6 Steps to a Happy Workspace :)

The average American spends about 40 hours a week at work. That’s 2,080 hours a year! That may be more hours of work than sleep (if you’re a parent to a kid under 2!). If you were to ask anyone if their work environment affects their mood, I’m betting you’d get a resounding yes! Whether it’s a disdain for a certain co-worker’s alt-rock music flowing over your cubicle wall, a lack of windows/natural light, or mountains of paperwork piled up around you, your work surroundings have the ability to affect your productivity as well as your mood.

Unfortunately, most businesses in corporate America come with a standard grey or beige desk, matching cubicle walls, and fluorescent lighting. There’s little you can do to change the ambiance except whip out some neon post-its and frame a picture of your puppy to sit next to your phone.

Minimalism Mantra

Just recently, I began the process of becoming a minimalist in my home, and one of the mantras worth repeating is, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Read it again, and let that sink in for a minute.  Now, sub-in “work station” for “house” and this can be mind-blowing. Like did you even know you don’t have to surround yourself with ugly, soul-sucking furniture and clutter? You don’t have to stick with something just because, “that’s how it’s always been,” or “everyone keeps xyz on their desk.”

After five years of working with the same drab backdrop, I decided to do something about it, and accept the challenge to make everything in my workspace either useful and/or beautiful.

STEP 1
Assess the situation. Start brainstorming what things you can realistically do to your workspace that would be budget-friendly and non-disruptive towards your co-workers or overall office “look.” Make a pinterest board, cut out physical magazine photos, or pull ideas from your memory bank.

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I decided I wanted to go with something a little modern/edgy. I wanted it to feel like I’m working at the businesses of “The Intern,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” or “The Dilemma,” etc. The “start-up/techy” feel….which coincidentally my company is like the OG of start-ups (way back to 1976) and is still small and run by our founder. So do I really want my desk to keep feeling like I sell insurance for a fortune 500 company? I THINK NOT!

I decided on my main 3 goals for aesthetic transformation:butcher block

  • Butcher Block desktops
  • Industrial metal cubicle walls (which would still be highly usable for posting notes to myself with magnets)
  • Clutter-free work space

STEP 2
Ask for permission from your supervisor to make improvements to your work area. Try to be as specific as possible about your plans ahead of time so you don’t have to deal with undoing your hard work when your boss is suddenly upset that you painted your desk hot pink. Do not expect your company to pay for any alterations you make, so be sure that they’re temporary and could be taken with you should you leave the job (if it’s coming out of your own pocket).

If you’re lucky to work for amazing people like I do, my supervisor(s) approved of me doing whatever I wanted (within reason) AND offered to pay for some of the permanent changes I wanted to make — DOUBLE SCORE!

STEP 3
Throw away as much unusable stuff as you can; any outdated papers, broken paper clips, old business cards, etc. Deep clean your desk! Use swiffer dusters, lysol wipes, vacuum, etc. I found a small-ish hand held vacuum in our storage closet at work. It looked pretty 80s/90s and probably used to be white. You could sling it over one shoulder and walk around with it sucking up dust bunnies. IT WAS AWESOME. I literally felt like a ghostbuster and told everyone that passed by that I was ghostbusting my desk. See, cleaning CAN BE FUN.

ghostbusters

STEP 4
Reorganize your filing cabinets, drawers, cupboards, and any other storage space you have at your desk. Try to put the majority of your desktop clutter away into a closable home.

STEP 5
Proceed with turning your minimalist dreams into reality! I bought butcher block patterned adhesive contact paper to cover all of the top surface area of my horseshoe shaped work station. It warmed up my whole zone and made me feel instantly more important! Important people have wood desks, am I right?!  This took several hours, and a lot of explanations to my co-workers as to what I was doing (I work in the fishbowl of the office and everyone walks past me everyday); it doesn’t seem that anyone has redecorated their desk even though this furniture’s been around for 20+ years.

Next up I tackled the walls because grey fabric cubicles are not my jam. I ordered sheets of metal from Jet (real magnet boards are super expensive, so gotta go the rugged industrial route!) then attached heavy-weight velcro to the backs of them. The velcro sticks to the cubicle fabric, and is tested to hold up to 10 lbs! These metal sheets are functional and also temporary/easy to take down.

