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Preparing for a Peaceful Christmas – Week 2

Preparing for a Peaceful Christmas:  Week 2 - Browse Week | RaisingArrows.netHow did you do with the Week 1 To Do List? Hopefully all the items have been completed and you are now ready for Week 2!

Just a quick reminder before we get started: These Weekly To Do lists are directly from The 12-Week Holiday Planner. (affiliate link)  Those of you who have purchased The Holiday Planner will have all the forms that go along with the To Do Lists. If you have not purchased the planner, then you will need to make your own forms or buy your own copy!

This week’s list is short, but it is very important! You will be making lists of gifts that you want to buy or make yourself, as well as jotting down some decorating ideas. You may be tempted to skip over these this week, but don’t!  Remember, baby steps each week will make for a much more peaceful Christmas later!

Week 2: Browse Week

[ ] Develop gift ideas! Turn to your Christmas Gift Shopping List and Gift Making Checklist that are filed under the Christmas Gifts section. Develop and record ideas for gifts that you want to buy and gifts that you want to make yourself. We have included a wealth of gift ideas for you to choose from to get you started (in the Holiday Planner). You can also find some great gift ideas in Sheri’s Homemade for the Holidays series on Sheri’s blog or check out her Gifts Kids Can Make Pinterest board or Amy’s post on Meaningful Christmas Gifts.

Note from Amy:  If you are feeling a little stumped this early in the season, use an extra Gift List to write down each name and a brainstorming list of their interests, passions, goals, etc to help you think in the direction of what they might like or need as a gift.

[ ] Brainstorm decoration ideas! Using the Decoration Ideas form provided, begin to jot down decoration ideas for each room of your home, along with supplies that you will need. File this form under the Holiday Decorations section when completed.

Note from Amy:  I really love the Decorating Ideas print out!  I print one for Fall Decor and one for Christmas Decor.  I am able to look back from year to year to see how I decorated in previous years.  I even include a note about where we put the Christmas tree.

Accountability:

Once you have completed this list, come back here and tell us about it! Let’s encourage each other to plug away at these “to do’s” now so that our holidays can be less stressful and more focused on Jesus!

CLICK HERE FOR ALL THE POSTS IN THIS SERIES!

Preparing for a Peaceful Christmas - a 12 week series from RaisingArrows.net and SheriGraham.com

Getting My Household Back on Track

I’m going to share something that is pretty raw.  Something I really don’t like people to see…at least not like this.  These are photos of our house just a few weeks ago.

WARNING:  These photos are scary.

Girls RoomBoys Roomhomeschool closetThese were taken all on the same day with my iPhone as I was explaining to my husband (who was at work) that life here at home had taken a huge step backward and I wasn’t sure how to fix it.

I was feeling like I had gone back in time about 8 years when I had only littles and my life felt very chaotic.  Our move to this house in February, followed by several speaking engagements, followed by morning sickness had created a household that was barely functioning.

The kids’ rooms were always a mess.  Laundry was never under control.  The homeschool closet (shown above) was a colossal mess.  And then the basement flooded…

flooded basement

I couldn’t even begin to concern myself with what was down there when what was upstairs was nowhere near where it should be.

And who did I think I was, standing before a crowd of homeschool moms, telling them how to have a well-ordered household?!

I found myself at a place where I was completely incapacitated by the sheer volume of things that NEEDED to be accomplished, and I was begging God for an answer…a place to begin and get back to the way of life I knew I needed to have in order make our home run well.

The very next day, Mystie Winckler contacted me about her new ecourse, Simplified Organization.  I knew she had some things in the works, but I had no idea how much I was going to need exactly what she was working on.

How I and Getting my Household Back on Track with Simplified Organization ecourse | RaisingArrows.net

Simplified Organization has been a breath of fresh air in our home.  It is a go-at-your-own-pace online course, so there is no pressure to have A, B, and C done by Friday, and the information is not going to disappear if you don’t get it done by Friday.  Mystie is even quite candid about the fact that some of these “habits” will take years to fully flesh out, and rather than that being a negative thing, she teaches you to see the process and system of ordering your household as the goal, rather than some arbitrary “by-September-I’ll-have-an-organized-home” goal.  

