SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks

From the beginning of August until Memorial Day, the weekends feel rushed and crazy. I feel like I’ve accomplished something major if everyone has clean clothes for the week and I’ve been to the grocery.

Yes, I am a Middle School teacher.

In a typical school year, my Friday nights consist of grades and recorded TV.  Sunday – most of the day – is spent writing or revising lesson plans.

Friday has a different look this year, with date night, but the only really exciting thing about my weekends right now is sleeping past 4 am.

I set a goal at the beginning of the summer to have my house situated (read clean and organized) by the start of school so that the first few weeks of August wouldn’t be so rough. While I made major progress, this goes on the list of incomplete projects. Labor Day weekend is my make up!

I can often accomplish more on a 3-day weekend than a 2-week holiday break.

My list of projects this weekend looks something like this:

1. Inventory and restock the pantries. I’d like to reconfigure the shelving while I’m at it, but Grizzly has a tight work schedule this weekend.

2. Catch up my freezer meals.  Y’all know I’m all about my freezer to crockpot and I only have 3 in the deep freeze right now.

3.  Laundry. Need I detail this? Oy.  I do need to make another monster batch of laundry soap while I’m projecting.

4.  Deep clean the kitchen.

5.  Deep clean the living room.

6.  Straighten my bedroom and bath.  It looks like my classroom has vomited on my side of the bed!

7.  Cut back the front flower bed and do some miscellaneous yard work.

8. Monkey #1’s closet.

The rewards for this, apart from a livable House of Cheaptitude? I’ll allow myself some scrapbook time and do my monthly hair treatment.  But I have to get the rest done 1st!

I should be able to knock a lot out today. Monkey #1 is cousin timing at Comic Con. Monkey #2 is having girly time with her Nana – pedi and a movie! And Grizz is working.  My friends are all out of town, so my distractions should be very few.  Wish me luck!

What are your big plans this holiday weekend?

~ Katie

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{January 18, 2014}   Grand Plan Challenge: Entryway

I’m an Organized Home junkie. I have loved this site ever since the days of the message boards and challenges.

The interaction and message boards are a thing of the distant past, but the tips and ideas are still there. Every year, the New Year’s Grand Plan Cleaning Challenge is posted just after Christmas. Last year, jeepnmom and I decided to tackle the challenge together. Unfortunately, life got in the way! But we both love the idea of clean, organized spaces, and are trying again. We have a group on Facebook this year to post goals, challenges, and photos as we go. Hopefully we’ll stay with it a little longer.

The first week of the challenge was all about gathering supplies and lists and such. I didn’t do the best job on that one. I’m completely out of dusting spray.

Last weekend was the beginning of Entryway Week. I have a cute little hall with a cute little closet coming off the front door. Because that door is used so infrequently, the hall was still in pretty good shape – from last year. The closet? Not so much!

This is a "before" of my front hall, aka the entryway.

This is a “before” of my front hall, aka the entryway.

The closet in the front hall, intended for outerwear, I’d imagine, has become our catchall.  The shelf held my sewing machine, table linens, Christmas paper, and miscellaneous household paperwork.  The rod contained everything from old Letterman jackets to bridesmaid dresses to Monkey #2’s First Communion gown.  The bottom of the closet had household files, cleaning tools, packaging from miscellaneous electronics…basically anything without a home.  Then right before Christmas, we hosted a get-together with a bunch of our friends.  Grizz was in charge of cleaning the living room – which consisted of chunking everything in that closet.  Including an area rug that I no longer like in the living room.

"Before" of the hall closet.

“Before” of the hall closet.

I started by emptying the hallway all together.  The shoe shelf was removed, the shelf under the mirror cleared, and I dusted the mess out of everything.  Remember, I really haven’t touched this area in a year!

The cute shelf in the front hall under the pretty mirror before I straightened it.

The cute shelf in the front hall under the pretty mirror before I straightened it.

