Feng Shui Friday — what is really essential?

A couple of weeks ago I was really feeling sorry for myself because I had managed to dump my brand new iPhone 6 in the toilet. It was a goner despite my greatest efforts to dry it out. It ruined my day. Maybe even ruined my weekend. I was very unhappy with myself; for being greedy and having to splurge on the latest and best model, for being stingy and not buying insurance, and for now having to spend even more money now on something that I considered essential to my daily life.

Then I ran across this excellent article online "When Bread Bags Weren't Funny" and felt even worse about myself. No, I felt better. I felt more relaxed about being patient and waiting to spend the money to replace my phone. I felt less distressed. It's just money. It's just a phone.

The premise of this article is about how as Americans we have so much wealth today that we forget how life was even a generation or two ago. We laugh at the idea that one might use bread bags to cover their shoes because they might not own a pair a boots. We forget that owning even one pair of shoes was a luxury. For MOST of the country, not just a small percentage of unfortunate.

In every generation, we forget how much poorer we used to be, and then we forget that we have forgotten.
— Megan McArdle

I have been guilty of teasing my mom for keeping old butter and cool whip containers to store leftovers in instead of buying tidy new Gladware containers that stack perfectly in the cupboard. I'm sorry for this.

We are a blessed generation. Or are we? The more we have, the less thankful we are. This article was a good reality check. It makes me not only want to purge and streamline my possessions, it makes me want to carefully evaluate any new purchases I make. It makes me want to question what I consider to be truly essential.

Managing a calendar

Hey, Moms. Let's have a discussion about calendar management. Because I haven't quite conquered this struggle. Twice recently I have forgotten one of my kid's commitments because I either didn't look at a calendar in time or didn't write it down properly, and I always feel terrible when I let them down.

For a while I decided digital was the only way to go. Our calendars are shared across all of our devices, and we have our phones (and therefore or calendars) with us at all times. We can even set up reminders. Easy peasy, right?

Wrong. I'm not sure why, but I was always missing dates. 

When we lived in Utah we had a system of white board calendars on the wall. Tom recently begged me to put them back up. So, behold: the calendar wall.

These are just 3 inexpensive white board calendars that we rotate out as each month passes. (The basket below contains library books and markers for the boards). Having 3 months to record dates on and having them all visible at once works great for us. (When a month passes I just clean off the oldest month and move the other two up on the wall.) They aren't the prettiest—but they are on an out-of-the-way spot in the hallway to our garage that we pass on our way out the door every day. 

The best thing about this system is that our kids are more aware of the schedule. They don't let us forgot things. This week Abby started middle school volleyball with daily practice and a busy schedule of games. Next week the girls start school, and Sarah will start soccer. The week after that Eva starts preschool. Our calendar is starting to look really dense

The problem with this system is that it doesn't come with me. So I find myself wondering if I should keep up a digital calendar also. Or snap a photo of my wall calendars every time I update them. I know I have some well-organized friends out there. What do YOU do about this problem?

Feng Shui Friday—pantry organization

It's been a long time since I've posted a Feng Shui Friday post. Never fear, my organizin' heart still yearns for order and peace, even if actually getting there takes me a lifetime to attain.

I thought I would show you my pantry cupboard today—not because it is so amazing, but because I did actually put quite a bit of thought into how to organize it.

Remember this? On the left, the pantry of my dreams. On the right, the reality (I lived with this metal shelf in the corner for quite awhile before we purchased the pantry cabinet we have now). 

image: Emerson Fry


The pantry space I had to work with was pretty small. O.K., some small home and apartment dwellers would consider this ample, but my previous home had an entire closet devoted to a pantry. So to me it was downsizing. Before the remodel we had a slightly narrower cupboard, but it was 24 inches deep and everything would get lost in the recesses. I hated having to dig for everything. 

There are some pretty impressive pantry options with fancy pull-out racks and such. It seemed to me though that those racks took up a lot of extra space. Plus they were expensive. My original plan was to have 12" inch deep storage here, to alleviate the digging. Then I thought 18" would work better to accommodate some appliances. When I priced 18" cabinets, however, they turned out to be more expensive because essentially I would be buying a 24" deep cabinet and cutting it down. So, I decided to go for the deeper cabinet and just try to be smart about the organization.

Here are my pantry organization rules:

1. Everything has to have "street side property"—meaning, I have to be able to see everything in my pantry. I use the depth for storing multiples behind, and for overstock. If the space behind is wasted, so be it. For example, behind the cereal containers on the top shelf and store the extra boxes and bags of cereal. Behind the grains I have ice cream buckets filled with extra. (The peas, lentils and wheat are straight off the farm! Some of the others I buy in bulk). The canned food might only have 1 or 2 in the row and others go all the way to the back.