And everything is from a solid Christian perspective.  This isn’t about digging deeper within yourself…it’s about reaching out to the Lord and working with His plan for your life here on earth.

I’ve gone through 3 of the learning modules already, and I am so excited by the progress I’ve seen that I have to force myself to shut the computer down at night and go to bed!  I have finally learned to use my Google Calendar to its fullest capacity (and I’ve shared it with my oldest two children so they are “in the know” about what is going on around here).  I am learning to immediately get things out of the labyrinth of my brain and onto paper so that I don’t have to try to recall everything.  (This is going to be a steep learning curve!)  I have the beginnings of a command center.  I am finally working on a laundry system for this house, and I am seeing real progress as opposed to hamster-wheel days, weeks, and months.
Learn how to bring order from your chaos

Today, is the official launch of Simplified Organization.  The price of membership and access to all the videos, audios, articles, and step-by-step instruction is $99; HOWEVER, if you use the code

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the Simplified Organization course is only $45!
You will not see this price anywhere else, so don’t delay!
(Offer ends AUGUST 30!)

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

So, if you are feeling overwhelmed by the state of your household, if you need some prodding and purpose to get back on track, if you need a place to begin and the focus to continue, this online course may very well be the answer for you in the way that it was for our household!

The tasks have not interfered with our homeschooling.  The lessons are all in bite-sized pieces so I don’t feel like I have to carve out huge sections of time to work through the course.  The encouragement and Biblical advice has given me a whole new perspective on where I am right now.

I am absolutely thrilled that Mystie followed the Lord’s leading and went to the effort to create this course to help other homemakers and mommies learn to love what must be done in our homes.

Learn to love what must be done

Want A Home Management System That Doesn’t Add to Your Clutter?

Want a Home Management System That Doesn't Add to Your Clutter? {review of Paperless Home Organization by Mystie Winckler} | RaisingArrows.net

I wish I could find the words to tell you just how much reading Paperless Home Organization by Mystie Winckler has changed my life and household management!  It has been such an exciting transformation and came at a time when simplifying was much needed.

I knew I needed to do something different because the clutter of my notes and binders was overwhelming and not functional in the least, but I had no idea how to make it work any better.  In fact, my binders were literally collecting dust on top of the refrigerator.  The only household binder that saw regular use was my Blogging Notebook, and even that I was finding increasingly useless.

When Mystie contacted me about reviewing her ebook Paperless Home Organization, I thought it was definitely worth it to look into something else.  Little did I know how much it would revolutionize the way I manage my home!

The ebook opens with these words:

“I have put together at least three household management binders in my 11-year career as a homemaker to date.  All three times I thought it through, made it well, and used it
for about 2 weeks.”

Mystie goes on to say how paper never stays pretty in her home and she hated to give up space to a binder (in my case, several binders).  She had me nodding my head and anxious to keep reading to learn the secret of making a functional binder.

Paperless Home Organization Review | RaisingArrows.net

Before I go any further, I want to be completely upfront and honest.  I did not implement everything Mystie suggested nor did I end up using every program she used.  What Paperless Home Organization taught me were the skills I needed to take her method and make it my own.

For instance, it taught me how to make Gmail work more efficiently.  For years, I’ve had people tell me I needed to set up filters, mark my emails, and organize them accordingly, but no one told me how, and no one had instructions and specific steps I needed to take to make this work as a homemaker.  With Mystie’s guidance, I finally got my email under control!

She also taught me how to organize Evernote so it made sense and worked for my homemaking needs.  I’ve been using Evernote for quite a while, but I wasn’t proficient at it.  I knew I was missing a big chunk of what it could do, but I didn’t know how to remedy that.  Paperless Home Organization answered that for me!

