Posts filed under ‘organization’

The Things We Keep

treasure

My nesting obsession continues to haunt me. When my son was born I had absolutely no idea what to expect. This time around I know there is a good chance that I’ll be absolutely exhausted for those first two to three months. Three years ago I exclusively nursed and my son was not a good sleeper, which meant waking up around the clock to feed him. My husband would take on diaper duties and pick him up and hand him over, but the rest of the work was up to me and I was quite frankly exhausted. If I was that tired three years ago with just one kid I cannot imagine how depleted I’ll feel this time around. Everyone tells me the bounce back time is shorter the second time, but I’m not so sure I believe them.

In addition to the typical decluttering, cleaning, nesting compulsions I recently had the wacky idea to pay someone to gut and remodel our basement. Since I’m in the second trimester and filled with a ridiculous amount of energy I decided to take on the sea of plastic containers myself. Demolition won’t actually begin until sometime in late February or early March, but I certainly don’t want to wait until the third semester to begin sorting through stuff and I don’t want to deal with any of the dust and debris that construction might kick up down there.

I’ve located all of the baby related stuff we might need for the first month or two. As I mentioned in a previous post I didn’t keep very many baby clothes in the zero to three month range, but there is a decent amount of baby equipment, blankets and co-sleeper related items hiding down there. I corralled the majority of it, but still need to spend some time sorting through the bins to see what’s really useful.

While I was digging I rummaged through the rest of the basement and purged and organized as much as I could. I can only work on this when my son is in preschool or taking a nap, so while this task may have taken just a week to complete it has actually been a work in progress for the better part of a month.

I donated a lot of things I didn’t love and took more trips to the donation center than I can count. The majority of items remaining are clothes that may or may not be used by our second child. Since the first and second will be born in opposite seasons I’m not certain much will be reused. Part of it will also depend on the height of this baby. My son is unbelievably tall for his age, but if the next one is an average height some of the clothes may actually fit during the appropriate seasons. I got rid of some hand-me-downs that weren’t in the best of shape, but decided to keep everything else a little bit longer. After all, some of this stuff has been hiding out in our basement for over three years, how is a few more months or even another year of storage going to hurt me?

The basement isn’t the only area I’ve tackled. In the midst of my reorganizing I decided to dive into the contents of a very large filing cabinet. That awful metal contraption took up a lot of space in a tiny room and I really wanted it out of there.

I shredded and recycled a small portion of the papers it held then got to work scanning the rest of them. I wish I had one of those ultra fast, high speed scanners at work, where I could load fifty papers and call it a day. Our scanner can only handle one page at a time so this process feels like its taking forever. I’m sure I’ve scanned at least five hundred documents over the past week. I scan as many as I can while my son is napping and I’m happy to see the pile dramatically dwindling. I can now fit all of the remaining papers in one box and the filing cabinet has already made its way out of the house!

Its actually been quite fun to comb through that filing cabinet. Among the treasures are love letters from my husband that were written over eighteen years ago, a postcard from a now deceased friend, piles of notes from my middle school years and a long lost envelope full of stickers I collected as a child. I also found handwritten stories I wrote as a teenager and journals I honestly didn’t remember writing in the first place. I am keeping some of the handwritten mementos and shredding others. With a digital copy available I don’t feel the need to retain all of the originals, but some things are too sentimental to shred.

I’m not finished organizing everything but I can feel the end is near. I still haven’t thought much about the baby’s future room, but I did ask my husband to remove an old dresser so I can make space for the things I’ve dug out of the basement. It’s strange how preoccupied I am with the rest of the house. I am trying to make space for all of the stuff that is about to make its way out of closets and drawers. Before my son was born we had plenty of room for baby swings and bouncy seats. This time the nooks and crannies of our home are filled with toys, which means a lot of things need to be moved out of the way to make space. My next goal is to tackle a toy rotation of sorts. I need to limit the number of toys swelling in our living room, which is also the room where my son plays.

My goal is to be done with this crazy nesting by the time the third trimester begins. Considering we’ll be on vacation when that time comes it seems I have exactly two weeks to finish!

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December 11, 2014 at 11:51 PM 3 comments

Nesting Progress

baby baskets

As I clean out the house in preparation for our new little bundle of joy I am perpetually amazed by the sheer amount of stuff that exists within the confines of our walls. Every time I revisit the closets, dressers and drawers in my house I find something else that can be dragged off to the donation center.

