Party Leftovers…what next.

A couple weekends ago we had a birthday party for our oldest son. We had a lot of people on the guest list. While a lot showed up, a crazy late spring snowstorm kept a lot of people home. This meant sooooo much leftover food. The theme was ‘Italian’ and all of the kiddos were making their own pizza so we had a ton of crusts, pizza sauce, and toppings left, as well as Italian bread, pre-cooked pizza that the adults had, meatballs and fruit.  I was determined not to let all of this food (and the money I spent on it) go to waste. Here’s what I did with it all:

We ate most of the meatballs and Italian bread (I’ll never say no to bread with olive oil/ vinegar). We also froze the Boboli pizza crusts and some of the cooked pizzas.

Food 3

But then I had to get creative.

The fruit was easy. It was great for snacks and I also added a bunch to smoothies over a few days.

Food 1

We had a bunch of sausage and cheese that had been prepped for pizza toppings. I decided to make a couple of egg casseroles. Though my normal recipe calls for cheddar cheese, I did a 1/2 cheddar and 1/2 mozzarella mix and it was great. I also normally use bread slices, but this time I used some of the cubed Italian bread. One of the casseroles was eaten right away and I froze the other one.

Food 5

I had so many veggies cut up for toppings and I was struggling to be creative with them. I came up with shrimp stir fry (with shrimp I already had on hand) and chicken and rice soup.

Food 4 Food 2I was able to use up almost every leftover from the party. This made meals for us for the following week, stocked our freezer and I hardly threw anything out. Such a relief!

How do you use leftovers creatively?

~Erin

 

Upcycling for Organization in the News

This week I did a short guest spot on Fox 21 News in Colorado Springs. I gave a few suggestions on how to upcycle items in your home for organizational purposes. From trash to treasure to upcycling old dishes, there’s a variety of tips for everyone. Click on the photo below to see the segment.

Fox News - 2015 April

And if you want more in depth ideas on the upcycled drawer, see my previous post!

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Happy Upcycling!

~Erin

Purge….No More Excuses!

So many people struggle with purging items from their home. There are a lot of reasons why it’s difficult….from “I might use this some day” to “my Great Aunt So-and-So gave me this” to  “I don’t know what to do with this or how to get rid of it.” Now is the time for No More Excuses Purging. We’re going to face some of the difficulties of getting rid of stuff and figure out how to solve those pesky purging problems.

Excuse #1 – I might use this some day.

Yeah, well you might. But if you haven’t used it in the last year, especially if you haven’t used it for longer, chances are you won’t use it. Here’s how to make this one easier for yourself. Put items you don’t use in a ‘test box’. Let them sit in the box for 6 months. If you haven’t gotten those things out (or maybe you don’t even remember what is in there after that length of time!), then you can officially let those items go.

People also don’t want to get rid of typically useful items, such as pens or cups. However, if you sort your items so that you can see any duplicates you have, it may be easier to part with some of them. If you have 40 cups or 100 pens, you can definitely handle getting rid of a few. So sort like with like and see how many of each type of item you actually have.

I know from personal experience that people will also hold on to items that represent a version of themselves that they would like to be. If you are holding on to that old hockey stick or food processor or weight machine and hoping you will wake up with the motivation to use them, you are really putting a lot of pressure on yourself. If it’s something you won’t actually pursue or is causing more negative feelings than positive ones, it may be time to let go.  I KNOW this is hard (I’m talking to you juggling pins and banjo patiently waiting in my office), but I also know that the freedom that comes with letting go can create such a sense of motivation in other areas. Now you can focus on the things you are actually going to do!

Excuse #2 – I got this as a gift and I would feel guilty letting it go.

Most people don’t give gifts so that you feel guilty about having to keep them. If it’s something you are not using or displaying or it’s something that you don’t like, get rid of it. Alleviate some of the guilt by donating it or giving it to a friend who wants it. The freedom of letting go of something you no longer want is much more positive than the mental weight it puts on you if you keep it.

Excuse #3 – It has sentimental value.

Many people hold on to things because they remind them of a special person, time or place. Certain mementos can be great as decorative pieces and help to personalize a space. However, it is not always a good idea to hold on to something just for the sake of nostalgia.

I recently got rid of a stack of concert tickets I was sure I would put into an album some day, a bunch of photos of events I hardly remember going to, and clothes I wore back in my college days. Do I miss them? Not even a little bit. I realized that the memories I have are more important than the physical item. And if I don’t remember something that well or with any fondness, that’s all the more reason to let the items go.

This excuse can be hard to combat when the items are family heirlooms. Some ways to deal with this are to take photos of the items. These are much easier to store and you can still have a visual reminder. You can also see if any other family members would like any of the items. You could choose to sell or donate things so that they are given a new life instead of collecting dust in an attic.

