Category Archives: Organizing

The Best Way To Decide Where to Start Organizing Your Home

In my last post, I mentioned that I get some frequently asked questions about organization, one of them being  “Where do I start?”. I addressed the “how” part of the question there. Today, I thought it would be helpful to answer the “where” as in location.

Decide Where to Start

Let me start by saying that there is no one RIGHT place to start. The right place for you is whichever space allows you to make progress on your goals.

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

So, that being said I was going to write a post to help you make the decision on where to start…then I realized, I wrote one already. How’s that for organized? Sometimes I surprise myself!

You can read that post here: How To Get Started Organizing At Home
Ciao for now!






Getting Organized: Where Do I Start?

There are a handful of questions people ask over and over about getting organized. One of them is “Where do I start?” As in, how the heck do I begin to even tackle something that seems so insurmountable right now. And also, where as in location. Then, what next?  So, I thought I’d address the “how” part of the question today.

Getting Organized- Where Do I Start-The best way for me to answer the question of how to get started organizing is to help you prepare, both mentally and physically. I know that you really just want to jump in and get started but doing these things will improve your chances of success.

I tried to think of the most common roadblocks my clients run into when their organizing and what can you do to avoid them.

  1. Schedule some uninterrupted time. It’s challenging enough to organize your stuff without being interrupted 15 times in an hour, so do yourself a favor and save your organizing tasks for a time when you won’t be interrupted. Organizing can be physically demanding work, so the absolute longest I recommend is four hours at a time. For most, that’s too long. You need to decide what works best for you, though. On the flip side, you’d be surprised at what you can accomplish in 15 uninterrupted minutes.
  2. Eliminate distractions– Turn off your phone, computer, television, etc. and close the door to the space you’re working on.
  3. Fuel up– Your head will be clearer, you’ll have more energy and you’ll make better decisions when you are working on a full stomach. Have snacks and a beverage nearby to keep you going strong.
  4. Wear comfortable clothing appropriate for the job– Self explanatory, right?
  5. Turn on your favorite music– Whether it’s Baroque, Beyonce, or Bon Jovi, music you love will put some pep in your step and make a tedious organizing task more enjoyable.
  6. Gather supplies– Typical supplies might include Sharpie, Super-Sticky Post-it Notes, bins or boxes (I prefer Banker’s Boxes), trash bags, tape measure, camera, notepad and pen.
  7. Determine your boundaries– Setting the boundaries on the project will help you stay focused (i.e. this drawer, tabletop, closet rod, etc. Avoid everything else. It’s also good to know the limits on your time and possibly set a timer to keep you on track.
  8. Staging area– Depending on your project, your staging area might be the counter adjacent to where you are working or an entire room. Regardless, it’s important to have a clear, flat surface to work on. The floor can work but can make it back-breaking work. I have a small card table and a 6 ft folding table that I pull out depending on the size of the job. (NOTE: If you are tempted to go out and buy a table so you can be more organized, stop right there. Check with friends and family to see if they have one you can borrow. Buying more stuff is rarely the solution.)
  9. Don’t leave the space– STOP! I know you’re on an organizing roll but leaving the room to go put something away is an open door to distraction. If there’s something you need to remember to do, write it down on your notepad. Items that belong elsewhere can be placed just outside the doorway. Put a sign on the door or a tape line on the floor to remind you. Sounds silly now but it works ;)
  10. Stop worrying about making it pretty. Form follows function. Focus your efforts on how the space works first. You can always make it beautiful later.
  11. Forget about going shopping first. Very rarely have I seen an organizing dilemma solved by going shopping first.
  12. Finally, don’t compare. Teddy Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It also robs you of the ability to organize your space for how you live in it. Forget the magazines, Pinterest, blogs, super moms, your perfect neighbor across the street- they don’t live in your home.

If you want to get in the right mindset for getting organized, you can check out my post on the Top 10 Organizing Myths. I’d love to hear from you! Do you have anything to add? Questions?

