Archive for the ‘Organizing’ Category

DIY Command Center (For Small Spaces)

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Small spaces often come with big organizational challenges. When you don’t have spare closets, only have minimal wall space, and struggle with tiny rooms, creating a DIY command center for your home can be a challenge. Today’s tutorial offers some quick ideas for creating your own DIY Command Center in your home.

Here is what I have been struggling with in this corner of my home. The kids were driving me crazy when they came home from school because they would immediately dump everything in this corner and throw their papers all over my kitchen counter when they got home.

The real question is were they really driving me crazy or was it because they really didn’t have a place that they could call their own?

The coat rack in our entry was too high for them to reach, there was nowhere for their backpacks to go, and the paper situation needed a designated spot other than on top of my kitchen counter while I am trying to prepare the family dinner.

I headed to our local Walmart to see what organizational tools I could find and was excited to discover the perfect solution for our little corner. I found this Mainstays Pub Mirror ($22.96) for our kids to use for their coats over in the home decor section of the store. In the closet organization section, I found a Mainstays Seagrass Basket ($12.99) for storing our magazines and umbrellas.

A seldom used storage ottoman was moved underneath for housing the backpack and briefcase clutter and also offers one of my children an extra little boost to climb up and put her backpack away.

Since paper clutter was quickly becoming out of control, I found an upright file folder organizer and colorful file folders for organizing the whole family. The kids each now have an IN and OUT folder. If they need something signed, they put it in the IN folder for me for signatures and I give it back to them by putting those items in the OUT folder, that they can check before they leave for school. Special memorabilia that is worth saving still resides in their decorative boxes in their rooms.

This small compartment organizer for keys, sunglasses, and other things that seem to get misplaced rests on this half moon table for easy finding and grabbing in the morning. Above this table is our family calendar so we can keep track of important events. Just like every other family I know, the calendar is filled to the brim and we have a lot to keep track of these days.

We moved our clock to the other wall  and I decided to add a frame to this wall with some new art work. I found this awesome free printable (literally) over on the Funky Polkadot Giraffe. I printed it on cardstock at home (free) and then framed it in this Canopy picture frame that already included a matte.  I really love how this turned out and that it adds another fun decorating addition to our walls.

This room has been going through a bit of a transformation now that we are finally figuring out what we really love and are starting to get our own sense of style.  We gave our glider chair to our in-laws, sold our two checked chairs through a community Facebook group, and donated our old couch. We kept the same neutral color on the walls, but decided to update our accessories and add some much needed furniture back into this room.

This is my absolute favorite room in our house. It has replaced my other favorite room in our house (our home office) thanks to the addition of the record player, the comfy chair that I found on deep clearance at a furniture store, and I just love the nautical feel of this room which makes me oh-so-happy!

Now that we have a Command Center, albeit a small one, this room now makes me even happier and renews my commitment that even if you have a small home, you can make any space a functional space for your family. As our reminder to our commitment to enjoy living small, I added this print to our wall. It makes me happy every time I come down the stairs and reminds me of what is important.

Small homes do come with challenges, but they also come with many rewards!

Do you have a command center in your home? How do you organize the after school chaos? Feel free to share here!

 

 

 

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How to Organize Board Games

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Now that Christmas is behind us, I find myself inspired to get my home organized again. One area in our home that always needs attention is our disorganized board game collection. Organizing your board games  and card games is easier than you think, it just requires a few organizing tools, a little patience, and the ability to let go of the things that are taking up valuable space to make space for the good stuff in your home.

My project challenge this month with Walmart was to pick one area in our house and freshen it up with some organizational solutions from the store. I have a feeling you are going to love this one and will be running out to your store to replicate this.

In full disclosure, here is my SCARY before picture. This was supposed to be a beautiful little closet for my kid’s toys, our games, and our art supplies. Each time the closet was open, I covered my head. I am a very petite woman so when I would reach for a game, I would find a leaning tower of games attacking me and often found myself in an avalanche of games and toys. 

I decided to do some research to see if I could find some ideas from other bloggers on how to rectify this situation. Although there were a lot of great magazine ideas, I didn’t find very many real family solutions until I happened upon this great post on board game organization from Raising Lemons. I used that as a template to get started and then headed to my store to create my own solutions for our problematic areas.

Here are some pictures of the items that I picked up at our Walmart store (feel free to click on them to expand).

Sterlite Large Three Drawer Units ($12.97 each)

Sterlite Medium Three Drawer Unites ($8.47)

Document Boxes ($7.92)- available in the office supplies section of the store

Avery Labels ($1.00)

Rubber Bands ($.67)

Snap-It Storage Container ($9.97)

Ziploc Freezer Bags ($4.38

All games were removed from their boxes and then each game went into a designated drawer. Larger games that had a lot of parts to it (like Blokus, Rummikub, or Monopoly) fit well into the large Sterlite drawers.

Smaller kid’s games fit easily into the medium Sterlite drawers as well as games where the board would not fit into either container (more on that soon). For really small games like Memory or Rush Hour, we found one drawer could fit two or three games, which helped to maximize this storage solution.

For larger board games, I labeled boards that we wouldn’t easily be able to figure out what they were, and set those to the side along with a couple of those irregularly shaped games (like Operation, our deluxe Scrabble, and our Hungry, Hungry Hippos). By removing the useless boxes, this tiny little pile of boards really doesn’t take up very much of our space.

