In a large family like ours, we have a lot of trash.  Most folks are surprised at the fact that we don’t have that much that goes into a “trash” bag, headed for the landfill, however, what we do have a lot of is the different TYPES of trash.  To avoid filling up landfills–all part of our belief in being stewards of our land–we try to send as little waste as possible to the dump.  Thus, we recycle whatever we can.  Over the years, we have a found a balance by sorting our trash into about 4 different piles: recycle (we can mix all our glass, plastic, cardboard, aluminum, etc. into one bin), paper for recycling or scrap use, paper with personal info for burning, and actual trash (anything that doesn’t fit into the other categories).  Our collection area is our pantry, which is not very large–equivalent to a standard bedroom closet.  With the kiddos “help,” I was finding the floor of my pantry constantly covered in trash due to an inefficient system of grocery sacks hanging on hooks that either dumped or from the kids getting confused which bag was for which trash, or whatever the reason.  I went searching for a better option.  I needed something that would fit into a tiny space, had 4 bins, and was simple and efficient.  I think I’ve found the answer!

Rubbermaid’s 2-in-1 Recycler.  rubbermaid

It’s quite a handy little sorter, actually, and very practical.  First, I took the 4 bins and put photos on each so even the littlest children knew what type of waste went in which bin.


Since the top two are just papers, I don’t worry about a bag.  If the scrap paper bin gets full, the handy handle allows it to simply be carried to the burn pile or the recycle bin outside.  Likewise, the handle on the other  “burn” paper bin allows the personal papers to be hauled to the fire pit.  The entire paper container simply lifts off the trash bin below it.  Of course, the fact that the bin just nests onto the lower bin means it would knock off pretty easily if bumped, but situated in a closet like ours, out of the way of traffic, it shouldn’t be getting bumped hard regularly.


I do put a bag in the bottom bins for recycle and trash, which can be wet or messy.  It holds a standard 12-18 gallon bag.  When full, this bin simply slides forward, out of the 3-sided backing section of the contraption.  You don’t even have to lift the top bin off.  The rest of the time, a gentle pull on the handle or step on the foot ledge tips the trash bin forward to deposit trash into it.


I’m loving these new bins.  They seem to be perfectly suited to our needs.  Although they don’t hold a whole lot, who really wants trash sitting around their house for several days anyway?  The trash and recycle bins will easily fit our entire household trash for a day or two, and the small size makes it very simple for the child responsible for trash duty.  So far, I highly recommend them!

I mentioned in a previous post (or 5) that a major challenge of this move has been the fact that we downsized from a 2400 sq.foot house to a 1600 sq. ft (plus basement) home.  We took our family of 7 from a 4 bedroom home to a 3 bedroom.  And, most challenging of all, we moved our rather extensive homeschool and personal library from a home with lots of storage to a home that had almost none.  Ever wonder what that might look like?  Yeah, I’m ashamed to admit, most of our summer involved our loft looking like this:

Rail side of loft, before....

Rail side of loft, before….

Window side of loft, before....

Window side of loft, before….

Yeah, that’s our boxes and books piled up on the floor, with hardly a trail to find what we needed.  You can’t see the makeshift box and card table set-up in the left corner for the computer and printer.  It was an unorganized mess, and I needed a plan, fast.  (For the record, that branch-type arch on the far wall was painted on as a faux headboard by the last owner.  It’s still there.  I will get around to painting it one day, but that’s pretty low on the priority list right now.)  With school starting in the near future, I had to get that space functional and organized.  Thus, I sat down with my drawing pad, came up with ideas, figured out a plan, and started to work on it.

First, I needed a plan for all the stuff, so I decided to build shelves in the hallway outside the loft.  Although the hall shelves actually went up AFTER the loft project, it was still a critical part of getting the final result:

I have to add one more shelf on the bottom before this project is complete, but you get the idea.  The decorating part is thanks to my mom.

I have to add one more shelf on the bottom before this project is complete, but you get the idea. The decorating part is thanks to my mom.

