Friday, February 10, 2017

CEO Mommy: DIY Personalized Child's Growth Chart for under $20!

I grew up in the Midwest, Middletown, Ohio to be exact. In the Midwest it is understood that weather is a mystery. I've been through snow storms on Halloween and Easter, and Christmases that hit near 70. But I truly believed living in the Northeast we would see a little more consistent weather. Winters would be cold and brutal, full of nor-easters {real word, look it up} frigid winds and snow for months. Yet, here are some photos of the past two days. 

Wednesday, near 65, sunny, warm, beautiful
Thursday, near 25, snowy, like over a foot of snow, cold, yet still beautiful. So I really can't complain. 

Anyway, I'm always looking for excuses to share photos of this little man. Kinda makes me feel like the near 100 I take during the week isn't for nothing. 

In January's CEO Mommy class, these mommas rocked DIY Growth Charts for their little ones. I mean, I know I say this every time but I am always SO impressed with how they make each project their own. 

Here's how to make one yourself!
Supplies: 
Wood {1x6x6} / Paint / Paint pen / Paint brush / Stencil {different sizes} / Ruler / Hook

Step 1: Sand/Stain/Paint

This step completely depends on the type of wood you purchase. The wood I bought for my project needed to be sanded and definitely either painted or stained. It was about as cheap as it comes and needed a lot of love. 
To sand it I used a round sander. Then I painted it with a sample of off white paint. 
The wood we used for the class, however, was a little bit more expensive but was ready to go right from the store, no sanding needed. It could still be painted or stained if desired but it wasn't required. 

Step 2: Measure
First you will want to figure out where you want to hang your chart, if at all. If it's going to be flush with the ground, or leaned against a wall, your chart will start at zero. If you want to hang it up on the wall, you should measure at least how high your baseboards go, then begin your chart from that point. 

For example, our baseboards are 5 inches high. So in order to make the chart accurate, the measurements need to begin at 5 inches. I decided I'd hang mine about half an inch above our baseboards so my measurements actually begin at 5.5 inches.

Step 3: Draw Ruler Lines
It's best to do this process in pencil first, then follow up with paint pens or a paint brush. Simply use your ruler to tick off the inches and foot lines. I marked off every inch and made every six-inch and foot line slightly longer. Here's how I broke it down, but each momma did something different so it's really up to you and your personal preference! 
  • 1 inch lines: approximately 0.5' long
  • 6 inch lines: approximately 1' long
  • foot lines: approximately 2' long


Step 4: Stencil
Using pencil, stencil in the foot-numbers first, that way you can ensure there is space for your child's personalization. You can stencil them in however you'd like. I chose to put mine about halfway down the foot line, horizontally. But you can also stack in on the foot line vertically. This allows more space for personalization as well. 
Next, stencil your child's personalization. I chose to include name, DOB, height and weight. Some mommas included time, or chose to only have their child's name. 
This one includes her adopted nephew's date of birth and adoption date, love, love, love! 
Once your stencil is traced on the board, go over it with either a paint pen or paint brush. If you're using a lighter color and don't want the pencil marks to show through, you can lightly erase the pencil before painting. I find this Staedtler eraser to be magical and it doesn't leave any smudge marks! 

Step 5: Add Hook
Seriously, the most difficult part of the entire project. I don't know what kind of fingers the manufacturers expect humans to have but oh my gosh this took me forever. The little nails that were included with these hooks are impossible to hold and hammer. It took using tweezers for me get them in. However one momma nailed hers in without any issue at all whatsoever so it's possible there was a lot of user error involved. 
I'm pretty sure picture hanging command strips would work perfectly fine, I just got nervous about how they would adhere to the wood I purchased. Anyone wanna try it and let me know? I'm certain that is a much easier alternative than tweezers and nails. 
Now simply hang up your growth chart! You can add previous years of height to any children who are over one year old and you aren't measuring for the first time. If you haven't documented their height each year on your own, your pediatrician will have that information on file. Just call up and say that you are a rock star momma and just DIY'd your child a growth chart {allow time for oohs and ahhs} and ask for the height information from previous years. 
Full disclosure, mine isn't completed!! I got so far one night then just stopped before I filled in James' birth year. I was just to tired to keep going. We decided to hang it up so we could measure him on his birthday and well, there it has stayed. I do plan to get to it one day. Someday. 
Did any of you have a growth chart when you were young? Many of the moms shared that they were always measured on a door jam, but when their family moved, all was lost. The great thing about these charts is when your family needs more, or less, space they can easily go with you without losing years of family memories. 

