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Five Things I Did To Add More Time Into My Life

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on August 4, 2015 in Family, life |

{my #1 time saver}

 

Even though I wrote a very honest blog a few weeks about using the word “busy” around me, one of my best friends just texted me and told me she has been so “busy” lately. Clearly she did not take the time to read my blog and be put on notice how that word grates on my nerves.

 

Added to that I had a friend tell me last week that she didn’t know how I got everything done. I really don’t see myself as “busy” anymore. I have days that are really full. But for the most part I am doing what I enjoy doing. When people look at my life they see me as busy, but in all reality I lead a pretty organized life. I decided about three years to start making conscience decisions on what I do with my time and money. Because of these choices I believe I have developed deeper relationships with the people I love.

 

  1. I don’t spend time shopping. I found that when I went to my favorite big box stores I spent on average a couple hundred dollars. Then I would go shopping for clothes and spend even more money. I realized that I purchased things because I was bored. I stopped going to the big box stores unless I needed to buy my specific type of laundry detergent. I go for the one item and get in and get out. When I need to buy clothes, I shop with friends in one afternoon and I am done for another year!

 

  1. I got rid of cable. Our family has been cable free for several years. When we did it people weren’t streaming like they are now. We did it because we realized we spent too much time watching TV. I felt that my DVR was holding me hostage. I would find a television show I enjoyed and hit the record button and all of a sudden I would have 17 seasons of shows to watch. I felt guilty. Plus my husband always wanted to free the space on the DVR and bothered me to watch my shows and get them off. No more cable and no more pressure to watch my recorded shows!

 

  1. I stopped saying yes out of guilt. I have kids that are in activities. I spent my years as PTA president trying to give back to our community. The times that I said yes to things out of guilt I found was taking over my life. Now I say yes to things because I want to, not because I think I should. You may have seen me being a greeter at our summer theater production of “Mary Poppins.” I was there because I wanted to be there!

 

  1. I edited toxic people out of my life. Yes this was super hard as I felt those people were in my life to teach me a lesson. But one day I realized perhaps those people were in my life to teach me to get toxic people out of my life. This editing included Facebook too! I spend a lot of time on Facebook for my work and I hide or unfriend people who post messages that I don’t want to see in my newsfeed. Life is too short to read about people being dumb or cruel.

 

  1. I hired someone to clean my house. Speaking the fact that I have someone clean my house use to embarrass me. I am not lazy and I am not super rich, which I assumed people with a house cleaner were. Oddly enough I use to clean for people to help bring in extra income. But what I found is that I hate cleaning my house and it takes me three days to do something that takes my house cleaner three hours. I respect her for what she does for me as it is a true gift to clean other peoples homes.

 

All of these things added together have added countless hours back into my life. I would be remiss to not mention that I have an incredibly supportive spouse. He deserves more than a number on my list! He makes what I do look easy. Having supportive people in your life can really save you time. Now instead of watching TV on the couch we are both in the hammock under the deck reading a book. You will find us volunteering together and not shopping! Take some time this week and find what you can edit out of your life to create more time doing what you love to do!

 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things!

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Back To School Planning is Key!

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on July 27, 2015 in Family, life, Moms |

 

The back to school shopping commercials started before school even let out! Each year I tell myself this will be the year that I will be on top of things. This is the year that I will not find myself in the aisles of Target with crying school age children, or is it the parents that are crying? Last year I bought my youngest son’s school supplies downtown Minneapolis the day before school started because I forgot in the midst of moving my middle son to college. I am here to say that was a big mistake.

 

So learn from my mistakes and use these five easy steps for getting your kids organized for school:
1. School supplies: The stores are now stocked with all the school supplies they’ll be getting in for the season.

