazon.

If you’ve not signed up for Amazon Prime before, you can try it for FREE for 30-days and take advantage of free 2-day shipping on most items, a wide variety of movies and TV shoes through Amazon Instant Video, and more.

Thanks, Thrifty NW Mom!


How I’m Organizing My Bills


About a month ago, I sent out a cry for help regarding my bills. I was ashamed to admit that whenever it was bill paying time, I was having to fish bills out from my car, office, counters, and various other places. Not good.

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Clearly I needed something more than just a folder, so I asked you for suggestions. Many of you were kind enough to comment on that post and some of you even emailed me privately. Thank you so much to everyone who responded!

After reading through everything you sent and considering the kind of mail I receive, I recognized I was in need of two systems:

  • Something for sorting mail quickly & painlessly
  • Something for organizing bill paying

I decided to be honest with myself: I don’t like carrying mail/paperwork up to the office every day. I am far more likely to set the mail on the kitchen counter. Given that this is my natural inclination, I decided to put my mail sorters in the kitchen.

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I checked the office section of Fred Meyer, but honestly all they had were the office-style mail organizers and I wasn’t wowed by the price. So I decided to take a spin down one of my favorite aisles at Fred Meyer. It’s the basket aisle in Housewares and they always have some sort of clearance section at the end of this aisle. Sure enough I found these cute blue-gray lined wicker baskets for 50% off clearance. They were $6 each, but after the clearance + sale, just $2.78 each!

DSCN1646 (800x600)I purchased two: one for stuff that needs to get filed (think insurance paperwork, benefits paperwork, retirement statements, etc.) and bills/action (think stuff that needs to get paid or addressed in some way). Everything else? Get recycled.

I’ve had this going for a couple weeks now, and I have to say, it seems to be working! Mail has a place to go now.

Here’s what I have going for bills:

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Reader Ari had emailed me a great post on a way to organize bills via a binder system. At first I was like, really? Another binder system? But as I read through the post and stopped and considered, I realized this method makes a ton of sense for my head. (I did tweak some of how that blogger does things though.)

Once a week (or whenever I have an opportunity), I shuffle the bills from my bill bin into the binder. I have folders for various bills: utility, debts, medical, other. I also created a tab for a calendar. I made sure to get the tabs with the folders in them, so when the bills need to be paid, they go into the folder. Once they are paid, I put a check mark on them with the date, and hole punch them in. My thought is that at the end of the year, I’ll remove everything, and start afresh.

I printed out a blank calendar and jotted down my bills on the date they were due that month. This was a really helpful visual! I’m also thinking of creating a checklist that I could print out for each month to include in the binder.

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Some of you suggested keeping everything handy with the bills: this was such an excellent tip, and another reason I’m glad I went with the binder system! As you can see from the picture above, I have highlighters and pens in my binder, along with a $0.19 Fred Meyer notebook just as a scratch pad.

DSCN1649 (600x800)I also fished out the stamps from a junk drawer and a small calculator. I feel I’m forever misplacing these things, too! You can’t tell from the pictures, but there’s also an expanding file folder in the binder. I’m not sure yet how I may use it – I suspect possibly for storing tax documents.

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There’s even a nice pouch in the back that’s big enough to store my Roadtrip folder, too!

I did spend $15 on this binder at Fred Meyer, so it wasn’t super cheap, but I do think it was worth it. I love all the built in organizers and I really love how the whole thing zips up and has a handle. I think in the end I will save a lot of time and stress because everything I need is right at hand. Yesterday my kids had swim lessons and I was able to bring this with and note what bills we had and when they were coming due. This might sound really corny, but this was the first time in a long time it was almost fun to figure out the bills. (I know, I’m a dork!)

If you’ve been feeling really disorganized about your paperwork – whether it’s bills, taxes, business-related stuff, or mail – this would be an excellent time of year to consider updating your method because so many office supplies are at the lowest prices they’ll be all year thanks to back to school. All told, I bet I spent about $25 on the baskets, binder, new pens, notebook, highlighters, and folders.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time out to share what has worked for them! I hope I’ve encouraged a few of you to get better organized with your important papers, too!