We had oodles of card games, many that were dusty and had been forgotten on that top shelf, so I used two Document Boxes that I found over in the office supplies to create storage for these games. This was a great place to not only store these games neatly, but I also dedicated a little section to the odds & ends pieces that we might need for future games. The odds & ends spot houses marbles, a few extra game pieces, decks of cards, and several dice.

Large games like Apples to Apples had to use two spots, but it still beats having the boxes. I like that all of these odds and ends are concealed neatly, and it will make taking a box of games a lot more fun since there are several in just one box!

Our puzzle collection had also gotten out of control. I found a Snap-It organizer (over by the drawers/plastic bins) that has a handy handle and it all snaps together for easy toting. We divided our puzzles into two categories (holiday & other). It will make finding our Christmas collection a little easier. I cut the front of the boxes and labeled heavy-duty freezer bags with the puzzle name or description so we could locate them easily.

Since I was on a roll in that closet, I decided to get the rest of the kid’s stuff organized. I whittled their toy collection down to half and organized their art supplies into the same drawer organizers (these were all things we already owned). I had old-fashioned labels in my craft supplies so I hung fresh labels with a little bakers twine and labeled our canvas bins so the kids knew exactly what they were pulling down.

Each child now has their own coloring book drawer and all of the random boxes of markers, crayons, and pencils were all condensed into one drawer organizer.

After losing countless library books because they are mixed in with their own books, we now have one basket designated. The other books were moved down to our downstairs game cabinet because (you won’t believe this!) all of the games from our downstairs cabinet all fit in our upstairs cabinet so I could turn the other cabinet into a spot for all of their books. That is a huge storage bonus for us!

It feels like Christmas all over here again. We have loads of fun things to do, we can find them, and (in my son’s words) “We don’t have to move so many things around to get to the good stuff.” You know it, kid!

The big question is, “Do you miss the boxes?” I can’t say I do! For the games we travel with to our friend’s house (Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, etc..) we have a couple of boxes stored in the basement. The rest of the games stay at home and this solution is so ideal for our space and offers oodles of visual appeal. 

Have any tips for organizing your game collection or toy closet for the New Year? I would love to hear them!

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts  My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

 

 

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Back From Vacation Cleaning & Organizing

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Our family has just returned from a trip to Gatlinburg for a special family reunion for my husband’s side of the family. We had the incredible opportunity to climb Clingmans Dome with Ryan’s grandma to check climbing this mountain off her bucket list for her 80th birthday. We climbed this mountain in honor of his grandfather who recently passed away from cancer as a symbol of his motto to, “live strong.”  It was a very special moment for us all and I am so proud of my two kids who RAN the entire mountain for their great grandma & grandpa. There are no words for this moment!

We are still in recovery mode from being gone for the week. Unfortunately, there were many projects awaiting me upon my return. This week on the Kenmore Genius Blog you will find me sharing a few of the strategies I am working on to get my home back on track before the kids head back to school. Be sure to read this post for strategies on back from vacation cleaning and organizing.

I am also sharing my tips and strategies for organizing my closets this week! My car is fully loaded for a trip to Goodwill to donate items from our closet. It will be nice to start the Fall with a freshly organized space.

 

 

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Tips & Tools for Affordably Organizing Your Closet

Friday, August 10th, 2012

As we transition into Fall, now is a great time to evaluate what is in your closet and establish organization so you can begin preparing to add your fall wardrobes into your closet. Today I wanted to share with you some tips & strategies for reestablishing order in your closet and offer a few great organizing solutions from a store that just might surprise you.

I always lament that I don’t have a Container Store near me and I just know that if I had access to a store like that, my closets and drawers would look so much better. Who knew that Walmart offers great closet organizers and storage solutions for my cluttered life? Walmart gave me the chance to get my cluttered room organized and today I wanted to show you how I transformed my small disorganized closet into a thing of beauty.

Let’s start with a glance into my problem areas in my drawers and room. Perhaps, these are areas you are struggling with too!

Organize the Unmentionables-

Let’s start with my drawer of unmentionables and my sock bin (pictured above) as an example of a cluttered area that could be improved upon. I can never find what I need because everything is in complete disorder. There are many items that don’t fit or don’t have a match, but I have been to busy to organize this space.

With a simple compartment drawer organizer, I now know exactly where everything is. I organized socks to the right and unmentionables to the left. It took only minutes to assemble and I now feel like I am shopping my very own store in this drawer. I repeated the same process with my kid’s drawers and my husband’s drawer.  It makes this drawer feel surprisingly spacious and, at a quick glance, I know exactly where everything is.

Organize the Scarf Collection-

I have a slight obsession with scarves. They are such a fun and inexpensive fashion accessory to add to all of my outfits. Unfortunately, my collection had gotten out of hand and I had scarves tucked into my sock bins, draped over shelves in our closet and draped over hangers. I couldn’t find the accessories I needed and had run out of room in our closet for more baskets.

With one over rod scarf organizer, I was able to to put my scarf collection all in one place and have everything organized the way that I wanted it. This same simple organizing solution would be perfect for your tights or for a tie collection for men.

Maximize Your Space-

Since we have a small closet, it is always a challenge to make this space functional and to keep our wardrobes pared down so we have enough space to move everything around. Switching the types of hangers you use can be a quick and easy solution to double or triple the space in your closet. These bulky wooden hangers were hindering my husband from hanging up his entire wardrobe and I kept finding items draped over other shelves or piled on the floor of the closet.

