Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why a Timer is my Favorite Cleaning Device

A couple of months ago I discovered a home cleaning website that has been a tremendous help to me in helping me keep my house clean and organized.  The job of cleaning the house without a housekeeper, thereby ensuring my house doesn't land on an episode of Hoarders, falls completely on my shoulders.  Yes, my kids and husband help a little but let's be honest; this is the mom's job whether we like it or not.  I do not like it, for the record.

One of the key things that I learned from this amazing website, which I will write about in more detail next week, is that keeping the house clean can be done in quick, short bursts.  All of us would love to have the time to clean a room or the whole house from top to bottom in one fell swoop but with little people all up in my grill all day, in the words of Georgia Boy, that ain't happenin' Cap'n.  I usually react to this dilemma one of two ways; either I feel so completely paralyzed at the overwhelming task before me that I shut down and want to take a nap or I gripe and complain while trying to force my family to join me in the cleaning fun.

If you're looking for how to clean a bedroom, how to clean the house or how to de-clutter the house quickly and easily allow me to introduce you to the power of the timer.

The timer tells me that I have 5 or 10 minutes to do as much as I can and then I'm done.  I put in my 5-10 minutes of cleaning and then I can go read my book or whatever else I want to be doing instead of cleaning.  Which is pretty much anything.

My timer that I bought on my trip to HomeGoods.

In fact, prior to writing this post my downstairs was a complete and utter mess.  As I looked around I was wondering how in the world I could clean it up.  I got out the timer and set it for 5 minutes while I picked up the toys.  I set it for another 5 minutes and de-cluttered the kitchen countertops and island.  I even had time to wipe down the countertops with a counter cleaner.  It only took 10 minutes to make a huge difference instead of the 30 plus minutes I would have probably spent trying to clean it all.

I use this method all of the time for picking up the kids' rooms, cleaning the playroom, de-cluttering my mommy desk, dusting my bedroom nightstands and dresser, etc.

The house is cleaned a little bit at a time preventing an area from getting completely out of control and is done in a manageable amount of time.

Now, the reason I use an actual timer and not my smart phone is that on my smart phone are my apps.  And no matter how many times I tell myself I am only going to use the timer on my phone I eventually end up checking Facebook, Twitter, email, etc and then I've lost 30 minutes in the blink of an eye, the kitchen island is still a mess and now I'm mad at myself for getting side-tracked.

That doesn't happen with my little timer.  I set it for 5 minutes and it rings to tell me I'm free.  Not unlike the school bell that signaled our work for the day was done.  Of course, back then I got to run out of the school with nothing on my mind but playing with my friends or watching the Flintstones.  Now the timer just means I need to go check and see if the baby is trying on my makeup again and to find out why the 5 year old has been so quiet for so long.

Happy Cleaning, Cheap Mamas.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


This month marks my one year blogoversary.  I realize that is probably not a real word but let's just go with it.  Some bloggers know the exact date on which they began putting their thoughts out into the blogosphere but I've never been very detail-oriented so I just know that it was sometime in January 2011 when I began this little blog.

Sidekick and I at Superman's Montessori Christmas program about the time I was contemplating actually doing that blogging thing.  Also, I had cut bangs for the hundredth time and discovered for the hundredth time that I don't like them.

My younger brother was the one who encouraged me to put my frugal ideas out there for all to see.  He knows a lot more than I do about technology and blogging but since I didn't have him to help me every step of the way I headed to my local library.  I came home with stacks of books containing foreign words and concepts and tried to wrap my tiny brain around all of it.

After a year of doing this blogging thing I still don't have it all figured out but I have learned a few valuable lessons that I will share here.

First, don't blog for money.  Whether they admit it out loud or not, every blogger has the tiniest dream of becoming well-known and paid handsomely for his or her writing.  We all dream of exchanging witty banter with Matt Lauer or laughing at our good fortune over coffee with The Pioneer Woman.  The truth is, though, that most of us will give more than we receive in the blogging business.  Maybe someday I'll be able to monetize this little blog but for now I'm content to try to produce good content because I am so thankful for the great content that I consume from other blogs.

Second, I can be a good mom and an okay blogger or a good blogger and an okay mom.  Am I saying that the good mom bloggers out there are terrible moms?  No.  I'm saying that they have figured out how to do both but I'm not there yet.  At this stage in my life, with the ages of my children, our homeschooling schedule and extracurricular activities I have nowhere near enough time to blog as much as I should.  One day I hope to have it all figured out on how to be a great mom and a great blogger but for now I'm doing the best I can.

Third, I am not a photographer but I do hope to become one when I grow up.  I had no idea when I started this whole blog thing how important photography would be for the subjects about which I wanted to blog but I learned quickly how important a good photo or photos can be to take a post from good to great.  I also learned that I'm not a good photographer.  Being a photographer does not come simply from owning a camera but from knowing how to use that camera (and, perhaps, a good editing program!) to get the best photos.  I own a point-and-shoot camera and I'm working on learning how to use it to its fullest capacity but this is an ongoing process.

