Keeping Kids Organized

I recently had the opportunity to help a family tackle their playroom. The amount of toys had reached a level where the children were not able to enjoy their space, because they did not have room to play and could not find the toys they wanted. This is a common problem, one we had in my house growing up. And the more kids you have, and the wider the age gap, the more toys there seems to be. This is especially so if you kids happen to have grandparents who’s love language is gift giving. I know this was my grandparents’ language! They loved to spoil us!


So what to do in those situations?


  1. Declutter first. Don’t try to figure out where to put everything away before you do this. You will only find yourself  discouraged, and the kids will just create a wreck again trying to find everything! I encourage you to let you children be a part of this process. Encourage them to create a pile of things they no longer play with, or that do not interest them so those items can be given to others who will enjoy and play with them. Make this a positive and giving experience. Don’t try to pressure them to keeping things just because a certain person gave it to them, or because they just got it. If something is truly significant, such as a homemade gift from a favorite relative, store that item in the attic for when your child is able to recognize the importance, and hopefully pass it on to their own children. If your child is too small to help in this process, pay attention to the toys he or she normally gravitates to. They will tend to play with only a few favorite items. When my youngest sister was small, she was content to play with pencils and pretend they were people and rarely played with her actual toys!

  2. Sort the items. Often, this will be part of step one, but if not, make sure you sort like items together before finding places to organize them. For example, baby dolls and accessories, dinosaurs, books, craft supplies… you get the drift. Decide what room these items should reside in. For example, my family did not have a playroom, so most of our toys were kept in our bedrooms. A few shared items were kept in a closet. Craft supplies and playdough were kept in the kitchen, because that was the only room we were allow to use them in, for the sake of keeping the amount of crayon on the walls and paint on the floors to a minimum. Once this sorting process is done, you will be able to see how much stuff you have kept to evaluate what size and type of storage accessories will best meet your needs.

  3. Find your boxes, bins, and baskets. I love uses those fabric cube shaped bins. They fit so nicely on bookshelves or on top of dressers. I have used them for everything from craft supplies, to stuffed animals, to books, to board games. They are small and lightweight, and have the added bonus of a grow-with-you look. In college I started using bins for my socks and underwear, due to limited drawer space. Clear bins are great for little ones, so they can see what is inside. I recommend keeping items in smaller bins so that children can easily pick them up to play or to clean up. If you have multiple children, I recommend storing toys by height. Keep items for younger ones near the bottom, so they can reach. If you have toys you only want the older ones to access, keep them higher up and out of the reach of the little ones. You can also utilize things like wicker baskets that you already own. This is great for stuffed animals, or for baby toys, as they can sit on the floor.

  4. Remember, it’s ok to be messy. One of the questions I get frequently when children are involved, is “How do I keep it clean?” In a quick answer, you don’t.  Life happens, and so do messes. Toys are meant to be dragged out and played with. The key is to establish a pattern of behavior with the kids. If they have a clearly defined play space, it’s less likely the toys will travel across the house. If you have clearly defined where the toys go when not played with, it’s easier for them to put the toys back in place. Make sure you make cleaning a habit. Model the behavior. Let them help you clean your stuff. Give them ownership over their spaces. A great tip I love is to teach them that before they drag out another set of toys, they need to put away what they are no longer playing with. For examples, if you are done with the Playdough and want to play Barbies, you have to put up the Playdough first.


I hope this makes your life a little easier, and play times more fun! Let me know if I can help in anyway, whether it’s through the decluttering process or in the organizing.


Peace and Love,

Jessie

Meal Planning 101

My husband and I are constantly on the go. Our evenings are booked up most nights with side hustles, band practices, and church functions. And that’s not to mention all the errands we have to run in between and the normal household chores! People often ask me how we do it. Do we survive off of fast food? NO! While this could be very easy to slip into, we have found this to be bad for our health and our budget. In just four fast food dinners, we have blown our food budget for the whole month. We decided to save the eating out for days when we are traveling and have no choice or for special meals to treat ourselves.


So how do we do it? The answer is simple: meal planning. While I know the concept of meal planning is overwhelming to some, I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be. That’s why this blog post outlines the steps I follow each month to help me stay on budget, save time, and eat healthy.


  1. Identify what meals you need to plan for: My husband and I know that certain nights of the week, we won’t be cooking. For example, we have family pizza night with my side of the family every Monday, and typically on Thursdays my husband has band practice, so I either have dinner with family or eat leftovers. I also know that I am fine eating cereal each morning, and that we stick to sandwiches or leftovers for lunch each day. You can plan this out a whole month at a time, or by a week or two, depending on how you budget your shopping. I find it’s easier for me to do it by the month so I only have to make on big shopping trip each month, and then can just make short runs for fresh produce, milk, and bread.