2. I have to use every inch of vertical space possible. I actually set everything up as tight as I could and then purchased an extra shelf to fill the void. Therefore, everything is organized according to height.

3. Decanting into uniform containers may seem like a pain, but it really helps the visibility issue. I also like that it gives everything a tidier appearance.

4. The smaller and irregular shaped items go into bins. The green bins hold my onions and garlic, pudding and jello mixes, and a variety of granola bars and fruit cups for kids snacks. I fill them as full as I can and stock the extras behind. The plastic bins on the row below hold rice (left), pasta (middle), and potatoes and squash (right). The bins act like drawers. Grouping these items really helps me to see how much I have on hand.

5. Finally, label everything! (I haven't gotten to this step yet, clearly. I wanted to test my system and leave time for a little rearranging before I committed with labels.) This can seem a little obsessive, but the biggest reason for this is restocking. A, it helps my family put things away in the right spot. B, I can see when I am out of something. If there is an empty spot, I automatically know what to add to my shopping list.

Feng Shui Friday—kitchen organization

To find out how you can join the Feng Shui Friday challenge, click here.

Happy Friday to you all. Today I have a little kitchen organizing tip to share. You know that drawer that holds all of your containers for leftovers? We all have one. My mom's cupboard is full of containers in a million different shapes and sizes. I used to give her a hard time about saving old cool whip and butter dishes. No offense, Mom :) Does you Mom/Grandma do this?

As for me, I can't stand the mish-mash, so I buy Gladware or Ziplock containers in uniform sizes that stack neatly. I also have a set of glass dishes for leftovers that need reheated. These nest nicely together. Still, the drawer would drive me nuts because of the various sizes of lids floating around. This is how I fixed the problem:


I used two inexpensive tension rods to hold my lids in place! These are only a few dollars a piece—and effective!

While we are on the subject of kitchen organization, I thought I would share a little bit more about the organization in my new kitchen. I realize not everyone has the benefit of designing their kitchen from scratch, and most of us must make the most of what we have. But since I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to create what I wanted, I put a LOT of thought into the storage and organization.

I designed my kitchen around "zones"; prep, baking, cooking, cleaning, etc. I weighed this even more heavily than the infamous work triangle. Then, before coming up with a cabinet plan, I listed every item in my kitchen according to which zone it should be stored in, and what kind of storage it would be best suited to.

What I ended up with was lots and lots of drawers:

Do you have any idea how great drawers are? My old kitchen (in Utah) had mostly cupboards in the lower half. When I moved here to the farm, this kitchen (even before) had lots of drawers. Eureka! I didn't know what I was missing before! No more crouching with my buried in the back of a cabinet to find what I need. If you ever design a kitchen, plan on putting in as many drawers as possible. Trust me.

Choosing wall ovens and a separate cooktop allowed me to locate two wide, deep drawers beneath the cooktop for storing my pots and pans. I absolutely love this.


I even keep my glass and metal bakeware in deep drawers. I do have a corner lazy susan cabinet, and this is where I store my taller items like my stock pot, slow cooker, and blender. Besides the sink cabinets, this is my only lower cabinet.

I utilized these great containers from Ikea to corral kid dishes and sippy cups. They keep moisture off the bottom of the drawers (plastic never seems to dry completely in the dishwasher). Storing the kid dishes in a drawer keeps them at their reach. The drawers are tall enough to store stacks of cups and bowls and sippy cups standing up.


The top drawers of course are much shallower, but wide, making them ideal for my utinsels. 

I was determined to keep as much off the counter as possible, so I purchased this in-drawer knife block. You can often buy these sorts of inserts directly from the cabinet companies, but they also charge up the wazoo for them, so I bought this after-market online for much less. This drawer is right next to my prep sink and super handy. I'm not a fan of pull-out wooden cutting boards. They seem unsanitary... just me?

Another after-market insert I purchased was a spice rack that we trimmed to fit this drawer perfectly. I already had the spice jars that I used in a rack in an upper cupboard previously. Isn't this pretty? The uniformity makes my heart sing! I do love those narrow vertical pull out spice racks, but in the end I didn't want to chop up the long run of drawers. 

Other organization trends I passed on:

A pull-out trash drawer. When I brought up this cabinet option to Tom he said "sounds like an expensive trash can to me". We opted for a stainless lidded trash can instead. I do think locating one next to my prep sink would have been awesome, but in the end I couldn't sacrifice the storage needed for other things.

Vertical cookie sheet/pan storage. These are pretty slick as well, but I have a small drawer below my double ovens that does the trick.

Still one of my favorite organization solutions in the kitchen is the backsplash behind the cooktop:

You can usually buy these to match your cooktop exactly from the range manufacturers, but we purchased ours (on sale) from Pottery Barn for less than half the price. The shelf holds oil cruets, salt, and pepper for easy access. I also LOVE the hook rail that keeps two sets of measuring cups and spoons within easy reach. I could stack them up for a cleaner look, but I love being able to grab just the size I need without having to disturb the rest of the stack. The backsplash is easy to wipe and is magnetic. It came with some cute clothespin clips that I use to hold the recipe I am working on.

