Happy Halloween!

I'm actually skipping out on hockey tonight to hand out candy and see my nephews when they come in their costumes! I love Halloween that much, if you know me well it's got to be big for me to skip hockey!

I hope you all have a lovely day and evening. May you be visited by many a cute ghoul, ghost and goblin tonight.

Halloween Traditions

With Halloween almost upon us, I'm just curious if you have any traditions for this time of year?

Jack O Lantern-Trick Or Treat

These seem to have become my traditions.

1. Carve pumpkins into jack o'lanterns
2. Roast the pumpkin seeds
3. Make caramel apples
4. Make hot apple cider and hot buttered rum
5. Have at least 1 firepit where you are bundled up and in sleeping bags
6. Go to the pumpkin patch and choose pumpkins that are almost too heavy to carry, cajole hubby into carrying them to the car for me
7. Put together goody bags for my nieces and nephews for Halloween night
8. Listen to Monster Mash, Freaks Come Out At Night, Thriller, Purple People Eater and The Time Warp at least once
9. Watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show
10. Watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds
Clean the seeds
Let them air dry 24 hours, stirring a few times in between
Sprinkle with 1 1/2 Tbsp oil per pumpkin (I use peanut oil)
Sprinkle with salt
Toss until coated
Place in oven at 250 for 20-30 minutes stirring every 5 minutes or so
You want the seeds to be lightly toasted
Sample and salt as needed

Monday Musings {27} - Dickinson

"One need not be a chamber to be haunted;
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
Material place."
-Emily Dickinson

Blogger of the Week : Murali

Murali of Miscellany of Me... is the blogger of the week. Read all about her and then go visit her blog and say hi!
{Edited: She has a giveaway going for this week! So seriously, it's added incentive to go say hi! She has a gorgeous blog with amazing photos!}

What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Cold cereal and hot tea. I am braindead in the morning, so breakfast is almost always something I can just grab without any thought at all in my zombie state. And the tea is usually half an hour before food, cause I can't eat for awhile after waking up, and the tea is a perfect gap (and we can blame the inlaws for that one....being American, tea is not a normal part of my routine, til now!:p )

What is your favorite childhood book?

Fave childhood book?? Hmm...how do I pin that down?? I was a voracious reader as a kid, and had soooo many I would read over and over and over again. I loved mysteries (Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Agatha Christie..you know...all the usuals..Oh..I loooooved Astrid Lindgren's Bill Bergson!! Actually, most of Astrid's books stayed in rotation), humor (Gordon Korman totally rocked my socks..Louis Sachar..Bunnicula!!), classics (Who DIDN'T love Anne of Green Gables?? Little Women?? Actually, all of LM Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott's books were prominent..and Frances Hodgeson Burnett! I shredded her books from overuse! The Shoes books!! ), period (Little House books, Caddie Woodlawn, Betsy and Tacy..) and good old angst (ZK Snyders' The Velvet Room, most Judy Blume, Cynthia Voigt, The cheese stands alone by Marjorie M. Prince, Hatchet, which also covered another favorite topic, survival in the wilderness, lol, etc) Oh, and fantasy/magic (E. Nesbitt, Edward
Eager, Richard Peck's Blossom Culp, Diana Wynne Jones..)...uh..should I stop now?? :p

What is your favorite work of art?

Um..hmm..I don't really have one. For some reason, I never really pinned one down as something that totally spoke to me, and defined me.

What is your all time favorite quote?

I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives. Bhagavad Gita 7:9

A description of the Lord, by the Lord. A simplification and reminder to me of the essence and meaning of life.

What's your favorite super secret website?

The Costumer's Guide to Movie Costumes. The most amazing site. Out of sheer goodwill and love of amazing costumes, people have put together tutorials, pic sources, resources, etc, for recreating your favorite amazing movie costume. Fantastic.

What is your favorite and least favorite chore?

Favorite chore?? That would be a tie, between grocery shopping, and doing laundry..and they both come under the same category of laying up supplies. A full pantry and clothes shelf warm my heart like nobody's business. :p

Least, a tie between the tedium of dishwashing, and the disgustingness of scrubbing the toilet and bathroom sink. Ugh.

What makes your house uniquely your home?

My family in it. I have moved a LOT in my life, and lived everywhere from houses, campervans, converted panel vans, tents, etc. The one constant, was family. Where ever family was, was home. No matter where we are, or how short the duration the stay is, home is where the heart is.

Will you share a favorite recipe?

