Monday, June 26, 2017

My Paperwork System and Routine

As a lifelong productivity and organization nerd, working on paper clutter is an ever developing system.  For those of you just in the neophyte stage, here's the system that works for me and my life.

Weekly Routine
It starts in the kitchen.  This is our little island.

When mail, school papers, etc. come into our lives during the week, they're usually processed  here.  And by processed, I mean dumped unceremoniously into the drawer.  Even obvious junk mail.  (I'm not the one who gets the mail...)

Every Saturday morning, while my husband grocery shops, I complete my paper routine.  My habit cue is getting out of the shower.  The routine has taken me some time to curate.  It use to be JUST working on bills and budget, but in time, I added dealing with ALL the paper clutter at once.

After reading a book this spring on creating routines, I wrote a "program" for completing the process.  It's basically just the step by step functions of the routine.

I use the app 30/30 and timed all parts of the routine out.  It takes me about 92 minutes to get through the whole routine once a week.  That's WORST case scenario.  I can usually do it all in 40 minutes or less, unless we've done a lot of shopping (because that means I have a lot of purchases on the card to itemize).  Adding and categorizing purchases takes me the longest chunk of time in my routine.  I start the timer, and it moves automatically through the routine as I do. My game is to try to beat the timer in each category.

Step 1:  Empty all of the papers from the island drawer and bring them to my desk.  Since school has only been out a week, we just returned from camping, and the end of the year was crazy - my routine has been off.  I had about 4" of papers when I dumped the drawer out today.  (I'm good, but I'm not perfect.)

This is my office nook.  The kids call it my "play area" because it is my corner in the playroom, and they've been trained to avoid this one corner.    My space is probably about 5x6 or 6x6.

Across the way is the kids' craft area.  This is unstaged real life, here.  Drawers out, cash register opened.  (Note: The desk is getting painted this summer, white to match mine because matchiness makes me happy)

My file and paper storage amounts to just this little file box (about 6x12), the handheld scanner, and the hanging file thing on the wall (to the left of the desk under the C in the above picture).  I'm playing with scanning papers I'm afraid to throw away, but, the scanner doesn't have a solid place in my workflow, yet.

The files folders:
- 1 folder for each person in the family
- Receipts (which I now scan, so I could get rid of that one)
- Auto
- Health Insurance
- Credit Report (could go digital)
- Home Maintenance
- House papers
- Camper (empty)
- Taxes


Step 2:  Sort the mess into piles

Garbage (right into the circular file)

Process: bills to pay, papers with dates to put on my calendar, payments to check on, things to scan

File: Kids' papers, receipts

Shred: anything I know I don't need but still has personal information on it

Step 3:  Go through the Process Pile
I start with the non bills and just add anything I need to - field trips, pictures, etc. to my calendar - because I have 3 kids in activities and things can get hectic.

Then I move to paper bills which for me are just medical bills or any upcoming activity fees.  I write those out and then set the envelopes aside.  Then I open my budgeting software (I use YNAB) and enter any payments I just made where they need to go.

If I need to scan or shred anything after writing bills out, I move the statement/paper to that pile.  I save scanning and shredding for the later part of my process for that reason.  Batching processes together rather than skipping from one thing to the next.

Then I go through my whole budget/banking process which includes checking on all of my accounts - IRA, HSA, credit card bills, and updating things in YNAB.  There are ways to automate this, but I like to do it manually so I can see and interact with every dime we spend.  The pain of doing that is important to me.  Ha!

Step 4:  Shred and file
I turn to the shredding pile and feed the shredder.  (My shredder is the small black thing hidden in the corner).  Next, I file any papers in my folders in my storage box, and I have a "Follow up" folder that I keep in my white hanging file sorter.  Things RARELY go in that file - mostly medical payments that I'm waiting to clear my HSA.  I shred those when I've verified that they've cleared.

Step 5:  Scan
If I have anything to scan at this point I do that.  For example, today I scanned a few receipts for our opt out payment for the Youth Football fundraiser.  I probably won't need them, but I can access it if needed.

Step 6: Put everything away.
That's it for the weekly system.  At the end, all bills are paid and accounts are rectified.  I put my file box away and tuck my portable scanner back on the shelf.

