I am a self-diagnosed neat freak. I love to clean and I love to organize. (If I could have a container, holder and/or label for EVERYTHING, my life would be complete!) And this is my brand new blog for everything NEAT!
I have a toddler in perpetual motion, a packrat daughter, a dog and a disorganized husband... and I hope to share the challenges, trials, errors, rewards and insights of being a bit "too clean obsessive" in a family that's not so in love with neatness. And I am making a promise to clean, rearrange, organize and simplify my life... and help you along the way! SO stay tuned for my journey toward everything orderly and efficient!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Day 75: Messy Kitchen? Win big!

Have a messy kitchen? I say, "Who doesn't after the holidays?!?!"

After baking special treats, shopping, going on vacation, serving planned and pop-in guests and just getting behind on the ole' cleaning routines, the heart of the home can certainly become a bit of a disaster at Christmastime! BUT... this is GOOD news for you! My friends over at SonicScrubbers are holding a "messy kitchen" contest! (Perfect timing, right?!?!?!) The messiest kitchen will win the grand prize of a FREE professional cleaning service! And other not-so-neat rooms will walk away with SonicSrubbers' awesome power cleaning tools, which I have personally used.... and personally recommend!

To enter, just send in your messiest messy kitchen photo. Click HERE for more details. (You can see photo entries on FaceBook. WOAH! What a mess!)

Good luck. Hope you can benefit from your mess! (The cleaning-up part can come later!)

Now, THAT's neat!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day 74: Yes you CAN!

When I was in elementary school and junior high, we had to sell stuff from catalogs of 100's of random things to raise money for our choir, band, sports teams, etc., etc. One of those catalogs came out at Christmastime, and I distinctly remember ordering silver snowflake wrapping paper, chocolate caramel apple candies... and a soda can holder.

It's such a simple little device, but it truly can save time... space... and frustration, if you enjoy canned drinks! Just roll a whole case (or 12 cans, total) of your aluminum-encased beverages into the holder...

...and place the whole thing in your fridge! The cans should just roll right down to the bottom as you need them!

Now, THAT's neat!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 73: When in doubt... HIDE the clutter!

As in most households these days, we have a ton of remote controls, game controllers and other electronic gadgets that go with our game consoles, TV, Blu-ray player, etc., etc. And I just HATE when these items are scattered all over the coffee table... on the floor... on the couch... and IN the couch, buried under blankets or pillows or cushions.

So, most of the controllers are relegated to the drawer in the coffee table. Lined up. Side by side. Easy enough, right?!?! BUT... the other stuff (i.e. Wii remotes, game "guns" and other random zappers and such) are also nearby.... but cleverly hidden.

That's right! Here in plain sight lie a tangled mess of doo-dads! Where?!?! Why, in the decorative chest on the table. Ta-da!

This way, my family is happy because they don't have to go too far to get their stuff... and I am happy because I can just close the lid and not see the mess! :)

Now, THAT's neat!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 72: Neat Guest Tips

This is the time of year when families are a-visiting... and that guest bedroom/office/storage area/music room/whatever-you-use-it-for room is possibly getting some overnight guests!

While you can't force your company to be super clean and well organized during their visit, you can offer them a sample of your own neat habits! So, here are a few simple tips!

1. Set up a clock/alarm clock on a side table near the bed. I know most phones nowadays have alarms built it, but a clock is a simple, helpful touch for your out-of-town visitors.
2. Keep empty hangers in the closet for your guests to use to hang up some of their items during their stay! This is VERY easy to do... and it's MUCH neater than your guests throwing their items around the room or hanging them on chairs or over doors! EEK! :)
3. Put baskets of soaps, shampoos and other bath necessities in your guest bathroom, along with some clean towels. THIS is your chance to use all those extra hotel freebies you've been stashing in your suitcase! I save just about every unused bottle of mouthwash, lotion, conditioner, etc. and I even snag the shower caps or other items and keep them in the guest bathroom... just in case my visitor left an important item behind. (I've displayed all the "prettiest" items I've collected on this cute, little shelf!)

4. Place a basket of "samples" in the bathroom or in the closet. I have small packs of toothpaste and deodorant along with headache medicine, floss and stain remover in my basket! I also put all the extra hotel freebies in here. This little basket of helpful items can save you - and your guest - a lot of time and stress!

