Simplify For Fall: Routines & Schedules


I’m following along with the Life Your Way Simplify for Fall Challenge. Six days, six areas of the home to simplify. Here’s what I’ve already tackled: clothing & laundry room, toys, kitchen and meal planning, bedrooms and bathrooms and paper clutter and budgets.

Before having a baby I loved making elaborate schedules.

Workouts, meals, hours for writing, household tasks, all of it was listed on a packed Excel spreadsheet that I printed out and posted on the refrigerator. I set the bar high. The goal was to be super-productive for 16 hours a day.

I always failed at these schedules. I’d last the first half of the week and then slowly do fewer thing until I was eating takeout and watching “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” at 10:30 pm – well past the scheduled bed time for a 5:30am wake-up.

Having a baby kicked the scheduling bug out of me.

Simplifying our life made it so that it wasn’t necessary to have a detailed list of all that we need to do.

Things get done. We make it to appointments.

Sometimes we skip our morning activity if Henry was up late and slept in. Sometimes I let the recycling go a bit too long. Sometimes the laundry is in a big pile on the kitchen floor on a Friday afternoon and I just scoop it up and decide to deal with it on Monday.

Life happens. Sometimes we don’t check everything off our list for the week. It’s okay. The world keeps spinning.

I like our lack of schedule. But I feel that with some life events and some new recurring writing deadlines I need a bit of the scheduling bug back.

Work Schedule & Routine

My work days are numbered and my list of projects is long. Henry will start going to extra daycare in September so I can put more time into a book I’m writing and keep up with freelance work.

I’m earmarking Mondays for freelance and book, Tuesday for blogging and book and Thursdays just for the book.

Is there such a thing as maternity leave for a self-employed writer? Sort of.

In early December I’ll wind down my freelance writing and either publish my book if it’s ready or put it on hold for a few months. I have an idea for a series I would like to run on this blog and hope to get a bunch of posts/interviews completed before December. While this blog won’t be offline there will be fewer posts for a few months as we get to know our new addition.

We’re extremely fortunate that my writing income isn’t needed to pay bills. Right now my income doesn’t factor into our monthly budget – it’s sent back home for extra mortgage payments.

I hope to take a few quiet months and then start back at work when the new baby sleeps. Please send me a good sleeper this time!

Blogger friends beware: I’ll be hitting a lot of you up for guest posts and interviews for my maternity leave. Happy to do post swaps too.

Home Schedule & Routine

Chalkboard, weekly print out or shared Google Calendar? What do you use to keep track of family routines and schedules?

So far we haven’t really needed a family schedule. We’re not that busy. I put appointments in my calendar on my iPod and the rest are so routine I don’t need a reminder.

I’d like a better visual for Chris and I to reference. Something in the home that we can tweak each week as things come up. Something Chris and my mom can reference in the weeks after the new baby arrives. Something that shows the days and times Henry goes to nursery, the drop-in we go to on Wednesdays and the class we go to on Fridays.

I’m testing out using this weekly printable calendar from Life Your Way and looking at chalkboards. Any ideas for me on simple weekly calendars you like and use?

Simplifying has created more work for me.

I’d like to say I’m done but, really, I’ve created more work for myself. My clutter eyes are open and I want to tackle our living room next. And I have lots of fall out tasks from simplifying. A trip to donate clothes and toys is in order.

Anyone else prepped their home and selves for fall and back to school?

Simplify For Fall: Paper Clutter & Budgets

I’m following along with the Life Your Way Simplify for Fall Challenge. Six days, six areas of the home to simplify. I’ll be sharing my progress here as I complete each day. Here’s what I’ve already tackled: clothing & laundry room, toys, kitchen and meal planning and bedrooms and bathrooms.

Well this is embarrassing.

I let things slide for a bit and this is what we have.

Blaming pregnancy. It’s terrible for paper work.

At least half the stack is notices and information leaflets from the hospital. Every test result, ultrasound booking and OB appointment is confirmed with a letter in the mail. Almost every appointment has seen me leave with 1-3 brochures or leaflets in hand.

Paper Clutter: My Nemesis

As I am posting this a few days late I will have to come clean that this project was moved off our dining table not once, but twice, in the last three days.

Which is sad because actually getting it all sorted only took an hour and half. Every time I started the task I got pulled away to do something else. Or, uh, I guess I let myself get pulled away to another task.

Sorting Paper Clutter

You can see my system above. Nothing fancy.

Our little accordion file box is getting mighty full so I emptied and sorted it as well. Pulled a few things out that could be shredded and found one gem worth $350.

We purchased new appliances for our Vancouver home almost three years ago and I got talked into a three year extended warranty on all three appliances. One of the perks to the warranty was that if you never use you can get the equivalent dollar value back in Sears gift cards.

