Closet Clean-up

Just because you have space, doesn’t mean you need to fill it.

Don’t wait until your closet looks like it could be on the next episode of Hoarders before you address the issues.

Maybe you have too much stuff, or it’s just disorganized. Either way, I suggest that every few months you visit your closets and do a quick closet clean-up.

Recently I was invited to help my niece organize and tidy up her closet.

Yes, I’m the crazy person who thinks that an invitation like this is a positive thing.

I love to organize and tidy spaces up.  The type of cleaning that doesn’t require scrub brushes and cleaning supplies!

My sister’s house is newer, so the closets are much easier to organize and store things than I’m used to in my house.

At first glance, my niece’s closet looks pretty bare, albeit a little disorganized, but not messy.

before closet clean-up

Looks can be deceiving.

I introduced my niece to the six tips for organizing a closet, my tried and true method for organizing spaces.

Once we removed everything from the closet, it was quite a shocker to even her what all was in there.

Yes, all of this came from inside that empty looking closet.

clothes from closet clean-up
Clothes from the closet to be sorted

Many of the clothes we took out my niece was not even interested in keeping anymore. She didn’t like them anymore, or they didn’t fit. We honestly paired her hanging clothes down to less than a dozen items.

Her donation and sell pile were quite large.

donation pile from closet clean-up
Giant pile to be sorted for donation and sale


We sorted all of the other miscellaneous items out after we emptied the closet and assessed what she wanted in the closet. One of her main goals was to get her craft supplies organized in her closet so she could see what she had and easily access them.


One of the most important steps in organizing a space is looking at the space and taking time to decide how that space needs to function for the individual/family.

Once we had removed all of my niece’s things, and we had gone through what she was keeping we spent a lot of time talking about her needs. We took some breaks so we could get fresh eyes to look at the big open area.

For this project, the only thing that was “new” was the hanging shoe rack which I had purchased second hand for a couple of dollars. Everything else we used was repurposed from inside her closet or around the house.

Throughout the process, there were quite a few giggles. For instance, when we discovered how many fake and 3D glasses she had. Apparently, she had a big need for them, or more likely she had no idea how many pairs she owned until they were all organized together.  (side note: we did the same thing with my daughter’s Minnie Mouses….oops!)

glasses found in closet clean-up

My niece may have some pack rat tendencies, but never fear there is a way to help all pack rats.

In the end, my niece was very pleased with the outcome, and I had a lot of fun helping her.

after a successful closet clean-up

The hardest part of this project for me was stopping with the closet.

Once I get started, I want to keep going. Her desk was a bit disorganized, and she let me help with it for just a short time. If only she would let me finish that area.

Organizing is addicting, and when I see a space that needs tidying, I struggle to stop myself.

It was a privilege to be able to help my niece organize her closet, and in doing so, I learned a little bit more about her. She invited me into her personal space, and by doing so, I was able to see a different side of my niece. I had no idea how creative she was or how much she really enjoyed crafting.

A person’s space whether that is an entire home, a room, or a closet can tell a lot about a person. Including what they value, what their talents are and their goals.

What does your space say about you? And what do you want it to say about you?

What is stopping you from making that happen?

Debt Snowball Progress – August 2017

August 2017 debt snowball

Good-bye summer and hello fall.

Okay not quite, but it sure feels like it the minute we hit Labor Day.

Fall is the best season for us when it comes to paying down debt.

I spent some time thinking about that recently and was able to identify a few reasons why:


  • We pack our lunches and eat out less often.


  • We don’t typically have any vacations in the fall.


  • I teach a class or two as an adjunct, so I bring in more income.


  • Brian works more overtime, and there is holiday pay several times before January.


I’ve been feeling a bit defeated by our debt lately because the amount doesn’t seem to be moving at all. I know it’s a marathon and not a sprint, but sometimes I just feel like quitting.


The Many Men I Married

In 12 years I’ve been married to three men – sort of.

I mean technically, he’s the same man, but career-wise it is three very different men. I would never have guessed 18 years ago when I met this tall, fast-talking, geology/paleontology studying man child that he would someday be a police officer, but only after a stint as a lawyer. In fairness, I guarantee he didn’t predict that either.

the men I marriedCopyright: konradbak / 123RF Stock Photo

Would I still want to marry him knowing what he would become?


I surely didn’t date and marry him because of his career choice. However his career choice has influenced our marriage and family life.

Thirty-seven years old.

Today marks the birthday of my favorite man.