Once I got stuff out of the way, though, I was able to start building in the loft.  This was by far my most challenging project yet, as I wanted to build a wall-mounted counter/desk area.  It had to be built in place, though, which was a much bigger deal than I originally anticipated.  After having to start over on the project twice, I called in a relative who has made a career and a retirement out of his building skills.  He came and rescued me (and my loft).  I told him what I wanted, showed him how far I had gotten, he made a few changes and finished the rest of the building.  Then, I had to go back and fill gaps with wood putty, sand everything as smooth as I could (let’s just say it’s a good thing I like the “rough-cut” look and feel!), and stain the whole thing.  After several weeks of work though, I am absolutely thrilled with the final result:

....The railing side of the loft, after.

….The railing side of the loft, after.

...The window side of the loft, after.

…The window side of the loft, after.

I designed the counter to wrap around three walls of the loft.  The left side has the computer and printer, the center area also has 2 shelves for the boys’ school stuff, and the far wall has 2 more shelves and more counter space for additional school and activity storage.  The counter space beneath each window serves as individual desks for the boys.  In this photo, you can also see a TV table in front of N, as, until I find another chair like A has, N is too short to color on the new desk.  So, he uses the TV table for his worksheets instead.  The boys are in different grades, K4 and K5, and each have their own DVD player, class programs, and so forth.  As a result, they wear ear phones to help with their focus, and it seems to work pretty well so far.  If there is likely to be a lot of distractions in a lesson one day, then I always have the option of putting one of the boys at my desk outside the loft, or downstairs at the table.  For the most part, though, this setup works, allowing me to sit and read a book, do some paperwork, or work on the computer, all while monitoring their school day.  Most mornings, R sits beside N and does some of his easier K4 lessons with him.

I still have a bit of tweaking to do to totally finish this area–cord control, a little lamp/reading table by the lounger, painting those faux headboards (there is a second one behind the computer area), etc.  I’ll also be dusting and wiping this area for months before I will get the dust that still remains after the sanding job.  Oh well.  I just love this area, though, and since school has started, it’s a good thing since I likely now spend more time here than anywhere else.

I’m making progress…in my wood-working skills, unpacking, and decorating the house.  Here’s my latest:

First, I built a frame:

Then I attached top boards, ripped to 5 inches wide:


Next, I used liquid nails, a couple of screws, and some finishing nails (yeah, a little overkill, but hey, it’s for kiddos!)  to attach trim:



I leveled the top good with a sander, filled all seams and gaps with wood putty, and sanded again:


Finally, I attached it to a backboard of plywood:

IMG_1109Wanna take a guess yet?

After that part was complete, I made 2 shelves to match and some supports to match, painted it all to coordinate with the room it was to go in, attached a light, and voila:


The shelf supports were set up to also act as book ends, and I also added more supports to the top of the desk and the top shelf:


Then, I finally got around to doing a little more organizing in the boy’s room, so JR is officially ready for school to start in just 3 weeks!


Now, to find him a chair….

Whether you call it a Daily Operations Center, Operation Central, Family Organization Center, or whatever else you prefer, when you have children, I have decided it makes life soooo much easier.  It’s one of the first things I try to get up when we move to a new house.  I have had several over the years, and they progressed from a simple chore chart on the wall to several items I found myself needing throughout the day.

Our "Training Center" condensed to a standard-sized bulletin board.

Our “Training Center” condensed to a standard-sized bulletin board.

This time, I wanted more than just a simple bulletin board.  The only wall I had to put it on was a centrally located wall in my dining room, which is also one of the first walls seen when you enter our front door.  Thus, I also needed it to look somewhat nice.  It desperately needed a new paint job anyway, but it meant I had to find a new location for the piano (which we don’t yet play, but it has been in S’s family for a while now).  This was the wall before:



Amazing what  a little paint, some picture frames, cork board, simple wood shelving and stain, and some trips to Hobby Lobby can create:




Our new “Family Operations Center” includes a small rack that contains baskets with our table cloths, napkins, and placemats, all plates and bowls, and our utensils so the kiddos whose job is to set the table have easy access, without being under-foot in the kitchen.  The upper shelf on the wall is just a decorative shelf I used to bring it all together.  It just looked better with it.  On the left is a basic photo frame with a calendar I drew on poster board.  With the glass over it, it makes a perfect, decorative, dry erase calendar.  Under that is our “Penny Jars,”  which I will explain in another post.  Below the shelf are where the Chore Packs hang.  You can read more about that HERE.  I have made some changes to the Chore Pack system we used in the past, which I will also discuss in a future post.

