SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks

three ring binder

The next section of my binder is home management.  This is the section that is going to make sure the House of Cheaptitude runs smoothly.  Well, it will if the appropriate people utilize it.

This is the subdivision where I’ll keep information about cleaning, entertaining, storage, and various inventories.  In other words, the home management section is the residence of my beloved lists!  This is my basic plan:

  • Running to do and wish lists
  • Cleaning schedule: I find if it’s on a list, I’m more likely to do it.  And making a list, I can break chores into smaller, bite-sized chunks.
  • Occasional chores:  We all have things that need doing around the house only monthly or even seasonally.  I will probably list these by month in this section.
  • Monkey chores:  I’m pretty pleased of the monkeys.  They have a few household tasks that they perform regularly, often without being asked.  However, they’re getting older and can handle more these days.  For example, they can clean their bathroom (the “public” one) now.  I’ve also been working with Monkey 1 on laundry.  21 days to establish a routine….
  • Entertaining lists and ideas:  I want to keep track of what is where, from table linens to birthday candles.  Most of my holiday decorations are in the attic, in labeled totes, but remember the stocking mishap this past Christmas?
  • Decorating ideas:  furniture, appliances, projects, etc. that appeal to me.  That makes this a binder-version of Pinterest, I guess.
  • Home inventory:  I need to do this anyway, for insurance purposes.  Furniture, major appliances, electronics, etc. need to be listed, with purchase dates and prices if possible.  One copy will go in my binder, and another, hopefully, in a safety deposit box.  Now to get a safety deposit box….
  • Home storage inventory: Grizzly and I do not rent a storage facility.  I guess if it ever comes to that point, I’ll need to get rid of some junk!  But Grizzly has no clue where anything is.  So anything packed away (clothes for Monkey 2 to grow into, the back stock of school supplies, etc.) will go on this list, with the locations.

Other items I’ve kept in this section in the past include our car maintenance schedules, recycling locations, yard sale checklists, and stain removal guides.  These were ideas from Organized Home.  However, I keep a separate binder on the Blue Lemon because it lives at the dealership every month or so.  Yard sales I just kind of throw together with family or friends, and stain removal is better located with all of my other Mt. Washmore items.  As for recycling?  In theory, I love it.  Across the river, people are required to do it, with special trash cans and all.  I like the idea, but if I can’t repurpose it myself, I usually end up throwing it out.

I may include simple instructions detailing how to operate the different appliances and foo fah around the house – washer, dryer, oven, microwave, etc.  After all, the point is to get the rest of the fam involved, correct?

What lists/instructions do you need to leave so your home runs smoothly?

~ Katie

Master Cleaning Checklist


{February 22, 2013}   Shower the Baby

A week ago CrazyMathLady called me from Wal-Mart.  This is not my idea of a good time for any reason.  This lady is not married, has no kids and was shopping for a baby shower gift.  Of course she calls me.

Bless her heart!

The baby shower was for one of her good friends, a first-time mom, and CrazyMathLady is even more practical than I am.  For the most part.  We had discussed the shower on our way back from Bunco, and agreed that everybody and their mama would be purchasing sweet smocked baby clothes for Expectant Mom’s little bundle.  I gave birth to a linebacker and a point guard, so most of that kind of stuff went to waste in the House of Cheaptitude.

I like practical.

I told CrazyMathLady to buy infant medicines, ointments, thermometers, nursing pads, etc.  And a big package of pads for Expectant Mom.  These are things new moms often don’t think of stocking when preparing for a new addition, and most shower guests (especially here in our part of the world) like to purchase frilly foo foo smocked monogrammed baby stuff, so I thought this would be a great gift.  Expectant Mom will thank her when the first ear infection starts.

I like practical.  So does CrazyMathLady, and I actually get quite tickled by her practicality sometimes.  Her classroom was always devoid of all of those cutesy teacher wall decorations and it was flawlessly organized.  One could tell when she was impressed with a kid’s work, because that was the only time stuff was displayed.

I invited her over one evening that I planned to scrapbook and she played with paper punches all night.  I think it was the Geometry aspect.