5. Set out a few bottles of water. You could also put out a basket of snacks (i.e. peanut butter crackers, gum, hard candies, etc.) and even some fresh flowers in the room, but a few bottles of water make for a nice, simple welcoming gesture!

Now, THAT's neat!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 71: The Organized Party

I don't have all the answers when it comes to planning, organizing, hosting and cleaning up after parties... but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve!

AND... since I just hosted the 6th annual Christmas cookie swap at my home last night, I figured I'd share just a couple of my most popular - and hopefully useful - party tips!

I may make a few lists when I'm preparing for a party, but I am not an ultra-organized party planner. When it comes to throwing a fun get-together in my home, I plan out foods, beverages, favors, games, etc., etc., but I don't have any whiz-bang theories about it! :)

However, I do like to prep in stages. For instance, if you're planning a party for Sunday afternoon, and it's Friday night, go ahead and get some things done! Clean the party area(s). Bake or prep some of the food items (i.e. cheesecakes taste better a few days after baking, so I always bake those in advance of any gathering!). And start "staging" your party area(s). Move furniture to accommodate additional chairs or tables. Get table decor ready. And as soon as you can, plan out your food areas!

I like to organize and decorate my food table the day before (or at the very least, hours before) the party. In the photo, you can see that I have plates, napkins, serving plates, bowls and utensils in their places, ready to go! All that's missing is the food! (NOTE: If you'd like, use post-it notes to remind yourself what goes where.) This is SUCH a great time saver and a relief to get out of the way!

Of course, you can also see that I've placed a few different bags of chips in some tins. This way, they are ready to go! And if I have a helper, he/she will know what goes where! (Neat freak cheat sheet: I use tins or baskets lined with napkins for chips. This way, they are uniformly and neatly displayed; the chips look good and are easy to get to; and they clean up super fast! Just throw away the napkins... and rinse and dry the tins, if needed!)

AND... if you noticed, I have my plastic forks in another small tin on the table. This is an easy and fun way to incorporate utensils in your "partyscape!" You can also use glasses or vases... and if the utensils are a bit top heavy, try using marbles, beans or rice in the bottom of the container for some stability (and possibly a splash of color!).

Now, THAT's neat!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 70: For the Love of Books (PART 2)

Ok, as promised, here is the second part of my post about books! As I mentioned earlier in part 1, I LOVE books... and I have a LOT of them! This leads to a problem on where to store these books. I mean, I am a neat freak, after all, so I can't live in a house with haphazard book crazies all over the place! So, I've come up with a few different ways to display my books so they are organized, easy to use... and lovely to view!

Here, in my daughter's room, books are neatly displayed (by height order) in a doll-house-style bookcase that my husband made. She pulls books out and reads them, and then she and I later figure out where/how to put them back! (That's why her books are leaning over right now.... there are several just-read books you can't see that are sitting nearby on the floor!)

In my baby boy's room, we have a cute little canvas sling bookshelf. I LOVE this thing! It's a perfect size for him to pull out books he wants to chew on... uh, enjoy... and since all the books are displayed face out, it's easy to find which one you want! The different levels are different depths, so you can place little books in the bottom sling and bigger books in the top sling. It's quite fun and easy to use! (I think we got ours for about $50. So, they are not too pricey, either! You can even get colorful ones and ones with names or monograms. But we decided on plain and simple!)

Our guest bedroom serves, in part, as office space. Hence the desk. This is also where many of my teaching reference/resource books are. They are just neatly stacked and organized in various patterns, again, mostly based on size.

This unit in our family room was built by my husband, on my request. I really love the ladder bookshelves, and I was so thrilled to have one of my own! I think they are such a fun style and just compact enough for smaller spaces. As you can see, this bookshelf is covered in books! But I have mixed in some decorative items, like greenery and pictures, even a candle or two. This unit also holds one of our speakers. Another stands nearby. And the sub woofer sits on the floor (to the left)t. I stacked up some books here, too, and finished it off with a family photo. If it HAD to be there, I figured it could be more a part of the decor! :)

Also in the family room are two large standing bookshelves. Some of our electronic equipment is housed here, but intermixed are books and photos and some other decorative items (can't go wrong with a little greenery here and there!). Just so you know, the books here in the family room are some of our most read/enjoyed books (so, no resource and reference books here). I keep them in order (or grouped) by author or by topic, but they are not alphabetical! For instance, the books behind the clock (that my father-in-law made) are all John Grisham books! The books next to the swirly green vase are all about Disney. This makes for a nice "look," but it's also purposeful, and I can find THAT book that I am searching for... to reread or to pass along for someone to borrow. (ON a side note: I am VERY picky about my books. Some would say obsessive, actually. I hate dogeared pages, and I don't like creases in the seams of my paperbacks. So, if you ever borrow a book from me, use caution... and kid gloves!)