You Don’t Have To KonMari To Get Organized

You Don't Have To KonMariJust a quick PSA for you today. As a Professional Organizer (& mom, friend, human, etc.), I wanted to let you know that you don’t have to:

  • Color-code your kids lego storage
  • Color-code your closet
  • Color-code your files
  • Color-code ANYTHING
  • Have a bulletin board command center
  • Spend hours on end styling your space
  • Put together a Family Management Binder
  • Color-code your household binder, recipe binders, coupon binders or any other binder
  • Own any binders…or clipboards, notebooks, or gel pens
  • Own a label maker
  • Use printables
  • Paint any surface with chalkboard paint
  • Become a minimalist
  • Decant pantry goods to glass jars…or hand soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, etc.
  • Have a traditional pantry
  • Make or follow a weekly cleaning schedule
  • DIY your own organizing bins, baskets or dividers
  • Store your shoes in shoe boxes, plastic or cardboard…in fact, I don’t recommend it.
  • Clean out your purse everyday
  • Fold or roll your plastic shopping bags
  • Know how to fold a fitted sheet the Martha way
  • Bless & thank your stuff
  • Entirely empty a room before an organizing project
  • Do it marathon-style
  • Own any gold office supplies (only if you want to!)
  • Alphabetize your spice storage
  • Store all your canned goods by type and size with the labels facing the same direction
  • Do KonMari, Feng Shui, Minimalism, Fly Lady, GTD, Simple, Slow or any other adjective, noun, verb, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction, interjection, etc…

To get organized, but do feel free if it works for you.

That is all.

You Don’t Need More Time To Get Your Digital Photos Organized

I hear a lot of people say “I don’t have the time to organize my…” photos, office, paper, kitchen, laundry, house, life, etc. But the truth is, if you had more time you’d fill it with more things and there would always be something you aspire to get done.


Let’s face it, digital photo organization is definitely not one of the more pressing, urgent issues you face throughout your day. But if you lost all of your photos, you would be devastated and probably drop everything to try to get them back.

Regardless, I don’t think you need more time to accomplish what you want and enjoy your digital photos. What you need is less time spent:

  • Reviewing everything you’ve done to figure out where you left off
  • Doing things twice (or more) because you aren’t sure you if you did it already
  • Searching for photos on every. single. device.
  • Worrying about deleting photos from one device because you’re not sure if you transferred or backed it up
  • Rushing to do something (i.e. transfer photos) at the last minute and robbing time from other priorities
  • Trying to remember all of the steps you need to take
  • Organizing, arranging and moving photos around

In order to do that you need a simple, effective SYSTEM. The right system will:

  • Prevent you from relying on your memory to remember all the steps.
  • Quickly remind you where you left off
  • Allow you to focus on exactly what you need to do next
  • Give you confidence that your photos are transferred and backed up- no second guessing
  • Prevent last minute rush jobs
  • Help you do things correctly the first time

Once you have a system in place, you’ll be able to free your photos from your drives & devices so you can quickly and easily ​cherish, showcase, and share the photos you love​.

I’ve spent a ton of time asking people like you about their biggest digital photo challenges. I’ve listened to what you’ve tried, what has worked (and what hasn’t), and what you ultimately want out of your photo collection. I’ve heard that most of you don’t really care about organizing your digital photos…but that you need some sense of order to get your photos printed or shared, put together fun photo albums and create meaningful gifts. You want easy access to the photos you want, when you want them. You want the peace of mind of knowing your precious memories are protected. You don’t want to deal with expensive or complicated software and devices. And, you want someone to spell it out for you so it’s not overwhelming.

I’ve heard you. And, I’ve been working on a group workshop to address all of it. I’ll be launching a beta version of my new PhotoJoy Workshop at the end of September. If you’d like to get details and updates delivered directly to your inbox, hit the button below and enter your email address to learn more!


Looking for the Best Software to Organize Your Digital Photos?

Have you been searching for the best software or app to organize your digital photos or print and share them? There are just so many software solutions, apps and cloud storage services available these days. They all seem to do one thing the others don’t but you’re not sure which is best for you. You’re not tech savvy enough to know which one is the best or if you are, you definitely don’t have the time to do the research. You just need someone to tell you which is the best software app or program and you’ll get it done, right?

