Real Life Kitchen Organization Tips

I love a beautiful Pinterest picture of color coded, chalkboard labeled cabinets and pantries, don’t you? Beauty, especially in the everyday, appeals to us all. You know what is MORE appealing though?

real life kitchen organization

A PRACTICAL and beautiful organized space. I’ve been working through Clean Mama’s Homekeeping Society & our November focus was the kitchen. My system is almost the same as it was when I moved into the house 9 years ago, but it needed to be tweaked a bit. Here are some practical kitchen organization tips that have served me almost effortlessly through the years.

And the photos? Totally not staged — even the food storage one. It really stays that organized. Cool, huh?

Glasses by the Sink

It seems like a no brainer right? When I go to someone’s house, that’s the first place I look. I’m astonished at how often glasses are not near the water source!

Real kitchen organization tips

Dishes Near the Dishwasher

Have you ever tried to put away dishes with a 15 month old weaving through your legs? It’s impossible! Even if you don’t have small babies, having your everyday dishes within arms reach of the dishwasher is a major time saver. By everyday, I mean plates, bowls, mugs and silverware.

Pots by the Sink, Pans by the Stove

It seems like you should keep pots AND pans by the stove right? I would say that at least 75% of the time I use them, I need to fill them with water. So I keep POTS by the water – I. E. the sink. The pans I keep near the stove.

organized food storage

Limit Food Storage

I have two kinds. I love the Pyrex because I can use it to store leftovers and then reheat them in my toaster oven without dirtying another fish. But I also exclusively use Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids for my plastic needs. I won a set or two and I think I bought at least 2 or 3 more. I use them to store dry goods in my pantry or prepped food in the freezer. I even use them for headbands, hair ties and other such things. I have 1 drawer for the Rubbermaid & 1 shelf for Pyrex. And that’s it. If it doesn’t fit, I can’t have it.

Oh, and these are next to stove so that its a cinch to put leftovers away. Easy peasy lemon squeezy ;).

Food Prep

While I wish I had a streamlined food prep station, I do not right now. If the counter next to my stove was a wee bit bigger, I would. My knives are stored in the non-functioning microwave above the stove (that 17 month old, you know), my cutting boards are on that counter and my trash is right there. But my kids like to “help,” so I work at the big counter :).

baking station

Baking Station

I do have a baking station set up & functioning though! I have the “baking drawer” which holds spatulas, whisks, measuring cups, a rolling pin & other specialty baking tools.

My mixer is on the counter. My baking goods (and baking spices, plus salt) are in the lazy Susan. And if I’m not using the mixer, my mixing bowls are in the cabinet above the dishes. It’s all accessible from where I stand while baking.

Cookbooks & Spices

I prefer to keep my savory spices & cookbooks in the cabinet nearest to my stove. I frequently season a dish on the fly & I don’t have to make multiple trips to a spice cabinet away from my stove.

I used to store ALL my cookbooks there but my shelf mounts kept breaking from the weight :). Now I keep my small appliance cooking instructions in Alton Brown’s Kitchen Equipment Notes binder (like rice cooker amounts), my favorite recipe binder, and my kitchen timing bible (probably the best spur of the moment clearance purchase EVER!).

Offsite Storage

If you are one of those people who love throwing or planning parties or provides hospitality, you’ve probably amassed such things as large serving pieces or extra wine glasses. Or maybe you make cakes as a side business and have cake pans, supports, displays and other special tools. Others of you may have specialty gear that is used infrequently. Like the giant turkey boiling stockpot, canning supplies or brewing equipment.

Whatever you may have like this deserves its own space. I keep my entertaining pieces & canning gear on a narrow shelf in my laundry room. Hubby’s beer gear outgrew the laundry room & is in the garage now instead :).

Obviously, this is not everything I have in my kitchen, but these are the self sustaining systems that have worked for almost 10 years. Pots & glasses near the sink, having baking supplies together and dishes near the dishwasher have been huge timesavers for me.

