Organization Series: Part Three

Home organization is so important in my house.  Especially with two kids and a husband’s whose crazy schedule is prone to change at any moment, having an organized home base helps us function smoother.  Which is why I’m so excited to bring you our Organization Series: Part Three.

This week, Ashley Rickert talks about how her family stays organized and brings great tips and tricks to those who are new to home organization or just looking to change up their routine!  So enjoy our Organization Series: Part Three!

Cluttered Space, Cluttered Mind

Hi everyone! Welcome to part three of the series!

If you are reading for the first time, please go back and read my introduction and first part of this organization series and get caught up!

In this part of my post, I want to share with you some tips for keeping your home cleaned and organized. To me a cluttered space is a cluttered mind, and I am just not functional when my head is constantly boggled down with a million things to do, especially if I am looking right at them.

In order to keep things running smoothly at home, I find it especially important to establish routines and habits and to stay consistent with them.

Everything has a spot, I cannot reiterate this enough.

It’s okay to have one or two junk drawers around the house for those miscellaneous items (I know I do!), but just about everything has its own spot.

By establishing these habits and routines, you create automation in your life, which inevitably make your days run smoother.

Simplify Your Space

Also, I am not at all a minimalist, but I have been trying to simplify our home. Do I really need 20 sleep T-shirts? Do I really need to keep all those (once) adorable Hollister tops I used to collect in college? Probably not.

The first step in home organization is finding a rhythm and what you want for your home.

For me, I like a tidy, uncluttered space. I also appreciate a good, deep clean daily in at least one space of the house so I try to make time for that. In this part of the series, I want to share with you how I keep my family’s home organized by sharing the habits we’ve created and what routines we follow!

My first piece of advice is to follow a monthly home organization plan each year. This is something I started doing two years ago and noticed not only do I really enjoy it, but come the end of the year I really do feel accomplished knowing how much improvement we made to our home.

Every January, Emily Ley (Simplicity Challenge) and A Bowl Full of Lemons (Home Organization Book) publish a yearly home organization plan. This calls for each month to do one major project/task around the house. You can find similar plans on Pinterest and other blogs too!

You can adapt these plans as you see fit, because again, it’s your plan.

For me, I like to de-clutter as often as possible. I am NOT a pack rat by any means. Every few months, in addition to my monthly project, I’ll add to my list to go through all our closets and spaces and donate or throw away what we can.

If you know me, you may also be surprised that I HATE doing laundry. So too many clothes equals too much laundry. I’ll donate them and any other items to CHKD.

But begin here. Write these monthly tasks on your “to-do” list for each month. You will feel so refreshed by the end of the year.

Pro Tip: Make it fun! Repaint the kitchen or update the kid’s bathrooms! It’s seriously your plan to stay on track that makes YOU happy.

Establishing a Routine

It’s also important to establish weekly routines to keep things in order and running smoothly.

Ashley’s son making cinnamon rolls

They say Sunday’s are for relaxing. For me, Sunday’s are the Monday of the week. Sure, I am giving up a day on the weekend, but I feel so much more prepared come Monday. (And, I still have Sunday evenings to relax! Yay for Sunday dinner!)

Every Sunday it is important to me to have a “catch all day” and to pick up around the house, to restock on what we use throughout week, and to food prep.

Sunday morning, after getting everyone breakfast, (we love to make homemade cinnamon rolls on Sundays!) I usually begin in the kitchen and do a deep clean.

This also includes cleaning out the fridge. I take out everything, toss left overs from the week before, wash the Tupperware, wipe down all shelving, and reorganize and put everything back in to make room for the new groceries that week.

I also do the same with the pantry. This helps me to keep track of what has gone bad, to make sure left overs do not sit too long, and to quickly find what I’m looking for throughout the week.

Then of course, run the dishwasher, wipe down the counter tops, table, and stove, and sweep the floor. (This is also something we do daily each night after dinner. I cannot wake up and have dishes in the sink or a dirty kitchen!)

Ashley’s towel drawer

Pro Tip: Use plain white flour sack as towels in the kitchen!

Not only are they cheap, but also you don’t get them confused with other towels in the house.

