29 January 2010

Guest Post!

This week, our friends at Today's Housewife have been talking about cleaning out closets/organizing. I shared my most shameful secret--go check it out. And go ahead and gloat a bit...it'll make you feel SOOOOOOOOOO much better about your worst closet! :)

26 January 2010

Right this moment...

...all is as it should be.

Kayci and Noble are sleeping peacefully.

The house is quiet.

I'm caught up on my work & personal projects--there's still stuff on my to-do list, of course, but I don't look at "in progress" as "not done" anymore. I can live with that.

Today we paid off the rest of our debt to ourselves...we borrowed $$ from ourselves to fix my brakes last month and to buy shelves for the office. Feels good to have put it all back in exactly one month! I will rest easier tonight knowing the money is back in case we need it again--this whole living on cash thing is awesome, but there are times when I long for the ease of passing the buck to my old friend Discover. Oops...I said it.

Of course I have to get up at 4 AM tomorrow, so I'm wide freakin' awake.


What to do, what to do?

Oh, yeah.

Don't even act like you don't watch it.

Brand New Day

So I had the blahs yesterday. Poor James had the misfortune to ask me at lunch what was wrong...so I told him. Which was of course, the equivalent of tinkling in his Cheerios. But we put it aside and went on with our days, and had a great family evening after he got home from work (went for a walk in the neighborhood, came home and played outside and grilled chicken, had a nice dinner, read books together...good stuff). Then after the kids were asleep...and we both woke up, as the last story put us ALL to sleep, we finished our conversation. And yes, while it sucks to hear that perhaps, just maybe, there's a remote possibility that there are some things we each could change about how we communicate, etc., it's also SUCH a great feeling right after a good air-clearing (even when nothing is BAD, it's good to talk it out).

This morning I woke up feeling like the sky's the limit, all's right with my world. It's a good thing. Have I been ultra productive? Um, yes and no. I've gotten a lot crossed off my to-do list, but I haven't actually ADDED the hamper full of laundry to said list because I don't know when I'll have time to do it. Maybe tonight after kids go to sleep...I don't know. I have a bunch of work stuff to wade through today, 4 dozen cupcakes to bake, a guest blog to write and Library storytime to attend. A typical Tuesday! :) But, I did take some time this morning just for ME...my friend and I got into the habit of meeting for coffee every Tuesday, and we let it slide around Christmas when things got so busy. Since then we've both had busy husbands and sick kids...you know, lives...and we haven't visited much. I got a wild hair this morning and called her to see if I could catch her before she went home after school drop-offs, and I did! We had such a nice visit...you know, a visit with someone who GETS what makes you seem crazy to everyone else? In our case, we have a little OCD in common, mixed with a desire to be good people, wives and mothers. So it was good to visit with her and catch up and just...be me for a while. Next week we're going to mix it up--instead of meeting for coffee, we'll spend that hour walking somewhere. Who's in? :)

25 January 2010


Just BLAH today. No reason to be blah, weather's gorgeous, all's well...still feel blah. BLAH!

24 January 2010

A Giggle in the Mail

I work as a consultant, which means I have several part-time gigs. Yesterday, I received a lovely letter from a large corporation I work for on a very, very part-time basis. To sum up, they were concerned about my small income and wanted to make sure I was aware that my family and I would qualify for the Earned Income Credit, but not to worry--it won't interfere with any other Welfare benefits we receive. Whew--thank goodness. I was worried.

Hee hee.

Rest easy, fortunately (or unfortunately), we don't need the EIC or Welfare just yet.

23 January 2010


On Friday, I attended my first yoga class in Brenham.

The first yoga class I've attended...since I was pregnant with Kayci.

7 years ago.

It felt great--so great that it helped me remember how it feels to be in touch with my body, and to WANT that feeling back. I've logged a lot of gym time in my day (um, my day being pre-kids, pre-school 24/7, pre...grown up) and I had forgotten, until I was standing there by my old favorite piece of equipment, how good it felt to be at home in a gym. I remembered, walking around, how it felt to work out--every day--and how it felt to be thin. And how it felt to have real, live muscles...oh, I remembered.

So I'm not sure what's next. I joined the gym (also huge progress for me--I've been meaning to do it since we moved here...3 1/2 years ago). I'll be there Monday morning for yoga and a workout. I'll log a couple of sessions, at least, with a personal trainer to learn how to get from where I am to where I want to be.

And starting Monday (yep, that's me, Monday's a fresh start girl), it's back on the wagon with eating clean. And one fizzy a week. That's fair, surely. I can't do NONE. Well, I can...we'll see. Maybe I should think positively on that.

