Thursday, August 18, 2011

100 Back to School Organizing: Packing Lunches

I wanted to put together a couple of posts sharing the things we are doing to prepare for the new school year.  First, I shared how we are getting back into a new sleep routine and today, I thought I would touch on school lunches!

We do our best to pack the kid's their lunches since it's such a huge money saver.  Once a week, we allow them to snag up a lunch from school, since it's a special treat.  We have them look at the school menu ahead of time, pick a day to eat school lunch, and the rest are packed by the hubs and I.

This year I would love to be really organized when it comes to packing up lunches.  I am using the power of inspiration found on the www to do this.

First, these snack baskets which I first saw on ohdeedoh, are such a great idea!

And we already have been doing the same thing with dry snacks for quite some time.  But I wanted to borrow from the idea and use it to create a lunch making station in the fridge.  Something we could just easily grab that has all the things we use each time we make up lunches.

So I just took a cheapo plastic basket that we already had, added a quick laminated label, and filled it with all sorts of lunch making goodies!

This one basket holds cheese slices, lunch meat, cheese sticks, grapes, carrots, jelly, mayo, yogurt and ranch cups!

And tucks perfectly on a shelf in the fridge!

I am hoping that having all of their items in one easy to find place, it will make lunch making an easy breezy process!

When it comes to actually packing their lunches, this year I am giving these babies a try:

I picked up a four pack from Amazon, and love them so much I might just snag up a second set so we always have some clean.  They are really durable, I love that I won't need to waste plastic baggies and the best part is that it keeps all of their food separated, yet in one container!

Last but not least, to ensure that the kids aren't becoming tired of eating the same thing each day, I am going to use the power of Pinterest to keep things interesting.  There are all sorts of great lunch ideas for kids on there!  One of the best websites I have found so far is Lisa Storms.  Check out these adorable lunch ideas she has shared on her blog:

What other lunch making tips do you have?  How do you keep lunches interesting for the kids throughout the year?  How about ways to make the lunch making process easy peasy?  Has anyone else had a lunch station in their fridge that has worked, or do I dare say it, hasn't?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

22 Reader Space: Carly's Perfectly Pretty Closet

If today's post doesn't motivate you to go straight into your closet and get crazy excited to organize it, I don't know what will.  I know that's exactly what I did when I saw the submission pop into my inbox.  Straight to the closet, crazy excited to make it even better.  So THANK YOU Carly for being so inspirational!

Carly wrote to me to share lovely photos of her closet space, and even better yet, some super simple tips for getting it that way AND maintaining it!

Hi Jen!

I am such a huge fan of your blog and as a fellow organizing addict I love seeing how you organize your household, it always gives me such inspiration and great ideas for mine.

I also saw that you are looking for Reader Space stories and I would be truly over-the-moon if you'd consider me. I recently reorganized my closet and have lots of tips on how I stay on top of my clothes closet clutter.  Here is the story of my closet for your review and consideration.

Staying on top of clothes clutter can be a struggle, but I have a few easy tricks that have helped me immensely. 

First, I don't have a ton of clothes. I read a long time ago that people only wear about 20% of their wardrobe, so with that in mind I limit what I buy to ensure I do get good wear out of what I own. I'm also pretty ruthless when it comes to purging. One of my biggest clothes-closet-clutter-control tips is to set a number of hangers allowed in your closet and never add a new one; so when you add new clothes to your closet something will have to go in order to make room. I also do the same with my shoes. I have a certain number of storage boxes and spots for my shoes so if I add a new pair and old pair will have to go.

I also love to group my clothes; on the left side is my dressier stuff, on the right is my every day, and in the middle are sweaters, t-shirts and lounge wear. Having everything grouped makes it quick to find what you need when you need it.

Another trick I use, I always have a shopping bag in my closet so when I come across something I don't wear anymore, or doesn't fit right, or I just need to make room for something new, I toss the old item in the bag and once it's filled I immediately put it in my car and the next time I'm out I drop the bag off at Goodwill.

Hoping you have a truly beautiful day,

Her last tip about leaving a shopping bag right in her closet for donations... I believe it's one of the best pieces of organizing advice EVER!

I am so glad Carly shared her closet space, but I am feeling a little greedy.  I want MORE!  So, I scoured her blog {and asked her permission of course}, for even more organizing eye candy.   I was blown away by all I found so I just had to share!  Ready for this?

What did I tell you?  A-MAZ-ING!

And can I just say, that this blog has been so great for me to share my love and passion for family, home, life and organization, but it's also been the most fantastic tool for me to meet amazingly incredible blog friends.  Which really explains why I am always sporting a perma-grin!

