Tag: to do

How To Fake A Clean House

Weekly Tasks

My house is {almost} always 15 minutes away from looking clean. Four tips I’ve gathered over the years that {almost} never fail to make my house look cleaner than it is:

  1. Spend 15 minutes a day picking up. 
  2. Never waste a trip.
  3. Automate a cleaning schedule.
  4. Target the dead-giveaway-spots.

I’ve got to throw that ‘almost’ caveat in there because if you really live in your home, it won’t always be clean. But you sure can fake it!

Back to the tips:

Tip 1: If your house is basically picked up, it looks cleaner than it is. Guaran-stinkin-teed. 

Tip 2: Double your effectiveness by utilizing the time you’re walking around to put things away. Going to the bedroom? Take something with you that needs to be put back.

Tip 3: Break down the main weekly chores {mine are the kitchen, bathrooms, dusting, and floors,} and assign them each a day. {I use my google calendar so the tasks automatically pop up each week, but sometimes I just like to use pretty paper, so I also made myself a little chore chart.} Depending on the size of your house, you’ll probably spend an hour or less cleaning a day- and if it’s automated, you save time and brain space!

Tip 4: If someone is coming over, hit the tell-tale spots: mirrors, kitchen counter, sinks, and empty the guest bathroom trash. Voila! Fake clean complete.

Now that I shared all my secrets, you have to promise not to look too closely if you come over, ok? Now do me a favor and let me in on your faking-a-clean-house tips, too!

PS If you want a pretty chore chart, too, you can download mine here: GTR Weekly Tasks.

I May or May Not Be Becoming A Crazy Health Nut

In Defense of Food

Image Credit

Have you ever thought about what you eat?

I honestly didn’t until we got married and I began to cook more.

At the beginning it wasn’t very often; I was mostly trying not to burn anything and come up with things that my husband would like. I also was a little like an ostrich, my head buried in the ground- knowing I should consider these things but fearing that what I learned would turn me into a crazy health nut.

And then I read 7. There was something intriguing about Jen eating only 7 foods for a month. It was a simple premise, yet the benefits she explained made me curious. After that, I read In Defense of Food, by Michael Polland.

Michael gives away the premise on the front of his book: eat food, mostly plants, not too much. He opened my mind to a whole new way of thinking and eating.

I realized that I’d been gliding on autopilot, eating small portions of whatever I wanted and that I’d never thought about how much processed “food” was going into my body. (And it was labeled ‘healthy’ or ‘low fat!’)

What we call ‘food’ is not necessarily food. Michael gives easy-to-implement guidelines for more thoughtful eating, but the one I feel sums it up best is, ‘Don’t eat anything your great grandma wouldn’t recognize.’ Meaning? Avoid products containing ingredients that are unpronounceable, unfamiliar, more than 5 in number or include high fructose corn syrup.

I’m not chained to this, but I try to frame our food in light of that. And holy cannoli err…holy broccoli, has it made a difference!

When we eat closer to these guidelines, we have more energy, our skin is clearer, and we feel better in general. Honestly, as we eat more good foods, we want more of them. Fast food has lost most of it’s luster and my raging sweet tooth has calmed. {Is there a pig flying somewhere?}

So far, I haven’t done anything too crazy, like buying chickens {our hoa would kill us}, but a few changes like

  • adding more veggies and fruits into our diet;
  • canning our own salsa;
  • and planting herbs and baby tomatoes,

make me feel like I’m becoming a better manager of my family’s food. One day I hope to have a big garden, a freezer to hold the produce, or maybe join a CSA (right now there aren’t any close to us). The investigation is slow, and for some reason even though I know these things are good and should be implemented, sometimes it’s just so dang difficult to follow through.

I keep seeing and hearing more on the subject, so I’m curious about how other families are responding.

Are you a food investigator? Is it hard to implement better eating habits even when you know the results are what you want? Are there any books you’ve read on the subject that you would recommend?

Because I Heart Cleaning

spring cleaning gone wild

I love to spring clean my house. And by love I mean that I love the feeling I get afterward. The cleaning itself? Meh. But after? I feel like I can take on the world. And that my house is awesome. And I, by default, am awesome.

The last two years, I’ve spring cleaned {do me a favor and pretend that’s grammatically correct, mkay? Gratzi.}, organized, and simplified over a whole month to make it doable for my schedule.

