Posts Tagged ‘organization’

Things that make my life easier: Ice Cube Trays

I while back I wrote about hooksVelcro, my coffee press, and my electric water kettle.

These things continue to make my life easier, as far as time management, including the family in clean up, and overall messes.

Now I’m going to share how something else makes my life easier, and dare I say, cushier!

Ready?  Dum dada dum!  It’s the lowly ice cube tray!!!

The humble ice cube tray. Photo by E. Givler

Freezing coffee– I get my frozen latte whenever I want and I don’t have to drive anywhere!  I make up some strong coffee, freeze it in ice cube trays, and then use the coffee cubes to make frappes and other frozen coffee drinks.  Of course, this works only when we remember to buy milk.

Freezing lemon juice– Same deal as the coffee, only I use the lemon juice in recipes, as ice cubes in tea / water, or to make slushies.  Just another way to take time for my

Uh oh, running out of coffee cubes! Photo by E. Givler

self during the day.

Freezing fresh herbs– I read somewhere that I could use my herbs year round by snipping them, putting them in ice cube trays, and  pouring water over the herbs to make an “herb cube”. When I want to make a sauce or soup with the herbs, I just drop the cube in the boiling mixture!  It works great.

By the way, I measured, and each cube= 2 Tablespoons. Makes measuring a little easier.

Organizing– Recently we got a fridge with an ice maker.  I had these nifty ice cube  trays with lids that I didn’t need to use anymore.  I repurposed them to organize this boxful of fabulous 80’s earrings my sweet cousin gave to me and my daughter!  They are all organized and stacked in the closet.

Painting– I used an old ice cube tray for painting.  I put a different color in each cube, and then painted my heart out.  At the end I just rinsed the tray.  A lot less messy.

Enjoying my frozen latte on a hot day. Aaah! Photo by E. Givler

Might not seem like much, but these ice cube trays make it easier to  “indulge” my self with my lattes, frozen lemonades, playing dressup with my daughter, and embracing my crafty side.  🙂

So what little tips do you have to share?


My shredder, how I love you.

We are in the midst of “The Great Clean Out” or TGCO, of 2011.  Phase 1: Files.  You know, paper out the wazoo that goes forth and multiplies.  We got a cardboard box, filled it with with papers to shred, and shredding became a family affair.

As we had our shred fest, I had an epiphany.  There were more uses for ye ole shredder than just shredding old tax documents and the like.

Example: newspaper ads. My oldest loves the newspaper newspaper flyers and junkmail. We find this stuff everywhere. His backpack, dresser, closet, and who knows what else are packed with old newspaper ads– grocery stores, pharmacies, pet stores, department stores, hearing aids, expired coupons, and flyers from used car dealerships.

If he just kept a few, it would be okay.  But we’re talking weeks worth of ads and junk mail, which leads to his increasing frustration that he can’t afford what he’s wanting or he can’t get rich quick by going into the lawn care business.

Then there are previously recycled papers that “mysteriously” reappear on the dining room table. Some of these reappearing papers are “important” reminders back from weeks past (Remember, candy orders due Thursday!). The announcement ends back on the dining room table just so it can give me a panic attack because I mistakenly think I’ve missed something important. (Note: when writing those alarmist announcements, please date them.)

The paper takes on a life of its own as it spawns more and more paper. Then walks out of the backpack and bedroom to taunt me in the dining room.

Arrr, foiled again!  So much for TGCO!

So I got an idea.  I had a secret weapon in the paper war.

I started shredding our recycling.

It does add “one more step” to our routine.  However, I found this lovely lady who has a ceramics business and ships her fragile wares all over the country.  She is glad to take the shreds for packaging.  I figure it helps her out, it’s good for the environment, and I win one more battle in the war against multiplying paper.

When I shred the ads immediately, no one notices that they are gone.  It’s out of sight, out of mind. It’s win/win.  Take that!

Alas, my shredder now seems to be dying of old age or over exertion.  So I’m looking for a new and improved model that will also shred old credit cards, drivers licenses, and gift cards with nothing on them that we seem to hold onto “just in case.”

