Decluttering to Move on a Tight and Busy Schedule

I have largely been inactive on this site due to finally closing on a house we have been trying to buy. We cut the lease on our apartment and have one more week to have our stuff out, we have been living here for about two weeks now.

Like most couples with kids, we have school schedules along with work. He works close to 50 hours a week and I’m part time but since school is starting and I work in clothing retail, my schedule has been crazy busy. We knew we were possibly going to move but due to the first loan falling through (blessing in disguise), I put off starting to declutter and pack- for fear of jinxing us. I am now regretting not starting, but we have almost all our items moved and are in the process of unpacking.

Most of the websites say to start seriously packing about a month before the move, start with nonessentials but we decided to move in to the house as soon as we had our new bed and move stuff over as we had time. You can even find tips for 3-4 months before the move. When you know you’re moving and have that much time, it’s easy to declutter, pack neatly and even plan and hold a yardsale.

We also had reasons, we didn’t want a ton of cardboard boxes clogging up both homes so we decided to pack several boxes then reuse. I started with the same 3-4 boxes, but it wasn’t working. I had a neighbor give me one box and my parents gave us several others. We still have managed to move a full 4 bedroom townhome over to the new house- with only about 10 extra boxes. We already had several totes, I’m in the process of switching from storing things in cardboard to totes.

Here are some tips I have come up with with moving quickly on a busy schedule

Tips for Packing Up the Old House

1. Don’t be afraid to recruit help- Packing, moving and taking inventory of your stuff while two kids are running around unpacking boxes can take a lot of extra time. Recruit someone to help with watching the kids.

2. If it’s not a major move (across state lines or the other side of the state), you don’t need to waste money on a moving van- We have a truck and other family members with trucks. If you have any friends or family members with trucks, recruit them. Just paying gas money saves on what you would pay a mover.

3. Recruit your kids to help- your kids will be just as excited and as nervous about the new house as you are. Give them some boxes and have them pack their toys, games, clothes and anything else of theirs.

4. Don’t stress if you can’t get everything sorted before moving but if there is anything big you are definitely replacing, put it to the side. You may be at the end of your lease so you don’t have the time to slowly move, or you could be like us- not wanting to jump the gun then having the house close super fast, you could even be dealing with an eviction. No matter the reason, you’re needing to be out of your old house/apartment fast but you have all the time in the world in your new home. If you’re down to the last month, or last three weeks but you both work 40 hour weeks, find someone to come with you to help watch your kids and move as much in one day as possible.

5. When you’re packing, look at each item you’re putting in boxes and ask “do I really want to take the time to move you?” If the answer isn’t a “yes” enthusiastically, you may want to toss it.

6. Use your kitchen and bathroom towels to pack up glass and breakable items. It gets your towels moved and helps protect

Tips for Unpacking at the New House

1. While unpacking, throw in the 1 year rule. If it’s a nonseasonal item, if you haven’t used it in six months give a serious thought to when you last used it. If you can’t remember, or it’s been well over a year, toss in the donate/sell or trash box.

2. Make sure you keep the three boxes- “Donate/Sell,” “keep” and “toss.” This is one of the primary tips I have read in all organizing, decluttering and cleaning advice pieces but it’s very important. When you have your “keep” box full, put everything immediately in place. If a nonessential is

3. If you move boxes you still had packed from your last move and you haven’t touched them, you may want to rethink holding on to them. There is a good chance that the items are nothing more than dead weight. If it’s a box filled with your children’s art work, there is a website Artkive that will turn them into a book for you and will even keep and dispose of the drawings. That way, you have the pictures but they will be neatly compiled in book form and won’t take up too much space (or get ruined as easily)

If you don’t have the money, you can also scan the drawings on the computer and save them under a file on your computer, you can even go on a self publishing site, like Lulu Publishing, and create a picture book yourself.

If the boxes have clothing items you’re trying to save “for when you lose those extra X pounds,” maybe keep one or two quality pairs of pants, but just donate or give them away to someone who wears that size now. If they have misc stuff that you’re just afraid to give up because you don’t want to replace, just remember that you haven’t used it since before your last move- you likely won’t miss it. Those boxes (we all are guilty of moving unopened boxes around from home to home) are the easiest way to declutter.