Isn’t it incredible how the hanger switch out can make all the difference with your space? I am a big believer that these hangers can instantly transform closets and make things spacious within minutes!

  Get Vertical With Storage-

You might be surprised to know that this is my entire shoe collection. Can you believe my husband says that I don’t need anymore shoes? Me either! I had a lidded basket in our room where I would throw all of my shoes. They were definitely out of sight, but it was difficult to find what I needed when I had somewhere to be.

Over-the-door shoe organizers have come a long way and I absolutely love this organizer  for my shoe storage. The pockets were generous enough that ballet flats and sandals could slide into one compartment, allowing me to fit my entire shoe collection on the back of our door. Vertical storage makes sense, especially when you want to free up space on your closet floors!

Make Sock Storage Make Sense-

A long time ago, I purchased these organizers for our socks. Don’t they look organized? These bins drive me crazy and are not ideal storage for socks, but we had run out of drawer space in our dresser.  By whittling my sock collection down, I was able to put everything in the drawer organizer. My husband has an extensive sock collection though and many days are spent trying to find the perfect socks for the perfect occasion.

I divided my husband’s sock collection into two piles (whites and darks) and then put them in these handy collapsible covered storage bins. They were the perfect solution and got our sock collection off of the floor so that we had space for shoe storage.

Create Hidden Storage-

Other items like belts, ties, hats, and even flip flops can take up valuable storage space. Our collections of said items, may have been all over our closet floor and not easily found. With my new shoe organizer though, my door was already in use.

The backs of my bi-fold doors to my closet were the perfect spot to hide additional storage. One side now houses my belt collection. The other side now hides hat storage for my husband. Our flip flops are neatly organized and hanging by our back door outside. I would have never thought to use the backs of these doors for anything, but this was the perfect spot for these items!

What a transformation from where we started. This is my closet after sorting and organizing our space.  I feel like I got a brand new closet and I don’t have to be embarrassed about this space anymore.

Looking to organize your closet space? Here are a few of my favorite tools from Walmart that I used to organize my space! Visit your own store or shop online to find some of these organizing solutions for your own closet!

Canopy Velvet Hangers

Canopy Storage Bins (Small)

Canopy Collection Lidded Boxes (Small)

Mainstay Scarf & Tie Organizer (used for belts)

Honey Can Do 32 Compartment Drawer Organizer (set of two)

Household Essentials Revolving Shoe Tree

Mainstays Organize & Store Baseball Caps

Mainstays Flip Flop & Sandal Organizer

Canopy Handwoven Willow Laundry Basket

Canopy 3 Bin Sorter

Canopy Medium Storage Container

Mainstays Scarf Holder (Chrome)

Looking for more tips on closet organization? Be sure to visit this post for more ideas for organizing closets in your home along with a video on how to organize your closet in under 30 minutes!

 

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

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Free Printable Chore & Tech Time Tickets

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Today I wanted to share with you a printable that my husband created for our summertime chores and monitoring our computer time with the kids. These tech and chore tickets can be printed and used with a simple hole punch to signify if the child has used their tech time or has completed their chores.

I really wanted to spend quality time with my kids this summer and I find that screen-time really distracts them from our time together. These tech tickets have made us all more aware of how much screen time we are using and have been a great way for us to monitor the amount they are getting.

Each child gets one chore ticket and two tech tickets for the week in our house. The chore ticket must be punched before they can start with their first hour of screen time.

My children are 10 (almost) and 6. This is our current list of chore activities that must be completed. I don’t punch the ticket itself until the end of the day, but morning chores have to be completed to redeem the first hour of time, then evening chores are completed and the second hour can be used.

6 Year Old Chore List- Get dressed, tidy room, make bed, sweep (with a quick vac) under the table after each meal, meal helper every other night, (help prepare and set the table for dinner), 15 minute tidy at the end of the day, and assist mom with laundry sorting.

10 Year Old Chore List- Get dressed, tidy room, make bed, wipe down both bathrooms, meal helper every other night (help prepare and set the table for dinner), 15 minute tidy at the end of the day, and assist mom with loading and unloading of laundry.

Reward- $5 weekly

Tech tickets grant the child one hour of computer or video game time. We do not count television time as tech time in our house. Kids can watch 2 shows daily on Netflix. We no longer have cable television so that has really helped us do a better job of not zoning out on the television.

A timer is set and once it dings, the card is punched for that hour.  It is as simple as that!

We made an agreement that if the child wants to save computer/video game time that they can save and transfer the hours to another day. They can not, however, cash in on an advance on their ticket.

I will not lie, the first day was ROUGH. Two hours does go by quickly for everyone. That said, after the initial two days, we have really been enjoying our time together. We keep busy with fun outings and tackling our summer bucket list together. I find that breaking the day up with an outing seems to make the day go by faster and takes the focus off of the lack of screen time.

Today my son said, “Wow, that hour was really long!”  It was funny how he was whining about the hour being too short the first day. I think we were all losing track of how much time we were spending on our respective screens.

Everyone parents differently. This parenting strategy works for us and I hope it will help someone else out there too!

Next week I will share more about something we call, “Face Time,” in our house that requires our kids to be screen-free and to make our family time a priority.

