Mud Room Mayhem #6: Vintage Sewing Machine Turned Entry Table

I had picked up an old antique Singer Sewing machine several years ago through Kijiji. I was attracted to this one in particular because it was only $25. Of course the low price was fair because it was in super bad shape.  The wood had been painted white and then left outdoors for an extended period of time. Needless to say it was warped and the paint was in horrendous shape. For me it was a steal because I really didn’t care about the cabinet or sewing machine. I was interested in the drawers and wrought iron base.

I had previously used two of the drawers as little storage containers in my laundry room makeover.

I was saving the wrought iron base for something…it just took me a few years to figure out exactly what I would do with it. When we finally decided to attack the mud room, I knew this is where its final resting place would be. This was a super simple project and it was so easy to make it a custom size to fit the space. The sewing machine base consists of two side panels. The size of the table is simply determined by the length of the boards you use. We purchased 3 planks and cut the two shelves, so that they would fit snuggly between the sides and rest on the old drawer supports. The third plank was slightly larger, so that it could sit on top of the supports and overhang slightly. We sanded, stained and urethaned them all and then secured them to the supports (which I had sanded and spray painted white). The finished result was a perfect sized shelve/entry table for our mud room! I couldn’t believe that I scored all of the baskets/trays at Dollarama for well under $30!

I feel like this mud room has been at a standstill for way too long, but with summer vacation around the corner I’m optimistic that we’ll make some headway. This summer my mantra is “finish old projects”. I feel like we have quite a list of jobs that are 90% done.  My plan is to take care of all of those finishing touches and try not to start anything new before these old projects are 100% complete. That would feel sooooo good!

Mud Room Mayhem #4: Feature Wall

Mud room feature wall

Mud room feature wall (The plant is not really part of the decor, but desperately seeking sunlight and hoping to revive!!)

Have I mentioned how disfunctional this space was? Not only was there no closet, the room was designed in such a way that you really couldn’t even add a nice wardrobe to solve the problem. In the end, I knew the only option that would work for this space was to install open hooks on the feature wall.

Shiplap Feature Wall:

The first step was to prime and paint the newly installed shiplap. I used my favourite, Simply White, by Benjamin Moore.

Upcycled Coat Hook Rack:

The next step was to install the coat hooks. I decided to make a base to mount the hooks onto. My mission in this mud room project was to incorporate reclaimed pieces that I already had on hand. For this, we used one of the boards from the old piano we had previously dismantled. I think it was the one that sits vertically above the keys and opens automatically when the cover for the keys is opened up. (You can tell I am no musician by my lack of piano lingo). I wanted a ledge on top for art or some other kind of accessory and was fortunate to find an old oak mantel for sale on Kijiji. I actually can’t remember what I paid, but I know it was cheap…maybe $15? So, I painted both the piano piece and the mantel for the top. I bought the antique hooks from Candle & Co. out in West St. Paul. We managed to fit 7 hooks across the middle, so it really provides ample room for the coats we use on a regular basis. Being that it is winter, it is impossible to “stage” it like you see in so many mudroom/entry shots on Pinterest. Our coat rack is pretty full and will remain that way for 6 months of the year. Perhaps by next summer the coat rack might look prettier, but for now it serves the purpose it was designed for….it stores our winter gear!

I tried several different pieces on top of the mantel and in the end I opted for an old bevelled glass window. I love the impact of the dark green in an otherwise very soft colour pallet. The best part was, it was yet another piece I was able to rescue from my basement storage and incorporate into the space at no extra expense.

Upcycled Single Headboard Bench Conversion:

Below the coat rack is a simple bench that we constructed from a $10 Kijiji headboard and more old piano parts. I can’t say I love the bench, but it will do for now and isn’t bad for our first attempt at making a bench. There are so many great repurposed bench designs and for me this would only be about a 5/10 in terms of the look I was going for. I really would have liked a piece with more “weight”, but we are confined to a small space, so I had to stick with a single bed and there weren’t many available at the time. This bed didn’t come with a footboard and my preference would have been to use the footboard for side rails on the bench. All in all, not exactly what I wanted. The wall is tall and a heavier looking, larger piece constructed from a queen frame would look amazing, but I can’t afford to loose the space under the window for extra storage. I will continue to watch for a single bed frame that may be more to my liking, but for now the one we have is fine. If you are interested in converting an old bed into a bench, check out My Repurposed Life for inspiration and detailed tutorials. I always find great ideas on that site!