Although I love reorganizing I absolutely hate seeing how much money I’ve wasted over the years. After moving things from room to room one too many times I finally decided to get rid of a box full of dishes, platters, plates, vases and candle holders. I hate to admit it, but most of these items were gifts from our wedding ten years ago. If I could go back in time I would definitely register differently.

In my mid-twenties I pictured entertaining quite frequently on all the fine serving pieces I selected. Now in my mid-thirties I cannot remember a single get-together that involved formal dinnerware. Most of our parties occur outside with disposable plates and party supplies. For the time being I kept the fine china, but everything else that hasn’t been used more than once in the last ten years was sent out the door. I cannot say for certain, but I believe I just piled hundreds of dollars worth of gifts into my car. For the record I cringed each time I pictured the sticker price of those items.

Some rooms have certainly been easier to organize than others. While the kitchen and dining room were relatively quick and painless; the craft bins have been a whole different story. What’s a girl to do with all that paint, gift wrapping supplies, thank you notes, colored pencils and a whole host of other miscellaneous stuff that seems to sit around in drawers just waiting to be used? I didn’t have the heart to get rid of any of it. It definitely feels like I will use these items some day and I like having some of these things on hand for last minute gifts bought and received. I got rid of a number of things, but kept quite a bit. I moved them to a new location, sorted and labeled everything.

Although I’m able to recycle my son’s artwork, (thank goodness he doesn’t get attached to those), I also gathered two plastic containers worth of play-doh, art projects, construction paper, markers and crayons. At least I know these will be used at some point in time. Then there are the bins of brand new toys I purchased for future birthday parties and baby showers. While I like saving the money for each event I hate storing everything for months on end. As our space becomes more limiting I believe the gift closet is officially coming to end. I’ve made similar statements in the past but this time I’m sticking through with it. Thanks to stores like Marshall’s and Ross nearby it’s always easy to find toys at bargain prices.

In digging through my son’s old baby clothes I was amazed by just how many little outfits I’d gotten rid of over the past three years. I gave two bags full of onesies and sleepers to a friend who delivered fourteen weeks earlier than expected and purged a few more things here and there along the way. The final count in the 0 to 6 month range is rather pathetic; just a handful of sleeping bags, onesies and sleepers. I certainly don’t regret giving those things away and since this child will be born in the opposite season, (spring versus fall), I have a feeling most items in the three to nine month range wouldn’t work anyway. My first child could wear the same outfit all day, which meant we didn’t much in the way of clothes. Let’s hope the second baby doesn’t get reflux either.

It wasn’t all bad news. I decided to return a few maternity items and unrelated office supplies. I found a number of maternity shirts on sale at Old Navy last week and decided to return the more expensive items I purchased at Kohl’s. I file the receipts to everything I buy so I just dug through my handy-dandy organizer and returned them to customer service this morning. I also found a bunch of unused pens and shipping labels that have been sitting in the drawer for a month or so. I located the receipt and returned them too; between the two transactions I recouped $75.

I still have a long list of nesting tasks I want to accomplish. There are quite a few closets, cubbies and plastic storage bins to process!

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November 18, 2014 at 9:04 PM 8 comments

Nesting: The Second Time Around

nursery shelves

I love second trimester nesting! I’m currently twenty-one weeks pregnant and suddenly feel a compulsive need to clean the house, remove all the clutter and organize everything. I started in the kitchen, moved to the dining room, tried my best to wrangle the chaos that is our living room and then moved upstairs.

I don’t feel as anxious about getting everything ready this time around. Before my son was born I wanted every little detail to be complete. I asked my husband to paint the nursery, I assembled the crib and dresser and applied jungle themed decals to the walls. Long before he arrived everything was washed, dried, folded and hanged. This time around I’m taking a much more relaxed attitude to preparing, especially as it pertains to the nursery.

The truth is my son didn’t sleep in his room for a full six months. Since he was exclusively breastfed I kept him in the same room with me. I didn’t see the value in keeping him in separate quarters when I could just walk three steps to lift and feed him. For the first month or so he slept in a co-sleeper, but after that his little body grew too long to fit comfortably in there. We disassembled the crib and reassembled in our room. It was a tight fit, but we managed to make it work. I couldn’t access my dresser for four months, so I moved everything I needed to a small nightstand.