I didn’t want to waste anytime getting these printables out to you though because they are quickly becoming a valuable part of our summer time together and I think they could be valuable to you too!

 

Grab your Printable Chore Tickets.

Grab your Printable Tech Tickets.

 

Notes on the printable- There are three tickets per sheet. These are color tickets, but you can switch your printer settings to black-and-white or draft mode to save on ink.

 

How do you monitor screen time in your house? What does a typical chore list look like for you? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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DIY Salad Bar For Summer

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Healthy eating should always be a priority, but making it a priority in the summer seems to be more challenging because we seem to always be eating on the go. I decided to create an easy DIY salad bar that you can create on your grocery day and enjoy all week long. This DIY salad bar can be on hand in your fridge and I wanted to show off an easy way you can enjoy this DIY salad bar on the go too!

All of the supplies can be found at your local Walmart store. You will need a Freezer Storage Basket (found in the same aisle as the plastic containers in the housewares section of the store, $5.97), three Fresh Take Arm & Hammer 5 cup containers ($2.87), and 1 Sterlite Ultra Latch 12.5 cups container ($5.47).

Chop up your favorite salad ingredients and organize them in your containers like this. The largest container does not sit firmly flat, but it still wedges in there nicely so that you can place all of these neatly in this wire organizer.

Don’t you just love summer? I love having such fresh ingredients on hand to choose form and creating a salad bar couldn’t be easier with the fantastic selection we have of fresh fruits and vegetables. Pictured here are just a few of the basics I love in my salad. You could definitely fill your produce drawer up with a few other great salad add-ins!

Ingredients for a Great Salad Bar

Lettuce
Spinach
Kale
Egg
Tomato
Cucumber
Bell pepper
Sunflower Seeds
Croutons
Cheese
Mushrooms
Carrots
Corn Kernels
Onions (none for me please!)
Beans
Artichoke Hearts
Apples
Avocado
Broccoli
Shrimp
Steak
Homemade Dressings

One ingredient I always have on hand in the summer for quick summer salads and wraps is roasted chicken. I don’t keep a lot of fresh chicken around and prefer to buy the frozen chicken breasts instead. There is money to be saved in buying and preparing whole chickens, but my family only likes white meat  so for convenience sake (and to get them to eat it), we stick to the chicken breasts.

I buy the 3 pound bag of chicken  cook and slice all of the chicken for the week. The chicken is then ready to go to be made into wrap sandwiches, fast paninis, a protein addition to my salads for lunch, and it helps me save a step for our dinners for the week.

It is a matter of preference how you like to cook your chicken, but I will share my favorite way that I do weekly!

Roasted Chicken Breasts for Bulk Cooking

Preheat the oven for 375 degrees. Spread the frozen chicken breasts out over one or two cookie sheets. Drizzle a little olive oil over the chicken breasts and then sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh black pepper. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Allow the chicken to rest ten to fifteen minutes (to allow the juices to redistribute within the meat). Dice, slice, or shred for your recipes for the week.

Here is my beautiful salad bar on full display! Isn’t she pretty? It makes me really happy to have all of our fruit and vegetables chopped and ready to go for our week. It is something I vow to try to do regularly for our family so that we can, literally, enjoy the fruits of our labor all summer long.

Since we are a family on the go, I wanted to show you a fun way to enjoy your salads while you are out and about.

Over by the other food storage containers were these cute Salad Break Bowls. The set came with two complete sets and cost $3.97 total! I picked up this collapsible basket (in the same aisle) for $6.97. Inside I placed our outdoor blanket, salads, fresh cut fruit, and homemade iced tea for an afternoon picnic. I plan to use these a lot this summer and think it will be a great way to encourage healthy eating wherever we might be.

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

 

I hope this inspires you to make healthy eating a family priority this summer and would love to hear what summer shortcuts you use to achieve healthy in the summer months in your house?

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How to Ditch Your Cable Bill

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

A few months ago our family made the radical decision to turn off of our cable television. It might not seem like a radical decision to you, but for a family of self-proclaimed television junkies, it felt bold to call our television provider and tell them that we were ready to turn off our channels.

With so many fantastic options available to families, it is so much easier to say no to the cable bill thanks to online television and innovative ways to indulge in your favorite shows. It might surprise you that this article is not about getting rid of your television and singing Kumbaya because our life is so much better without TV.  No, we still love our television and I wanted to share with you how to get your fix for less and how to slash your cable expenses for good.

I will fully admit that there was a bit of bribery involved to get my family on board with the decision to turn off our cable.  We found an Xbox for less than half price on Craigslist from a family that was looking to downsize their electronics and gave this to ourselves for our family Christmas present. This gaming system was my ticket to get everyone on board with my decision to let our cable bill go.

If you are looking for ideas for how to get around your cable bill, here are a few of our own family’s favorite options to maximize your family’s entertainment budget.

Players

Roku Player (starting at $49.99)

For families that don’t have a gaming system to view television through (like the Xbox, Wii, or Playstation) this little box can be a wonderful option. Your Roku hooks up to your television and allows you to play through subscription-based programs like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and Amazon Instant Video on your television. Your Roku player can hook up to your home entertainment system and give your entire family the opportunity to watch something together on the couch rather than sitting at your laptop.

The only downfall with the product is that you really do need to have a high speed internet connection, as are most streaming options. If you have a DSL connection we found that the viewing can be a little bit like watching something on You Tube.