Finally, the last book storage area in the family room is yet another piece of furniture that my crafty, talented hubby made. It ,also, was a special request. I wanted a "bookshelf you can sit on," and this is what I got! Right now, the top is a bit covered up with stuff, but that's because we have Christmas decorations up, and I've had to move things around. But you get the idea! It's a handy, beautiful, useful bookshelf. And it has TONS of room. There are actually two levels deep. The books you can't see (in the back of the books on display) are the ones that I don't use or need as much. (But I know they are there!)

Now, THAT's neat!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 69: For the Love of Books (PART 1)

I have a lot of books. And by "a lot," I mean, way more books than I care to count right now!

I have some books packed away in boxes and in clear, plastic storage bins in my attic (mostly text books -- from both my student days and my teaching days), but then there are the "other" books... the reference books, the just-for-fun books, the classic books, the silly books, the I'd-read-them-over-and-over books, and the really-big-books-that-I-might-not-ever-read-but-they-look-cool-and-I-keep-them-around-anyway books! ;)

However you look at it, there has to be a place for all these books. And as a neat freak, I MUST have a good place for them. That means a place that LOOKS good and a place that WORKS well! Oh, and consider these two other things: books don't have to be in a specific order (the Dewey decimal system is not mandatory) AND books don't have to be standing up to be displayed.

That being said, I guess there' a bit of an art to storing/displaying THAT many books... all around the office and all around the house. So, I am starting here in my office, to show you what I've done with the books that I believe might be most helpful here (as reference or as inspiration)!

Here on my desk, within arm's reach, I keep dictionaries, reference tools and books that might be of immediate help for grammar conundrums or punctuation puzzlers. I have a few stacked underneath my desk lamp and others in height order right beside it. Cute. And useful!

If you look over my cabinets, you'll see the remainder of my books. Some I have lined up neatly in between my bookends, using the tallest books toward the middle and the smaller ones toward the ends.

And the books on the other side are arranged with some books laying flat and stacked up next to the ones standing up, also in height order. I've also thrown in few odds and ends (storage boxes, a basket with greenery and some plush friends) to finish the look.

Maybe this helps inspire you on how to create a useful and aesthetically pleasing arrangement for your books!

(Come back later to read about neat book arrangements around your home!)

Now, THAT's neat!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 68: A Fear of Nails... and the Holes They Leave Behind!

I hate nails. No, not the kinds on the end of your fingers and toes (although, it IS pretty creepy when people grow them to obscene lengths!). I'm talking about the kind of nails you hang pictures on, the kind that leave lovely, flaky holes in the drywall... holes you have to repair if you ever have second thoughts about your decor... or if you decide to move.

At any rate, I wanted to share one easy thing you can do in a child's bedroom if you, too , have a fear of nails... or if you just want a fun way to display artwork and pictures!

I used this simple technique in my daughter's room, and it has been a big hit -- for years! It's cute. It's fun. And it can be changed year-to-year (or week-to-week if you are so inclined). AND... it only used TWO nails! ;)

Just select a wall space where you would like to show off some of your offspring's handiwork. Hammer in two nails (preferably nails with big heads!) on either side of the chosen space. Then tie on some string or twine, leaving a little bit of slack. (This string will serve as a "clothesline" for pictures, and it will hang down a bit in the middle, so be sure to calculate that in as you place those darn nails!)

Next, gather those works of art, and hang them up! I used some cute little decorative clothespins that I picked up at Ikea. Just about any little clip will do!

Arrange them however you'd like, and, voila! A neat -- but very cute and fun -- display!

Now, THAT's neat!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 67: Rethinking Laundry

See shirt.
Think shirt.
Red shirt.
Pink shirt.

Yep. I actually did it: I turned one of my husband's t-shirts pink! Agh! Thanks to my son's fire-engine-red onesie, a perfectly good, bright-white tee is now in the cabinet over my dryer. In the "scrap" pile.