I very rarely use recipes..but this one of mine is something I can eat every day and not get tired of: Noodle Stirfry

What first sparked your interest in cooking?

My mom, I guess...she taught me the basics, and techniques...and then I worked for a few years in a kitchen, and learned more..and then I married into a family that takes food VERY seriously, so I had to learn even more in self defense! rofl

What homemade project are you most proud of?

Wow..how do I pin that down! I am proud of a lot, lol..I am always amazed at myself that I *made* that!! But I think my most current one that I LOVE would be the little bag I made here

What got you interested in sewing?

Well, my Grandma was a professional seamstress...and my mom got me started with the basics. And then the whole DIY appeal, and the creating something I couldn't otherwise afford, or something no-one else will have. I love that. I love working with my hands, and making something from nothing. :)

Some of my favorite projects are my White Stripes bag (though, that possibly could be just because it's the White Stripes :p ), the rose outfit here, and the little doll here.

What are your 3 best/favorite posts on your blog(s)?

My three favorite?? Um..hmm..wow. I dunno. I post projects I love, and also, random things I love..so there are many, many things I just adore. I am not sure how to pick!

I like my Worlds Apart post... it was a last minute throw up on the blog, late at night just before bed. I randomly picked a photo of the bottle shoes that struck me out of my folders, and then thought a juxtaposition would be a strong image to contrast. The one I ended up picking matched better than I dreamed, and made a larger impact than I ever thought about in those last minutes before crashing in bed.

I love my music posts, cause, well, I love my music.. :p

I love my series of Spring photographs.

Now that you've read all about her, go say hi at her blog!

Gift Idea for Kids

My niece, nephew and my best friend's daughter are so far away, so this year I put together packages of the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and then read the story to be burned onto a CD [Download Here]. It's a great way for them to hear my voice and read along. I like to add special effects, so I did the crunch with a Dorito and just inserted it for each page turn. You can find free special effect .wav files online too.
Simply the Best has quite a selection

This works well with any Children's Books, you can use the free audio editor Audacity.

Here are a few Audacity Tutorials to get you started.

Seasoning Blends - Recipes

Ever need to make a dish and find you are out of a seasoning blend called for? No packets of chili seasoning in the cupboard? Don't want to keep Pumpkin Pie spice on hand for the couple of times you use it? Just mix up your own.

These recipes are in parts, so you can scale up or down to make as much as you want.
3 tsp = 1 Tbsp
16 Tbsp = 1 cup


Italian Seasoning
2 parts dried basil
2 parts dried marjoram
2 parts dried oregano
1 part dried sage

Taco Seasoning
6 parts minced dried onions
4 parts chili powder
3 parts salt
2 parts garlic powder
2 parts cornstarch
2 parts ground cumin
1 parts cayenne pepper

Chili Seasoning
4 parts garlic powder
4 parts ground red pepper
2 parts paprika
2 parts cayenne pepper
2 parts onion powder
2 parts ground cumin
1 part salt

Fajita Seasoning
12 parts corn starch
8 parts chili powder
4 parts paprika
4 parts salt
4 parts sugar
3 parts powdered chicken (or beef) bouillon
2 parts onion powder
1 part garlic powder
1 part cayenne pepper
1 part ground cumin

Southwest Seasoning
6 parts chili powder
6 parts paprika
3 parts ground coriander
3 parts garlic powder
3 parts salt
2 parts ground cumin
1 part cayenne pepper
1 part crushed red pepper flakes
1 part black pepper
1 part oregano

BBQ Dry Rub
5 parts white sugar
5 parts brown sugar
2 parts salt
1 part ground black pepper
1 part paprika

Steak Seasoning
12 parts salt
4 parts sugar
2 parts paprika
1 part turmeric
1 part onion powder
1 part garlic powder
1 part cornstarch

Poultry Seasoning
2 parts salt
2 parts white pepper
2 parts paprika
2 parts dry mustard
2 parts garlic powder
1 part ground bay leaves

Dry Ranch Mix
18 parts dry buttermilk
6 parts dried parsley flakes 
6 parts dried minced chives 
2 parts instant minced onions 
2 parts dill weed 
2 parts garlic salt 
2 parts onion powder 
1 part garlic powder 
1 part salt
1 part pepper

Apple Pie Spice
4 parts ground cinnamon
2 parts ground nutmeg
1 part ground allspice
1 part ground cardamom

Pumpkin Pie Spice
4 parts ground cinnamon
2 parts ground ginger
1 part ground nutmeg
1 part ground allspice

Front Door Decor - Halloween Edition

Front Door Decor Halloween
Read the details and get the button:

Entry - Fall

I keep Halloween pretty simple, so it can last through for Thanksgiving.

