The UnCluttered Mother

The Real Life Adventures of a Surprised Mom!

The First Day of School – This Year It’s Not a Happy Day For Me!

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m having a hard time this year with my little diva heading back to school – and it’s just the first day!

At first, I thought it was the fact that her classroom this year strangely resembles a portable – oh our surprise at registration! That dreadful word “portable” rose off the page and bounced before my eyes so wildly I couldn’t even see the teacher’s name. I remember driving past the school this summer wondering which poor sucker’s would be doomed to those “buildings” only to discover it was my very own female child!  I sat in that “classroom” completing registration paperwork and I was so bothered I couldn’t even remember simple things like my address. It was then I know something else was afoot.

Here’s what happened:  Late last year, I was working in a corporate office and I disliked it immensely. It left me feeling like I was sacrificing valuable time that should be spent with my little one. So my husband and I decided that at the end of the school year, I would depart to spend a summer of fun with my daughter. And what fun we had, playing the stereo loud and dancing around the house, singing Phantom of the Opera tunes when driving around, completing household projects together, planning our yard sale, sorting consignment items, school clothes shopping, finally cleaning her room (her not me this time), etc. – we reached several household goals together.

Did she get all those playdates I promised or trips, to the kiddie science centers for educational reasons – NO! Was I the perfect mother that ALWAYS fed her the most nutritious food ever because I was home and could make the best snacks in town – NO! Sometimes there were cookies, Sonic grilled cheeses, Velveeta shells and cheese microwave cups, happy meals and Mommy’s sweet tea with extra ice trips to McDonald’s.

But what I really liked, no really loved, were the times, especially on “Homestead Mondays” when our only rule was pajama day all day, when she simply chose to curl up next to me and laid on my lap or shoulder while watching a mommy-approved kid show on Netflix or PBS and seemed completely content and felt totally safe. We’d sit there hugged up for the longest time and I was reminded each day of why the sacrifices we make for our children DO matter no matter how much a cost it may be to our time, careers and our to-do lists.

So in short, and five paragraphs later, I wanted to say that registration morning forced me toward my harsh truth – that come today, I was going to lose my beloved sidekick – and I indeed really miss my kid and I’m not doing well on this dreadful, teary, 1st day of school. I even reached behind me to hold her hand on the way to school. Oh I know I might sound a bit dramatic, that given time I’ll adjust to the glorious silence, and that I’m choosing to ignore the way she dropped my hand like a hot potato when time to exit the car without a goodbye in her excitement, but I don’t want to right now. I’m watching the clock until I get the privilege of picking up my bundle of joy from school – something no one else can do right now – because until more are sent home this week – I’m the only one with a car rider tag!

Hope you enjoyed your summer!

Stephanie Out-

The Back Talk Jar – Kid Friendly and Tough Mother Approved!

“Bundle of joy or not! Mommy does not like backtalk! Now I don’t know if it’s the school playground, after care, or Disney Jr. where you’re learning your new lingo but I really need it to stop!” So went my conversation with my female child, but seriously I was at a loss with what to do because nothing seems to work. Punishment didn’t seem to work because banishing her to her room is where her favorite flashlight, books and pet fish are. It’s a haven of fun in there!

So I decided it was time to get tough! Her father and I had recently decided to formally give her an allowance each week. He bought her a journal where she is to keep track of her funds and she loves it. More importantly, she LOVES the money and she now regularly peruses the toy catalog and picks out all the things she wants to buy (Each month, I gently remind her that she is required to hand over the last week of the month for her savings account – yes, I could ask for it at the beginning of the month but then she’d have all month to go “buy” crazy. I’m going for lessons in patience and positive self denial here).

Then it hit me! An empty jar I ordered on clearance a few years back and discovered under the sink and her allowance! Yes, I was going to charge a fee for backtalk! It’s a backtalk fee! Oh please, if you want real results you have to hit a toy-loving 7-yr old where it hurts – in her sticker decorated piggybank.

So true to our usual routine, I explain the new situation to her – “Sweetie, your father and I (I have to include him for added credibility) are apalled and saddened by the recent backtalking we’ve noticed”. After the typical non-interested blank stare, I busted it out there, “Listen sister, the backtalking is going to stop and for every time I hear it, you will be charged a whole nickel”. She tilts her head slightly and says, “You know mommy, there are five nickels in a Quarter” as she begins singing the “counting by fives segment” of Schoolhouse Rock. Naturally, I commend her, “That’s right honey! But I need you to know that bad behavior will cost you going forward. Are we clear on the terms, a nickel every time?”.  “Yes Mommy”, she says, “every 5 times I talk back will cost me a quarter. Are we done now?”

After reminding her that it’s a nickel per occurence and not a lump sum fee after five times, OH we were done and I’m proud to say I earned my first nickel right away. I’m not ashamed! Children have to learn that there are rules on behavior. Okay, I gave her a grace period since we just started but I’ve been firm since then. In fact, there’s at least a whole quarter in that jar and more to come!

Chat Soon,


Same Baby I brought home from the Hospital?