  • When to go: Now is the time to go while the selection is the greatest and the sales are hot. Avoid – at all costs – shopping on weekends or weeknights during the supper hour. The best time to go is an hour before the store closes. This forces you to get in and get your shopping done without the hassle of crowds. Another great time to shop is right when the store opens. If you have a kid who must have the latest and greatest, you have to go now – do not delay! Try breaking your child of the habit of always having the latest and greatest because if they always receive the latest and greatest, they come to always expect it. Here’s an idea: how about buying their school folders and notebooks in their favorite color instead of what is trendy?
  • Backpacks: I buy good quality backpacks for my kids at Lands’ End (http://www.landsend.com/), and they last for three to four years or longer. My junior in high school is still using the one I bought him in kindergarten! Granted, I have boys, and they don’t always require the hippest trends, but the backpacks I bought for $50 each haven’t cost me anything for the past ten years because…get this…the backpacks don’t fall apart, they aren’t trendy, in fact they are now seen as retro!
  1. School clothes: When I was a kid, I got my yearly clothes budget at the beginning of the school year, and that was it. I had to make it last unless I picked up extra money babysitting. Now kids are inundated with clothes year around: Christmas, birthdays, Easter, fall clothes, winter clothes, summer clothes…clothes, clothes, clothes! My best advice is to not buy any new pants until at least October. With the way kids grow, you want to make those pants last as long as possible. Until October, most kids can still wear shorts or skirts to school. Buy a handful of new shirts that gives them the feeling of getting new clothes. By waiting to do the majority of your clothes shopping until October, you’ll be able to find those “post back to school” bargains that the stores are trying to get rid of in order to make room for…you guessed…more clothes.
    3. Create a system for the paper clutter now: Do you know where you are going to put the lunch menu, papers you want to keep for their memorabilia box or put in a scrapbook? How about ALL those cute art projects?
  • School menus, treat schedules, team practices and other schedules: Tape them on the inside of a kitchen cupboard. This allows easy access without the clutter on the fridge.
  • Memorabilia box: Purchase a large Rubbermaid container that either can contain one year’s worth of papers or all of the elementary years’ worth of papers. When the keepers come home, you now will know exactly where to put them.
  • Art projects: Have an area of your house where you display the art projects. Keep them on display for a few weeks, and then “rotate” them out, putting in new ones. What to do with the old ones? Either place them in a memorabilia box or purchase a large art portfolio to place them in. Another great idea is to create your own art portfolio out of tag board with three of the ends taped shut. You could create one for every year. Better yet, take pictures and discard!
  • Worksheets and tests: Use this easy test to determine if you should keep the daily papers that your child brings home: if it brings a tear to your eye, keep it; if not, toss it. For example: your child gets an A+ on a spelling test after he/she has been struggling all year to learn the spelling words. This is a keeper! Your child brings home coloring sheets or other busy work that is assigned; toss it. The first time he/she wrote his/her name: that is a keeper. The good news is that by the time they enter middle school, the paper clutter dwindles to a trickle, and then by high school it suddenly becomes nonexistent… and then you wonder if your child is really going to school each day or hanging out at the mall.
  1. Establish a homework zone: Where does your child best study at? As a kid, I liked doing my homework in front of the TV. My mom did not understand that, and we battled constantly on that issue. If your child gets good grades and doesn’t struggle in school, let him/her do homework in front of the TV. Maybe your child needs absolute silence to study. Find a quiet place in the home where homework can be completed without the distractions of siblings and other family members. Maybe your child needs to be moving all the time. Find a good rocking chair or stability ball for him/her to have movement while completing school tasks. Just remember that each child is different, and just because it works for one child does not mean it will work for another. Be flexible and patient so that both you and the child can have a good school year.
  2. Set expectations: Let you kids know now that when they walk in the door, they should hang their coat and backpack up and bring you all of the papers to sort. Do you have a child who needs to do homework as the first thing upon arriving home? How about the child that needs to eat as it seems like school lunches were not that appetizing that day? There is also the child who just needs to let his/her brain unwind by doing nothing but veggin’ in front of the TV. I heard there is also the child who comes in and practices his/her musical instrument every day….I have not seen such a child so I do not believe this to be true. Some children do better waking up early and getting the homework done or practicing the musical instrument in the morning. The key is to figure out what works best for each of your children and then communicate what you expect so that the routine can begin as quickly – and run as smoothly – as possible.

 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

 

  1. Simplicity

 

 

Melissa is a Professional Organizer living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things!

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Call Me, Maybe

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on July 21, 2015 in life, Moms |

{going through a client’s received cards came the revelation that her husband liked to buy her the same card}

 

Recently I was asked if I have ever walked out of a client’s home. The answer is yes. But not for the obvious reasons. The house wasn’t too messy. This wasn’t a hoarding situation. This was a person who wanted me to take their clutter and reorganize it. Alert: I am not the clutter whisperer.

 

What I am is that expert who will hold the garbage bag open for you while you throw things away. We will talk through how your mother will still love you after you donate the clown cookie jar that scares your children. We will dig down and figure out why you are still holding onto every greeting card you have ever received.

 

You will have resistance to me when I suggest you get rid of things. I will have you justify why you are keeping things. You will speak the words as to why you are keeping the items. You will realize on your own that you don’t need that item. All while I hold the garbage bag open for you.

 

I will have you focus on items that bring you joy or have value. We will not focus on keeping the items that bring you sadness. Usually these are items associated with guilt and loss. Do you have saved obituaries in the paper of people you knew or the memorial brochure from a funeral? How do these items bring you joy or have value?

 

Often the items that bring us sadness are in a storage unit somewhere across town or boxed up in the attic. You are paying a monthly fee to house these that you resent. Did you know that storage units were the fastest growing segment of our real estate in this country. It is time to visit those storage units and empty them out. You may need an expert to hold the garbage bag open for you while you do it. We will work through the memories and decide what you should keep and what you are ready to dispose of. We will not try to rearrange and find you more space in the storage unit.

