Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Good deals!

This is one of the best times to buy kids' clothes if you stock up for the bigger sizes like I do. Yesterday at the mall I noticed that Children's Place was having their Monster Sale, and Old Navy had a ton of stuff on Clearance, plus an additional 25% off your entire purchase if you use your Old Navy/GAP/Banana Republic card.

Also, we popped into the Disney store while we were their, and their character flip-flops and sunglasses are only $1.60! Can't beat that!

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Seasonal Clothing Swap

For those of you that live in season-neutral states you can either skip over this post, or read it and point and laugh at the rest of us Mom's that suffer through season changes twice a year.

Usually when a season change is in the air you get that kid-like euphoria that an exciting change is around the corner. You are either itching for the warm weather so you can migrate your herd of kids outdoors or you're sick the hot weather and so happy for the cool fall air and upcoming holidays to start. But the euphoria soon wears off when you realize that with this change of seasons comes a nasty little chore I like to call the seasonal swap.

The worst part is the in-between weeks. You know, where it warms up for a few days, you start buying shorts and tank tops and then it's back down to freezing temperatures the next day. So you have to keep your kid's closets stocked with both summer and winter clothes at the same. Such a pain. But then the weather finally makes up it's mind and it's time to do the swap.

I am a tote fanatic. I love those things. So my method for the season swap is to sort all the clothes, shoes, etc. into piles and tote them away. I label the totes with everything that is in them so that I can either use as hand-me-downs later for younger kids, sell them on eBay, donate them, or pass them along to family or friends with kids. I also put a bright colored sticker on the tote if there is more room for clothes in them still.

Another tip for those of you that like to save everything...
I've found that if you pull out the few items of clothing that have some sentimental value (an Easter dress, a hat someone made, a first pair of shoes, etc) that helps you keep from going overboard on saving clothes just because you just can't bear to part with them. Pull them out when you're doing your seasonal swap and put them in a separate tote, labeled as such, and then continue to add to it as needed. That way you've already pulled out the important pieces and you can part with the other stuff a lot easier when the time comes.

I just finished my seasonal swap and took a few pictures of the end result.

All the totes labeled and ready to go up into the attic.

PHEW, closets cleaned out and another project checked off the list.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tip of the Day

Just a short one from me today, courtesy of Flylady...

If you're looking for something to eat in the fridge/freezer/fruit bowl, and you pass over something because it's "too old," THROW IT AWAY! It will not get any more appetizing to you as the week goes on!

Am I the only one that laughed at that tip because it hits close to home?

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Daily Cleaning Routine

Here's my daily cleaning routine. A lot of times it doesn't happen, but this is what I aim for. Some things I do each day, other things I switch up throughout the week.

*Make Bed
*Unload Dishwasher
*Put in a load of laundry (Mon: Whites, Tues: Brights, Wed: Kids, Thurs: Darks, Fri: Sheets and Towels, Sat: Catch-up)
*Get self and kids dressed and ready

*15 minutes cleaning/organizing (Mon: Master Bed, Tues: Kitchen, Wed: Bathrooms, Thurs: Kids' Rooms, Fri: Living Room/Hall)
*15 minutes office "job" (Mon: Pay Bills, Tues: Tidy Desk, Wed: Make Phone Calls, Thurs: To-Do List, Fri: Filing)
*Dry Laundry

*Put away laundry
*Clutter pick-up
*Sweep & mop
*Start dishwasher

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Getting to know Katie

I'm Katie. I spend my days hanging with these two, a little girl who's 3 (and thinks she's Taylor Swift) and a little boy who's 2 (and thinks he's a robot). We're about to welcome our third baby in August. I've been married to my husband James for five years and we live in California. We bought a little "starter home" that we're now stuck in thanks to the fancy real estate market over here. It's a really cute house, and I love it and love being close to family, but we really just do not have the room that I'd like. So my biggest challenge in my home right now is fitting another baby into a space that was very cramped to begin with, and I'm really looking forward to reading everyone's ideas on organizing!

I am naturally quite messy, and I admit that I'm proud of how far I've come since I've been married. My house will never be spotless, and I've made my peace with that. :) But my goal is to keep it clean enough that I can always invite people over without having to do much to get things company-ready. I'll post my daily cleaning routine separately in the next post.

I named this blog Simply Clean Living because I've found that living simply brings a feeling of great peace into our home. I love getting rid of unnecessary clutter and toys and having our home feel simple and organized. I also find that when I stay on top of the cleaning, even doing just the bare minimum, I am a much happier wife and mother, which in turn affects our family. I look forward to getting motivation and ideas from others on this blog!