4. Go through your shoes. Chances are, you are holding on to several pairs you never wear. If you have multiple shoes that are very similar (I personally have 3 pairs of black boots- a pair of ankle boots, mid-calf and knee high- I had more but got rid of all the others, I had a favorite pair I wore 24-7 but finally had to get rid of them. After getting rid of the favored pair, I started collecting boots trying to find a pair that could replace the ones I liked and ended up with about five or six pairs of black boots I didn’t like, so I kept one of each length and wear them all occasionally)

5. Pick easy targets- most of us have ended up with large collections of kitchen gadgets that we don’t really use. It could be that somehow you now have 5 spatulas but only use 2. You could continue to save all the others for when the others get old and let them take up precious space, or you could give them away or sell them and get them out of your kitchen. Take a look around your kitchen, it’s usually one of the easiest targets. Look for canned and boxed food past the exp date, open packages of food you tried then didn’t like or gadgets you had to have and never used. Choose the bathroom next and find all the cosmetics, soaps, cleansers and medications past their exp dates, small sample or travel size shampoos and soaps you don’t use and anything else that is taking up room. Getting those two rooms will give you the motivation and energy to go through the other rooms to get them in shape.

 

These are 11 decluttering and moving tips I have found so far. We are still in the process of moving, so when we finish and get everything posted, I’ll make another list of the other tips I used.

If you have had to move quickly or downsize homes, how did you handle the decluttering and packing? What were some ways you kept your sanity? I’d love to hear.

 

Are Any of These “Fad” Diets Right For You?

Anyone familiar with dieting has likely heard of a few of the new diets put out. Some are best as medical and have no health benefits outside of those who need them (Gluten free for example) and others can boost your overall energy and wellbeing, while helping figure out if you need to avoid any foods or not (Whole30)
Some fit the bill perfectly if you have combinations of medical issues that have recommended diets (Paleo can easily fit the bill if you have a mix of medical issues)

This is the first post dealing with the different dietary options. These are some of the more well known- some lifestyle, some best bets for medical and others can help with weightloss.

 

Plant based– This diet involves eating mostly fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds and nuts- anything found planted and very little meat or animal products.Some people take it to vegetarian levels, but many do continue eating meat and sea food.

In this diet, you eat mostly grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes. The reasoning behind taking most animal products out and eating mostly grown foods is focused on sustainability and the concept that our ancestors ate very little meat- they had to kill the animals themselves, so their diets weren’t high in meat. It is thought that they didn’t have the lifestyle diseases like we have now- diabetes or obesity especially and this is a very low artificially processed diet.

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Vegan is typically a lifestyle change than just a “diet”- where they not only avoid eating meat, eggs or anything like honey (anything that comes from animals), they avoid using any products, clothes or cosmetics that use animal products at all. This is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle choice- based typically on morals. This is a wonderful way to live, if you’re healthy and can handle taking all animal foods out of your diet- it’s not for everyone, though. Vegan isn’t a fad diet, it’s a lifestyle based on ethics and morals. The only problem is that some people get sick when taking all animal products out. Other people don’t get sick and swear by that diet being the “magic pill” but like all diets, it’s not going to work for everyone.

If you’re not ready to take the full steps to become a vegan, you have the options of full or partial vegetarian. There are some vegetarians that consume no meat and others that only consume seafood.

Many vegans started as vegetarians and it can be a huge step towards full veganism. Other options are to find non cruelty cosmetic, skin and hair care brands and start reading ingredients in everything you purchase to make sure no animal by-products are listed. There is also a one month Vegan challenge- Veganuary that helps you make the switch.

Gluten-Free– this is a very beneficial diet if you’re Celiac, intolerant, have certain autoimmunity issues or a few other medical problems BUT it’s not beneficial at all for people in good health. This diet eliminates wheat, rye, barley and anything with any form of those three grains. Gluten is the protein that adds to the flavor and texture of bread and other baked foods. There is nothing inherently wrong with it and a diet rich in whole grains (which the GF misses) is one of the best. Whole grains are much healthier than white (bleached and enriched). If you eat gluten free, have no medical issues and choose to use substitutes you may find yourself gaining weight. You’ll likely gain because gluten free foods have much more sugar added than normal grains to make up for taste and texture differences. If you do see a dramatic difference (positive), you may want to speak to a doctor because it could be something wrong- either something like an intolerance or as severe as Celiac. Gluten is out of your system within a month, so one month gluten free should be a decent indicator if you actually have issues with it. Common symptoms of an intolerance are bloating, nausea, diarrhea, gas, heartburn and some people even say joint and head pain goes away on the gluten free diet. It should really only be followed if you have a medical problem and going gluten free helps eliminate the symptoms.