STEP 6
Complete the finishing touches; place only extremely necessary and/or beautiful items on the desktop! Framed pictures of your family, flowers, computer monitor, phone, and an organizer for writing utensils. I also discovered I had an under-cabinet light hovering over one of my desk spaces. I turn it on everyday now, just to brighten up the area!

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I’m so thrilled with the results and have had many requests from co-workers to makeover their desks too….although for now I’ve suggested I’ll totally take imitation as flattery, but won’t be putting in the hard work myself! 😉 Happy desk decorating friends!

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My First T-Shirt Quilt

For sentimental “memory-hoarders” like myself, it is very hard to throw out clothes that remind us of special times, activities, or places. But I also know that having clothes that do not fit or are damaged hanging in the closet is a poor use of space!

But don’t worry fell0w memory-hoarders, we’re in luck! There is a solution to cleaning out the closet while keeping memories visible (and not wasting the $10-$20 that you spent on each shirt once upon a time). The answer is…THE T-SHIRT QUILT!

My household is the proud owner of FOUR t-shirt quilts. That may seem excessive, but really how could I ever throw out all my high school/college shirts? They deserve to be preserved! My hubby’s on the same page as me, and so he got all his high school shirts turned into a quilt for his birthday present!

Two of my quilts were made by family members/family friends….even still, the cost associated with all of the fabric and labor was $300 ish each. Yes, they’re GORGEOUS and durable, but took 6 months to make and that’s a pretty hefty price tag. Considering how many shirts I love…dropping that kind of dough on a blanket just isn’t a feasible plan.

So I thought, why not just make a quilt myself?! Questions to consider before you begin:

  • Do I know how to sew? (No)
  • Do I have a sewing machine? (No)
  • Do I think that I might enjoy this project and come to love it as a hobby more than work? (Probably no)
  • Do I have time? (Sure, between 3 jobs and a toddler, I can probably squeeze it in! …Ok, no)
  • Do I have any idea what I’m doing? (No)

So as you can see, my answers to all of the above were “No.” Not a good start.

If you answered yes to all of those, you probably don’t need a tutorial at all. Just pull up a Pinterest picture of a t-shirt quilt and BAM you have your plan! For the rest of the planet, here’s the best guide:

How to Make a T-Shirt Quilt (if you can’t sew and don’t have time)

  1. Gather all the shirts you want to use. Most t-shirt blankets comc-quilt-layoutntain a minimum of 16 shirts. If you don’t have 16 of the same “theme” you’re going for, you may need to mix it up and get all your memories into just one blanket.
  2. Wash the shirts! You do not want gross stains on your pretty blanket.
  3. Cut each shirt in half, separating the front from the back, so it now looks like you have double the shirts (but they’re each just 1 piece of fabric). This is perfect if you have a front and back of a shirt that both deserve their own t-shirt square!
  4. Design the look of your quilt by laying out all the shirts in the order you want them sewn. Snap a pic!
  5. Woo hoo! You’ve done all the hard work! Now it’s time to outsource this business to skilled professionals. Enter: Project Repat.
  6. Go to https://www.projectrepat.com/

HOW IT WORKS

STEP ONE: Order your t-shirt quilt! Choose your panel size, quilt size, and fleece color.

STEP TWO: They’ll email you detailed instructions for preparing and shipping your shirts.

STEP THREE: They’ll send you a beautiful t-shirt quilt made from all of your t-shirts! (And it only takes about 2 weeks!)

The whole process was SERIOUSLY so easy, and we loooooove the blankets! You might notice some of hubby’s shirt designs got cut off, and that was TOTALLY my fault. I tried cutting perfect squares rather than just cutting the shirts in half on my first go around. So Project Repat did the best they could with what I sent them.

Prices are amazingly low (when you compare to what an actual “quilt” costs) and the whole process is super simple.

PLUS after my order, I got a 20% off coupon code that I can share with my friends! So if you’re thinking about getting a quilt as a holiday present for someone or for yourself, be sure to use HOWELL20 at checkout!