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Controlling Clutter in 15 Minutes {or 45 depending on children}

A few weeks ago I talked about how I organized our paper files. I'll be honest, I'm still a little exhausted from that post. There is so much information out there and trying to narrow it down into a post that someone will actually be inclined to read felt near impossible. Good news is I never actually know if you "read" posts or not, so I will live in this blissful world where you all read it and loved it. 

Anyway, what I didn't share with you is that I actually ended up organizing our entire command center {our nickname for this little desk area in our kitchen}. Here's a little peek into what it was looking like on that particular day. 
Yes, the Realistic Organizer does not always stay perfectly organized. We definitely get our fair share of clutter building up in our home. The main thing I do to keep it reduced is try to ensure that everything has a place. In this case, things have places we've just been too lazy/busy to place them back there. We had a mini library growing and a glasses collection on the bottom shelf and things were getting lost in the mix of clutter on the desk. 

Often times when organizing, projects will blend into other spaces in the home. For example, after sorting through all of the drawers, shelves and clutter I was able to fill two small boxes with items that needed to be moved to other rooms.

The tough thing about this is following through. The clutter is now removed from one space and on its way to it's rightful home, however it's crucial that you now take the time to actually put that stuff away. Otherwise this box will become clutter in the space and we've now created a cycle of clutter. 

The desk drawer needed a little love and attention as well. Here's the desk drawer before: 
This is the space in our home that I think most would refer to as a junk drawer. I hate that term. I feel like if there are items in there that can be classified as junk, throw them away. But I understand that "junk" drawers don't always contain junk. I open this drawer at least five times a day. It houses items that we need ready access to on a regular basis. But that also makes it more susceptible to becoming a disaster. 

I started by removing everything, as always, then sorting into piles of what needed to go back into the drawer and what really should be stored elsewhere. The drawer somehow collects crumbs, I don't know what is crumbling in or around this drawer but it needed a nice clean out. 
Then I started replacing items in an organized way. One of my favorite things to use to keep drawers organized is boxes. I've seen a lot of people make their own, then cover them with fancy patterned paper, but guys, that's totally not necessary. I use old iPhone boxes, jewelry boxes, or just any kind of small box that fits to keep items organized in drawers. 
The cord situation was getting a little out of hand, if you didn't notice in the "before" picture. Luckily, Santa got my list and brought me these delightful little cord ties. They make wrapping cords so much easier. 

I used my label maker to label each cord. We really only need four cords in the drawer, two for our phones {Brit has gone rogue and purchased a Google phone, so now we need two separate cords. Ugh}, one to charge the baby monitor, and one for charging our portable battery. 
Since Brit got the new phone I have the hardest time telling which cord goes with what. Clearly I am Apple spoiled and Android illiterate. 
Here is the "after" shot: 
Everything has a home and is easily accessible. One pet peeve regarding the space is my computer charger. The little hooks on the end of the charger that are conveniently placed to allow you to neatly roll your cord broke off :( It's seriously enough to make me want to purchase a brand new charger. But I suppose I'll just deal with it this way for now. 
I was able to move the few recipe books we own into a drawer that has been used to house our water bottles. It has quickly become James' drawer hence the random lids, small blocks, and tupperware. He apparently doesn't mind the recipes in there too much as he hasn't even pulled them out. So far, win-win. 

Everything else went to it's rightful home, whether that be the office, the basement, our room, James' room, I just needed to take the time to move each item. For the amount of stress the space was causing me and the amount of time it took to address, it's ridiculous it took me so long to get to it. 
I even reorganized the shelves. The basket of koozies went to our mini bar, where we keep most drinks anyway, and then simply moving items around on the shelves gave the space a new fresh look. 

Off to the side is a grocery list my sister got me for Christmas, and you guys, I love it! Our refrigerator list lasted for a while, but after about a year I grew tired of the look of them on the fridge and wanted a clean slate. I'd gone back to written lists, which were jotted down on just about anything I could find. But this list is perfection. Here's a link if you want your own, highly recommend for my pen and paper buddies out there! 
To address the sunglasses that were piling up, I did something that will either be viewed as crazy or genius, I feel like I walk a fine line of this most days. Inside one of the drawers, I cut a paper towel roll to height, taped it in, and hung our sunglasses in the corner. They're easy to grab, easy to put away and by having them stored upright it prevents scratching from other items inside the drawer. 
Genius? Crazy? Crazy genius? I don't think Brit has even noticed that I did this yet, and he usually doesn't hold back when telling me exactly how he feels about the latest organizing project so I'm still a little curious. 