Annual Paper Routine:  Summer
Once a year, when I have some down-time (summer), I go through all the files in the black file box.   Usually I find that I can shred a lot.  In terms of the kids' school work and art, I look at everything and decide what to keep.  They each have a single file box with a folder for each year of their schooling.  I file the "keeper" stuff in their boxes and return them back to the basement.  I have toyed with the idea of photographing all art projects on a white background and making art books each year.  However, schools don't do as many projects as they use to, so coming up with enough for a book a year might be difficult.  

So that's my ever-evolving system.  I know the scanner and cloud are going to change the way I do some of the paper-business, but I'm not sure how yet.  For now, this works for me.







Thursday, October 15, 2015

Basement Project: Part 1

I'm not 100% sure how in the world it is mid-October already, and I'm not sure why I have not updated with a single project since March.  EEP!

I had a preliminary basement plan wast winter that I listed here.

Since then I did make some slight changes, but never actually reworked the plan.  Then, despite having the summer off, I did not touch a single part of the basement.  In my defense, it was a very busy summer!  We went to Disney, I moved to a new school building, celebrated my 20th high school reunion, and my husband and I both had professional development opportunities that took us away from home for several days each.

Here's a really awful panorama of what we started with.  It's about 400 sq. ft of space total, but because of the electrical box area, heater/water heater area, and water pump area, it'll be closer to about 350 sq. feet of finished space.  It's not a lot of space, but perfect for a boy cave and mini-workout area.

My first brilliant idea was to work around all of this.  Cover a few things, paint, move stuff, repeat.  What was I thinking? That was taking forever.  And paint in the spray gun?  It goes EVERYWHERE.  This is the corner where it all began with the Zinsser Oil base primer.  Which I abandon after about 2 hours because the basement does not have good ventilation.  I switched to the latex version.

Then I used plastic to cover all of the areas I wasn't going to need to paint.  That worked a lot better.



Don't worry, the water issue around that window has been fixed.

Then the issue was what color do we go with.  I really wanted white.  Our ceilings are a mere 7'2" so it's fairly dark down there.  But, when I switched to the latex, I just wasn't getting the tannins in the wood to cover.  The pipes were bright white and then the wood parts of the ceiling were a yellowed white.  So I gave up my dreams of a bright, white ceiling.



The flat black went on so smoothly and masked or covered every little issue that existed in the ceiling.
Once the ceiling is lit with more than two bare bulbs, I'm sure that this will be the best solution.  I just knew that every time I looked up, I'd see all the issues with the white.  They are virtually invisible with the black.

I finished the black last weekend.  I spent several weekends like this, so it was good to be done with the spray gun.  The gun I was using was a  Wagner Flexio.  I bought it last summer to use on my cabinets, but I didn't like the spray pattern I was getting and retired it in favor of a brush and roller.  I was thankful I had it for this project though!  

Of course, I've noticed a few areas since then that I missed.  So, chances are I'm going to have to buy another gallon and do some touch ups.  That's unfortunate.  I thought I was done with pepper colored freckles and having black boogers.  Ew but true.

Next up...the walls.

I started with waterproofing the walls last weekend as well.  First I washed them down with muriatic acid and then I let them dry.  Afterwards I covered them with a coat of Behr Waterproofing.  I went through lots of reviews before settling on this one.  It hasn't rained since so I do not know how it will work, plus, most of our issues were from that window mentioned above.


I saved the areas that won't be covered for later.  The waterproofing wasn't exactly cheap, so I wanted to make sure to get two coats on the areas to be finished before worrying about anything else.  That last corner I rediscovered after moving my tower of Rubbermaid boxes.  The previous renters had pushed all the snow off the roof onto the deck in that one corner and of course it leaked when it all melted.  We haven't had any issues with it since then because we keep the deck shoveled off in the winter.

While we were at Home Depot, I picked up a bunch of 2x4s to start the interior framing for the various closets.  I don't exactly know what I calculated though because I bought almost exactly half of what I needed.  Oops!  I bought a framing nailer to make the job go faster, but I knew it wouldn't be here by the weekend.

As (bad) luck would have it, my four year old ended up with a virus taking her out of school for 3 days this week.  I've been home with her the last two, and my nail gun made it here.  That sucker is big and a bit intimidating!  Framing the wall was really easy though!