I hope you found some useful suggestions for your own kitchen. Working in an organized kitchen is a pleasure—it even makes unloading the dishwasher fun. I'm not kidding! Where I'm not doing so well:

The pantry! But great news—we brought home my new pantry cabinet today! I am already working hard on ideas to make this rather small pantry space function like a dream. Hopefully I'll be back to share my progress soon.

Do you have any fabulous organization ideas of your own to share? What kitchen organization utilities do you feel are most worth splurging on? Is the pull-out trash we opted out of your favorite thing ever? Do tell.

Feng Shui Friday—Do you decant?

To find out how you can join the Feng Shui Friday challenge, click here.

via Design Sponge

I recently posted this image of the beautiful pantry of the Emerson, the founder of Emerson Fry (formerly emersonmade). It makes my heart go pitter patter with it's uniformity. However, I knew full well when I posted it that my own pantry would never look like this. The only way to have a pantry like this is to decant everything into beautiful (and probably expensive) containers. It's a case where practicality must outweigh beauty. I need a pantry with closed doors.

However, it brings up a good point. Is decanting practical?

I believe it is, at least in some cases. I'm giving it a try in my new kitchen:

I eliminated a lot of upper cabinets in favor of a more open feel and to accommodate a range hood and open shelves. That means this remaining upper cabinet must perform double duty. It is right above my baking/prep space, and also above my coffee maker/drink station. 

I chose to decant most of my baking ingredients. I also have my oils and vinegar in tall narrow cruets (the oils are kept on a shelf above the stove). So far this system seems to be working really well for me. 

So why decant?

Space, for one. Maximizing vertical area is key to efficiently utilizing cupboard space. See how my containers stack high and fill the space between the shelves? This is most easily achieve with uniform container sizes. Think of how difficult it would be to stack backing soda, baking powder, salt, etc. otherwise. 

Aesthetics, for another. Although my containers aren't nearly as pretty as Emerson's jars, I still open my cupboard to a nice and neat appearance. Everything is labeled so I can find things easily. I admired the OXO pop top containers for their square shape and easy open lids (plastic so they won't break as easily in my butter fingers), but at an average of $15 per container it would be a huge investment. I opted instead to buy this Rubbermaid set, 25 containers for $19! Plus, I can find individual containers almost anywhere to add to my set if needed. Much more cost-effective.

A tight seal ensures fresh ingredients. Some store packages simply don't seal well. (By the way, for easy measuring, I simply use the edge of the lid to level off the spoon. My mom takes this a step further and keeps a measuring spoon in the container with her most-frequently-used items.)

Some people decant for environmental reasons, although so far this doesn't fly with me. I still by the same packages of food and empty them into my own containers, tossing the store packaging. I have noticed the grocery store I usually shop at has a nice bulk food section, however. I can bring home many of these items in a simple plastic bag, or better yet, bring my own containers to the store to fill. 

A disadvantage to consider—I still have to keep the larger original containers for some of these things in another place (oils, flour, and sugar for instance). For the most success, choose a container that fits the size of the package you usually buy. Try to empty your containers completely before refilling to ensure your ingredients are as fresh as possible. Wash your containers occasionally before refilling—and dry them completely!

I still have pantry items, such as rice, pasta, and cereal to consider buying containers for. So I'm curious. How do you feel about decanting? Have you tried it, and is it worth it? 

Feng Shui Friday—What it takes to be an organized person

I knew once we started demolition for our kitchen remodel that staying organized would go out the window right along with the old carpet, and I said then that I would be discontuing my Feng Shui Friday for ahwile.

Well, a number of you have commented about following along with my Feng Shui series, and now that spring cleaning season is here, I'm happy to say that I am feeling motivated to pick it back up as well!

So to kick off a new season of organization and Feng Shui projects, I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on the matter.

via design sponge 

I often hear things like "You are so organized! I wish I had that gene!" This should be considered a compliment, I suppose, but it bothers me somewhat—and here's why. Organization doesn't come naturally or happen automatically. An organized person WORKS at being that way. 

I am by no means organized in every aspect of my life. Some areas I'm failing in right now include filing and paperwork (you don't even want to know), my garage, and my bathroom drawer to name a few. Don't get me wrong—I definitely aspire to get those areas under control and you'd better believe they are on my to do list. But it means I have lots of work to do.

So, how do you become an "organized person", since you aren't born that way? 