Paleo- This is almost the polar opposite of Vegan. You do eat a lot of fruits, vegetables but it’s higher in protein and animal products, like eggs and no grains, legumes. The Paleo diet helps avoid foods that are highly processed and not natural to our bodies. The whole point of the Paleo is to try to take you to what our ancestors used to eat, before obesity and Diabetes became epidemic but even if it’s not the best way for everyone to eat, I found with the food recommendations people made to me based on Reactive Hypoglycemia, Gluten and Lactose triggered IBS and a few other issues, Paleo is a good fit.

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Whole30 is the Paleo on steroids. It’s a very strict elimination diet made to last 30-60 days to reset your old eating habits and has a re-introduction plan to help determine any intolerance or other food issues you may have. There are several books and it’s recommended to read “It Starts with Food” prior to starting so you get the rules down. This diet is also made to make you think about your eating habits. The rules are fairly simple-
1. Don’t snack (unless you have to due to medical issues like Hypoglycemia) or are genuinely hungry
2. Eat 3 larger meals and make sure to follow their guidelines on the right amount of protein and fats. That part is important to avoid cravings and keep from getting deficiencies.
3. No desert or make shift sweets, no “Paleo” or “whole30 compliant” pasta, breads or breakfast foods like
4. (Not so much a written rule but very strong guideline)- read the books before attempting Whole30. It Starts with Food explains the plan, the journal is great to go through as you’re on Whole30. It gives a day by day play out of how you may be feeling and gives you space to write things down. The cookbook is a godsend when you’re at a loss for good, flavorful recipes or when you’re burning out. It even gives recipes for condiments but be careful if you try using the butter. They have a recipe for “clarified” butter but it still is dairy- even melted down and if you have issues with dairy, it will give you diarrhea.
5. No “cheats” and no “slips.” If you have one slip, even on accident, you have to start over from day one. That’s not for any morality reason, it’s because the diet is set to reset your digestive system and if you mess up, it can set you back.

I made it 22 days in and ended up accidentally eating something steamed in butter, so I had to start over. This 1-2 month diet helps find trouble foods, as long as you put things back in the right way (one thing at a time over the course of 2-3 days instead of everything at once)

 

I will come back with another post similar to this with another four diets and I will post further going more in depth with each diet. This is a basics- the basics of what you can and can’t eat with each. Each do have benefits but they also can be bad- no 2 bodies are the same. I can do extremely well on the Paleo diet, but other people won’t. I couldn’t last 2 weeks Vegan before I ended up on supplements and others feel great.

 

 

Why is Sleep Such an Important but Neglected Resource?

This post does contain an affiliate link, so I will be paid a small commission for any purchase of the book but I am NOT affiliated with the book itself, I just found the book extremely useful and want to recommend it.

In our society and age, the phrase “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is used quite often. People don’t think twice about sleep when they have work to get done and sleep is often sacrificed. Our society is sicker than ever with heavy caffeine dependencies. I was constantly joking about being sleep deprived, then I found the book, “Sleep Smarter” and it’s changing how I’m looking at the most valuable resource to health, weight loss/healthy weight, younger looking skin and productivity.

According to Medical News Today’s website

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) 2015 recommendations for appropriate sleep durations for specific age groups are:

  • Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours each day

  • Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours

  • Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours

  • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours

  • School-age children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours

  • Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours

  • Adults (18 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours

  • Older adults (over 65 years): 7 to 8 hours

Here in our current overwork/workaholic state, we deem working more important than sleeping but there have been studies showing that sleep deprivation is as bad for your brain as a night of binge drinking. As you lose sleep, part of your brain starts to shut down- it causes you to lose impulse control, slows your reflexes, slows your mind down and you also lose focus. It causes changes in moods and cuts off sugar to the brain- which powers it and is why you start craving junk food- and lose the will power to resist.

Sleep repairs your mental state as well as helps your body heal and grow. It is impossible to work your best, be your best and look your best if you’re running on little sleep.