When I cleared the shelf, I “rediscovered” these really pretty hooks I’d ordered from one of those home parties over 10 years ago.  I’ve had this idea of hanging them in the hallway for the Monkeys’ school bags and jackets…IMG_20140111_095706_806

After all of the dusting and sweeping was done, I decided to tackle the closet.  Let me just say, that closet was absolutely ridiculous.  I ended up with everything in a huge pile in the living room.  While it was empty, I dusted the shelf in that closet and vacuumed the carpet at the bottom.  Then I needed to 1) sort all that crap; and 2) determine the purpose for that closet in order to put only appropriate stuff back!

So this is what I figured out – Purpose for the front hall:

  1. Monkeys’ shoes on shoe shelf
  2. Monkeys’ jackets on hooks (after Grizz installs the hooks!)
  3. Monkeys’ book bags under their jackets
  4. Shelf is for decoration until I decide differently.

Purpose for the hall closet:

Closet rod - After

Closet rod – After

  1. Outerwear on rod
  2. Vacuum/Shark/etc. in closet till I find another home for them
  3. File box on closet floor
  4. Sewing stuff on shelf
  5. *some* Scrapbook stuff – temp storage!
    The scrapbook crate is actually stuffed with pretty much done pages - just need to be organized and stuck in books...

    The scrapbook crate is actually stuffed with pretty much done pages – just need organizing and stuck in books…

    Sewing stuff in a neat grey tote...

    Sewing stuff in a neat grey tote…

    No more expensive formalwear in this closet!

    No more awkward, expensive formal wear in this closet!

    My file tote on wheels is one of my favorite things ever!

    My file tote on wheels is one of my favorite things ever!

Bottom of the closet - After

Bottom of the closet – After

  1. After - bottom of the closet

    After – bottom of the closet




*UPDATE* 1/21/14

The front hall still looks amazing, even a week later, with regular use.  I’m still having to remind the monkeys to hang their jackets.  Shoes still don’t always make it to the shoe rack, but as long as they’re there before bedtime, it’s a battle won in my book.  Keeping the bookbags in the front hall means we shouldn’t have the phone calls at 8AM asking Grizz or me to leave work to bring binders to school – yes, that does happen!

As long as I do a quick check daily/nightly, maintaining the entryway shouldn’t be difficult.  I think that’s probably why it’s first on the to-do list, so that you can have that quick sense of accomplishment and you can keep it up easily.

I also have a wishlist going for that area.  Actually, it’s kind of just one thing – a rug at the front door!  Well, maybe some kind of umbrella stand, too, but I really like the openness of it.

What do you think?  Do you follow a cleaning plan?

~ Katie

Happy New Year’s Eve, y’all! I am out of bed, showered, and wearing clothes (not my sweats, Real Chick!) by 7:44 on my school break. This is an accomplishment!

I’ve been a total Pinterest junkie the last several days (when I should be lesson planning, cleaning, etc.) I’ve been searching and pinning organizational ideas. I did an entire series this year on a household binder. I love binders. I had the best of intentions.

The forms are all on my computer while the binder collects dust.

I found the coolest idea on Pinterest – a command center instead of a management binder.  So I got out my handy dandy 31 Gifts organizer, labeled some file folders, and so far it’s working ok.  I  have a “to file” folder and a mail folder (so the mail doesn’t get lost on the kitchen counter!), s well as a folder for each family member.  All folders need to be addressed on Friday, if not sooner.  There’s enough room to include my finance binder (I’ll post about this later), and the pockets on the outside hold list pads, for groceries, to do lists, etc.

This organizer thingy fits on my unused telephone stand in the kitchen, so it’s near my calendar as well as the kitchen table – where we’ll be having weekly family and budget meetings.

It’s not the household management binder I had envisioned, but that’s ok.  The binder is coming.  The command center works for right now!

Take what bugs you and fix it.

What project are you tackling in the new year?

~ Katie

Posted from WordPress for Android

I wish now that I had figured all of this out as a younger mom, when the monkeys were smaller. I feel like I wouldn’t struggle so much now!

With kids comes STUFF. As babies, they have more goop, accessories, diapers, clothes, and other purely baby stuff than a little bit. I know mine both became fun little people around 7 or 8 months, and toys began to flow into my home, in addition to walkers and high chairs and strollers and swings. I was glad when the bigger, more cumbersome pieces gave way to Pokémon and Build-a-Bear – except my kids have everything in excess.