I’ve been staring a lot lately at my 7-year old, especially when she so adamantly tells me what she’s not going to do, how she’s full shortly after begging for dinner that’s not ready fast enough, or explains to me how it was my fault that she forgot HER sneakers and had to sit P.E out last week. Hmmm, I think, there’s no way this is the same 9lb plumpster I brought home from the hospital just yesterday. Where did the time go?

Other parents told me to enjoy the time because it goes by quickly, but who knew how fast it would really fly! I can actually see my little plumpster heading out the door one day to her own place with a reminder for me to not forget to pay her rent – yes, it will happen because my husband tells me I have spoiled her rotten. AS IF! He’s the one that takes her into Wal-Mart and out she comes with the latest whatever! None of that for me, when the begging starts in the store, I don’t make eye contact anymore! She been reading for years now so I pass her a post-it note with the word NO on it! I keep a stack of them in my purse. She tugs heroically at my sleeve to force eye contact, but I focus my mind’s eye on the final balance of the impending store receipt because I never understand why it’s so high with a basket filled with BOGO’s!

Don’t get me wrong, I looove the way she’s developed has her own voice and feels safe expressing it – something I didn’t learn until I was much, much, older – like a grown woman older! I just need to reign it in a little for now and remind her that I am Mommy and that I’m still stuck 8 years back when I was informed about my impending surprise and how my life has never been the same since. Not that it ever will be and not that I would ever change anything – but if I could just get her to understand that she was once my little baby that needed me for everything and the older she gets it’s a little less each day – from every shoe she puts on without my help, every hairdo she pats down because her curls are too high, every grownup conversation she has that leaves me speechless, every nap she takes where she’s strangely taller afterwards, every dress she chooses over my preferred playground friendly skorts, and every outfit she vetoes at Gymboree – I miss you my sweet little one but I am truly looking forward to the adventure called your life and what a ride it will be!

Rock on my sweet and don’t worry about Mommy! Cut her some slack and be gentle when you remind her that you are not a baby anymore – even though she has refused to take down the baby pics from 7 years ago. Give her some time and one day she just might actually put your kindergarten picture on the mantle and who knows, by high school graduation, perhaps you’ll finally be up to 2nd Grade or even later.

You never know….Mommies are always full of surprises!

I Thought Mega Bubble Berry Toothpaste Was the Answer!

I don’t know about you but the thought of berry toothpaste doesn’t appeal to me! However, it means the world to the little female human that lives in my house – and especially the one that has yet to move to her own bed! Don’t get me wrong – I love knowing my little bundle of joy is just inches away from me at night. It’s the foot to my lower back, the punch in the eye, the head butt while turning, and finally mastering the art of side sleeping on a few inches of bed that changes my mind about sharing space!  I know, all in the life of a mom’s sleep cycle.

So here’s what happened – every mom with school age children knows my situation – they sleep in your room, they dress in your room, they groom in your room. So this fine day, I’m in a hurry as usual, and while barking my usual morning orders while multi-tasking, I end up sticking my toothbrush in my mouth, only to realize it’s Mega Bubble Berry! Besides the obvious gag reflex that took me years back to the days of my first trimester, I made the decision that we have reached the “sharing fork” in the road.

Now it was time to tell her and my husband was noticeably and suddenly AWOL! I approach her while she’s brushing – cause that way she can’t say much but stare – and I firmly announce that the time has come for her to begin fully using her personal bedroom.  “See honey”, I say, “your bedroom is your own personal space and it’s where you can sleep, get dressed, use the potty, and brush your teeth with your favorite toothpaste.” I was met with a blank stare with a soft touch of defiance – I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere and she wasn’t planning on going anywhere.

So I did what any mother would do – I found my husband and let him have it about how the children today have no respect for their parents and how as a young girl, I would never presume to enter my parents room and handle my business in there. I told him how she kept on brushing while I was talking, asked me to hand her a cup for her fluoride rinse, and clearly had no intention of leaving my space. As with most men, he had a very simple fix for my problem  – “just move her things to her room and tell her from now on she is to take care of things in her room only”. Uh-huh, I’ll get right on that. “I’ll give it some more thought”, I say.

So you’ll be happy to know, that here we are two months later and I have reached a resolution to our problem. She takes my husband side of the vanity and I stick to mine!

P.S.  Feel free to leave me a comment and let me know how life’s going with your little ones. They sure are wonderful to have around!

Chat Soon.

Tackling Your Junk Drawer

Junk DrawerLet’s stop kidding around with this drawer of terror! If you can get your junk drawer to open, tackle it immediately.  Try using these two suggestions for a better psychological approach to your junk drawer:

  • Rename The Drawer. Junk implies unwanted and unloved objects that no one wants. In reality, what you will find in this drawer are rogue shirt buttons, missing pens, recipes cards, paper clips, post-it notes, loose change, etc.  Things in this drawer are not unwanted but misplaced and are often there because we could not figure out where to put them at that moment. So let’s rename the drawer, “Relocation Services” because everything in it is just waiting to be relocated to a new home.
  • Pre-Organize Your Drawer. Part of the problem with tackling this drawer is that when it’s opened, everything rolls astray all over the place.  Avoid this problem in advance by placing a small silverware tray, small box lids, or an office drawer organizer inside the drawer so when you place objects in there, you can go ahead and organize them. Tackling the drawer will be less daunting when everything already seems somewhat organized.

