Monday, January 14, 2019

34 Weeks of Clean 2019! Week 2- The Pantry

Oh my word!  You all are amazing- your excitement has absolutely thrilled me and your comments have blessed me.  I love to see you all cheering each other on and your sharing of our posts has helped spread the word across the United States!

If you are just joining us, we are so glad you are here. You can find week one, Holiday Decorations, here if you want to start from the top!  If this is your second week back, YAY you!   Know that we are cheering you on as well. We really are so excited to hear about all the people across the country who are determined to take back their houses with us - one week at a time!  Let us see those pictures by posting on our Family, Faith and Fridays Facebook page. It really helps to know you are not alone.

So how'd you do with week 1?  Hopefully your trees are at the curb and your lights are taken down. Trust me, your neighbors will appreciate your effort! And as someone said this about week, it is freeing.  As much as I love the pretty decorations, there is just something about starting the new year with a clean slate.

Up this week, The Pantry!

Why start with the pantry?  I can only speak for myself here, but the holidays seem to be a season of food, more food, and even more food.  And a lot more junk food than normal.  Anyone else?  I found myself opening the pantry, throwing something in, and shutting the door as quickly as possible to avoid the mess.  Yep, I am THAT kind of gal during the holidays.  And then add my husband's Sam's Club runs to the mix and well, you can see what happens.  But guess what ya'll?  Eventually, that mess starts trying to come out on its own.  So even if your pantry does not look as bad as mine, (and please do not tell me if it doesn't) it surely could use some sprucing up as well, right?  Plus, we are in a new house this year, and let me tell you-  obviously I was more concerned about just getting it all unpacked than I was making it an organized space.

Remember- our goal is to deep clean, de-clutter, and reorganize.
Here we go!

Your Assignment-
This week we are concentrating mostly on the food.  If you have food in other areas of your kitchen as well, don't leave it out!  Spices and such will be covered next week, as they reside elsewhere in my kitchen.  You can thank me later!
  • Pull everything out!  Yes, just do it.  I will wait.  And get used to it, because you will see that instruction at the beginning of every week.  We will pull EVERYTHING, yes EVERYTHING, out of a space to start with.  I promise, it works, just trust me!

 I do not know how all this stuff possibly fit in the pantry!

Yes, we have a water bottle problem!  We got rid of more than a few, I promise.

  • Check expiration dates and throw things out.  One of our goals should be to NOT poison our families this year with bad food. Hey, did you know that even clear gelatin has an expiration date? Whoops. Who knew?!

  • Wipe down all of the shelves, wood or otherwise.  Between sticky honey drops (anyone else?) and dirty handprints, those things need to be cleaned!  If you are an all natural kind of gal, you can use my favorite natural cleaner recipe.  If you use store bought stuff, no worries - I won't tell anyone!

  • Wipe down the floors of the pantry and the walls, any light switches, and baseboards as well. You know women did not design all those fancy doors with little rims and grooves!  Sometimes it takes nothing short of a Q-tip to get those clean.  Yes, go ahead and get out your Q-tips!

  • Decide a plan of attack BEFORE you put things back.  I try to keep like things in one area, so in our case cans are on one shelf and boxed foods on another. You get the idea.
  • Put things back with purpose- do you use something only occasionally?  Put it higher up. All of our snacks are together, with smaller items in a basket, and then breakfast foods are near the bottom for easy access.  Have something in there that doesn't belong?  Put it where it does!  Have extra stuff you do not use or need?  Get rid of it!  Like water bottles.  Just saying.

  • Use glass jars when you can!  I admit, I love glass jars.  Here's why - I love the uniform look, I love that you can see exactly how much of something you have left, and I get so tired of looking at half opened boxes and bags.  This is especially true of things like flour and sugar.  I seriously would put our potato chips in a glass jar if I thought I could get by with it.  (For now those are all in the wood bin.)  I also use Tupperware for staple items that need to be airtight.  After living in Florida for several years, I gave in and invested in containers that would keep the humidity and bugs out.  20 plus years later they are still reliable.  

Finished result-

This project is a little quicker for most than last week's!  Regardless, don't forget, if you cannot do it all at once, no worries!  Set a timer for 15 minutes each day if you have to and work until it goes off.  Slow and steady wins the race.  You have a whole week so don't fret!  When you are done, reward yourself with a cup of tea and some chocolate.  Because who doesn't love chocolate?