We'll see...but I'm ready for what's next. It feels good to feel good again. :)

21 January 2010


I talked to my MOPS group about organization today. I'm experimenting to see if I can do the picture draft on my phone and then edit on my computer...bear with me! :)

It worked!!!! So, here's where it started...this is what I sketched out to talk about. Naturally my mind wandered and I didn't cover all of these points anywhere near in this order, but this is what I came up with when they asked me to speak. I did clarify--my house is neither clean nor completely organized...but I am working on it. :)

First I'm putting my notes from my speech...they're very, very rough...and then pictures of things we talked about. :) Feel free to e-mail me with questions--kristi@jamespharaon.com.

Why organize? We’re all wired differently, and we all need different levels of organization. I’m on the OCD end of the spectrum, or I’m just a control freak. Either way, I NEED a lot of organization. What works for me may not work for you, but there are a lot of resources—and women in this room—who can help you, where you are, with what you need. Let’s clarify: I’m not talking about CLEAN. That’s something totally different. The thing is, when your house is organized, it will naturally be less cluttered and feel cleaner…but if you’re like me, you can still have dusty baseboards and ceiling fans. That’s another day and another presenter!

Here’s the thing, for me…there are seasons in our life and in our parenting where we live in survival mode. We aren’t able to plan things because we don’t know when the baby will sleep or when someone will be in the hospital or whatever…so we just get by. But when that season is over, we need to pick up the pieces and get organized again so we can enjoy our homes and our lives.

For me, organization is closely tied to time management. Time is precious, and I want to spend the bulk of my time with my family, not picking up after them. I plan my days very carefully so I can accomplish “my” stuff when my kids are at school or asleep—but I realize that not everyone has that luxury. Some of you have an hour a day, tops, without kids underfoot, but if we get you organized, you’ll be able to ENJOY that hour!

PREPARE (Leslie said PURGE would be good here, too!!)

--before you can get organized, you need to get prepared. At some point, you’re going to need to have a conversation with your husband, but I’ll get back to that

--walk through your house and LOOK. See what areas make you cringe, where you’re doing well.

Now walk through and think, what do we DO in each room? Write that down.

Now walk through and make lists—mental or write down—of what needs to go out of the room, either trash, recycle, mission, find a new home, storage…

--Before you go buy anything (binders, systems, bins, anything)—prepare. Figure out what you use each room for, clear out clutter, don’t start organizing until you only have in the room what stays in the room.

--before you get to organized, it may look like chaos


--this is the key: everything in its place, a place for everything.

--can use bins, etc.—everyone has different needs, set-up, no right way

--need to address paper, bills, mail—where do they go?

--need to be able to find toothbrushes in the same place, every time, etc.

--think about what NEEDS to be in kids’ reach, what MUST be out of kids’ reach

--where do backpacks, jackets, etc. go?

--where do you keep extra toothpaste, etc.? don’t run out…same place so you can eyeball what you have/need



--lists—Storms notebook…I use all of my brainpower on my kids & work—cannot remember what I need from the store or worse, when I get there, I can’t concentrate on what I’m supposed to leave with. When I’m really on it, I write my grocery list in order of the aisles (produce, cheese, meat, etc.) and I walk the same way every time.

--make lists for each day

--group errands—on the way to pick up a kid from school, stop at recycling then the post office…group like/close errands. Hit WalMart & Dollar Tree in the same trip, or the cleaners & King Dollar. Blockbuster & HEB—you get the idea. Give yourself a time each day to run errands (may not need every day)

--plan time to do laundry: don’t start it if you can’t finish it (we’ll talk about this next)

--PLAN time each day for e-mail, facebook, blogging, etc. Don’t let it suck your time away.

--plan time to spend with your husband…seriously. Even if it’s just watching a TV show together.

--plan ahead: what will your day look like tomorrow? Plan your day in your head, from what everyone’s wearing to what’s for breakfast, what’s for lunch…

--menu planning: saves us money and time and helps us eat healthier…but this is always the first to go!


--when you bring in the mail, recycle it, file it, put it where it goes

--when you go through kids folders, sign forms right then, file what needs to be filed, etc.

--touch it ONCE. Don’t move something off the counter to the table, back to the counter, onto the floor, into a basket to hide it.

--laundry: don’t start it if you can’t finish it…maybe you sort in the morning when you have 5 minutes but you don’t run it til the kids go down for nap. Break it up if you have to, but don’t put it in the machine until you can DO it. Touch it once—do it all the way, don’t stack it somewhere because it will still weigh on you.

--recycling: my old system v. my new system


--many of us have “systems” for how we do things. Verbalize these to your kids and husband. Meet with your husband and talk about how you want to be more organized, ask him what he thinks and tell him what you’re thinking about. (In that order.) You might be surprised what he says!