Everything else I have put where I had space and/or where it made the most sense for how I used it. Or how to make things easy with small children (like the knives in the defunct microwave).

Do you have any kitchen organizing logic that works awesome in your house?

Jen S.

Print Friendly

A Menu of Options for Praying With Your Kids {Book Review}

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains an affiliate links; thanks for your support!


Life with kids is hard. Take all your imperfections and habits and get rid of the filter between your brain and your mouth and you have your kids.  Or maybe that’s just me…

77 ways to pray with your kids Catholic family prayer

Think about how difficult it is to pray on your own. I don’t know about you, but I drag my feet, put it off, and whine in my head before I even start. Once I’ve gotten started my mind wanders to my to do list, conversations I had or things I messed up.

Lucky for me, God’s grace is abundant! I cannot make my children love God, but God showers his abundant grace and amplifies my meager efforts at family prayer. We do some of the Catholic basics, such as grace before meals and bedtime prayers. I want my children to have a deeper understanding of their Catholic faith and a better relationship with God than I have.

I saw a review of the book 77 Ways to Pray with Your Kids somewhere and immediately emailed the publisher. This is such a fabulous resource! I think every Catholic family should have one. It’s like a menu of prayer for Catholics of all ages.


The first several sections talk about how & when to pray, as well as provide information about how to use the book. The real benefit of this book is the ~60 pages of ways to pray with your kids. There are dozens of ideas shared in very short, succinct articles along with appropriate ages – 3+, 7+, 13+. In addition, many ideas include an indicator that they are easy to do and require no preparation to try them.

Jerry Windley-Daoust does a fabulous job of taking a multitude of Catholic traditions and making them accessible to modern, busy, Catholic families. And some options even point you to the Catechism and the Bible to find out more. It also includes major Catholic prayers. While reading the book, I wrote down a whole list of page numbers I wanted to try (pages 21, 22, 28, 32, 34, 48, 57, 60 & 70 if you were curious ;D).


The best part, though, is the index/checklist at the back. I love it for many reasons. First, it includes a short title for every prayer and related option. This is awesome because if you just want something quick to try, you can just scan the list. It lists the pages so if you can’t recall the details or want more help, you can find the full article. You can also check off any prayers you’ve tried.

If you are trying to figure out how to prayer with your overwhelming group of littles (and let’s be honest, ONE can be an overwhelming group!), 77 Ways to Pray with Your Kids is an awesome resource. The beginning has so much encouragement for this tough job of meeting God with your little ones. He provides much Grace and multiples your efforts more than imaginable. This would also be a fabulous book for families with older kids who feel like things are getting a bit stale or who have children entering a new phase of maturity. This excellent resource will be shared with all my Catholic friends.

Interested in supporting their work? The publisher, Peanut Butter & Grace, has a IndieGoGo campaign to help provide the cost of publishing more of the books in their series. I wish I had the means to write a big fat check, because making awesome, practical and wholly Catholic books available is one of my passions. Instead, I’m writing a small one (bah, it closed while I was waiting for payday…I guess I need to buy a few extra copies ;D), buying several copies and sharing the word!

Will you join me?

Jen S.

Print Friendly

Organizing for Spring

***This article originally appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Traverse Bay Family Magazine.  It has been preprinted with permission.***

 Every year, people all over the country start talking about spring cleaning. A holdover from when everyone used to heat with wood, people took advantage of the fact that they no longer need to use their woodstoves to clean the soot and dust from the house.

Spring Organizing

Since most people don’t use wood heat anymore, I take advantage of this time of year to organize and purge instead. A blogger (Clover Lane) used to host a 40 bags in 40 days challenge for Lent. While we are most of the way through Lent already, it’s a great time of year to remove things that aren’t necessary. Who wants to spend their summer days cleaning when you could be at the beach? Not me!


