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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Ten Sections??  REALLY?  This is why my binder is being separated – manageability.  I will keep similar sections together, but looking at my binder in its most recent form sends me into sensory overload.  It worked before, but not so much now.

Back to the task at hand.

The next section is Church/Activities/Hobbies.  This is where I keep a lot of contact information, membership information, and schedules.  The things in this section at my house should be:


  • Altar Server Schedule:  Monkey #1 serves (scheduled) about once each month but fills in a lot.  Looking at the schedule, I can actually kind of tell when he’ll show up for Mass only to be thrown in a robe at the last minute.
  • Altar Server Contact List:  If he can’t serve on a scheduled day, it’s up to me to make a trade.
  • PSR Schedules:  PSR is our church’s Sunday School.  Monkey #2 meets on Sundays before Mass, but Monkey #1, since starting Middle School, attends on Wednesday – I guess this is staffing and space.
  • Youth Group Schedule:  Usually on Sunday nights, the Middle School Youth Group sometimes has Saturday activities, week night projects, etc.
  • Youth Group Contact Info:  I have yet to use this, but I’m sure it will be handy at some point.


  • Karate:  I try to keep a copy of the class schedule, phone number, address, etc.  I have to call the school pretty regularly because things slip my mind.
  • Bunco:  I play Bunco once a month.  At our anniversary bunco, we were given manuals for our particular group.  This includes member names and addresses, guidelines, sub list, etc.  I’m a teacher and a disorganized one, so my folder goes missing for weeks at a time.  I believe my binder is a safer place for it.
  • Pool:  It would be lovely to have Grizzly’s pool schedules and team info in my binder so I would know ahead of time where he’s playing, when he has an off week, etc.  This is something I’m still working on.
  • Running Club:  Monkey #2 loves the running club at school.  I’d love to have an accurate schedule.  She’s missed 2 weeks due to misinformation from a sponsor.


  • Hunting stuff:  Yeah, this one might be a binder in itself.  I’d like to have an inventory of what hunting stuff Grizzly and the monkeys have, maybe a price book for ammo, lease information so I know what/when/how much to plan for fees.

If I have the schedules in place, I can transfer easily to a calendar and keep up with things more handily.  We have a lot more activities during the summer, like library days, Kids Bowl Free, and play dates.  Grizzly usually gets suckered in to “one more season of softball.”  It’s easier to keep track when everything is in one place.

Other things that might be included in this section:

  • Weight Watchers meeting info
  • Camps
  • Tutoring info and schedules
  • Community Ed Classes
  • Vacation Bible School info
  • Craft classes – I know Michael’s and Home Depot offer classes and workshops, and a local fabric store offers sewing classes, which interests me!

So what else do you think could go in this section?

~ Katie


My to-do lists seem excessive and redundant to many people.  However, listing is my way of functioning.  (Is there a learning style for that?)  Repetition develops habits.  After I’ve used the same checklist for a while, it just becomes a habit and I don’t really need my list.

One area that needed addressing in The House of Cheaptitude was morning routines.  We have two adults, two monkeys, and a four-legged monkey buddy to get moving each day.  Often I find myself already in my classroom and my phone rings because “Monkey #2 says her coat is in your car.” Or “Monkey #1 left his gym clothes on the kitchen table.  How are we handling this?”

Of course, one-half of we is across the bridge and preparing for a day of educating eighth graders.

This is one of those problem areas where checklists and routines come in to save the day.

Many of those tasks that we complete in the morning can either be done the night before or at least set up to be done.  Here are some of the things on my night-time list:

  • Finish kitchen chores:  Nothing is ickier than waking to a full counter and dirty sink.  I like to take care of everything before bed, when possible, running the dishwasher at night.  If I have spare time in the morning, I can put things away.  Otherwise, Monkey #1 can do it after school.
  • Prepare any sack lunches:  I pack my lunch every day for work.  I’m a creature of habit: peanut butter or cheese sandwich, a handful of tortilla chips, and something semi-sweet, like a granola bar or applesauce cup.  The monkeys only want to pack a lunch when there are cookies around.
  • Prepare for breakfast: I make sure the cereal containers have cereal in them because I hate the way the monkeys open boxes.  I also make sure we have bowls and spoons clean (don’t ask!)  Some organizing gurus suggest setting the table, but the monkeys eat at different times (one leaves a full hour ahead of the other) and Grizzly and I don’t have a sit-down breakfast.  Besides, if I take the time to lay out bowls and spoons, that will be the day the monkeys want toast or waffles.
  • Set the coffee pot:  My coffee pot has a timer, thank goodness, and when I get up most mornings that black gold is waiting for me.  If yours doesn’t have a timer, set it up anyway so that all you have to do is turn it on in the morning.  It saves a full 3-5 minutes.
  • Lay out clothes for the morning:  The monkeys always put them in the same spot, the coffee table.  My monkeys are in uniform schools, which should make it easier, but really doesn’t.  Their closets are arranged by function (school or home) and color, which makes grabbing an outfit simple.  However, if I lay out a red shirt, that’s the day we wanted to wear navy.  When the forecast says it will be 32 degrees in the morning, Monkey #1 lays out shorts. We do check the weather forecast, and clothes need to be laid out right down to shoes, belts, and coats, if needed, so that parental units aren’t receiving those “I can’t find my sneakers and the bus will be here in two minutes” calls.  My work clothes are always on my dresser before I go to bed, and I very rarely change anything up the next morning.
  • Set your launchpad:  I do not have a “launchpad” right now, but the monkeys have to have their school bags packed and sitting by the coffee table before they go to bed.  My school bag is always either by my bed or in my comfy chair in the living room.  Everything is situated for “pick up and hit the door” in the mornings.
  • Check your to-do lists and calendar:  The night before, I check my calendar to see if we have anything major going on the next day, such as activities or meetings.  I double check my running to-do list and add anything to my daily list that I need to.  For example, on faculty meeting days, the monkeys hang out with PaPaw after school.  I don’t have to hurry home and can stop by the drugstore or the grocery if I need to. This also lets me know if I need to defrost anything for dinner or if I can just chunk a Crockpot meal in the Crockpot on my way out the door in the morning (more usually the case)
  • Make sure everyone has their alarms set to the correct time and actually turned on. Yes, there are some stories to go along with this.

My alarm jolts me out of bed between 4 and 4:30 every morning and I have to be out the door by 6:15.  By planning ahead and having consistent routines, I actually have leisure time in the mornings – to fold clothes, start the crockpot, or watch the news.  Instead of being rushed in the morning, my nighttime routines have squashed the chaos, allowing me to relax.

Do you have nightly routines?  Are your mornings a muddled mess?

~ Katie

Nightly To-Do List

{March 5, 2013}   Time…
hello, weekend.

hello, weekend. (Photo credit: erin m)


I get out of bed at 4:30 in the morning (sometimes a little earlier) during the work week.  That gives me a little more than an hour to myself every day.  I head in to work at just after 6, never clocking in later than 6:30, where every second is pretty much packed until I walk out the door around 2:40.  I hurry home and begin dealing with whatever is going on there – activities, dinner, housework.  I squeeze in a little more work, whether it is parent calls/e-mails, grading papers, writing lessons, or updating my webpage.  I’ve gone to work when I probably should have been to the doctor because I always have so much to do.  There is never enough time.


This became clear, thanks to the DMV.  I had to renew the registration on Grizzly’s truck last month.  The blue lemon will be coming up next month.  Then I realized how long it’s been since I’ve renewed my driver’s license, so I dug it out of my purse to check the expiration.  Sure enough, it expires on my birthday in two and a half weeks.


And I can’t renew online this time, because I did so last time.


And the Office of Motor Vehicles in my area tends to be an all day adventure.


Dad gum.


I found a sub and lined up an urgent personal day.  With state testing starting on the 19th, there is no way I could put this off any longer, especially knowing that it would likely take several hours.  My teacher buddy told me I should have taken a Friday, but seriously, a Friday at the DMV?  She was also jealous that I could sleep in.  Um, I have 2 monkeys that still had to go to school today.  So I still got up early.


After putting Monkey #2 on the bus and talking to Granny-at-the-Farm for a minute, I headed to NoBo.  I had considered going to the office in Minden, but with gas prices the way they are, I loaded up some papers to grade and headed to NoBo.


Did you know you have to stand in line to get a service ticket at the DMV now?


And they don’t call the tickets exactly in order?


Thankfully, I finished up just after 9 and called my friend, TheRealestChickEVER, to see if she wanted to do coffee since I was on her side of the tracks.  Unfortunately, that didn’t work out, but I did get other errands done while out and about:


  • I drove to Target and bought lightbulbs for Monkey #1’s ceiling fan.  Thanks, Secret Santa!
  • I visited the Starbuck’s while I was there and got a Mama-sized Caramel Macchiato.  Thanks, Grizz and Aunt Yvette.
  • I went to Books-A-Million to purchase Monkey #1 the book they’re reading in class right now.  I can tell I don’t shop there often, as it took me quite a while to locate it!
  • To donate all of the bags of goodies that have accumulated in my garage since I’ve started decluttering, I ran by the nearest Goodwill location.
  • I visited Family Dollar to see about a lamp and a pink comforter.  No dice on either.
  • Finally, I dropped by the credit union to pay my car note.  A little early, even!


And I was home again by 11:30.


Exactly where I want to be most of the time!