If you suffer any of these symptoms, you could be suffering sleep deprivation

  1. Excessive yawning
  2. Mood swings
  3. Trouble grasping even simple new concepts
  4. Feelings of zoning out and even losing touch with reality
  5. Forgetting
  6. Fatigue- constant
  7. Feeling excessively tired, even after sleeping for longer periods
  8. Trouble with concentration
  9. Clumsiness
  10. Craving sweet and junk foods
  11. No motivation for anything

Sleep deprivation has many effects on the body

  1. Lowered immune system
  2. Weight gain
  3. Respiratory and cardiovascular diseases
  4. Hormone production (sleep helps growth in children)

If you feel that you’re being affected by sleep deprivation, there are plenty of steps to take to fix it. The book I’m reading, “Sleep Smarter,” by Shawn Stevenson outlines 21 ways and the science to back them up. If you haven’t read it, I suggest reading it.

You can get it here.

 

Some of the ways listed (that have scientific backing)

  1. Set a schedule to always go to bed and wake up around the same time.
  2. Turn off all electronics 2 hours before bedtime
  3. Sleep with a cooler room temperature
  4. Don’t consume caffeine too late in the afternoon
  5. Keep in mind that we sleep in cycles- each full cycle is 90 minutes (1 1/2 hours) so try to set an alarm at the end of a cycle (2 full is 3 hours, 4 is six hours and 5 would be 71/2). If you wake up in the middle of a cycle, that is why you’re tired and groggy. In order to fully function and feel refreshed, you need full cycles.

The book goes in depth about the importance of the steps and has another 16 tips but those are the ones I am personally working on and have found to be of particular use in my home.

As you can see, sleep is a very important resource that we do not get near enough of. There is no use to stay up all night working on a project- you might “finish” the project, but it will not be your best if you’re too tired, the two hours after you wake up are said to be the most productive hours of your day- so that is the best time to work on important projects.

If anyone feels like I did, like no matter how much sleep you get you are never functionally awake, read this book. Just a few days after reading it and working on changing a few things, I feel more energetic and don’t take as long to get out of bed as I used to.

 

Simple Steps to Green Up Your Life and Live Healthier

You don’t have to live out in the country to live a more sustainable life.

You also don’t have to be a stay at home mom/housewife/house husband or stay at home dad in order to cook more home made meals or start making your own detergents, cleaners or anything else around your home.

Batch cooking and slow cookers are two of the best ways to make homemade meals when you and your spouse/partner work part/full time.

Batch cooking is best done on a day off when you can spend several hours prepping at once and a slow cooker just requires tossing the meal in the cooker in the morning, setting it to low and leaving it as you are heading to work. When you get home, you have your dinner ready.

Batch cooking can help with giving you a week worth of frozen, easy to fix meals. Just cook everything at once then portion out into tupperware- when you need something fast, toss in the microwave like a microwave meal and you have a healthy, home made meal fast.

 

There is a whole organization devoted to helping with urban homesteading, if that’s what you’re interested in trying. Urban homesteading is the city version of modern day traditional living- gardening, home baking and cooking, even growing your own grain can be included, collecting rainwater, making your own detergents/cleaners and hygiene products and can go as far as sewing your own clothing and other cloth items.

Some tips to get started-

If it’s legal, collecting rain water can be done in a small area. Check and make sure it’s legal and make sure the barrel or item you’re using is safe.

Rainwater is as natural as it gets and it’s free. If you collect enough, it will save you on your water bill and it helps when you live in areas prone to various problems (it can help if you live in a drought prone area or if run off and pesticide use is a concern, here is further reading about rain water harvesting)

Gardening

There are special lights sold to help tomatoes grow indoors. All it takes is a small enough area to put a pot and they have special pots to help grow tomatoes in small areas and inside your home.

Regardless if you have very little yard or no actual yard, if you can put something like a table or stand next to a sunny window, you can grow some plants indoors. You can also start a container herb garden on your kitchen counter.

Cleaning and Personal Hygiene

Making chemical free cleaning products as well as detergents, shampoo, soaps and deodorants are another easy way to make your life a bit greener.

Pinterest is a huge resource for recipes for any kind of cleaner or personal hygene product you can find. If you have vinegar, it’s a great start. If you clean a countertop with straight white vinegar, you can disinfect. It also works for a lot of other cleaning that I’m putting into a different blog post.

Baking soda helps as well. With it’s gentle but rough texture, it helps polish and can help get harder to remove stuff off dishes and other harder to clean items.

Borax is also a great tool to have in your inventory. Others that work alone or in combo are

1. lemon juice/lemons

2. Castile soap

3. peroxide

4. alcohol

5. salt

There will be other ingredients added but it will depend on what you’re using. Baking soda helps whiten teeth and peroxide can help as well. Baking soda also helps with exfoliating your face (gentle exfoliation) and salt can be added to coffee and coconut oil as an anti-aging exfoliant. Put lavender oil in instead of coffee and it can soothe skin and help with relaxation.