Upcycled bench

Upcycled bench created from a single bed headboard and old piano parts.

I can’t wait to add a few more accessories when the space is completely finished!

A Look Back:

Couldn’t finish the post without a quick look back to before and after shots of this wall. Oh my….was that awful!!

Mud Room Mayhem #3: The Shoe-lution!

Having no closet and dreading the thought of using some sort of messy shoe rack, I had my heart set on hidden shoe storage. I had planned this out long before the mud room make-over was ever really in the works. I had seen this idea years ago on Pinterest and knew that someday my mudroom was going to have drawers in the stair risers to hide the vast array of shoes that constantly littered our mud room floor.

Tim had already removed the old stairs from the kitchen down to the mud room. He custom built the stringers and stairs to fit the space between the kitchen door frame and the door leading to the back yard that sits at the base of the stairs. We decided to opt for simple 2″ X 12″ construction for the stairs and then sanded and stained the stairs to match the oak floors. We were super pleased with how the stairs turned out despite the fact that they were made very economically without spending on high end wood.

For the drawers, Tim re-used planks from our old wooded futon frame for the sides of the drawer boxes and then old 1/4″ fir for the base and drawer fronts. The fir was removed from the walls of an old walk-in closet/storage room in the basement when we reconfigured some of the basement several years ago. We had kept the wood for future projects and it came in handy for these drawers. Although the fir has much more grain and an orangey/red hue, the dark stain took beautifully and I actually love the fact that the drawer fronts stand-out from the stairs and aren’t so “matchy”!

Best of all, the drawers provide ample storage for our shoes, and short boots will even fit when placed on their sides. So thrilled!! Using stair risers for hidden shoe storage might be my favourite Life Hack yet!! Thank you Tim!


Spare Room Make-over: Scrapbooking Storage Bench

When planning out the space, we decided that the spare room would become my dressing room as well as my new scrapbooking room. I already had a scrapbooking room located off the back of the spare room. I loved the room as it was banked with a wall of windows and offered great light. However, it wasn’t very functional and I found most of my projects were done in the evening and I rarely got to enjoy the windows anyway. After years of contemplation, I finally relented and we both decided that the benefits of main floor laundry far out weighed my reasons for keeping it as my scrapbooking room. So I needed to create a space that was visually appealing, functional and could be kept neat and tidy.

Once again, I decided that in order to make this really work, I had to go through the painstaking task of sorting through all of my scrapbooking and project supplies. Although I still had Marie Kondo fresh on my mind, it was impossible to follow the same steps I used for sorting my clothes only two days before. This job involved literally hundreds of small items that needed to be sorted, organized and in some cases tossed or donated. I literally went through every piece of paper and brad I had in my possession. Purging my clothes was a big job, but this was a monster. It took me two very long days to get through everything, but in the end, every item would have a proper home.

As I cleaned and sorted, I tried to think about how I was going organize everything neatly into the new space. The scrapbooking albums were a bit of a challenge to figure out. They are large and needed a shelf that would be about 14″ deep and approximately 3 feet long. They are very heavy and the books themselves are several different colours. I really wanted the colour scheme to be very neutral with white accessories. After pondering for a few days, I stumbled upon a bench seat that had been given to me by a colleague. She thought I might be able to use it for a project some day. Although the bench was rather plain and needed some work, it was sturdy. I was so excited when I tried an album and discovered that it held my whole collection perfectly. I decided to give it a fresh coat of white paint and upholster the top to create a comfortable seat to use while dressing. Here is what the bench looked like before I started.

Upholstering the top what quite easy. I just removed it and added foam and padding from an old leather chair Tim had just dismantled. It was really just a matter of using a staple gun to secure the padding and fabric. I then added a piece of white material to give it more of a finished look when you lift the lid. The fabric was discounted and I managed to pick it up for around $7.  After adding the extra piece of wood along the front and upholstering the top, the bench boasts a whole new look. Simple, but lovely.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the finished bench. I am so glad I figured out how to make the albums accessible and yet out of site. The thought of having all of the different coloured albums up on a shelf was just not the look I was going for. Can’t wait until the whole room is pulled together. Just a few more projects and it will be done.  Stay tuned for the next project I have to share from our spare room make-over.