  2. Make a list of recipes your family likes to eat, or recipes you would like to try out. Make sure to consider the length of time it takes to prepare each meal in comparison with the average amount of time you have for cooking. You don’t want too many labor intensive recipes if you find yourself constantly on the go, but you may be able to work one in for Sunday dinner.

  3. In your list from point one, fill in the meals you included in your recipe list. I usually try vary meat and flavor types. Theme nights can be helpful too! Tuesday nights are usually pasta nights for us because we have less time to cook. Make sure to plan your side dishes as well! This does not have to be anything crazier than microwaving rice and opening a can of green beans. Make sure to also consider which dishes make a lot of food. My husband and I usually deem Sunday as “leftover day” to clean out the fridge. Also, don’t feel the need to eat a different meal each day for 30 days! You can rotate recipes every few weeks, or fix an items with a different type of seasoning to mix it up.

  4. Make your shopping list. Look at your meals you have planned and compare with your pantry. See which staple items you need to restock on, as well as what items you need specifically for recipes. I also like to use Ibotta as I’m planning my shopping list to see if there are rebates on any of the items I need to buy--but don’t fall into the trap of buying things you don’t need!

  5. Get shopping and cooking!

I hope this helps! I would also suggest finding a great planner, if you don’t have one already. I love my Dream Planner by Horacio Printing, because it have a dot grid for each week, where I put my meal plan. A dry erase board can make tracking the weekly menu easier as well. See my blog post on command centers for more information on how to use this to your advantage!


Happy cooking!

Jessie


Keeping Everything in It's Place

As we say goodbye to the holiday season, I have been reflecting on how this whirlwind time of year can impact our day-to-day lives. With the holiday season comes the stress of cleaning house for all the guests coming through the doors. From Christmas parties, to family gatherings, and just getting ready for the influx of new toys and gifts, it can be overwhelming to think about keeping things straightened up! Thankfully, I have pretty much gotten this part of the holidays down to a science. Keep reading to see my top tips for keeping things spic-and-span during the holiday season.


  1. A Place for Everything: You have probably heard me reference this rule before. Every item in your house should have a home base, a place where you know it goes when not in use. Ideally, you keep it where you use it, and if you don’t use it, you let it go. This goes for anything from toys, to the dog’s tennis balls, to bills, to coats, to unwrapped gifts. If you have established this in your home, you have already completed the first step to sanity during the holidays!

  2. Establish an end-of-day clean-up routine: This step is a great reminder not just for the holidays, but year round! Every night near bedtime while my husband is showering and taking the dog out, I have a few things that I do to leave a clean slate for the next morning. Each night I wash up the dishes and wipe down the counters. If I have to leave a couple pots soaking, I don’t feel bad. I usually have time in the mornings to wash these if I let the soak real good first! I then take a few minutes to walk around the house putting up what my dogs and husband drag out. Dog toys go in the toy bin, recycling gets carried outside, sermon writing materials go back on the shelf, throw pillows get fluffed on the couch, and shoes go back to the closet. Even combined with dishes, this usually only takes me 10-15 minutes to straighten up and it leaves me feeling positive and relaxed to see everything where it goes. You can even take this routine further and get the family involved. My husband often tag teams dishes with me if I’m still washing up after he finishes his shower, or he’ll take out the recycling with the dog. I’m still trying to train the dog to clean up his toys...maybe someday!

  3. Clean as you go: This is one of my top tips, particularly when preparing for a party. I recently did a ton of baking in preparation for a party, using a huge quantity of dishes and bakeware in the process. It would have been a nightmare to wait to the end to start cleaning up after myself, plus the other tidying up I needed to do around the house. My secret: I use the bake time to wash dishes and clean the bathrooms. Most cookies take about 10 minutes to bake, so everytime I threw another batch in the oven I would do a sink-load of dishes, target a room, or prep another batch of cookies. By the time I finished baking, the only thing I had left to do was to wipe down the counters and sweep the flour off the kitchen floor!


I hope these tips help in your day-to-day life! If you still feel overwhelmed trying to navigate the clutter and find a place for everything, shoot me an email! I am here to help!


Peace and Love,

Jessie


First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage...

We all know how that rhyme ends. As describe working the “wedding circuit” and how we are finally done with weddings, at least for a while, the most common response I receive is “Next you will be traveling for babies.” While we probably have a little while before all our newly-wed friends start having little ones, I do have a few friend and family members expecting. And with a pregnancy or a new baby, there is yet another influx of items, as all the shower gifts float in. It’s like your wedding all over again, except this time it’s a Diaper Genie you are crossing your fingers for, not the Keurig! (Though you might need that too, once the baby is born!)