You can also choose to actually put these items to use. Decorate a kitchen shelf with antique cookware, put postcards or costume jewelry in a shadow box on the wall. Lay a family quilt on the end of your bed. While this isn’t technically a purge, it creates a positive impact. If you actually work these items into your decor, you will appreciate them more and they will serve a purpose.

Excuse #4 - I don’t know how to get rid of this item or where to take it.

There are a surprising number of things that can be difficult to get rid of, particularly if they don’t work. The most common ‘hard to get rid of’ items are appliances, bicycles, electronics and hazardous materials.

There are a ton of organizations dedicated to collecting unused items…from the well known Salvation Army and Good Will to the thousands of more focused organizations who may collect books, clothing, old cars or any of hundreds of other types of items. Check out my Donate and Recycle Page for a few ideas or do a local search in your area.

Many organizations will offer pick up for items and may even take things that don’t work, such as cars. In return, you can use the donation as a tax write off. Craigslist and Freecycle are website options where you can post your items.

If the item simply doesn’t work, look for organizations who collect scrap metal, porcelain or other hard to get rid of materials. Check if there is a hazardous waste disposal site in your area. These will often take things like paint, insecticides, batteries, old electronics or other items you want to get rid of but don’t want to throw in the trash.

Get creative. Donate old instruments to local schools, books to local libraries, cut up torn clothes to use as rags…there is usually a way to breathe new life into something through donation or repurposing.

What excuses are you using to hold on to stuff you don’t need? What is holding you back? And wouldn’t making the decision to purge unwanted items open up a lot more time and energy in your life?

~Erin

 

 

 

 

 

News Spot – Simplify those Resolutions

We are a month into the new year and this is the time when a lot of people start to slip when it comes to their New Year’s Resolutions. There are a few weeks of momentum and then ‘Bam!’, real life starts to set back in. The holidays are over, the kids are back in school, and the hum-drum of daily life often gets the best of us. That motivation which spurred us into action on January 1st starts to wane when we realize how busy life is and how hard it can be to fit a big lifestyle change into the mix.

I did a short segment on Fox 21 news in Colorado Springs about a week ago to offer a few tips for keeping those resolutions. See the clip HERE or click on the photo below:

Fox News - 1-20-15

What do you think? Are there are other tips you have for keeping those New Year’s Resolutions both simple and attainable?

~Erin

Oh the Holidays!

The holidays are here!  While some of us are giddy with excitement, others are gritting their teeth and hoping they can get through the stress. I recently did a guest spot on Fox News Colorado Springs and I wanted to share the link with you all!

I have listed a few of the tips below and added a few others.

Houseguests:

Just the word itself makes some of us cringe. But houseguests don’t have to mean stress. Helping your guests help themselves is the biggest stress reliever in this area. Leave out extra towels and toiletries so they don’t have to ask you for them. Show them around the kitchen and pantry. And if you have work or other commitments while they are visiting, make sure they know your schedule. It also helps to have a few things for them to do. Get a few movies, make a list of local attractions, or tell them where the good restaurants are. Most guests are happy to entertain themselves for a while if they know where to go.

Food:

If you are cooking large meals for the holidays, a little planning goes a long way. A few weeks out from your holiday meal, develop your menu so you can see everything you need. Anticipate the number of serving dishes you will need and if you need to buy or borrow anything, do this well ahead of time. Two weeks before the cooking day, buy all of the dry goods and non-perishables. This not only gets some of the shopping done, but it spreads out the spending so you don’t get hit with one giant grocery bill. The perishable items can be bought the week of the holiday. If your dinner guests are local, consider a potluck to cut down on the cooking and cleaning you will have to do. If you think you might be sending leftovers home, buy a few inexpensive Tupperware pieces or aluminum dishes to fill so that guests don’t have to worry about returning your dishes.

Gift Giving:

Holiday shopping can be fun, but when you have too much on your list, it can be expensive and time consuming. Consider doing a Secret Santa with extended family so that everyone has to buy only one gift for the group. This cuts down on spending, but has the added advantage of making sure everyone gets a truly special gift because everyone has more time and energy for the one present they have to buy. If you have a group of friends, forgo gift giving and instead, go out to dinner together or do another fun activity. Create ‘wishlists’ on Amazon or another internet site. These can be emailed to friends and family and it’s easy to create multiple lists for different family members. This is a great method for letting out-of-town relatives know what the kids would like. If you order gifts online, look for free shipping offers or coupons.

Travel:

If you are traveling during the holidays, make sure to allow plenty of time for any delays you may come across. If you are driving somewhere, pack plenty of snacks and activities to cut down on the stops you have to make. If you are flying, bring entertainment for the plane and make sure to take advantage of the outlets at the airport to charge any mobile devices you might use on the plane. If you are boarding animals while you are away, book early and prepare their vet records and necessities now. Since travel is so much more expensive during the holidays, find creative ways to cut down on costs. Look for restaurants with ‘kids eat free’ nights while you’re on the road. Book hotels that offer free breakfasts. Some airlines offer a discounted checked bag fee if you pay for baggage online at check-in.