Thanks again to Carly for letting me share her incredible organizing {and photography} talent today!

So who is already digging through posts over on Carly's blog, Perfectly Pretty, and loving what they are finding?  What's your favorite tip from the closet advice she shared?  Anyone excited to take on organizing their own personal closet anytime soon?

ATTENTION!!  Want to be featured in a Reader Space edition?  Have an awesome organizing story to share?  I am looking for projects that have made a positive impact to your life.  Please send your story and photos to and I would heart to feature them right here, on the blog!!  Photos should be high resolution and un-editted.  Please include a description of the project, including any costs, inspiration, and how it has changed your life and routine for the better!  Oh, and no worries my friends, we will NEVER judge "before" pictures because that just wouldn't be nice!  Only love goes on at this blog!  More Info HERE.

54 Yep, That is Still Me!

I recently mentioned that I want to start making updates to the blog!  Wahoo right?

I would love to dive in and give it a super instant clean sweep, because I know it needs some major organization!  But it's going to be a huge time investment to completely overhaul this little baby of mine.

So I set a goal to tackle one or two things off the blog update list each day.  Most will hopefully be seamless or help you with your navigation, or minor things like sidebar updates and changes to my graphics.  Those smaller things won't be getting a special blog post to point out the change.  Others are a bit more dramatic... like me changing my hair color!

A new hair color means that I needed a new profile picture!  So now I have one {thanks Emily!}

And the all important page header!

I am excited to whip this blog into some serious shape.  Just consider me the Jillian Michaels of IHeart Organizing.  Only, with blonde hair.

Thanks everyone for understanding as I work to make this a prettier, happy place for all of us!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

136 IHeart Wildtree & a GIVEAWAY!

This morning I chatted about organizing in the kitchen!  So let's hang onto that kitchen theme and talk about cooking in the kitchen as well!!

My pal Amanda, recently introduced me to Wildtree cooking products!

I was surprised I had never heard of Wildtree in the past, I totally LOVE what they stand for!

Wildtree offers the highest quality herbs, spices and culinary blends that are FREE of preservatives, additives, fillers and promote a healthier lifestyle!  And they believe in the value of making cooking a quicker, easier, more healthful project for those who are short on time, and a fun, interesting adventure for those who wish to be more creative in the kitchen!

Cooking with Wildtree is so easy and makes meal planning a breeze.  Simply add a protein and veggies to one of the delicious Grapeseed Oils and/or seasonings and you have a simple, all-natural dinner.  Wildtree's products are extremely diverse.  With just a few seasonings, you can create a multitude of meals without cluttering your pantry with a multitude of spices.  For example, the Rancher's Steak Rub can be used on steak, hamburgers, veggies, chicken, fish, shrimp, and pasta!}
Wildtree's products are completely all-natural - no MSG, food dyes, or chemicals.  And Wildtree is also very economical as it is less expensive per serving than most grocery store brands - no fillers means you use less seasoning!

So what do they offer?  Over 150 items which span breads, soups, culinary blends, sauces, dressings, salsas, marinades, sweets and the finest expeller pressed Grapeseed Oils!

Who is ready to give some of these products a try?

Today's giveaway will give you the opportunity!!

Here are the details:
  • Giveaway is for one $50 gift certificate good towards a Wildtree order placed with Amanda!
  • Giveaway is op to US residents only.
  • Giveaway is open from Tuesday, August 16th through 9:00 p.m. central time, Monday, August 22nd, and the winner will be announced right here on Tuesday, August 23rd!
  • One winner will be selected using
  • Please ensure I have your blog or email address so I have a way to contact you if you win.

To enter {each entry requires a separate comment}:

So much to select from right?  Here are Wildtree's top selling items:
  • 10226 Roasted Garlic Grapeseed Oil
  • 10229 Natural Grapeseed Oil
  • 10416 Rancher Steak Rub
  • 10282 Natural Butter Flavor Grapeseed Oil
  • 10768 Watermelon Lime Frozen Drink Mix
  • 10697 Fiesta Salsa Mix
  • 10759 Creamy Ranch Dressing & Dip Mix
  • 10643 Wildtree's Alfredo Extraordinaire
  • 10450 Scampi Blend
  • 10575 Taco Seasoning Blend

And last but not least, anyone who orders with Amanda through the IHeart Organizing show will receive a generous seasoning sample!!

Thanks everyone and GOOD LUCK!