Fourth, there will always be someone out there doing it bigger and better.  At first this made me want to just pack it all up and shut it down, but I continue for one reason.  If what I put out there helps at least one person be a little more frugal and a little more content, then I'm proud to have helped.  I myself have gained so much great information from all different blogs and because of this I keep plugging along.

Fifth, it will always be weird to see someone in real life who tells me, "I read your blog!"  Part of the safety of blogging in my mind is that, although it is extremely public, I always imagine that my readers are people "out there" in the blogosphere whom I will never really meet in person.  To see someone in real life who read my very honest thoughts on this blog feels a little weird.  I always have a mini moment of panic wondering if I've shared too much information on my latest post.  No matter how weird it is, though, it is always amazing to know that someone took a few precious minutes out of their day to read what I wrote.

And, finally, it is impossible for me to do all of my holiday projects from Pinterest and publish a single post between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Evidently.

Thanks for reading, Cheap Mamas.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Trip to Shopper's Heaven Otherwise Known As HomeGoods

I heart discount shopping.  I mean, really love it.  I love places like TJMaxx and Marshall's but with two kids dragging behind me, one asking how much longer and the other trying to grab all of the breakables off the shelf, it's usually not worth it for me to ever spend more than 5 minutes in these places.  I have visions in my head of older children who will follow me around silently texting on their phones while giving each other eye-rolls behind my back but that dream is a long way from now.

A friend of mine from Oklahoma recently had her third baby in the great state of Alabama and I decided it was time to go visit Katie Scarlett and her newest little nugget and get in some much needed girlfriend time.  When she asked me if I'd like to make the drive to HomeGoods a little over an hour away I just about wet myself with excitement.  So we loaded our combined 5 kids into her humongous SUV, threw some Chick fil A at them and blazed a trail for a day of discount shopping.

As soon as the doors opened I could have sworn I heard angels singing.  It's funny, because I thought those angels only lived in Hobby Lobby but it turns out they're in HomeGoods too.  The aisles looked so...shiny.  The wares so...discounted.  It didn't matter that I didn't need a thing or that the kids were not in the mood for shopping - we were at HomeGoods!

We each grabbed a cart and wandered off in different directions without saying a word.  Good shopping friends are like that.  They don't feel the need to shop every aisle together and there's an understanding that each gal will go her own way and you'll eventually meet back up when your cart is too full to hold another thing.  

I meandered slowly down each aisle carefully contemplating each shiny new purchase.  I tried to think of others and what gifts I might need in the near future instead of only shopping for my own house but, um, well, never mind.

Eventually we found ourselves together in the toy section with 5 kids who were D-O-N-E with shopping for the day.  A storm rolled in, the lights went off, our kids were pulling toys off of shelves and playing with them in the middle of the aisle and still we kept on shopping.  (FYI, in case you ever need to know you can still see price tags by the glow of emergency flourescent lights.)  By the time it was all said and done Katie Scarlett and I were having to tag-team.  One of us would finish shopping while the other one sat out in the car with the kids listening to Tangled on the DVD player and throwing Goldfish their way.  Then, SWITCH!  I entertained myself during my car shift by eating more than a single "portion size" of a box of Ghirardelli chocolates. 

Never mind that my kids were almost past the breaking point.  Never mind that I bought things for my house that I didn't need.  

I got to shop at HomeGoods and eat chocolate.

It was a great day. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Am That Mom

Driving my children to the grocery store the other day I discovered that I am that mom.  That mom I swore I would never be.  That mom that I secretly judged from my lofty throne of I-haven't-had-children-yet.  There are so many things I do as I mom that I swore I would never do.  Like letting my son watch 72 episodes of Phineas & Ferb.  In a row.   Nursing my infant to sleep, co-sleeping, letting them eat grocery store food as I shop thereby forcing the cashier to ring up a nasty, used cracker wrapper, calling the pretzel from Target "lunch."  The list could go on and on.

As I was watching another riveting episode of Toddlers & Tiaras the other night I saw a mom give her 6 year old daughter a can of Red Bull to put a little pep in her step.  At first I thought, "What a horrible mother!  That child doesn't need that much caffeine!"  But really, who am I to judge?  Glitz pageants are probably really stressful.  I mean, if little Nee Nee wants to pull for a higher crown she's got to  flash that million dollar flipper smile and work it for the judges.  That $200 prize and rhinestone tiara isn't going to win itself.

As I drove Superman and Sidekick to Wal-Mart for our weekly trip, I realized that I could probably feed and clothe my children with what was in my car for at least a day or two.  Lying on seats and floorboards were snack cups, a backpack full of who-knows-what, half full sippy cups (not yet cheese - I think they lacked another 24 hours), a pair of kid Crocs, papers from church, a full size bag of animal crackers, a pair of socks and at least a half dozen toys.

This kind of thing really does bother me because I'm a pretty neat person.  I like order and cleanliness but looking at my car one would think otherwise.  The accumulation of junk in my car happens slowly, which is my weak attempt to explain the nastiness.  A toy for entertainment here, a snack for the ride there and all of a sudden my car is its own science experiment.  I've decided that I have two choices:  I can either fight it or let it ride.  I have chosen the latter.  As long as I don't land on an episode of Hoarders: The Car Edition I figure I'm doing alright.

