Friday, December 19, 2014

The Toy Shuffle

Every once in awhile, I go through the boys' toys and purge!  Today was one of those days.  I looked at every toy.  Broken ones were tossed and the ones that are rarely played with were put in a tote with a lid.  I plan to store them for two weeks.  If the kids haven't noticed that they are gone, I'll donate them.

I also moved toys into different storage containers.  We have some rolling drawers that I kept at the foot of Jacob's bed.  As soon as you opened the door to the room, it was directly in front of you.  I didn't like how it made the room feel crowed.  I decided to try these rolling drawers in between their beds as a nightstand.  A box of tissues, their alarm clock and their glasses fit perfectly.  In the drawers are their loveys, stuffed animals and a few random items like their origami.

These stuffed animals are perfect chew toys for our new dog, Shasta.

The toy box was between their beds and contained a jumble of junk.  They had some loveys, some trucks and cars, and whatever else they threw in.  I moved the toy box into their closet for a reading nook.  Now, inside the toy box is their large collection of dress up clothes and toy weapons.  I had been keeping their dress up clothes in a large tote with a lid.  But I noticed they were playing with these toys more and more often.  The tote was overflowing and the lid couldn't latch easily.  It wasn't working well and I hope the toy box will make it easier for the kids to find their toys and clean them up later.

Dress up and pretend clothes are now in the toy box.

Up in the closet, I keep a bin of Legos, a tackle box of little cars and trucks, a bin of race tracks and accessories, and all of the castle toys.  The baskets of knights, armor and horses; the tray of castle blocks and the folding castle itself.  The kids are welcome to use any of these toys, but need to ask for them.  This way I can better monitor the cleanliness of the room.  The more toys that are out, the tougher it is too clean up.  Limiting the number of toys will be much less overwhelming for the kids and give them more space to actually play.

In front of the bookshelf there are two baskets of toys.  One contains wooden blocks and the other large trucks and tractors.  These two were simply too large to fit on the closet shelf.

Finally, under the bed we have another Ikea find.  This under the bed storage drawer with dividers work great for holding little toys like their action figures and little plastic soldiers and animals and their Transformers.  (Update - I've removed the dividers, it was an extra step in clean up to find the correct spot.) These are the toys that the kids play with the most!  I want the boys to find the toys they wanted and be able to clean up quickly.

My cute models!

As you can see, I have used several different storage options for my boys' toys - bins with and without lids, totes, baskets, under the bed containers, plastic drawers and shelves.  As your children grow, their toys will change and their needs for help cleaning their room will change.

Periodically, take inventory of their toys.  Anything need to be tossed or donated?  Have they outgrown anything?  Would they notice if it was gone?  Is there something that they are more interested in, but there is not enough room?  Look at the volume of each type of toy.  Do you need to allot more or less space?  Do your kids have room to play?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Boy's Room Closet

The closet in our boys' room was a mess.  There are ugly mirrored sliding closet drawers that never seemed to slide nicely.  I kept a bin of dress up clothes and wire basket of cars and trucks on the floor.  When I would tidy their room, this area would be pretty manageable, but when the kids cleaned up from a playdate, everything was a jumbled mess.

The shelf held some toys, clothes they hadn't yet grown into and a stack of blankets.

The other side of the closet held their dresser.  Let me tell you the story of this dresser.  It was an old wooden dresser   that used to be in my dad's garage.  I needed something to hold my clothes when I moved out of my parents' house in college.  Dad said I could use it, so I cleaned it up and painted it bright blue.  I used this dresser for about 12 years, then my kids inherited it.  The drawers were a bit of a challenge to open and close, not ideal  for kids, but it worked.  They were bored one day and decided to start peeling the beautiful blue paint off the drawers.  Poor thing was really hit up.

There were several challenges with the closet.  The kids couldn't get their clothes in and out of the dresser easily.  There wasn't enough storage space and the space we did have was not being used efficiently.  The mirrored doors were so ugly!  And worst of all, my boys were scared of the closet.  Too many episodes of Scooby Doo, they were afraid of monsters hiding in there.  It was time for a change!

Here are some before pictures of the room.  Toys on the floor in front of the bookshelves, the ugly doors, my abused dresser!


Dress up bins

Blankets and toys

The first step was to remove the doors.  It looked better immediately!