It also made sense of Google Calendar.  I was randomly inputting things in my calendar, but once again, never using it the way it was meant to be used.  Boy, was I missing the amazing power of this tool!

And finally, it gave me the confidence to step out on my own and make these online tools work for me as a streamlined home management system!  I made meal plans that can be archived and revisited instead of the endless pieces of paper I was throwing away week after week.  I link my menus to the actual websites where the recipes are and have those menus available from my computer, iPad, and phone.  I set up folders for all the Trim Healthy Mama recipes I find on Facebook and through friends that are not pinnable to Pinterest.  When we were house hunting, I compiled everything in Evernote as I browsed from my computer at home and made them available to my husband on his phone via the Evernote app.  I share my calendar with my husband and kids, and I have created reminders to keep me on track.

I am still tweaking and I have revisited Mystie’s ebook several times along the way, but I finally feel like I have a system that works for me.  Mystie is the first one to admit this way of managing your home isn’t frilly and pretty, but it also isn’t collecting dust the way my frilly and pretty binders were.  I’d encourage you to check out Paperless Home Organization today and consider if this is something that would help out your homemaking!

If you decide to buy a copy, I have a great deal for you!

Get 30% off with coupon code:
arrows

And, even better news!

I’m giving away 1 copy of Paperless Home Organization along with GTD for Homemakers (see it HERE)!  Enter to win below!  {If reading via email, click HERE and scroll down to find the giveaway!

Looking for more Homemaking strategies?
Visit my Homemaking Basics series!

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Mom’s Command Central {why I decided to create my own office space}

Mom's Command Central {why I decided to create my own office space} | RaisingArrows.net

It started with a meltdown.

Most of my good ideas start that way.

I was overwhelmed.  Beyond overwhelmed.  I couldn’t seem to put two thoughts together and I was getting nothing done.  All of my home chores were either not getting completed on time or being left undone entirely.  Many times this was happening because I couldn’t even remember what it was I was supposed to be doing.  And then there was my blog.  I had so much stacked up and digging out seemed impossible.

I felt completely incompetent.  How in the world did I get here?

I went to my husband, asking him to excuse the mess I was making and begging him to help me figure out what to do to regain control of the chaos.

His answer was to compartmentalize.

We all know I’m a list maker, but this sort of list-making is different.  This is how my executive-husband runs his office – lists that are specific to a certain task or area of his job.  He suggested I do the same and get my list under control by dividing it up into a more manageable grouping.  

After talking it through, I decided to divide between 2 lists –

Home & Blog

I decided against Offline and Online because the things that involve my blog online are very different from the things I do for our home online and vice-versa.  I also did not think I could handle more than 2 lists, so I took the two things that take up the vast majority of my brainpower and focused on separating them out.  (For you, this might look like Homeschool & Homemaking or Home Business & Family Life – you get the idea – and YOU  might even be able to handle more than 2 lists, unlike me!)

However, as I was talking through all of this with my husband, I began to realize that compartmentalizing into lists was not going to help me if I didn’t actually look at those lists throughout the day.  I had become notorious for making lists and LOSING lists.

I decided right then and there, I needed a Command Central.

For the 2 years we have lived here, I have been without a real landing place for all my stuff.  I had a crate of homeschool things by my chair, a pile of lists on the kitchen island, a desk in my bedroom I never used.

There really wasn’t any one good place for me to set up shop.  Our living room and kitchen are small, our dining room is a strange shape, and the one wall I could have a desk on doesn’t have an outlet.  The printer was in my bedroom (you know, on that desk I never use), but guess what else is in the bedroom…my little guy!  And we all know that baby’s nap time is prime to time to actually get things done…and printed off!

I felt a little doomed, but I knew I somehow had to pull this off because I needed to run this household effectively and efficiently and that wasn’t going to happen as long as my brain was strewn about the house on tiny bits of paper.