My plan of attack:

{Days 1-14}

I organize room by room. I try to assign rooms that are quicker {like the living room} to a busier day, and more complicated rooms {the closet} to a weekend. I give myself two weeks so I can miss some days and not feel bad. Guilt over cleaning = lame. Plus, this is the most time-consuming part of the process. Small caveat: I wait until the end of the month, when our grocery stockpile is at it’s all-time low, to clean out the pantry. It’s all about working smarter, not harder- can I get an amen?

As I go, I make myself three piles:

  1. Keep {Be selective. Have a friend help with this list if you tend to hoard.}
  2. Donate {Give things your family doesn’t need or use to an organization that will give them to a family who will.}
  3. Trash {Get rid of things you wouldn’t give to anyone. Read: ratty, old underwear. Eww.}

I sort through items as I take everything off the shelves. I wipe them, then thoughtfully rearrange as I put everything I’m keeping back. {By thoughtful, I mean I ask questions like, “Do I need to move something I use frequently to a better place?” And, “Are there any small changes that would save time or make life easier?”}

Along with that, I make myself a list of ‘to do’s’ and ‘to buy’s:’

  • Sometimes my to do’s get accomplished right away. For example, I took a delicates bag and hung it on my laundry basket for socks. Now I throw the bag in the laundry and don’t lose socks. {Unless my dog eats them. Seriously. I can’t get him to stop.}
  • We also do a lot of ironing, so on my ‘to buy’ list went a fold-down ironing rack. Granted, I have a feeling this is on a dream ‘to buy’ list, but it may be less expensive than I think. It would sure save a lot of stubbed toes and dangerous ‘the-iron-almost-fell-and-slash-or-burnt-my-hand-off’ moments.

{Days 15-21}

I do my normal weekly cleaning routine, and finish up any extra rooms on the list. I also organize and back up my computer.

{Days 22-28}

I break down deep cleaning tasks: 

  • Cabinets & doors
  • Baseboards & molding
  • High places {vents, fans, etc.}
  • Furniture
  • Floors

Each task gets one day. Leaving margin for busy days is important for me; if I have a crazy day and don’t get to the item, allowing a ‘free’ day keeps me from feeling overwhelmed and giving up.

{Days 28-30}

I go back through my ‘to do’s’ and ‘to buy’s’ with a fine tooth comb. What is unnecessary? What is a priority? I plan out the lists, measure {no skipping this step allowed!}, and go shopping for needed items.

I’ve found this yearly tradition saves me time and money, because I improve the processes I have in place and things are less likely to get lost in the clutter.

Do you spring clean? How do you break it down to make it work for your schedule?

14 Meal Planning Tips

14 meal planning tips

I am so excited to introduce you to Selah today! She is one of my long-time readers and has become a dear friend. She was gracious enough to share what she’s learned over her years of meal planning with me in a recent e-mail. Her tips saved me so much time I asked if she would mind turning her e-mail into a guest post. Thanks for agreeing, Selah!

Enough small talk: friends, Selah, Selah, friends.

Hi GTR readers! I’m Selah. I’ve been married to my college sweetheart, Bert, for 12-1/2 years and we have two very silly, beautiful children. I’m a full-time housewife, part-time administrative assistant, homeschool mom, and avid reader. I find that taking the time to plan ahead makes grocery shopping and daily meal preparation much quicker, easier, and cheaper. This is what I do:

