Credit check! Get your Credit Check!

It’s time for a credit check people! Seriously, if you’re not checking your credit at least annually, you could be doing yourself a disservice. I wrote about this in my second post ever on this blog (see here). Now I used up all my witty quips about credit reports in my original post so today’s post is a TAD boring. :)

I’ll sum up the basics here though:

-There are 3 credit reporting agenicies: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. You can get a free report each year from each agency. I pull the Equifax report in January, the Experian report in May and the Transunion report in September. That way I keep an eye on my credit throughout the year.

-I ONLY pull my credit through https://www.annualcreditreport.com

This agency allows you to pull a FREE report with no strings attached and it does not affect your credit. Be VERY careful of processing credit reports through any other avenue. With other services, there are hidden fees, mailing lists, and it can negatively affect your credit.

-Annualcreditreport.com does not provide you with a free FICO score (you do have to pay for that service), however the actual report is completely free. I can see all of my current and past accounts and whether or not they are in good standing.

-It also gives you the option to dispute any information you feel is incorrect. For example, after I pulled my last report, I saw that it listed other names I had gone by. My married and maiden names were correct but then there was another one listed with some weird middle name that I had never had. I disputed this and it should be removed. I don’t see it on the Equifax report I pulled today so that’s a good sign. However, each agency can have slightly different information. That is why it’s important to keep an eye on all three reports.

There are a few more tips in my original post on this, so please feel free to read up! I’ll have more super exciting posts on finance and tax season shortly. Aren’t you just chomping at the bit??? :)

~Erin

Pantry Clean Out

Just because I was traveling for most of December and January, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t organizing! I managed to find a couple of projects at my in-laws house. This is great because it allowed me to do something I love doing (for some reason!) and it also kicks me up a notch in the daughter in law department, I think!

My first project was the pantry. This was something my mother in law asked me to help her with just to make things a little easier to navigate. Like most pantries, everything was already grouped by category and the actual placement of things made sense. However, a few bins and a couple of organizational tweaks made it a lot easier to actually access all of the food. Here is the before photo:

Pantry - Nan and Gary - Before (1)

You can see that it is a large cabinet with 2 doors and the cabinet is fairly deep. This is a blessing and a curse. It’s great because you can fit more in there. It’s difficult because you can’t get to the stuff in the back easily. One great feature is that each door has built in spice holders so that helps to rounds up all those pesky little jars, bottles and boxes.

Steps I took to organize:

1) Take EVERYTHING out.

Stuff was everywhere. I was a little overwhelmed because I knew I couldn’t leave someone else’s house in that kind of disarray for long, so I had to move fast! And of course I had my usual assistants helping me out with this part of the project:

Pantry - Nan and Gary - Before (5)

As everything came out of the pantry, it went into its’ category on the counter or into the trash. We actually threw away a good amount of stuff. It’s a good idea to go through the pantry every few months and get rid of anything that is expired (bean dip from 2007 anyone?) or that you know won’t be used (I scored an unopened box of Crepe mix from this cleanout!).

2) Evaluate the current storage options.

-There were several shelf organizers already in there so I decided to work these into the plan. Shelf OrganizerThere were also those great built in spice racks on the doors so obviously those would come into play. On the bottom shelf of the pantry, there were about 8 clear plastic canisters for storing things such as flour, sugar, etc. There were actually a couple that could be combined from 2 into 1 canister and 1 was empty, which gave me another storage option for something else.

 

canisters

3) Divide the pantry into zones.

Like I said, it was pretty much divided up before I started, but there were a few things that needed adjusting. For example, the top shelf had already been drink mixes and spice packets so that stayed. But I made sure it was JUST drink mixes and spices packets. The other zones included canned goods, pasta and rice, cereal/breakfast items, baking items and desserts. The bottom shelf was for bulky items and misc things.

4) Decide what storage containers to buy.

Because of the shelves, spice racks and existing storage, I didn’t really have to buy much, but there were a few things that needed to be put into bins to make them easier to access. So I went to my favorite store in the world, Target, and bought 7 plastic bins and a plastic Lazy Susan.

Storage box

lazy susanThe picture of the bin above shows the clear version, but I actually bought the green ones and I got 3 different sizes. The bins were between $4-$5 each and the Lazy Susan was $8 so the entire cost was only about $37. This was probably my fastest trip to Target ever….seriously a record breaker because I can spend hours in there.

5) Put everything back in the pantry. Here are just a few ways I organized everything on its way back in:

-I used the Lazy Susan for drink mixes on the top shelf so that you could access what was up there.

-I used a couple bins for loose items, such as bags of rice, popcorn and a few other drink mix packets.

-I also used a couple bins to separate larger items such as cake mixes and pasta boxes.

-We grabbed an empty bin from the basement to hold extra salad dressing, peanut butter, ketchup, salsa and a few other items on the bottom shelf.

-The clear plastic canisters were reorganized to hold all of the baking items (such as flour) and a few misc items such as an open bag of popcorn kernels.

