Category Archives: Tips

5 Habits to Become More Organized

Business owners, household leaders and those who are generally busy from day-to-day need to stay on top of their to-do lists.  Women offer wear many hats through out the week – boss, employee, wife, mother, sister, daughter, grocery buyer, dinner maker, house cleaner, driver, etc.   So how do these wonder women stay on their A-game?  They stay organized.

5 habits to become more organized

You have to build good and consistent habits to stay organized.  Organization doesn’t come naturally to most people.  Over the years, we develop systems to help.  Here are my top 5 habits to become more organized and stay organized!

1. Organize your mornings.

Before you go to bed, look at your day ahead.  Make sure you’re ready for what’s coming at you.  Lay out your clothes, plan a filling breakfast and make sure your everything your kids will need is ready for an easy morning.  Wake up early so you can have a little downtime before the day begins.  Make your bed.  It’s crazy how the simple task of making your bed can help your whole day get off on the right foot.

2. Organize your time.

Know where you’re spending your time throughout they day.  Time is valuable, so don’t waste it.  Organizing your time will you give more freedom to do the things you enjoy doing.  Map out your day from beginning to end.  It will help you not to feel stressed or forget to get something done.

3. Organize what is important to you.

Make what you enjoy doing a priority.  Ensure anything that’s important to you is mapped out on your calendar.  Whether it is going to the gym, attending every single soccer your game your little girl is playing in, or anything else.  You need to identify what’s important to you and then make it a priority.

4.  Organize your home.

You can waste a lot of time for searching for your car keys every morning.  So have a spot for everything and put everything in it’s place.  It will cut down on time and stress.

5.  Organize your work.

Keep a daily to-do list of at least three things you need to get done.  That way you won’t overwhelm yourself and you can stay focused on what’s needed for the day.  Before you leave for the day write down your top three for tomorrow.

5 Tips On Getting More Organized {Today}

I’d love to share my tips on getting more organized with you.

When I was younger and all the way through college my room always looked like a tornado tore through it.  Clothes on the floor, books on the bed, shoes everywhere.  I was a mess.  Now I will note this by saying I was not dirty.  Dirty dishes belonged in the kitchen sink, not in the bedroom.  I believe there is a huge difference between being messy and being dirty.

One aspect about myself is that I had this organized chaos going for me.  Almost always I would know exactly which pile my class notes were in or where I took off those shoes that I had to wear that night.  But I still looked unorganized.

As I’ve gotten older, married, and started my career I have found that I do not have time to be messy.  Plus, J really gets bothered by my pile system.  I was surprised he called me after our first date because it was laundry day for me and I had clothes everywhere in my bathroom.  Poor guy didn’t know what he was getting into when he asked to use my restroom before leaving.  I’m pretty sure he had to step on clothes to even get into the bathroom.  I was mortified and was sure I probably wouldn’t hear from him again… BUT I was wrong.  He texted, we started dating and are living happily ever after.  But I digress.  He really, really hates living in a messy house.  So, I have developed new systems and ways of staying organized.

Tips On Getting More Organized
Here are my no-fail tips on getting more organized.  The best part about them? They are super easy to follow and you can start today.  Not tomorrow or next week, but today.

Tip One: have a gathering spot for any monthly bills.  J and I have one drawer in our kitchen that is for monthly bills.  Every bill is opened and placed inside the drawer.  We pay our bills twice a month – on payday.  So every time we go to pay bills we open the drawer look at their due dates and pay what we can/have to.  Then any unpaid bills are put back in the drawer until next payday.  Bonus: place your checkbook, envelopes, pen and stamps in the drawer.  Everything is in one spot and easy to take care of.

Tip Two: Schedule your week out before it starts.  I love my new planner and every Sunday I spend 5-10 minutes to look at the week ahead.  I make sure we know of any appointments for  us or the dogs that are coming up.  We plan time with our friends and family then we schedule time to workout and eat right.  I live by my planner so for me it’s our family’s lifeline.  If you don’t spend a few minutes organizing your week before it starts then things you want to do and need to do will just slip away.

Tip Three: Plan at least 3 meals each week.  Think about three meals (the whole meal – entree, side dish, etc.) that you can have this next week. Make sure you have the ingredients or buy them during your weekly trip to the grocery store.  That way on the nights you don’t want to cook or are tired, you don’t have to think too much about it.  You know you have the ingredients for three whole meals that you want waiting for you.  Plus your spouse/roommate can help you out by getting it started before you get home.  If we know what we’re having then J usually will defrost the protein, start grilling, and have it mostly ready by the time I get home.  Then all I have to do is make the side dish and put the finishing touches on.  Teamwork is the best.