Subscription Suppers: A Non-Cook’s Honest Review of Plated

By all definitions of the word “cook,” I am not one. I’ve literally made food that tasted so bad it made people gag and throw it away (on more than one occasion). While studying abroad, I was asked by my roomies to make cheese dip, and I thought how hard can that be? I threw in some butter, milk, and shredded cheese. To this day, I don’t know what went wrong, but within minutes of taking it off the stove, it was SO HARD that you had to cut it with a KNIFE and lay it on top of the tostitos….no bueno.

Not only am I kitchen-challenged, I also despise grocery shopping.  Even if I’m shopping kid-free, I still hate it. It just takes so much time, you never remember what you need (or end up with 3 bottles of ketchup in the fridge at a time because you’re always sure you’re out), and it’s always freezing COLD (the frozen foods section, which is pretty much half the store basically = the tundra).

Additionally, I’m a super plain eater. Let me define that for you: I’ve never “salted” a food, I don’t use salad dressing, syrup, mustard, pickles, BBQ sauce, ranch, honey, mayo, or anything. I only use butter or ketchup and that’s the extent of my condiments. I would rather eat an entire plain french baguette than a bag of candy. I just don’t like “too many tastes” in my mouth, it weirds me out.

Anyway, my inability to cook, hate for grocery shopping, and pickiness has lead to our family eating out. A LOT. Like one time I told my son it was time to eat supper and he ran to put his shoes on to head out the door!! Not only is eating out EXPENSIVE, it’s also not great for the waistline. Because if you CAN have mozzarella sticks (hold the marinara) everyday, WHY WOULDN’T YOU?! 😛

My husband’s quest for saving money and a barrage of Facebook ads eventually led me to look up some of these mail subscription service meals. Sounds weird right? BUT, I had heard some friends had success with various companies, and I had seen the meal boxes popping up at people’s’ front doors in our own neighborhood.

I compared Plated against Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. Ultimately it came down to the menus, and I decided Plated had foods that my whole family would enjoy the most. I was also enticed by the fact that you could cancel this subscription at any time or skip a week with no hidden fees, etc.

plated-box

How it Works: You choose what day of the week you want your meals delivered. They arrive in a refrigerated box at your doorstep! The box will stay cold until midnight on the day of delivery, so no need to worry if you’ll be home late. Unload the box by placing almost everything in the fridge, take out your recipe cards, and recycle that box.

Cooking: Ok, this is admittedly the scary part. These recipes were designed by professional chefs, who use words like “sauté,” but I was willing to give it a try. The recipes came with step by step instructions WITH PICTURES and even had “tips” along the side. Very helpful. Honestly, I have skipped various steps in recipes or done things slightly out of order, and it didn’t even matter.  Every single meal we have made has been DELICIOUS.

Time-Saving: You save time in SO many ways with Plated.

  1. Grocery shopping has been significantly minimized. Basically I just grab breakfast foods/frozen lunches in a quick run to the store. No more making huge lists and agonizing for deciding what you need for every meal that week. Lately we’ve only even had to run to the store 2x month, rather than every weekend!!
  2. Mobile App! There’s a Plated App for your phone/tablet. You can manage your upcoming meals and read through the ingredients/prep process all from the convenience of your phone. Who else can say they scheduled an entire month’s meals during 10 minutes of a lunch break?
  3. Clean up has NEVER BEEN EASIER. Of course you are still going to have dirty pans and cutting boards, but seriously how nice is it to have pre-measured ingredients in ziploc baggies?! SO NICE! Clean up basically consists of throwing away plastic and tossing a pan in the dishwasher, 2 minutes TOPS.

Financial Aspect: We settled on 3 adult meals per week for $72. This easily feeds the three of us at each meal (I usually end up sharing mine with the kiddo, and am still full). So that’s $24 per meal, or $8 per person. Which is definitely cheaper than going out to eat at most restaurants when you factor in gas, drinks, appetizers, meals, tip, and tax! I would estimate that switching these 3 meals per week over to Plated is actually saving us $300/month.