The Roku Player is surprisingly easy to use and simple to integrate into any home entertainment system. The interface is extremely clear and hook up took literally a couple of minutes. For homes with wireless Internet connectivity, the player is Wi-Fi enabled and offers the ultimate in placement flexibility. With the player’s accompanying remote control, members can browse and make selections right on the TV screen and also have the option to pause, rewind or play your favorite shows anytime just like a DVD.

There are no monthly fees attached to the Roku Player, but it enables you to watch your shows and online subscriptions in one place.

This is the player that we use in our own home and we have no complaints with this fabulous option. There are other similar products on the market like the Apple TV and the Boxxee Box, but I love the affordability of the Roku Player and what viewing options are available on it.

Game Consoles ($149-300)

Game consoles can be a wonderful bang for your buck because they offer unlimited entertainment through gaming as well as a platform for you to watch your favorite shows and movies. It is important to make the right investment for your family when choosing whether you want the Wii, the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360 based on your own family’s entertainment needs. It is also important to understand what is included with each game console and what are extra expenses you may have later down the line.

Below is a basic price breakdown on what is included with your gaming system, what the costs of games might be, and the graphics quality for each gaming console (found on Amazon).

(click to expand)

 

Our family loves playing games together and having a gaming system has been a great way for us to spend time together. We have never bought a full price gaming system though and have had great success finding used consoles for half the price of retail price. Not only have we found our consoles for less, but when we have found these units on Craigslist, the sellers are usually getting rid of their games, controllers, and accessories that go along with them and will sell them to us for a fraction of the retail price.

We use both our Wii and our Xbox 360 for streaming Netflix and watching Hulu Plus. Both of them are fantastic for this purpose as well as fun weekend entertainment for us as a family.

 

Channel & Movie Subscription Options

 

Play On ($29.99 annually or $4.99 a month)

Play On is an easy way for you to watch your favorite videos, shows, and movies from websites such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and more on your TV using your Wii, Xbox 360, or Playstation 3 over your home internet connection. PlayOn also works on your iPhone or Android phone.

When we turned off our cable, we were missing some of our favorite shows on some of the channels we watched. Play On is almost like having a cable subscription without the outrageous price since they offer many channels that would have to get with a premium cable package. Hulu Plus offers many of the same networks, but not necessarily the same shows that are available on the network.

My children love to watch PBS and Nick. We have found many of their favorite shows that they love through Play On and the cost is an affordable one for less than $30 a year (or a fraction of one month of your cable television).

Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month)

The majority of our TV-watching is now done through Hulu Plus and we absolutely love it. We have beautiful HD television, something we couldn’t afford with our cable bill, and almost all of our favorite shows are available through Hulu Plus.

Hulu Plus lets you watch hit current and back season TV shows and acclaimed movies anytime in HD for $7.99/month with limited advertising. For many popular shows on their service, Hulu Plus offers every episode of the current season, not just a handful of recent episodes.

Hulu Plus can be viewed on multiple devices, including your laptop, the Apple iPad and iPhone, PlayStation® 3, Roku, and TVs and Blu-ray players from Sony, Samsung and Vizio.

You can watch shows for free through Hulu and not buy the Hulu Plus membership. The main difference between your free television experience and the paid subscription is how you view it. With Hulu Plus you can take advantage of the multiple viewing devices, but with the free membership, your viewing is limited to your PC.

Netflix ($7.99 a month)

The other streaming membership that gets a workout in our family is our Netflix membership. Although I feel that the quality of the movies and shows available on Netflix has been deteriorating in the past few months, we still get our money’s worth from this membership.

For $7.99 a month, Netflix members in the Americas, United Kingdom and Ireland can instantly watch unlimited movies and TV episodes streamed over the Internet to PCs, Macs and TVs. Among the large and expanding base of devices streaming from Netflix are: Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PS3 consoles; an array of Blu-ray disc players, Internet-connected TVs, home theater systems, digital video recorders and Internet video players; Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod touch; Android and Windows tablets and phones; and Apple TV and Google TV. In all, more than 700 devices that stream from Netflix are available.

Our family relies on this for our weekend family nights. My husband and I use this for our documentary fix while the kid’s enjoy many of their favorite seasons of Disney & Nick Jr. shows through this membership.

We are hopeful that Netflix will have more viewing options available, but what we can’t get through Netflix we supplement with our Redbox rentals and our fantastic library system.

Digital Antenna ($12-50)

When I say the word antenna, do you think of those giant rabbit ears? I did too. You won’t believe how far those rabbit ears have come and how elegant your antenna can now look. This Paper Thin Leaf Indoor HDTV Antenna ($39.19)  is just one example of how streamlined the antenna has become. Your friends will never know that you are one of “those people” watching television on their rabbit ears.

With a good digital antenna it is possible to get dozens of local channels in HD with this small investment. It is worth it to make a good investment in your digital antenna if you are relying upon this for your television because a better quality one is able to pick up a wider range of channels in your area.

We found our digital antenna for less on eBay and we use this for watching things like the Super Bowl and other shows we prefer to watch live. I am always so impressed at the quality of the television we can get through this and I love that we no longer have to pay The Man for our local channels.

Clicker- (FREE)

Finding all of your favorite shows can be hard when you are watching from multiple options. I am in love with clicker because it offers a one-stop directory to see if something you love is available online. I think of it as a TV Guide for streaming television.