To the right of those things is another picture frame, with no glass.  I cut a cork board to fit in about 2/3 of it, where I can hang our “If-Then Chart”, our “Extra Chore Chart”, and a bit of room to expand.  The other 1/3 is a vinyl cover that creates another dry-erase section for to-do lists and such.

Finally, all the way to the right is our new “Family Rules” list.  I couldn’t find a pretty one that was Christian based, but this one was pretty good.  It has things like “Do Your Best,” “Hug Often,” “Laugh at Yourself,” “Share,” and other such things can generally keep peace in a home.

I am very pleased with how it turned out.  Now maybe I can start getting things more organized around here, now that the kids have some direction to help out!

I have been on a bit of a construction phase lately.  Considering I’ve never really worked with wood before, I am quite nervous around power tools, and I have only incredibly hard wood to work with (meaning beautiful wood, but lots of stripped screws and broken screw heads–even with pilot holes!), I really am becoming quite proud of the work I’m accomplishing around here.  One of my recent projects is getting my living room set up a bit.  This house has no shelves to store things, so I have to build them.  I am building 2 sets of 4 decorative shelves in the living room to hold our family scrapbooks, our frequently-used farm reference and religious books, and a few knick-knacks that are meaningful to us.

First, I only had 8 inch boards to work with, so I ripped those down to 7 inches wide, attached 2 together to make a 14-inch shelf, then trimmed off and sanded the front edge to give it more rustic look, and finally stained it.  The photos don’t  show the detail of the edge, but I think it turned out really nice!


I attached one side to a stringer directly on the wall, and the other to a wrought-iron-style bracket.


Then I set to decorating with some of the stuff just sitting homeless around this house.


I am so excited to see things coming together around here.  I still have to finish the shelves on the other side, but I’m over half way to finished.  Then I just have to finish hanging the drapery and I think the living room will be set for a while.

My husband has this crazy idea that garages are designed for parking your vehicles in.  Imagine that.  I guess the idea is to protect the expensive automobile investment from things like weather and other outdoor dangers.  Of course, in order to do so, you have to limit the clutter stored in the garage, and I suppose that’s always a good thing.

In any case, we bought our new (to us) truck just over a month ago, and S had to find a way to fit it in the garage.  We generally don’t store items we don’t use, so clutter isn’t a big problem.  Our 2-car garage is, however, already home to 2 chest freezers, our minivan, all animal and bee supplies except hay (since we don’t have a barn), all our bulk groceries, S’s tools and mini-workshop, and the family bicycles.  This didn’t leave a whole lot of room for a full-size pick-up truck.  S was determined, though, and this was the end result:

Yup, it's a little tight.

Yup, it’s a little tight.

So tight, in fact, the driver cannot enter through the driver's door.  The driver must climb in through the passenger door (which has only slightly more room), and scoot.

So tight, in fact, the driver cannot enter through the driver’s door. The driver must climb in through the passenger door (which has only slightly more room), and scoot.

In order to make room for the push bar that was installed on the front of the truck, he raised all the bikes to ceiling level (notice them hanging over the hood), slid the chest freezer over about 3 inches, and VIOLA!

In order to make room for the push bar that was installed on the front of the truck, he raised all the bikes to ceiling level (notice them hanging over the hood), slid the chest freezer over about 3 inches, and VIOLA!

Where there’s a will, there is always a way!!  Getting into and out of the truck just helps encourage me to stay on the thin side myself!  Mind you, the minivan is our primary vehicle, and we don’t drive the truck a whole lot at this point.  That makes things a little easier for the time being.  I’m hoping our next garage will be a bit more spacious though!