So after she bought out the baby section of the health and beauty aisle at Wal-Mart, she texted me a picture of her packaged gift:


She doesn’t often get fancy-pants creative, but this is too cute!  CrazyMathLady went to the craft section and bought stickers to decorate the little Rubbermaid box.  I did notice that stickers are pretty evenly distributed, but math people tend to have a touch of OCD.

I’m so proud of her creativity, I just had to share!

What kind of shower person are you?  Cute and fancy or practical?

{February 22, 2013}   Weekend Projects
Mt. Washmore

Mt. Washmore (Photo credit: Birdies100)

It’s Friday! It’s sad how forward I look to my weekends lately.  It seems, though, that’s the only time I can get anything accomplished.

Last weekend was a dead loss. I got very little done, which makes me a bit blue.  Some of my projects have been pushed off to this weekend to make up for it.

  • All of my grades are in the computer already – not necessarily a good thing, because most of my kiddos chose not to turn in their assignments. But it frees me up some. I still need to plan for next week, and write some tests, but that shouldn’t be too time-consuming.
  • My kitchen needs some serious attention.  A week of competition prep has left a disaster in its wake.  And my sweet hubby forgot to bring home dishwasher detergent.  I so don’t want to leave the house that I am considering hand washing the dishes.
  • I do plan to do the computer swap, tonight, so that I can clean the kitchen. It’s funny how that one thing keeps me from even going in the kitchen.  It has to get done. DONE – Ok, so it was this morning…..
  • The ugly stool.  Ah, me….
  • Mt. Washmore is calling my name, pretty impatiently.  I’ve been wearing clothes that I haven’t worn in quite a while – and adding some to my “donate” pile as I realize how truly awful they look on me.  Something isn’t right with the dryer right now, so I’m hesitant to even fool with it.  But it has to be done.  Have I mentioned how desperately I still want a clothesline?
  • My bedroom needs straightening, as does my bathroom.  Somebody has been rained out from work most of the week and leaves a mess behind.
  • I have to call Jeepnmom tomorrow and see how she and Mechanic Man are faring.  Poor thing – she’s jacked up her back and he has double pneumonia!  I know she’s going stir-crazy.  I halfway anticipate a call from her at 5 AM, telling me to clean a drawer.  (Note to Bec:  I’ve been drinking coffee since three this afternoon, will be up late, and already have a plan for the next drawer.  Wait till 7 your time, please!)
  • Work on my management binder.  I’m preparing everything on the computer so that when I have ink, I can just print it all out!

It’s a long list but I’m thinking not as ambitious as usual.  How does your weekend look?

~ Katie

{February 21, 2013}   One of Those Coupon People….

Couponers! (Photo credit: Timberland Regional Library)

Grizzly is very excited to be participating in his very first grilling competition this weekend, which meant a quick trip to the grocery tonight.  I told him earlier today that he could go by himself and he paid me quite the compliment: “It’s better that we go together.  I’ll spend $100 where you’ll only spend $50 and get more stuff.”  Love love love my big redneck!

So off we went to the Brookshire’s down the street.

After poking around a few aisles together, he went off to the meat department while I started hunting for a meat-free soup for tomorrow’s dinner (Monkey 1’s request since we’re all up into Lent).  I had some fairly decent  Progresso coupons (they would double and the soup is on 2/$4 still) and was trying to locate just the right one when this familiar-looking guy comes up and says, “What’s the big seller today?”

I guess I gave him the “teacher” look, because he corrected himself, saying, “Oh, you’re a shopper.  I thought for a minute you worked here.  Wait, you’re one of those coupon people!”


  1. Turns out the guy is Jeff Ferrell from one of our local news stations.
  2. I don’t like being lumped in as any “those _____ people.”  Makes me think of the Wal-Mart people.

I clutched my precious binder to my chest, telling him kind of firmly that no, I’m not an extreme couponer.  He figured out that he’d mildly offended me and said it was a good thing, not an insult.

I might just stop watching Channel 12….

Am I embarrassed by my coupons?  By my cheaptitude?  Well, heck no.  I don’t want to belong to part of a group. Especially not the extreme couponers.  No offense, but that show is over the top. I’m as excited about a free pouch of tuna fish as the next couponista, but my toilet paper will not overrun the monkeys’ habitats.