And because a few of you have asked - nope, I am not going to give you a list of all the weeks in advance, though if you really want it, it is not hard to find! ;)  I remain convinced, and I saw from our first run of 34 Weeks several years ago, that it is best to only share each assignment as we go.  I think our tendency is to go in strong to a project like this, push too hard, and then fall off the wagon from exhaustion.  It's kind of like that rush at the gym every January. This way you can truly concentrate on the task at hand and not be weighed down by what is to come. 

So, I think that is about it!  This should not take you all week, but go on and get started.  There is never a better time than the present! And don't forget to post pictures of your progress, we love being able to cheer you on.


Intro Week
Week 1- Holiday Decorations

Friday, January 11, 2019

Let Go and Love People

I can't remember when it all got started- this desire, this NEED of mine to downsize but it may have been about the time that I wrote this.  Go ahead, read it.  I will wait!

Time to Let Go and Move On

We had come off living in two very large homes, one that was a historical 5000 square foot base house, and I think I was just tired.  Tired of stuff and tired of what it took to take care of said stuff.  When you are a military family that moves a lot you get used to keeping stuff "in case,"  You never know what the next house will be like and those curtains, or that piece of furniture, might fit.  Or even those coats and boots and snowsuits might finally get used again.  True story!

Fast forward years later, and after several years of writing about 34 Weeks of Clean, and I still feel the same way.  OK,  maybe even more strongly about cleaning, de-cluttering and organizing.  But also about this-

I want to love people more than things.

Yes, I want my house to be beautiful, but I want people to be first.
Yes, I want to spend time cozy in my home, but I want to spend more time with people.
Yes, I want to love the things that surround me, but I want to love people more.

Love God, love people has become my mantra these days!

May I put it to work as much as I say it!

How about you?  How are you loving people?  I would love to hear your ideas and experiences!


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Are They Ready for the Test?

It is nearing that time of year for testing in many schools, as well as ACT and SAT time for many highschool juniors and seniors.  If you listen closely you can hear the moans of teachers everywhere- public and homeschool alike.

Let's face it- the pressure is on.  And not just for the students.  As a homeschool mom, I am the one that imparts information to my child, and whether I like it or not, their success, or lack thereof, often feels like it rests solely in my hands.

Years ago, most states had mandatory testing at some level for homeschoolers, and so early on in our homeschool journey I began testing my children.  Yes, I can and do administer the IOWA state test.  Not only did it help me keep my bases covered legally, but it also helped me assess how each child was doing and identified areas of weakness we needed to address.  It has held us accountable and I like it.

The kids, not so much! ;)  In their defense, what kiddo likes tests?

We have never made it a practice to "teach to the test", but through the years I did begin to see that my kids were lacking a bit in the "test taking" skills.  They were not in the habit of many tests outside of spelling and math tests.  Filling in ovals and reading paragraphs for information were new to them.  Upon that realization, I began looking for ways the kids could practice the actual test taking phenomena to be better prepared.

One such book series that we have come to count on is the Spectrum Test Practice.  Thanks to Timberdoodle Company, we have once again had the opportunity to review one of the books in the series, Grade 6, and continue to be impressed with it and the newer features.

Spectrum Test Practice 6th Grade is a 154 page softbound book that covers Reading, Language, and Math for 6th grade students to practice for standardized testing (other grades are available).  Reading covers Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension, the Language section covers Mechanics and Expression, and Math covers includes Concepts, Computation, and Application.  There are multiple skills that are practiced and then each section ends with a practice test.  Answers are all included at the back of the book.

A newer component of the Spectrum Test Practice Books in the free online resource area for each US state. There you will also find information about national and state specific standards.

One thing you should know about Spectrum is that they do adhere to the Common Core Standards.  While I do not follow common core curriculum in our own home, most states have adopted those standards and therefore our kids will run across some of those while testing.  For that reason, I do not mind their exposure to it on a limited basis.

So how do we use this?

It's pretty simple actually.  Usually about this time of year, we gear up for any testing we decide to do.  By doing a page or two a day from the Spectrum Test Practice book, I create a non threatening approach to testing.  I have found when it is just part of our everyday school, test taking is not nearly as scary of a process.  Each test section is relatively short and can be completed in 10-15 minutes.

Umm, yeah, that is something we haven't learned yet!

I then do a quick check of the page or pages and go over any that were missed.  Easy peasy!

Sometimes we make things harder than they should be.  Test taking seems to be one of them, in my opinion.  With a relaxed attitude, and a little practice with books like Spectrum Test Practice, we can help our children be confident and successful test takers!