1. It takes motivation. You have to want to be that way. I want to be organized for two reasons—for form and for function. I love how an organized space looks, and I love how an organized space fuctions. Clutter grates on my nerves and makes everyday tasks take extra time. I do my best to pass this motivation on to my family and get them involved. Hopefully the tendancy to be organized will rub off on my kids. My husband is already a lost cause—ha.

2. It takes practice and experience. Most people don't automatically know how to get and stay organized. You have to learn strategies and techniques. For example: You've heard the adage "A place for everything and everything in its place". Everything must be given a home or it will float around as clutter. You have probably heard of employing a one in/one out strategy where you must get rid of something old as you add something new (to your closet, for example). Grouping like items together. Placing items at point of use. The importance of labeling. Maximizing space/height of shelves. These are all strategies that can be learned and improved with practice. We form good habits over time. I have picked these things up over time and I'm still working on the habit part. I've subscribed to Real Simple magazine since their very first issue. My eyes were opened! I read organizing blogs and have even taken an online class. I pin organization ideas on Pinterest, a few of which I've included in this post. I'm crazy like that. At my previous job I took a year-long intensive course on having lean processes and maximum efficiency, a big component of which was having an organized space. My point is, I wasn't born this way. I've developed this tendancy.

via the style files

3. It takes time. It has been almost 2 years since we moved to the farm and I am still figuring out the best place to put things. Getting organized definitely doesn't happen overnight. The thing is, staying organized takes time too. Many systems must be maintained on a regular schedule. We have to constantly take the time to purge what we don't need. It is good to employ systems that manage themselves as much as possible (automatic bill paying, for instance).

via apartment therapy

4. It takes discipline. I think all of us fall into the trap of thinking we need more than we do. It takes constant discipline to purge and to follow the systems we set up.

Martha Stewart Living

5. It takes space to be, and to stay organized. This means we need to either create more space or have less stuff. Simple as that. We need to be able to see everything. It is the stuff in the back recesses of our closets and cupboards that cause the most trouble. 


So lest you think it is hopeless because you weren't born with that "organization gene", I'm here to say no more excuses! Let's get organized together this summer! I'll share my projects if you'll share yours.  (Sorry to be so bossy. I get it from my 9-year-old.)

Feng Shui Friday—organize your hand-me-downs

To find out how you can join the Feng Shui Friday challenge, click here.

Image from Ashley Ann Photography. Isn't this a great idea?

I'm am bringing today's Feng Shui Friday challenge back to the basics of organizing. Lately, I have been plagued by the chore of staying on top of my kid's clothing. As you can imagine, with 3 kids of the same gender, I have accumulated a lot of girl's clothes. Keeping all three closets organized with only the appropriate sizes has not been my forte.

Last week I tackled the chore of sorting through every box and bin of clothes I have saved over the past 9 years. This is what I was left with:

1) Two garbage bags of clothes to toss—clothes that were either stained or damaged. Obviously when I have packed up outgrown clothes I have not been careful about sorting them. This must change.

2) Two bins to donate to Goodwill.

3) Two bags to sell to the local "Once Upon a Child" consignment shop. I had pre sorted out the best brands and clothes in the best condition to sell, and I left with $52 in my pocket, even though they purchased less than half of it. It was definitely worth doing! I just added the rest to my Goodwill donation.

This is what I kept:

A bin for each size (and a separate one for shoes), each clearly labeled, sits in my storage room. These are my new rules for keeping it tidy:

1) Keep only ONE bin per size. This is key. If I keep more than this I will surely forget there is more and miss something. The job of switching out sizes and seasons becomes too big, and it is easier to go out and buy something new than sort through all the clothes to find something that works. If I keep more than one bin I'm likely keeping clothes that are either outdated, ugly, or stained, and quite frankly, my kids just don't need that many clothes.

2) If you don't like it now, you won't like it in 2 years. Don't keep it. (Even if it was a gift.)

3) If your first kid doesn't wear it, your next one probably won't either. And your younger kids deserve new underwear, socks, and shoes that aren't all scuffed up.

4) Between Christmas, birthdays, and generous grandparents, my kids always have new clothes. If you are afraid to get rid of old clothes for fear they won't have enough to wear, don't be. Clothes have a way of multiplying. And you will want to buy them a few new things of their own. Trust me. 

5) Buy the best quality clothing you can afford. After going through my kid's clothes its clear to me that the splurges were usually worth it—especially if they last for 2 or 3 kids. I shop a lot at Old Navy and Target, but I noticed it was the few splurges at Gap and other higher-end stores that made it into my keep piles.

6) Organize your kid's closets at the beginning of every season and go through the next size of clothes. Don't wait until 2 months into winter and realize you had a coat tucked away somewhere and could have saved $40 on the new one you just bought.


So, those are my tips. Have any of you struggled with keeping your hand-me-downs organized? If so, how do you cope? I'd love to hear your own tips and tricks!