Spare Room Make-over: The Purge ~ Clothing Cast-a-ways!

As mentioned in a previous post, one of the struggles with an older home is the lack of suitable closet space. I never realized how disorganized my clothes were until my friend Robin began sharing with me some of what she learned by reading Marie Kondo’s book on how to organize your life. While we painted the spare room, she shared some of Marie’s thoughts on how to de-clutter and free yourself/life of the weight of all of those things you’ve collected, but don’t really need or even use. I must confess, I haven’t yet read the book. Never the less, I decided to take action and apply some of the tips I learned. I got up the next morning feeling inspired and began to tackle my clothing problem.

Clothing Cast-a-ways:

Step 1:

Collect all of your clothing and I mean all. Every stitch ~ from off-season to outerwear. Dump it all in the centre of a room on the floor. This is key – you must see it all together in order to be able to truly sort it. pile of clothes

I have never felt that I own many clothes. I hate shopping and seem to add only a few new items a year to what I already own. I don’t believe in waste and am not one to spoil myself. Having grown up with very little money, I learned at an early age how to stretch a dollar. (This is not always good, sometimes we need to learn to break free of the belief systems from our past as they can in fact hold us back in life ~ I’m still working on this.) I regularly donate clothes that we no longer wear and I honestly didn’t believe that this would be too big of a job for me. Wrong.

Step 2:

Sort the clothes into three piles: keep, donate and toss

Keep Donate Toss

The far pile is my “keep” pile, the one to the right for “donation” and the smallest was what I deemed garbage. (You can see the bottom two shelves of the armoire in the background ~ this is a mad mess of board games that now have a new home – yay!)

Step 3:

Toss the garbage and bag up the items to be donated.

Left over hangers

Here is a tub with the left over hangers.

I was astounded when I ended up with one black garbage bag of clothes to toss and three more to donate. How was it even possible that I had 4 black garbage bags of clothes that I didn’t really want or need? I felt like I had been through my clothes regularly, but the difference really was having it all in one place. One of the things that my friend shared that really helped me to part with items was to stop and ask myself how a particular item made me feel when I wore it. If I didn’t love it and feel great in it, then why keep it. I quickly realized that I had kept many items that I would try-on and end up hanging back-up because I really didn’t like the way it made me feel. Some of the items were virtually new and just never made me feel good about myself when I put them on. It was so freeing to finally just allow myself to be honest and discard what I really didn’t like without feeling guilty. After all, someone else might embrace that same item and be blessed by it.

Step 4:

Sort the “keep” pile ~ t-shirts, pants, scarves, underwear, socks, etc.

Step 5:

Fold and organize all of the clothing that you are planning to keep.

Traditionally, I have hung most of my clothes. I don’t know why I opted to hang, but I think I believed that it would save me having to press everything before wearing it. I’m a pretty low maintenance person and the thought of ironing all of my laundry was just not going to fly. I spend enough hours doing laundry as it is and my iron is used only on a “as necessary” basis. However, when your clothes are crammed onto hangers and squeezed into closets that are too small, they rarely escape without creases. The idea of folding everything seemed almost foreign to me, but I decided to do what Marie suggested and give it a try because what I was doing just wasn’t working. I even followed her suggestions on how to fold the items. I was already doing the vertical folding, but this took it all to a whole new level. She doesn’t believe in storing clothes and says you should be able to see every item of clothing you own.

My plan was to use the armoire which had previously housed a mish-mash of items including my pants, board games, linen, fabric, batteries and a few other odds and ends. This meant finding new homes for everything that didn’t fit into the category “Cindy’s Clothes”. The armoire has mesh wire doors and you can see into it. I know Marie suggests using containers/boxes you already own, but I wasn’t okay with this since they would be visible. I didn’t spend much, but did pick-up a few containers to add to what I already owned. I really just wanted them all to be white. I began the process of folding my clothes with the goal being to fit everything in one cabinet and one closet.