This got me thinking about the way I do laundry. I have a great rolling sorter in our laundry room. It has a clothes bar and three separate mesh bags to catch whites, darks and delicates. Kind of like this one! (BTW, you can get these "laundry centers" for around $30.... or you can spend upwards of $200 for some suped-up models with ironing boards and drawers... bread makers... KIDDING on that one!)

Of course, currently, this handy sorter is being used as an extended closet for the above-mentioned baby boy. And the handy pouches are being used for 1. baby clothes that are too small, 2. clean crib sheets that need to be put away, and 3. whatever else happens to not have a home in the laundry room but ends up there anyway!

Hmmm... so maybe this organized-obsessed momma needs to get her neat freak on! :)

I don't know about y'all, but I tend to do about 3 to 4 large loads of laundry a week right now. Currently, I just dump all the clothes in the washer until it's near full! (Of course, I do put delicates in their own wash bag!) Then I dump in some liquid detergent and let 'er go! (Two rinses, please.)

When the wash cycle finishes, I do sort clothes before moving along to the dryer. (Maybe I am more picky about drying my clothes than washing them!?!?!) Delicates are hung up or spread out to dry. Pant legs and long-sleeves shirts are untangled. And I always use a dryer sheet and dryer balls.... you know, those bumpy, dog-toy-looking things? (The texture helps to separate clothes as they tumble around, which is supposed to cut down on dry time!)

So, what do YOU do? Bleach? No bleach? Sort? Don't sort? One big load? Several small ones? I am looking to improve my laundry skills, so bring on the tips and hints!

Now, THAT's neat!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 66: Beware! The Black Light is NOT your friend

My husband really enjoys decorating for Halloween. So, for a few days around October 31, each year, I try my very best to stay calm and ignore the scattered piles of pumpkins, straw, moss, plastic spiders and styrofoam tombstones that take over most of the kitchen and dining room as he prepares his frightful displays!

One of the items he uses for the ghoulish decor is a black light... and if you have ever watched CSI (or a similar show), you know that black lights can be used to see things that aren't visible to the naked eye. Of course, I have no need to search for blood or, uh... other possibly incriminating crime-scene-type fluids... BUT... since we have had two male dogs in our home, we thought it might be a good idea to check for urine.

Not a good idea. NOT good!

Not good if you really want to know how much your furry, 4-footed children might be messing up your seemingly clean home! And NOT good if you want to discover just how deep the layer of dust really is, despite countless hours of swiffering and vacuuming.

I swore I wouldn't do this, but here is the evidence:

SCENE 1: Here is our lovely, striped, sage-green dining room rug in normal light.

And here, you can see me pointing to a lovely urine stain, softly glowing in the black light.

And here is another similar stain under the chair. But I'll spare you from the rest... {shudder} :)

SCENE 2: This is a shot of the baseboard and carpet in our master bedroom, right behind the door, in regular lighting.

And here is that same spot in the black light. Luckily the photo does not do it justice... because it showed a LOT of dust all a-glow along the baseboards and all over the carpet. ICK! (Either that or I spilled a bucket of glitter in my room!)

Looks like I have some cleaning to do....

Now, THAT's neat!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 65: A "Case" Study

I am not a fan of folding sheets... especially the dreaded fitted sheet. Why in the world does that darn thing have to be so difficult to fold!?!? I mean, it comes folded, in a nice, neat package. But that's the FIRST and the LAST time I ever see a fitted sheet look so neat! And, believe me, I have tried just about every fitted-sheet-folding method and tutorial out there. Nothing is fool proof. However, I have learned a few things along the way.... So, feel free to follow along for a few tips... and perhaps a little surprise! (**Neat freak cheat sheet ALERT!**)

1. Put your clean sheets on your bed. (No sense spreading them all over the floor and getting them dirty again, right?!?!)

2. After folding the flat sheet (no tutorial here, folks.... just grab corners, fold, fold, fold, fold.... and you're done!), spread out your fitted sheet and pull the fitted corners tight.

3. Bring the corners together on both ends by folding the sheet in half. Keep those corners tight, and match them up as best as you can!