My post-pregnancy wardrobe included a bunch of pull-down nursing tops. They are the kind that pull down in the front so you don’t have to lift your shirt to nurse. I added a couple pairs of pants, bras and underwear and had plenty of room to spare in those drawers. This time around I’m considering adding some of the baby clothes and blankets to that same dresser. That way everything we need will be in one general area. I might even toss the changing pad on to the top of my dresser so I don’t have to leave the room to change the baby.

I moved all of my pre-pregnancy clothes to the basement for the time being. I did this for two reasons. First, I don’t want to move them out of the way every time I reach for something to wear. Second, I figure it will give me the opportunity to further purge my wardrobe after the baby is born. Things that fit will come back upstairs; everything else will be gathered for donation. Pregnancy has forced me to revisit my wardrobe on more than one occasion. Whether I like it or not various parts of my body changed while I was pregnant and even after I delivered. I got rid of anything that didn’t fit well and decided not to hold on to things that might fit again one day.

My son is still sleeping in his crib, (converted to a toddler bed), and I’m not certain when he’ll give up the comfort of that cozy spot for a larger bed. I don’t need to rush him out of there for quite some time. We still have 19 weeks, (technically I think it’ll be closer to 17 or 18), until the baby arrives and then another two months of the new one using the co-sleeper.

We still own most of the baby equipment my son used, so we just need to find, assemble and figure out where on earth we are going to put it. With only one child in the house we seemed to have plenty of room for that giant baby swing, rock-and-play and bouncer. This time around my son’s toys can fill the entire living room floor, so I’m not quite sure how we’ll squeeze everything in.

Since I haven’t touched the nursery yet, the majority of my nesting seems to revolve around all the other stuff contained within the walls of our home. I’m taking a closer look at the items we actually use on a daily basis. When I cleaned out the kitchen cabinets I removed anything we don’t use regularly. In the past I would have moved it to some other location, but this time I dropped it off for donation. I was more hesitant than I would have preferred. I kept thinking “we might need that one day” and then decided we would just buy again if and when that time came. I got rid of a few storage containers that cannot be stacked even though they were in perfectly good condition and a couple of vases and pitchers that have barely been used.

Unfortunately, I find myself moving things around much more than actually disposing of them. My days of bargain shopping for office supplies are long over, but I couldn’t bear to get rid of all the printer paper in our home. A two foot stack has been moved to the hall closet where it waits to be turned into drawing paper and printable coupons. The same goes for a mound of thank-you notes, ribbons and wrapping supplies.

My hope is to corral all of these miscellaneous items into one place for the time being, then make a second pass through a few days or weeks from now. Everything other than clothing is getting stored away in labeled bins and drawers in one small room. I’d like to reduce the pile by half. I’ve also decided that anything that cannot fit into this space will be purged.

I feel like I have a long way to go to get everything sorted and organized, but I love that I have the energy and desire to make things better. The first step is to clean out the house, the last step will be to work on the nursery.

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November 13, 2014 at 5:12 PM 10 comments

Why It Pays to Be Organized

to do list

I maintain a number of lists to keep my life organized. One is a to-do list full of simple actions that need to be completed in the next few days/weeks. Another is the collective buying list that includes a list of coupons and their expiration dates. This ensures those Groupon purchases no longer go to waste.

I also maintain a list called Things to Look Out For. This list includes items like Look for Survey Payout or Keep an Eye out for UPS Package from eBay. There are a lot of things going on in my life in any given day and I have a lot of trouble keeping track of checks, payouts and packages. I write down a description of the item, the amount and the date I expect it to arrive.

This list has paid for itself more times than I can count. Just today I ran down the list and realized that I was still awaiting payment for returned car tags. I shipped them via USPS and received a confirmation of arrival on March 31st, but months passed and a check never arrived in the mail.

If I hadn’t written myself a note I never would’ve thought about those tags or I would’ve thought about them long after the window for receiving a refund was over.

Thanks to that note I spent five minutes on the phone with the Maryland MVA and should expect a $90 check in the mail in the next three to four weeks. I updated my note with today’s date and the expected arrival. If a month passes without a check I’ll be sure to call again.