In the end, I was able to downsize considerably. I no longer store my off-season clothes in a huge tub in the basement and was able to give up the dresser I was using in the master bedroom. I now have almost everything in one place. The armoire is full, but completely organized and not cluttered at all. It contains both my summer and winter clothes. My main closet has the few items I chose to hang. All of those easily fit on the top bar in the closet. The bottom bar was completely empty, but I decided to move my hoodies from the hook on the back of the master bedroom door to the bottom bar in the closet. I do still have the closet in the master bedroom for longer items such as dresses. It isn’t very full, but the length doesn’t allow them to fit in my main closet in the spare room. My outerwear is still kept at the back door.

It feels so light and airy with all the extra clothes gone. So far I haven’t missed one item. Everything I own is at my fingertips and visible. The change is dramatic, but I will admit it took me a long time to complete this job. I was so busy that week that I honestly don’t remember exactly how many hours I worked on this from start to finish, but I think it was more than 10. It is a huge task, but the payoff is tremendous. I love how accessible everything is and find that I spend so much less time getting ready in the morning because I only kept items I like!

The time spent definitely took away from the time I had to work on transforming the spare room, but was completely necessary if the make-over was going to be successful in the end.

If you are interested in learning more about what Marie has to say in her book, but aren’t ready to buy it, check-out One Kings Lane for a post outlining 8 of Marie’s decluttering lessons. I for one can’t wait to read the book!

Upcycled Homework Caddy

Ever since Eden started grade 7 and homework became a daily event in our life, it seems like she is constantly “borrowing” my supplies and not returning them and leaving scads of tools around the house. I decided to build her a homework caddy stocked with everything she’d need to complete her assignments. The caddy can easily be transported, so she can choose to do her homework in her room or at the table ~ whatever suits her best. This project was all about the 4 R’s ~ Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and of course, Repurpose.

Here’s What I Used:

The basis for this design came from these items that I had in my project bin. (Remember to click on the images to enlarge them.)

Of course, as I began to brainstorm and pull my ideas together, I needed additional items such as burlap, string, saw, drill and screws, wood glue, magnets and paint.

Here’s What I Did:

1. I removed the cord from the broken lamp and cut the shaft to create a nice pedestal-like base.

2. I attached the pedestal, circular “lazy susan” wooden base and the center post from the mug stand together with a long screw. homework caddy

3. I spray primed and painted the structure.

4. I then took the clean cans (of varying sizes) and wrapped burlap or string around them to give them a bit of a finished look.

5. I then wrapped some string around the center post as well.

6. I used a nail to punch holes in the bottom of each can near the center. I then screwed each to the wooden base.

7. Finally, I glued on a couple of strong magnets to hold paper clips and a mini-stapler.

8. The top pegs from the mug stand act as handles for the caddy.

Eden’s homework caddy contains an assortment of pencils, pens, markers, pencil crayons, scissors, a pencil sharpener, an eraser, a ruler, a stapler and a few paper clips ~ everything she needs, all in one place! Generally, my daughter prefers to do her homework in her own room, but when she needs help, she likes to work at the kitchen or dining room table. The caddy allows her to bring everything she needs with her.

If making something like this seems like too much work, don’t sweat it….pick-up a plastic caddy or something made out of wood or metal with dividers already in it….maybe something like a cutlery storage caddy. You can find many different styles and at a wide range of prices depending on the look you are going for.  The important thing is to have everything in one place and make it easy to transport.  Here are some of the options I found available:

Back to School: Managing Tips/Strategies for Busy Moms

Last year, I did several posts on how to prepare for back to school and specifically the busy schedule that September brings. As a mom, teacher, blogger, DIYer and volunteer, I find that being organized is absolutely essential to surviving the demands of a busy life. Aside from writing everything down on my “Mom’s Family Organizer Calendar,” I use a weekly calendar to highlight the events for a given week and try to follow a menu plan to make meal time run smoothly. I also recommend having a family meeting to decide on expectations regarding chores and helping out around the house. If you’d like to check-out a sample chore chart, you can visit my previous post called “Many Hand Make Light Work.”