Health: I’d never once pickled a cucumber, baked an eggplant, or diced a sun-dried tomato…until NOW! Over the past month I have eaten more fresh vegetables than I’ve ever eaten IN MY LIFE. Literally. The portion sizes are also WAY more in check with how much food the average human needs, not insanely giant restaurant sizes. I’ve definitely lost a few pounds, whether or not it’s solely due to this, I don’t know, but I definitely feel like I’m making healthier choices on the food that’s going into my body!

Family Life: Cooking together has become a new shared experience for my husband and I. When I used to just order a pizza or compete with the chaos of a restaurant to hold an adult conversation, now husby and I do something NEW together, at least 3 nights a week. Cooking together forces active communication, about something other than household logistics, and can be quite entertaining. We are learning what words mean, where we keep odd utensils (garlic press anyone?), and keeping each other “cool under pressure.” Once he mentioned “Plated saved our relationship!!” clearly as a joke, but I totally get what he means. It gives us a daily chance to be silly and flirt again. Just a couple nights ago I asked, “When you met me 8 years ago, did you ever think you’d be here with me, a baby, and baking a broccoli sandwich?!” 🙂

In conclusion, PLATED has CHANGED MY LIFE. It has improved so many different aspects of our household and we plan to stay on the Plated program indefinitely! If you have tried Plated or another subscription service, did you notice some of the same things? How did your life change?

Thinking of giving Plated a try?? Check out some deals I pulled together!

Sign Up For Plated Today And Get A Free Dinner for 2!

Get Your 1st Plated Delivery For As Low As $30

Order Your 1st Box & Save $24 On Plated!


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MORNING MADNESS: How a Playlist Can Change your Life!

BEEP BEEEP BEEEEEEP. The alarm goes off. You hit snooze 4.5 times and then will yourself out of bed. You shower and apply make up in a sleepy haze and dread the idea of waking a toddler, making breakfast, getting everyone into the car and out the door…oh and you only have 15 min to complete this mission because of the aforementioned 4.5 snoozes.

This was me EVERY. DAY. for literally my entire working mom life. I’m not a morning person by nature, and having a kid only made me MORE not a morning person. I admit, I’m never excited to get out of bed, I loathe the procedure of getting ready every morning, and typically leave the house looking “meh” or “good enough.” (Wardrobe update is on my to-do list and one of my many life goals.)

I preach positivity in my everyday life, but being positive was just something I was incapable of in the morning. Even dropping my eyeliner on the bathroom floor would lead me to lament and whisper yell about how, “Of course this would happen to ME!! TODAY!! !@$@#^$@&$#.”

Obviously this is not starting the day off on the right foot, and I knew I could put my mind to it and come up with something that would help me out in the morning (since continuing to have a work start time of 7:30am isn’t going to change).

I’ve always loved music. LOVE to dance! LOVE to sing! And songs really exaggerate whatever mood I’m trying to keep going. Husby was gifted a free bluetooth speaker from work, and I do have an iPhone (although no music was on it), so that’s something! I figured out how to make a playlist on my phone from my iTunes music (literally I had to Google and YouTube how to do this, and ask husby for help because I still use CDs on the reg).

I came up with a playlist that not only motivated me and kept me smiling/singing/dancing through the humdrum morning routines, but a side benefit was the time management factor. After a few days of the same playlist, I knew about how long each song was and if I should hurry up with whatever I was doing in order to stay on time. For example if Meghan Trainor comes on and I’m still in the shower, I better get out ASAP. Also, I hit snooze less, because I know if I sleep too long I won’t get to hear all the songs I love!

The music I chose was inspired by songs that literally make me happy (ie. Happy by Pharrell) and was also very influenced by movies. I’m a movie freak, I remember faces, names, outfits, songs, settings, exact quotes, etc. like nobody’s business. SO if I hear a song from a certain scene of a movie, it takes me right back to the emotions of that scene. Songs from movies are a must in my playlist if I’m gonna take on the world like Elle Woods (Legally Blonde) or Andy Sachs (The Devil Wears Prada).

So here it is! My amazing morning playlist!

For some people, the same playlist every day might drive you nuts, but I’m a creature of habit and don’t mind it in the least. And, I fully intend to switch to Christmas music in December ;).