I’m sure many of you are much more organized and in tune with the items that should or should not be arriving in the mail, but unfortunately I am no longer one of those people. This list helps me keep track and since it’s inception I have recovered over $600. Not too shabby from simply writing down the amount, date and item I expect to receive.

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June 9, 2014 at 7:02 PM 1 comment

How To Make Life Run Just a Little More Smoothly

Life is busy. To make it a little less hectic I adhere to the following rules. I hope you find them useful too.

mailbox

  • Write down all those little thoughts floating around in your brain. I use an application on my iPhone, but a pen and paper would do the very same trick.  I maintain a number of lists, but I reference my to-do list more than all the others. I write things like: return order to Amazon, check credit card statement, buy trash bags, find a notary and review tax statements. When applicable I add a date to the task and receive a reminder twenty-four hours in advance. Any item that requires action on my part gets written into this list and every time I finish a task I check it off. Doing so ensures that I don’t forget anything important. It also ensures I don’t miss the mundane tasks like stocking laundry detergent downstairs or buying trash bags to hold our garbage.
  • Reduce clutter and organize rooms. The easiest way to reduce work around your house is to purge your possessions. Minimalists have this all figured out, but I am not a minimalist. I keep various pots and pans in the kitchen to serve different purposes. I own a blender, juicer, crock pot and waffle maker. The trick for me is finding a place for everything. The appliances all reside on a basement shelf, which leaves room on our kitchen counter for chopping and mixing. Those tools that I use only one time a year, (for some reason the turkey baster comes to mind), reside in a small plastic box that I also keep in the basement. One drawer in my kitchen contains our silverware, the other contains a pizza cutter, ice cream scooper and the utensils I need for flipping, stirring and whisking. That is all. Everything in my house has a place. We have bins for toys and cubbies for hats, scarfs and gloves sorted by owner. In our case: Dad, Mom and Son. When we get home from an outing we put things away immediately. Coats go into the closet, hats into the box, shoes in a special spot on the floor. With that stuff out of sight and out of mind we have much more space to play and when we go back outside we don’t waste time looking for misplaced items.
  • Clean out your wallet, purse, briefcase or backpack everyday. Before my son was born I almost never carried a purse. Instead I tucked a very small wallet into my back pocket that contained one credit card, my license, a AAA card and insurance information. These days I carry a much bigger bag full of snacks, toys, stickers and training pants, but every afternoon when we come home from our daily excursions I dump the contents of that bag out onto the table and then put everything away. Garbage is tossed and food is placed back into the fridge. This allows you to start over tomorrow with a clean slate.
  • File your receipts. Buy an inexpensive accordion binder. I bought mine from the $1 bin at Target. As you clean out your bags and wallets check for receipts and file them into your binder. Mine is compartmentalized by the stores I most frequently visit: Target, Macy’s, Home Depot, Marshalls, etc. If the description on the receipt looks too vague take a minute and write the details of what you purchased on the back of it. Every few months I weed out the receipts and shred the ones that are over six months old. Receipts for more expensive items like a television are kept longer, since these items often come with one year warranties. If you need to return something to the store you’ll know exactly where to find that receipt.
  • Read the magazines that arrive every month. If you subscribe to magazines make certain that you stack them in one location in the house and actually take the time each month to read them. Every time you finish a magazine donate or recycle it. Do not leave it in the house to collect dust. The stack should remain the same size each month as each time a new magazine arrives the old one should be read and discarded. If you find the stack growing larger and larger consider ending your subscription. This probably means that you are paying good money for something you aren’t using.
  • Ask to be removed from all catalogs. Email or call the company who sent the catalog and ask to be removed from their mailing list. Make certain to include the details found on the back of the catalog; sometimes a company will not stop solicitations without those special codes.  Getting rid of catalogs helps you on multiple fronts. First, you won’t feel tempted to buy things you don’t really need. Second, you will save the environment as less trees are cut down and less fuel is utilized to get those magazines from point A to point B. Third, you won’t have to deal with them in your mail anymore.
  • Unsubscribe from all unwanted email. Go through your inbox and click the unsubscribe link for each and every email that you are not interested in. It only takes a second or two to open these, but removing them from your inbox means you don’t have to waste any time at all.
  • Open and read your mail every day. This is an easy one. Pick a room in the house and set up a shredder, scanner, trash can and recycle bin. Dump the spam into the recycle bin, this may include circulars, unsolicited mail, (without your name on it), and anything else that you don’t want. Dump envelopes into the recycle bin. Shred all unsolicited credit card offers and anything else that could make it easy for someone to steal your identity or wreak havoc on your credit score. Whatever is left is real mail. Much of this may include bills and bank statements. These documents should be scanned and digitally filed by date. We save all documents as yyyy-mm-dd – description. This ensures that items are sortable and easy to find when needed. Once things are scanned shred the physical documents. Don’t forget to set aside time to pay your bills.
  • Create backups of your data. I must admit that my husband has taken over this particular task for our household. The key is to backup everything you can. Family photos, bank statements, medical records, you name it. Make sure everything is backed up so a broken hard drive doesn’t force you to lose everything.