Front Door Fall

The pumpkins in the pots are actually going to be our carving pumpkins. They've been replaced with pumpkin topiaries, which I hope to get better pictures of this evening to share.

{Edited: Here are the pumpkin topiaries}

Pumpkin Topiaries

The jack o'lanterns lining the driveway 2 years ago, hopefully we won't have snow yet this year. I'm always worried about carving too early and having them rot (happened once). So we carve ours the weekend before Halloween.

Jack O Lanterns

Jack O Lantern-Trick Or Treat

If you've shared your Front Door, put a link to it here. If you share your door via the Flickr Group or another photo sharing site, link to the image and your blog, so we can visit both! If you link you must share at least one photo of your front door, or your link will be removed.

*UPDATE: I allowed Mr. Linky to expire so sadly I no longer have the links to the doors shared*

Chili With A Little Sass - Recipe

As temperatures starting dropping, I can't help but crave some chili and cornbread. Well, the air is cooler and I haven't made chili yet this autumn. Time to rectify that! It goes amazing with my Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread. I love mixing dark and light kidney beans. I like the heartiness of the dark kidney beans, but the light ones seem to have a softer bite to them, which I prefer. I also make chili in bulk. Why? Because the flavor only gets better with time, so each bowl is better than the last.


This isn't quite Chili with a Kick, not too spicy... More like Chili with a Little Sass, just enough attitude without being too spicy.

Chili with a Little Sass

3 lbs ground beef
1 large onion, diced
32 oz can of tomato sauce
32 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 15 oz cans of light red kidney beans
2 15 oz cans of dark red kidney beans
2 4 oz cans of diced green chilis

1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp ground red pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt


2 packets of your favorite chili seasoning

TOPPINGS (all optional)
sour cream
shredded cheddar
tortilla chips
diced jalapenos

Brown the ground beef, strain the drippings
Keep the ground beef in the strainer while you saute the diced onion
Once golden brown and slightly translucent, add ground beef back and rewarm
Mix together the seasoning (or use the packets)
Rinse the beans in the strainer
Add beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and seasonings to the ground beef mixture
Mix thoroughly, and simmer over medium low heat for 8-10 minutes
Serve with toppings

Monday Musings {26} - Alcott

6 months of Monday Musings! Thank you everyone for joining in :)

"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead."
-Louisa May Alcott

Blogger of the Week : Michele

Michele of Laundromat is the blogger of the week. Read all about her and then go visit her blog and say hi!

What did you have for breakfast this morning?

What is your favorite childhood book?
My favourite childhood book is called The Talking Parcel by Gerald Durrell. It's about three kids who stumble into a world called Mythologia, and help rescue the world from the evil Cockatrices who have overthrown the governing wizard who created Mythologia to help endangered mythological creatures survive. I read it over and over and over again. It's hard to get, but a lovely book. I ended up reading the entire story to my kids over the course of a day because they were so captivated by it. It's a little hard to come by these days, and I protect my tattered copy because I don't think I could replace it.

What is your favorite work of art?
Oh my. I love "Lilacs in a Window" by Mary Cassatt. But Rembrandt's Nightwatch was the first really famous painting I ever saw in real life. Every time I look at it I remember how wonderful it was to see a painting live, glowing with light in a way that I had never imagined possible.

What is your all time favorite quote?
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones that you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover".

Mark Twain.

What's your favorite super secret website?

What is your favorite and least favorite chore?
I like vacuuming and doing the dishes because you see the results immediately. I hate putting away clean laundry because it feels like the chore is already done.

What makes your house uniquely your home?
Hmm... my home is unfinished. So am I.

Will you share a favorite recipe?

What first sparked your interest in cooking?
I think it was my parents. I went to the homes of friends and sometimes the food was... bad. Really bad. I didn't understand it. How could you make food taste yucky? I realized that the food my parents made was almost always delicious. It also took a lot of time. They didn't seem to mind.

What homemade project are you most proud of?

My dad made each of his children a grandfather clock. I think he decided to do it when he retired at 65 and he finished them this year (he is almost 80!) I love hearing the gong because it gives me a gentle reminder that he's around and a visionary and that my parents love us every quarter hour.