Couponing  is not a freaking cult.  It’s a lifestyle. It’s a conscious decision to spend my money carefully and get as much as I can for as little of our hard-earned wages as possible.  Why should that classify me as “one of those coupon people?”

Unfortunately tonight, I proved how un-extreme I am.  I was only at about 25% savings, which is not great for me.  But I went without a list and without a plan (forgot the dishwasher soap) so in reality, it wasn’t the worst.  And my groceries, after coupons, were actually lower than the competition meat.

So if Jeff Ferrell talks about the crazy woman in the grocery with a beat-up binder this weekend?  Yeah, I’m that chick.

Are you embarrassed by frugality?  How much is too much?

~ Katie


If you don’t have little monkeys climbing around your tree, you can skip this one.  I, however, have two little monkeys.

At two different schools.

On two different schedules.

With two different sets of extracurricular activities.

And I work in one, in a completely different district!

So this is a pretty important section in my management binder.  I thought at one point about setting up a binder on each monkey for school stuff, but I think one section in the main binder will be fine for now.  After all, we’re already in elementary and almost done with middle school at this point.  I’ve added “dividers” for each monkey within this section.  And a lot of this information is stored safely away in my head, but that doesn’t help Grizzly if he needs to meet with the P.E. teacher, or if PaPaw wants to check someone’s grades before a fishing trip.

What do I keep in the school section?

  • a district calendar: the kids’ district and the one in which I teach
  • lunch menus: not always accurate, but I check the website regularly.  I can also keep up with their lunch money accounts in here.
  • school information page: each school’s address, phone numbers, website, teacher emails, and online grading login
  • Bell and class schedules
  • IEP/IAP when applicable:  Monkey 2 used to receive 504 services for speech therapy.
  • Student Handbooks (as a teacher, I’m like the dress code police!)
  • school reading lists:  Monkey 1’s teachers can’t seem to let anyone know ahead of time what books he’ll need to read.  I do keep both monkeys’ Accelerated Reader info in this section.
  • Websites:  a list of helpful websites, like our state’s test prep program (Louisiana PASS), Easy Bib (Monkey 1 still doesn’t get how to cite sources!), and anything else educational and helpful.
  • Passwords:  I have some educational games on my desktop computer and the monkeys can’t ever remember their passwords.
  • Summer Programs:  I get flyers about summer reading programs, usually in April, and for the past few years, we’ve participated in our library’s summer reading program.

If you home school, this would be a great place for any home school records.

I also end up sliding report cards in this section.  Yes, cleaning out my old notebook, I found report cards from 2011.  Really?

I will probably include a stack of fill-in-the-blank bus notes, so I don’t have to scribble 2 notes at 4:30 in the morning every time the monkeys have to go to PaPaw and MaMaw’s after school.

This section involves more hole-punching than form creation.  Can you think of a form I might need to create?  What would you keep in your school section?

~ Katie


{February 19, 2013}   Household Binder: Update

My reference materials.

A lot of my to-do’s are left undone after my long weekend.  My head is still killing me and I’m finally tackling some of the mountain of papers to grade.  Didn’t make it to the parental units’ till this evening, but I don’t think they minded.  And I got a start (finally) on a meeting I wound up in charge of for this coming fall – sometimes that “no” thing just doesn’t work out as well as it should.

But in the back of my aching, exhausted brain all day as my eighth graders and I visited the world of Johnny and Ponyboy on Jay’s Mountain was my management binder.  Ideas for things to add were bouncing in my head all day.  And me with a pooped out DROID (no colornote today – but the new one will be here tomorrow!!)

So here are some binder updates:

  • I found the most amazing website ( ) with my idea of the perfect binder.  WOW!
  • I’m definitely setting up a separate binder for major house things (warranty, insurance, mortgage, etc.) I’m also setting up a separate one for finances.  Our finances are personal, and should be kept a little more private.
  • After I see how the kitchen section goes, I may end up with a separate binder for in there.  I have this awesome binder of family recipes from Granny-at-the-Farm and I want to start another of recipes Grizzly and I like and have modified and have turned into family favorites.
  • I created a cover that I can love.  I’ve seen several binders today that incorporate family pics and I can live with that.  Mine has a good picture of our family, along with some quotes about being a wife and mom – some funny, some biblical, all appealing to me.  I still need to make a spine and back cover.  I always use the binders with insertable covers for my management notebooks.
  • I did break one of my own rules of cheaptitude and purchased an organizing e-book.  Don’t judge me.  This way, Granny-at-the-Farm and Grizzly can’t poke fun at another organizing book on my shelf.  It had some neat binder pages, what can I say?