It’s hard to believe I’ve known him for nearly 18 of those years.  I still remember the very first time I saw him. He was slowly pedaling away on an old, rickety stationary bike in the activity room of my freshman year residence hall. He, a community advisor, had brought his floor of residents to my hall for a program that my community advisor had organized. I don’t even remember the program, but I took notice of the tall, older looking guy on the bike.

Who knew he was actually – as he reminds everyone- 53 days younger than me?

He has always looked older than me, something that any woman who is older than her significant other will gladly accept.

So I married my college sweetheart, three men in one?!

The man I married – law student.

law student Brian

So he wasn’t a law student when we got married, he was an aspiring law student – he started law school six weeks after we got married.


Save Money on Your Grocery Budget

Do you want to save money?

Have you cut back on your budget and feel like there is nowhere else you can save?

What if I told you, you could save hundreds of dollars a month?

If you are like most people, the food portion of your budget is probably a place you can still do some work.

shopping deals

It’s no secret that I’m a frugal shopper, I use coupons, and I try to save money wherever we can. However, no matter how hard I tried, I still struggled with cutting down our food budget.

We do not eat out that much and we menu plan. However for some reason, our food budget has always been a struggle.

We tried so many different things, so when I came across Erin Chase’s Grocery Budget Makeover Course I was intrigued, but skeptical.

I desperately wanted to find ways to cut our food spending down, because I knew it was the last area of our budget that I could control month to month and try to save more. I was skeptical because I knew that we were already pretty frugal and I didn’t know how much new information this course would give me.

We are now saving $50-$150 a month on our food spending thanks to lessons I learned in this course.  That’s $600-$1800/year. Every family is different; you could have even larger savings. (more…)

Not Stay at Home Mom Material

kids in messy living room

Motherhood is synonymous with guilt.

Whether you work outside the home full or part-time, you’re a stay at home mom, or you are a work at home mom there is guilt of some kind.

I don’t think men feel quite the same guilt that moms do. I wonder why that is?

If you’re home all the time are you showing your children an example of what women can do?

If you’re at work, who is taking care of your children all day? What if you miss their first steps or aren’t there to kiss their knee when they fall off their bike?

baby crawling

You’re always pulled in a million directions and question if you’re doing it “right.”

I’m here to tell you there is no right.

I have always worked outside the home full-time. It was never even a thought that I would do anything other than work full-time outside the home when I had children.

I’m not sure why it never crossed my mind, but I never wanted to be a stay at home mom either. My mother stayed home with us until we were in school. She did some part-time jobs and then worked full-time. She even went back to school to get a Master’s Degree when I was still at home. Thanks to my mom I saw all the ways I could be a mom.

This summer I had my first experience with being a stay at home mom.

With my new job, I work a 9-month contract, so I am fortunate to be off for the summer when my kids are.

Going into the summer I knew that this could present some great opportunities and some great challenges for me. I thrive on a schedule. I was pretty sure I wasn’t meant to be a full-time stay at home mom.

My experiences from previous maternity leaves taught me that I needed work outside the home for my sanity.

Now that we are coming to the close of my first summer off I can say with 100% certainty I was not made to be a stay at home mom.

kids playing outside

God bless all of you very special women who can do it and do it well.

I am such a better mom because I work outside the home. I am more patient with my children, I appreciate my time more with them, and I am using my God given talents, while the teachers who teach and care for my children are using their talents with my daughters every day.

I do not feel guilty that my children go to school or a day care center. Those are the right choices for our family. I truly believe we are all given different talents and we should use them.

On the first day of school this year I’ll still be sad that my daughters are getting older. I’ll be sad that their worlds are growing more and more independent of mine, but I’ll be happy too. I know understand the bittersweet feeling that so many moms who can have their summers off with their kids feel on the first day of school.


relaxing in lawn chair

I will once again be able to run errands on my lunch- ALONE.

At dinner when we talk about what we did for the day, it will all be new information because we didn’t share every waking moment together.

At 3:30, I will be excited to hear the ramblings of my three-year-old and the ever important tales from 3rd grade instead of counting the hours until bedtime.

I appreciate our summer off together, but it also makes me appreciate the start of the school year in a new way this year.

I don’t think I’m a perfect mom, but I don’t think I’m a bad mom either.

I make mistakes, but we all do.

At this point in my life being a working mom is the right thing. Let’s be clear, financially speaking, I don’t have the option to be a stay at home mom, so it’s good that I like working outside the home.

So whether you work full-time, part-time, inside or outside the home do what is best for you and your family. Try to ignore the mom guilt. I know probably a losing battle, but keep trying.