 

I do not want to be known as the organizer who helps clients create well-planned hoarding. I want to leave your house with bags of items to go to good will. I want to leave you with the feeling that you lost 20 pounds in three hours just by getting rid of clutter.

 

When I start with a client I work with them in three hour blocks of time. In the three hours I see my clients go through three different. They typically go from resistance to understanding to full on clarity. If I can not get them past the resistance part I need to leave, they are not ready for me.

 

So imagine we are sitting with a client who has a banker sized box full of greeting cards that he has received over the years. Some are cards from his kids, some are cards from his wife, while more cards are from his now deceased parents. I ask my client what is his goal with this box. He replies that he wants to keep his favorites and get rid of the rest. We then spend some time discussing what the favorites should be defined as. It could be humorous ones, it could be handmade cards, it could be ones with words beyond a signature written on the inside of the card.

 

I then give a random number of how many cards would be realistic to keep and get the client to agree. There may be some negotiating on this number, but there usually isn’t. And we start working through the box. It is slow going. Each card is a decision to make. More cards are kept and few are discarded as this point. But then we start to gain momentum and more cards are placed in the discard pile. We have reached the understanding phase. They know that they can’t live with all of these cards. They know that they only want to keep the special ones. We get to the bottom of the box and they realize that they have many more then the agreed upon number.

 

We now go through the stack that they kept and this is when clarity comes. They suddenly understand what cards truly bring them joy and what cards they can now get rid of. They crave having the meaningful cards. They can reach that agreed upon number with ease. The struggle from a few hours ago is gone. There is a sense of pride and understanding that they could get through this daunting task.

 

So if you are ready to have an expert hold the garbage for you while we get to the bottom of why you are keeping items, call me. But if you want me to swirl your clutter remember that I am not your well-planned hoarding expert.

MS. Simplicity

 

Melissa is a Professional Organizer living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things!

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Are You Busy?

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on July 14, 2015 in Family, life, Moms |

{photo from Kailua Beach, Lanikai, HI at a time I was not busy}

One of my favorite authors is  Brené  Brown as she speaks my language in her books “Daring Greatly” and “The Gifts of Imperfection.” She is real. She is raw. She is honest. Her TEDx Houston talk is one of the most viewed in TED history with over 3 million views. I believe 1,000 of those views are mine! I came across a quote of hers this week as I was reading another book on productivity.

We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.

Busy is one of those words that is like nails on a chalkboard for me. When I hear it spoken I have chills going down my spine. Busy is not a badge of courage! I want to shout busy is a choice!!! My close friends and I have replaced the word “busy” with the phrase “my life is full.” We speak it from a place of gratitude and not from a place of lament. Busy is not a status of honor. Busy is a life out of balance.

I will fully admit my life has been busy. I had three boys in five years and we had the season of three kids in sports and playing instruments and piano practice and speech therapy. Now those boys who were in speech therapy are now in theater productions and last night I listened while one gave an interview to a newspaper wile siting on my couch. I may have cried a bit realizing how a boy who didn’t talk for the first 8 years of his life was now practicing the craft of weaving a story to make an impact on the art culture in our state through being interviewed.

But during those years of being busy and raising my boys I lost a part of me. Would I do it again? Yes, however I would be more mindful this time! If I were to ask myself what was the truth of my life that I didn’t want to catch up to me, the answer would be being a family law lawyer. I was miserable.

Once you go to law school and pass the bar exam you are suppose to be ecstatic. Right? Wrong! The bar exam was not an easy test for me. I was pregnant the first time I took it, and failed. I was raising a baby the second time I took it, and failed. I was raising a baby and pregnant the last time I took it, and passed. I knew I could never take that two day test again if I did not pass that last time.

But then after the pressure of taking the test was over came the pressure of working as a lawyer. I loved being a mom so I tried to find a balance of doing both, but I was busy. My goal was to help families in some tough emotional situations in life and make a difference on children’s lives. Sometimes I failed and sometimes I succeeded. But I needed out.  And I got out. It has been two and a half years since I had my license status go inactive. It was an easy decision supported by my family and friends.

We are a culture caught up in the idea of being busy. Many are like me and trying to escape something. I am blessed to have friendships that include real and raw conversations. I am a good listener and I hear as people confess their truths to me.

What is the truth that they don’t want to catch up to them? For some it is an unhappy marriage. For some it is estranged family members. Still for others it could be addiction or mental illness or an unhealthy lifestyle.