I put the one part of the wall in upside down! Good thing nothing is nailed in place yet.  It's all just shimmed into place for now because obviously I want to get all the exterior walls in place first.

That brings me to today.  I ordered the product we are going to use on the walls today.  For a few hours yesterday I priced whether or not to go with stud walls or the product I ended up ordering.  For various reasons, time being one of them, I opted to go with InSoFast for our walls.  In about one to two weeks, I will have a basement update.

What's next?
- Installing the InSoFast system
- Drywalling
- Window finishing
- Prime and paint the bottom of the heating vent
- Finish framing in the closet to the electric box
- Finish framing the closet to the water pump
- Finish framing the furnace/water heater room
- Add additional wiring to far end of the basement and exercise area
- move light fixtures
- hang light fixtures
- create 2 sliding barn doors (custom)
- Install dry bar
- Install floor
- Build entertainment area
- Furnishings

Goal: finish by Christmas!  Yikes!

Budget: $3000 (up from my original estimate of $1800)
It's going to be TIGHT to get it done for this especially if I buy new furniture.

- Cost so far:  $1300 (primer, ceiling paint, lumber, waterproofing & InSoFast system)

Current Inspiration:

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Recycled T-Shirts into Artwork


It's winter.  It's cold.  It's dreary.  Maybe, like me, your energy levels feel low, but you feel like you should be doing SOMETHING.  This project might be the perfect project for you.  
I have a certain six year old son who LOVES super heroes.  Because of this, we also have several super hero shirts laying around including a few that he outgrew before he could even destroy them.  (This is amazing because Evan is a whirling dervish of destruction.)  These were the cheap Hanes or Fruit of the Loom type shirts.  Amazon had them like four in a set for $8 or so.  I chose not to do all four of the shirts because the other two were super heroes we already had artwork for from a shop on Etsy.  


Supplies needed:
  • Scissors 
  • Outgrown t-shirts
  • Canvases of your chosen size (mine came in a 2 pack in the Walmart craft section)
  • Staple gun

First, I wrapped the shirt around the canvas to center it and see about where I would need to cut. 

Now the next part you could do very carefully or semi-carelessly.  I chose the latter.  Basically, I cut the shirt straight up the back and chopped the sleeves off.  Because they are cotton-jersey, I just stapled and then stretched, stapled and then stretched.

Upon finishing, I cut off the excess material.   I was a little more haphazard with the Superman shirt than with the Batman one.  The second time went a lot smoother than the first.




Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Small Office & Creative Space



Our office area started out in our bedroom, in a closed up armoire.  However, after living with the two spaces for several months it felt inefficient to have my office supplies and computer completely separated from my crafting stuff because when I printed something to use, I found myself running back and forth.

My craft/office space is a small area of the play room.  It measures about 7x7.  Because it's open to the playroom, and directly across from one of the main entrances to our home, it needs to have plenty of closed storage space to keep everything looking neat and tidy.

I was not sure merging the two spaces could be done easily, but I managed to purge enough paper, craft goodies and unused office goods to make it work.

Here's how it functions and what's hidden inside each of the cabinets and drawers.  Am I the only weirdo who wonders that kind of thing when I'm looking at people's spaces?

Maybe it's best not to answer that.

The cabinets have been part of my life for a long while.  They were part of a Lowe's collection, maybe for closet organization?  I've owned them for about nine years, so the specifics elude me.

My Silhouette sits on top.  On the side of the cabinet I have a 3M hook where my paper cutter and the cutting mats for the Silhouette are stored.

The top shelf is sort of random stuff right now.  We have a Welcome box from Disney World, as we are planning a June trip (YAY!), a box of cards, and a Zutter binding machine (which I should probably get rid of).

The bottom shelf has my file holder - the grey box to the side. Then the Sterilite boxes are full of crafty goodness.  The boxes closest to the file box contain - fabric, random supplies, felt and yarn.  The second set contain remnants of my scrapbooking days - glitter & flocking, lots f embellishments, and ribbon.  I dip into these things on occasion, so I've allowed myself to keep them.


Moving to the left, I have a set of drawers from the same collection.  The top drawer contains cheap dollar drawer baskets with adhesives and various tools.