First, come up with how long you can realistically spend going through your house cleaning and purging. Are your kids in school that you can work all day everyday for a week or so? Do you need a long lead time because you have a houseful of very small children who need your help with everything? I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old at home and set my schedule up over 6 weeks.


Next, consider the spaces in your home. Think about where your house is the most cluttered and unorganized as well as what would make the biggest impact. Schedule the most time for those areas. Maybe your bathroom is pretty spartan and doesn’t need to be dealt with – ignore it. Maybe you have a spot where you throw everything – schedule some extra time for that! I scheduled two weeks for random boxes of stuff behind the couch in my TV room.


Not storage supplies. First, you need supplies to help you categorize the crud. I like big shipping boxes for unneeded items because I can take the unneeded but still good items to charity without needing to do anything else. Some people use empty plastic totes. Since I do such a little work per day, I use plastic grocery bags – one for donate, one for trash and one for recycle.


I also add a box for things that don’t belong in whatever room you discover them. Every day, the contents of that box should be put away. Alternately, you can lump them up and deal with it at the end. I don’t recommend that though. From experience you will have a pile of boxes behind the couch that need to be dealt with and put away. For years. Ahem.


After you have gotten rid of all the trash, misplaced items and extra stuff you don’t use, take some time to review what is left. You can do this after the purge or during depending on how quickly it’s going. Is there some container you could use to make things easier to find? A utensil jar by the stove, maybe? Or a hanging fruit basket for bananas, potatoes and things? Create a list of things that aren’t working and think about ways to fix the problem. Maybe even check Pinterest for pretty DIY solutions; some of them can be pretty affordable!

Jen S.

Print Friendly

First Start Reading – A Phonics Program from Memoria Press {Schoolhouse Review Crew}

So when the opportunity for reviewing some items from Memoria Press came up, I was pretty excited.   We are a fairly classical family and I’m even working on beefing up my own classical education.  You know, the one I never got in school :).

memoria press first start reading review

Anyway, we ended up receiving a copy of MP’s program for phonics, reading and handwriting called First Start Reading for our little crazy lady who is about 4.5 years old.



About Memoria Press

Memoria Press is a family owned company who strives to provide Christian classical education materials from history and literature to geography and latin.  They create and sell materials from preschool to 12th grade.

In order to facilitate this review of First Reading Lessons, we received the entire curriculum which consists of the parent/teacher manual and 4 thin student workbooks.

memoria press review

The workbooks are very simple and are designed to to reinforce what the parent teaches and quickly give success in reading to whet the appetite for more.  It also includes pages in each lesson designed to teach printing, both traced an free form letters, upper and lowercase.

How We Used First Start Reading

We used First Start Reading with my 4.5 year old daughter, Miss Lady.  Up to this point, she has learned everything by listening & watching.  She is very hands-on and a little auditory in her learning styles.  She is also my loose cannon; she likes to learn but only when it suits her, so I knew that we would have to go nice and gentle.

My goal was to use this 3-4 days a week, and do 1 lesson every two days.  Despite being sick for 2 solid weeks during the testing period, we were able to make “spring break” work in our favor.  She loved getting extra school time while her sister was taking a much needed break!



Each lesson has 2 pages in the student workbook.  For letter sounds, they illustrate the sound (or words) being made. For later pages, there are spaces to draw your own picture. The opposite page has lines to draw your own letters.  There is a traceable set for both uppercase & lowercase as well as blank lines with the starting dots.

While you could try to just use the workbooks, I really wouldn’t advise it.  The parent/teacher book guides you through teaching step by step.   The first two lessons are for letters “A” and “M.”  I took two days per letter to start.  On the first day, we talked about the pictures and letter sounds and traced as many letters as I could convince her to do.  There were a lot to attaboys :).   On the second day, we reviewed the previous day’s work and then tried to listen for the sound first at the beginning then at the end of a set of words.