As you may know, we have had our house For Sale By Owner (FSBO).  It has been an interesting experience.  We googled FSBO and learned all we could about prepping and staging a home.  During the week, we would continue working on projects around the house.  S carefully observed the potential buyer’s expressions and listened to their comments to get a better feel for things around the house that were a turn off, and then he would try to fix those things for the next showing.  The more research we did, the more we realized our set-up had a slightly “cluttered” feel to it, which is apparently undesirable to potential buyers.  So, I started purging.  I spent several weeks in January and February going through stuff, craigslisting or freecycling some things, and putting others in a yard-sale pile in the garage.  Items that weren’t really needed until after the move, I packed into boxes.  I focused on packing things that were visible or made a closet or bookshelf look too stuffed.  At one point, I packed 4 boxes of books from one bookshelf, then reorganized the bookshelf to look more decorative.  S got home from work and couldn’t tell I’d packed a thing (though he did think the shelf looked quite nice)!

Bookshelf Before:


Bookshelf After (after packing 4 box loads of books from this one shelf!):


One tip we continually found was that a kitchen can make or break a deal for a woman, so the kitchen should be presented at its best!

Kitchen Before (notice the tops of the cupboards):


Kitchen After (keeping out only what I knew I would likely use prior to the move):


Then, in an effort to both declutter the kids’ rooms and to assist my efforts to keep the house clean, each child was allowed to pick one toy (or type of toy, like legos), essentially giving every child a choice of 5 toys to play with for the next few months).  All others got packed.  After I got the tops of cabinets, bookshelves, and closets looking nicer, I then had piles of boxes I had to figure out a spot for.  We considered renting a storage locker, but decided to postpone that option.  At the same time, we were converting our family-closet into a bedroom for the showings.  The closet set-up made the room look much smaller than it is, and we wanted to open it up a bit.  The only problem was, I didn’t have another bed to put in there. Then, S decided to clean and de-clutter his garage.  If a kitchen makes or breaks the sale for a woman, according to our research, a garage can make or break the deal for a man.  S asked if I had anywhere inside I could put some things, one of which was a headboard.  Then I got an idea!

Before:  The Family Closet; practical and convenient, but a bit cluttered.


After: The faux bedroom; look closely–totally impractical, useless, and a waste of space, but good for storing boxes and providing an opportunity to laugh!


Look closely at that photo.  You can just slightly see the secret peeking from beneath the quilt.  I took the extra boxes, stacked them in front of that extra headboard to look like a bed, “softened” the harsh edges with some extra blankets and pillows cluttering my linen closets, covered it all with a floor-length quilt, and VOILA!  Don’t you love the added personal touch M offered, by placing a Bible on one of the “tables?”


I just had to forbid the kiddos to actually sit on it, lest it collapse.  I was left with a few larger boxes, some of which were relegated to our walk-in closet upstairs (there comes a point where folks have to understand we are moving!), and 2 were assigned duty as bed-side tables for the box-bed.  I should probably cover them somehow, but maybe it will give someone a laugh.  After all, it’s all about staging and imagination, right?

Over the last few months, we have had a couple of people return to look multiple times.  We have also had one offer.  Unfortunately, it was an insultingly bad offer in many ways (mentioned in a previous post), so we declined.  We have had lots of “city folk” who just want to move out into the Forest, and a few country-loving folks who appreciate the value of our land rights here.  We’ve had several ask if we’d owner finance or rent, many who have to sell their house before they can buy a new one, and a few who were very interested, but just couldn’t get financing.  We had a promising showing this weekend, with a couple who were already approved for financing, don’t have a house to sell first, seem to have big dreams of hobby farming, and liked all the outbuildings and setups we already had in place.  Even their realtor sincerely complimented our staging efforts (while the couple was walking around outside), and explained their frustration at seeing a nice photo of a house, going out to look, and the place being a dump in reality.  He described how ours appeared to be exactly what they are looking for, and how it was everything the pictures made it seem.  That made me feel really good, and I am still praying maybe it will result in an offer.  Nonetheless, we continue looking for ways to stage, stressing about trying to keep the place cleaned and de-cluttered for the next showing (no easy feat with all these young-uns!), and praying that God will send the perfect family who can appreciate all the work and efforts we have put into this place to improve the land organically.  If we don’t get an acceptable offer in the next month, though, as was originally planned, we will be listing with our realtor in March, to make it official and more visible on the MLS.  Of course, since we will have realtor fees to pay at that point, then the price will also increase significantly, and be placed closer to market value.  We’ll see what God has in store, but with the ever-increasing list of items needed for Red Gate, we sure are hoping His plan includes a quick and easy sale!!