When a client calls me it is often out of desperation as they are too busy and know that they need help to get their home or life organized. They simply don’t know where to start. But what happens is an unraveling of their lives. I have clients make confessions to me about what is really going on. Usually when they speak it to me, it is the first time they have spoken it out loud. There are tears shed, often from both of us. I have stood in a client’s beautiful walk in closet and cried about the health issues one of my children was facing. I knew if I stayed busy enough I didn’t have the time to think about it. However that day in that gorgeous closet I cried about my fears and my client cried with me. I wasn’t busy that day and I faced the truth I wanted to escape from.

If you are like me and in the midst of a busy life and want to slow down without fear of the truth, just make it happen. You have control over it. For me it was finding a supportive group of friends who nurtured me as I made that leap out of law. For others it may be making that call for inpatient treatment for addiction. Still others may need to meet with a spiritual, financial or mental health advisor for guidance. We are not alone in this journey of life. Busy is a choice and there are constructive ways to make yourself less busy. Join me as we live a full life and leave busy on the road of words we never use. Take it out of your lexicon and kick it to the curb!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

 

Melissa is a Professional Organizer living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things!

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Road Trip Survival Guide

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on July 7, 2015 in Family, life, Moms |

When I was a child we did our fair share of family road trips. They usually involved hauling the pop up camper or tent to a location a few hundred miles away. Sometimes these trips extended hundreds of miles through many state lines. Ask anyone who went on a family road trip and they have a story to go along with it, usually involving vomit. I even have one where we were left in the state of California by the family we were traveling with.

 

I have had my boys experience their share of road trips as well. I didn’t want them growing up thinking that going on a plane as a family was the way we did things. Instead I packed up the kids in a small car and we hit the road. My boys still talk about it. We tackled the road trip again last summer and went to Glacier National Park. This time there were seven of us. This time the car was bigger. This time the kids were bigger. This time there still was no breathing room in the car.

 

These days I have noticed something different when I glance in the windows of passing vehicles on the interstate, kids are hooked up to their own video screen and headphones. Families are going from destination A to B in silence. Not to say that I wouldn’t have loved to have silence in my car when my boys were little, but we had to be creative. So here are some tips if the video screen is not an option for you.

 

Listen to Books on tape: Oh yeah, they don’t make tapes anymore. How about CDs? I think they still make them. Go to your local library and check out a few for your trip. This way the entire car can listen to the same story and there can be discussion. We did this with the “Harry Potter” books as this series of books captured all of our attention. Now I have Audible on my phone that allows me to download books and listen to them.

 

Now that my boys are older we listen to Podcasts. We have favorites that inspire and educate us. One podcast motivated my middle son to investigate why the city of Fargo doesn’t have a flag. He has now taken that as a fun summer project to have one completed in the upcoming months. All because of a podcast that my husband suggested.

 

Create Playlists: Remember making a mixed tape for your significant other. Yes I did it. Yes it had some awesome music that was horribly recorded. Now we can create playlists and save them to our phone and play through the car stereo. Even my boy’s very old car has the ability to do this by plugging in their phone to a cassette type thing that goes in the car’s tape player.

 

Introduce your kids to the music that you loved. As we were on a long car ride on Sunday I played a song and my 19 year old said the horns reminded him of Earth, Wind and Fire. I want my kids to appreciate The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel and Chicago and Whitesnake and ACDC. This is your time, they are a captive audience!

 

Have a Visual Scavenger Hunt: I have done this with adult friends and we have a blast. Create a list of things that you want people to watch out for. As you go along on your trip and spot them cross them off your list. We have things like, find someone who looks like Santa, spot a Canadian flag, etc. These can be silly and fun. My friends and I still laugh about the one we made as we met some very interesting people along with our hunt.

 

Stop at Scenic Overlooks: They are scenic for a reason. Get out and stretch your legs and read about the area that you are driving through. Grab that selfie stick and take a group photo. When I was with my girlfriends on a recent trip to California I told them ahead of time that I am stopping the car to look at the scenic stops. I was the driver so they really had no choice. On one stop we saw the remains of a large whale which I took a picture of and sent to my boys, for the gross and cool factor! On another stop we were treated to an amazing site of paragliders just floating in the sky. You just never know what you will see!

 

Keep them Fed!: I have boys and there is nothing worse than a “hangry” {hungry and angry}boy. I know when they are getting close to getting hungry and I quickly feed them. Have a well stocked snack supply. You want food that is either in a cooler or snacks that will not melt in a car.

 

Take the Road Less Traveled: When I was a kid I remember asking my parents if we could travel back from my grandparents on Highway 10 and not the interstate. I liked driving through the towns. Even now, I like to take the less traveled roads. Stop at the small town gas station and fill up with gas. Stop at the small town café and eat lunch where I guarantee you they still cook with butter!