What got you interested in yoga?
I was 39 and had chronic back pain. I decided that I didn't want to live with pain for the next 40 years, so I started looking around for something that would help. My neighbour taught yoga and I noticed that many of the older women she knew who took yoga looked absolutely amazing for their age. So I thought I would try it and within a few months I was completely pain free for the first time in years.

What are your 3 best/favorite posts on your blog(s)?
I have a little sidebar with some that I feel introduce you to my writing and my philosophy of life in the sidebar, but these are three that I really like outside of that group:

http://myfarawayfriends.blogspot.com/2008/03/joey-changing-world-one-ballot-at-time.html - Because this story still makes me laugh.
http://myfarawayfriends.blogspot.com/2008/08/touring.html - Because I like the pictures.
http://myfarawayfriends.blogspot.com/2008/06/my-neighbourhood.html - Because it introduces you to my neighbourhood.

Now go say hi to Michele at her blog,  Laundromat!

Amazing Paper Cuts - Peter Callesen

I love the intricacies of paper cuts and was looking around for a few for the holidays, and had to take another peek at the site of my favorite paper cut artist, Peter Callesen. His work is utterly and completely amazing.

I wish I could remember where I first saw his work, but with all the design blogs I've been reading for the last few years, it could be anywhere. I do remember spending a couple of hours the first day I found his work just studying the detail and wondering how on earth he can do that.

The first two are papercuts from an A4 size piece of paper, the last two are framed A4 size paper cuts, I like the contrast you see. What I find truly amazing though are his large scale installations, you really have to go look to really appreciate them.

Distant Wish

Butterflies Trying To Escape Their Shadow
Erected Ruin

Bound To Be Free

The Core of Everything

Take a peek, I promise you won't be disappointed.

Monday Musings {25} - France

"An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don't."
- Anatole France

Blogger of the Week : Susan

Susan of Emperorp is the blogger of the week. Read all about her and then go visit her blog and say hi!

What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Weetabix with warm milk and brown sugar, toasted wheat bread with butter and marmalade.

What is your favorite childhood book?
This is a hard choice. Being a book lover I equate this kind of question with being asked to choose which of my children I love best. I've tried to narrow it down and the best I can do is this:
The Mystery of the Missing Man by Enid Blyton (The first novel I remember reading. I was thrilled by the detective work of the Five Find Outers.)
The Naughtiest Girl in the School by Enid Blyton (She was naughty and she was fun, and really she was also very nice. What was not to love! I also loved that she attended boarding school.)
Mallory Towers series by Enid Blyton (I loved this story of two sisters attending boarding school. I used to dream of going to boarding school where I could have a tuck box, organized evening study sessions called 'prep', sleep in dorms with a dozen girls and play lacrosse.)
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (This mystery novel was intellectually stimulating in a way that I had not experienced books before. I had to immediately reread this after the first time so that I could savor the whole brilliantly plotted story again.)
Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series by Robert Arthur, Jr. (After 'The Mystery of the Missing Man' and 'The Westing Game' I was hooked on mystery. Even now, when I feel mentally overloaded and unable to choose another book to read, I can turn to Agatha Christie for a little mental vacation. It's almost like mental floss for me.)
The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of the Melted Coins by Franklin W. Dixon
Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn G. Keane (These last two because they were my first introductions to these two writers and I have this wonderful memory of staying awake all night, for the first time ever, reading these two books back to back. I read the Hardy Boys first and was so thrilled and stimulated that I just wanted to read another great book straight away and immediately read this first book in the Nancy Drew series. That was a great night of reading!)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (This was from my teens and I have reread the whole series again as an adult. I gave one of my daughters "Anne" as a middle name because of this book and both my girls know about, and love, Anne.)

What is your favorite work of art?
Two Tahitian Women by Paul Gaugin. I love the boldness of the colors and the shy yet confident faces of the women. It became a dream to see the original. Coming from a background where there was not a lot of money this was a huge ambition. I made it to New York to see it at the Met when I was 22.

What is your all time favorite quote?
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mahatma Gandhi

What's your favorite super secret website?
I don't have one, but now I want one and will start hunting!!!

What is your favorite and least favorite chore?
My favorite chore is cleaning the kitchen. It's the heart of the home and the hub of all the nurturing I give my family. My least favorite chore is a tie between emptying the dishwasher and putting away laundry, which is surprising because I absolutely love the feeling I get at the end when everything is put away in its place. It's just the process that feels like a drudge...actually trying to make the time for these is probably more the drudge.