4. Now, fold the sheet in thirds.

It should look somewhat like this:

5. Fold in half, longways.

6. And fold in thirds again!

7. That's about all for that darn fitted sheet. Oh, but we aren't quite through.... here's a little neat freak cheat sheet tip: Stack your fitted sheet, flat sheet and ONE pillow case in a nice, neat pile.

8. Slip the entire pile into the SECOND pillow case.

9. Fold the pillow case tightly and neatly around the sheet pile.

10. Fold again until you get a VERY neat sheet package!

And... now you're ready to put your clean, folded sheets (hidden snuggly inside your pillow case) on a shelf or in a drawer!

Now, THAT's neat!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 64: A Cleaner Crock Pot

I already love my crock pot. I don't have an unhealthy obsession with it or anything, but I LOVE to use it and try out new -- and easy -- recipes! I mean, what's better for a busy, overworked neat freak than the opportunity to dump a bunch of ingredients into a slow cooker before an overly full day... and come home to a ready-to-eat meal!?!? *sigh....

That being said, I was talking with a friend the other day about crock pot recipes, and she reminded me of a perfectly neat product I have been meaning to try: crock pot liners!

That's right, there are LINERS you can put IN your crock pot so it's easier to clean up when you are done! I used Reynolds slow cooker liners, as pictured here.

And, boy, was it simple! Just place the liner in your crock pot (as directed) before adding ingredients. And after all is said and done (and your delicious meal has been devoured by a grateful family), pull the liner out and toss it away (or, keep everything intact and store it as is in your plastic container of choice!).

I loved not having to scrub and scrape off baked-on food bits! I simply rinsed out and wiped off my crock pot and put it right back into the cabinet! These liners are such a savings of time, energy and sanity! :)

Now, THAT's neat!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 63: Robots in da' house

We live in a world of advanced technology.

We have robot pool cleaners (hey -- watch out for that tail thingie whipping around!).

We even have robot vacuum cleaners (oops, there goes the dog's meaty treat again) AND floor cleaners (much like the circular vacuum just mentioned, but made for hardwoods and tile).

Of course, we don't have a pool at my house, and with all the stuff all over our floors these days (thanks, mostly, to our 10-month-old son), a robot vacuum or a robot floor cleaner might do a fantastic job... on a 3-foot radius!

What I need is a robot kitchen and bathroom cleaner... and a robot laundry folder... and a robot kids' rooms straightener....

Of course, there is THIS thing:

What is it?

It's ETRI's new ROMI bot, the cleaning robot (made in Korea). It's kind of a cute little guy, and, supposedly, it can clean floors with the best of 'em... all while taking commands via WiFi, recording video with its big camera eyes AND vocalizing via a speech synthesizer. Boop-bop-beep-boop-bop-bop-boop....

According to myth and legend (OK, not really "myth" or "legend," since we're talking about futuristic-type stuff, here!), this little robot basically allows you to sit on the couch all day telling it what to clean. (PLUS, the ROMI could pretty much beat up any average, antiquated, ole' robot vacuum, while hurling insults at it!) Wow. That sounds pretty good to me!

I'm not running out to purchase my own Jetson-esque little robot maid, however. I'm not falling for the hype. Just yet. I might need a little proof. And perhaps some robot insurance! (*SNL joke) I mean... you never know. Robots are taking over the world.

Now, THAT's neat!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 62: Potholders ...Useful in More than Just the Kitchen

I recently had to go on a little business trip, and as I was packing, I was reminded that one of the last items I usually end up adding to my suitcase -- before smooshing it closed and zipping it up -- is either my hair dryer or my curling iron... or both! Of course, this usually means that those two things were in use immediately before flying out the door to get from point "A" to point "B," so these items are always HOT... which makes it a bit awkward for packing! This typically results in the frantic blowing off and waving around of said electronic heating gadget... or a quick trip to the refrigerator... or, worse yet, the hanging-out-the-window-on-the-way-to-the-airport method so it's cool enough to stuff in your bag at the last minute!

Enter the potholder.

Yes, the potholder... in just about any size, shape or color. (*Neat freak cheat sheet alert!) This handy, heat-handling, anti-hand-burning kitchen tool is quite useful for packing hot items in your suitcase. Like curling irons, flat irons... or a just-used hairdryer!

Simply slip the not-quite-cool-yet electronic gadget into the potholder, and then you can pack it safely and snuggly without worrying that your suitcase might burst into flames at any moment! ;)

Now, THAT's neat!