Monkey #1 has over a thousand trading cards. He has Legos. He has animé books. He has them all over his room.

Monkey #2 is worse. She has a kid-sized kitchen. She has enough Barbies to populate Gobles, MI. Pillow pets and blanket animals and dress up costumes and accessories for every toy she has…all over her room.

What are some implementable ways of containing this crap stuff without stomping all over their childhood?

Tip #1 Monkey stuff should be easier to put away than to get out. There should be appropriate space allotted so that the Light Up Ladybug isn’t being crammed back where it goes.

Tip #2 Sort things according to function. Monkey #2 loves her Littlest Pet Shop toys. They’re small and we have a special bin especially for them. However, when the LPS come out to play, so do the Zhu Zhu Pets. So these are put away together. The play food is put away with the tea party sets and Tupperware play dishes, as well as her chef dress up clothes.

Tip #3 Bookshelves aren’t just for books! But this only works when spaces are assigned. Monkey has 2 shelves of books, one with movies, video games, and artsy stuff. The bottom shelf is where her bins of small toys are stored.

Tip #4 Get the kids involved. You don’t want to accidentally discard the card their bff in kindergarten made for them – even if they are 16 now. My monkeys are more inclined to give away books and toys if they know these items are going to someone less fortunate. It also sometimes works to photograph those sentimental dust collectors.

Tip #5 Art walls. Monkey #1 actually suggested this. Some cousins have “clotheslines” strung along a living room wall to clip original artwork. This way, a little Picasso can change decor easily, display creations without cluttering a fridge, and you don’t end up with swiss cheese walls (Grizzly is a little particular about nail holes!) Bulletin boards can be covered in coordinating fabric to match a monkey space. And I don’t claim to know every Kiddo’s taste, but my monkeys love a dry erase board.

Monkey #1’s space is organized and we’ll paint this summer. I’ve already implemented some of these ideas and some will come later. Monkey #2 will be tougher, because she has her own things as well as hand-me-downs from her brother. Our family seems to have an overabundance of the hoarding genes!

What ideas do you like for monkey spaces?

– Katie

English: Picnic table - combined table and ben...

English: Picnic table – combined table and benches, often used in gardens and at camping sites Deutsch: Kombination von Tisch und Bänken, oft auf Campingplätzen zu finden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Being organizationally challenged runs in my family.  Granny-at-the-Farm always kept my bedroom door closed during my time living at home.  She tells me now that, as a parent, you choose your battles.  It took me reaching middle age to start to understand the benefits of organization.


Unfortunately, I have yet to get organization mastered.  And the monkeys, God love them, received a double dose of disorganized genes.


Monkey #1’s door will probably be closed until the day he moves out.  No matter how hard I try, I cannot get him to keep his clothes straight.  There are video games and movies and art supplies and cardboard boxes and plain old garden-variety trash all over his floor.  I truly believe he wore dirty uniforms to school all last week, because he couldn’t be bothered to get his clothes to the laundry.


Monkey #2 is a little better.  Every once in a while, I’ll wake up on a Saturday to find her room straightened up, bed made, everything in its place.  It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Maybe it won’t take as long for her to appreciate being organized.


For years and years, Monkey #2’s bedroom has been a hodge-podge of miscellaneous second-hand mismatched furniture.  When Grizzly and I replaced our furniture this summer, Monkey #2 asked for an upgrade.  Her furniture all matches now, but it is big and takes up a lot of her room.  Now when anything is out-of-place, her room looks a hot mess. I’ve gotten bins from 31 Gifts to organize some of her toys that she plays with all of the time.  She’s donated many clothes, books, and toys to charity (usually her idea!)  And the bedroom is still full as a mosquito on a Louisiana summer night. It’s not a losing battle, though.


One of the issues we’ve run into in the last year or so is the kids won’t play in the back yard.  I get it, we live in a busy neighborhood and the monkeys can’t be nosy from behind the fence.  However, we have a pretty good backyard.  And a pricey swing set.  And a dog who needs to rough house.