I’m ready for ink for the printer so that I can print my pages, put my binder together, and share my progress with you!  Maybe this weekend I can focus.  With everything else that is going on right now, I feel like my binder adventure is a real contribution and something I can actually control.

No questions for you today, my friends.  My headache and I are heading to bed…..

~ Katie

{February 18, 2013}   Recipe: Homemade Furniture Polish

Recipes (Photo credit: pirate johnny)

Olive oil – it’s not just for cooking in my house!

With so many amazing recipes for homemade, greener cleaners on the internet, it truly hurts my feelings to pay money for store-bought furniture polish.  Not that I’m so green, I’m just that cheap.  And I don’t like the gummy, gunky build-up.  So here is the recipe for furniture polish I’ve started using:

Homemade Furniture Polish Recipe

Mix in a sprayer bottle:

This seems like a small amount.  However, if you make a larger batch and don’t use it up right away, it gets funky floaties.  It’s gross, and your Queen of Cheaptitude threw away a perfectly cleanable spray bottle full of olive oil, lemon juice, and floaties.  It was yucky.

Sidenote: Label your spray bottle very clearly so your wonderful hubby doesn’t think it’s one of his grilling concoctions.

Do not spray directly on the furniture.  I shake the bottle really well and apply a small amount to a microfiber cleaning rag (or a repurposed t-shirt/sock/pair of drawers.) Using the rag, spread the mixture evenly over your furniture surface – a little goes a long way. Then use the dry side of your cloth to polish the surface out.

Avoid glass areas.  It’s a pain to clean off glass.

I already had all of the ingredients for this recipe in my pantry.  I even had the spray bottle, from a long ago trip to the Dollar Tree. I won’t be using my pricier, imported extra virgin olive oil for dusting in the future. (Does my coffee table care if the cleaning product has been deflowered? Just sayin’.)  The lemon juice is just store-brand.

Not that I’ve ever been much of a duster, but I’m not noticing as much dust on my furniture these days.  It’s a nice side effect!

Do you use a homemade cleaner for dusting?  What is your recipe?

~ Katie

Section 4 in my binder is Family.  Family is the center of my world (even when it seems like school is!) and it is the heart of my binder.  This is where all the miscellaneous hodge podge about Grizzly and the Monkeys needs to be found.

I need to keep a master list of special occasions.  Birthdays, anniversaries, etc.  Seems like a duplicate of a page from my planner but this will be a permanent list, instead of yearly.  This will ensure I don’t ask MaMaw and PaPaw to monkey-sit on their anniversary.

I need a personal information page for each member of the House of Cheaptitude, including the four-legged furball.  Birthdays, allergies, basic likes/dislikes, etc.  As well as I think I know my family, they do surprise me occasionally.  I will also create a page for tracking everyone’s clothing sizes.  That way, when Super Nana calls me from a retail therapy appointment because she’s found a great deal on shoes for Monkey 1 or swimsuits for Monkey 2, I can tell her what size to buy.  Not that she always listens to me….

Next, I plan to include a gift suggestion list.  I’m thinking a spreadsheet with the family member’s name, item, occasion, and where to buy it.  The Monkeys are constantly asking for something they’ve seen on tv (pillow pet, anyone?) and this way I could keep up with it.  But I plan to add all of the people we have to give gifts to.  Maybe Grizzly can do some of the shopping if he has a reference list.

Some other things that can go in the family section include birthday party ideas, good websites for the Monkeys, movie and book lists (for school or fun), and other things we might want to do as a family.  Again, I think this will encourage Grizzly’s involvement in planning events around the house.

If you don’t feel up to the task of making your own forms, Jen at IHeart Organizing has some really adorable stuff for sale in her Etsy shop. Of course, Organized Home is one of my favorite places to visit still. There are a lot of home management binders with freebies floating around the web, also.