Tip Four: The basket routine.  Because J hates my pile system and I have learn to not like it as much, I have developed a new system.  Meet the basket routine.  Every few days I walk around the main living areas of our home with an empty laundry basket in tow.  I gather anything that doesn’t belong in that room.  Shoes, jackets, dog toys, necklaces (because I have a tendency to leave those laying around), etc.  Then once the family room and kitchen are back in order I walk through the rest of the house emptying the basket.  I usually only have to make one trip around the house and in less than 10 minutes my house is straightened.

Tip Five: Two Chores every two days.  Some others out there like the one chore a day technique.  That’s too much for me.  There are some days I want to come home and lay on the couch while watching TV.  I don’t want even want to think about cleaning something.  So instead I space it out a bit more.  Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday I clean.  Typically I clean at least two things those days.  It doesn’t seem to be such a daunting task by having a day off in between and it’s not as overwhelming by only having two tasks to do those days.  Here’s the breakdown:

Tuesday: dust the furniture and wipe down the kitchen

Thursday: vacuum and sweep the kitchen

Saturday: bathroom and clean mirrors

Now I wipe down the counters after cooking every meal, but on Tuesday I really spend some time scrubbing the countertops, wiping out the microwave, etc.  Plus I steam clean our carpets about once every other month and I tend to do that chore early Saturday or Sunday mornings.

Simple and super easy tips on getting more organized that you can start {TODAY}.  So what are you waiting for?  Get started.  Living a more organized life is really satisfying.  Plus not having a husband moan about your clothes on the bed is really peaceful.

What are you tips on getting more organized?  I’d love to read about them.  Go ahead and leave me a comment.

 

My Personal Branding Statement

personal branding statement
I was following Jill Celeste’s 21-Day Personal Branding Challenge and one of the tasks was to create a personal branding statement.  Imagine that, huh?  A personal branding challenge and a task on the list is to create your own personal branding statement.  I should have seen it coming, but alas I was not prepared.  There were over 21 tasks on the list, but I selected my 21 and then one-by-one started tackling the easy ones.  Towards the middle of April I realized that I had only the more time consuming or difficult ones left.

One being the personal branding statement.

After struggling for a while to come up with anything, I reached out to the challenge’s community.  Someone gave me the best advice with one simple question.  Why?  Why do I want to do what I do?

I sat back and just started asking why… why… Meredith, seriously why?

Then I wrote.  It didn’t make much sense and my brain was all over the place.  But that didn’t matter.

It’s important when writing a personal branding statement to free-think and just allow yourself to brainstorm all the possibilities.  From there you can tailor it down and become more eloquent in your writing.

Here is what I started with:

I want to have a creative outlet for myself.  I have many different areas that interest me and I know that I am not alone in having a craving to learn, share and do more.  I work hard to make the place we live a home with good food, fun projects, and spending time with family and friends.  I want to be a source of ideas for other women when it comes to decorating, personal finance, self-esteem and healthy living.  I want to be open with myself and others about my struggles of my self-image and help others overcome their fears in opening up.

Then I walked away and came back with fresh eyes.  I do believe it’s important to let everything marinate for a bit.  This is your brand, your business, and a simple statement that describes you to the world.  You want to make sure you like the final product and are not rushing it.  The days of rushing through class projects to get them turned in on time are over.  This is real life and real life needs to be better than something that will earn you a B.

Here is my final personal branding statement:

merelynne.com is a creative outlet for other women who have a variety of interests and who crave to learn, share and do more.  merelynne.com is a source to learn fun projects, a place to find good food and a celebration of spending time with others.  It is a go-to place for living an organized life, positive self-esteem tips and healthy living.    

It’s been a few weeks since I have written the statement and I have to say, I still love it.  It hits what I want to be right on the head and it pushes me to strive harder.

10 Ways To Strengthen Your Marriage

There are ways to strengthen your marriage because it should come as no surprise that a marriage takes some work.

10 ways to strengthen your marriageIf it is a surprise then you must be living in a rom-com that has a happily ever after and the credits roll just as the have their grand finale kiss.  Marriage is hard.  It has its good days and its not-so-good days.  We struggle learning each other’s rhythm and thought process.  But in the end it is so worth it.  I have never worked at something like I have marriage and have it be the most rewarding gift I could ever imagine.

