Back to School Tips-How I prepped for the new year.

We went back to school this week, and I hate to say it, but it totally snuck up on me. Again.

The boy will be in third grade this year, and we have totally changed our lives. This year’s routine will be totally different. I work at home now, and we live just about a mile from the school, so we’re walkers! When I was on maternity leave, I loved the routine of walking the kids to and from school and the boy actually talked to me about his day. I want to believe that it’s because he cherishes our time together, and not just because there is nothing better to do.

I’ve been prepping for about a week for this first week back to school, and I wanted to share with you all what I did.

Passion Planner
My trusty planner!

I scheduled each day. With the new life changes this year, my toddler is at home with me. I decided to run a couple hours of “homeschool” in the morning before her nap. Each week is a different letter focus, we’ll be doing some sensory play and counting. I have this Pinterest board just for her, so all of my homeschool parents, feel free to send me your best stuff! I’m also a part-time virtual assistant, so I need about six hours each day to dedicate to clients and business, which I have broken out into two-hour blocks throughout the day.

I meal planned and then scheduled those meals. I have always meal planned, but I haven’t been planning what days each dinner will occur. This way I can have things chopped and ready to go, meat thawed, etc. on the night that I need it.

I prepped everyone’s breakfast and lunches. Even though the girl and I are at home this year, I went ahead and prepped our breakfast and lunches to make life easier and to make sure I have a better meal structure than I did over the summer. I did easy egg and cheese cups for breakfast, and everyone got their own lunches.

meal prep final
My fridge after everything is done!

Boy: Turkey sandwich with carrots, ranch dip, and an apple.

Girl (toddler): turkey pepperoni, cheese, peas, and crackers.

Mom and Dad: Salad with sliced turkey.

My family is honestly cool with eating the same things every day and I hardly have a complaint. I switch up the meats and types of veggies, but essentially it’s all the same stuff every day.

kid lunch
Back to school lunch!

The night before we made sure the boy had all of his stuff together. We discussed the new routine, walking through everything we’d be doing from sun up to sun down. I made sure he understood my expectations for the morning and evening routines, his chores, his behavior and the activities he’d be allowed between the hours of 3 and 8 pm.

 

I am going to repeat these steps each week, and my goal is smooth sailing all year long! Subscribe to follow and see if I make it!

Let’s make this the best back to school season yet!

Declutter Pt. 2: How to get your family to let go of their stuff.

declutter car
The back of my car after the declutter!

In this post I shared the reasons I felt my family needed to declutter and showed the end result, but let’s really talk about HOW I accomplished this, with a husband, toddler and an eight-year-old.

1. I did not make my husband get rid of anything. When I told him what I was doing, he agreed that it was great, but “don’t touch my stuff.” I get it, he holds a high value and purpose to all of his stuff, and he even ended up getting rid of some of his t-shirts. My husband is a pretty purposeful shopper, and his stuff is neatly tucked away, for the most part, so I didn’t press the issue.

2. I got rid of all of my own stuff first. I let my family watch me go through my collections, clothes, bookshelves, kitchen, and drawers before asking them to do anything. I let my son help me make decisions and talk about memories with certain items. Then, I tossed them out, I wanted him to see that the decision to get rid of things was not effortless, but not really a big deal. We talked through why I wanted to keep some things over others, and it was actually really helpful to me.

3. The baby obviously didn’t have a choice. Her room was the easiest. At 20 months old, she has collected so much extra stuff. Duplicates of pretty much everything and so many toys that she doesn’t know what to do first when going into her room. I easily set aside toys I hadn’t seen before, clothes that were too small and left the things I thought she would love to play with most. Honestly, I kept things that I really liked to play with too.

4. I let my 8-year-old make all of the decisions regarding the stuff in his room. We started with clothes, and I did make him keep three nice outfits for visiting the great grandparents and going golfing with them, but other than that he kept the items he loved and we let go of the rest. Surprisingly, he was ready to let go of a lot of old toys and even less surprising, so much of his clutter was TRASH. Actual trash…an entire bag of it. (I did show him where our actual trash can was and let him know he is free to use it at any time. hahaha!)

5. This was only part ONE. My plan is to do this again right before summer is over (which is in TWO WEEKS now), to assess if we need to replace any clothing or find that we haven’t touched any of the stuff we kept. I may just do it quarterly till we run out of stuff. Personally, I had a rough time getting rid of kitchen items, and I know there is more that I could get out of there. So I will be doing another after the holiday season since I am sure some items are seasonal, so I want to see if I dig them out.

6. I am now asking our friends and family to stop with the stuff giving. I know it feels great to give children stuff you think they would like and see the joy on their faces and it makes you feel fuzzy inside. I get it, but as soon as it gets home it gets lost in the abyss of their other items and never seen again.

Instead, I am asking that our loved ones give our children the gift of spending time with them. Take them to the park, come grab them for a special visit, chat with them on the phone or Skype. Make a memory and create something far more special than a thing that will probably end up under my couch for six months. Also, I need to clean from under the couch more often, because that actually happens.

Do you all strive to clean out the stuff in your house, or do you have an organization of the items you have?