If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend making a playlist that will get you excited to hop out of bed and think happy thoughts while you mentally and physically prepare for the day. It’s totally changed my entire approach to mornings/life. Little things matter, and you have the power to choose your attitude. Do whatever it takes!

P.S. Feel free to steal any part of my playlist…links to iTunes above!!

“It Takes a Village”

We’ve all heard the old adage “It takes a village to raise a child,” and anyone who’s had a child will confirm this to be true. But in a world of social media “super moms,” I think for some reason it seems frowned upon to ask for help, to not be able to do it all on your own.

This is a dangerous notion, which I personally believe leads to a lot of stress, anxiety, and depression in thousands of mothers across the country.

The very term “mommy blogger” raises my anxiety level, as I think about all the pinterest perfect projects, recipes, DIY renovations, educational child activities, etc. that usually fill the pages. These posts and pictures and stories tend to only make me feel more like I’m failing….and I’m betting many friends feel that way too. And even though those posts make me feel distressed, I wish I could have a blog like that too! Messed up, huh!?

So as a point to bring myself back to reality and to keep the mommy blogger hemisphere authentic, I’ve decided to shout from the rooftops (or the internet…at my desk), that I absolutely DON’T do everything on my own. I have a huuuuuuge support system, and literally feel my life would fall apart without help from SO MANY people!

My Husband
Hubs has a long commute (2 hour round-trip each day), plus works 9-10 hour days everyday. That leaves literally not much time for him to be at home. However, he makes time for our boy EVERY night! They rough-house, play games, blow bubbles in the yard, and hubby gets to have his own “little helper” for every DIY project! Our son’s absolute favorite thing to do is “help” anyone who asks. It’s also in the bedtime routine that Daddy has to read him his stories, and it absolutely must be Daddy. 🙂

Before describing my parents, I should note that I’m an only child and my baby is therefore the only grandchild. Hence the extreme amount of help I get….and I love it.

My Dad
My parents live in the same town as us, and I honestly have no idea how anyone manages to raise children without any grandparents within a 15 min radius. My dad is basically a big kid himself and no one gets my boy laughing harder than his Gpa. They loooove to play. And because of the commute hubby endures for us, my Dad is often around to run to the grocery store for the ingredient I just realized I didn’t have (while food is already boiling on the stove!), he fixes things that are out of my reach, and advises me on home and financial decisions (former realtor, current commercial mortgage broker). Also since I have a (very practical) rear-wheel drive car, during the occasional winter blizzard, we get chauffeured to daycare/work in his 4-wheel drive truck! He’s just the best.

My Mom
Sometimes mothering in front of your own mother can be stressful. You don’t do everything the way she does it, and varied parenting styles can lead to issues. However, my mom always wants what’s best for me and my family and is exceptionally selfless in her efforts to help whenever needed. She will babysit at the drop of a hat, buys my little guy literally ALL of his clothes, offers to put away laundry or tidy up the kitchen at every visit, and is our personal chef. Not to say she makes food for us everyday, but definitely holidays, weekend brunches, birthday treats for my boy (this includes the custom ornate pinterest cakes, cupcakes, cookies, etc.), and will be there just whenever I want a helping hand in the kitchen. My mom is like Google for cooking, with everything stored in that vault of a mind, so she’s my “phone-a-friend” whenever I need to make a panicked and confused call from the spice aisle at the grocery store. So yeah people, those perfect b-day cupcakes, or pasta salads I take to the office, or cookies I take to a friends house, yeah none of that was me. I think that’s usually pretty obvious though ;).

The In-Laws
Some people are not lucky at all and have horrible clashes with their new set of parents, not the case for me! I hit the in-law jackpot! The in-laws live about 1.5 hours away, so not terribly bad. They also live pretty near a lake, so in the summers especially, we’re with them almost every weekend. They encourage my husband and I to take a break, go to the lake on our own, go to a movie, go out to eat with hubby’s high school friends etc, without even a hint of judgment. And while we’re away, they are oh so fun and always full of ideas for adventures for my little dude to go on. Needless to say, he never even wants to come home with us and asks if we’re going to go see them pretty much every day.