We’re not perfect, but to me that’s half the journey.  Lust is something that gives you a high, but love is what you work for, strive for and in the end – what you earn.

 There are proven ways to strengthen your marriage.
ways to strengthen your marriage
Here are my top 10 that we strive for every day.

1) Listen to One Another
2) Learn to Fight Fair
3) Don’t be afraid to pray together
4) Laugh
5) Date like you’re sixteen again
6) Like each other’s friends
7) Don’t pass judgment
8) Have your own life
9) Send sweet nothings
10) Be selfless

I love my husband with all my heart.  There are days that he gives a lot and days that I give a lot, but all that matters is that we give to one another selflessly and with our whole hearts.

The Best Economic DIY Carpet Cleaner That Actually Works

DIY carpet cleanerMy parents bought us a carpet cleaner for my birthday last year and I was stoked.  I guess that’s the true sign you are no longer a child and are a full adult when you are excited over a carpet cleaner.  But hey, with 2 dogs it is amazing.
DIY carpet cleanerTiny really likes the clean carpet and might be a little unsure of why the crazy lady is taking pictures of the floor.
Carpet cleaner solution can get expensive and not to mention the chemicals in the solutions are not ideal if you have small children or are crazy-obsessed with your dogs like I am.  I had to find another cleaning solution before I went broke and made the dogs sick.

I discovered the power of white vinegar.  If you have seen my previous cleaning posts (how to easily clean your microwave and the best stain remover) then you know my love of white vinegar.  So I had a light bulb moment – maybe it would work in the carpet cleaner!  And you know what?  It does!  It works beautifully.  Dare I say better than the fancy expensive cleaners?

Here’s all you need for a DIY Carpet Cleaner:

Fill your tank with warm-hot water; and
Add in 3-5 T. of white vinegar, depending on your tank size

That’s it.  Then steam your carpets like usual.

The carpets will have a nice vinegar smell to them, but that disappears as it dries.  To me it smelled a lot like salt and vinegar chips, but hey! those are my favorite so I wasn’t really complaining.

You could probably add a few drops of essential oil to the solution, but I didn’t really want to mess with it.  The smell wasn’t that strong and it was such a nice day that we had the doors and windows open.
DIY carpet cleanerLet’s do some math, shall we?  I like to have proof that my ideas are valid.

Gallon of White Vinegar – $1 (There are 256 Tablespoons in a Gallon, so you will be getting about 51 uses)
Water from the faucet – $0 (unless you have a separate bill for water, but the charges are trivial)
Total Cost per use: $0.02

Bottle of carpet cleaner – $10.99 (is a 2-quart size, which has 64 Tablespoons, so you will be getting about 12 uses)
Water from the faucet – $0
Total Cost per use: $0.92

As always, test a small area of carpet before doing a whole room to make sure that the vinegar doesn’t have any strange reaction to the carpet fibers.  I had no problems with my carpets or area rugs.

Simple Technique For Not Getting Overwhelmed

not to get overwhelmedWant to hear a little secret on how I thrive and not get overwhelmed?  It’s a simple, no smoke and mirrors trick that always works.

A little back story first because we all love a little story.  In college, in high school, in every job I’ve ever had I always get overwhelmed.  I over commit myself and run a million miles an hour to get things done at the last minute.  You might be thinking “why wait to the last minute?”  Well I didn’t do that on purpose.  It was a b product of having too much on my plate.

After the hundredth time I’ve made myself sick from exhaustion and from stress, I had enough.  It was time to make a big change in my life and what I put on my plate.  So, I learned the PAUSE. THINK. SAY NO. process.
for not getting overwhelmed
It’s beautiful.  Really, it is.  Plus it’s simple. When asked to take on a new project, meet up for dinner, agree to do one more thing all you do is pause, think it over and then more than likely say “no.”

Want a real life example?  Let’s say you are approached by a friend to speak at a local organization’s gathering next month.  You have a lot going on between your work, family, side projects, etc.  You do not really have the time to dedicate to preparing a presentation, plus you are not really passionate about the topic.  So, you enact the PAUSE. THINK. SAY NO. technique.