The middle drawer contains more of my leftover scrapbooking stash.  I have drawer dividers in there separating the drawer into three spaces.  Lots of sheets of chipboard, a whole hoarded stash of American Craft Thickers, and even some American Craft rub-ons.  *blush*  I have forced myself to use some of these things lately in my little projects around the house.

The bottom drawer I did not capture in the picture, but it holds my Cuttlebug, glue gun, and my craft size bottles of paint.

Next to the cabinets sits this taller cabinet which was meant to be a kitchen pantry.  It actually did function as such at our last house.  But here, we do not need it, so I was able to move it to my office space.

It's awesome when you can look around and find things like this to repurpose!

The baskets on the top  of the cabinet contain office supplies.  They're right behind my desk, so I can grab the whole basket and drop it on the desk when I'm working, and then move it back when I'm done.

The top shelf has paper and vinyl sheets (in the blue accordion holder).

The middle shelf is my paper supply.

The bottom shelf is my sewing box (courtesy of my grandma), my paper Score Pal for making cards, a few circle makers, and two full boxes of Project Life stuff.  My two younger kids marvel at the multitudes of albums about their older brother.  I stopped scrapbooking when he was about six.  He's eleven now.  So, I have about five full albums about him and none for his siblings.  I guess that's why I keep all of my stuff, because I hope to get back in the creative groove and create some simple albums for the younger two.  Mommy guilt.

Here's the overall look of my little corner which my kids have dubbed Mom's play area.

Above the back counter sits a wall shelf with a few jars of buttons, two boxes of papers (heavier weight for my planner pages in one box and regular printer paper in the other box), and five baskets.  The baskets contain punches, my embossing folders for the Cuttlebug, stamping supplies, and then office goodies like my label maker.

Along side, you can see my sewing machine and the Arc Punch for the planner system I use.

My desk contains one big drawer that runs most of the length of the desk.  I keep most of my most need goodies right there at my fingertips.

The big round basket right next to my desk contains rolls of vinyl and the soft grey blanket that I lay over my lap while I'm working. (I'm always cold.)

So, there you have it, my little 50 square foot corner of heaven.  Small but efficient.  I'd love you to link me up to your little corners of heaven, wherever it is that you love to be in your home.



Thursday, February 26, 2015

Supersized Wall Initials


Have you ever ordered something that came in a REALLY big box?  Given my love affair with online shopping, it happens here a lot.

Last year, when the boys were still sharing a room at the Dover house, I wanted to do something with their first initials over their beds.  Around the same time, we sold Xander's loft bed set and switched the boys to two twin beds because I thought it made their room seem less cluttered, thus making it more marketable.  Well, instead of going the traditional route of boxspring, we went with two of these instead. (Amazon affiliate link)

That left me with two large, flat boxes.  I saved one of them and decided to create GIANT first initials over the boys' beds.  Using a straight edge, I just sort of measured and sketched out my letters.  They are not perfect.  The E turned out better than the X.  Then I just used my razor knife (with a fresh blade) and my straight edge to cut the letters out from the cardboard.

Here they are all naked and freshly cut.




























Once they were all cut out, I painted them with Folk Art craft paint, and mounted them with 3M strips above their beds.  They are safe and secure with those since they weigh next to nothing!

























Then we moved, the boys went to separate bedrooms, and, of course, their letters didn't match anymore.  So, I repainted them.  This time I used silver spray paint since it was summer, and I could do the painting outside.  Viola!  A really cheap home decor project.  The spray paint route was a lot faster than the craft paint way, but also messier.  Total cost for 36" letters = $3 or $1.50 each (cost of bed frames not included HA!)







Monday, February 23, 2015

40 Bags in 40 Days: Free printable






Is winter ever going to end?  We are currently on the THIRD day off of school in a row.  We had Thursday, Friday, and now Monday off of school.  The good thing is that today is my middle midget's SIXTH birthday, so we are going to have fun celebrating, again.  AND, I'll have some time today as well to conquer some of the places on my list for the 40 bags challenge.  

Yesterday I posted my progress on the first 25% of the challenge.  Sometimes with a challenge like this, it's easy to make excuses.  Time is one of those commodities that is so hard to come by, especially when you are feeling low on motivation and energy after a long day of working or dealing with the regular maintenance of home and children.