This site catalogs all broadcast programming online, along with TV-quality Web originals, from these silos and delivers them in one seamless, organized experience so you can easily discover what’s available to watch (and what isn’t) online, where to watch it, and what’s worth watching.

If you are looking to make the leap from cable to online television, check here and see if any of your favorite shows are available for free streaming to decide if you can make the plunge or not.

For Our Canadian Readers-

 

We had a fabulous comment from one of our readers, Leatitia, on our MomAdvice Facebook Page sharing what streaming options are available in Canada.

“What I use to watch TV for ‘free’ in Canada (50$/month internet bill)

Live TV many channels (including TVA): http://fr.wwitv.com/tv/b2514.htm
HGTV: http://www.hgtv.ca/video/
CTV: http://watch.ctv.ca/
Global: http://www.globaltv.com/video/index.html#video
MTV: http://www.mtv.ca/tvshows/
Radio-Canada shows: http://www.tou.tv/
Radio-Canada live: http://www.radio-canada.ca/audio-video/pop.shtml#urlMedia=http://www.radio-canada.ca/util/endirect/MontrealTV.asx

With those links, I can watch Star Académie, Grey’s Anatomy season 7 in French and season 8 in English, House, Modern Family, Glee, Teen Mom (MTV), Consumed (HGTV), the news, etc, etc….

I’d pay for internet anyway, so I just boost my internet bandwidth to 50G a month and I use about 40G-45G a month. I receive emails when 75% of my bandwidth had been used, as well as 90% and 95% I think. So I’m sure I don’t use more than I’m allowed to!

I don’t miss my cable bill!!”

Thank you so much to Leatitia for sharing her experience with all of us!

After three months of being without our cable, I can honestly admit to you that there are definitely moments that I do miss. I miss my Food Network, I miss HGTV, I miss the convenience of our DVR taping endless shows for me, I miss my Cupcake Wars marathons with my daughter on Sunday afternoons.

There are also things I don’t miss. I don’t miss feeling like I needed to be a slave to my television to make the most of our dollars, I don’t miss paying nearly a hundred dollars a month, I don’t miss paying for something so darn useless.

Life does feel a little bit richer. Now that we don’t have a DVR we have to catch up on we are spending more evenings together playing games, doing puzzles, going on outings together, and just focusing on being with each other a little more.

Instead of watching Cupcake Wars we are baking our own cupcakes. Maybe turning the cable off really is radical. It feels that way.

The money that has been freed gives us the chance to put an allowance towards other things we might want to do. We can put the earnings towards a movie outing, getting a season pass to an activity we love, or we can just enjoy the pleasure in the savings.

We still love our television. We just love it in a different way than before.

 

How do you save on your television watching? How does your family watch television now? What are ways you save on your cable bill?

Disclosure: The links to some of these items are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate what you need quickly and easily. Feel free to order your supplies elsewhere, but we always try to highlight the best deals when we see them.

 

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Revealed: 30 Day Cut the Clutter Challenge Results

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Last month I decided to challenge myself to cut the clutter in our home over the course of thirty days. My house and my life has been feeling chaotic these days and I knew that a thirty day challenge is just what I needed to get back to the roots of the organization in my home. If you have been a long time reader, you may remember the results from my clutter challenge last year. I am finding by making this clutter challenge a yearly one that it helps bring me back to center again in my home.

The closet, pictured above, is representative of what my home has been looking like. The bones of organization are there, but they are hiding amidst the overflowing drawers, shelves, and cupboards of endless amounts of unnecessary items. I planned to get rid of four car loads of items from my home and challenged myself to a weekly stop at Goodwill.

Pictured here are my first three drops to Goodwill. I have another round of items leftover from our home renovation to take over to the ReStore that are currently sitting in my garage. Once our weather finally warms up, my husband & I have a Saturday date planned with our cluttered garage.  All in all, I removed FIFTEEN garbage bags and three totes of random uselessness from our home. In these bags you would find books that we will never read, toys that the children have outgrown, clothing that is too small, a bazillion plastic containers that I do not need, bedding & blankets that are never used, shoes, & items from household projects that have been abandoned.

Can I say,  I was not sad to see any of these items leave our home?

Maybe when you see some of the corners of my home now, you will know why!

There is still much more clutter to be conquered in our home, but these corners that I have worked on really have me reassured that having our home organized is an attainable goal. If I was going to offer any advice on tackling the clutter in  your home, I would say this:

Start Small…Really Small- When I would survey my house as a whole, I could immediately become defeated. There is so much to do and my to-do list on any given day is enormous. Adding on trying to organize my house to the list and it just did not even seem like a feasible goal. Instead, start with one small spot in your home that has been bothering you. It could be as small as the kid’s bath toys, a junk drawer that could give under its weight of uselessness, or simply a single shelf in your home office.  I found that once I began a junk drawer, for example, I would then start moving into the drawer below it, and then I would move to the next drawer. Most of the time it is just getting the momentum to climb that cluttered hill that holds us back from achieving a little organization that is the hardest part.

You Don’t Need Another Basket, But You Might Need Another Donation Bag- I remember when I first began organizing my home, I considered home organization to be about buying organizers, storage containers, and pretty baskets to house everything. All of a sudden my home was filled with a dozen baskets of items I didn’t need or never used. Instead of thinking of how to make the items you have more attractive, consider if you really need the items themselves. If you don’t really and truly love or use them, get rid of them!