 

Now the road less traveled is the one my GPS sends me down by mistake. When this happens embrace it and don’t become frustrated. Last fall this happened to my husband and I as the GPS sent us down a quaint dirt road. I told him to stop so that I could get a picture along the road of a bridge. I asked him to get out of the car and he declined muttering something about Deliverance under his breath.

 

So wherever the road takes you this summer, make it an adventure that you and your family will fondly talk about for the rest of your lives. The road is waiting for you. Create the adventure and make memories as those are what is important in life!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

 

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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Use Summer as a Training Time For Those Kids

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on June 30, 2015 in Family, Food, life, Moms |

I read a blog post last week from a mom who was complaining about her kids during the summer. They never put anything away. They dropped their clothes everywhere. The mom had to drive them to their various activities. I kept waiting for the blogger to say how much she loves having her children around, but she never got to that. I don’t think she is ungrateful but rather she is overwhelmed and exhausted. I know many parents like that. But what if we took this time to work on the skills that we want our kids to have in life instead of enabling their behavior and blogging about it?

 

When I see an overwhelmed parent I notice one thing, they give in way too easy because of their exhaustion. I had three boys in five and a half years and I know one thing I learned very quickly was to have them learn how to help. Often it was much easier to tie their shoes for them so we could get out the door. But what happened was they were delayed in trying their shoes. I take the blame for this, because I was in a hurry and never took the time to teach them how to tie those laces.

 

This summer my middle son came back after his freshman year at college. I was thrilled to get him home. Yes, his room is messy as he moved all of his stuff from his dorm back in. I close the door so I don’t have to look at it. Yes, his dishes aren’t rinsed and loaded into the dishwasher right away. But he is home. Home where I have some more chances to influence him.

 

Here are some areas that we will be working on:

 

Grocery shopping: I sent my boys to the store for Father’s Day to find things to make their dad for his special day. I got numerous texts and phone calls asking questions. Finally my husband got on the phone and told them what to buy to make him. They returned over an hour later with the ingredients along with a big frosted sugar cookie and a Happy Birthday balloon.

 

I love grocery shopping so I never sent them to the store. Now is the summer where I am going to train them how to grocery shop.

 

My middle son had to buy ingredients for a work retreat last week. He had his list and he returned triumphant. He said he watched what other people were doing. People were weighing their produce, he weighed his produce. He saw someone put bananas in a plastic bag, he put his bananas in a plastic bag. He needed a zucchini, he bought a cucumber….oops!

 

Preparing a meal: Yes take out and frozen meals are convenient but what are we teaching our kids? I want my kids to learn how to make 5 meals that are made with real and fresh ingredients. No Hamburger Helper here. I really believe that if they can learn to make 5 things they will have the skills to make everything else. I know one child loves chicken parmesan. He will learn how to flatten a chicken breast so that he can use that skill when making other chicken dishes.

 

When I was first learning how to cook I hated the act of cutting chicken up. I still don’t enjoy it and I have luckily found a man who will do it for me. But learning how to cut a chicken is a good skill to have, if you are not a vegetarian. Also learning how to brown hamburger is important. My husband thinks it is done by turning the burner up to high. I shake my head. But if you think about it, when you read a recipe it never lists the steps on how to brown hamburger. I understand now why they don’t know.

 

Washing and cleaning a car: We have neighbors that wash and clean their cars every Sunday. It is like they are running a car detailing business in their driveway, but with their own cars. I personally don’t like a dirty car. My friends tease me that my car is always clean. It is. When I drive my husband’s car and it is dirty I will run it through the car wash before I return it. Meanwhile the car my boys share is full of treasures on the inside. The outside is full of dents and scratches due to parking in a high school parking lot. It is time to learn that when you walk into the house everything in your care comes in with you. The garbage goes in the garbage. The recycling goes in the bin conveniently located in the garage. Take some pride in what you drive. Know that when you give someone a ride that you don’t need to move the garbage aside. Instead have a spot in the car for your garbage and your paperwork.

 

So this summer instead of being frustrated with your children, hug them a little tighter and love them a little more. Decide that you are blessed that you are their teacher in how to do many things in life. Meanwhile if you see my kids out grocery shopping with a blank look, stand back and let them figure out how to ask an employee where the panko bread crumbs are kept.

 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

 

MS. Simplicity

 

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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Easy Summer Grilling Freezer Meals

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on June 23, 2015 in Family, Food, Moms |

 

Summer is the season that I fire up the grill on a daily basis. Our eating out decreases and our eating as a family around the patio table increases. It really is my favorite time of the year. But this does not mean that I am any less busy. I still need easy meals that everyone will eat.
I make my summer grilling freezer meals every summer but this summer I forgot until a friend posted reminding me of it. I used her trick an bought McCormick Grill Mates meat seasoning packets and was done from store to freezer in an hour. I did have my handy meat cuter husband assisting me. I mixed and labeled and he cut.