The kitchen is one of the places that can gather the most germs and can be most susceptible to E. Coli and other bacteria. These towels you can throw into the washer with some bleach and know you are getting a really good clean. (You also don’t have to worry about staining!).

The Power of Clean

I am also a huge component for making my own kitchen cleaner because they tend to be safer and gentler to use around the kids. I use Dr. Bronner’s Soaps and mix with water in a glass bottle, and voila!

However, these are not the strongest cleaners that get rid of all that bacteria, so every few weeks I’ll also a good, deep clean with bleach cleaner using a white flour sack towel. (I keep a separate stack just for this in my cleaning closet).

For more information about making your own cleaners, look here. You can even print cute little labels to go with them!

After the kitchen, I proceed to do a quick pick up around the house, put all shoes/coats away from the mudroom, throw in laundry as needed, restock pull-ups and wipes, restock toilet paper in all the bathrooms, change the sheets on all the beds, and vacuum.

Then, we head out for church and to pick up our groceries and/or make our monthly Sam’s trip.

Side note, this mostly doesn’t always get done in the morning! Often, I am not able to complete everything because my toddler insists we play! So I will usually finish when we get home from church and our errands, AND that’s okay!

Painless Grocery Shopping

For groceries, I cannot praise online grocery shopping at Kroger enough! This is something I have recently started doing.

My family and I live in what some may call the “boondocks.” The closest Kroger is about an hour away, making our grocery trips about three hours long, therefore online grocery shopping makes it so that we do not have to spend so much time on one task.

We prefer to shop there because of their healthy selections, quality produce, and it’s cheaper than some of the stores surrounding us actually.

I believe other stores like Farm Fresh and Wal-Mart also have online grocery. Ask your favorite store to find out!

But during the week, I find time to meal plan for our family (usually when I have some downtime at work or Sunday mornings when I first wake up – again, creating habits and just making a little time to do this is what matters!).

A simple notepad can help with your meal plan

You can find a meal plan template you love, Flat Harmony’s Weelky Calendar or just use something simple like a legal pad.

Write out the days of the week and plan for your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners and some healthy snacks.

I like to leave two nights open for “fend for yourself night.” John always has duty once a week and we are almost out and about at least one night of the week so this keeps me from overbuying and wasting food.

Once I have created my meal plan and my grocery list, I log onto the Kroger ClickList website, select our items, and submit a pick-up time.

What I have noticed is that after a few uses it begins to save your past purchases, so if there are things you buy weekly it will remember and you can automatically select those items again. It probably takes me about 20 minutes to do the entire process after I have meal planned.

Then, when you get there, you call the number on the sign and tell them you’re ready to pick up! They bring your groceries out, put them in the car for you, you pay curb side, and done in 5 minutes! How’s that for not having to run through the grocery store with a VERY independent toddler who only wants to look at the lobsters!?

If for some reason we don’t make it to the store on Sunday, then my husband will just stop by on the way home from work and pick them up one day during the week, usually Monday.

By using the ClickList, there’s no complaining he got the wrong thing or forgot something. Love you, dear!

Not only are we saving time, but we have also noticed that we save money because we are not aimlessly in the store buying what we see, we are sticking to our list. It has cut our grocery bill in half!

Benefits to Bulk Buying

I also mentioned having a Sam’s Club membership. We go about once a month and buy specific things in bulk, like toilet paper, our toddler’s snacks, napkins, pull-ups, wipes, etc. They also have a pretty awesome wine selection!

Doing this not only lessens our trips to the store, but we are also saving by buying in bulk. We built a shelf in our garage and organize the items out there. That way when we run out in the home, we can go out to the garage and there it is.

We also never really completely run out of anything because if I notice we are running low on the shelf then I know to replace it.

So, if you can afford the little extra for Sam’s, Costco, or BJ’s, I would definitely look into the benefits of having a membership to stock up because you are saving in the long run!

Meals Delivered

Lastly, this is a personal choice, but we have been using Blue Apron for two years now and we love the convenience of them on our busy weeknights.

This is a meal delivery service where you pick three meals to be delivered to your home each week on a specific day.

I have an entire binder full of recipes that we have tried from them and have loved nearly every single one! This is another way that we save time and money, and even better, they are so simple my husband cooks about 95% of them!

With how our weekdays run, John is almost always home with Junior before I get off work.