This may seem like a lot of tasks, but after awhile it will become second nature to complete them. With less mail to process, less email to read and less time wasted looking for lost objects you’ll free up a good chunk of time in your day.

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February 12, 2014 at 11:52 PM 1 comment

A Storage Solution for Toys

Storage Bin

For over a year I’ve been on the lookout for a storage solution for my son’s toys. We originally bought a shelving unit with multiple compartments but it was difficult to actually keep the toys corralled on the shelves. It seems a lot of my son’s toys are round and spherical in nature, which led to a bunch of toys falling off the shelf whenever he tried to grab just one.

He’s actually a very careful child, so he learned how to work around this, but when playmates came over toys inevitably crashed onto the ground. I got so frustrated by the shelves that I moved them to another location and began using it for a different purpose.

I tried moving my son’s items into plastic bins and storage drawers, but he wasn’t able to view all of the toys and grew disinterested in digging around to find them.

I searched around the Internet and found the perfect solution. It comes in two versions. One in pastel colors, like the one at the top of this post and one in primary colors as seen below.

Storage Bin Primary Colors

The new unit isn’t the most robust thing in the world. It’s made of two pieces of particle board and a bunch of metal rods, but it does serve it’s purpose perfectly. It took me about ten minutes to set it up. My son actually helped me put the unit together and move all of the toys onto the shelves. The shelves are tilted down so my son can easily see everything in side of the bins and the bins can hold all of his balls and other items that were constantly rolling off of the old shelves we used.

Now he can see everything he could possibly want to play with. Whatever doesn’t fit on the shelves will be moved into temporary storage and rotated.

It also makes clean up a breeze. All of the legos fit in one storage bin. My son can take the entire bin off of the shelf, play with the toys and then put everything back in the bin. Everything is self-contained, which I love!

The unit is currently on sale at Amazon for $54.99.

December 13, 2013 at 11:31 AM Leave a comment

My Black Friday Tradition… It Doesn’t Involve Shopping

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While many people are out shopping the day after Thanksgiving, you can often find me at home, digging through my closets, bookshelves and drawers. The goal is simple: to find better homes for all of my unwanted items and to make room for any new items that might make their way into my home.

Since I can’t get loved ones to stop buying me presents I typically ask for experience related gifts or consumable products like food. While this works more often than not, it’s inevitable that I’ll wind up with a few new things that need space in already crowded closets and drawers.

Every black Friday I perform a major deep clean and try my best to reorganize everything. I know that charities are always on the look out for donated clothes this time of year so I do my best to get things packed up into boxes in anticipation of the holidays.

I start by digging through the back of my closets and drawers and trying on each and every item that I’m just not sure about anymore. Then I move on to the linen closets and sort through sheets, blankets and towels.

Next I take a stab at the overflowing shelves lined with freebies like razors, toothpaste and shampoo. I keep one or two of each item as backups and then bundle the rest up for donation drives in our area. Last year I also provided small baskets filled with these types of products to family members.

Once that’s all wrapped up I typically move on to the gift closet. I take stock of what’s inside and pile up Christmas gifts I purchased throughout the year.

Lastly I clear out the rest of the house. I walk around and remove unwanted magazines, which can also be donated, along with odds and ends that have made their way into the various spaces of my home.

I also look for any items that we haven’t used in awhile. I’m always surprised by the number of things in our home that go unused over time. This includes everything from books to kitchen utensils. Sometimes I just box up items and move them out of the way, other times I try to sell or donate the unwanted items.

It can take a few hours to organize all of the nooks and crannies of my home, but when I’m finished I typically find at least a few boxes worth of items that I no longer want. I always feel a little bit lighter when I clean out the house and I’m happy to send those items off to those in need.