Spectrum Test Practice 6th Grade is part of the Timberdoodle 6th grade curruclum kit or can be ordered separately.

Monday, January 7, 2019

34 Weeks of Clean 2019! Week 1- Holiday Decorations

Welcome to 34 Weeks of Clean! 

If you are new to Family, Faith and Fridays, let me say a big hello! We are so glad you are here!  Since our initial post, (you can find common Q&As there!) we have had over 1000 people read about 34 Weeks of Clean, and many say they are joining us.  People just like you and me who are ready to take their homes back.  We are overwhelmed with your responses and enthusiasm and thrilled you are joining us.  THANK YOU to all who have shared our posts and egged on encouraged their friends to join us!  I would love it if you would continue to share and help us get the word out.  It is my true desire to help people in the cleaning, de-cluttering, and organizing adventure.  If you do not know me yet, you can read all about me and my clan on my About Me Page. So let's start with re-visiting a few housekeeping details- I love details, don't ya know!

  • A new assignment will be given each Monday.  You will find it here on the blog and linked on our facebook page- Family, Faith and Fridays.
  • You will have one week to work on said assignment.  How that looks is up to you.  You can conquer it all in one day and sit back and enjoy the week, you can make it your weekend project, or you can set a timer each day and work until the buzzer goes off.  Find what works for you and go for it!  Every week will look a bit different, so be sure to be flexible. 
  • Your goal EACH week will be to deep clean, de-clutter, and then reorganize.
  • Take pictures!  If not for us, then for yourself.  You will be amazed at what you will accomplish in 34 weeks, I assure you!  We would love for you to share your pictures on our Family, Faith and Fridays facebook page!  It's always fun, and motivating, to see what others are doing!
  • I KNOW it is tempting to work ahead.  I advise you not to.  Trust me, if this is a light week for you, enjoy it! ;)  Not all weeks are created equal and you will get burned out if you press too hard and too fast.  Clean the assigned area and then go live life.  Enjoy your family, love your neighbors, have some fun.  Next Monday will be here before you know it, I promise!
  •  DO NOT spend lots of money on organizational "stuff."  Some things are great, and if you need something then go get it.  But please do not buy boxes and bins just to fill a space.  Remember, the goal here is to de-clutter as well.  Those cute plastic bins can just add to the clutter.  Look at what you have and re-purpose things - think bags, baskets, and existing furniture.  We will expand on this idea as we go, promise!
  • Have fun!  Or at least as much fun as one can have while cleaning and organizing.   
First things first!  Holiday decorations!  Sorry, no keeping things up for the next month in this house.  Now, I know many of you have put things away.  I am challenging you to pull it back out this week.  I know, I know, but you can do it!  If you really think you have already addressed this area well, then enjoy your week off and be ready to work hard next week!

I love decorating for the holidays but when Christmas is over, well, let's just say I. Am. Done!  Just ask my kids! ;)  It is almost as much fun as spring cleaning, trust me on this one.  Put on your favorite music, roll up your sleeves, and let's get started!

Your Assignment-
  • Clean each piece as you put them away!  (This is the deep clean part.) All those little knick knacks and do-dads have been sitting out for at least a few weeks gathering dust.  Before you put them away, wipe them down!

  • Same goes for artificial trees.  Although I love ours, they are dust magnets.  You can use a small hand-held vacuum to help you out.  At the very least, take them outside and give them a shake.  A few years ago I decided to save myself the trouble of taking ours apart and just put them back in storage in one piece.  Putting a large plastic bag over the top helps protect them a bit from the dust and grime.  We leave the lights on our trees but if you take yours off, old cereal boxes that have been collapsed are perfect for winding lights onto, as are cardboard wrapping paper rolls cut down to size!


  • This year when you put things away, ask yourself- do I really love this?  Do I really need it? (We are going to ask ourselves these questions a lot over the next 34 weeks, start practicing!) Again, if you have put things away, pull them back out and really think about each piece. Sometimes more isn't better (well, most of the time, but that is for a different post, right?!). Donate what you do not need - local shelters and retirement homes might love your extras!  Keeping with the "yes, our family does follow the same rules"- we finally let go of a bunch of angel ornaments we have not put on a tree in several years.