What makes your house uniquely your home?
The people in it…and our books. Not living in my native country now, and having lived in other countries too, has led me to think a lot about how I define my sense of home. I usually don't feel strongly attached to the structures I live in. I get my sense of place and home from feeling a strong sense of connection to my husband and children. It doesn't matter where that is. The structure itself feels like home when we have our books lining the walls in bookcases :)

Will you share a favorite recipe?

My Irish Tea Brack

Irish Tea Brack, Dublin Stew, Irish Brown Bread
Irish Tea Brack

10oz raisins
10oz sultanas (golden raisins)
4oz brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ pint cold black tea

20oz self-raising flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
6oz butter
3 eggs

Soak fruit and sugar in tea and vanilla overnight.
Preheat oven to 325F.
Sieve flour and spices into bowl.
Melt butter. Lightly beat the eggs and add both to the fruit mixture.
Add wet ingredients to dry. Mix well.
Turn mixture into a greased and paper lined 8-inch round tin.
Bake for approximately 1 hour to 1 ½ hours, checking after 1 hour with toothpick to see if it comes out clean. Continue baking at 5 minute increments until toothpick comes out clean. If necessary, cover with aluminum foil to prevent top from burning.
Remove brack from oven and cool on wire rack for 10mins. Remove from tin and allow to cool completely before cutting.

If using all-purpose flour, add:
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt

You can add 4oz walnuts to recipe, but reduce to 8oz raisins and 8oz sultanas.

My tea preference is decaf Earl Gray for soaking tea.

What homemade project are you most proud of?
I'm going to answer this as a home project that I'm most proud of. Deciding to clear out our garage and turn it from an ugly, disorganized place of storage to an organized and cheerier functional space. Previously it was just felt like a black hole that drained my energy. I dislike having to go in there to do laundry or find something. The challenge was to use only paint and the rearrangement of furniture we already own. I love the garage now. We donated/gave away a lot of stuff and now I can really fee the energy flowing in there.

Click here for photos of the garage makeover

What do you miss the most about growing up in Ireland?
I miss being surrounded by Irish voices and accents; the warm, hearty food that my mother cooks; and the beauty of the landscape.

What are some of your favorite Irish traditions that you are carrying on with your girls?
This is a hard one to answer. There are no specifically Irish traditions that we are carrying on with the girls per se. We teach them that my husband and I are Irish and that they are Irish and American. We teach them that this country has a lot of people whose origins are outside the country and that differences are interesting and wonderful. We have also brought them to Ireland several times and have familiarized them with how beautiful the country looks. Being Irish, we talk about death openly and naturally. We share our culture with them in that they love Irish music and dancing. They love stories of leprechauns and the pooka and the banshee. And I try to create the same sense of routine and comfort I remember from childhood mealtimes. We have some favorite meals always on the same day of the week (they love the predictability of these). I am trying to cultivate the joy of food I loved growing up (and still love): eating potatoes (cooked any way), stew, cabbage, tea bracks, mince pies, boiled eggs with soldiers, Irish sausages and home made, thick cut, chips (french fries).

Now that you've read about Susan, go on over and say hi!

A Few Fun Things

First, just a reminder that we are sharing our Halloween Front Door Decor on the 20th, so get ready if you haven't yet!

Second, I found a fun website to peruse the other day, I love the layout and the elevator idea and thought I'd share it, very kitschy. New York First

Third, I'll be starting my "Countdown to Christmas" next Wednesday. There are 10 weeks left, and I need to make my list and check it twice... Yeah, I know, ha ha ha... very funny... I do need to make my list and determine my budget and start watching for sales, put together my homemade goodies, determine what cookies I'll be making this year (of course, I won't leave out my Peppermint Cookies), plan my menus, parties, gift exchanges, holiday cards... It always seems like there is plenty of time, but there never is.

I just love these holiday cards from Smock Paper via Jude at Run4istRun (Absolutely love Jude's site and she is a sweetheart with impeccable taste, go say hi!)

Smock Christmas Ornament Letterpress

Cleaning with Citrus Peels - Homemaking Tips


I have two ziploc bags that stay in my freezer and refrigerator for squeezed out citrus peels. The ziploc in my refrigerator has lemon and lime peels.
1) Sprinkled them with salt to clean metals: copper, brass and pewter
2) Rub them over cutting boards, letting the cutting board sit for a while, wash, rinse clean and dry. The citric acid will bleach out the stains and disinfect the board at the same time.
3) Sprinkle with baking soda and rub onto stained Tupperware. You may need to let it sit over night.