Here is what it looks like now:

Pantry - Nan and Gary - After (1)

Here’s the thing about pantry’s. Even when they are completely organized, they can tend to look cluttered because of the variety of colors, boxes, sizes, and types of containers. There are a ton of pictures on blogs and Pinterest right now with these unbelievably gorgeous pantries. I hope to have one someday. But the thing to remember is that it’s not if your pantry can make a great Pinterest photo. It’s that it’s organization works well for your life, makes it easy to find things and make grocery lists, and that you’re happy with the final product.

Now get started and throw away that 6 year old bottle of salad dressing in your pantry! :)

~Erin

Traveling again

We have been away from home for a month now. We went from Colorado to Georgia for Christmas and yes, we are still here in GA! We have a big tradeshow for my ‘day job’ that we are currently working at so we decided to just stay a month instead of coming back twice. It made sense at the time……

At this point, we are looking forward to getting back home and readjusting to CO in 2013. I have big plans for organizing my house this year so I am anxious to get started. In the meantime though, we are living in upstairs bedrooms at my in laws house. And however accommodating someone else may be, it’s never the same when you’re not in your own home. Read: I have limited clothes and I’m missing all my DVR shows! Sorry Modern Family, Justified, and How I Met Your Mother, I’ll catch you on the flipside!

Since we’ve been doing so much traveling, I needed the packing to be organized and efficient. My sister had given me some Ebags Packing Cubes to help with packing. These things are so clever. They are varied sizes of zippered packing bags in a variety of colors.

packing cubes

She sent me some in 4 different colors, so we have a set for each family member. Awesomeness! They are great because:

-You can easily identify whose stuff is whose.

-You can just move an entire cube into a drawer at a hotel so you don’t actually have to ‘unpack’ everything.

-They are pretty durable, with mesh openings so you can see inside and double zippers so they are easy to get into.

-They help to limit what you take so that packing is more efficient.

The only thing I don’t like as much is that you don’t always maximize the space in your suitcase because you’re just putting the ebags packing cubes in there. It doesn’t allow you to use up all of the little corners of the actual suitcase so you can really fit less in any given suitcase. However, there’s always extra things you can cram in to fill up the room, such as shoes.

So when we packed to come out to GA, we had one suitcase with the majority of our clothes for the trip. We also had a separate bag for the clothes we would use on the 3 day drive (yes we drove, how crazy are we??????). However, the cubes were great for organizing most of our stuff.

IMG_4927

I have always prided myself in packing light, but you will notice that I have 3 pretty paisley packing cubes and everyone else has less than me. Hmmmmm. We also did cram some larger clothing items, such as pants into the suitcase outside the cubes.  Anyways, love these things and I completely recommend these or anything that helps you organize on the go. Happy travels!

~Erin

New Year already????

I can’t believe it’s already January 3, 2013! Where does the time go?!

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It seems like life is so busy and you cram so much in and then you realize years have passed. Like almost everyone else, I have a list of New Year’s resolutions. Many of them I realize are too much for me to focus on and they quickly go by the wayside. Others haunt me throughout the year as I never quite reach my goals made hastily on December 31st.

This year I still have resolutions. I still want to completely organize my house. I still want to start exercising on a regular basis. I still want to train my dog to turn off lights and get me a snack from the pantry (yes that is a real goal). However, I’m going to take it easy on myself this year. I know that being a working wife, mom, friend, home owner, pet owner, life haver (I know that’s not a real word) takes up most of my time, so any resolution I have is going to come in small steps. So while I am going to set goals and work hard this year, I’m also going to take it easy and not beat myself up. Here are just a couple goals and how I am going to make them attainable.

-Live Presently. – This is the most important goal I am setting for myself this year. I spend so much time making lists for what needs to get done in the future, I think about what needs to be done before tomorrow or next week or before we go on vacation. It’s very seldom that I sit and actually enjoy the moment. Here’s an example, I love taking pictures and videos of our kids. I think it’s fun and important and a great way to share memories with the family. However, sometimes I miss out on what happens because I’m looking through a camera lens. Before Christmas, my kids were putting ornaments on the tree at my in-laws house and I was taking the obligatory million and a half photos. Then I realized I hadn’t put a single ornament on with them and didn’t actually SEE the kids do anything. So as much as I love taking pictures, I’m going to put the camera down a little bit, and put the lists down a little bit and try to snuggle into my pillow for an extra minute in the morning instead of jumping up to cross things off my to-dos (that will TOTALLY happen).

We were in Florida for New Years and on New Year’s day, my husband and I took the kids to a little teeny beach right at sunset. I felt almost naked as I left the condo without the camera. But I watched the kids touch the sand and look at the waves and I will have that memory forever. I don’t have a picture to show you, but let me tell you, it was worth it :)

Just so I don’t deprive you of photos though, here’s a couple others from Florida:

Florida - December 2012 (3) Florida - December 2012 (34) Florida - December 2012 (36) Florida - December 2012 (74) Florida - December 2012 (85) Florida - December 2012 (126) Florida - December 2012 (159) Florida - December 2012 (167)

-Organize my organizing – In 2013 I want to get some new organizing books (more to come on this one!) and increase my blog readership. I plan on doing  a LOT of posts on this in the near future, so I won’t bore you with the details now.

-Exercise – I know this is almost everyone’s resolution and historically, it has not known to be one that I stick with. But maybe, just maybe 2013 is my year.

Happy New Year everyone!

~Erin