I understand.  After working ten hours a day in my classroom, it's often hard to come home and think about sifting through clutter in addition to getting everything prepared for the next day.  However, we've made great strides in our years of home ownership.  Over the years of decluttering, I find myself keeping less and less, and even buying less and less.  There are true benefits to owning less, which is why the simple living and minimalist movements are growing in size each and every year.

How to plan your project times to stay motivated

Today I offer you a free printable to get started, in case you haven't already.  Rather than just making a list of your projects, I suggest listing the project AND assigning an estimated amount of time you think it will take you to finish.  Be generous with your time estimates.  I would suggest adding 50% more time than you think the project is going to take you.  If you believe cleaning out your cabinets will take 2 hours, estimate 3 on your list.  Why?  If you finish in LESS time, you'll feel psyched up that you managed to finish with so much time left.  BUT, in the opposite realm, if you get two hours in and see an hour left of work, you will feel defeated and less likely to conquer another project as soon.   So, do your motivation level a favor and plan a longer chunk of time than you think will be necessary.

How does this prevent me from procrastinating?

If I feel like not doing ANYTHING, I coerce myself into just choosing a small task.  I pull out my list and look for something that I've estimated at 15-30 minutes.   If it takes me 15 minutes, then I can choose to keep the momentum going by choosing another short task, or I can give myself permission to just be done for the day!

Here's an example of my chart all filled out.  I chose forty areas knowing I'd get at least a small bag for each area, but larger bags in other areas.
FREE 40 Bags Planning Printable

Thanks for visiting!  I'd love to know if the printable is a helpful tool for you!


Sunday, February 22, 2015

40 bags in 40 days: the first 10 bags


I think my 40 days may morph in to 50 days (and probably more than 40 bags or boxes).  Ah well, I guess it's really more about the process than the timeline.  I find that it's difficult for me to find the time and energy during week days to devote to this.  

Bags 1 & 2

The first place I tackled was our computer armoire.  It was inconvenient having my office supplies and laptop living in our bedroom and a perfectly awesome desk in the craft room.  Whenever I needed to use the computer, I either knelt at the armoire or took the laptop elsewhere.   I went through all the office supplies and kept only what I had use for.  Now, I can actually sell our computer armoire.  So, I rid myself of one bag of garbage and will sell the armoire as well.  

Bags 3-7

With the armoire cleaned out, I still wasn't quite ready to move.  I needed to make room in my craft area for the office supplies I was taking with me.  I really enjoy being creative, so parting with stuff was hard for me.  Still, I managed to get purge 4 boxes of stuff from my space and a garbage bag full of stuff from my craft space.

Bag 8

As I moved my office gear to its new home, I realized that I probably should go through my files.  I shredded a full kitchen garbage bag full of files!  

Bag 9

Our pantry and freezers were driving me nuts.  It seems like we're wasting more food than we need to, and mostly, it's due to the fact that we are not consulting our food stores before actually menu planning or shopping for the week.  So, I tackled our food storage places.  We had to throw away a whole bag of freezer burnt food and a few stale food things as well. Here's the pantry after it was all organized.  It's almost 23" deep and 4' long, so it's a good amount of space, but it IS hard to utilize it well without losing things within its depths.  The good news is, that I THINK we've devised a plan to tackle the cabinet over spring break.  Stay tuned for a more useful pantry design!  I've found it a pretty common occurrence that as I've cleaned and organized, a new "prettifying" opportunity has revealed itself. 
Bag 10

While I am not done in this particular space, my tenth bag came from taking a closer look at my side of the closet.  Anything that has not been worn in awhile was tossed into a box to be given away.  I came up with a whole box without even opening any drawers or sifting through socks!   (Which means I'll probably have another bag of garbage once I go through those.)  There were items I wasn't so sure about.  Those items on hangers, I turned.  I put the opening of the hanger facing outward towards me.  If by next year they are still sitting that way, out they will go!

I can hardly believe I've already hit 10 BAGS!  One quarter of the way through and I've hardly touched most of my house.  I wasn't even sure I could find 40 bags since we've only lived in this house for 10 months, but now, I think I may be able to double down on the 40 bag challenge.  I guess part of that is because the SIZE of the bag or box doesn't really matter.  If you think of it as emptying 40 places, I think that makes the challenge feel a little more do able.  

What are your results so far?