Harvard Homemaker

http://www.harvardhomemaker.com/

This Harvard graduate has chosen to stay at home to raise her four daughters. Her blog is filled with tips and tricks to help make our days easier, happier, and more fun... life is too short for anything else!

Harvard Homemaker is a winner of Top 25 Home Management Moms - 2013

What's your best tip for keeping your home organized during the busy holiday season?

About 5 years ago, I started a spreadsheet on my computer to help me keep up with the overwhelming task of buying gifts! Between my kids, relatives, teachers, even the neighborhood Christmas party, there are so many gifts to remember! Now I simply copy and paste last year's list into a new page in the workbook, and then I delete out last year's gifts. As I come up with gift ideas and purchase the items, I track everything in the spreadsheet until I'm able to write "done" in the far right column for each person. It's impossible to forget anybody this way! It also helps me keep gifts among my children more even so I have a handle on what I've already bought each of my four daughters (it can be hard to remember your purchases when they are shoved in closets, under beds, and in the attic--especially if you bought some things way ahead of time!)

Perhaps best of all, I can refer back to previous lists to make sure I don't duplicate gifts that I've already given in years past. For example, I love to give books, and I can't always remember if I have already given a certain book beforehand. Now I can simply refer back to my handy spreadsheet, and I can confidently give that book without worrying about repeating myself! I can't tell you how much this system has helped me stay more organized during the most hectic time of year!

What's your favorite store bought or homemade cleaning product?

I absolutely love my Clorox Bleach Pen to help get stains out of whites!! It's typically stored by bleach and other cleaning products and not by the laundry detergent, so I feel like a lot of people haven't discovered the benefits of the bleach pen! I love efficiency, and I don't have any desire to spend a lot of time scrubbing stains out of the laundry. You won't believe how much a quick squirt of the Clorox Bleach Pen just before washing will do... it has even worked for me to remove stubborn stains that have already been set in the dryer!

What's the most important home management skill a mom can teach her child?

I'm a big believer in teaching my children to be independent; not only does that skill help prepare them for life on their own one day, but it also helps us manage our household. For example, as early as age 3, I have encouraged my children to choose their own clothing and get themselves dressed as soon as they are physically able. This might seem like a small thing, but you can't believe how much more smoothly a morning runs when you aren't involved in dressing each child in the house (and arguing with them about their clothing!). My kids have worn some crazy outfits through the years, but we all benefited from it: they gained confidence; I got time back in my morning; and I eventually grew to find a lot of humor in their choices!

Another example is making their bed. When my kids each turn 5, they are expected to begin making their own bed every single day. And I mean every single day. (It's become like a rite of passing in our house! My third daughter was so excited to show me her bed on the morning of her 5th birthday!) If you don't let any days slide, it becomes a habit very quickly, and you probably won't even have to remind them after a while. I never, ever fix their work because they will go from feeling proud to feeling like they failed. You'd be surprised by how quickly they get pretty good at it! And it's amazing how much more "together" your house will feel just by having each bed made (without you having to make them all!).

Other examples of encouraging independence: putting their backpacks in the same place every day after school; unloading their bag and bringing their lunchbox to the kitchen; packing their bag in the morning, grabbing their lunchbox, and being responsible for getting everything they need to school; bringing dirty laundry to the laundry room and putting it in the correct slot so it's pre-sorted; putting away their own clean laundry; clearing their own dishes... and so on. Every chance I get, I try to teach my children the importance of taking care of themselves and helping to run our home more efficiently. When we all do our part, the whole family is happier, and we get to enjoy more quality time together!

Do you use your slow cooker/crock pot even in summer? If you have a great warm-weather crock pot recipe, please share a link to it with other moms!

Harvard Homemaker

I swear by my crockpot(s)--I have two of them! :) I usually have them both going at once so I can freeze the extras. Having another meal ready in the freezer makes life easier on another day, and it really doesn't take that much extra effort to double everything. And then next time, you just thaw and reheat! Easy! This HEARTY CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP is my favorite slow cooker recipe! It's the most popular recipe on my blog, and it always gets rave reviews. I hope you like it if you give it a try!
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