So that's the space, here's a final Before and After shot just so you can really see the difference! 
All in actual work time, the space took me probably a total of 15 minutes to complete. But because I was doing it while James was awake and "playing nicely" it took me about 45 minutes. This is what happens when I take my eyes off of him. He pulled out just about everything he could reach, sat down with the animal crackers and demanded "more, more, more", until I acquiesced and just gave the kid what he wanted. 
So, when you feel overwhelmed by clutter try to take just 15 minutes to tackle it. See how far you get. I think you'd be surprised how much can be accomplished in just a few minutes, and how much stress can be reduced!

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, January 20, 2017

How to Organizer Paper Clutter and Files

Disclaimer: I am not an expert. This is based on personal research from reputable sites (they're sourced within).
This post has been a long time coming. It started out as a Realistic Reader submission {remember those?!}, I got super motivated from a reader, wrote up a huge post sharing what they submitted and how it helped me, and then the post vanished into the interwebs somewhere. I threw a little hissy fit and stubbornly refused to rewrite the post until now, nearly a year later! 

After a very rough day with a fever-ridden toddler, I needed to unwind and decompress, and since wine isn't an option right now, that meant getting into a serious organizing project. Although I had organized our files over a year ago, I realized I needed to tackle it again! 
Even in today's tech savvy world, paper is a huge source of clutter. Despite going paperless with bills and bank/credit card statements, we still receive SOMETHING in the mail each day. And our filing drawer, located in the kitchen, was not really serving it's purpose nicely. Almost everything we were filing in there could be moved to a more secure and more practical location, or be tossed out completely. 

After some research, here is the information I was able to find on what to do with paper clutter and how to file what you keep. 

What to Keep Safe
To start regaining control of your paper clutter, it's best to begin by sorting out what you know for a fact you need to keep. Here is what you should always hang on to. These items don't necessarily need to be kept in a filing drawer, as they are rarely accessed, however they should not be thrown away. It is important to have the originals of these items, so keeping them in a safe place is ideal. A safe place can be an actual safe, a safe deposit box, or somewhere out of reach for little hands, or that is unlikely to be damaged in a fire or flood. 
All of these items may not pertain to you, woo-hoo! Less for you to store. But also think about how you use these items. For example, if you travel abroad frequently it may not make sense for you to store your passport in your safe deposit box. Or if you have an infant, storing their immunization record in the safe would be a hassle as they're going to the doctor all the time for updated shots. So think about these items and how it makes the most sense for you to store them. Just don't throw them away! 

Health Records - Just want to note, this does not mean you hang onto every sticker your child receives when they go to the pediatrician. But you should keep a record of their immunization history, as well as yours. Your doctor most likely has this in their record as well, however it can be necessary to have easy access to this information. For how long? Well, even colleges want to know your child's immunization history, so for as long as they're a child under your roof, at least. Additionally, you should keep a record of any major medical surgeries, any allergy information, and medications that are taken regularly.

What to Toss and When
Oh my gosh I just want to throw out everything! But there are certain "rules" for when to throw things away. Here is a simple breakdown, but be sure to read the detailed information below the image! 

Toss After 2-3 Days
  • Receipts - Most receipts can be tossed immediately unless you are planning to return the item, it's for expense reimbursement, or it's for a large purchase (see what to keep safe). 
  • Bills awaiting payment - Pay the bill, once it's cleared you can toss the record. If the company your paying doesn't have a website, you can hold onto the record for one year. Otherwise, your bill payment information will be available online and there is no need to keep a paper record for yourself. (If you don't trust the website or there isn't one, see the Going Paperless section below.)
  • Electronically deposited checks - Most banks allow you to deposit checks simply using your smart phone now. It can be hard to get used to the idea that you can throw away a check, but you can. Once the check is cleared, typically 2-3 days, you can toss the check. When I deposit a check I write "deposited" in pencil on the front of the check, put it in a file for a few days, then when I receive the email that my check has cleared I rip up the check and toss it. I write "deposited" in pencil because it has happened that I've deposited the check and the bank writes back that they need a clearer photo, so this way the writing can be erased if need be. 