Teachers
A quality child-care center is absolutely a necessity if you want/have to be a working mama. These teachers are with my child approximately 45 hours per week! They feed him breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday. They read, pretend play, go for walks, do art projects, put bandaids on owies, lay him down for naps, and overall love him every day. I am so fortunate to drop him off in the mornings and watch him happily wave goodbye so he can go play with his friends. I’ve seen him grow leaps and bounds in independence and compassion for others throughout the past year, and I have no problem saying that I cannot take all the credit for his sweet demeanor. Early childhood education matters and I’m sooooo thankful for it!

In conclusion, I am happy to admit that my well-behaved, happy kiddo is the result of many, many wonderful people at work. I definitely don’t do it all, but I do my best, and feel soooo blessed to have such a great support system around me at all times.

Remember, IT TAKES A VILLAGE, and that’s the truth!

10 Ways to Value Teachers {From Day 1 to Day 180}

Teaching is an over-worked under-appreciated public service profession. Although teachers are in it for the love of educating children, even those who seem like saints WILL GET BURNED OUT over time. As a former teacher, current coach, and parent to a kiddo that has great teachers, I felt compelled to make a list of things that any parent can do to show appreciation for the tough job that is TEACHING.

  1. Say THANK YOU!
    The power of those two words to a person in an under-appreciated position is unimaginable. Teachers are literally spit on, hit, screamed at, criticized, and told their best isn’t enough on a daily basis. This comes from students, parents, and administrators. Sending your child to school with a thank you note, or a flower, or a hand-drawn card can sometimes be the only thing that convinces a teacher that they are even making a difference. Whenever you have a chance to speak with the teacher, verbally thank them and mention some improvement you’ve noticed in your child since they joined the class. It means THE WORLD.
  2. Follow the rules.
    All schools have parent handbooks. These handbooks should be read. Please demonstrate respect for the entire education system by understanding and following the guidelines laid out in the book. This includes wearing shoes that tie (not sandals), no gum, no hats, where to park your bike, leaving toys at home, etc. Don’t make more work for your teacher, the teacher’s job is to educate your children, not confiscate hats and electronics.
  3. Believe Her/Him!
    Teachers do not go into the profession so that they can bully students and get them in trouble with their parents. If your child should break a rule, act out in class, cheat on a test, forget their homework, etc. and then suffer a consequence for said action, it is NOT your job to become their defense attorney. If the teacher communicates an issue that they had with your child that day, they are not lying. Teachers do not enjoy sharing a story of conflict with parents, they are as unhappy to say it as you are to hear it. Apologize, have your child apologize, and inflict whatever punishment you deem necessary at home so that said conflict does NOT happen again.
  4. Read to your child everyday.
    Reading has been proven to be the most important thing you can do with your child at home. While yes, it is the teacher’s job to teach children how to read, who the author is, and explain how characters, setting, and plot make a story, a child will never get the type of one-on-one attention that they can get from you. Reading to your child and asking them to read to you highlights the importance of and enjoyment that comes from learning.
  5. Donate needed items to the classroom or volunteer your time!
    Budget cuts are affecting schools like never before. Specials like music, art, and PE are getting cut (the side effect of this is that teachers get less planning time), teacher associates are being limited, and supply budgets are down. Teachers are extremely appreciative of any extra help they can get. If the classroom has a wishlist, donate things the classroom needs. It doesn’t have to be expensive! Many times teachers are grateful for extra plastic bags (re-used walmart sacks, etc), paper plates, construction paper, etc. Teachers also appreciate offers to help! Perhaps they have a bunch of things laminated that need to be cut out, offer to take them home and cut for them!
  6. Don’t belittle the profession.