Managing Tips for the Working Mom:

Camping Tricks and Tenting Tips

Tim and I have always loved camping and despite owning a cottage for several years, we decided that our kids should get to experience tenting just as we did growing up. When we sold our cottage, we decided to upgrade our tent to one that would fit the whole family. Over the years, we have collected what I would consider to be a good assortment of gear and gadgets to help make tenting easier.

Camping Tricks and Tenting Tips:

1. Make lists. Several years ago, I took the time to create permanent camping lists that consisted of everything we need for a tenting trip. I then tried to divide it into “themes”. Here is a copy of my list.

Cindy's Camping List

If you click the image, you can print the pdf version of it (it is much clearer than the screen shot). The recreation list fluctuates depending on where we are going.

2. Pack permanent camping tubs. If you plan to do a lot of camping this is worth its weight in gold. I used the “themes” from my list to create permanent camping tubs. We had enough gear that for the most part, the items can stay packed away inside the appropriate tub until our next adventure. I found this to be a huge benefit when it came to packing for our next trip. When you have a camper or a cottage, you basically leave everything you need inside and really only have to worry about packing food and clothes for each trip. Of course, with tenting there is no permanent storage place for all of your gear, so besides having to set up an entire camp each time you venture out, you also have to pack from scratch each time. This is a huge amount of work and can often be both overwhelming and exhausting. Making permanent tubs/lists allows you to spend less time thinking about what you need and worrying about what you may have missed.

3. Do a tub check. Before each trip, I do a quick check of each tub and its contents to be sure that everything I need is there and that consumables have been topped up. This only takes a few minutes and allows you to feel that you have everything you need.

4. Plan your menu. You want to make sure you take the time to plan out your camping menu in advance because there is nothing worse than miscalculating your food needs. If you over pack, it may mean waste, especially for those items that need to be kept cold and of course, you don’t want to run short of food either. Organizing the food for tenting is by far the hardest job. For every item on your menu, you need to ensure you have all of the ingredients for the recipe as well as items such as butter and oil for frying. Over the years, I have found that using the same menu (or close to it) makes for much easier planning.

Camping Menu

Depending on what time your family “rises”, you may not need to make lunch at all ~ especially if you’ve had a good hearty breakfast to start the day.

5. Make a Grocery List.  I generally use the same menu each time we go camping and thus, can also use the same grocery list for packing. I’ve also found that preparing some of the meals or portions of them ahead of time makes a huge difference. Here are a list of some of the items that I make/prepare ahead of time:

  • Pasta Salad – I always make the pasta the day before we leave and add the dressing (oil/vinegar based) to it. I cut up all of the veggies for the salad and then stir them in on the morning of our departure. We always have pasta salad on the first night along with whatever meat I have placed on the menu.
  • Cut up veggies. It is great to have fresh veggies cut up for snacks or to accompany a meal. This is also great if you are planning on having skewers. I always make sure everything is washed and chopped before we go.
  • Hard Boiled Eggs – I will sometimes boil eggs and take them along. I have used boiled eggs as a healthy snack, lunch addition, for egg salad sandwiches, to make devilled eggs or as a salad ingredient.
  • Baked Potatoes – I will often bake several potatoes in the oven or microwave prior to our trip and then put them in the fridge to chill. These cooked potatoes can then be used to whip up a fresh potato salad or chopped up for hashbrowns.
  • Green onions. I often take a small container of chopped green onions that can be sprinkled on eggs or other dishes.
  • Grated Cheddar Cheese. Depending on our menu, I will sometimes grate cheese at home and then pack it up for use on quesadillas or an omelette.
  • Marinate meat and then freeze. Again depending on the menu, I will sometimes cut the meat for skewers and marinate it in a ziploc bag. I then place it in the freezer, so that the frozen meat will stay cold longer (and act as an ice pack in the cooler.)
  • Freeze one or two gallons of water. I use large milk jugs for freezer packs. This needs to be done several days in advance to freeze properly. I fill the jugs about 3/4 full to allow for expansion and leave the cap off until the water freezes. These make excellent ice blocks that will last for up to 3 days at no cost to you.

6. Packing Clothes and Toiletries. Don’t over pack. Check the weather and pack accordingly. Often one or two sets of clothes is plenty, especially if you plan to spend your days at the beach. I find that the clothes I don’t wear often end up smelling a bit musty just from sitting in the tent and it seems silly to wash clothes that haven’t even been worn. Nights can get cold, so make sure to take warm jammies and/or sweats for layering up if need be.