What I finally decided to do was carve out a bit of space in a corner of the living room next to my chair and partially hidden by the piano.  It was out of the way, but super convenient.
{affiliate links included}

Mom's Command Central (control the chaos) | RaisingArrows.net

I used an end table from my bedroom as a “desk”.  Here, I placed my printer and pens and my compartmentalized lists.  Underneath were school books and more paper.  In the crate beside it were homeschool materials and binders I use on a daily basis.  I bought a LapDesk (see it up against the wall?) and used that for sitting in my chair and typing on my laptop.  I keep the laptop on top of my printer and charge it right there as needed.

(And yes, that is a DOOR behind my chair.  We rarely use that door, so it made sense to put a chair in front of it.)

I had created an office space for myself.  It wasn’t fancy, and it sure didn’t look like an office, but it was in a location centralized and convenient location.  It gave me a landing place for all those things I needed in order to run this home of mine.

I have to realize that all good leaders have a Headquarters.

I manage a home.  I manage a blog.

This is my HQ.  This is my Command Central.  I do this because it makes me a better home manager, a better homeschool teacher, a better wife, a better mother.

Homemaking Tips & Inspiration Pinterest board - Amy Roberts

Here are some other Command Central ideas for moms from my Homemaking Tips & Inspiration Pinterest board:

Clipboards

Don’t have a desk?  Put everything on clipboards and hang on the wall!

cart from a changing table

Forget the bar!
Makeover an old changing table into a rolling desk you can roll out of the way!

wall folders

Files and chalkboard (or white board) all in one place!

Another way to compartmentalize

Another way to compartmentalize!

So, tell me…do you have a Command Central?  What are the things you HAVE to have there to keep your home in good running order?

Let the Christmas Planning Begin!

Christmas Planning

You may think it a tad bit crazy to start thinking about Christmas in September, but I’d like to encourage you to start now in your holiday planning because the more plans you put in motion now, the more wonderfully relaxed and blessed the Christmas season will be for you.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
Micah 5:2

Think about how you would like the coming season to look, taste, feel, smell.  Consider family traditions you already have established and new ones you would like to start.  Consider how Autumn will trail into Winter and Thanksgiving into Christmas.  Where will your family’s focus be?

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Start practicing hospitality and charity and let it flow through the Christmas season and on into the New Year.  Begin now!

Use the dying leaves to teach your children about a dying world, desperately in need of a Savior.

leavesTake nature walks and marvel in God’s handiwork, His love for us poured out and molded into every branch, every blade of grass, every wispy cloud and woven web.

Determine to slow down and listen to the Lord.  There is hope.  There is joy.  There is One who has come and will come again.  In our anticipation of the celebration, may we understand the sacrifice.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Luke 2:10

Determine to look upward.  Determine to look inward.  Surrender your schedule.  Surrender your school.  Surrender your everything because He is your everything.

Start now.

I encourage you to dig deep this Fall and be purposeful as you plan.  There are some wonderful resources available to help you in this mission (and some of the links below are affiliate links) like this week’s Bundle of the Week:
BundleoftheWeek.com, 5 eBooks for $7.40!

or my very favorite Holiday Planner:

The 12-Week Holiday Planner

 or sites like Organized Christmas.

Use the resources you have (even if it is just a piece of paper and a pen!) and be purposeful in your planning this year!

And next week I’m going to be giving away 3 copies of my favorite Holiday planner, so stay tuned and let the Christmas planning begin!

Meal Planning as the Backbone of Your Day

ORGANIZING_meals

Meal planning is the backbone of your day as a stay at home mom.  Without it, you never feel in control or on top of things.  You always feel like you are scrambling, hurried, stressed.  In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I would encourage you to take a look at your meal planning FIRST if you are feeling overwhelmed by your life right now.  Get the backbone in place and work from there.

Over the years I’ve followed many different methods of meal planning.

Once a Month shopping

I really like to shop once a month and plan an entire month’s worth of meals at once, but sometimes that isn’t feasible.  Sometimes a rotating list of meals needs to be put in play in order to simplify your life.  Sometimes you need to only plan a week at a time.  Sometimes you are lucky to get a few days done and send your husband to the store for those items!