Now let’s get started on that junk drawer.  Approach, Open, Experience the Horror, Attack!

Drop me a line and let me know how it’s going for you.

Home Storage Tips and Reminders

In my opening post in this series, my recommendation was that you not over organize but just have a strategy. Same rules apply when setting up your home storage systems. Rather than rushing out to invest in an ultra slick, deliciously organized system of stacked plastic containers, baskets, and bins, think about the following:

What is the goal of your home storage system? Simple: Your system should be efficient, "locale" specific, and kid-friendly.

Why efficient? The easier the better. How often do you think you would be motivated to use an organizing system that required "moving mountains" to retrieve or store items aways? Most likely items would get plopped on top of the storage container and develop into a hot mess over time. Think also about the best containers for the item to be stored. Consider a clear versus a solid color storage container for commonly used items such as DVDs, because that would allow a quick visual scan of the container rather than having to put out a DVD APB in your own home.

Why "locale" specific? Keeping everything close to where it's used means less travel for that item and reduces the effort required to put it away after use.

And Kid Friendly? As I discussed in a previous post, we want the family to buy into our home organization efforts. So make it easy for your children to stay involved by making sure their coat and backpack hooks are on their level, using bins with wheels and long handles for pulling, and providing stepping stools so they can easily reach lower level shelves to put toys, shoes, or clothing away. 

Get Organized By Recycling

Recycling is an ongoing project that everyone can get involved in right away. Again, as you’re organizing, make sure you watch for items that can be recycled. At my house, it’s more newspapers and water bottles that I’ve been guilty of tossing in the trash.

Don’t feel a need to purchase anything special because a simple box or plastic storage bin will do.  I use a simple cardboard box for newspapers but a plastic one for water bottles so if there’s any spillage, it won’t leak through.

Get your kiddos involved because they will be sure to keep you diligent about recycling. Look for ways to help your local schools out by placing your recyclable items in their bins. Make sure to include the plastic shopping bags in your recycling program because most stores have started their own recycling programs for these and will accept bags from all stores, not just their own.

Donate 101!

Donations are good for the soul. So don’t hold back when you find good items during your organization/cleaning program that could be contributed.  Besides the obvious tax breaks, donating to your local charities is a wonderful way to teach our kiddos the joy of giving.  In fact, they love to be involved and I’ve found are more than happy to search their rooms for giveaways. 

As for the adults, the key to our donating success is to be honest about what needs to go.  The skinny skirt hidden in our closet from 10 years and 6 sizes ago, gone! The suit pants that not even a belt could love, out! Dusty tools that are in good shape but our fingerprints are nowhere to be found on them, donate! Spread the love you experienced with these products by donating them to a worthy organization for someone else to use in the present. 

I urge you to find a box worthy of your gifts and let’s get these things donated! I am wishing you the best with letting go and trust that I know how hard it can be.

Drop me a line and let me know how it’s going for you.

#6 Let’s Get Busy!

Family Meeting – Check! 
Timeline – Check!
Home stations – Check!
Rewards System – Check!
Cleaning Caddy – Check!

The project day has finally arrived! So let's get busy. Wait – do not start anything without a timer! It doesn't have to be anything fancy, you can use a digital watch, the timer on your stove, or the alarm clock on your cell phone. I don't recommend simply watching the time on the clock because I honestly think you'll fare better if you have that timer working it's "psychological tricks" on your mind. Somehow knowing that timer will sound off at any minute just puts more urgency in your step. 

Since it's your first time out on this huge project, start out with say 15 minutes and go from there. The most I would recommend you set the timer is only for 30 minutes. After that, it just seems too long and I've found that I'll drag my feet a bit because I think I have plenty of time to get a certain room done. However, if a longer time works for you, have at it!

So……Set the timer, get ready, set, now go!   

Next: We'll talk junk drawers, donations, recycling, storing items, etc.   Stay tuned.

#5 Stock Your Cleaning Caddy

I know what you're thinking: why didn't we make this cleaning caddy after suggestion #3, where we broke our home into stations? Well, I'll tell you.  After you completed the exercise of breaking down every room into individual stations, I thought it best to start thinking about rewards rather than barrel forward with this task – just in case the thought of cleaning each small area seemed overwhelming or caused you to want to throw in the towel.

The Cleaning Caddy – The caddy is for storing and carrying all of your cleaning supplies so make sure whatever container you use has a handle for easy carrying.  Each room will have unique needs so the cleaning supplies may be different. I'm not so firm on having a different caddy for each room because most of the cleaning supplies will be the same. However, I do think certain items in your caddy should remain separate such as any cleaning cloths or sponges. The bathroom, kitchen, and dusting cloths should not be used interchangebly – and you know why! Check your local dollar store for a cheap pack of multi-purpose wipes and you're all set!

Next: Let's Get Busy!!!!!!

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