What is interesting is that once I have the main dish covered I then have the time and energy to put together a side dish or a dessert. There is something magical about pulling a meal out of the freezer the night before and thawing in the fridge for the next 24 hours. The meat becomes more tender and flavorful by the time it goes on the grill. There must be some pixie dust that is sprinkled on it!Here are the steps that I have used to better maximize my time:

  1. I spent 30 minutes on a Saturday morning on Pinterest finding what I wanted to make. I looked at all options, not just typical freezer meals. I tried to stay away from anything that wouldn’t freeze well. I also looked at food that I could turn into a kabob.
  2. Next I put my grocery list together along with what I was going to buy at Costco. I like to buy my meat at Costco and knowing that I was going to go through several pounds of beef, pork and chicken it made the most sense as I could save some money on these items.
  3. Made sure I had freezer bags to freeze the meals in {I have forgotten to check and then had to stop everything and run to the store}
  4. Started when my husband was home so that he could cube the meat for me while I mixed the marinades up.
  5. Labeled the bags as well as put any further instructions like basting with a sauce on the outside.

 

I usually don’t stick to hard and fast recipes when making my meals up. I find a few that I think are interesting and then I tweak them for my taste or what I have in the house. I usually don’t measure….just dump and scoop and shake and pour. So those of you who like step by step instructions my recipes will drive you crazy. The fact that I was even able to write them down is a miracle in and of itself! I also put my bag in a large bowl with the edges hanging over so I can fill the bags without fear of the liquid pouring out.

Find more here as well!

Spicy Pork Chops

1/4 cup orange juice
Squeeze from a lime
2 Tablespoons of minced garlic
2 Tablespoons of Sriracha sauce {found in the Asian food aisle}
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
Pork chops {use boneless ones so that the bones don’t puncture your freezer bag}

Beer Chops

Can of beer
1/4 ketchup {or a good squeeze}
2 Tablespoons of Sriracha sauce
Pork chops {use boneless ones so that the bones don’t puncture your freezer bag}

Chipotle Steak

2 Chipotle peppers, chopped {found in the Mexican food aisle canned with Adobo sauce}
2 Tablespoons of a good steak seasoning
1 lime squeezed and zested
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Cubed steak {use whatever fits into your budget}

Cilantro Chicken

1/4 Cup olive oil
6 Cloves of minced garlic
1 cup of chopped cilantro {fresh}
Cubed chicken
*As the chicken nears the end of grilling, have a sauce to baste at the end {we used General Tso’s found in the Asian food aisle}

Thai Chicken

3 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons honey
Juice from 1 lime squeezed
3 Cloves of minced garlic
1 Tablespoon of Siracha
Shake of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
Cubed chicken
*After the chicken was grilled I served it with a side of peanut dipping sauce {found in the Asian food aisle}

Coconut Chicken

1 Cup of canned coconut milk
1/4 Cup of orange juice
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 Tablespoons minced or grated fresh ginger {buy fresh as it adds so much flavor}
Shake of red pepper flakes
Cubed chicken

Kabob tips: For all of the kabob recipes I would put some vegetables on the kabobs before I put them on the grill. I do not marinate the meat on the sticks, I thread the meat with the vegetables before I put them on the grill. If you are using bamboo skewers, make sure that you soak them first. I have found some flexible wire skewers that we have been using for the past two summers and they work great and can be washed in the dishwasher. I do not marinate my vegetables. I have found that they get enough flavor being next to the meat as it is grilled. My favorite vegetables to grill are zucchini, different colored peppers and mushrooms. Put on your families favorites.

Freezer tips: I like to freeze the bags flat in the freezer in a horizontal. Once flat you can then put them in a vertical position so that it is easier to see what you have. When you put a meal in the freezer have a list on the side of your fridge/freezer telling you what meals are in there. Once a meal comes out, cross it off the list.

Remember I do not always measure and things turn out just fine. Our family likes spicy food so I usually add more heat to whatever recipe I am making. Marinades are very forgiving. I like to look for ones that have citrus in them {citrus helps to tenderize} and I also like to add some oil to help in the sticking of the meat to the grill. I am ready to repeat this lineup again this weekend and now I am going to double each of the recipes and make 12 instead of 6 meals. It would probably add about 30 minutes to the total project time. Time to get grilling!

 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

 

MS. Simplicity

 

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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Do You Have Enough?

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on June 16, 2015 in Family, life, Moms |

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At what point in our lives do we find ourselves completely satisfied? At what point do we have enough? If you watch the media we are never satisfied. Want to be thinner, buy this product! Want to be cooler, drive this car! Want to have your children love you more at Christmas, buy them this gift!