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Simple Couponing – For the Faint of Heart

I am a fan of couponing. I figure if you can save a buck or two, you should. If you can save money on groceries you’ll have more funds for shoes, right? (DSW.com – I’ll be coming to you soon…)

However, I’m definitely into “couponing-lite.” I am in awe of those bargain-divas who can get $200.00 worth of groceries for $20.00 and I am well aware of the effort they put in to score these awesome deals. Well… I don’t really have the gumption or the prowess to do this type of mega-couponing, so I keep it simple. I am also a non-confrontational wimp and don’t have the guts to stand up to bossy cashiers (those who do the CVS and WAGS deals know what I’m talking about.)

Here are my simple couponing tips:

1) Organize!

I know this is a no-brainer, but here is the method that works for me. I have a handy-dandy expandable accordion style coupon organizer. I label the little folders with basic categories: dairy items, canned goods, condiments and dressings, snacks, cereal, toiletries, medicines, cleaners/laundry and baby items.

Every Sunday I go through the inserts and cut out coupons for items that I know our family use. I toss the rest – I can’t deal with clutter – it hurts my brain. I then file them away in my organizer.

2) Keep an eye on store deals and circulars.

This is pretty simple and I’ve found it’s the most time effective way to save money on your grocery bill. Stock up on basics – utilize your freezer –plan your meals around the specials. I admit, I am not hard-core on this one – I pick the grocery store I use most and make one big trip once a week. For me, the simpler the better and one stop shopping works for me and my house.

I also like to use website that combine coupons with store deals. My favorite is www.thegrocerygame.com You have to pay a small subscription fee, but I feel it’s worth it for a lazy couponer like me!

3)Visit the websites of your favorite products:

I’ve found this is the best way to get coupons for things like organic/natural foods, your favorite toiletries and cleaning products. Most will have a direct link to either a printable coupon or a way to request one. You can always send a complimentary e-mail; you might score a sweet coupon or sample.

4)Never pay retail for these items (the coupons are way too easy to come by):

  • Toiletries: toothpaste, shampoo, soap, toilet paper and big brand cosmetics.
  • Cleaning items (if you use name brand), if you prefer even cheaper and more natural products check out Anissa’s tips in the post below.
  • Cereal: these coupons are especially fab when combined with store specials!
  • Baby items: if you don’t see your favorite brands listed in circulars, these are extremely easy to obtain with a visit to a website or a complimentary e-mail.
  • Big brand OTC medications: if you aren’t big on the generics you can almost always find a coupon for Tylenol, Advil, Claritin, etc.
So there are a few of my “lazy couponer” tips. Even with my lack of attention to coupon detail– I always manage to save about 30-40% off my grocery bill.

I would love to hear about your favorite simple couponing tips!

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Homemade Cleaning Supplies

Lately, I’ve been telling people about some easy ways to save money on household cleaning products. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction finding ways to save money here and there around the home, without having to go out and get a job. It’s my way of “making money”, which is very rewarding. I love the homemade laundry detergent, since it costs only one PENNY per load of wash. WOW. Plus, it’s all natural and safe for babies/kids. I put the link to this recipe at the very bottom.

Just as a disclaimer, I did not create these tips and recipes, but I did do all the research online and compiled the tips from various places and listed those that I found to be the best.

I use this to replace my kitchen and bathroom disinfectant cleaners:
Disinfectant all purpose cleaner: Mix a few drops of natural (Castile) soap, 2 cups water, and 15 drops each of tea tree and lavender essential oil (you can use just the tea tree oil- but 30 drops, which is what I do). You can spray this on all surfaces, like cutting boards, counters, toilets, walls, (except it will streak glass). This stuff disinfects (thanks to the tea tree oil) but is so safe you can actually spray it on your baby - you can’t say that about most commercial household cleaners.

I use this for my All Purpose Cleaner (Like 409) replacement:
All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 2 liters water. Store and keep. Use for bath and kitchen counters, toilet exterior, refrigerator, Laundry Room, Sinks, Microwave, removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels. This will streak, so not recommended on windows and mirrors.

I use this for my Windex and Hardwood floor cleaner replacement:

1:1 Ratio of water and vinegar. Store and keep in spray and squirt bottles. Use for chrome fixtures, windows, mirrors, appliance fronts, bathroom floors and hardwood floors. I've actually started adding about 15 drops of tea tree oil to this mixture now so that I get that extra disinfecting boost for my floors, since I have a 8 month old that crawls around on them constantly.

I use this to replace my Clorox Soft Scrub:
Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Mix 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, pour into basin and let it set for a few minutes. Scrub with brush and rinse. A mixture of borax (2 parts) and lemon juice (one part) will also work.
Tub and Tile Cleaner: For simple cleaning, rub in baking soda with a damp sponge and rinse with fresh water. For tougher jobs, wipe surfaces with vinegar first and follow with baking soda as a scouring powder. (Vinegar can break down tile grout, so use sparingly.)