--keep verbalizing to your kids…when we finish playing, we put the toys away. Only one game out at a time! When we’re finished eating, put your plate in the sink. Hang your towel up. Clothes in the hamper…


--don’t be afraid to play with your system. Things change, our lives change, our needs change, our spaces change. Change with them. That’s a big issue for us as moms of little ones—our babies outgrow the changing table, but it may still sit there with all of the supplies because we don’t know what to do with it. Kids outgrow clothes, toys constantly…we have to change with them.

--as kids get older, need homework space in addition to play space.

-if it’s not working—change it. If you can’t find it, can’t remember to do it…change it.

--have a girlfriend over to help if it motivates you. PLAY!

Here are a couple of great websites if you want to learn more, use a system, etc.

http://www.organizethislife.com (this is by the author of the book I'm reading, Organize Now!)



Starting off...my notebook. Here is where I make my daily to-do lists (weekly, really!) and I keep up with grocery & WalMart lists here, as well. Sometimes I write something on my to-do list just so I can have the satisfaction of crossing it off!

This is our family calendar. James also uses ical/Google calendar, but I like to see it in print in the kitchen. I write notes on here about when the kids get sick, miss school, take antibiotics, get shots, etc. and keep track of upcoming parties, trips, school events, Mommy or Daddy late work nights...important stuff for our family. At the end of each year, I transfer these notes, etc. to my planner and KEEP IT so I have a written record of our family's year, health, etc.

This is my planner--I write all of my work stuff here, along with appointments, birthdays, notes...anything that affects me or my family. I keep track of all of our commitments, period, here.

This is just for me to have a quick visual on the current week & next week. I didn't even bother this week since James was out of town and it was a short week...some weeks are just that way! I also keep track of major projects for each job here.

A couple of my notebooks--one is full of lists of things we eventually want to organize/clean...the other is where i make notes about Region 4 stuff. Noble obviously helped out with that today.

Under my table (which is now my only desk space--not ideal in the bedroom BUT I'm so much better about keeping it clean now since it's there!)...drawers for work stuff and craft stuff, and my current project boxes. Everything I have for Kristin's baby shower is in one box there, and last week I used it to carry a work project to Mom's. It's nice to have a place to PUT stuff that I'm working on, and that the place can move with me. I should have done that a long time ago! You can also see that I have a binder here for each of my jobs--I only keep the ones I use daily here, the rest live in my office closet. I'm trying to limit how much work stuff is OUT every day since I work in the bedroom now.

Drawers of office supplies, work supplies, craft supplies...it takes a lot of STUFF to do my job, so I have to have places for all of it. I'm loving the drawers, though, and I can already tell a difference in my efficiency. Woo hoo!

A great book!

This is where I keep our financial stuff...receipts, binder for tax stuff & bank statements, ledger...so far, granted it's only the 21st...it's working. Beats the heck out of the 2009 bag o' receipts. (I see you cringing, Paula!!)

I hate to admit that we haven't ever kept track of some of our bank accounts...but we haven't kept track of our credit union accounts. Makes no sense--when we started doing Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace last year, one of the first things we started was WRITING down our debts, assets, etc. and being honest about everything. Not that we were dishonest with each other--but we were not being honest with ourselves. Now it's all in black and white, both our progress and our setbacks. It feels good! (If you look at the picture above, you can see a red index card in our cash system--over Christmas, we had to replace both sets of brakes on the Pilot AND I missed a paycheck because of a glitch, so we ended up pulling some money out of our emergency fund when January bills rolled around. There's a note there with how much we owe our fund, and that's our priority this month to pay it back.)

Oh, look, Paula--what's left of the bag o' receipts to be shredded. Or burned. Or buried, heck, I don't care. That's on the agenda for tomorrow!

Kind of like showing my underwear in public, isn't it? A year ago when we traded my Mom our office table for her sewing table, James agreed that we could move it into our room--temporarily. I then talked him into letting me move my curriculum files under the table so I could put them all into the computer...and I assured him I would finish it last spring. Ahem. Hey, look, kids, files! When I reorganized my desk/table, I moved these boxes out--they're ugly and they're in the way, but they remind me that I need to make time to finish that job. I don't have a deadline, yet, but I'm about to work it out!

A little thing--James and I both like to read, and I got tired of always seeing piles of books. This was a cheap and easy solution--IKEA storage night stands. Love the drawers, too!

Sometimes functional can be pretty, too...here is Idea Room's ribbon jar idea. I love having a place for my ribbon, and the jars make me so happy up on top of our armoire!