 

There is enough going on with a new baby that you shouldn’t have to worry about the clutter all those items bring in. So how do you tackle things before your little one enters the world? While I might not have my own kids yet, I am the oldest of seven children and familiar with the changes that happen with a new baby. Here are some tips and pointers for preparing for and receiving all those gifts.

 

  1. Research Products. By this, I don’t just mean find out which car seat has the best safety rating. Talk to other moms. Do they actually use their baby buggy or bassinet? Sometimes it is better to register for items that will grow with your child. Many people practice baby wearing now, so you may not need a stroller until your baby is old enough to support its head anyway. I’ve found that “umbrella” strollers are amazing. The fold up super small, ready to go anywhere! It’s also good to think about whether you would actually use something. Some people love their changing table, while others never use them, in favor of sitting on the couch to change diapers.

  2. Keep items you will use the most where you can easily reach them. Diapers and wipes should be easily accessible. Rather than hiding them in the cabinet of your changing table, find a small storage basket you can keep stocked on your changing station.

  3. Store clothes by size. Let’s face it. Babies grow quickly! You will often have multiple sizes in stock, because one day you will wake up and your baby will no longer fit her newborn clothes. Make life a little easier by storing clothes by size, but still where you can easily get to the next size up. Don’t hide things in another room either. Mommy brain will kick in and you will forget where you put all your 6 month clothes… or that you even own them!

If you or a loved one is expecting or adopting a little one, or recently welcomed a new addition to your family, first off, congratulations! Second, if you are finding yourself overwhelmed, get some help! We are here for you if you need help finding a space for things and creating a functional environment.

 

Peace and Love,

Jessie

Beware the Bins

Storage bins can be great. Living in North Carolina, with its temperatures ranging from the 20’s in the winter to 100 degrees in the summer, it is nice to get your off-season clothes out of the way when you won’t need them for months. I love that I can put all my sweaters in a box under my bed, freeing up space for the shorts and tank tops I would much rather be wearing.

 

Storage bins are also great for storing things like all those Christmas decorations you bring out the day after Thanksgiving each year. Why leave Christmas lights up year round, when you can create the special occasion of lighting them for a month out of the year? Or how about those children’s clothes that little Bobby has outgrown, but in another year, Joey will be able to wear them? Just fold them up in a plastic box and put them in the attic until Joey is big enough!

 

Like I said, storage bins are great. However, I think as a society, we have started to use them as a crutch. How often have I not know what to do with a keepsake item, so I have shoved it in a box under my bed? How often do I hang on to art supplies I know I will never use, because I can put them in a box in my closet, out of the way? How often have I held onto clothes I have owned for years, but still cannot fit, just on the off chance that I may fit into it some day? In the end, the storage bin is an enabler. It enables us to keep things we don’t really need, and in many cases, things we don’t even like.

 

I love a pretty storage bin as much as the next person, but I want to issue a challenge: Next time you start to put something in storage, as yourself why it is going in storage, as well as when you are planning to use it. I believe that these two questions can make a huge difference in the amount of things we hang onto. Sometimes less is more. Free yourself up. Need support in this challenge? Please feel free to contact me!

 

Peace and Love,

Jessie

When Life Gets Crazy, Get Organized

I had good intentions at the beginning of the week to write a new, helpful blog post I’d had on my heart. Sometimes God has different plans, though. This week has been a crazy one for me personally. If you don’t know, in addition to running Every Sparrow Organization, I also work a full time job. This week we have been gearing up for a big event, which has meant later hours for me and less time to write. So I have shifted my vision for this blog post to focus on how busy life gets and how  organization has helped me personally.

 

I’ve already posted about the benefits of an organized home, so I will skip that part today. See my previous blog posts for more on that! What I want to focus on today is being personally organized and what that looks like for me.

 

The best gift you can give your busy life is a good planner. Find one that meets your needs. My planner literally helps me get my life together. My personal favorite is Horatio Printing’s planners. They are amazing. Coming in both a student mid-year planner and a regular January start planner, they include month at a glance pages, weekly breakdowns with to-do lists, project planning pages, and lots of extra space for notes. My favorite part about this planner is there is a little dot grid at the bottom of the to-do list for each week, which I use to meal plan. My whole month of April is pretty crazy between weddings and work events, so I knew I was not going to have much time to grocery shop. My husband and I sat down and figured out the meals we wanted to eat throughout the month of April and then we went shopping.

 

The point is not to get this planner specifically, but to find one that works for you! Some planners encourage you to doodle. Others like mine from Horatio Printing encourage you to map out your dreams so that you can achieve them. Some planners even have perforated shopping lists you can tear off. I personally like to keep my shopping list on the fridge, but find what works for you.

 

Life organization is largely an experiment, but if you need help getting started, please contact me! I would love to help. Organizing my life has helped me so much this crazy week to find space in my days where I can get what I need to done. I know it can help you too!

 

Peace and Love,

Jessie