You tell your friend – let me think that over, check my calendar and get back with you.  Then after a few days or however long you need to mull it COMPLETELY over.  You call or email your friend and say, “I took a good look at everything I have going on the next few weeks and I unfortunately do not have the time to dedicate to a presentation.  I am thankful that you thought of me, but I just am unable to do this.”

See what you did?  You said no, but were polite about it.  No hurt feelings or friendships ruined and you do not have anything else to add to your plate.  It’s magical.

If you instantly say no to someone then they will think that you are blowing them off or just being rude.  So instead, take time to really think it over.  If you are passionate about the project, task, or whatever it may be then by thinking it over you can decide on a game plan to get it done. Everyone can be respectful of you asking for time to think their request over.  If the person is not reasonable and can’t give you time to mull it over, then you want to say no immediately!

Simple. Beautiful. Easy.

3 Easy Tips to Create a Savings Plan You Will Stick To

savings plan Am I right when I say that most of us wish we had more money saved up for those rainy days?  If you are like J and I then you are saving for a specific goal in mind, like a new car, vacation or in our case, a down payment on our first house.

With 2014 rocking and rolling it’s time to really get started on those resolutions that we set, right?  If you’re like me, some of my resolutions involved saving more money.  I dreamed big and I want to make sure that I reach my goals.  Here are some tips to get off on the right foot and to make sure you create a savings plan you will stick to:

1) Set the magic number. Don’t be overzealous and chose a monthly savings amount that is half your take home pay.  Make sure that you can survive, comfortably if you are setting back an amount each month.  Take a look at your monthly bills and expenses to see where your money is going.  Then decide, as a team what amount can be put into savings.  If you find yourself wishing to put more aside each month then take a good hard look at your discretionary spending like eating out and see what you can cut down.

2) Pick where the money is going to go.  This might sound strange, but it’s important to know where your savings is going to go, as in – which account will the money be housed in.  There are many different options out there, but the key point is that you do not want it easily accessible.  With that said, you want to be able to reach your money within a few business days in case of a real emergency, but you don’t want the ability to make a few simple clicks of the mouse and clean out your hard earned savings account.  What worked for us was having our account at a separate bank then our day-to-day checking account.  That way if we need money, we have to make the effort of going to the bank with our savings and make a withdraw.  That extra step keeps us reminded of what we are working towards.

3) Set the plan in motion.  The final step in setting up a savings plan is getting it started.  Once you come up with the amount and the place the money will be housed then the next step is to pick a start date.  If you are in between pay periods then it might be best to wait until the next payday.  That way you can start with clean slate and have a positive start.

Also, I have found that we have the best success when we pull out our money for savings as soon as we receive our paychecks.  That way the money is out of sight and we are left the amount of money that we have budgeted for.  It helps eliminate the temptation to over spend.

 

20 Ways to Declutter and Clean Up Your Life

ways to declutter
Now with the new year fully rolling it’s time to get a handle on things, don’t you think?  I was sitting here just thinking how I function so much better when my house is clean.  I do not know about you, but every once in awhile the mood to deep clean sets in; and I feel like nothing in my life is going right until I get my house in order.

There are things you can do so that life does not pile up and you can keep everything smooth sailing.

1) When the mood strikes to clean stick the rule of 5.  In every room get rid of 5 items.  Throw away old magazines, remove items that do not belong in that room, or get rid of something that you haven’t used in ages.

2) File as you go.  Get a bill in the mail, then file it immediately.  Do not let bills and other important documents pile up on your table.  Go ahead and put them in their proper place when you get them.
Ways to De-Clutter 3) When cleaning your bedroom, always make the bed first.  It will look like a huge improvement and act as a shelf as you tidy up.

4) Go through your closet at least 4 times a year to get rid of clothes you no longer wear.  You can create a donation box in the basement or garage, but by cleaning it out multiple times a year you will keep the closet looking neater and be doing a good thing.

5) Fold your bed sheets together and then place them in a matching pillowcase.  Your sheet sets will be together and your linen closet will look so much nicer.  That way when your parents are visiting and need a towel you won’t be embarrassed.

6) Open your mail next to the trash can.  That way any unwanted pieces go straight to the trash and not onto your countertops.

7) Use plastic boxes, cubes, and other gathering places to organize.  Sure you may need all of those office supplies, but after awhile they start looking bad on top of your desk.  Use a coordinating canvas cube to gather all of your items then slide onto a bookshelf.

8) Do one small task a day so that it does not get overwhelming.  Sweep the kitchen floor one day a week, vacuum another, straighten up yet another day.  By dividing tasks to separate days you can conquer a lot easier.