Looking for the Best Digital Photo Organizing Software

Except that new & improved software is not the solution where organization is the problem. The truth is that you probably already have a decent software program for organizing your digital photos on your computer, phone or tablet. Or several of them…So, are your photos organized yet? Hmmm, I think I’m onto something.

Software without a system won’t help you get your photos into a beautiful gallery wall in your living room or photo album on your coffee table. But a simple, efficient system can.

So, let’s talk systems, shall we? Professional organizers and productivity experts are always using this S word but it sounds so complicated, right? You hear the word System and think lots of intricate steps, fancy software features and a ton of time invested. It can be…but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the best systems I know are those in their simplest form. I like this definition from Merriam-Webster: an organized or established procedure.

Another way to think of System is something that saves you stress, time, energy and money. Can’t take credit for that one either but I really like it. That’s it. A system is a set of simple steps you repeat over and over again that save you stress, time, energy and money.

Instead of looking for new software or an app to download, think about how you can create a better system- or established set of steps. The best system to help you get your digital photos in order will:

  • Be as simple as possible- I often refer to this quote from French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”
  • Be repeatable- Consistency is key!
  • Fit your personality & preferences- What works wonderfully for your best friend, might not work for you at all.
  • Help you accomplish YOUR goals- People enjoy photos in different ways. My sister-in-law is great at getting photos into frames and displaying them throughout her home. Your neighbor lives to scrapbook. You just want to get calendars together for the Grandparents at Christmas or maybe you’d rather display your photos digitally. Whatever your goals, make sure they’re truly YOURS. Just because SuperMom in your mom’s group has all four of her children’s lives scrapbooked from their birth story, holidays, birthdays through their current grade doesn’t mean that’s the RIGHT way to do it. Phew, that’s a relief, right?

If this post has you rethinking how you’re going to rescue your digital photos from your drives and devices, I’ve got a workshop coming up at the end of the month that you’re really going to like. It’s called PhotoJoy and you can click on the button here to get more information, tips and updates.


Organizing & Naming Digital Photo Files- Getting Started

My mom and I were chatting yesterday and she mentioned that her computer files were all lumped together in her My Documents folder on her laptop (PC). She asked if I could point her to some good resources for organizing them but I honestly didn’t have anything I could think of off the cuff. And, I didn’t want her to get buried in collecting how-to’s and not make any progress on her project.

Organizing & Naming
Since I had a few minutes, we jumped right into a web session using and I gave her a quick and dirty tutorial on using Windows File Explorer. Not all of the bells & whistles, just what she needed to know for what she wanted to do at that moment.

I basically stuck to the nitty-gritty of what she needed to do to accomplish the task of renaming photo files. But I know that she wants to get her files better organized and thought of a bunch of things once we hung up. As I started collecting my thoughts, I figured I would write it out in a post in case you could benefit from the information, too.

Ways To Organize Information

There are basically five ways to organize or represent information and it was originally coined by Saul Wurman as The Five Hat Racks. It is more generally recognized as the LATCH principle: Location, Alphabetical, Time, Category or Hierarchy/Continuum. The two methods that make the most sense when organizing and naming digital photo files are time and/or category.

An Ounce of Prevention

Here on the blog, I talked about the importance of preventing clutter, as well as its value as a step in the organizing process. As you begin to tackle a digital file organizing project, be vigilant about which new digital information you choose to add to your files going forward. Do you love it? Need it? Absolutely cannot live without it? If it doesn’t pass the test, pass on it.

Organized Enough

Don’t go overboard here! You can easily over-complicate this process because there are just so many different ways to categorize and describe photos. Don’t sweat the small stuff. You only need to organize them enough so you can work with your system. If your livelihood depends on it, then you probably want to be more thorough in creating your system & naming photos, adding tags and diving into the metadata. However, if you basically have a mountain of digital files that you’d like to instill some level of order on, don’t spend more time, energy, and attention on it than necessary. When you’re done with your project, you can always go back and apply more structure if you find it’s warranted.