I recently moved Monkey #2’s play kitchen to the deck out back.  First of all, this frees space in her room.  Second, if she wants to play kitchen, she has to go to the back yard.  And finally, if she doesn’t play with it for quite a while, we can “sale” it, as she says. Win-win-win.


So of course, yesterday as I was clipping coupons, she gathered my scraps and informed me she was “going to the grocery” and she headed out the back door.  Today, she went outside almost as soon as she got home from school.  She announced she would be dining outside tonight if I’d hose down her picnic table, please?  I told her she could have dinner at the table with the family and we’d set up her outdoor dining tomorrow.


I’ve completed my lesson plans and most of my grades are in.  My biggest plans tomorrow were to go to the grocery and straighten the house, maybe work on my blog a little.  Instead, I’ll be helping a monkey redecorate my back porch.


And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


So what is your next remodeling project?


~ Katie



{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 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

Jeepnmom reads every one of my posts.  How do I know this?  She called me this morning and said it was time to clean out a drawer.

I don’t think that was a project for today.  Only because we’ve been bestest friends for almost 30 years did I do what I was told.

Cleaning out the kitchen drawers is not my favorite thing to do.  They’re convenient, so a lot of junk gets chunked in them. Car House Grandma has the first yellow drawer (or second?).  In the House of Cheaptitude, they’re all junk drawers.

In order to do this and do this right, I needed to have a plan.  Part 1 involves talking to Bec while I work, to make the task less icky.  Part 2 involves cleaning/organizing in order.  I’m starting with a drawer on the end of the kitchen, closest to the utility “room,” and plan to work counter-clockwise around the room till it’s done.

So the first drawer looked like this:

This is the "before" picture.  What a wreck!

This is the “before” picture. What a wreck!

I completely emptied the entire drawer onto my kitchen counter and started sorting.  I’m in disbelief over what all was crammed in that thing.  A multitude of lighters (no wonder I never can find any! They’re in the junk drawers!); enough red pens to get through the rest of the school year; birthday candles for the years 1, 4, 7, as well as some yummy Yankee Candle votives; several utility knives; Shoe Glue; Post-It pads; and so on.  Do you see the disposable camera in the picture?  It’s been a hot minute since I’ve bought one of those!

I made 3 piles: put away, throw away, and donate.  I threw several things away.  All of the tools and oddball nuts/nails found their way to the garage.  The miscellaneous, unidentified keys are on Grizzly’s dresser for him to figure.  Craft supplies (markers and paint) are put away with the craft things.  Votives joined the other candles in my stockpile, an the birthday candles are in a Ziploc in my baking pantry.  I wasn’t sure what to do with the Shoe Glue (I like Gorilla Glue better) so it’s living in the laundry cabinet next to the shoe polish for now.  I added some USB cords to the Goodwill bag and then sorted things that actually belong in that drawer using little baskets.

This is how it looks now:

This is how it looks after my phone call.  Not bad, IMO.

This is how it looks after my phone call. Not bad, IMO.

I didn’t spend a penny to do this, as much as I love shopping for little organizer things. Everything was already on hand!  I think it’ll be more functional after this.  I should be able to find post-its, Scotch tape, and nail clippers when I need to from now on.  I’m almost inspired to tackle another today, but my phone isn’t holding a charge these days…

Do you have “junk drawers” in your home?  How can you better use that real estate?

~ Katie

By the way, Gram’s yellow drawers have not been yellow in my lifetime but it’s still called the yellow drawer.  Go figure.





{February 15, 2013}   If the Aliens Abducted Me….


A pair of homemade sock monkeys.

A pair of homemade sock monkeys. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sometimes I wonder what would happen to Grizzly and the monkeys if something ever happened to me, like I’m abducted by aliens or something.  How on earth would they function?  Their activities are pretty well lined out on the kitchen calendar, so Grizzly could handle that.  But I pay most bills online.  I have set days when I send lunch money to school.  Certain days the monkeys ride the bus to PaPaw’s house and have to have a note.  There are so many things that I do on auto pilot and the more I think about it, the more I realize Grizzly might not know how to run the House of Cheaptitude if I weren’t here.