Toss After 1 Year

  • Bank Statements - Your bank statements are stored electronically on your account page, but if you're a paper person you really only need to keep your statements for one year unless they'll be needed for your taxes. Refer to the dreaded Taxes section for more info.
  • Bill Receipts - If you've switched to paperless billing this information is available online and there is no need to keep it. If you are still receiving paper billing, keep it for one year, ensure the annual statement matches what you've paid, then shred the record. Exceptions include large purchases like jewelry, furniture, appliances, computers, etc. 
  • Health Benefit information and Insurance - You can toss this in the same way as bills and bank statements. Once you renew your policy, typically annually, you can shred the paperwork. 
Toss After 3-4 Years
  • Tax Returns - there's an entire section on this, see it below. 
  • Paycheck stub - You want to hang onto the stub for tax purposes actually. Honestly, as long as each year your stubs match your W-2, there shouldn't be an issue {hence why I throw mine out each year}, but the IRS says to keep just in case.
  • Social Security Statement - Just keep this until you receive a new statement.

Taxes

Ugh, I think I could write up an entire post just on what to do with tax information. There are so many conflicting opinions out there, and even in our own home. Brit says keep everything, in case we're audited. I say toss everything, no one is going to audit a "retired" social worker/stay at home mom/part-time worker. So I finally did all the research, I read all the things, and here's what I/the IRS came up with. 
In an effort to keep this post brief, or at least not quite novel length, I am just going to share the two super helpful links I found regarding tax information. This one links directly to the IRS and what they have to say about how long to keep records. If you don't trust the IRS, here is another site I found useful. 

Going Paperless
A lot of sites suggest buying a scanner and scanning all of your documents. Here's my two cents, save your money and download Scannable. It's the easiest app and owned by Evernote {another organizers dream app for to-do list}. You simply hover your phone over the document, the app takes a photo and you're finished. The app even cleans up the file to make it more presentable {if you spilled coffee on the paper, it won't pick up the coffee marks!} 
You can upload the file via email, Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive. Personally, I use Dropbox and Google Drive to store files. Technically I could use only one of them and be perfectly happy, I jus have several different gmail accounts so accessing certain drives from my phone can be a pain, hence the Dropbox use as well. All this to say, I highly recommend ANY of the listed online storage sites. They're great places to store data, safe, and provide plenty of space for free. 

Once a file is scanned and stored, it's ok to toss it. DO NOT toss original, legal documents {basically anything on that list above}. Also, if you sign up for paperless billing/banking you can avoid that headache altogether. Most companies will encourage paperless billing, and some even offer discounts when you sign up!

Stop Junk Mail
Ok, this section title is slightly deceiving as it won't stop all junk mail, but this website can help stop at least some of it. OptOutPrescreen is a site that will allow you to remove yourself from all "firm offers" from creditors or insurers. If you look at your mail each day, how much of it is a company telling you to "sign up and get $100" or something like that? If you didn't request this information, you can stop it. This won't stop 100% of junk mail and offers, we do still get some from companies we already have accounts with, however it cuts it down tremendously! 
After all the research and organizing, here's how much we reduced from our files. 
Now I'm stuck with deciding how to use all this extra space in our filing drawer! We narrowed our files down to these main tabs: 
  • Deposited Checks - where we toss the checks waiting to be cleared
  • Bank information
  • Car Info
  • Furniture - this is also where I keep the paint colors for our home
  • Health Insurance
  • Insurance - for car and home
  • Mortgage - although we've gone paperless and autopay, they still send us a bill every month, so we store them here, just in case. 
  • Pediatrics - James' health information 
  • Security Info - We like to have this easily accessible just in case something happens with our alarm. 
  • Tax information dating back to 2012.  
Before on top, After on bottom
Everything else is either online or in a safe place. Although I would have loved to use this drawer for something else and remove all paper files from the kitchen, this is what happens when I try to get something accomplished during awake hours. 
And that's all I have to say about that! This post was long, I know, I'm sorry. If you are a financial expert, tax consultant, paper guru {Michael Scott}, I apologize for this post as I'm sure there are errors. Please share information in comments if you know something I didn't mention here, just please, please, please be kind :) :) 

Also, now that I'm over my childish tantrum regarding the disappearing post, I'm accepting Realistic Reader submissions again! So if you have an organizing project, a trick you do to keep organized, or anything else to share, submit it to stefanie@therealisticorganizer.com! I LOVE reading and sharing your ideas, and trust me, even if you think it's super simple, it will likely be helpful to at least one other person! 

Thanks for visiting!