Folder & File Names

For most situations, I prefer to name the folder and photos within it the same, at least during the initial organizing process. For example, I would create a folder within the My Pictures folder and name it “2015_05_27-Max Last Day TPS” and photos would be named “2015_05_27-Max Last Day TPP (1), 2015_05_27-Max Last Day TPP (2), 2015_05_27-Max Last Day TPP (3), and so on. You can highlight favorites or get more specific as you get further into the process. If you have a boat-load of photos to organize, start here and keep it simple.

I typically don’t create more of a hierarchy {or folders within folders} than that until I begin to archive. Then, I group everything together in a folder for the year. This method is pretty sufficient for most personal digital photo collections. If you have a photography business, serious hobby, or use your photos to document genealogy research, those usually have more complex requirements.

Also, it’s wise to avoid creating duplicate names within separate folders. For example, let’s say you have a folder for each child- Jack, Jill and Jonah. If you named a set of photos “First Birthday Party”, you would have to look at each photo to know whose party it was if they got separated from their folder. Be specific but brief and avoid duplicates. See below for more details.

Naming By Time (or Date)

For 99.9% of digital photo organizing projects {not statistically verifiable, but you get the point}, I suggest the following structure for naming photo files: YYYY_MM_DD-Short Descriptive Name. In other words a four-digit year, followed by an underscore (shift+dash), two-digit month, underscore, two digit day, dash, and finally, a description of the event or category of photos in brief, but memorable terms. If I am naming everyday family pics, I usually just label the folder and photos with the year and month (YYYY_MM) and leave off a day and description. I use this naming convention for basically all of my photos taken with a digital camera (where the date is easily determined).


Placing the year first will group all of one year together when you sort by name. Using the two-digit month and day, will also ensure the sorting is correct. If you used only a 1-digit number for month and/or day, sorting will look like this => 1,10,11,12,13…19,2,20,21, etc. instead of this => 1,2,3…9,10,11,12…19,20,21, etc. This is because, digitally, your file name is considered text and when your system alphabetizes it does so one character at a time, instead of seeing consecutive number characters as a single number unit. Confused & cross-eyed? Don’t sweat it any further! If you use the YYYY_MM_DD file naming convention, your photos will sort appropriately. And, if you perform this naming process on batches of photos, the system will (usually) a number suffix in parentheses to your description. i.e. 2015_05_27-Preschool Last Day (01), etc.

Naming By Category

You can name photos by category when you don’t know the date it was taken or if you naturally prefer to organize photos by category in your brain. The real consideration is to understand how you (or others) will look for photos later. Now, many of my mom’s photos are actually old family photos that she has collected and scanned. I suggested that you create a simple and consistent structure for naming your digital photo files. This will allow you to categorize photos and build that into the digital sorting function.

At this point, it is helpful to take a step back and look at the types of photos you have from a bird’s eye view. If dates mean gobbledygook to you, you could also categorize by person, place and/or event type like graduations, birthdays, etc. For my mom’s project, I suggested that she create a 3-5 character mnemonic (pattern of letters) to use as a prefix. With a family of German origin (or perhaps any one culture or country), I guess that can be a bit challenging. We came up with two family names right away that begin with “Schl”, so my mom just decided to use a five-character mnemonic followed by a description (and date, if known) ex. SCHL-Anna Graduation. It was more important and meaningful to her to have the photos categorized by family. And, that’s what counts.

There is no right way to do this. The only right way is the way that actually facilitates completion of the project. Regardless of which method you choose, keep it simple enough to be consistent across the board. Spending all of your time and energy stressing about what to name your files and folders takes away time you could be spending organizing your photo collection just enough to find and enjoy the best of them.

Check back soon for a tutorial for using Windows File Explorer to batch rename files…
Ciao for now!







Managing Kids Artwork

ManagingKids ArtworkI get questions about managing children’s artwork all the time. Since I only have one preschool aged child, I was just introduced to this multiplying monster last year. Oh, my goodness- paper proliferation! Anyway, I thought it would be helpful to get advice from my wonderful and talented colleagues who have more experience.