Again, here’s where establishing a routine can be so beneficial in keeping things running smooth! Work together as a family and establish roles. Who will be responsible for what?

Establishing Family Roles

For us, John does a lot of the cooking, while I do most of the meal planning, food prepping, and Junior’s meals. This usually happens on Sunday afternoons or on Monday nights.

What I like to do is find one or two things for lunch and go ahead and prep them and put them into containers into the fridge for the week.

Some of my favorite (and easy!) lunch ideas are tuna or chicken salad sandwiches, chicken and rice or quinoa (Tex-Mex and Greek!), or turkey sandwiches. I’ll do the same for Junior’s dinners for the week. I’ll elaborate more in my post for kiddos!

Other examples include after dinner, I give Junior a bath while John cleans the kitchen.

We pack lunches and bags together each evening. He’s responsible for taking out the trash on pick-up days and cleaning the cat boxes while I usually maintain the other household chores and our finances.

Whatever your routine may be, planning together lets each other know that it will get done. Sit down together and discuss a morning and evening routine, even write them down in your planner or tape it to the fridge if it is helpful!

Keeping House

For cleaning the home, I’ve read that people have a weekly chore chart that is manageable and helps them to stay on track.

The Clean Mama blog has a very helpful weekly chore chart to follow with pictures on Instagram. It also helps to establish little habits like as soon as you walk into the house shoes go on the shoe rack (get into a habit of empty the shoe rack every Sunday), or when doing laundry, wash, dry, and put clothes away in the same spot each time. (I’m working on this one!).

I personally do not utilize a cleaning chore chart, but I have a mindset of deep cleaning at least one room a day.

Most days it is the kitchen, the playroom, or the bathrooms (the major rooms we use each day), but I always make sure to concentrate on one spot each day so that I am not stuck stressing over cleaning the entire house on the weekend instead of spending my time with family and friends.

Quality time as a family or with friends is so important to me because there is not always a lot of free time, it’s that coveted time we create that I mentioned in the beginning!

So, there are some things that we have decided it is worth it to outsource from. For cleaning, although I clean as I go throughout the week, we have a lady who comes once a month to deep clean our house.

She started coming about the time Junior was born and it has been a tremendous help ever since!

We also agreed to outsource for our lawn work. We have a company that comes every two weeks and ever year to do our gutters, mulch, and to trim our trees.

Especially, like now in the spring and summer time, it is almost impossible to keep up with the yard so we are thankful for someone in our community who is willing to come to help us out.

For an even cheaper option, you can ask a teenager in the neighborhood! Again, do what works best for you and your family!

My husband and I are grateful to have two incomes so this works for us, but I realize that not everyone has that as an option. Therefore, come up with a plan. For example, for the first two hours on Saturday morning, he does the lawn while you clean the house. Whatever works!

Like I mentioned earlier in the post, one of the most important ways to stay organized and to keep the clutter from piling up is to make sure everything has a spot and it is put back into its spot when we you are done with it.

I use this mindset for laundry, clean and dirty, (Even Junior knows how to put his dirty clothes into the hamper!), for all our school and work bags – all of them get unpacked as soon as we walk into the door each afternoon, all shoes come off and get put on the shoe rack as soon as we walk in the door, coats get hung up in the hall closet, towels get hung up after every use, etc. I could go on and on!

But make a mental note of the things you are using daily that are causing you clutter and began to create a habit of putting them away as you use them.

This is something I am still working on. I noticed it was becoming a huge stress for me and then I would feel compiled to clean the entire house (which wasn’t necessary).

But by just taking an extra two minutes of my day to put things back into the correct spot, I’ve noticed such a difference with our house staying less cluttered and I am better able to keep our other routines running smoothly.

Money Management

As part of my home responsibilities, I mentioned that I am the one in the family who is responsible for our finances and paying the bills.

This just became habit because during the early years in our marriage, John was underway/deployed for majority of the time so he did not always have the ability or the time to do so.

Something I began doing to help me keep track of all our bills was to write them all down in an Excel spreadsheet.

I first created two templates, one for bills due on the 15th of the month and bills due on the 1st of the month. Again, set this up in a way that works best for you! I just prefer to break the month up because I can focus on one pay period at a time.