With the arrival of the snow last night, my big project of the day was to come up with a way to organize the tremendous amounts of winter gear for 6 people.  It only made sense for everything to go into our entry-way closet, so I started out by emptying the closet and starting with the bare bones organizers.  After just one snow day, I realized I needed several things:

  • a place for dry gear and extras
  • a section dedicated to each person, for their gear such as hats, gloves, etc.
  • a place for damp gear to dry
  • a place for boots
  • a place for big, bulky items to hang (parkas, bibs, etc)
  • a place for lighter jackets for those periodic warmer days

The bare bones included the hanging rod (top) and the little shelf with hanger underneath.  Last year, we got great use out of baskets and drawer systems, but we discovered some flaws.  First of all, the baskets and drawer bin we used were way too small to hold everything.  But it was a start.  I decided to purchase some larger, equally-sized drawer bins for the primary small-stuff storage, and to use the baskets only for damp things so they could easily dry out overnight.  This is what my final result was:

You can see in the pic the kids’ lighter-weight jackets, as well as S and my jackets and parkas hang from the top rod.  The little shelf is perfect for the kids to hang those damp parkas and bibs on, though I would recommend hanging such a shelf a bit higher than the tallest child’s parka/bib will hang.  Ours is a bit low here.  The boots sit nicely right underneath.  Off to the right, is the new drawer system, with each person’s drawer labeled with their name.  I already know I am going to love that bin (though I wish it weren’t plastic!). 

So there you have it.  A great way to keep all that gear off the floor and in the closet.  One last thing I would like to do is find/purchase a cheap, washable rug to go over that entry-area floor.  I am already tired of the water and muck that gets tracked in the front door!  I have considered having the kids remove their boots at the front door, before coming in, but it is so cold, that their little feet would be just miserable next time they put them on.  I think an absorbent rug will be the best option.  If you use any organizing systems you really like, I would love to hear your ideas!  I am still working on my design for the farm “mud-room” area, and need all the ideas I can get!

As mom and maid to a large and still-growing family, I have had to devise all sorts of ways to manage household chores and keep some semblence of organization around here.  One of the most frequent issues I hear other moms complain about is the laundry aspect.  Trying to keep multiple children and a working spouse properly clothed is certainly no easy feat, but I have found a method that seems to work very well for us.  So I thought I’d share.

First, I came up with a list of the loads of laundry I needed to do.  For example, I came up with loads such as:

  • Dark clothes
  • Light clothes
  • Colors (if I have too many darks to combine)
  • Bath Towels and washcloths
  • Placemats, cloth napkins, and kitchen towels
  • Master bed sheets
  • Bunkbed sheets
  • Crib and M’s sheets
  • Bathroom rugs
  • comforters
  • Other misc. items such as dog bed cover, futon cover, couch cushion covers and pillows, bed shams, sheets that cover kid’s seats in car, etc.

Then, I took each type of load, and assigned it a rough frequency such as daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly.  This is obviously a rough estimate, as, for example, comforters only need to be done about once a quarter, but you never know when a child might pee all over one during nap one day.  It gets bumped up sooner in that case.

I then divided my weekdays into 5 laundry days…Monday through Friday.  I learned that our weekends are so busy doing family activities that it was pointless to schedule regular laundry on those days.  I assigned each laundry day a category of laundry based on the frequency categories I had developed.  I also went a step further and broke these categories down into what I would do each week of the month.  For example:

  • Monday: Sheets (wk 1=master sheets, wk 2=bunk bed sheets, wk 3 = twin and crib sheets)
  • Tuesday:  Darks and colors (same each week)
  • Wednesday:  Lights (same each week)
  • Thursday:  Kitchen and bath items  (same each week)
  • Friday:  Misc. items (wk 1= bath rugs, wk 2= comforter of the month, wk 3= shams, etc.)
  • Weekends:  Catch up laundry days as available

This wouldn’t be ideal for everyone, but by breaking the loads into individual categories and days of the week and month, I can walk into an overflowing laundry room and know that it will all be taken care of by the end of the week.  Yes, it means our sheets often only get washed once a month, but at least I know they will get washed that month, and not be overlooked!  Over time, I have come up with a few other solutions to make this process even easier.