 

For me I am trying to get rid of items and not bring new ones in. I have visited with people who are living the minimalist lifestyle and I have noticed a sense of peace around them. They have the iPhone 5 not the 6 because the 5 still works for them. They are mindful of what they buy. They don’t just purchase on a whim. They think things through. They ask questions. Here are a few things to help you think about when deciding if you have enough.

 

Buy quality. I recently purchased a handcrafted belt for my son from a street vendor in San Francisco. I noticed that he went through belts every couple of months. I would keep buying him belts at big box stores and he would use them for less than six months. I bought my other son a similar handcrafted belt from a street vendor in Seattle two years ago and it is holding up and will probably last him his life. It is a solid piece of thick leather that will not rip or tear.

 

Ask does this have a place in my home? Don’t buy anything until you know where it is going. If your closets are overflowing you probably don’t need another item of clothing. Take the time to access what you have before you bring it home. I have limited hangers to keep me focused. If I buy something I know that something must leave.

 

Stay away from trendy. If you try to keep up with trends you will want to keep purchasing. Instead look at classic pieces. I have the same cream sweater that I wear everyday at home and I wear it as part of my outfits at least a few times a week. It is a classic piece that will never go out of style.

 

Ask is this filling a need? Many of us purchase to feel better about ourselves. We don’t realize it when it is happening. For some it is finding the bargain so they can boast about the savings. For some it is to make them feel loved or pretty.  We get little highs when we purchase, it is like taking a hit of a drug. It feels good….for the moment! Stop and take a breath before you make that purchase. Figure out why you are really wanting to purchase.

 

Ask is this for an immediate need? We get into trouble when we start to purchase things for some future event. Like buying holiday decorations on clearance. We buy more than we need in the excitement. Rarely do we really need as much as we purchase. I would rather pay full price for something I need right now rather than have too much that I got at a 50% savings. Because the math works out in my favor of waiting. I buy the one item instead of multiple that will just go into storage.

 

All this comes back to the question of do you have enough? Start asking yourself this week if you have enough. This is a different question and will grab you from your insides. Because suddenly the question goes from do I have enough to am I enough? And the answer should be a resounding YES!

 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

 

MS. Simplicity

 

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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The Art of Weeding Out Your Clutter

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on June 9, 2015 in Family, life |

I have been on a minimalism kick and challenging myself to see if I could live in a small space. However, what I want to remind people is this is a lifestyle and it is not made for everyone. When I talk about keeping things that bring me joy or that I find useful, I hear from friends that say everything around them brings them joy. I feel empathy for my friends and clients who want to live with less but don’t know where to start. I never force people to get rid of items.

 

A friend told me that my organizing style is like weeding. We take out what doesn’t belong and leave what does. I love this analogy as it really is what I want my style to be; working with my clients to figure out what works for them. So I got to thinking about the different types of landscaping styles and realized that they can be analogous to our organizing style as well. There are several types of landscapes out there so let’s discover what is your style.

 

Xeriscaping: This is a drought resistant form of landscaping. Having visited California recently, this is very evident. Lawns are being replaced with rocks and succulents. Little attention needs to be paid to these yards. For those of you who want xeriscaping homes, what would it look like? I wouldn’t see the need to dust very often. Everything would have its proper place. Cleaning would take minutes as the surfaces just need to be wiped down. Nothing needs to be moved or picked up. This is a home that has very little clutter in it. Everything has been pared down to the essentials. Everything has a purpose and nothing is brought into the home unless it can meet the strict drought tolerant needs of the style. Weeds simply don’t grow.

 

Wildflower Mix: This is the person who just has everything in all directions. Things are scattered everywhere. The weeds aren’t really noticed as there is no sense of order. The homework is on the kitchen table along with the mail. We are not really sure where anything is. My guess is most of us have a room or two like this.

 

The problem is we really don’t know how to separate the weeds out of the mix. We see lots of potential and lots of color and don’t know where to start, so we don’t. But what would happen if you pulled five “weeds” a day. Figure out what your number is so that you are pulling more than is being added. Try to stay ahead of that number. After a few days add a few more “weeds” to your total. Keep moving forward and your flowers will start to stand out and you will like what you see. It will motivate you to keep going.

 

Manicured Yard: This is the yard you will not find a weed anywhere. Every weed has been plucked or sprayed. Nobody is allowed to step foot on the grass. Over years fewer and fewer weeds appear. So if our home was manicured nothing would be out of place, ever. This home is full of items but may not have a function. In my world, this is not ideal. If you have children, this is not realistic. Nobody wants to live in a museum. I want my kids to run on the lawn and play in the family room. We have all been in “that” home where nobody sits in “that” room. There is a coffee table with books artfully arranged that nobody has read. They were selected for the color and size and nothing to do with the homeowners hobbies or interests. We don’t dare sit on the couch for fear of putting a wrinkle in it.