Once they've been used from the refrigerator, they go into the freezer bag.

The ziploc in my freezer has all citrus peels, grapefruit, lemon, lime, oranges, etc. Once they are frozen sprinkle a spoonful of baking soda in the center, and put them through your garbage disposal with a couple of ice cubes.

Homemaking September ShapeUp WrapUp

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

Homemaking September ShapeUp!Last month was a whirlwind of cleaning and organizing for me! The next few months are very busy for me at work and personally, so this will allow me to relax and enjoy. I finally finished up the last bit, the paperwork post ended up far more involved than I expected it to be. I hope it's helpful, everything for fall cleaning applies to spring cleaning as well. So it will be a helpful reference/schedule for me long term as well.

View the Guide

Managing Paperwork

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

I know it's October and this is a bit late in coming, it was the most involved post to put together. Hopefully, I've covered most everything.

The last bit to tackle is paperwork. How often are people buried by mounds of paperwork, not knowing what they have to keep so they keep everything! Just in case...

Do you ever feel like this?  I used to.

Let's attack paperwork in three phases. The first phase is the trash, shred and sort phase; the second is the file and scan phase; and, the third is the maintenance phase. If you have an entire afternoon free to get up close and personal with your paperwork, feel free to combine them.  Otherwise, get the first phase done, and spread phase two out over a month and start phase three right away to keep on top of everything.

Now, when I say spread the file and scan phase out over two months, I don't mean leave the piles all over your dining room table! Just take the piles and put them directly in files, then each day pick a catagory, for instance Tax Pile. Pull your tax pile folder(s), separate the file into piles by year, label file folders according to each year, scan in anything you want to keep electronically, put the appropriate pile into the appropriate folder and refile. This way you won't have piles on your dining room table, and it's somewhat organized until you take the time to sort through it. Within a month you'll have an organized system going forward.

So, let's get started.

Trash, Shred and Sort

First, let's gather all our paper work together. Grab a trash bag, recycle bin and a collecting bin and go through your paper gathering areas, kitchen, mail drop, offices, etc. and gather all the paper items. This includes all paper items: bills, lists, magazines, catalogs, schoolwork, birthday cards, everything paper... The exception would be paper for scrapbooking or other hobbies that are in their rightful places. Throw away or recycle the glaringly obvious items: catalogs, junk mail, flyers, empty envelopes, etc. and put everything else in the bin. Most paper can be recycled, check with your recycling center to find out if they have any restrictions. (Definite restrictions: Manilla envelopes - the dark yellowish-brown ones, and flourescent paper)

If the room you'll be filing it away in has enough room to spread out, take your bin, trash bag and shredder to that room. Otherwise, use a room that you can spread out in, don't spread out until you can tackle it all at once.

We'll start sorting through the bin. Most people will have a few basic piles, but include others as they are needed, especially for those running a business out of your home.

Action Items pile: These are items that have not been addressed and something needs to be done with it. For instance, bills to be paid, tags to be put on your vehicle, notes regarding phone calls to be returned, taxes to be filed, receipts to be turned in for reimbursement, etc.

Tax Related Items pile: Any items related to taxes and tax deductions, bills or credit card statements with tax deductible items listed, work related receipts you are not reimbursed for in other manners, donation receipts, medical expense receipts, 1099's, sales tax credit receipts (some states, ND is one, has a cap on sales tax, but it's up to the purchaser to file for it), etc. Pay stubs: Until you get your W-2 keep all in the current year, then shred all but the last 5. The last 5 can be shredded after you get your first 5 in the next year. You want to keep them though in case you end up looking for a new job or applying for a loan.

Loan Documentation pile: Any documents regarding loans or mortgages, including anything that was signed and copies of any lien waivers.

Proof of Warranty pile: Any bills or receipts needed for proof of warranty, and any warranty related paperwork. If you no longer own the items or the warranty is expired, shred the documents.

Manuals pile: Only if you currently own the product, otherwise toss it.

Insurance pile: All current insurance related on your life, house, car, other recreational vehicles, medical, dental, etc. This includes receipts related to big ticket items no longer covered under warranty for proof of value, for instance: electronics, jewelry, appliances, art, collectibles... If you no longer own it, unless you have open claims on the policy, there is no need to keep the policy information or related cards for vehicles. Shred anything insurance related that is not current.

Pension Plan/Retirement/Investment Account pile: All stock certificates, year-end statements, anything related to the current year, documentation regarding vestment schedules, signed documents or letters regarding rights to future retirement benefits. All other documentation can be shredded, if in doubt, ask your accountant.