  • Each child only has roughly 7-10 outfits available on their shelf at any given time.  This limits the number of dirty clothes that have to be washed.
  • Cloth diapers are washed daily with whatever the load of the day is.   This keeps the smell down, and allows for purchase of fewer diapers.
  • I try to fold the laundry of that day each evening when the kids go to bed.  If I get behind, I do it as soon as I can.  The pressure of the family running low on clothes helps me stay on top of it.  Folding is my big weakness in the laundry area!
  • I try to collect only clothes that don’t need ironing.  This saves tons of time!  S often irons his work uniforms, but I only pick up an iron a couple of times of year this way.  Here is another tip…if you want to wear an outfit that is somewhat wrinkly, but want it to look better faster, then just spritz it with a water bottle.  Wrinkles will usually fall right out of most standard fabrics. 
  • I have individual sorters for most categories of laundry.  I taught the kids which category of laundry to put where.  This prevents me having to sort on laundry day.  I just grab the container of the day and toss it in the wash.  Yes, my laundry room has misc. baskets and laundry bags sitting around, but it does give it that needed semblence of organization. 
  • I have a basket for all unmatched socks to go in after I fold.  I typically find the missing sock within the week, but in the mean time, all unmatched socks are waiting, out of the way, and it is easy to match the pair later.

Hope this helps you with your laundry issues.  If you have other tips, I would love to know them!

A year or so ago, we set out to eliminate as much plastic and other toxins from our lives as possible.  We discovered that there are many items that only come in plastic, but other items do come in safer options—if you are willing to search them out.  Toys for example, come in plastic most of the time, but if you look for older toys, or search on specialty websites, you can find them in metal and/or wood.  Around the kitchen, I eliminated most plastic, aluminum, and most teflon, and replaced it with pyrex glass, stoneware, cast-iron, wood, silicone, and stainless steel.  We even eliminated the kid’s plastic tumblers and sippy cups, and replaced them with glass canning jelly-jars.  Eventually I found some stainless 8 oz. tumblers that were perfect, but very expensive.  Unfortunately, there were a few items I just could not find, or could not find at an affordable price.  I wanted a few more tumblers, a better option for S to take his lunches to work (he was taking 2-3 heavy pyrex containers everyday, and stainless popsicle molds.  Some of these were just impossible to find. 

Until now.  A lady in Canada was in a similiar situation, couldn’t find what she needed, and decided to find a way to make the items.  The store she has put together as a home-business is amazing!  I wanted to recommend it to anyone else looking for options.  I found my stainless popsicle molds (a little pricey, but I LOVE them!!).  They are great for our family, as the design allows me to fill them all the way up for the bigger kids and adults, or only 1/3 to 1/2 full for the toddlers.  When we are ready to eat them, I just run the steel under tap water for about 5 seconds, and they slide right out:

I also found a great option for S’s lunch box meals:

This stainless container has removable dividers that allow him to seperate his food.  It is much lighter and safer than pyrex, seals better to prevent leaks, and locks.  When he gets home, we just toss it into the dishwasher (FYI, the instructions say the lid is NOT dishwasher safe, though we have put it on the top shelf with no problem). 

They have MANY other items to choose from, including storage containers, child-related items like plates and tumblers, and more.  Check them out!

A few other things I have come to really like can be purchased from many retail outlets like, other websites, or even local stores, so I always do a little price-comparison when shopping.  These items include name brands (or similiar items) such as:

  • Melissa and Doug (wooden toys and homeschool activities)
  • Klean Kanteen (stainless and very versatile sports bottles)
  • Lodge Logic  (pre-seasoned cast iron)
  • The Container Store (lots of wood, glass, and metal storage ware and organizing tools)
  • Pampered Chef (the best stone bakeware I have found yet)
  • Re-usable fabric grocery bags
  • Re-usable mesh produce storage bags
  • Debbie Meyer re-usable bread bags (they are plastic, but are re-usable, and sized perfectly for homemade loaves)
  • Glass canning jars for dry food storage (I use plastice lids, but the lids don’t generally come in contact with the food)

If you have found other solutions, I would love to hear about them!  Please share in the comments section!

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