Feng Shui Friday—Paint your front door

TGIF, my friends—and that means it is time for a new Feng Shui Friday Challenge. This is a fun one I think.

To find out how you can join the Feng Shui Friday challenge, click here.

Today's Challenge—Paint your front door (or clean and tidy up your entry)

According to Feng Shui principles, your front door is the main source for energy flowing into your home, so it makes sense that you would want it to be neat and tidy, attractive, and functioning well. Improving the appeal of your front entry would be a high priority if you were selling your house. Why not make it just as attractive for yourself and your guests while you are living in it?

Feng Shui experts recommend red for your front door because red stands for vitality, energy, success, and prosperity. But if red doesn't go with your home, don't worry. Pick another color—or, at the very least, make sure it is crisp and clean. 

Do any of you have a colorful front door? If not, are you up for a challenge?

Here is my rather sad front entry:

Beleive me, it has looked even worse. This summer I at least decluttered and planted some flowers in pots to flank the front door. Now the flowers are fading from the cold weather, and I've added some pumpkins that are awaiting the carving treatment. But let's talk about that front door. I'm not actually going to paint it. Yet.

First I am going to replace the door. I know, I know, some people would kill for an authentic mid-century door like this. Replacing it with a similar door would cost lots of cash. What you can't see here though is that there are holes in the door (I've actually seen bees flying in and out of the holes!) and it doesn't seal well. In fact, you can see daylight through the cracks on the inside, and dust and straw even blows in through them if the wind blows from the east. Also, the sidelight windows are sratched and foggy between the glass.

Eventually, we are going to be changing the trim color back to it's original brown (although a bit darker). The house will go from this:

to this (a quick Photoshop hack):

I think the contrast of the darker brown makes the light brick color look so much better and much more modern. (By the way, we are not only replacing the front door, but all the exterior doors on the house, including the garage door.)

Back to the front door. This is (another Photoshop hack on a poor quality photo, but it gives you an idea) what I am thinking for a front door style and color:

What do you think? It is a lot of glass, but out here on the farm privacy isn't as much of a concern. And the light coming through on the inside will be so nice. The paint-chipped steps need some serious attention also. At the very least a new paint job, but even better a faux concrete treatment or tile. 

While I do love the idea of adding a few pops of red (via a couple of Adirondack chairs on the deck and a porch swing, perhaps), I'm not sure I am game for putting it on my front door. But this is what it would look like, just for kicks:

We are still in the middle of the door shopping process, so nothing is final about the style of this door. The width is wider than standard, so we may need to get creative. Just for fun, here are a few more front door looks I am attracted to:  (The top image in this post and each of the following images are from Houzz.)



Which do you like? I'd love to hear about your own front door adventures. Happy Friday!

Feng Shui Friday—wash your windows

Hello and hurray! It's Friday! (Fridays are the one day I don't have to go anywhere these days—except to and from the bus stop, so I LOVE them.) I think it is time for a new Feng Shui Challenge, don't you? Don't worry, this one is highly practical and fairly obvious: Wash your Windows (#18 in the book 27 Things to Feng Shui Your Home)

Dirty windows stop your vision from seeing the view beyond. It's not hard to relate this in a figurative sense. Cloudy vision keeps you from looking beyond yourself into the world around you. Likewise, dirty windows keep the sun from shining into your home, thus blocking the energy/chi that flows into your home. 

When we built our home in Utah, we moved in next door to a professional window washer. Yes, Dave actually washed windows for a living and he was very good at it. Since he offered to wash our windows in exchange for dinner and a movie out (double date), we took him up on it—multiple times. In fact, I'm pretty sure I never once washed my own windows during the 5 years we lived there. They just didn't get dirty very often in the city.

Now on the farm, dirty windows are hard to ignore.

Between pets' noses, baby's sticky hands, and the dust and grit that is ever present on the farm, my windows do not stay clean for long. And so, I have had to learn to do this job which, I'm afraid, isn't my favorite. I've had to come up with a system that works for me.

These are my tools:

A bucket of hot, soapy water: I use Dawn dish soap. And the hottest water possible. Wash the inside windows first (less dirty) and then the outside. My outside windows are always covered in spider webs in the corners, so my water gets pretty gross by the time I'm finished. 

A good scrubber: Mine comes off the handle and I can toss it in the wash. 

A good squeegee: Squeegee quality and technique is everything, I'm telling you. Neighbor Dave could work the squeegee like I've never seen—so fast and no streaks. He could do our entire house, inside and out, in about an hour. It takes me about an hour to do just my main living areas. (The bedrooms don't get done very often!) 

A long handle: I prefer not to use the handle for better control, but outside there are just places I can't reach without it.

A micro fiber cloth: I use this to wipe the excess water from the sills and clean the window frames if needed. 

Rubber gloves: Fold the edges back into a cuff to catch the drips.