Wouldn’t Leave Home Without It!


Camping Kitchen


Old Fashion Coffee Percolator

Picnic Table Seat Covers


Dining Tent

A dining tent is essential if you are going to survive the bugs and potential rain. We just bought this Roots one to replace our old one and we love it.



This Hang-Anywhere Clothesline can be purchased at Lee Valley.


Fire Fork

This fire fork can be purchased at Lee Valley.


Heavy Duty Foil

I take both the roll and the sheets. Buy heavy duty and don’t leave this at home. It is much easier to use foil than wash dishes!! It’s also great for left overs.

Planning a camping trip can be a lot of work, especially when you have never done it before or at least not for a very long time. Hopefully some of my experience can help make your next camping trip a little easier! Happy camping!

*Update: I had a few after thoughts:

1. Everything that is in the dish tub comes out and is used within the camp. The tub itself is about 2 gallons (I’m totally guessing). I use the actual “dish tub” as my “dish tub” for doing the dishes. So in fact it is not only used to storage and transfer the materials, but also for doing dishes.

2.  Never pour your dish water out in your site as it will attract rodents. (I’ve learned this through experience.)

3. The “ditty bags” (I spelled that word wrong on my list) are mesh draw string bags that can serve several purposes. We use a large one for our dirty laundry, medium sized ones are great for putting wet dishes in and then hanging them on the clothesline to drip dry, and the small ones are great for putting your shower gear in and hanging on the shower head if there is no shelf.


The Ultimate Organizational Tip

This one organizational tip literally saves me hours of work. When it comes to being efficient and organized, I try to spend the extra effort planning a task or event the first time, so that I can use the template or outline when planning similar events in the future. I find that so much of what we do in life is repetitive, so it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel or continually redo a similar task over and over again. It is for this reason that I am a bit of a template queen. I try to consider every detail in planning an event or preparing for a situation and then save the template, so that I can use it time and time again. Of course, I am often making modifications or changes to my outlines, but the framework is there and thus the time spent planning and thinking through what is needed is down to a minimum. The possibilities are endless, but here are a few ways that I apply this concept:

  • General Packing Lists – I have standard lists for each family member that include all of the basic things you would need for a sleepover or vacation. Of course, it needs to be tweaked depending on the season and the type of activities that will occur while away. My packing lists are made in a table format, so that I can change the “quantity” of the items needed and there is a box to check-off items as they are packed.
  • Summer Camp Packing List – The kids basically take the exact same things every year, so I use the same list each and every year. I simply print it off when we are ready to pack.
  • Christmas Shopping – again, my basic list rarely changes. You are typically buying for the same family and friends each and every year. I also include general terms like: coaches, teachers, volunteers, teaching assistants, etc. Again, this is made on a table with columns for the names, budgeted costs, actual amount spent and a check off box.
  • Birthday Parties – I’ve already shared my template for planning a birthday party. Regardless of whether I’m planning for Eden or Shay, there are some basic planning guidelines I always follow. By using a template, I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything.
  • Gardening – My mom loved to garden and had a real knack for tending to plants. I do not. Maybe some day when I’m retired and don’t have a million and one things to do, I could actually enjoy the process instead of just feeling like it something else on my “to do” list. Our front yard is very shady and over the years we have learned what works well and what doesn’t. We now have many perennials, but I always like to do a couple of pots and add a few annuals to my flower beds. I decided to make a list of what I need and how many of each. It just seems like every year, I am trying to figure it out all over again….why? Now I just write it down and use the same basic list from year to year.
  • Camping – I love camping, but hate packing. Over the years, I have learned a few tricks to that help make our camping trips easier to plan. One is having a pre-set camping list that includes all of the gear we’ll need.
  • Camping Menu Plan – I know this seems a bit extreme, but one of the things that has made my job way easier when planning a camping trip is to follow the same menu every time. We generally only go away once or twice per season, so repeating the menu is not an issue. This not only saves me having to figure out a menu, but also allows me to use the same packing list for the food and utensils we’ll need, as well as the shopping list that coincides with the menu.