Gotta go.  It's time for Toddlers & Tiaras.

Are you that mom?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

$3 Christmas Stocking

This year I decided I wanted a different look with our Christmas stockings but I didn't want to spend a lot of money.  Buying 5 really cute stockings can get expensive and I would rather spend that money on something important like a new purse from TJ Maxx.  In all honesty, our family had decided to donate as much as possible this Christmas season so every time I saw the dollar signs associated with new stockings I saw all of the dollar signs that needed to be going to our Giving Fund.

I had seen a lot of really cute ideas on Pinterest but by the time I began to think about stockings I had run out of energy and motivation to start yet another Christmas project!  I kicked it into Cheap Mama gear and decided to do it cheap and ready made.

The stockings this year cost a little less than $3 a piece which means I saved a tremendous amount of money and if I feel like changing them again next year I won't feel guilty about my constantly changing tastes.

Stocking: $1 from Dollar Tree
Wooden glitter letter: $1 from Michael's
Giraffe ribbon: $3 for about 5 feet

Happy 2012 Cheap Mamas!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The $8 Organizational Tool

Just recently I saw an incredible idea on Pinterest to use a pocket shoe organizer for school & art supplies.  I just about broke the speed limit zooming away to Wal-Mart as fast as I could to utilize this great idea for my homeschool room/playroom.  I had been gathering pails and buckets for all of my organizational needs in our homeschool room but I was slowly running out of shelf space.  All of those markers, glue sticks and pipe cleaners can sure take up a lot of space!  I didn't know how much a pocket shore organizer cost but it looked like a great idea for my homeschool room.

I found them on the laundry and closet organization aisle at Wal-Mart for $7.47.  Awesome!

I then raced back home to install my new organization tool.  That is, after a quick stop at Sonic for a diet coke of course.  I hung the pocket organizer (the hooks are included) on the inside of the playroom closet door and now instead of being overcome with buckets and baskets and pails oh my, all of our supplies are located in one place.  I even have room for more!

Once I implemented this idea in the playroom I knew that there would be other great uses for these pocket shoe organizers.  One place I have found them to be of use is in my husband's closet.

Although we each have our own closet, neither one is very spacious and as a result I have to be extremely efficient in my attempts to organize our closets.  Georgia Boy wears a tie every day to work so he needed to be able to get to his ties easily.  I used a pocket shoe organizer on his closet door to organize both his ties and belts.  Now, instead of hanging randomly all over his closet they are conveniently located in the pocket shoe organizer.

I have used these shoe organizers in places where I don't mind seeing the hooks on the other side of the door.  However, if you don't like seeing the loops hanging over the door you could always use nails in the door provided that the door is strong enough and the nail is the appropriate size needed for the amount of weight that the organizer will be holding.

Other organizational uses for these shoe organizers would be for cleaning products inside a closet or laundry room door or in the bathroom under the sink.  To put it under a kitchen or bathroom sink you  simply cut it to fit and either hang it on the door using the hooks provided or tack a few nails to hold it inside the cabinet.

I'm sure I'll find some other uses for these pocket shoe organizers soon and when I do, I'll update it with any more ideas I have.  In the meantime, please share any uses for these organizers that you've found in your own home!

Happy Organizing Cheap Mamas!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

This is what I see when I look into my living room.  

And I think I want to change it.  

Let me explain.

When we built this house 5 years ago I had been saving pictures from magazines for months and months as inspiration for each room in the house.  You know, old school Pinterest.  At that time it was all about color, color, color and I was determined not to shy away from color by painting every room in the house off-white.  I painstakingly chose coordinating color palettes for each room making sure that each room would flow into the next.

Downstairs I favored warm colors with a definite french influence.  However, after 5 years of choosing items to fill my home according to this color palette I now feel like it's too heavy.  I feel the need to lighten and brighten.  But how to do it on a budget?

Some things will have to remain like furniture and window treatments which leaves me with one choice.  Paint.  As my old guru Christopher Lowell will tell you, the cheapest way to make the most dramatic difference is through paint.  So why am I hesitating?  Because it's a big job.  A really big job.  And it's one that I will undertake all by my little lonesome.  You see, when Georgia Boy and I got married he knew how much I liked to paint rooms and he promised to be their for moral support only.

I know that if I end up hating my lighten and brighten project I can always re-paint it but thinking about painting these rooms twice makes me want to lie down on the floor until the feeling passes.

See, the problem is that not only will I have to paint the living room but I'll also need to paint the kitchen.

I thought about staging this picture but then I just decided to keep it real.

I'm also planning on painting my kitchen island and the armoire in the living room.  Trying to figure out which paint colors to use and how to make it all work together without changing any furniture or fabrics is enough to make a girl go straight to bed with a diet coke and dark chocolate.

I've got my collection of paint chips ready to go and I'm almost ready to pull the trigger.  Almost.

First let me go sit down with a diet coke and think it over again.
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