I am using this to replace my wood furniture cleaner:
Mix 1 cup olive oil with cup lemon juice. Furniture polish for your hardwood furniture.

Just some other tips in general:
Bathroom - Clean the bathtub, toilet, sink, and countertops. Use pure vinegar in the toilet bowl to get rid of rings. Flush the toilet to allow the water level to go down. Pour the undiluted vinegar around the inside of the rim. scrub down the bowl.
Laundry Room - Use vinegar as a natural fabric softener. This can be especially helpful for families who have sensitive skin. Add 1/ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle in place of store bought fabric softener. Vinegar has the added benefit of breaking down laundry detergent more effectively. (A plus when you have a family member whose skin detects every trace of detergent.)

Lemon Juice
Lemon juice is another natural substance that can be used to clean your home. Lemon juice can be used to dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits. Lemon is a great substance to clean and shine brass and copper. Lemon juice can be mixed with vinegar and or baking soda to make cleaning pastes. Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle baking soda on the cut section. Use the lemon to scrub dishes, surfaces, and stains. Put a whole lemon peel through the garbage disposal. It freshens the drain and the kitchen. Orange peels can be used with the same results.

Another alternative is microfiber cloths which lift off dirt, grease and dust without the need for cleaning chemicals, because they are formulated to penetrate and trap dirt. There are a number of different brands. A good quality cloth can last for several years.
I am using a microfiber broom and mop that rocks! I highly recommend this. After the laundry detergent, this would be my next best find. (Thanks to my friend Gina for giving me this idea. http://www.microfiber-products-online.com/hmk.html) You can launder the dry and wet microfiber pads so you don’t have to buy new ones over and over like the Swiffer products. Plus it is 10 times faster to sweep and mop with this thing than a traditional broom and mop and cleans 10 times better in my opinion. Add that with the homemade floor cleaner and you'll be saving time and money.

How cool is this?:
Microwave cleaning: Place a bowl of straight vinegar or a bowl of water with 1s drops tea tree oil in the microwave, heat for about 2 minutes. Microwave will steam itself and be easy to wipe out with a wet cloth.

Link to homemade laundry detergent recipe:
A personal side note about the laundry detergent. I made a batch just as the recipe called for, and it worked out great, but I noticed that my heavy stain loads, like my kids clothes, did not come out like I was wanting. So I just made my second batch of the detergent and this time doubled the Borax and Washing Soda to increase the stain fighting power. This has seemed to do the trick and I'm much happier with the results.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Laundry Monster

One of the things I am most strict about around the house is my laundry. Each day of the week is designated for a different load to be done. I toss it in in the morning, switch it sometime during the day, and then dump it out on my bed when it's dry. Then at night before bed, my husband and I each put away our own stuff.

This routine works really well for us and I never end up with piles of unmanageable laundry. We have a small family, so we generally just have one of each of these loads per week. However, if we have more than one, I would still do it on the same day (e.g. both loads of kids' clothes on Wednesday). Here's the routine that works for us:

MONDAY: Whites
TUESDAY: Brights
WEDNESDAY: Kids' Clothes
FRIDAY: Sheets and Towels
SATURDAY: Anything I missed during the week

I dump the laundry on the bed for several reasons. First, then it's not shoved into the basket getting wrinkled. Second, I'm forced to put it away. After I put the clean clothes on the bed, I immediately put tomorrow's load in the basket and take it to the laundry room so I'm set to go for tomorrow. I find that keeping laundry baskets in my house is, for me, a clutter magnet, so I try to keep them in the laundry room.

A friend of mine designates one day as laundry day and just does it all day long. Any other ideas? What has worked for you?

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Where Do I Even Start?

I thought a good first post for the re-launch of Simply Clean Living would be to talk about blitzing. We all have those days when we wake up and think, "WHAT happened to my house?" And it's all so overwhelming that you feel like you can't even start.

I have a remedy for that called blitzing. A blitz at my house is 30 minutes and no more. I set my timer for 5 minutes and spend 5 minutes cleaning each of the six main areas of my house: kitchen, living room, hall/bathroom, my son's room, my daughter's room, and the main bedroom/bathroom. I sometimes adjust that and add in our desk area instead or in addition. I probably do this 1-2 mornings a week.

It's really amazing how much you can get done in only five minutes. I start by taking out everything that doesn't belong in that room, and then move on from there based on what's bugging me the most.

I've hesitated blogging about this because it's really no good without pictures, and I felt stupid posting pictures of a really trashed house. But these are from when we just got back from a vacation, so it felt more valid somehow to have it be so messy. First a before shot, and then an after shot of each area.


Living Room

My Son's Room

My Daughter's Room

Master Bed

Desk Area

As you can see, it's still not perfect, but I feel so much better and more peaceful after doing it. I at least feel like I can actually live in my house, and all those anxious feelings die down. Try it! See what you think!

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