Ellen DelapBWDanielle LiuBWMegan SpearsBW
Ellen Delap, CPO®Danielle Liu, MPA, CPO®Megan Spears, CPO®

Q1. How do you manage the flow of artwork your child/ren create(s)?

Ellen’s A: Set up a basket to hold incoming art and other school papers at your Command Center. It’s a collection spot for 2 week’s worth of work. Every 2 weeks spend a few minutes with your child reviewing what’s in the basket. Display precious artwork with a clothesline in a hallway, in open frames with a binder clip or in a notebook with page protectors. As art rotates out, take pictures and create an end of the year photo art book.

Megan’s A: Art is displayed as it comes in and then after a few weeks stored on a shelf in their closet. When the school year comes to a close, we sit down and review all pieces and choose 10 that they really love. All art keepsakes are then stored in an art box under their bed.

Danielle’s A: I set up easily accessible “holding” bins for each child’s artwork in a closet close to the kitchen. This allowed me to toss the artwork in a safe place, keep the kitchen counters clean, and review the artwork at a later date for “keepers.”
I also had a couple “rules:” I didn’t keep 3-D art, especially if it involved food (macaroni noodles, beans, rice, etc.) One art project was made with chocolate pudding! I sang “the ants come marching two by two…” and discreetly disposed of it. Another rule was to process the bin contents at least twice a year – winter break and summer break.

Q2. How do you involve your child/dren in the process?

Ellen’s A: Kids can be involved by sharing and telling you about their work. It’s about the process and not the product, as well as the encouragement from you. > Kids can decide what art to display. They can choose their best work. Don’t be afraid to let go of prolific artists work. Of course they should not see you letting it go.

Megan’s A: They make all the decisions, even when they were in preschool. Some years were tougher than others and it was important to be flexible. I am only there for moral support and to ask questions. Often, when they pull out their art box to put their keepsakes away; they will go through it and re-sort and almost always find things they no longer love to toss. Choosing 10 pieces from the entire school year can be challenging at first, but does get easier (and more manageable) because then you can pick which pieces are really special. It’s easy to be flexible when you’ve set a boundary.

Danielle’s A: I would go thru the bins first, choosing special pieces that had meaning. School work was mixed in, and I would choose a few things that captured their writing or thought process at the time. I tossed spelling tests and math worksheets as frequently as possible. The children would then sort through the bins, selecting anything special. It was rare they would want to keep much more.

Common Threads

I love that Ellen, Megan and Danielle have all involved their children in the decision making! I know it can take a bit longer initially but the investment pays off. It’s a great way to begin teaching your children to prioritize, organize and most importantly, let go of what they don’t love or need. The last of which is one of the most underutilized “tool” for organizing anything IMO. And, if you really don’t want to be in charge of all the things in your home, here’s an opportunity to teach them to take the lead.

They (and I) have similar components to their systems, yet no one consulted with each other. Which goes to show you that while there is essentially no “right way” to organize, there are concepts in common that you can apply to almost any room, space, belonging or system in your home.

These are the common threads in our systems for managing kids artwork:

  • Home & Habit- Establish the habit, both for yourself and your children, of collecting the artwork into a single, designated location or inbox. Make it their job to take artwork out of their backpacks and place it in your designated inbox. Last year, I actually put my son’s artwork into my inbox currently so it forces me to address it in a timely manner. This year, I plan to have him help me clean out his backpack when we walk in the door from school so he can learn the process.
  • Flexible Display- Find a simple and flexible way to display artwork that allows you to change it out easily. {Pinterest Board?}
  • Long-term Storage- Designate a bin for each child and make sure it is stored in an accessible location. Otherwise, you will dread putting artwork away. Ellen mentioned taking a picture and creating a photo book, which is a great way to actually enjoy and honor the artwork your children create. Danielle made a great point about edible artwork. As organizers, we’ve all come across our fair share of damage from pests, climate and moisture. Eliminate those problems by taking a picture- I guarantee that you will be able to cherish the memory just the same without feeding any unwanted creatures.
  • Regular Maintenance- I’m sure we all have a different schedule but the key is to sort through and edit the artwork collection on a regular basis. You get to decide what that is. You might be surprised that at the end of the school term, your child will be able to make those decisions on what is no longer important to them. One important thing to note, do not override your child’s decisions. If you want to keep something they don’t, pull it aside in private and place it with your keepsakes.
  • Responsibility/Accountability- The kids are responsible for choosing the artwork they keep. They are putting their artwork in its home and they are learning very important life skills in the process.
  • Archive- A great way to retain the memory of the artwork without having to manage the physical artwork is to take photographs. You can do this using any old camera or phone these days or you can use an app intended for this purpose. I have been using PicScanner to photograph artwork as it comes in. But, honestly, haven’t taken it any further than that…yet!