Bills pile: Any bills that are current and paid, but payment has not yet been verified; any bills currently in dispute; and, any bills consisting of prepayment or advanced payment for long-term on-going projects. All other bills, not previously addressed, should be shredded. Once payment has been made on a bill and you have verified payment has cleared the bank, shred the bill.

Receipts pile: Receipts not related to a warranty, but still within the timeframe for an exchange or refund. Most other receipts can be tossed, or shredded if there is account/customer information on them.

Bank Statements pile: All bank and credit card statements, not in a previous pile. Once the charges, checks, deposits etc are verified these can be shredded. Since you are disposing of all receipts, if you want to maintain a record somehow. Scan these items in, then shred them. You don't need to keep them.

House pile: Anything related to house maintenance, as long as you still own the house.

Vehicle pile: Anything related to vehicle maintenance, as long as you still own the vehicle.

Work piles: If you work from home, tailor these piles to what you do and determine what you need to keep.

Technically, that's the end of what we HAVE to keep... If we stopped there most people would still have a large chunk of papers left in their bin.

Your Schoolwork pile: If it's your school work from college, keep the papers for the current term, toss them once you receive your report card. I can understand wanting to keep a Master's Thesis, or some papers which may be a part of a class which will be built on in another semester. However, once you have your degree, consider letting it all go.

Your Kid's Schoolwork pile: You can't keep everything and they won't want it all later. I recommend a top ten scenario and let the kids choose! Keep each week's papers, at the end of the week, pick the top two choices. They may not be the best grades, so let them pick what means the most to them. At the end of the month, of all the ones chosen, have them pick their favorite 5. At the end of the quarter, have them narrow it down to five again, and again at the end of the semester. By the end of the year, you will have the top 5 from each semester. If you have a favorite few that they haven't chosen, keep them aside, but you shouldn't have more than 3 favorites that weren't chosen by your child each year. For large projects, take pictures and ask your child to write a bit about it (Science fair projects come to mind), keep that instead of the large foam board stand-up's, volcano's or other large created items.

Momentos pile: You don't need these items at all, they are kept for sentimental reasons. I'm not going to tell you to toss it all, I'm not heartless. Toss anything that has no meaning for you.

Magazines and Newspapers pile: Clip items out that you want to keep, the rest should be donated or tossed after it's read. If this pile is overwhelming, be realistic about what you can really read, consider changing your subscription. We changed our newspaper to a weekend/holiday subscription. As much as I'd like to, I don't have time to read a newspaper daily. If you are getting far more magazines that you can realistically absorb in a month, consider cancelling your remaining subscription, or having it forwarded to a friend or relative that may like it. I'm whittling through my magazines, this pile was the hardest for me to own up to.

Catalog pile: You can find almost everything in a catalog online, flip through it, if you like, but don't keep it. You'll get another soon enough. If you get a lot of catalogs, especially ones that you never order from or if they have complete shops online, consider calling the company and ask them to stop sending you catalogs.

If you are like me you probably need a Recipe pile and a Inspiration/Decorating/Furniture Notes pile, go ahead and create them.

You may have other papers at this point, address them as needed, but be reasonable and if you are wondering whether you HAVE to keep it, do a quick search online.

Back to the top

File and Scan

Congratulations, you've gotten through the sorting of it all! Now for the filing and scanning of it all.

First, you'll need file folders, look at your piles and figure out how many files you will need. Make sure to count one for each tax year, one for each loan, etc.

Pretty File Folder Options:
Anthropologie has some gorgeous options, I'm particularly fond of the top one. Who wouldn't like filing in these?

Wallpaper Designer File Folders
Emma Designer File Folders
Sophie Designer File Folders
William Morris Clover File Folders
White Roses Decorative File Folders

Now you'll wonder why I call this section file and scan. I'm guessing a lot of people don't feel comfortable trashing a lot of the bills and other things I said to throw away. Here's where the scanner comes in, rather than saving all those pieces of paper, scan them in, then feel free to throw them. Now, don't just scan these to your desktop, give it some thought and set up a folder structure to make it easier to find everything later. I recommend using file names that are a combination of bill name and date in the format YYMMDD, you can then sort by name and it will sort nicely for you.

Scanning is the perfect option for a lot of the schoolwork pieces you want to keep, that don't make the final cut.

For now, filing will be a quicker option, but try to set aside 10-15 minutes a few times a week to get through the items you can't let go of, but really don't need to keep.