How I keep my house clean by doing half the work!

clean house pinI make my kids do quite a few chores, plain and simple. I feel that kids should learn responsibility and independence early on to foster long-term habits.

Also, I also don’t want to be doing everyone’s laundry and picking up toys till the end of time. So it is a bit selfish too, I will never lie to you. My summer cleaning schedule is designed to teach the kids some household skills and give me some time back so I can actually have some fun too.

There are affiliate links in this post for products I love and use. If they are used to purchase, I may receive a few dollars. 

After much research and lots of trial and failure at keeping my home neat and tidy, I believe I have finally come up with a cleaning schedule that works for my home. In my days working outside of the home, I did everything over the course of Saturday and Sunday and totally ruining my weekend. When I decided to leave and come back to homemaking, I knew things had to change, less work and more chill. End of story.

Now that it is officially summer, I can include my kids in my grand plan and cut my work in half!

Each day, I have a set of four to six chores that I now share with my children. Mostly the eight-year-old, but as little sister follows him around, she is learning good habits as well. I have put him in charge of showing her the basics, and he thinks that is pretty darn awesome.


The thing is, most children are more capable of doing more than we think they can. Yes, most times my son sort of half does things, which means he has to do it twice. Yes, it’s not always the way  would do things, but who says I’m right? My point here is that I am setting my kids up to already know how to take care of themselves when they leave my house.

Here is a list of chores for my eight-year-old:

  • Laundry-from start to finish!
  • Trash and recycling; take out of the house and down to the curb.
  • Vacuum
  • Bathroom cleaning
  • Pulling weeds
  • Watering plants
  • Pick up rooms
  • Dust
  • Wipe kitchen counters and tables after dinner
  • Clean baseboards

I am sure there is more, but that is a TON of stuff off of my plate! Which gave me the time to write this post and drink an extra cup of coffee. Call me lazy or call me genius…I prefer the latter.

The baby is just starting, but I already have her taking her own diapers to the trash, picking up her toys and putting dirty laundry in the hamper. My mission is to basically never do ALL of the cleaning ever again.

Click Here to get a printable with how we really structure our cleaning schedule!

 

Do you have your kids help you clean? What are some innovative ways to include your youngest children?

 

Support your local farmers! Blueberry Edition

local farmers blueberryI believe that the support of your local farmers is unbelievably important, not only to those that run the farms but to our communities and our own families.  I have a favorite blueberry farm here in central Florida that we go to every year. Their blueberries are the best I’ve had and they have really created an experience out there, and I love for the kids to be out in the open and doing some manual work to get their sweets. The girl is in love with berries and loved the process of picking them. While the boy is militant in his picking decisions and constantly tells me my choices are subpar. Thanks, bub.

boy blueberry pickingTowards the end of April, the kids and I went out to the farm, and I originally was going to use this experience to write my blueberry jam recipe and canning tutorial for the blog, but the kids had a different idea.

They ate ALL OF THE BLUEBERRIES. In a week. So no jam, but we had an amazing time picking and eating them out in the sunshine and running around the farm getting our toes dirty and fingers purple from the fruit.

girl blueberry pickingTake your children, family, friends, and go take a look at the local farms in your area, you will probably be surprised at how many exist and the amazing memories you will carry with you long afterward.

As a re-starting out suburban homesteader, going out to locally owned farms is the next best thing to growing your own. I have plans to go out to several more with my children over the summer, so keep an eye out for future posts! farm overlook boy
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Why I chose to return to homemaking

This is an accurate depiction of what I look like on a daily basis.

I have spent the last five years in a corporate executive assistant role for a large healthcare provider; and for the most part, I have enjoyed my work.  I earned my Bachelor’s degree in the field and almost immediately found this as my career. I love the people that I support, but over the past year or so, this work has not been fulfilling to me, and although I am gaining more responsibility, I am feeling like I am wasting my time.

This feeling is what led to my decision to come back into the home to be with my family, support my husband in his endeavors, and create a home that we all can enjoy and be proud of. I once was a homemaker when my son was small and my husband’s work sent us overseas to live in Italy for three years. When we returned to the States, I was excited and beyond ready to “get back to work”. Everyone would say, “I bet you can’t wait to get back to work, you must have been bored.” I’d agree and update my resume and continue the hunt.

 

My son and I back in ’09.

Thinking back on that time though, the time when I was home with my son as a growing and learning toddler, I was NEVER bored, we were always on the go. We would travel, be with our friends, volunteer, and still have time to keep a clean home and cook a good meal. Now that my daughter has become a full-fledged toddler, I was really wanting to come back home.

 

I mean…look at that face!!

I want to share in my daughter’s new learning experiences, I want to do actual activities with both my son and daughter and not just taxi them to school and soccer, and try to squeeze in some fun stuff while trying to keep my home the way that I want it.

Really, this is an admission that I cannot do it all, I cannot have the full-time career, the beautiful home, the experiences with my children and my husband. When thinking about what I was willing to give up; my career was on the top of that list. I am okay with that. I know that I can do work that I enjoy here in my home, with my husband, with my children; and feel completely full and accomplished at the end of each day.