TGCO continues.

My electric kettle and my coffee press

These things make my life easier.

I got these items at first because of our “coffee issue.”  My oldest son loves coffee, and has since he was 9 years old (and younger).  When he came to live with us we let him continue drinking coffee… as long as it was decaf!

So now he’s old enough to make his own coffee, and coffee grounds were getting EVERYWHERE.  I’m talking about the floor, counter, crevices in the coffee maker, the coffee maker’s water reservior, the stove.  You get the picture.  There was also the problem of finding old coffee and dried up coffee filters in the basket because dear son didn’t want to clean up after himself.

I tried to come up with ways to make my son clean up.  “Grounding” him from the coffee maker, letting him have coffee only on the weekends, switching to instant coffee… nothing worked.

Finally, I got rid of the coffee pot and switched to an electric kettle and coffee press.  Click here to check ’em out.  (I do get a referral fee should you purchase them after viewing.)

First, the kettle. My kettle boils water very quickly.  The one I got has a blue light that comes on when it’s heating, and an automatic shut-off after the water boils.  It’s also cordless, which makes it very convenient.

I found other uses for the kettle, too.  I cook with cast iron and stoneware.  These are to be cleaned with hot water, no soap.  I boil the water in the kettle, scrape the skillet and / or baker, and use that water to make clean up a breeze!  I also use the hot water to soak other dishes while I load the dishwasher.  Casserole dishes are cleaned much quicker.

Now for my coffee press.  It doesn’t use energy.  It takes up very little room.  The whole thing can go in the dishwasher. It brews in  about the same amount of time as a drip coffee maker.  I just put the grounds in the bottom of the press, pour boiling water from the kettle over the grounds, insert the press / plunger thingie, and wait 5 minutes.  Then I pour the coffee in my cup, put gobs of milk or creamer in, and add sweetener. The coffee is so good.  It tasts richer. There’s no remembering to empty the coffee basket, discard the grounds and filter.  There’s also no coffee grounds ending up in the water reservoir or other crevices that I can’t figure out how they got wedged in there (courtesy of above-mentioned son), no grounds spilled all over the kitchen counter when dealing with the basket (also above-mentioned son), etc.

It’s the little things that lighten my load.  I’m thankful for my kettle and press.

Things I’ve learned from the autism support classroom: Life with Velcro

Bottles "velcroed" to cabinet door

I am a “new uses for old things” junkie. I love finding simple solutions that don’t cost a lot.

When my son was in our local intermediate unit’s preschool, I discovered the wonder of velcro.  First, I saw it used for visual schedules.  For my post on how we use visual schedules, etc., click here.) Little icons, signifying each assigned activity or task, were stuck to a big piece of paper with velcro.  When the students were done with one activity, they would move the icon to a “done” column, where another half of velcro awaited, ready to secure the icon to the board. Wow, I thought.  Little squares of paper don’t get lost!   The little squares didn’t get lost! They were even more secure than magnets!

A paraprofessional told me that she didn’t know what they would do in the autism support classrooms without Velcro.  It was like magic.

I started looking for other ways to use this overlooked wonder! I don’t sew (too much work, LOL) so I use the sticky kind.Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Storing vanilla and other extracts on the inside of cabinet doors– now I refill the old bottles and recycle the new ones, since the old ones have the velcro on them.

Keeping erasers and markers on a dry erase board

Keeping notepads from disappearing by attaching them to the inside of yet another cabinet door

Notepads secured to inside of cabinet door

Securing my paper accordion files and photo box lids

Hanging pictures on the wall (I was so happy when I found the command picture hanging velcro-like strips!)

Keeping my son’s shoe inserts in his shoes (Industrial strength velcro! Who knew?)

I’ve heard of people using industrial strength velcro to hang heavy items on walls, but I haven’t tried that yet.

I wonder, when I look around some more, what else I will find that I learned from the autism support classroom…

The great cleanout: Getting cash for my old books

I’ve said before that life is hectic and I look for things to simplify.  I had the opportunity to pay someone to clean my house (and massage my body), and I am amazed at the difference in my kids.  They are much calmer in a cleaner and more organized house.