Newspaper and Windex: Follow up with this for a streak-free shine. If you care about that. My windows are old and imperfect anyway, so I embrace the streaks and do the best job I can do with the squeegee. They'll get dirty again anyway, right?

Ah, much better. I love having clean windows. Though now you can see all the chipped paint on the deck, the sad railing, the half-done landscaping job, the weeds, and the dry dry grass that hasn't seen a lick of rain lately and hasn't been watered either. And this door leaks like a sieve (despite the extra weather stripping we've added and our pets have proceeded to chew up) and needs replaced badly.

Gotta go. I have too much work to do!

Feng Shui Friday—organize your . . . refrigerator?

Have you ever thought of adding a little Feng Shui to your refrigerator? I have. And so has my favorite organization guru Benita Larsson, as evidenced by her Pinterest boards. She has pinned the following images:

Source: Shine Yahoo!

Source: cleanandscentsibleSource: bhg.comSource: goodbyehousehellohome



I haven't taken things quite this far, but I have attempted to group dairy on one shelf, leftovers on one shelf, condiments in the door, etc. I definitely haven't gone so far as to label everything. Maybe if I did my family would start following my system. Hmm?

I was teasing my mom the other night when I was searching for some salad dressing and jam for dinner and ended up throwing away half of the (expired) jars in her door. I well remember my Grandma (her mom) having two very packed refrigerators full of leftovers packed in old cool whip and butter containers. Unfortunately, if I let my refrigerator get too full I end up growing science experiments and throwing it out anyway. I have to be able to see everything or it won't get used. I'm fortunate also to have an extra refrigerator down the hall to make this possible. 

Anyway, here is my own little refrigerator tip:

Every day during the summer we make lunches for Tom to take out to the field. I got tired of going through the daily routine of grabbing the mayo and mustard from the door, the meat and cheese from the drawer, the lettuce from the other drawer, and so on. I decided to make this little sandwich tray that holds all the necessary fixin's:

I just grab it along with the loaf of bread and go to town. Its a simple thing but it really makes the job easier! The tray is just an upside down pan lid. Next summer I am going to take this a step further and make a basket with preportioned carrots, fruit, and cookies. 

My girls eat mostly hot lunch, but if you pack a lot of school lunches, this could make your life so much easier. Happy Feng Shui Friday!

Feng Shui Friday—Add pink to enhance your love life

To find out how you can join the Feng Shui Friday challenge, click here.

 Challenge #26: Add pink to enhance your love life

Number 26 in the book 27 Things To Feng Shui Your Home (as promised I'm not going in order!) suggests adding pink to the "Love and Relationships" corner of your home.

How do you find the Love and Relationships corner? I'm glad you asked. Stand at your front door and imagine your house divided into a grid of 9 squares. The upper right corner is the Love and Relationship corner (according to what is called a Bagua Map.)

Step 1: Declutter this area and make sure it is a comfortable place to be.

Step 2: Add some pink. I'm not saying you have to paint your walls pink. This can be subtle, such as adding some artwork with a touch of pink, or even a peice of pink paper tucked into a drawer.

Feng Shui My Way:

In my house the Love and Relationships corner is the Master bedroom. How appropriate—huzzah!

 In a house with 6 girls (if you count the pets), there is no shortage of pink. But this is what I like to do. Occasionally, when I'm shopping at Sam's Club (or Costco), I like to pick up their big, inexpensive bundles of flowers. Next time, make them pink! Bring them home and separate them into smaller vases so you can enjoy them throughout your home. Especially in the "love" area of your house if you so desire.

 So, does it work? Ahem.... that's for me know and for you to find out. Happy Friday!

Feng Shui Friday—entry organization

To find out how you can join the Feng Shui Friday challenge, click here.

My entry way is a problem area. I'm sure I am not alone. Especially in households with more than two members. The backpacks, coats, and shoes coming in and library books, garbage, and mail going out barely scratch the surface of the problem that is called Stuff That Lives At My Front Door.

I have a long term plan for my entry area the involves removing a couple of closets and adding a bench and hooks (a landing strip/mud room of sorts), but I needed a shorter term solution to save my sanity.

Enter an inexpensive hook rack from Target, an unsused Ikea side table that was on it's way to the thrift store, and a wire basket.

It is too small to be perfect, but it helps tremendously and gives me confidence that my long term plan is the right one.

The hooks provide an easy-to-reach place for my kids to hang their jackets. The table holds purses, diaper bags, etc. for guests or myself. The wire basket holds coupons, library books, outgoing mail, bank deposits, etc. Its nothing fancy, but its functional.

In the basement we had a similar problem spot. Once we got the swing set put together, the girls began using the door in the basement to access the lower yard, leaving a pile in their wake. Utilizing a bench from our old entry in Utah, and a Pottery Barn train rack that was a Christmas gift from my Mom a few years back, I was able to create another entry area. 