    How many teachers hear that their job is “playing with kids all day,” that they’re “lucky to get off work so early,” and/or they “only work 9 months a year”?!  All of that is unbelievably false, and quite scary that these notions are still out there. The demands on educators are worse now than they’ve ever been in the history of the US Public Education system. There are more standardized tests, and less freedom to cater the curriculum to a teacher’s personal style or a class’s unique needs. Teachers do not get off work “early.” When the children leave the building, there’s still contractual work time that they must stay for. Then there’s the stuff they take home every night and weekend (time that’s not paid for at all). Teachers spend many days every summer on professional development courses, taking required graduate classes for “continued education,” taking apart then setting up their classrooms, assisting with new teacher interviews, and planning class lists for next year with colleagues. Yes, there is some down time during the summer too, but if teachers had to be in a classroom 52 weeks a year, I’m betting you’d lose 95% of the work force. People need a break. Teachers need a break if you expect them to recharge and put on a happy face for the next batch of kids.
  7. Don’t disrupt the class schedule/make unreasonable demands.
    The classroom has a schedule, which is typically posted somewhere around the room and discussed at parent night. Teachers will explain how they handle birthday parties, guest visitors, and other atypical events. Please listen and be agreeable. This means, do not show up in the middle of a math lesson with 5 large pizzas and helium balloons, then act surprised when the teacher informs you that you cannot have an impromptu party.  If your kids are in preschool/daycare, and there’s a scheduled nap time, no that’s not the best time to pick up your kid! Obviously you’ll have just woken up the entire class and made for 20 other sets of angry parents with tired, grumpy kids! Be considerate, communicate, understand that managing 20-30 little people is no walk in the park and a schedule is what keeps the room sane.
  8. Take issues/concerns to the teacher first! Not to the Principal or another teacher!
    Teachers are often mentally and physically exhausted by the end of a school day. They have lists of things they will need to take care of at home, just to be ready for school tomorrow. The last thing they need to hear is that a parent has complained to the principal or to another teacher about x, y, or z. If you have a serious concern or are questioning a teacher’s actions, go straight to the source. While the teacher probably won’t love a lecture from you either, it’s better to address the problem head on. Often times parents are overlooking or unaware of all the moving pieces, and simply communicating directly with a teacher can clear up misconceptions.
  9. Be punctual with drop off/pick up.
    Show respect to your kid’s teacher by dropping off your child during the designated window for drop off. Too early and you’ve taken away that teacher’s last chance to make copies or use the restroom for a final time before lunch. Too late and you have disrupted class for 25+ other kids. If your kid needs to be picked up early, don’t expect the teacher to design their whole day around that need. The parent should come in to get the child and quietly ready them for departure. If at all possible, try to avoid early pick-ups period. The very worst offense of all is the LATE PICK UP. Again, your teacher has lost their tiny planning time for tomorrow’s lessons because they’re now entertaining your kid. Teachers have children of their own they’d like to see. They have spouses, friends, dinner plans, etc.  How would you feel if your boss made you stay at work an hour late with 0 advance notice? Probably not thrilled, even if you do enjoy your job.
  10. Talk about and practice appropriate school behavior AT HOME!
    Speak highly of your child’s teacher at home. Communicate that you and the teacher are on the same team and that school rules apply everywhere! Reinforce only positive behaviors such as indoor voices, saying “please” and “thank you,” taking turns, cleaning up after oneself, etc. Teach your child independence and obedience. If every kid had the basic knowledge of appropriate voice level and how to interact with fellow students down before entering school…what a wonderful world it would be!

 

Parents, do your part to help keep wonderful teachers in the profession! It will mean more than you know!

The Power of Less!

A favorite blog of mine (Cait Flanders/Blonde on a Budget) recently inspired me to attempt to approach a more minimalist lifestyle.

As I looked around my house, every room had clutter, excess, things without a permanent place, things that hadn’t been touched in years, boxes still unpacked from our move 4 YEARS AGO, etc. It got me thinking, do I really need this stuff? Could someone else benefit from any of it? Could some be liquidated into cash? And, honestly, should some of this get thrown out ASAP? The answers to these questions were: “No, I don’t need all this, and yes, yes, yes!”

Although I have a LOOOOONG way to go, I decided to start with the master bedroom closet. It’s a decent closet, I will refrain from saying I need a larger closet because that would only house more crap I don’t need. It’s by all definitions decent. Normal size with two levels of racks and shelving on top for barely used shoes. Downside: it has two sliding wooden doors, which are the BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. I hate sliding closet doors, because you can only have half of your closet open at a time, leading me to only wear clothes from the left (open) half of my closet!! (My doors are like this, only uglier).