So, we continue the shredding, cleaning, donating our stuff in our attempt to simplify this crazy busy household.

I just put a new link on my page: “Cash 4 Books.”  I wanted to share this with you, as it’s been a great “pocket money maker” for me. Also, fyi, this is my first affiliate link, so I do get a referral fee if you do business with them.

Note: non fiction, text books, newer books (2008+) are the most likely to be accepted.

This is how it works:

You enter in the ISBN numbers of your books. The site tells you if they will accept your books and how much they will pay your for them.

When you’re done entering in the ISBN numbers, you can print out a shipping label.  If you have enough books, you get free postal service or free fed ex to their place.

Upon receipt of shipment, they either send you a check or they deposit the amount into your paypal account.

It’s easy.  I heard about them and decided to try it when my local thrift shops were overrun with books and therefore were no longer accepting my book donations.  I’ve made anywhere from $.50 to $7 per book.  I figure that’s better than a yard sale.

Back to decluttering…

Dealing with messes, or “How’s it hangin’?”: Hooks

Life in a household affected by autism can be really messy. My mom clipped a newspaper article for me way back in 2007.  Here’s an excerpt:

Someone should’ve mentioned that autism is messy! Wallpaper’s meant to be shredded, bathrooms are designed to be flooded, walls are bare in order to smear stuff on them, washable paint really isn’t, and more food will actually be crushed and dropped than eaten. (Excellent article by Sandy Sotzen. Read more here.)

Finally sick of the mess, and to my hubby’s chagrin, I hired someone to clean. (It was the massage therapist!  She cleans, she massages… and it wasn’t too good to be true! January special: three hours of cleaning and two hours of massage for a great price. WOW.)

She claimed to be very fast.  She seemed to think that she could clean my whole downstairs area in three hours. And also possibly get to the upstairs bathrooms. I just smiled.

It took her 1 1/2 hours just to do the family room.

So we’re not perfect.

My kids and I are visual people.  We need to see things to remember that we have them, so sometimes clutter is a serious problem.

The clutter keeps us from cleaning.  (That, and the fact that the kiddos make “covert” messes that we find days later.) I am slowly steadily clutter busting so that I can have a clean home.   Less stuff, less to clean, right?

So, I am very excited to share a solution that works for us.

Drumroll, please….

I’m hooked on hooks!  (I know, I know…) Here are some examples:

  • I hang my pots and pans on hooks on a pot rack.
  • Hubby installed a towel rack on the kitchen wall, and I attached S-hooks for hanging my cooking utensils.
  • I put sticky cup hooks  inside a cabinet door to hang measuring spoons, etc.
  • We installed hooks on the wall by our front door for  hanging our coats, bags, and back packs.

What makes this so great?

  • My kids can now unload the dishwasher and put away the measuring spoons and pots without jamming a drawer or losing patience with making sure the pots are stacked just so.
  • Re: cabinet door hooks: we can just close the door and avoid creating more visual clutter, but still see “everything” when the door is open.
  • When things are hung, we can see that those things are where they belong and not just in one of the  random piles that multiply like rabbits.
  • It is obvious where the coats and backpacks belong, and  the frustration of things falling in the over stuffed coat closet and taking up all the room for the back packs is minimized.
  • It takes away excuses.  Hanging coat on a hook takes 2 seconds. Finding an empty hanger, wrestling the coat onto it, and hanging the coat– just forget it.

I’m hooked on hooks.  I search for kitchen stuff with holes or loops hanging on hooks. I’ve attached key ring, ribbons, and even yarn onto thing so that they could be hung on a hook.

Hooray! Life is hectic enough without the little annoyances that tip me over the edge. Nothing like mom screaming, “Where is my whisk?!!!! (Yes, in my house, even my cooking utensils are not safe from grubby little hands!) Anyone seen Philip’s coat???? ”  Now I just scream, “Ok, where does that go? Well, then, put it there!”  At least we’ve begun to do away with the excuses, all while playing to the kids’ visual strengths.

Question: How do you deal with messes at your house?