Then in each column head, I write what bill we have and how much it is each month on average. Down the rows on the left hand side, I write the months of the year – Jan. Feb. March, etc. Then, across in each blank box under the column I’ll write in when the bill was paid and how much I paid for that month.

I also have a column for how much I put into savings and/or what amount of spending money we have left for the month. At the bottom of each spreadsheet, something else that helps me is to write how much we are expecting to get paid for that period, after taxes and our pre-taxed deductions.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I received for budgeting was to count for every dollar. If you can expect your amount of pay for that period, you can better budget down to zero.

For example, for me, I consider “gas” and “groceries” a bill, so they have their own column as well. If you like to buy coffee each morning, create a “coffee spending” column. Or a Target column!

It sounds silly, but you won’t feel guilty at the end of the month knowing you put that money away for that specific purchase.

One thing I’ve recently found useful is uploading this spreadsheet into Google Drive because I can access it from anywhere. (I also utilize the Google Drive App).

When you make a change or mark a bill paid, it automatically updates. I can also share it with John’s Drive so he can keep up with the finances with me.

One of my goals for this year was to become more financially responsible and by being able to better track and see (again, a visual person!) where our money was going has been incredibly helpful.

Planning Ahead

I also love to use Excel spreadsheets for major events like planning for babies! I keep a running list of items we need, items on our wish list, and different brands with notes if I am comparing items.

Then, when I buy something I can check it off! I also create a timeline of when to buy major things, usually one big item a month. This helps so that towards the end, we are not scrambling and having to spend a huge chunk of money at once.

I also like to create lists for birthdays (mainly the kid’s), and major holidays. Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year so I like to get started early! And again, you can never plan too early for anything!

My friends will tease me because half of my Christmas shopping will be done by July!

But again, I do not like the idea of having to spend a huge chunk of money at one time so I spread it out. (I also like to use discount sites like Zulily and Rue La La. They carry a lot of the items we buy for up to 75% off! Just make sure you are giving yourself enough time for shipping.)

I start by creating a list of our family and friends that we need to buy for. I then write down what I plan to get them, change it if need be, and check off when it has been purchased.

This also helps me to not to overbuy. (Something else I am working on because if I could give gifts as a profession, I totally would! – OH, and have my own gift wrapping room!).

When the season comes, I can then concentrate on family and what is meaningful to us during that time of year. This also gives me more time to wrap and make my own bows, another thing I love doing!

Another helpful piece of advice for your events spreadsheet, you can also write in a space to keep track of upcoming sales, Black Friday items, what you have coupons for so you do not forget them, etc.!

All of this together helps you to become a more mindful shopper and WAY less stressed at the end of the year. One last tip, on your bills spreadsheet, create a column and put away a little each month for Christmas/birthdays/holidays so you are better prepared to spend come those times of the year.

I sincerely hope some of my organizational tips for the home were helpful for you and that (if you don’t already!) you will begin to implement or adapt some of these routines into your life.

With each new habit or routine we create for our family, I feel like our lives run a little bit smoother.

I love coming home at the end of the week and being able to watch a movie in the man cave or have a double date night with friends, instead of trying to spend that free time catching up on cleaning and picking up.

It’s not about having the “perfect” home or the “perfect” life, but organization allows you to make time for what matters most. Prioritizing your time and your responsibilities also makes it so that you can become a less stressed, happier version of yourself!

Thank you for reading our Organization Series: Part Three!  How do you organize your home?  Tell us in the comments!

Meet Ashley Rickert

Ashley and her husband, John, have a toddler together, John Jr., and a little boy on the way, Oliver! Both are originally from Texas, but brought to Hampton Roads by the U.S. Navy, where John serves. Besides being a mom, Ashley is also an Elementary School Counselor and loves to cook, clean, organize, craft, spend time with her toddler, family, and friends, Cancun, reading, running, yoga, and wine! This was her first contributor post and she was so excited to have it be for Hampton Roads Moms! Ashley’s advice to other moms in the community is to know they are not alone with the million responsibilities that we carry as moms, and encourages them to be intentional with their time in order to find joy in the journey, and to have a little grace when they are not able to do it all.

Other Articles by Ashley:

Organization Series: Part 1

Organization Series: Part 2

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