You are special, you are talented, and you should never compare yourself to the mom down the street. Remember no one is doing it all- it just looks like they are on social media.

First Day of School Joy or Anxiety?

children on playgroun excited for first day of schoolFor some, the first day of school is met with fear, dread, and anxiety. For others, it is met with excitement and joy.

Both can lead to a sleepless night in anticipation of the first day of school.

As a child I was so excited to return to school every fall. I loved school, I loved school supplies shopping, and I loved homework. Brian was similar to me. In fact, at times throughout our marriage, we have said we could be students forever if somehow we could get paid to do so. I imagine once we retire, you will see us both in a classroom again taking classes for fun just to learn something new.

I guess Cassidy came by her love of everything school related naturally. She too loves school supplies, she usually likes homework, and she loves playing school at home. In fact, she was insistent, we home school over spring break and summer.

I recognize how this love of school eliminates a parenting challenge that many of you might still face.  We don’t have a nightly fight over getting homework done, mostly because she’s a strong student and it doesn’t take her too long to complete it. I respect the challenges that other parents face and appreciate the parenting pass we got in this area – for now.

Our school-loving child’s attitude changed drastically last year.


First Day of School Memories

children on playground on the first day of schoolHow do you memorialize the first day of school?

Any parent who has ever been on Pinterest has seen the many ways you can memorialize the first day of school. Some are simple; some are elaborate. If you choose to do one of these things, remember why you are doing it.

In our family, we went with the very simple approach. It could have been because the year Cassidy started Kindergarten I was home with four week old Amelia. At that point in life we were lucky I remembered to get a picture, which didn’t even turn out well. I forgot to change the camera settings so only a couple of the pictures turned out anyway.

First day of Kindergarten

On the first day of school I take a picture on our front steps of both girls, then of Cassidy alone from the front and back (always fun to see what backpack they are using). I figure if we ever move it will be neat to see which house we lived in when they went to school that year. It’s also neat to see Amelia getting bigger sitting next to her sister every year, especially since that first year she was just a newborn.

Before school Kindergarten


What Your Child Really Wants

When given the choice children choose quality time with loved ones over toys.

Seriously!Your child wants time with you

At Christmas time I shared a post about giving experiences versus gifts. Check it out if the concept is new to you. It’s a real thing and it’s taking off.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. Do you remember what gifts you got for your 10th birthday? How about your 20th birthday? Or even your 30th birthday?

Do you remember that time you made cookies all day with your Grandma? Or when you had a picnic at a rest stop on the way to your aunt’s house. How about that 19th birthday to Chuck E. Cheese with all of your college roommates? (Yep, I did all of those things.)

Sure, I remember some of the gifts I got over the years, but it’s the memories of times I spent together with family and friends that I cherish and remember. (more…)

Debt Snowball Progress – July 2017

We’re back from vacation and I’m happy to report that we came in under budget.

It wasn’t much under budget, but at least we didn’t overspend and we had a blast.

family Disney vacation

Is it just me or does August feel like a fresh start to anyone else?

Even though I’m not a student anymore, the start of a new school year always feels like a chance to start all over.

I intend to use this excited, fresh start feeling to motivate us in our debt journey. We are still facing over $32,000 in student loan debt, but our optimistic goal is to be debt-free by December 2018. It is going to take some hard work and sacrifice, but we are motivated.

We successfully made it through the month of July without a visit to urgent care or the doctor. Everyone remained healthy while on vacation and my ankle sprain was handled with minimal cost and no visit to the doctor. Thank you Disney for the free ace bandage, ice packs and motorized scooter rental for the day.

ace bandage and ice packs


Our Favorite Children’s Toys

July is a big birthday month in our house, so toys are definitely on our mind. While I always recommend the gift of an experience, I also recognize the importance of toys as well.  It seems the perfect time to share some of our favorite children’s toys. For a toy to make my favorites list my kids have to play with it repeatedly, use their imagination and play for long periods of time.

You never get too old for some good ‘ol toys in your life. This year Amelia got mostly toys, and Cassidy got books and clothes. As she informed me afterward, she was very happy with what she received, but sometimes it’s just nice to get some toys to play with.


My children discovered these at the Children’s Museum in Madison, WI. They are little tiles that are magnetic around the perimeter so children of all ages can easily build with them. They are great for young kids because they can easily stay together and they are great for older kids to use their imagination. Technically, very small children should not play with them because if they break and a magnet gets loose, a child could swallow it. I have never had one break or even come close to break, but toys have to have ages and warnings just in case.