  1. Set a budget. I averaged what I spent each week for 6 weeks to set my original budget. I reevaluate periodically, especially with major life changes like the birth of a child, or the youngest child getting out of diapers (diapers are expensive!).
  2. Choose where and how often to shop. For me, this means a once per week trip to a higher end grocery store, Harris Teeter, because they have great selection and customer service. Plus, twice monthly trips to Target for health and beauty products. You might choose to do all your food shopping at Super Target. It’s really just personal preference.
  3. Take advantage of savings cards and electronic resources. Lots of stores have a weekly flyer that can be viewed online. Many also have online and electronic coupons. Check out what your favorite stores have available. I use the e-Vic program at Harris Teeter and printable coupons from Target.
  4. Check out weekly specials. I focus on high dollar items like meat and produce. I also pay close attention to deeply discounted items, like buy one, get one sales (BOGO).
  5. Take weekly inventory. I check my freezer, fridge, and pantry to see what staples I’m running low on and what proteins I have available.
  6. Keep recipes together. I keep mine in one of two places – a Pinterest board or a binder. I used to flip through lots of different cookbooks and magazines but that takes up time. So, I copied all my favorite recipes from various cookbooks into one binder. Lately, I’ve been finding lots of new recipes on Pinterest and organizing them like a cookbook. If you’re interested, you can check it out here.
  7. Plan ahead. I plan meals that use the same protein and cook the protein once but use it twice. For instance, I bake BBQ chicken breasts and plain chicken breasts (just salt and pepper) at the same time. We eat the BBQ chicken for dinner that night and I use the plain in a casserole or soup later in the week. I also like to check the weather and plan accordingly, i.e. chili on a cold, rainy day. Most importantly, I plan meals with the proteins I have on hand and/or the ones on sale. I NEVER pay full price for meat.
  8. Don’t make it too hard. Each week I plan at least one “Leftover Night” and one “I don’t feel like cooking” meal (something ridiculously easy, like a frozen entrée, breakfast for dinner, or I even budget for takeout). This way, I’m not cooking every night but we still have a plan.
  9. Keep a Master Grocery List. This idea is from organizational guru Julie Morgenstern. I keep a list on my computer with all the things I regularly buy listed by aisle / area of the store. I highlight the items I need and print it out. Then I write in any additional items (or I add them to the Master List if I’m going to start buying them often).
  10. Use coupons wisely. I am not a big couponer. Harris Teeter has electronic coupons that I can link to my savings card. There are also coupons that print out with my receipt each week. I use these and any that come in packaging (lots of boxed products have coupons printed on the inside of the box).  I always check to see if I have coupons for the items that are already on my list. I also check to see if any of my coupons match up with sale items.  Combining a coupon with a sale is the best way to maximize savings.
  11. Pick an ideal shopping time. I like to shop on Saturday morning. I’ve had a big breakfast so I’m not hungry. My husband has the kids so I’m not hurried or distracted. Find what works best for you.
  12. Shop carefully. Generally speaking, if it’s not on my list I don’t buy it (this is somewhat flexible – sometimes I simply forgot to put something on the list, sometimes things are marked down unexpectedly, sometimes I just need chocolate). I compare prices between brands and sizes. I try to stick with generics but will buy name brands if the quality is really better.
  13. Stock up. If something I know I’ll use is on a good sale, I’ll buy extra. There are weeks when there are no good sales on meat but that’s OK because I stocked up the last time chicken was BOGO.
  14. Plan slowly. I find that if I rush through my planning I get sloppy and forget things, like the tissues my husband asked for or the chili powder I’m running low on. When I take the time upfront to plan ahead, I save a lot of time and headaches later!

Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us, Selah!

What do y’all think? Which tip is one you think would work well for your home? Number 9 cut my grocery shopping time in half. Half! Planning really does pay off in saving time.

Tight Fist or Open Hand?

principles and methods

I’ve been devouring this sermon series on Proverbs by Mark Driscoll.


I think it was part one where he talked about truisms and methods versus principles. This is a combination I’ve never considered and I think it’s so important as we look at to do’s and to be’s.

Many of the sayings in the book of Proverbs are truisms. Meaning most of the time, generally speaking, they are true. {For example, if you train your children, they will go the way you taught them or if you invest, you will build wealth.} Because life is not perfect, there are cases in which even if you “follow the rules” the perceived “reward” falls through, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

He then explored the idea of principles and methods. While a truism states a principle {be a good steward and invest} and the {generally} true result {you will build wealth}, methods are the variety of ways to get from the principle to the result.

We should live by principles, but methods vary because we’re all different, with varying skills, families, and life structures. DON’T FEEL ENSLAVED BY SOMEONE ELSE’S METHOD. DIFFERENT METHODS WORK BETTER FOR DIFFERENT PEOPLE. Sorry I had to shout, but I needed to hear that myself. I’ll see a superwoman and try to implement what I’ve seen her do and it falls flat. Instead of feeling guilty, I ought to consider what tweaks I can make to fit that principle to my life.

My favorite word picture from the sermon series ties it all together: hold principles with a tight fist and methods with an open hand.

Have you ever thought about the difference between principles and methods and how they fit together? Do you have a method that tends to dictate how you live? Let’s let those go and show ourselves some grace.