Just put a reminder in my calendar to make a call in late October for our gift cards. Gift cards that I will probably flip into cash.


We use a reverse budget and it serves us well. You can read about it here.

Cutting Back on Travel

Two months ago we reduced our monthly contribution to our travel account by a third.

We’re heading into a year of a lot of time at home (no air travel in late pregnancy and then a newborn) and we’d like to use it as a chance to save more. Our travel account will still grow, albeit not as quickly, in this year of less travel.

Budgeting for a New Baby

We do have a few things to buy for this new baby. Co-sleeper crib, infant car seat and infant cloth diapers. We should be able to buy them between October and January out of our monthly budget.

We’ll also have a few expenses when the new baby arrives. Chris will take a week of paternity leave and one week unpaid meaning a loss of income. I’d like to hire weekly cleaners for the first six weeks after the baby arrives. Less spending on nice-to-haves/do and Chris’s baby bonus from his employer should cover all of it.

Stuck on paper clutter?

Paper clutter seems to be a lot of people’s nemesis. Mine included.

You can read about some of our efforts to reduce the amount of paper coming into our home and the epic sorting, scanning, shredding, recycling and filing we did in the following posts.

Going Paperless

How to Reduce Paper Clutter

Has anyone else been following along with Mandi on this challenge? She set a blistering pace last week and even with a head start I couldn’t keep up.

Tomorrow: Routines & Schedules

Simplify For Fall: Bedrooms & Bathrooms

This week I’m following along with the Life Your Way Simplify for Fall Challenge. Six days, six areas of the home to simplify. I’ll be sharing my progress here all week. Here’s what I’ve already tackled: clothing & laundry room, toys and kitchen and meal planning.

Not sure I am going to stay ahead of the work on these projects so beware, there might be some of these posts up next week.

Simplify your: bedrooms and bathrooms.

Time I took with this task: 1-2 hours

Some of the big work we did in the fall of 2010 and the massive downsizing for our move overseas has really paid off. Neither of these areas were too challenging or too cluttered for us.

Don’t be jealous. I’ll be showing you my paper clutter soon. Paper and clothing seem to be the first things that get out of hand in our household.


I’ve come to a conclusion about guest rooms after ours got out of control.

You need to use your guest room.


You need to keep the door open.

After my sister left last week I committed to leaving the guest room door open and to not chuck anything I am procrastinating on in. Not that I haven’t been tempted this week.

Our room, seen at the top there, was no work at all. We don’t have much besides our bed and clothing in there. Our side table drawers hold a few things like my hair dryer and two hand bags.

Yes, I know the room is awfully beige and plain and boring. It’s a minimalist cliche rather than minimalist chic. But we live in a furnished rental so we don’t have a lot of choice and while it’s rather boring I find it calming. And calm is what I need when I’m trying to get a good night’s sleep.

I’ll get around to hanging some pictures or art on the wall in the future.

For now the only thing I did for the challenge was hang a reuseable bag over the chair for my husband’s dry cleaning. We use the doors of our closet to hang out clothes we intend to use again for a bit of airing.

Henry’s room was in good shape already after sorting toys and clothes.

The crib and change table dresser came with our apartment and at some point I hope to have both children in the same room. I didn’t have my own room until I was 18 and living off-campus for the first time. It certainly made me more more easy going about sharing space with roommates and my husband.

A good sign: empty storage.

Usually when you have another baby on the way you start thinking about buying dressers for all the clothing. Not here. Most of the drawers and cupboards in Henry’s room are empty and we’ll have more than enough space for newborn onesies and cloth diapers.


We have a very small bathroom off our master bedroom with a shower. Very small. So small I couldn’t figure out a way to get a decent picture of it.

The small bathroom has a towel rack and one medicine cabinet for storage. The pedestal sink fits just one tube of toothpaste and our toothbrushes.

There is no storage for extra toiletries, sun block, travel toiletries and what not.

So we put it all here:

Not so pretty but it works.

For the challenge I went through all the boxes and cleaned up a puddle of almond oil that had leaked.

One of the boxes contains over-the-counter medication and I moved all of it into an empty shelf in the kitchen. Makes it more accessible for use but also keeps it out of Henry’s reach.

This is our main or family bath (except the make-up case medicine cabinet photo – that’s from our master bath). It has a tub and a separate shower (didn’t get a photo). We rarely use the shower in there which is good by me because it is a pain to clean.

Henry is the main user of this bathroom and it stays pretty tidy. We keep a hand towel and Henry’s towel cape, a much loved gift from my friend’s mother, on the towel rack. The beach towels are for guests and beach and pool trips. Our master bath has white towels and I like to keep them for home use only.

The medicine cabinet is mostly empty except for infant nail scissors, some children’s bath suds/shampoo and a can of Febreeze the owners left. Personally, Febreeze makes me gag. I prefer the light a match method but I leave that to our guest’s discretion.