I love to answer questions, so if you have one feel free to post it in the comments, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter or email me!

Ciao for now!







Two Small Words to Prevent Clutter in Your Life

What is your biggest source of clutter frustration? Is it the physical stuff in your home or commitments and to-do’s? Either way, you can use these two small words to prevent the clutter in the first place- “Hell, yeah!”
Two Small Words to Prevent Clutter

I just read this post by Lily Herman. In it, she references writer and entrepreneur Derek Shivers’ piece about his “hell yeah!” philosophy for people who spread themselves too thin.

In a nutshell, if you are feeling anything less than “Hell, yeah!” about something, then say no. This philosophy also works well to prevent clutter by limiting impulse purchases or even hand-me-down “scores” from family. If you aren’t feeling “Hell, yeah!” about it, you can live without it.

This philosophy will help you say no to things that make you feel “meh”. It helps make room for the stuff and commitments you feel good about and get you fired up. Who doesn’t want more of that?

For years, I’ve been doing an informal gut check along the lines of “Do I love it?” and “Does it light me up?” for many years which has similar results but I think I’m going to officially switch over to Derek’s “Hell, yeah!” philosophy. What about you?

Ciao for now!

A Modified Rule For Minimizing Clutter: Remove/Replace

I keep a cord basket on my desk and as I dug into the basket to retrieve a cord this weekend, I was reminded of the Remove/Replace policy that I have worked to enforce in our home. It’s quite simple, really. If you’ve read about organization even a little bit, you’ve probably heard of the “One in, One out” rule when making purchases. It’s used to help maintain the number of belongings you keep. Before you buy something new, you must decide to let go of something old.


Ok, so the “Remove/Replace” rule is pretty much the same but I see it as applicable whether you follow the “one in, one out” rule or not. Personally, I don’t really adhere to the “One in, One out” rule. We just have other ways to filter what comes into our home. IMO the Remove/Replace policy feels like less pressure to uphold and more of a helpful tool and one that simply limits.

I was introduced to the “Remove/Replace” rule when I began using the FreedomFiler Home Filing System. There is a section in the system dedicated to “Remove/Replace” files. It applies to things like insurance policies, credit history report, service contracts, employment benefits packages, etc. When the new policy arrives, you file it in the appropriate folder and remove/shred the expired policy, etc.

This rule also works especially well for laptops and other digital devices, warranty paperwork and manuals, or pretty much anything that you need to replace. Whenever we replace a small or large appliance, computer, camera, etc. and unpack the new item, we gather manuals, cords and accessories together to either sell, donate or toss along with the old item. Any time I add a new item to the cord basket on my desk, I use it as an opportunity to double-check if there is anything in there that we can let go of.

I also try to do this with my preschooler’s toys, art supplies and clothing. I say try because the shelf-life of his belongings is much shorter than most. It’s definitely a challenge to keep up with it.

Some examples of where you can apply it include:

Art supplies- When the kids get a new package of markers, pens or crayons, involve them in the exercise of going through the old and tossing those that don’t have caps, are dried out or broken, etc.

Mobile Phone- When you purchase a new phone, gather up the a/c and auto charging cables, phone cases, manual and box, if you have it. Donate, sell or recycle everything at once.