Right now it contains running-through-sprinkler gear and other summer toys. In the winter it will hold backpacks and winter coats. 

Have you tackled any organizing projects of your own lately? How about entry way organization? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Feng Shui Friday

To find out how you can join the Feng Shui Friday challenge, click here.

Well, its been over a month since my last Feng Shui Friday post. I think its because I haven't felt very inspired to get rid of my just-in-case items. Let's face it. I live over an hour from the nearest warehouse store and stocking up "just-in-case" is just a way of life for us.

So, moving on. I need to remember my own advice to Feng Shui "my way", as in make Feng Shui work for me rather than the other way around.

What I need the most and why I started this in the first place is ORGANIZATION. I have lots of organizing projects on my to-do list, so I will just share a little one with you today.

I have a cabinet in our living room that houses my piano, guitar, and flute music, as well as a few photo albums. It was looking a lot messy before (left) and it was hard to find anything when I wanted to play.



The solution was simple (After, right.) During our last visit to Utah I picked up some magazine files at IKEA. I organized my music by category and added labels. (Sorry about the glass glare. Not the best photos. And don't the curtains and carpet add so much??)


I also have several binders that house copies of my favorite songs. Every time I wanted to play from one I had to open each one to find the genre I was looking for.  I can't believe I lived without labels this long. I simply used Hodgepodge Hardware from Stampin' Up! that I had on hand, and glued them to the spine of each one.

I also had some linen albums in my stash, so I switched out a few miscellaneous photo albums for a more uniform look and added labels to these as well.

Simple things like this make me happy. Now it is so easy to find what I am looking for and the shelf looks much more put together in my living room. I have a few more magazine files on my shopping list as I was a little short—and I like to have room for overflow. I hope to raise 3 little musicians so I know there will be lots of additions to our music library!

If you have tackled any organization projects of your own lately, do share and leave a comment below. Happy Friday!

Feng Shui Friday—Challenge #6: Get rid of just-in-case items

Click here to find out how you can join the Feng Shui My Way Challenge!

If you have decided like I have that having an organized and peaceful house is imperative, you can join me on by tackling these little challenges. You can start anytime, and you can do any of the previous challenges at any time. If you do, I ask that you leave me a comment and let me know how it went. Let's encourage each other!

Challenge #6: Get rid of "just-in-case" items

In a nutshell, you should not be hanging on to items just in case something happens that is really completely in your control anyway. Sometimes we are afraid the worst will happen, and we almost encourage or allow that thing to happen because we plan for it, "just in case".

I have to admit I haven't completely figured out the "my way" part of this challenge yet (as in how this applies to me). I will have to give it some thought. But here are a few examples:

We have a snow shovel "just in case" it snows. A, this outcome is out of my control. B, we live in Montana so it is ridiculous to get rid of a snow shovel. Bad example.

Let's try another one. Keeping your fat clothes "just in case" you gain weight back is acknowledging that it could happen and giving yourself an out if it does. This outcome is within your control. Deny even the possibility and get rid of those clothes!

Not inviting company over for Sunday dinner "just in case" I don't get my house clean. It is much better to motivate myself for a positive result and invite them ahead of time! Wait. That doesn't apply to clutter, but you get the drift.

Do you have any just-in-case items to get rid of? All I can think of right now is a few "skinny clothes", and that is motivation for a positive result, so I'm not sure if that qualifies. A Feng Shui expert would probably tell me to get rid of them. Oh, and hanging on to my baby stuff just in case I accidentally get pregnant. Hey, it's happened before. Right after I got rid of a bunch of baby stuff, in fact. :)

Let me know if you have any more ideas. I'll see you back here next week to let you know if I had any success. Happy purging!

Feng Shui Friday—Challenge #5: Get rid of unwanted gifts

Click here to find out how you can join the Feng Shui My Way Challenge!

Happy Friday, my friends. Did you have fun getting rid of those unwanted gifts that you have kept in the back of your closet for way to long? Or worse, out on your coffee table even though it makes you cringe because it isn't really you? Did you take this opportunity to purge them? Or did your guilt get the best of you?

I added a few things to my donation pile. Here they are:

AS IF! I don't know who stops by to read my blog and I am NOT going to parade all my unwanted gifts here at the risk of offending someone. But in my quest to declutter and simplify my life, these things are decidely UNWANTED, and its time for them to go.

You know, it really is okay to display unwanted gifts for a short time. We aren't out to offend those we love who were so kind to think of us. But I'm sure those we love would not want us to be burdened with something we don't like forever. So after the grace period is over, let it go, baby. Let it go.

(Pst. If you want to tell me about your purging experiences, I promise I won't tell anyone. You can even sign your comment "anonymous" if you want.)