Sentimentality & “This Was So Expensive” Has To Be Set Aside- Two things get in the way of me letting the items go in my home. The first is the sentimental feelings that I have about things in our house. Usually it is a gift, an item that was special to my children when they were small, or something that was special to me that I would like to push my children into also loving. The other thing that gets in the way is my, “This Was So Expensive,” feeling about items that we spent too much money on, but no longer have love for.  If I could get rid of these two feelings about things, I could almost gather another car load of items. Instead, I have dedicated one tote in our basement that is specifically for sentimental mementos and we are working on passing on the gadgets in our life that we don’t use on to others that can use them.

Your feelings about items might be different than mine and it may take some time to figure out what holds you back from letting things go in your life. When you feel an attachment to an item, try to address where that attachment is coming from and if there is a way that you can manage those attachments to achieve the space you desire.

Embrace Your Power to Live Small- The more I cut the clutter in my home, the more I find that I have just the amount of space that I need in my home. When my closets began to feel too small, when the cupboards are bursting at the seams, when the basement is overflowing…those are the times when I think how nice it would be to move to a bigger home. Each time I cut the clutter in those spaces, I rediscover how perfect our home is for us. Basically, I save myself from a heftier mortgage payment AND I find a renewed sense of commitment to stay right where we are.

Our story of giving things away didn’t end there though, in fact, this is a story about the coolest thing that I have ever gotten to give away.  My husband had his ’99 Ford Focus for almost eight years and it was very good to us over the years. For the last five years though, he had been price researching his dream car and dreaming of the day that he could own a Lexus.  At the end of this month, his dream car dropped below the price of my Subaru wagon and with some serious negotiating and a couple of hours in the hot seat at the dealership, he drove that car home.

We talked a lot about what we wanted to do with our Ford Focus. While we could have gotten a little money to trade it in, we knew we could make my brother’s whole year if we gave him our old car. That very day we bought our new car, his car began to leak gas and he had no idea how he was going to get around. Later that afternoon I called to tell him that we had a birthday present for him.

I felt a little like Oprah handing over those keys.

He told me he felt like he won the lottery.

We both couldn’t stop grinning.

I don’t say this to brag, but to showcase how wonderful it can be to pass on the things we have in our lives to others. No matter how much or how little you have, you can always give with your whole heart. Look for creative ways to give back to your community, pass the items on that you no longer use to someone in need, use your talents to bless someone else in your life, and live a life of great thankfulness for all that you have.

If you have taken the clutter challenge, feel free to link up below and share some of the spots in your home that have been transformed or what you plan to work on this month. I can’t wait to see your projects and hear what you have learned from this experience!

30 Day Cut the Clutter Challenge

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

I know it is spring when I feel the urge to purge our home of unwanted clutter.  The spring cleaning for me is more of a year-round activity and will probably continue that way until both of my children are in school full-time. At this point in my life, who has an entire week to just deep clean their house?

March though is a true time of devotion of ridding our home of extra things to dust and care for, with a refocused spirit on loving what we already have.  I find this time of year is focused on restoring the order in the drawers, learning to part with clothing that is never worn or doesn’t fit, and finding a new way to love the space we have have the privilege of owning.

You may remember my clutter challenge from last year and what I learned from it. This clutter challenge will be repeated again this month with another round of clutter that I would like to remove from our home. This month I will be tackling one room a week and getting rid of the clutter in that room so I can make cleaning and maintaining our space easier. My goal is to take one trunk of useless items out of our home each week.

30 day challenges are still my favorite way of reaching and achieving the goals in my life. It was, in fact, a thirty day goal that has brought exercising and a commitment to healthy living back into my life. It was also a goal of mine to read more and honor my body with an appropriate amount of sleep.  Those commitments, I am proud to say, are still a very important part of my life.

Consider a 30 Day Challenge for yourself. What is missing in your life right now? What would make your life easier? I wanted to share with you the steps I took towards choosing my challenges:

Focusing my goals: The first step for me was making a focused and small goal that could be built upon. I think the challenge for me was making a small goal instead of a big one. I am what is commonly referred to as an “overachiever.” I think that is why I fail so miserably at New Year’s resolutions and the previous goals for myself. I also wanted this very focused and small goal to add an element of enrichment that would be beneficial in certain aspects of my life.

For me, the enrichment needs to happen in three sections of my life.

Enriching myself.

Examples- Exercise challenges, challenging myself to one hour of quiet time to myself, reading the Bible, writing in a journal, reading literary classics, drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables, watching classic movies, learning/mastering a new craft, cooking challenges, giving up television, taking courses that enrich myself/my business, traveling, photography challenges.

Enriching my family.

Examples- Dating my spouse again, taking steps to improve our family finances, making alone time for each child, sitting on the floor and playing with my children each day, volunteering with my family, teaching my children a new craft/hobby, finding free things to do each day together, cooking with my children, making outdoor living a priority, limiting computer/television time, no spend challenges, trying to bless someone else each day, starting a gratitude journal together.

Enriching my home life.

Examples- Getting rid of clutter each day, organizing the paper flow in the house, organizing problem areas in our home, cleaning out a junk drawer each day, cooking every night, starting a garden, getting my children more involved with chores, taking inventory of pantry and closet clutter, green living challenges/making the home more energy efficient.