The next step was to get rid of the dresser.  Adam and I talked about the best way to add more storage and make it easier for the kids to get their clothes independently.  We decided that this dandy shelving unit from Ikea was perfect!

Jacob's has the cubbies on the left.  Reed's are on the right.

I've already changed a few things, this was a picture taken during the organizing.  The top cubby contains the boys' special items,  - treasure boxes, piggy banks, etc.  The second has a bin with underwear, socks and pajamas.  The third has a bin with shirts and the bottom has pants.  I was folding laundry this afternoon.  It was easy for the kids to carry their bins in, tuck their laundry pile in and return it to the cubby.  It was wonderful!!!

Here's an after picture!  The blue toy box was in between the boys' beds, but it felt very crowded.  I've always wanted a little hide-away for the kids to curl up with the book.  Moving the toy box into the closet gives them a place to keep all of their dress up clothes and a spot to relax with a book.

If you look closely at the shelf.  I have folded the blankets on the left.  I put most of the toys up on the shelf.  Legos, toy cars, race tracks, castle blocks and a few other toys are all up there.  This is a better use of space and will hopefully keep the room a bit cleaner.

Ahhh!  It feels so good to tackle this project!  The boys are so excited have a new organized space.  They love the bins and cubbies and the reading nook.  Start to finish, this project took my husband and I two hours.  Removing the doors, moving the dresser out, building the bookshelf and rearranging a few pieces of furniture.  I love the new space for our boys!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Meal Planning 2.0

Last year, I posted how I plan meals for my family.  This worked very well while I was at home more often.  Now that Sigh of Relief has been working with more clients, I have less time at home, but no less responsibility.

Making healthy meals is still a priority in our home.  Family meals are so important for many reasons.  Social skills and manners are learned, discussions about our days and how to react to different situations.  We can model good nutrition and talk about health.  It's a time to pray together.  For all of these reasons, we make meals a high priority.

Don't they look happy?!

But here's a little secret.  I like this part of my responsibilities the least!  It's not quite to hate, but pretty close.  Here's why:  you have to plan the meals.  Find new recipes, incorporate healthy choices and find something that the kids will eat.  Then you have to make sure that you have all of the ingredients, meaning grocery shopping.  Ugh.  Once you find your items, decide between all of the different product options, unload you items onto the conveyor belt, pay, load everything into your car, go home, unload the car and find a place for everything in cupboard.  If you bring children to the store you are about ready to freak out from all of the whining and begging.  I'm often times ready for a glass of wine by this time, but no, not even close to being done.

Now you have to prepare and cook your meal.  Finally, you gather your family to the table and set down this beautiful feast (or pasta with sauce from a jar) and chances are that your kids will say "I don't like that."  Once finished with the meal, you still need to package up the leftovers and do the dishes.  All in all, not awesome.

Even though meal planning and preparation is not my favorite chore, it's important.  So I have come up with a method that works well for me.

I present to you: 2 weeks of meals that I don't' have to come up with at 4:30.

I sat down one evening and made this super complicated spreadsheet with the seven days across the top and a theme.  Monday is Italian or Mexican, Tuesday is Asian or American classics, Wednesday is breakfast for dinner.  Thursday we have leftovers or sandwiches and Friday we have some form of pizza.  Saturdays and Sundays don't have a theme, it's whatever we've been hungry for.

Sunday evening, I sit down with my menu and order all of my food from Amazon Fresh.  It's delivered before dawn Monday morning.

I love, love , love this service!  Look for my upcoming post about Amazon Fresh vs Safeway.  I realize that Amazon Fresh is only available in a few cities, but this style of meal planning will work even if you have to physically drive to the store.

The last step in meal planning is actually following the plan!  If I'm on the ball, I look at my plan in the morning and pull any meat out of the freezer.  If I'm not prepared, I thaw the meat in the microwave.  

If something comes up and we aren't home for dinner or I just don't have time or energy to make it, I move that meal to the weekend or to Thursday, my leftovers day.  I love the ease of this system!  I love that I can ask my husband to get started on dinner and he doesn't need to come up with a meal on the fly.  I love that I can go into my Google Drive account and switch a few meals out and I have another two weeks ready to go.

I hope these tips on meal planning takes some stress off your shoulders.  Family meals, around the table are incredibly important!  Keep it coming, even if it's Mac and Cheese or a sandwich.