9) Keep a jar on top of the dresser and where you place your keys to collect loose change.  If you are prone to carrying change in your pockets then having a collection spot where you come and where you get dressed helps from loose changing being all over the place.

10) upgrade to a universal remote.  You may have a remote for the TV, the DVD player, the surround sound, and even your cable box.  That’s a lot of remotes so get rid of the clutter by upgrading to one do-it-all remote.

11) Clean out the medicine cabinet. You may have duplicate boxes of the same, exact medicine or you may expired meds that need to be tossed.

12) Clean out the fridge once a week.  Trash old leftovers or the food that no one is planning on eating.  Check expiration dates and toss the ones that have gone bad.
Ways to DeClutter13) Be honest about those craft projects.  Have any unfinished projects laying around?  Well it’s time to be honest with yourself – are you ever going to get them done?  If the answer is no, toss and if the answer is yes, set a specific completion date.

14) When your donate box is full, take it to the car.  That way it is out of the house and easier for you to drop off.

15) Do the dishes each night.  Nothing feels better than coming into a clean kitchen each morning.

16) Set the timer for 10 minutes every other day to walk through the house to find items that are in the wrong place, no longer wanted, or old and needs to be trashed.

17) Take the trash out the moment the can is full and on your way grab the trash for bathrooms and bedrooms.

18) Wipe down the bathroom counter after brushing your teeth before bed.

19) Concentrate on one area at a time.  It’s easy to get side tracked by a different room, especially when you are putting things away.  Stay on the task at hand and finish one specific area.

20) Remember what is important.  Don’t toss items that hold a special place in your heart.  Just make sure that you find a special place for them.

How To Write A Personal Mission Statement

The definition of a mission statement is to give purpose or direction for a business.  It is the company’s meaning of existence.  A personal mission statement is just that, but for you, the individual.

Defining your personal mission statements will probably take several drafts.  And then after you have written a few drafts, write more.  Until it’s perfect.  It’s going to be frustrating.

If you are trying to remind yourself what you are all about then a mantra will point you in the right direction.  Especially in the online world of blogging, Youtube, Pinterest, Google Plus and so much more.  It is easy to get a split personality without even noticing.
define yourself
First things first on developing your personal mission statement – determine your values.  What do you believe in?  What are you most passionate about?  Think about keywords and phrases that stand out to you.  It’s time to brainstorm.

Here are a few that stand out to me:

Passion // Creative // Family // Making money count // Gaining knowledge // Fabulous

In the end there is no right or wrong way to write a personal mission statement.  Remember that it is an expression of who you are and how you want to present yourself to the world.

Be proud of what you have created.  Hang it on the wall and make it beautiful!

Time Management Tools: Pump Up Your Efficiency

time management

Today we are introducing the last post in the time management tools series.  You can probably tell from the title that we are going to work on amping up our efficiency levels.

You can read my previous post about time management here about getting yourself organized.  Now that you’ve set your priorities it’s time to amp up your efficiency.

One of the most important things to increasing your efficiency is knowing what you are good at.  Then doing something with the rest.   Delegate.  Delegate what you aren’t good at or do not have the skills for.

If you have a friend that is excellent at taking pictures then plan a day in the park so she can knock out your photos for you.  It might cost you a lunch for the favor, but she could get credit for the photos and you don’t have to suffer through them.  The one key part is that you have to be organized and know what pictures you want shot.

Fiverr is a great source for all things.  You can find someone to tweet your products to their followers, design a cover page images for your Facebook page, write a bio for you and all of these services are only $5.  Five bucks – that’s it.  It’s a pretty good deal if you ask me.  Do you not want to waste time in your down area?  Then search Fiverr and I bet you can find someone to do it for you.

Another great way to pump up your efficiency is to setup your workspace to work for you, not against you.  Know what type of environment you work best in. Quiet?  Soft music in the background?  Alone?  With others?  Then that’s what you should surround yourself with.  Have a clean space that you can spread out on.  Make sure you have all the tools you are going to need.  Being good at this point requires that you plan your day.  That’s where the last part in the series comes into play.  You have to be organized and know what you want to get done.

My favorite part of developing time management tools is by rewarding yourself when you save time.  Even it’s just a pat on the back or a piece of your favorite candy.  A little recognition goes a long way.  When you save yourself time you gain so much more.