Balancing My Goals- I then decided that to make these challenges work for me, I would add something to my life one month and take something away the next month. For example, I add 20 minutes of exercise to each day of my life this month, but the next month I reduce clutter so I have less cleaning to do for the following month. That natural give and take is what will help me fit these challenges into my day and make them work with my busy schedule.

Reward Myself- At the end, I wanted to give myself a reward for completing the challenge. Maybe it could be a night out on the town after taking a no spend challenge or maybe it is catching on a television series after giving up television for a month.

It’s time to get out the trash bags and start chucking the clutter from my life. The problem zones in my house right now are the endless junk drawers, the kid’s toys that they no longer play with, the medicine cabinet, and the plastic container monster that seems to take over my kitchen.

On the horizon? Empty space. I can’t wait!

This month, I am cutting the clutter in our house and I can’t wait to share with you the results from this challenge! Want to take a 30 Day Clutter Busting challenge with me? I would love for you to join me! Let me know in the comments below what you plan to do to rid clutter from your life today!

New Year’s Goals: Banishing the Paper Clutter From Your Home

Thursday, January 13th, 2011


As I shared with you last week, I am working on getting happier this year through the help of, “The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Rubin.

The first month of her book focuses on boosting energy and has several ways that you can do that.

I have been working on four specific goals for this month.

1. Going to bed on time.
2. Dealing with the nagging list of things to do.
3. Kicking clutter to the curb.
4. Returning to a good exercise routine.

Last week I shared with you my closet transformation. That little transformation helped me see the possibilities that our space could hold if I could let the clutter go. This past week I have taken not one, not two, not even three…No, I have taken SIX car trunks full of clutter to Goodwill to reclaim my home.

As each batch of clutter leaves my home, I am discovering  the potential of my home and the potential for my space to be exactly as I want it. It might not be a space that resembles the pages of Real Simple Magazine, but it brings me one step closer to the home I desire.

Ironically, I asked my husband if he had noticed the house potential peeking through the clutter after my sixth trip to the Goodwill drop-off box.  “Do you even know what is missing?” I asked. He looked around and said, “I guess I will figure it out when I try to find something.” Yes, we don’t even know what is missing which goes to show how little those items had meant to us.

Now that we had begun to see our house through the rubble, it was time to get a few organizing systems into place to get rid of the paper trail that makes its way into my home.

Finding a system that makes sense in your home and that you can maintain is the most important step towards transforming your paper clutter. What works for me might not work for you. Admittedly, I have tried more systems than I can count.

I have realized two things about myself and my paper clutter:

1) My system needs to be convenient- I would love to banish all papers down to to our home office. Walking down to the office though is not convenient though and that is why the clutter continues to build on my kitchen counters.

2) Everything must have a home- Half of the problem for me is not having a home for the papers in my life. I needed something that could house the chaos, yet I could find the papers at a moments notice.

I decided to use a magazine organizer that I had bought years ago that had housed dusty magazines. I bought a set of decorative file folders in the $1 section of Michael’s and created a folder for those troublesome papers.

The file folders you create might be different than mine, but this is what was needed to organize our family papers.

1.  Coupons- This coupon folder holds the newspaper coupons and coupons for places that we might like to dine out. I also tucked any gift cards that we might have in there so that I can grab them when we go out.

2. Emily & Ethan’s School- Each child has a folder where I can put the month’s current newsletter and school calendar.

3. Tax Information- As tax information comes through, I can add it to this folder along with any receipts that I need to keep on hand for tax deductions.

4. Amy’s Work- Check stubs from jobs I have done and reports from my ad network go in here.

5. Recipes/Crafts- I always find things in magazines or recipes that I want to try and end up losing them. Now I have a folder where I can keep these on hand for dinner or crafty inspiration.

6. Receipts- I try to tuck receipts for important items somewhere. What ends up happening though is that they immediately become misplaced. Now I know exactly where they are!

I decided to implement the same system down in my office where my cluttered desk resides.  As a work-at-home mom, I needed organization to do my job well. Again, I had another dusty organizer in my office that needed to be put to good use.

In my work file folders were these categories:

1. Current Projects- Anything that I am currently working on goes into this folder for easy grabbing.

2. Inspiration- I try to keep an inspiration folder on hand. It could be something I see in a magazine that would make the perfect article for our site, a recipe that I would like to try, or ideas from other bloggers that I want to keep in mind.

3. Product Reviews- If I request a product to review for The MotherLoot, the company usually sends a product sheet. Now it is all neatly tucked in a folder and the papers can be easily recycled once I am done with the review.

4. Contracts- This folder contains the contracts that I am under with different companies and can be referenced when needed.

The papers are still all there, but I have reclaimed my counters. What a beautiful thing! I couldn’t be more pleased or feel more organized now that everything has its home.

The next thing I needed to do was organize the kid’s art and special papers that I wanted to keep. I went to Walmart and got a two decorative banker boxes for a total of $6.88.

Each of the kids now have their own box to put their treasures in. These will go in their closets so they can save what they really love and then we will do an editing of the box in the summer for the next school year. It is just a big open box of possibility for them and will keep these papers from being strewn all over the house.

What systems have you found work for your family when it comes to organizing life’s papers? Please share or share links to your organizing systems. I would love some additional inspiration!