With a little planning, you can focus less time on running around and more time on enjoying the holidays!

Garage Organizing – Go Vertical!

If you’ve read my blog at all, you might know that one of my favorite organizing tips is to go vertical with storage. Why waste valuable wall space when you can use it to organize? Here are a few ways we efficiently use space in our garage.

Of course we have a pegboard for the tools. This is the easiest way to hang everything up so you can see it, but it’s out of the way.

Garage - Vertical Storage (5)

We have the kid’s bike helmets hung up so they are easy to find and grab.

Garage - Vertical Storage (8)

Look at this little trick….my husband had a fishing rod holder that hangs on the wall,  but he hung it on the underside of our loft storage. They are still easily reachable, but completely out of the way. Genius!

Garage - Vertical Storage (6)

And since I love, love, love over-the-door shoe organizers, we have 3 of them in our garage. One is on the back of the garage closet and holds miscellaneous items such as work gloves, dog leashes, car washing supplies, and more.

Garage - Vertical Storage (1)

The other two organizers are not hanging on doors; I nailed those babies right to the wall. You know that space right next to where you park your car? The one that is usually too shallow to put a cabinet and often goes unused? I hung two of these organizers up right there and filled them with the spray paint I use for all of my crafty projects.

Garage - Vertical Storage (3)

The bottom portion of each organizer holds extra foam brushes, gloves, saw tooth hangers and a few other items I frequently use. They are out of the way, I can see everything and I’m using previously unused real estate!

So go vertical with your organizing. The garage is the perfect place to do this and can help you fit so much more into your space without things being cluttered.

~Erin

Creating Zones in the Garage

In my previous post, I included a link to my Fox News segment on garage organizing.  I talked about a few different concepts, but I didn’t go into anything in depth because it was a 3 minute segment! I’m going to expand on a few of these ideas. First I want to talk about how to create zones in your garage.

Zones are important because they make you group like items together. This alone makes things much easier to find and store. However, zoning also makes you focus on what you use most and encourages you to make those items easily accessible. Zoning also allows you to take full advantage of your garage because you really evaluate each part of the space.

Start with a rough drawing of your garage and map out the zones that will work for you and your family. My garage is drawn out below and I have assigned zones for each area. Every space is slightly different, so your zones will vary, but use this as a general concept.

Garage Zones

 

Transition Zone – This can be a place to put muddy boots, hang dog leashes, store reusable grocery bags, etc. This is especially useful if you don’t have a separate mudroom. This doesn’t have to be a large area; it just needs to be defined. Everyone in the house should know where to put their own items within the space.

Need it Now/ Frequently Used – This area is for items you may use often but don’t want to store inside the house.  It can include things like extra canned goods, a recycle bin, or dog food. It can also be a great place to store items you don’t want to have to search for when you need them, such as batteries, a fire extinguisher, or flashlights.

Long or Tall Storage – This category includes items such as rakes, shovels and skis which don’t easily fit in a cabinet or on a shelf. A great place for this zone is along the side of the garage next to the cars. This area typically isn’t wide enough for shelving, but you can hang up thin, tall items much more easily.

Large, Bulky and Seasonal Items – These items can be stored up high because you only need to access them occasionally. You can build loft storage or use high shelves for things like holiday decorations and camping equipment.

Workspace – It’s great to have a clear area for working or doing projects. That way you won’t have to clear a space when you want to work on something.

There are other zones you could work into your organizing system if they fit your needs:

Seasonal Need It Now Items – This would be things like rakes for spring gardening, skis in the winter, golf clubs in the summer, etc. Ultimately, it is for items that you use a lot at a certain time of year, but can switch the items out as the seasons change.

Sporting Goods – If you have a lot of sporting goods, you might want to designate a certain area just for these items.

Hobby or Additional Use Area – Perhaps your garage is also your wood shop or laundry room or exercise area. You may need to designate a zone for this so that you can access it easily and store everything in the most efficient way possible.

Make sure you have a solid plan for where everything should go and putting things away will be so much easier!

~Erin

 

The Great Garage Cleanout Begins!

Wow, it’s been a while since I wrote a post. Busy summer over here…I can’t believe school has just started!

I just did another segment on Fox 21 News about garage organizing. View the link below for some basic garage tips. Then I’m going to spend the next few weeks breaking down how to organize your garage!

Fox 21 News - Garage Organizing

Garage Organizing

You’ll see that I bring back my favorite organizing tool: the over the door shoe organizer.

I can’t wait to go into a little more detail on organizing this area of the home. I think the transition from Summer into Fall is the perfect time to reevaluate your garage!