 

Garden Bed: There is a zone for everything. The carrots are grown here in this box. The peas are over in that one. It is easy to spot the weeds and pull them out. This is my way to organize. If you go into teachers’ classrooms, this is how they are organized. The art supplies are kept in a section. The books are over in the corner in the reading nook. When a book is in the art section, everyone knows where it should go, the book, aka “weed” is plucked and put back in the book section. A classroom has limited space and each space must be used with purpose. In our homes we could have a section where the unread mail goes. A baking section in our kitchen for all our baking supplies. Create different zones in your home for easy maintenance.

 

With each style, they overlaying theme is you still need to weed. You need to be careful when you bring things into your home. Will it be like a dandelion puff and when you blow it, the seeds are scattered everywhere leaving the potential for more weeds to grow. You also need to be mindful of what leaves your home. You want your home to be functional and show off the flowers.

 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

 

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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Let’s Celebarte the Art of Clutter, Really?

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on June 2, 2015 in Family, life |

Recently an article was published in the New York Times celebrating clutter. As I read the article I found myself shaking my head in bewilderment. My son sent me the article and I looked at him and asked if this was meant to be a satirical piece? He didn’t think so but I am not sure. While I agree with some things, I disagree with many of the authors points.

 

Agree:

 

I do think that organizing and de-cluttering is on every cover of every magazine these days, or so it seems. We are told to buy the books and magazines only to be told to throw them out later. I think that is why I have had a hard time publishing my book, I don’t want to create more clutter.

 

The act of becoming a minimalist is not a reality for most people. Even thinking about it for some makes their skin crawl. I for one look forward to the day that I can live a life with less items. However it does not mean I did not cherish the bookcases full of books that my children read. There is a time and a season for all.

 

The idea of clinging to possessions has never been attractive to me. I am an adventure girl. People give me a hard time for the amount of time that I travel, I am not escaping my life but rather living my life. It is a personal choice and I want to have adventures not things.

 

Yet some people do cling to possessions as if it is a safety net. I have never advised my clients to get rid of all of their possessions, just the ones that don’t bring them joy or add value in some way. Not every possession that we have brings us joy. Not every gift we receive must we embrace and hold onto for our entire life. As an organizer, the clutter I help people with is typically the day to day clutter of living; the pile of mail, the spare room that things get thrown in, the kitchen with no counter space or the tchotchke that they can’t find a home for. I usually am not brought in to help turn them into minimalists.

 

My parents have a lot of “stuff” but I have never seen it as clutter. It is artfully displayed and dusted and cared for. Everything has a home and shelves, closets and drawers are not overflowing. But the number of possessions is overwhelming to me. They have inherited things from their parents, collected art and books over the years and been given gifts from their well intentioned daughters. They have a full life. I would never expect them to get rid of all of their items and “de-clutter” as I don’t see it as clutter. I have however encouraged the getting rid of items that they no longer use, like the encyclopedia set from my childhood. My parents have no problem of getting rid of items, however what they do keep brings them joy.

 

But yet as we age don’t many of us turn into minimalists? Often through life’s events out of our control. We raise our children in large houses and then there comes a time to downsize to a smaller house, apartment or condo. We start to naturally get rid of bedroom sets and extra couches. We hold onto these things for when our children get their first “places.”

 

From that smaller house or condo we move into an assisted living facility, smaller still. We now have our possessions to the bare bones. Perhaps a favorite chair and some holiday decorations. The dishes and cooking gadgets are gone. The china hutch and coffee table have homes elsewhere. We suddenly find ourselves living with the few things that bring us joy.

 

Without warning we are minimalists.

 

Disagree:

 

The author wants her children to store all of her possessions in offsite storage. Really? She wants her children’s home full of her stuff. I however do not want my children’s homes full of my stuff. I want my children to have their own sense of style. I don’t want them beholden to what I think is important.

 

I am thinking of what I own of my grandparents (my parents are still living) and I have perhaps 5 items of my grandmothers. Each one is cherished. However I don’t expect my children to want these items as they are special memories to me, not to them. They have their own memories.

 

My client’s have a hard time disposing of items that they think they should hold onto out of guilt. I would ask that we let go of the guilt and focus on the word joy.  Burdening our children is not fair to them or their families.

 

I find that people don’t even realize that they are doing it. I encourage my clients to call their adult children who they are holding onto stuff for. They snap a picture and send a text asking if their child wants the item they have been holding onto. Usually 90% of the time the child says they don’t want it. It is my job to then explain to them that just because they don’t want the item does not mean that their child doesn’t love them. We have a new generation of kids that don’t want clutter, my own included.

 

Let’s be honest and not put our emotional baggage onto our kids. Just because we loved something, or paid too much for something, or inherited it from our parents does not mean our children should have to dust it or store it for the rest of their lives.

 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

 

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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