Recently, I decided to change from my old method of a grab-n-go meal list to a more formal meal plan.  (See an example HERE – the photo below is also an example of that list.)

menu list

My grab-n-go list was easy to plan and convenient to use.  I could choose a meal based on what kind of day I was having.  However, it did not allow for any meal forethought, so if I hadn’t thawed the chicken or put the roast in the slow cooker, I was up a creek.  In a large family, this doesn’t work out so well.  I also ended up only choosing the easy, no-prep meals and left the other (potentially more healthy) meals for “another day” – a day that never seemed to come.

While visiting a friend, I noticed her weekly menu plan posted on her refrigerator.

weekly meal planner

Lo and behold, they were from my friend Jamerill’s blog!  They were exactly what I needed!  As a homeschool mom, I need breakfast, lunch AND dinner planned.  And it helps tremendously to have snacks in place as well.

So, let me give you some tips on meal planning that will help you pull together one that provides a great backbone to your day:

1.  Choose where you will get your recipes from.  Sometimes I use cookbooks I have on hand, sometimes recipes from my recipe binder, but lately, I find most of my recipes are coming from my Pinterest boards!

Pinterest recipe collage

Sometimes I can knock out a menu in an afternoon.  When planning several weeks, it can take me several days to get the whole thing finished.  I never wait until I’m out of food and desperately needing to head to the store.  Start early and avoid the stress!

2.  Write in pencil!  Your meals will change due to unforeseen circumstances.  Our stove stopped working a couple of weeks ago, so I had to revamp our menu to reflect this.  Also, any meal you don’t end up using can be erased from its day and written in a new day or at the bottom of the page to carry over to another time if so desired.

3.  Make notes as you go.

notes on menu plan

Remember, I said this is the backbone of your day.  Your meals are a direct reflection of your life.  Write in notes about your day on the menu plan itself.  I have piano lessons and my Weight Watchers meetings marked.  I also have notes like “order Azure” and “make ranch dressing” noted at the top of my page.  But also mark down things like “thaw hamburger” and “soak beans” in the appropriate places.  For instance, say I want to serve beans on Wednesday night.  I need to soak them overnight on Tuesday.  I make a note to myself off to the side of the Tuesday Dinner box so I remember to do this.  Having these little notes is KEY to making your meal plan work.

4.  Make your grocery list as you go.  Don’t wait until you are finished with your menu to go back and input all you need.  Do it together.  Find a meal, list it in a good spot on your planner, scan ingredients and mark down what you need.  I use a Master Grocery List that helps me keep track of staple items as well as new things needed to make the meals on my list.  (Note:  You can find my Master Grocery List HERE, but be aware that your list will probably be different.  In fact, this list is 5 years old and is VERY different from our current list!  Use it as a guide to create your own!)

5.  Plan everything!  Plan your sides, your snacks, even your beverages!  Put Special Night on there and Potluck on there.  Do your very best to pull together a “backbone” that can withstand the pressure of your day.

6.  Look at your menu plan every day several times a day.  Mine is on my refrigerator.  It has to be in a prominent location where you will be able to glance at it over the course of the day to be sure you are on track.  (Mine is next to the Table Chores list and my At-a-Glance Schedule.)  Do you need to get something out of the freezer for tonight?  It’s on there!  Need to prepare for a coming birthday?  It’s on there!  Again, this is your backbone for the day.  Using it to its full advantage is necessary!

Looking for more meal planning related links? Try these:
Large Family Recipes
Once a Month Shopping Series
Menu Planning ebooks from Sheri Graham – I love her stuff and yes, that’s my affiliate link!
My ebook 10 Days to a Peaceful Home has a section on meal planning too!

Click here for more ideas from other bloggers:
ORGANIZING_meals…and here’s a FANTASTIC giveaway for you from a company that has made meal time at our house SO much easier!

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