And I returned a few work e-mails, called some parents, and graded papers.


As much as I would love to take a day off and just goof off, it’s really difficult to do so.  I want to be productive, in some way, every minute of the day if I can.  It hurts my feelings when I get so run down that I actually stay in the bed all day.


Now it’s time to compile my grocery list, match up some coupons, and go to the grocery before the monkeys return.


How would you spend an “urgent personal day?”


~ Katie



The next section in my retired Home Management Binder is Meals & Menus.  With my new system, my plan is for Meals & Menus to eventually go in a separate binder, specific to the kitchen.  This section helps with meal planning, menu creation, and tracking supplies necessary to those tasks.  The things I’ve included in this section are:

  • grocery shopping lists: I have kind of a standard list I like to use and I add to it as necessary.  It’s ok to keep in the binder until I’m actually preparing to go to the store.  At that point, I need to check it against my inventories and my menu plan.  Then I’ll clip it to the front of my coupon binder and head to the store.
  • pantry inventory: I only keep the extra copies in here.  The pantry inventory has always been on the door of the pantry.
  • freezer inventor:  This works the same as the pantry inventory.
  • menu planner: I’ve tried the weekly planners in the past but I prefer to plan a month at a time.  If I pencil in generic meals/themes, they’re easy to modify and get specific later on. I love Jeepnmom‘s wipe off board on her fridge!  I could fill it in for the week and not have to hear “What’s for dinner tonight?”
  • price trackers:  This is something suggested by some other organizational sites and books, but I don’t keep up with price tracking.  For some reason the numbers stay in my head and I know I can get those chocolate chip waffles the last week of the month for $1.79/box without looking at a spreadsheet.  Sales cycles stay with me.  If you can’t remember cycles though, a price tracker is a great tool to use.  I’ll post more on that later.
  • recipes: old stand-bys (Mystery Beans), new favorites (Teresa’s Tagliatelle), and recipes to try (Peanut butter yogurt dip).  I’m in the process of decluttering cookbooks.  When menu planning, it’s best to have recipes close at hand so you know what you’re going to need.
  • kitchen appliance manuals:  I see the purpose in keeping them in a binder, nice and organized.  Right now, though, mine are in a cabinet over the stove.

I also keep basic instructions on how to use some of the every day appliances, like the toaster, microwave, etc., as the monkeys are using these things on their own now.  I need to add some cleaning checklists and maybe diagrams/pictures of where things go (Monkey #1 stacks dishes in the drainer when he’s not sure where they go!)

I’m recognizing a theme in my binder process: how to do it, where to find it, and what to do in case of _____!

Can you think of anything else that needs to go with a kitchen section in a Home Management binder?

~ Katie



These days I live for Fridays.  Each day is a day closer to Friday and a weekend in the peace of my home.

A group of my girlfriends headed to the Big Easy this morning for a getaway weekend.  CrazyMathLady and I were both invited, but feel too tied to our jobs.  I don’t feel comfortable taking the blue lemon outside the city limits, and as much as I’ve always loved New Orleans, I’m really not feeling it.  I love love love my Bunco Babes, but I can’t see being away from home.  My cheaptitude might get misplaced.

I probably need the break, though.  Every weekend, I’m consumed by school tasks and household chores and things that I need/want to do and a to-do list that spills over each weekend.  Really, I know what needs doing.  I just need to do it.  This weekend, I have no to-do list.  I’m just going to do whatever I do. I want to be home.

But I’m not feeling completely hermitish this weekend.  For some crazy reason, I have a strong desire to go to the flea market.  I went so far as to call Grizzly at lunch time to see if he has to work this weekend.  Honestly, as I’m decluttering the house bit by bit, there really is no rhyme or reason but it sounded like a fun morning with the kids.  And maybe I’ll find that lamp for my bedroom.  Or a meat grinder like my Great-Grandma had.  Or some other goodie waiting for repurposing in the House of Cheaptitude.

Maybe I’m missing Jeepnmom and her bunch.

I feel certain that by lunch tomorrow, I’ll have a list going on my refrigerator and some project or another started.  But right now, on a Friday night with the idiot box on Discovery, it feels good to pretend I have nothing to do.  I’m ignoring Mt. Washmore and the clean dishes in the dishwasher.  The piles in the garage awaiting transport to Goodwill are escaping my notice for a minute.  Monkey 2 can name the dust bunnies for now (she’s been asking for more pets, anyway) and my lesson plans are already outlined in my head.  My management binder is progressing nicely on my laptop, but it can wait a while longer for more revisions.

Of course, now that I’ve said I’m focused on nothingness tonight, that ugly stool is calling my name.  Maybe I will tackle a project tonight, after all.

What are you up to this weekend?

~ 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 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

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 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


et cetera
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