Schedules and Rosters- When you get a new roster or schedule, toss the old one. If there are numbers you need, take a few minutes to enter them into your phone. If you feel that is too tedious, many smartphones have a method for you to do so from your desktop computer. Or just have your tech-savvy kid enter the info for you (you may want to double-check for errors.)

Children’s Shoes/Clothing- Often times, you will find yourself buying a new pair of shoes or piece of clothing to replace something they’ve outgrown. Make sure to remove it from the closet- either by having a donate or hand-me-down bin nearby or tossing it if it’s in poor condition. Which reminds me, the little man has some shoes he’s outgrown left on his shoe rack that I’m going to deal with right now…

Ok, I’m back. Following the “Remove/Replace” rule means we don’t have outdated manuals, old charging cables, or a rat’s nest of cords cluttering up our office and home. And, we are rarely left wondering whether some spare part or cord belongs to something we still own or not. It’s a small and simple habit to start and adds up to make a significant impact over time.

I hope you find this rule helpful and find small but effective ways to use it around your home. In the meantime, if you’re looking for help organizing that unruly pile or binder of product manuals and warranty information, here’s a post about the simple system that works for us.

Ciao for now!






The Key to Getting Dinner On The Table Most Nights Of The Week

Have your favorite restaurant delivery service on speed dial! Not really. While that would work to get dinner on the table, I’m not sure that take-out is going to be budget friendly long term. Also, it may not be the healthiest choice. So, what’s the key? Ten Ingredients or Fewer. That’s my motto. No, I’m not kidding. Just ask my husband. He emails me recipes all the time and unless they have 10 ingredients or fewer, they don’t make the cut. For the record, I don’t refuse to make a recipe if it has eleven ingredients but I try to ensure that the prep is simpler on those recipes that may contain more ingredients.
Getting Dinner on the Table
Seriously, my eyes start to glaze over after five or six…I share this because it has been one of, if not THE major factor behind my ability to get dinner (and a healthy one, at that) on the table most nights of the week.

Recipes to Eat

I had a client years ago who had an entire room lined from floor to ceiling with bookshelves full of cookbooks and cooking magazines- none of which were ever used. Every time we worked in that room, the shelves were off-limits for letting go. She did cook, can and bake but all the recipes she used were in her kitchen where they could be easily accessed.
That is when I came to the realization there are recipes we want to eat, be inspired by or dream about and those we are actually going to make for dinner. This idea became the difference in the size of my recipe collection, curbed unnecessary future cookbook purchases and enabled me to not mind cooking so much. I won’t go so far as to say I love it…but I don’t dread it and I might actually look forward to my evening ritual.

Collect Recipes To Make

Almost immediately, I stopped collecting recipes that I had no desire to make. And, if I was going to be able to get dinner on the table most nights, I want:
  • The list of ingredients to be short- my goal is actually 5 but most recipes I make have between 5-10 ingredients
    the prep to be simple
  • Flavor & variety- My husband is the type who ate the same thing for breakfast everyday for 10 years. Gag me with a fork! I once bought a bulk box of granola bars when I was young and single…I couldn’t look at a granola bar for years after that.
  • Use a limited amount of processed food, if at all
  • Low-carb (not because of any specific low-carb diet, but simply for the fact that we have no problem consuming the recommended daily allowance of carbohydrates and then some. I knew that we could deliberately not include it in dinner and still consume more than we needed. So, I wanted to focus my energy on prepping the other nutrients we were not eating enough of.)
  • Toddler-friendly, when possible- I don’t go overboard catering to a picky toddler but it certainly makes dinnertime less stressful and prevents me from getting frustrated that I went through the effort for nothing.
  • Budget is definitely a consideration but since we eat out and order in less, we’re ok with spending more to enjoy quality dinners.

What’s Your Cooking Criteria?

Would you like to get dinner on the table most nights of the week? Be more prepared and less stressed? Eat healthier? Spend less on fast food?
If you’ve inherited the role of family chef, figure out the factors that will make things as simple as possible for you…and then pare it back even further. Take a moment to get out a notepad and write it down. Make sure to consider food restrictions and preferences.
Let us know what’s on your checklist in the comments!
Ciao for now!