Also, you need to have a plan for the momentos so they don't get lost or damaged. If they are that important to you that you want to keep them, keep a memory box or something to store them in. Consider digital scrapbooking to preserve some of these items. You'll have the item scanned and the memory, without having to store the paper it's on. If you have items of significant value intended for long-term archiving, use acid-free archival storage for it to help prevent degradation over the years. Just remember that if the items being stored aren't acid-free, this will help slow degradation, but will not prevent it.

Acid-Free Tissue Paper
Acid-Free Box

Back to the top


1) Setup an inbox area
2) Commit to 15 minutes twice a week to take care of action items
  • Pay bills
  • RSVP to invitations
  • Place catalog orders (Discard the catalog afterwards)
3) Commit 15 minutes once a week to file and scan
4) Be ruthless, I open my mail by the trash and nothing comes into the house that I don't need.

Back to the top

It's easier to stay organized than it is to get organized. Hopefully, this will help you develop a manageable paperwork handling system.

View the Guide

Monday Musings {24} - Camus

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."
-Albert Camus

Menu Plan Monday {23}

For a little while I'm going to be trying to use up ingredients in my freezer and pantry. See how far I can get with only buying milk, eggs and bread.

Monday - Brats over Firepit
Tuesday - Planned Dinner Out
Wednesday - Breakfast for Supper: Omelets
Thursday - Spinach and Cheese Tortellini with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Friday - Maybe Dinner Out With Friends, otherwise Homemade Pizza
Saturday - BBQ Short Ribs with Corn on the Cob
Sunday - Pantry Cleanout and Leftovers

Join Menu Plan Monday over at The Organizing Junkie

Blogger of the Week : Kim

Kim of Forever Daisies is the blogger of the week. Read all about her and then go visit her blog and say hi!

What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Mt. Dew. I have an entire refrigerator shelf full of yogurt and I drink a MD... Yes, I know, bad, bad, bad.

What is your favorite childhood book?
My mom introduced me to the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and I was instantly hooked. I read them all at least three times! I loved imagining what it was like during that time, pretending I was there. I could picture myself in the story.

What is your favorite work of art?
I really like Terry Redlin prints. They remind me of growing up in the country. They bring back childhood memories of running through corn field, picking apples, visiting grandma, and the cool, crisp air of home.

What is your all time favorite quote?
"We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have weird names, and all are different colors, but they all exist very nicely in the same box." - Unknown

What's your favorite super secret website?
I have recently discovered 6 Year Med @ http://www.6yearmed.blogspot.com/. Danielle has an amazingly interesting life, and knows how to write about it.

What is your favorite and least favorite chore?
I like to vacuum and sweep. I'm not sure why. My least favorite would have to be cleaning the bathroom, for obvious reasons. A close 2nd would have to be doing dishes. They just pile up to quickly and I'm not one to keep up very well.

What makes your house uniquely your home?
This one is really hard. It is such a challenge to make my aparmtnet living space a home. We have a lot of photos and personal items decorating the walls. Ask me this question again after we buy a house that I can truly make my own :)

Will you share a favorite recipe?
Hamburger Rice Casserole
1 1/2 - 2 lb browned hamb
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can chicken/rice soup
1/4 cup rice
1 can water
season to taste

(I also sometimes add frozen veggies)

Mix all ingredients in casserole dish, bake at 350 for 1 hour. Can also be a crock pot meal!

I love this one because it is simple! I am all about making food simple

What first sparked your interest in photography?
My mom always took photos. When I was quite young, she asked me to help her put the photos in albums. She soon started having me take photos at family events and when we were on vacations. The more photos I took, the more I wanted to take. It just continued (and continues) to snowball!

What got you interested in scrapbooking?
As mentioned above, my mother had me help put photos in albums. She had one for her and dad, plus one per child. I helped her with writing in dates and names, however always felt like there was something missing. I wanted to decorate the pages! In elementary school, one of my best friends moved away. Before she left, I gathered a bunch of photos and put together my first "scrapbook". It was a lot of photos, stickers and construction paper. In 6th grade, we had a history project we could pick from a variety of options. I did the history scrapbook... It too continues to snowball!

What homemade project are you most proud of?
I enjoy the cards that I make. I love designing a card especially for a particular person. I enjoy thinking about the person, their likes, favorite colors, and how the occasion fits the person to end up with a card that will make that person smile!

Now that you've read about Kim go say hi at Forever Daisies!