  •  Repair anything that needs a quick fix, or throw it away.   Our little balloon dog lost his head and needed a quick gluing.  I am happy to report he is back to new.
  •  Put like items together and LABEL them!  Some of mine had beautiful labels on them (I do love my label maker) while for others I used a sharpie marker.  Details don't matter, just make sure it is all labeled. That way, if you decide to decorate in waves like I do, you can pull out just what you need in the moment rather than riffling through every bin looking for your one treasured item.
  • Think outside the box!  Literally!  See that yellow trash can?  It used to hold dog food.  But I found it was perfect for coiling up outside lights and garland into.  Easy to put them in, easy to get them out.  Now, if we could just invent a way to make them easy to put up! My husband would love that!

  • Ornament boxes and wreath boxes are two exceptions to my "don't buy special boxes" rule. There are other ways to store those things but with all of our moving I have found that things are better protected in those specialty containers.  If you have the space to hang up wreaths you can do so, just know they may get pretty dusty in a year.  Ask me how I know this! ;) A trash bag over them may help.

  • Put it all away in ONE spot if possible.  Each time we move that storage looks a little different.  One year it was in the basement.  We have been blessed with a wall of cabinets in our new garage, so several of those now house the Christmas stuff.  The key is to try to keep everything in the same area if at all possible.

  • Keep a list of what you have. There is no need to buy items on sale that you do not need.  If you don't need it, you can consider it saving money - no matter the price.  Know what you have and know what you need.
  • And as long as we are on the subject of HOLIDAY decorations, if you decorate for other holidays the same things apply, and go ahead and go through those decorations this week too, if you can (Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine's Day, etc.).  Label your boxes, sort through what you don't need or use any longer, and keep it all in one place. If you can't tackle them this week, don't worry, you can fit them in during the break week!
OK, don't get lost in the details!  Just get started and see what you can do in a week!  Don't forget to take pictures of your progress to share with us!  And if you have a tried-and-true helpful hint, we want you to share with us!  Many hands make light work, and many ideas - well, they give us inspiration.

So glad you have joined us!  Week by week, we CAN take back our homes and put a little order in our lives!

See ya back next week for our next assignment.  Until then, happy cleaning!

Friday, January 4, 2019

A New Word Given

If I haven't said it yet, Happy New Year to you all!  I pray it is a year of great things and beautiful blessings. 

This post almost wasn't written.  It has been a busy past few weeks and I have been out of commission the past few days sick in bed.  It was not how I wanted to end 2018 and begin 2019, but I haven't been sick like this in a long while and I am taking it as a sign that my body just needed a rest.

Being in bed multiple days has a way of giving you lots of time to think, and blog- both of which have been on the back burner for a while.  In the process of poking around on my blog for a while, I discovered I had done a word of the year post for the past 5 years!

2014- GRACE
2015- JOY
2018- VISION
I was, quite frankly, shocked.  Reading over them brought back a lot of memories and tipped the scale on my decision to write this post.  I had been contemplating a word for a few weeks and even looked up a verse with it but then life took over.  But, as God always works (unexpectedly), the word appeared on my facebook feed this morning in a verse that a friend posted and I knew it was my word for 2019.

What is interesting is the fact that the verse she posted was NOT the verse I had originally found the word in.  Same word, different verse, and really a different thought behind it.  I needed both, and of course the Lord provided.

Don't you love that?

When I looked up the word RENEW here is what I found-
  • to re-establish
  • to resume
  • to repeat
and for the record, the prefix re- means
  • once more
  • afresh
  • anew
Oh friends, I will assume we all could use a little renewal of a "right" spirit in us.
forgiveness to replace unforgiveness
love to replace hate
joy to replace anger
acceptance to replace judgement

The list could go on and on, right?  Only with God's help can we replace the wrong with the right.  Let's purpose together to ask Him daily to RENEW a right spirit in us!

Isaiah 40:31 is the verse I had originally looked up.  It has always been a favorite of mine.

...but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. 

The picture of the Lord renewing our strength is a comfort to me.  Sometimes, ok many times, I get caught up in all I should do or can do.  Then I get worn out- weary.  See the "I" part?   When we leave the Lord out of the equation we get weary.  When we follow HIS lead, he will renew us and give us strength.  A simple truth I need to remind myself of daily.  How about you?

Are there things you are trying to do in your own strength?  Have you grown weary of the task at hand?  Do you long for strength to move forward?

God CAN and WILL renew your strength- just ask him.  Turn to him and ask him what He wants from your life.  Then trust Him to provide the perfect path.

The Lord can RENEW our spirits and our minds if we allow Him to! May 2019 be the year you allow Him to do both!


Want to see some of my favorite friends' Word of the Year choices?   The Crew is sharing theirs and you are welcome to link up with us!  Go ahead- tell us your word.