325 It's HERE! The Kitchen Cabinet Tour!!

Because the kitchen is typically the most used room in the house, it's extremely important to ensure that it's organized and functional for all the action that it receives!  This isn't always an easy task and often times takes some patience and planning!  Which explains why I received the following question from a reader, along with many other's just like it:

"Dear Jen, do you have any tips on how to organize kitchen cabinets for maximum storage and efficiency?  I would love to see the layout of your kitchen and behind all those cabinet doors!"

So I finally got off of my tush and went through our entire kitchen to take pictures of the insides of each and EVERY cabinet and drawer.  Go big or go home I say!  So I did!

First, let's start out with a little reminder of what our kitchen looks like:

Itty bitty.  It is really important to live with less and really maximize the way we utilize the space we do have.  I thought it might also be helpful to have a map layout of the room too?

And now for the picture tour!  Hold on to your britches kids, because you're in for a wild ride!

Let's start with our pantry!  {fun fact: I have a hard time typing the word, "pantry", it typically ends up as "panty", oops!} This tall cabinet holds all of our dry and canned foods, along with our snacks, breads and produce!

To really maximize our storage, we popped an organizer over the door as well!

My favorite tips for a pantry?  Add a clipboard with copies of your shopping list attached, so you can quickly add anything that runs out!

And unload your yummy snack foods such as pretzels and popcorn, into serving sized baggies for quick grab and go portioned snacking {update - we now use reusable containers}!

Right next to our pantry, we have our spice cabinet with magnetic spice tins:

And our junk drawer:

And storage container cabinet:

Next, you even get to see inside the fridge and freezer!

I really love to use clear storage containers so I always know what we have for leftovers, fruits and veggies!  And labeled bins {the freezer bins are these medium sized ones from The Container Store} make it super quick and easy to find anything we are looking for!

Above the fridge we have two smaller cabinets where we keep less used items, like our popcorn machine and special cooking oils and wines:

We turn the first corner, where we find our special kid's cabinet, where all things kid related in the kitchen get stocked:

Along with the majority of our drawer storage, including our cutlery drawer:

Our two baking drawers:

And our food packaging drawer:

I love to line my drawers with pretty paper and use clear acrylic dividers so that I stay motivated to keep the contents of the drawers to a minimum!

Next up is the stove.  We have our microwave above the stove, and above that, a cabinet that we rarely see the contents of....

The next corner contains all of our dishes and cookware, since it's the area in the kitchen we are using most:

Dishes and glassware above, pots and pans and roasters in our lazy susan below:

I used to keep our pots and pans in a typical kitchen cabinet, however, I found they were nearly impossible to get in and out without wanting to quit cooking before I even started, so they found a new home in the spinning lazy susan, which makes them SO much easier to find and grab!  There is never harm in switching things up when something isn't working for you!

Next to all the dining storage, we have our sink.  Below the sink I stash our cleaning supplies, extra rags and dishwasher pods.  We also keep our recycling bin tucked out of site as well!

Right next to the sink is a small drawer that holds all of our essential dish-washing items:

Where almost done!  Just a couple of cabinets left.  Literally!  To the left of the sink, we have more food storage!  Like nuts, peanut butter and side dishes:

Since I am on the shorter side, the labeled baskets make it super easy for me to identify the contents and grab down only what I need!

And last but not least, next to our dishwasher, we have our utensil drawer:

And baking cabinet!

I found an inexpensive holder for our bakeware and cutting boards:

And the top drawer pulls out for all of our mixing and serving bowls:

And that's a wrap!  The kitchen cabinet tour has come to an end. 

The pictures did a really good job telling the story of how I organize our kitchen space!  But ultimately, here is what has worked best for us in the past, its super simple:
  1. Empty the entire contents of our kitchen onto your kitchen table and counter tops.  Start with a clean slate!
  2. Think about how you use your space and plan accordingly.  Keep pots and pans by the stove.  Keep food storage by the fridge and pantry.  Keep dish-washing and cleaning supplies near the sink, etc...
  3. Purge old food items frequently and only keep the kitchen gadgets that you really use or are multi-functional.  And don't feel sad saying goodbye to those one off pieces that only get used once a year.
  4. Clear storage for food is AWESOME for doing quick visual inventory of your supply before heading out to the grocery store!  Plus, it keeps your foods fresh for longer!  Win win!
  5. Remember, once you put it all away, it's OK to change things if they are not working!  If you find yourself frustrated with how something in your kitchen is functioning, switch it up!  No harm done!
Any surprises or "Ah Ha!" moments?  For those that had been waiting eons for this post, did this help a bit?  Did it spark any additional kitchen organizing questions?  What other tips do you have for keeping a super functional and organized kitchen space?

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