Because of this, I’m going to dust off my Household Notebook.  My HN is simply a binder with need-to-know information.  It was great as a planner and kept me fairly organized.  It was my best friend about 12 years ago, but it fell out of use after a while – I think because I was trying to make it perfect.  My HN was originally based on the one touted on Organized Home, a site I still love.  But like so many systems in my life, I have to make it my own.  And, by extension, it has to make sense to the rest of the Cheaptitude crew.


Over the past few years, just like coupon organizers, I’ve seen more and more kits for sale.  You might get something cute for your buck, but it seems wasteful when you can find so many freebies.  Or make your own, like I like to do.


So, along with my other organization and crafting projects, I’ll be working on my Household Notebook.  I’m only going to tackle a section at a time, posting the forms I’m using as I go.  Most of the forms will probably be my version of some that are already out there. (Man, I do love a binder!)  Anyone else want to work on this with me?


Let me know if you have an idea for a form you would like me to put together!


Would your significant other be able to run your home if the aliens abducted you?


~ Katie


monday morning minis I

monday morning minis I (Photo credit: bornazombie)

Pharmacy Guy likes to poke fun at my 1/2 job, because as a teacher I only work 7:30-2:30, only Monday through Friday, only mid-August through May.  This doesn’t count the fact that I have duty during lunch, parent meetings and phone calls on my planning time, a regular flurry of e-mails from probably 25% of my kids’ parents, papers to grade, lessons and tests and activities to write, professional development (unlike my pharmacy continuing ed, teaching stuff rarely involves dinner and just listening to someone lecture!), dances, and other extracurricular activities.  In fact, that 7-2:30, Monday through Friday, mid-August (getting earlier every year, by the way) through May only covers my actual teaching time!

I really wouldn’t trade it for the world.  Although often frustrating, this is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.  But I sure look forward to the breaks!

Monday is a holiday, which means a three-day weekend for the monkeys and me.  Of course, tonight is Friday, and of course I’ll finish writing lesson plans and grade some papers.  I’ll enter the grades in the online gradebook in the morning because 1) parental phones ring if I put an F in the gradebook and 2) I promised a roomful of parental units in August I would not put grades in after eight at night – so their phones won’t ring.  And tomorrow is Saturday, so I’ll need to straighten the house.  More than straighten, since Monkey 2 apparently invited her new boyfriend over tomorrow.  And it’s a Bunco weekend, so I will not feel like getting out of bed Sunday.

But it’s a three-day weekend!  And I hate to waste a minute.  On top of regular chores, I want to get some projects taken care of.  Here is my plan:

  • Re-vamp the funky stool.  It’s been on my mind since I wrote about it last and now I have time to do it!
  • Re-home some of my scrapbooking.  I cleaned out my nightstand and the bottom is still empty.  I ran out of steam last weekend, apparently.
  • Finish one more project from the closet.  I haven’t decided which one yet, but there are plenty from which to choose.
  • Take a load to Goodwill. I have a multitude of bags collected in the garage, waiting for relocation.

I’m going to attack my computer hutch in the morning after my school stuff is done.  My desktop computer, which I’ve not used in a hot minute, needs to find another place to live.  The computer for Grizzly’s business has been returned and has taken up residence on my kitchen table for the past two weeks – not acceptable.  I serve dinner at my table and that behemoth is in my way.  So, the business computer needs to move to the hutch, and my old desktop computer, I believe, will go to Monkey 2 (Monkey 1 received a computer from Granny-at-the-Farm), which, unfortunately, involves cleaning her room.

Once the computer situation is handled, I may break out the sewing machine.  I really want a new tablecloth and napkins.  And I found a pattern online for some neat-o bags that don’t look terribly hard to make.  actually, I really want to use up my fabric so I can buy some more, truth be told.

Just as I overplan my lessons, I have probably overplanned my weekend.  What’s on your latest to-do list?

~ Katie

et cetera
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