These days decluttering on Thanksgiving Day or the day after is an annual ritual. It feels good to get rid of all that clutter, but it feels even better knowing that it’s helping other people who need it more than we do.

How about you? Do you plan to shop on Black Friday? If not what do you plan to do?

This post was originally published on November 25, 2010.

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November 27, 2013 at 2:44 PM 3 comments

Does It Ever Make Sense To Replace Something That Is Functioning Properly?

hangers

Photo Credit

I’m in the process of organizing my house. Whenever I’m feeling a bit uneasy about life I start looking for piles that need to be sorted and toys that need to be put back on the shelf. It’s an easy way for me to release my nervous energy. I don’t know where this habit stems from, but it makes me feel so much better to look around and see everything in it’s place. I don’t typically feel 100% better once the house is neat and tidy, but I feel more productive than worrying or sitting for hours on end with my thoughts. I also have a hard time thinking straight when things are out of order, so cleaning keeps me busy and then gives me the space to think and breathe. The end product isn’t too shabby either: a house with less clutter and more room to live.

So far I’ve taken two trips to the donation center and plan to take another one this week. My organization quest began this summer when I replaced a bunch of gray storage containers with clear ones. Believe it or not I filled 6 small (32 qt) containers and 6 large (66 qt) containers primarily with hand-me-down clothing and toys for my son! The large boxes cost $6.99 a piece. The small ones cost $5.99 each. The total for all twelve came to $77.88 before tax.

The clothes are all sorted by age and range in size from 0-6 months to size 4. For the most part my son is still wearing size 18-24 months, which means more than half of the boxes contain clothing he won’t wear for at least another year or two. I’m not a big fan of storing things in the basement for two years, but the quality of hand-me-downs could not be beat.  I’m holding onto the smaller sizes in the hopes that we might have another child. If we don’t make any progress on that front within the next year then I’ll pass them on to someone else.

I spent almost $80 on new containers, but everything is now organized and easy to see. The hand-me-downs easily saved me hundreds if not thousands of dollars in children’s clothing, so $80 to store it seemed quite reasonable.

Earlier this month I donated all of my mismatching bowls and other kitchen items and replaced them with items that can stack easily in our cabinets. This felt just as crazy as donating perfectly good storage containers just because they weren’t see-through. My husband and I spent an hour in TJ Maxx and walked out with $118 worth of stuff. In that case I spent a measly $6.18 out of pocket. The rest of the money came in the form of gift cards I received for completing surveys.

My last purchase was three sets of skinny hangers. After reorganizing all of the closets in our house I decided to get rid of the funky, mismatching hangers that seemed to take up a ridiculous amount of space on each rod. One final trip to the store and I became the proud owner of three new sets of hangers that provide a world of space in the closets. I purged a bunch of stuff that freed up space, but those skinny hangers really make my life easier. I can see almost everything in closet, (I don’t have much stuff in there anymore), without moving everything back and forth to find what I’m looking for. Each set of hangers cost $9.99. I also bought two sets of pant hangers, which cost a total of $7.98. The grand total for four sets of hangers: $37.95 before tax.

All told I spent $233.83 to reorganize the house. Four sets of hangers, 12 storage containers and countless new stackable bowls and other kitchen items. Thanks to the TJ Maxx gift cards I spent just under $125 (before tax) for all the items.

Did I need new hangers, bowls and storage boxes? Probably not. The items I had in the house were completely functional and to be honest it felt very strange to get rid of things that were perfectly useful. After all a bowl is a bowl, isn’t it?

In this case I fought the urge to keep the items I owned. I passed them on to the donation center and hope that someone else will use them. They serve the needs they were designed for, they just didn’t keep things as organized as I wanted.

Would you spend money to reorganize your house? Do you think replacing functional items is a complete waste of money?

November 23, 2013 at 3:53 PM 12 comments

This is Why Both Spouses Should Review the Bills

credit cards

I think it’s extremely important for both spouses to understand the household’s finances. Each spouse should know how to log in to bank accounts, check balances and pay bills. It makes perfect sense for one spouse to be responsible for journaling and paying the bills, but I think both should be responsible for routinely reading the credit card statement and confirming the nature of each charge. This doesn’t have to take all day. For the most part you can skim the business names where items were purchased, match them against the total paid and move on from there.