Some of these simplifying areas have been a chance to document what we have rather than do a lot of simplifying. Our work in the last two years has really paid off and while we still have our hot spots for clutter we’ve made a lot of progress in just generally having fewer things around.

I thought about skipping some of the days but a lot of people have asked for photos of what our home looks like, what a moderate minimalist family owns.

Hopefully some of you can see that we’re not zealots, or completely nuts, just trying to live with a bit less than the average first world family.

Tomorrow: Paper Clutter & Budgets

Simplify For Fall: Toys & School Supplies

This week I’m following along with the Life Your Way Simplify for Fall Challenge. Six days, six areas of the home to simplify. I’ll be sharing my progress here all week.

Ashlee commented that she was impressed that I was blogging and decluttering at the same time.

I feel I need to make it clear that I’m not.

I got a sneaky head start on this project last week and a few of the areas were tackled over the summer. Yes, I’m one of those people that likes putting something on a list that I have already done just so I can cross it off.
Simplify Your: Toys & School Supplies

Time I took with this task: 1 hour


A few weeks ago I boxed up some of  Henry’s toys that he had outgrown or didn’t have interest in. I also moved some of his more advanced books into a closet and just kept his most loved books out. You can see our entire toy and book collection in the photo above.

Yes, we only have a handful of books out for our two year-old.

Why? Well, those are the ones we read over and over again. So why not just have what we use out. I also read about the benefits of reading repetition at Little Stories and the benefits of fewer books in Simplicity Parenting.

This was an easy piece to check off my list because we don’t have a lot of toys and I had already done most of the work. Below is what we will store, what we will return to friends and what we will donate.

School Supplies

We neither go to school nor have school supplies. We’re also really low on craft supplies. So I took a break on this piece of the challenge.

However, we do have some paper clutter and office type clutter. I’ll tackle that in the paper clutter challenge that I hope to work on tonight. Warming up the shredder now…

Tomorrow: Bedrooms & Bathrooms

P.S. No, I didn’t buy fancy editing and design software and spend days learning how to use it. Pixlr now has a fun Express feature that allows people like me – no skills or inclination to learn how to use a fancy editing suite – to make fun photo collages.

Simplify For Fall: Kitchen & Meal Plan

This week I’m following along with the Life Your Way Simplify for Fall Challenge. Six days, six areas of the home to simplify. I’ll be sharing my progress here all week.

Simplify your: Kitchen & Meal Plan

Time I spent on this task: 3-4 hours *half of that was meal planning and organizing grocery delivery for the month


For this task I:

Tidied up our dry food cupboards and wiped them out. I checked for anything that was expired.

Yes, I have a LOT of spices. I use them. I really do.

Emptied out and sorted through all the crap that has accumulated on these shelves in the last four months.

that's better

Put some matting in the cooking utensil drawer.

Found a few more bits and pieces from the owners that we weren’t using and boxed them up.

Checked the freezer and refrigerator to see if anything was out of date. All clear on that one.

This was a good kick in the butt to take stock of what we have. If you look closely at the cooking utensil drawer photos you’ll see we have not one but two pairs of tongs. One is ours, one came with the place. I kept them both because I use a nonstick pan that would get scratched from the metal tongs. I’d like to pack up the nonstick and switch to cast iron now that we have a gas stove again. When I stop using nonstick pans I can get rid of the plastic tongs and plastic flipper.

Meal Plan

For the last year or so I’ve kept a meal plan on Google Docs. It’s pretty casual and has a master list of meals we like and then sheets for each week. Some weeks I don’t use the meal plan at all. I just make an online grocery order and select meat + vegetables for each night’s dinner and then our usual items for breakfasts. Lunch is usually leftovers.

For the Simplify for Fall Challenge I created a thirty day wheat and dairy free meal plan. We eat that way for 2/3 of our meals but I want to be completely wheat and dairy free by the end of my pregnancy.

Henry was a very gassy and unhappy newborn. I hope eliminating some known allergens from my diet will help our second child, and us, have an easier start. I also feel really good when I stay off wheat and dairy. I sleep well and have better energy. Perks abound.

As fate would have it Chris read the book It Stars With Food and wanted to try the 30 day nutrition challenge described in the book. So I took the meal plan to the next level and eliminated anything processed or packaged. I made two seven day meal plans that I will alternate over the 30 days.

Grocery delivery really simplifies my life and makes living without a car easier. For the challenge I set up my deliveries for the next month. It was pretty easy because once I had a shop in my queue for the week 1 & 2 meals I could just copy those lists for the following weeks. Simple. I’ll be using that method from now on.

Tomorrow: Toys & School Supplies

 Anyone else taking the Simplify for Fall Challenge? How are you fairing with the tasks?

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