Salt is abrasive, it can be gentle as a facial or body exfoliant but can also be rough enough to help get grease off a pan.

Alcohol cleans cuts and scrapes. It hurts but it disinfects. Using pure rubbing alcohol also helps kill various pests and helps sterilize.

 

Shopping

You can either buy reusable shopping bags from most grocery stores, Etsy or you can sit down with a sewing machine and make them yourself.

Not only do they take up less room than that huge plastic bag filled with plastic bags, they hold more (less trips to the car) and they can be used more than plastic bags.

They don’t get thrown out and end up in a landfill either so it’s actually helping if you’re trying to be more eco-friendly.

It’s simple to make a couple bags if you know how to sew (I’m going to do a walk through tutorial when I have access to my fabric and sewing machine)

There are also mesh produce bags you can buy online or in some stores. They keep your produce cleaner while using less plastic.

Not all foods you buy need to be labeled “organic.” Anything with a thicker peal doesn’t. (like avocados, bananas, etc)

The main concern a lot of people have with conventional vs organic are the pesticides used (growing your own is the only way to really ensure no pesticides are used and I have had some beautiful gardens in the past without any chemicals being used. If you have a thick peal that you’re not eating, there will be less residual pesticide left on the food you eat. The ones you eat like apples, pears etc are the ones you want to look for organic. The difference will end up saving you money in the long run as well.

Composting is also easy to do whether you live in a small apartment or house. Save your scraps (except meat and bones, etc). Here is a guide to show what items to compost and what benefits it gives your garden. It also reduces trash waste, which reduces plastic- even by a tiny bit.

Misc. Ways to Reduce Waste

Plastic is being banned in different forms in some cities, and for a good reason. It takes plastic over 100-200 years to break down once it’s in a landfill, it’s also being found in oceans and other bodies of water and actually harming some of the fish that live in those bodies.

Most of us use large amounts of plastic on a day to day basis (especially after our water was poisoned a few years ago, I only drink bottled water, since I starteed drinking bottled spring water the purified water or tap water has too strong of a chemical taste for me personally to stomach). Here are a few ways you can reduce plastic- in ways you won’t miss.

A. Buy a reusable stainless steel straw- you wash them out between uses and can take them with you to restaurants instead of using their plastic one time use straws.

B. Use reusable razors instead of disposable. The razor blades may seem like they cost more, but in the long run they will save money and it will be less plastic being thrown out.

C. Make deodorant or toothpaste instead of buying the ones in plastic. There are tons of easy recipes both on Google or Pinterest for home made products of both varieties. If you buy in a plastic tub, make sure you use all the product left instead of just tossing it out when it gets low. There is a roller made to get

D. Buy reusable shopping bags and produce bags

E. When you look hard enough, there are reusable zip lock bags as well- designed for food in your lunch but also reusable and washable so you don’t end up just tossing it out. Also- buy a lunch box instead of using a plastic bag. You get years of use and very little waste.

F. Use cardboard where you can instead of plastic. Any time you can choose between a cardboard container over plastic, go with cardboard.

G. There are many other ways to reduce plastic waste- look around your home and see what alternatives you can use.

2. Up-cycling old jeans instead of throwing them out or making a tote bag out of old shirts you were going to toss helps reduce waste.

3. Buying second hand. You do need to be careful about catching infestations, but as long as the clothing or items don’t have bugs or eggs, buying from thrift shops helps reduce waste as well. You’re buying other peoples’ old clothing and items they could have thrown out. It’s the same with consignments and sales. Also donating your stuff or selling your old stuff keeps more stuff from being thrown out

4. Switch to getting your bills online instead of snail mail, go to the magazine’s website to read the articles you’re interested in or donate old magazines to waiting rooms.

5. Read the newspaper online, recycle physical papers or use newspaper for packaging.

6. Stop buying paper towels and napkins- start using cloth instead. It saves money, trash and you can reuse for many years. Cloth is also more gentle, so it’s safer to use on types of glass.

 

These are a few tips to save some time, money and show that anyone can eat a little healthier and live a little greener regardless of how much time you have and regardless if you live in a small apartment or a large house with lots of land.

If you want to add any tips, feel free to comment any other tips and if you would like further guides with any of the items I mentioned, I will add it to my list of blogs for this site.