Check back next Friday for a new Feng Shui My Way challenge!


Feng Shui Friday—Challenge #5: Get rid of unwanted gifts (and contest results!)

Click here to find out how you can join the Feng Shui My Way Challenge!

I am aware that it is now Saturday. We had a busy couple of days with special cousin company (more on that later), and I spent too much time in the kitchen to get a post up. Better late than never, I suppose.

First off, I owe you some contest results! If you participated in the last challenge and cleaned out your basement or made a pile of things to donate, you will appreciate how much effort it takes. And if you are still working on it, good on you. Congratulations to our winner, Jolene! Here is her pile:

The best part of her entry was the e-mail she followed up with afterwards:

I took my stuff to the second hand store and thought it was only fair to report that I brought home a bunch of stuff too!!  haha!!
Check out these vintage nursing clogs - I love them!


I laughed out loud because don't we all have that problem? But thanks for the full disclosure, Jolene, and your nursing clogs are super fun and unique. Your book will be in the mail soon!


And now for a new challenge:

Challenge #5: Get rid of unwanted gifts.

Depending on how heavy a conscience you have, this challenge should be pretty easy. Do you have any unwanted gifts or that you have

a) stuffed in a closet?

b) displayed with distaste or regret?

c) displayed only when the gift giver comes for a visit?

Now is the time to toss them out, along with the guilt that comes with them. The goal is to love everything in your home and to have nothing around that drains your positive energy. Go for it! (I won't tell if you don't tell.)

Have a great weekend!


Feng Shui Friday—Challenge #4 Results: Clean out the basement (its a contest!)

Click here to find out how you can join the Feng Shui My Way Challenge!

Challenge #3: Clean out your basement storage areas.

So, how are you doing? Have you cleared out any clutter?

I should clarify: Your clutter doesn't have to all come from your basement. Not everyone has a basement, but most of us have clutter. And if you do have a basement, you don't have to clear the entire thing out during this challenge. The idea is to make PROGRESS IN GETTING ORGANIZED.

Remember, this is a contest!

You have until Friday, April 15 at 8 AM to send me picture of your pile of donation items and e-mail it to me at joellynclark at yahoo dot com. The biggest pile will receive a copy of either Pioneer Woman's new book Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. or 27 Things to Feng Shui Your Life (Be sure to send your address with your e-mail!) Leave a comment on this post to tell me which book you would like to win or include it with your e-mail.

O.K., so now for my results.

Here is my pile all ready to load in the car to go to Goodwill. I have to wait until my next trip to Great Falls (without too many passengers) so I can take out my back row of seats and make room for it all.

Big pile, huh? Don't worry, I can't win this challenge. :) And to be fair, a lot of this stuff isn't really mine. There is quite a bit that belonged to my Grandpa and was here when we came. But it is still clutter and I can't even tell you how good it feels to get rid of things and free up space.

And this isn't my first load like this. It most definitely won't be my last. I still have more closets to clean out and this (my garage):

In case any of you have the illusion that I am a super organized person, here is a big dose of reality.

Someday when the weather is warm I will be tackling this space. It would be nice to be able to park in the garage. What a concept!

But since this started as a basement challenge, I thought I would show you that, too. Since our basement has been under construction, it has been through various stages of disarray. For a long time our storage room was packed to the gills with our basement furniture. Now since our flooring is in we have moved the furniture all back out and our storage room has become a work space for the last few projects.

Currently we are staining the cabinets for the bathroom in there. (Photos coming soon!) When we finally finish the last of the basement projects and convert this back into a storage room, I will be sure to post pictures of everything organized neatly on shelves and labeled. (Don't hold your breath.) But here's to progress, right?


P.S. I wanted to mention something about those donation items. Don't forget to write them off on your taxes! It really is worth it. They are a pain to itemize, so here is what I do. I lay everything out and snap photos. Nothing fancy—just snapshots of several items together laid out on the bed or floor. I keep a folder on my computer called "2011 Donations" and then we can refer back to that when when we are doing our taxes. Quicken makes it simple to itemize them. Works like a charm!

P.P.S. It is a coincidence that the contest deadline lines up with the tax deadline. If you haven't done your taxes yet, I will understand if your donation piles are a little smaller. But just think: next year you will have more deductions!

Feng Shui Friday

No Feng Shui Friday post today, I'm afraid. My family and I have all been feeling under the weather this week.

I'm sure you all don't mind having an extra week for the lastest challenge, do you?

By the way, I think I freaked a few people out with the idea of cleaning out their basement in one week. You don't have to clean out your basement in one week. Just get started by getting rid of a few things! This is a challenge to get rid of some clutter, and see who can create the biggest pile to donate. You will have a until a week from next Friday to send me your photos, so that gives you a total of 3 weeks to amass your donations. Good luck!