This is the shelf where Kayci keeps her stuff that's not books (horrible grammar), and the bottom 2 shelves are Noble's stuff. (She has 2 bookshelves just for her books, and Noble's books are also on our bookshelf in the hallway.)

This picture is really dark, but this is a mini-drawer Sterilite organizer that holds her ponytail elastics, etc. We've tried lots of different things over the years, but this has worked really well. (I also use these in the bathroom cabinet for my jewelry and hair stuff.)

The kids' closet--you can't really see it, but the shelf is full of wrapped gifts for all of our spring birthdays. :)

This isn't pretty, but it's functional--behind the door we've hidden hooks for Kayci's bags. Beside the hooks you can see the cute K bow holder Kristin made for Kayci. Love it!

And again, not so pretty...Kayci's tub o' artwork that is waiting to be handled. See her scrapbook on top? :) Pink glitter--only Kayci!

The bathroom cabinet--everything has a place. We don't ever run out of anything (knock wood!) because it goes on the grocery list when we open the new one...so there's always a replacement in the cabinet, if that makes sense.

We just found this recently--it's an awesome shower liner with mesh pockets. We were overrun with shampoo bottles and toys and Baby Magic...now everything is contained. Our bathtub feels so much cleaner!

We only keep stuff we use every day in the medicine cabinet--everything else goes in the other cabinet.

Our remote bucket has moved out of Noble's reach (for now). Remotes can be a big problem--we started using a bucket back when we lived in the Heights, and it just stuck. It works for us--they're all in there!

After our armoire got too small, we bought a big dresser to hold all of our CDs and DVDs. It worked great...

...until Noble decided he needed to TOUCH the DVDS. And started snapping them in half. So now the boxes are still in the drawers...

...but the DVDs are in organizers in the green box, which he can't open. (Yet.)

The place for our current magazines and books we're reading with Noble. I used to hang on to magazines, but I don't anymore...most of them publish online, as well, and I can always google it later!

There's always something you can't find a home for (I hear you on that one, Lil!)...our fitness balls hang out in the corner of the living room. So, so not ideal...

Stuff like this is always hanging out in the living room, too. :) See the banana peel? Nice, right?

We don't have a pantry, just cabinets that we use as a pantry. I keep all of our paper products (and EXTRAS--ziplocs and foil and paper towels and napkins...you name it) down below. Like our bathroom stuff, we've always got a backup in the cabinet so we don't run out of anything.

Laundry room--we hang our hangers on a dowel rod I rigged up.

This is where the Procedure comes in...Kayci's not tall enough to hang up her own hangers, but she is responsible for taking her hangers to the laundry room every morning after she gets dressed. (And putting her dirty clothes in the hamper, and making her bed...)

My too-specific recycling system. It works for us, though. :)

The paper and cardboard containers live in the office. Time to recycle, right? It's on the list tomorrow...

On the laundry room door, each kid has a board to keep up with their school stuff. They're both a bit bare this week (Kayci doesn't have homework or spelling words this week, and we don't have a current copy of Noble's lesson plan for some reason.)

This isn't pretty, but it's very functional for us.

We keep the kids' school binders here as well as jackets, lunchboxes, bags...if you need it for school or bring it FROM school, it's here. Of course, we also keep other stuff here, like...

...scarves, mittens, hats for the cold weather. When the cold weather passes, this will change to sunglasses, baseball caps, bug spray, sunscreen. Fun stuff! The white basket is our outside basket--sidewalk chalk, bubbles, jump ropes, etc. There just wasn't a place for those things before, and they always looked so junky around the office.

Dog food lives here, too.

The kids' hooks for school, and the little pink broom they use to clean up small messes. Don't ask.

Noble's corner. The bins aren't very organized...our goal is just to get stuff back into a bin--any bin--at the end of the day.

James' corner. It's a work in progress.

Kayci's desk at homework time. Since we redid her space, she's been great about keeping her desk clean. I think a lot of that is due to the fact that now she has a PLACE for her pens, scissors, etc. It's working great for all of us!

This is probably too much organization for you, but it works for us. These are art supplies, small toys, etc. that don't need to be OUT all of the time.

My work closet doors...

Ack. It's so not anywhere near finished, and now I've got a bunch of junk out for Valentine's prep. Oh, well...look, anyway.

I keep my books in my work closet, along with binders I need but don't use every day.

Extras and odds and ends...

Finally, I've gotten all of my teacher gifts organized!

Are you STILL reading? Wow! What a trooper! :)

Whew, girls...that was a LOT! Hope it helps--if nothing else, helps you see that you're not the only crazy one!!!
-- Posted from my iPhone