The closet was my starting point because currently I have the entire master bedroom closet to myself. My husband’s closet is across the hall in the office. Someday, if we add a second baby to the family, that will be baby 2’s bedroom and hubby’s closet space will need to be moved to my closet. This initially was a horrifying thought, but upon realizing that I only use half the closet anyway and this would cut down on returning clean laundry to multiple rooms, the idea was kind of exciting. An organizational challenge that I felt ready to take on!

I set a random goal for myself of removing 30 items from our closets (20 of mine and 10 of hub’s). I might add that hubby didn’t want to partake in the activity, but was fine with me taking it on.

By following these 3 simple steps I was EASILY able to remove 30 articles of clothing from our closets:

  1. Remove any shirt with holes or stains (his closet + my closet)
    WHY am I still wearing this stuff anyway!? Mostly because it may have had sentimental value, or I liked the way it fit and was too lazy to replace, or I wasn’t wearing it at all…just hung in the closet.
  2. Remove shirts size XS or S and any jeans size 4 or less (just my closet, he’s still got a perfect high school bod)
    I am in my late twenties and have had a baby. There’s really no reason on earth I would need to hang on to clothes that fit in 9th/10th grade. I’m not saying that a postpartum body can never be small again, but by the time I’m done having children and have completely taken control of my diet and fitness agenda, I will no longer want to wear clothes made in 2003. Side note: I am THRILLED flared jeans are back in fashion.
  3. Remove clothing of no sentimental value that has not been worn in the past 3 years (his closet + my closet)
    Believe me, I actually had a lot of this. So did my husband. It’s crazy. Sentimental shirts that you haven’t worn in years should be removed from your closet and stored somewhere for a t-shirt quilt, but that’s for another post ;).

Following these steps I removed:
T Shirts (9 mine, 7 his)
Jeans (2 mine)
Tank tops (4 mine)
Swim cover ups (2 mine)
Swimsuit (1 mine)
Sweatshirt (1 mine)
Collared shirts (3 his)
Skirt (1 mine)

Now that we’ve got 30 items out…what do we do with it? Hint: The answer is NOT “Put it in a box in the corner of your bedroom for the next 5 years.”

Answer: Sell, Donate, or Pitch.

  1. Any items in excellent condition (like barely worn, tags still on, popular brand names) can be taken to a local consignment shop. I’ve had better luck with consigning kids’ clothes than my own, but have sold a few pairs of shoes, bridesmaid dresses, etc. at our downtown Main Street consignment shop. If you’re not wearing it anyway, getting $5-10 out of random clothes is easy money.
  2. If consignment seems like a lot of work, all of the above items could be donated instead. Items that won’t be accepted by consignment shops (like generic clothing labels, items with slight wear/out of style) can be given away too. Your local Goodwill or Salvation Army will take donations and issue you a donation receipt for tax purposes.I always donate to my church, as we have a clothing room open to the public 2 days a week where everything is FREE to anyone in need of clothes for themselves or their families. It’s honestly awesome to volunteer in there and see my donated items fly off the racks and hear a mom say, “My daughter will just LOVE this.” Donations will make your heart very full and happy, and you’ll get a little break on your taxes come April :).
  3. Pitch anything with holes or stains. My aforementioned church will not even accept donations of clothing that is stained, dirty, or has holes. If a charitable donation center won’t accept these clothes, then again WHY DO YOU STILL WEAR THEM?! Stop!

**Disclaimer: If you’re removing things from another person’s closet, let them look through what you’ve taken out so they can veto any of your choices before the box leaves the house.**

Having less to choose from in your closet might at first sound like a bad thing, but even people with a 400 sq. ft. walk-in closet are offenders of the “I don’t have anything to wear” line! If you have less to choose from, selecting an outfit will be LESS stressful. Your closet will be filled with things you actually wear and love, rather than serve as a reminder of waist sizes past and ridiculous wardrobe choices of the last decade.

While I do feel like I’ve taken a step in the right direction, I know I still have a lot more in the closet I could get rid of. We’re not ready to combine closets yet, so if I go through this process once every 2-3 months, I will slowly but surely get to the point of a happy, minimal, and high-functioning closet!