First Start Reading Teachers Book Sample

Honestly, I really could have stretched each lesson to three easy days.  Which I might do because she IS so young and showing signs of readiness, but not quite to the point of pretending she IS reading :).  Already on lesson 3, we had our first word — am.   Then she could read “I am.”    I got so excited at her apparent ease that I got out the first red reader.  Then I quickly realized that she wasn’t able to make the blended sounds equal words in her mind yet :).

Teaching reading is my least favorite subject.  It’s slow and tedious and until it clicks it is intensely frustrating. That being said, we slowly go through the lessons, learning the letter sounds, practicing blending, and writing letters.


Overall, I think this classical phonics program would be great for kids who are REALLY ready to read.  If you have a child who already knows several sounds and tries on their own to sound things out, this would be a fabulous fit, I think.  They could quickly move from letter sounds to words and sentences that makes sense but are still easy.  In other programs we have tried and used, my kids have been bored with learning only phonograms before learning to put them together.

By the end of Book A, students learn the first half of the letter sounds, but many words/word families.  Books B & C introduce a few new letters each and work heavily on making words from the letters that are known.  The practice & use of words is emphasized more than the individual sounds.  Book D is a tad shorter and emphasizes mostly practice in reading and a few multi-letter phonograms/dipthongs.  Very few new letters are introduced.

First Start Reading Books A & C inside

At the end of Book A, you learn a fair number of words and by half way through Book C, the passages are surprisingly complex!  You can check out First Start Reading sample pages and scope & sequence of all 4 books at the Memoria Press website.

First Start Reading would be a great fit for visual learners.  The pictures and even how the write the text while learning to blend words help the student do that.   While my 4 year old daughter isn’t quite there yet, I suspect my older daughter would have done VERY well with these materials if presented at the right time.  The quick successes at the beginning make it a great program for kids who want to know how to read yesterday :).


Click here to find more crew reviews of First Start Reading & Copywork materials from Memoria Press.

Jen S.


Print Friendly

Homeschool Mother’s Journal {5 Days of Real Life Homechool}

And to end this week, I thought I would partake in the Homeschool Mother’s Journal and {pretty, happy, funny, real}. After all, we are being REAL here in this five day series of Real Life Homeschooling. While the first 4 posts were written and scheduled last week, this one is not.

Homeschool Mothers Journal - 5 Days of Real Life Homeschool Day 5

In my life this week…we have been home, alone for 3 solid weeks and someone has been sick the entire time.  We are just a wee bit sick of each other by now.  And the kicker?  I am now sick. :P

In our homeschool this week…we did a little bit of PreK with the younger daughter and a little reading with the older.  We were on Easter break until Wednesday.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…You can’t do it all.  Ever.  So go with it.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…Nowhere.  Sick.  Ugh!

My favorite thing this week was…getting a date with hubs yesterday.  Yay!

My kiddos favorite thing this week was…I don’t know.  Watching tv?

Things I’m working on…I discovered the Read-Aloud Revival podcast and I’m totally digging it.  Also reading The Help, The History of the Ancient World, and Let Boys Be Boys.  It’s always books around here :).

I’m cooking…not much.  No one wants to eat.  We’ve been grazing on leftover Easter ham for the most part :).   I hear “co’ ham? co’ ham?” (cold ham) from the baby A LOT!

I’m grateful for…the fact that we are actually able to put money away for the first time since having kids (woot!) and that our sicknesses have been minor and temporary.

I’m praying for…an acquaintance whose 4 year old was just diagnosed with luekemia :(.

I rewarded my kids this week by…reading a lot of books.

Something I am ogling or have my eye on…Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level A from IEW and the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle 2015.  I wasn’t kidding when I said it’s all about the books!

A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…Meghan Trainor has been stuck in my head and I found this rockin parody that says it all.

5 Days of Real Life Homeschool at Happy Little Homemaker









Are you considering homeschooling?   Do reading how other’s days look help?


Jen S.

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!




This post is also linked to {pretty, happy, funny, real} at Like Mother, Like Daughter.

Print Friendly