I am SO excited to share today’s post with you guys. Today is the first post of a series that I’ll be sharing with you all, thanks to my good friend, Meg. I first met Meg years ago, thanks to some mutual friends, and not only does she know how to organize and save some serious money, but she just has the sweetest heart.
Most blogs have really gotten away from the “guest posting” thing — myself included — because I know I always like to visit a blog to hear from the actual blogger! But after reading the daily posts that Meg shares in her Facebook group, I couldn’t help but reach out to ask if she’d be interested in sharing some of her knowledge here on STSL…and I was THRILLED when she said yes!
I truly think this series can benefit ALL of us, so I hope you’ll stick around for some of her tips and tricks. I’ve already gotten started on a few myself!
Hi! I’m Meg. I’m a 35 year old, stay at home mom living in upstate New York with my two little boys, my husband, Mike, and a 14 year old grumpy but ever so lovable dog, Emmitt. Before kids, my husband and I lived in a cool downtown Boston loft. Each morning, I drove over the beautiful Zachim Bridge where I waved hi to the Boston Garden, parked my car in front of a cheerful elementary school and unlocked my fourth grade classroom door. It was a great life. I felt fulfilled, busy, and happy. Then, just like I had planned for myself since I was a young girl, soon after our wedding, Mike and I were expecting a baby. They say having a baby changes things. Ummm…yes. My life got turned upside down in the best, most challenging way. We moved out of Boston, I stopped teaching, Mike was working what felt like 24/7, and it was just me and the brightest, blue eyed colic-filled baby staring at each other all the time.
Honestly, at first I didn’t know what to do with myself or with a baby during those first months. To keep sane and to help pass the long days, I started cutting coupons from as many papers as I could get my hands on and started to clean and tidy…A LOT. As a first time mom with a newborn, I felt I had lost control of so much. I quickly discovered the one thing I COULD control was how clean and organized the space we lived in was. And so my obsession with decluttering and using coupons was born…
Fast forward to the present time, 5 years later. I still love using coupons and saving my family money, and insist on an organized home. Each January, I do one task (sometimes simple, sometimes more complex) to help get my house back to ground zero. If you are looking for help achieving a picture perfect, tidy home with pretty bins and baskets, I am not your girl. I’ll refer you to Pinterest or advise you to check out The Home Edit’s Instagram page. If you want some practical tips about how to help get your house a little more under control, I’d love for you to follow along.
First things first.
You are going to have a lot of stuff to give away. Establish the plan here. Where’s everything going to go? Do you want to give toys and clothes your kids outgrew to a friend or sibling with smaller children? Do you want to sell it on Ebay, Facebook or Craigslist (if that’s a thing still?)? Do you want to donate it to a local charity? One of my favorites is Good Will (if you need a little help finding a Goodwill drop off location in NY/NJ, click here).
I also encourage you to research The Give Back Box.
The way The Give Back Box works is you fill up any empty cardboard box with items you want to donate. You go onto the Give Back Box website, print out a FREE (!) shipping label, stick it on the box, bring it to USPS, and off it goes to the closest Goodwill. I have sent well over 100 boxes to Goodwill through the Give Back Box!
Let’s get to it, shall we?
Day 1: The Toys Shelves
This one is going to hurt. Especially if you have young children. A puzzle piece here, a Lite Brite (great toy!) plastic pin there, a sharp Lego on the stair waiting to inflect death… It’s the worst. Today I encourage you to literally look at every game, puzzle, and toy your children has.
- Is it missing pieces? It’s gotta go.
- Is the game board torn? See ya.
- When is the last time your children played with that plastic food set? Months? Donate it.
- Is it a toy that really just drives you insane? Maybe it can quietly disappear…
Aggressively sort through all the toys. Don’t feel bad about donating or tossing out a toy. Your child played with it. At one point or another, it brought a lot of joy (Marie Kondo reference!) to your child. It did it’s job. Now someone else can play with it.
Another strategy that helps cut back on the clutter in my house, and one you could consider, is I only allow a certain amount of toys out at a certain time. Every month or so, I switch out what the boys are playing with. For example…puzzles. After a month, I’ll tuck those away and take out three different puzzles from the bin. The airplane, jungle, dino puzzle will reappear in about 5 or 6 months again, and the boys will be delighted by their “newness”.
Jumping right onto what I did last week…
Day 2: All the Papers
For living in an electronic world, there certainly are a lot of papers around my house. Yours too? I bet.
What is important to keep, and what can be recycled is hard to understand sometimes. I have done some research online, but this pretty chart I found on Pinterest sums it up well:
Even still, I seem to accumulate very thick files in my cabinet. Ugh. Do I really still have a copy of a Verizon Fios bill from a house I lived in three years ago? My initial thought was “Gosh, just one bill to use as a reference down the road might be helpful one day.” However, the reality is no. I am never going to need to reference my 2013 Fios bill. Into the recycle bin it goes. Take some time to go through all your papers like I did.
But what about instruction manuals and receipts?
Those are a different beast in my mind. I have extremely thick, ugly, binders tucked away behind closed doors that are home to instructions, receipts and any warranty information to anything remotely important. When we get a new appliance, for example, I fill out the warranty card right away, print out the receipt (assuming I bought it online), and put the instruction manual into a clear plastic sleeve. Then I add the sleeve to the binder. I have probably 300 filled plastic sleeves in those binders. 95% of them I will never need, but man, those 5% that I DO need down the road…PURE GOLD!
Example. When we had our first son in 2013, we bought a fairly expensive baby monitor. I tucked the manual and receipt in my big ol’ binder. Fast forward a year or so later, something happened to the charger. It wouldn’t work unless it was plugged in. I contacted the company, and in addition to the serial number, they asked for the date and location of the purchase. “Why just one minute, dear Customer Service Rep. I have that info right here!” I had to email them a photocopy of the receipt, and then magically, a new baby monitor appeared at my door step two days later. Saved me money, and man did I feel good about myself when I showed my husband the new monitor. This binder has saved the day time and time again.
Stay tuned for a few more decluttering and organizing tips and tricks coming soon! If you want to follow along with my daily posts in January, check out my Facebook page. I don’t have a blog. I’ll save the blogging to the pros like Courtney! Have a great day!