I also think both spouses should read the mail. Again one can sort the physical letters, weed out the spam and consolidate the bills into a stack on the dining room table, but both should routinely glance at those documents to make certain they know what is owed.

Last week as I was reviewing our bill pay history I noticed that my husband had written a check for $378 to our dentist. We both visited the dentist on the same day back in August and my husband assumed we owed a particular amount above and beyond what insurance covered. When the bill came through the mail he promptly paid it, shredded the actual bill and didn’t give it another thought.

I was away from late August through early September so I never saw this bill come through the mail and was not aware that my husband had paid it until after I reviewed our bill pay history.

I couldn’t understand why we received such a large bill. I thought long and hard about our dental visit and nothing had been out of the ordinary. Neither one of us had any additional work completed like root canals or filling cavities.

Then it dawned on me. This was the first time we’d been to the dentist since our insurance changed in early May. I called the dentist office and found out that they billed our old insurance company, Aetna, instead of our new company, Blue Cross Blue Shield. When Aetna rightfully refused our claim the dentist sent us a bill.

Since dental bills never make much sense and a lot of things are not covered 100% by insurance my husband simply assumed we owed the dentist additional money and promptly paid the bill.

If I had not double checked the billing history for the past two months this error would have gone unnoticed. We would have unnecessarily paid $378 for something that was actually covered in full by insurance!

This is not the first time we’ve encountered errors. Awhile ago my husband inadvertently reversed the numbers in our regularly scheduled bill pay to the credit card company. Had I not noticed the error we would have been struck with unnecessary interest payments.

We’ve also caught unusual charges on our credit card bills. When we encounter a store name we don’t recognize we each make certain to ask each other if they’ve recently shopped there. Once or twice we’ve found fraudulent charges that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

I’m so glad I noticed the $378 error. That’s way too much money to pay unnecessarily!

Photo Credit: Images Money

November 5, 2013 at 1:23 PM Leave a comment

This Seems a Little Crazy

Yesterday morning I left my son in the care of my husband and walked off to take a shower. When I emerged from the bathroom the kitchen floor was covered in pots, pans and bowls of varying sizes. I really wish I’d taken a picture of that mess.

“I want to get rid of all of this,” my husband said. There was nothing wrong with the stuff we owned. It was all perfectly functional, but none of the items were stackable. That meant everything was a little topsy turvy in the cabinet and more often than not when you went to grab one thing out of the cupboard you had to move three or four other things out of the way to get to it.

The frugal part of me did not want to donate perfectly good dishes and bowls, but as I looked at my husband’s face I knew I was going to lose this battle. I’ll be honest it seemed crazy to discard all of this stuff in favor of items that could be organized more easily, but before I could blink he had gathered everything up off the floor and bundled it into large, brown paper bags. A few minutes later I loaded everything into our trunk and looked back at a very empty set of cabinets.

Thirty minutes after that we were standing in TJ Maxx attempting to find stackable replacements for everything we’d donated. The entire time I was shaking my head at the thought of needlessly spending money.

I think we scoured the store for about an hour, but we did find matching circular and rectangular pyrex storage containers and stackable ceramic serving dishes with lids. I’m a sucker for pretty containers that can also be used for storage.

With half a cart full of supplies we headed to the checkout and watched the numbers blink until a grand total of $118 flashed on the register screen. (I actually thought the price was quite reasonable for all that we purchased.) As luck would have it I just cashed out a bunch of reward points for completing surveys and used two TJ Maxx gift cards to pay for the majority of our purchase. I only charged $6.18 on my credit card.

Although I didn’t want to spend the money on this stuff I must admit that my cabinets are now filled with beautiful, stackable dishes, bowls and storage containers all neatly arranged.

Bowls

I actually feel really good opening the cabinet doors and reaching in the cupboard for whatever I need. I’m so glad my husband convinced me to donate the old stuff in favor of new items that help keep things organized. Actually as soon as I washed all the new dishes and placed them in the cabinet I wondered why we didn’t do this years ago.

New Bowls

I think it’s a little crazy to donate perfectly functional items, but I must admit that I LOVE how clean and organized things are now.

Have you ever discarded perfectly functional things in favor of ones that could be organized more easily?

November 3, 2013 at 9:46 AM 7 comments

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