What do you think?  Did I miss something?

~ Katie


Office Calendar

Office Calendar (Photo credit: glindsay65)

This section has been my planner. It is, without a doubt, the thickest and most complicated section.  Ugh.  But it is necessary for the House of Cheaptitude to run smoothly.

What goes in this section?  Honestly, it would be easier to ask what doesn’t.

  • Monthly calendars
  • Any long and short term to-do lists.  I’ve mentioned before mine reproduce themselves exponentially (there’s that word CrazyMathLady would love!) with startling speed.
  • Reminder notes.  The guidance counselors at my school are amazing about putting little conference sheets in my box at work.  I wish they did it less frequently…..
  • Birthday calendars.  Since I don’t get on FaceBook often anymore, this would be helpful.  There are very few birthdates I remember off the top of my tinsel-covered head.
  • Work schedules.  This would be the school year calendar for my district, meeting dates, reporting dates, etc. For Grizzly?  His is all in his head, which makes me insane!
  • School schedules.  The district school calendar for the Monkeys (they attend in a different district than I teach), Monkey 1’s class schedule, and important dates for Monkey 2’s school.
  • Activity schedules.  This would be karate, church, PSR, pool/softball/whatever Grizzly is up to,  Bunco, etc.
  • Any piece of paper with a date on it.

Most of these items are “handouts” from work, school, church, and other activities.  I can hole-punch and add these easily.  They could go in page protectors, but I don’t see the need as the longest most are useful is a year.

I have a calendar on my kitchen wall with everyone’s “stuff” listed.  To do this, though, I have to track down every crumbled scrap of paper with a date on it.  In the planning section of my binder, I can just open it up and transfer dates each month.  The kitchen calendar then acts as my daily reminder of who needs to be where at what time.

I would not include my cleaning lists nor my menu plan because I keep those in other sections of the binder.  My bill-paying calendar may go in this section, as I am planning to set up a separate finance binder and don’t care to access that one every day.

I have not created any forms for the planner section, yet.  There are too many cute templates available for download that work just fine for me.  At some point, I may make some forms, but I doubt it.

I’d also like to color code everyone’s activities on the main calendar, even though it’s less than necessary.  Grizzly is a visual guy, though, so maybe it would be helpful for him.

What would you include in the planner section of a home management binder?

~ Katie

{February 18, 2013}   Lost Weekend

The best laid plans of mice and men…go awry in the House of Cheaptitude.  I hate it when I look so forward to a weekend and it goes to waste.  I’m not one of those people who enjoys being slacktastic.  And I’m not saying that this weekend has been a disaster or anything, but I didn’t get everything done that I wanted.

  • I still need to go to Goodwill.
  • I need to add objectives to my lesson plans.
  • I need to write my next Outsiders quiz.
  • My webpage for school needs updating for this week.
  • I have a stack of novel studies waiting impatiently for grades.
  • My room is a little messy again. The Monkey dens are insanely gross.
  • Mt. Washmore is starting to look like Mt. Everest.
  • I still need to move computers around.
  • The living room and kitchen look a hot mess.

Yesterday I was miserable with a headache.  This morning, when Grizzly got up to go to work, I told him I was considering going to the doctor (yes, it has been that bad!)  I didn’t overindulge in adult bevs at Bunco, so I’m not sure what exactly is going on, but it isn’t nice.

Today I need to straighten the kitchen (post-Grizzly grilling practice yikes!), stop by PaPaw’s house, pick up some more 50 cent Cheerios at the grocery (no lie – double coupon with a 3/$6 sale!), and get ready for the upcoming week.  Monkey 2’s play kitchen has moved to the back porch with her picnic table (I see a play restaurant in the future) and I can technically move my computer to her room today.  You know what is on my mind though?  THE FUNKY STOOL!

I feel that if I do something I want to do, maybe I’ll get through what I need to do.  So I’ll dust and clean the stool, do a first coat of paint, and work on chores while it dries.  I really see promise in this plan.

On a happier note, I did (kind of) clean out my email box this morning.  I’m down to about 200 emails….

Do you get frustrated with your to-do list?  How do you handle it?

~ Katie

et cetera
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