Of course, the ideas for using this type of system are endless, but some others might include: Back to School Shopping and Medical Appointments, Dinner Parties (for planning and keeping track of who you served what to), Block Parties, Committee Work, Calendars, To Do Lists, Weekly Planning Templates, etc.

I am pretty good on the computer, so for me to whip up a document with a table embedded is pretty easy, but even if your skills aren’t that polished, it is really worth the initial effort. I find that this system really helps to relieve that “bogged” down feeling simply because I have less things to think about. I can spend the time actually going through the list and doing what needs to get done without spending the time thinking about it and planning from scratch. The other great thing about he computer is that you don’t have to have a bunch of notes or file folders with your documents stored around the house. Simply create files on your computer to store all of your templates and the various versions you create. I like to date or name each file I create, so that I don’t use my original template and so I have a record of how/what I did differently each time. Of course, this wouldn’t pertain to a packing list or Christmas shopping list, but more to the planning of events or different variations of my garden plans.

Hope this helps!


Got Stress?

got stressAs a teacher, June is the busiest month of the year. You are busy doing final report cards and tidying up all of the loose ends from the current school year and at the same time, having to prepare letters, class lists, supply orders, etc for the following year. On top of the work load, family life continues. Shay has a June birthday, so that always entails two parties to plan and prepare for. Soccer is in full swing for both kids, piano is wrapping up, dance recitals are happening, there are end of the year gifts to buy, people to thank and chores to be done. For me, the first two weeks of June are by far the toughest. Once I submit my reports, everything seems to be more manageable. I am by no means a master at managing stress and work load, but I am often asked how I juggle work, blogging, kid’s activities, etc., so here are a few things that I’ve learned over the years:

  1. Plan ahead to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  2. Use a master calendar to schedule all of your events and commitments.
  3. Break the master calendar down into a weekly schedule.
  4. Take your weekly schedule and slot in your “to do’s” for that week.
  5. Multi-task and make use of spare minutes. I love to watch my kids activities, but I will often take marking or the laptop to work during warm-up or between drop-off and puck-drop or kick-off. Use your time wisely. I am a master at using every spare moment when I’m out and about. I will often run an errand in the 10 extra minutes between dropping off one kid and picking up another. I can get a lot done during a half hour piano lesson.
  6. Never procrastinate. Try to knock the small tasks off your list as quickly as possible. Once they’re off your list, they’re also out of your mind and you can let them go completely. Do not put off the big jobs as these are the “to do’s” that seriously weigh on your shoulders and bog you down. Get started immediately and I promise you’ll feel better.
  7. Know your limits. When I have a stressful time coming up, I try to keep myself as “non-committed” as possible. Predict those times and be wise with what you take on.
  8. Say “no”. Don’t be a martyr. Do not say “yes” to something you don’t feel you can handle. I have learned that even fun social engagements can be too much for me when I am extremely busy. I will often decline, just knowing how adding one more thing to my calendar will make me feel.
  9. Make a menu. If you don’t have to worry about meals and what you’re having for dinner, it will be less to think about.
  10. Make sure you get enough sleep.  The absolute last thing you need is to be sick on top of the stress you are already feeling.
  11. Write everything down. Make lists and use your calendar. Transfer your thoughts, ideas and “things to do” to paper, so you won’t worry about forgetting something. Organization is key.
  12. Assign chores. Make sure everyone is helping out around the house.
  13. Take one day at a time. Try to get through only what is most pressing today and don’t waste time thinking about what is on your list for tomorrow. Tomorrow will come soon enough.

Over the years, I have found that what often makes me feel the most overwhelmed is one particular task. I know myself well enough to know that when I have something big weighing on me, all of the other smaller things feel huge. For me, it’s writing June report cards. It doesn’t matter how many other things are on my list, until those reports are written, edited and submitted, I carry a heavy weight. It’s a huge job and constantly on my mind until they are completed. Although it feels like the stress is being caused by the overwhelming number deadlines and little things that need to get done within a short period of time, it often all comes down to the one big job on the list. Once my report cards are done, all the other items on the list seem much more manageable. The keys to managing really busy stretches in life are simple: plan ahead, be prepared, know your limits and get started right away ~ do not procrastinate.

Here are some links to related posts on being organized.