House Mix

Category Archives: Life

Ideas to organize your home office & budget

Last week I worked to get our finances, office space, computer, calendar and school papers in order for a clean slate in the new year. Here’s what went down:


The first step in getting my little office space organized is to go through the year’s accumulated papers. I file what we need to keep and recycle what we don’t. After all, the easiest way to organize is to have less.

I also take this opportunity to declutter drawers and baskets of random pens, cards and other things that get thrown in them.


Assign papers to a folder

Next comes what to do with the papers that go in the save pile. I keep folders in two places to avoid that annoying pile of random papers on the kitchen counter (you know, the one that has junk mail mixed in with important documents so you can’t throw it away, but it keeps growing):

Easily accessible folders on my desk

The folders in the basket beside my computer have the following labels:

  • One for each child’s class, papers I need to reference
  • The current year’s medical receipts
  • The current year’s home and car repair receipts
  • A folder for tax documents that filter in after the first of the year
  • And one for miscellaneous papers we need to revist

TIP: Keeping folders like this makes it simple to gather necessary documents when it’s tax season. And after tax season, I sort through my white folders and add what still needs to be saved to my file drawer, below.

File drawer folders

My next office project will be to get some white file folders in this drawer and some new labels. But for now, this is the scene.

In my file drawer I keep a folder for each of the following:

  • medical (one per family member)
  • house
  • cars
  • past five years of taxes (one per year)
  • financial (investments, accounts, etc.)
  • pets
  • manuals
  • receipts for purchases under warranty
  • scrapbook (for things like our family Christmas card, a magazine clipping a family member was in …)


Replenish supplies

  • Stamp prices increase on January 22, so stock up now if you want to save a few pennies.
  • Check ink levels in the printer and copy paper supply.
  • See how many checks you have left and order more if needed.
  • Restock envelopes, post-its, pens, paper clips, staples. (You know I head to the dollar store for these.)


Put kids art and school work in one location

While I’m still in charge of making sure the kids get their homework done and library books returned on time, I put everything that needs to be completed or returned in the basket on the left.

They each have an Ikea magazine box beside the basket where I keep the artwork they bring home.  For more on what to do with kids’ artwork, check out here and here.


Fill out the calendar

While I have my kids’ school calendars out with fundraising events, homework and holidays, I plug them into my phone. Is it just me or do they really kick it up a notch after the long holiday? Some of them I put on our family calendar, above, for my husband to see as well.

Marcello travels a lot, so for us a family calendar is necessary so I know when to expect him to be home or away. (Read: Should I make dinner or pour cereal in a bowl?) We prefer the old school paper method and I keep it hanging by our back door with our menu. I print out all the months for the coming year and stick them in the clip board.

Get the printables here.


Clear out photos and video from last year on desktop

I know this is a touchy subject. Some people feel panicked about deleting pictures off their desktop or phone. Some feel overwhelmed about what to do with all the photos they’ve taken over the years. As a graphic designer, I have large files I need to save and the space is just not there for me to keep every photo and video I’ve ever taken. This is how I clean up my computer, phone and camera for the new year:

  1. Upload photos and videos from my phone and camera to my computer.
  2. Select my absolute favorites (be ruthless) and color correct them if needed.
  3. Save my favorite photos onto an external hard drive with the labeled year. Make a DVD with the same photos. And finally upload them to Flickr. (That oughta keep ’em safe!)
  4. Make a yearly photo book.
  5. Put all the year’s videos into a one-hour video.
  6. Save the video to my external hard drive and on a DVD.
  7. DELETE all of them off my desktop, cell phone and camera for a fresh start.

Here is my back up system in more detail.


Desktop style

This year I ditched my bold colors and patterns for clean, white folders and binders. I’ve got enough color and clutter going on here from sharing the office space with the playroom, so opted for simple. And as a bonus, the plain white office supplies are the cheapest!

The binders I keep on my desk are for all my checklists and favorite recipe printouts. I have also included the printables for the spines if you’d like to do the same. I added some other options in case they’re useful too — budget, family and calendar.


After your desk and computer are all cleaned up and organized, you will be much more motivated to work on your new budget. I wrote more than I was originally thinking when it came to budgeting for the new year, so I’m making it a separate section.

Draft an updated budget

If you have a salary, you might need to adjust your income to a different amount in accordance with new insurance prices or 401K contributions. I tend to wait until the end of January to update our budget so I know what our exact income will be.

If you do not operate on a salary and income varies month to month, look back on the previous year and take note of any trends and add up your overall cost to live. How much do you need to save to live for the entire coming year? Where exactly will anything above that number go?

Go through each expense you have with your spouse and question if there is a way to eliminate it or lower it. It is important to 1) be realistic with your budget so that you can meet it and 2) assign each dollar that comes in. Dave Ramsey says: Give every dollar a name — mortgage, credit card bill, groceries, car repairs. Name them all.

TIP: To stay on top of our monthly budget I sit down and update it every Monday with what we have spent and calculate how much we have left to spend. It’s not enough to only evaluate at the end of the month when the money has already been spent.

Make a file of irregular expenses

One thing that has helped our family significantly in meeting our monthly budgets is to make a list of irregular yearly expenses and the dollar amount. I’ve added to it over the years and without it I know I would miss half of these things and go over budget. I’ll share with you my current list of irregular yearly expenses:

  • JANUARY: homeowners association fee, flood insurance

  • FEBRUARY: family member birthday, car registration, taxes, end of winter clothing sales (I buy them now for next year), Valentine’s day

  • MARCH: family member birthday, Easter

  • APRIL: family member birthday, car registration, homeowners association fee, Amazon Prime membership

  • MAY: auto insurance, Mother’s Day, AAA fee

  • JUNE: Father’s Day

  • JULY: homeowners association fee

  • AUGUST: family member birthday, school supplies, end of summer clothing sales (I buy them now for next year)


  • OCTOBER: homeowners association fee

  • NOVEMBER: capital one member fee, auto insurance, kids Christmas PJs

  • DECEMBER: Christmas, Christmas cards

Establish your financial goals for the year

Set your family’s goals for the year, and write them down in order of priority. Be proactive and realistic about them. The more you pay off, save and contribute when you are younger, the more you will have when you are older. When you start this habit, it’s important to check on last year’s goals for encouragement (Yay! You did it!) or to reinstate some old goals (Well, we’ll rip it apart this year!)

This year our goals are as follows:

  • Pay off one car.
  • Pay an extra mortgage payment a year, spread out over 12 months.
  • Contribute more to our 401K.
  • Give above our 10 percent tithe.
  • Save for a new camera.
  • Save for a vacation.

I’m not sure if we will be able to meet all of these, but we’ll never know if we don’t try! If you need help determining where to start with your financial goals, check out these 7 baby steps.

Here is a printable checklist to summarize the points discussed:

Checklist photos:  file folders  |  DVD  |  paper clips  |  pen  |  stapler

Do you have any specific financial goals this year? Did you meet your goals last year? Is your office chaotic, organized or chaotically organized?

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Money-saving ideas and how we live on one income
How I put together this office for $400

Hello, 2017

It seems to me that at the year’s end some of us are more prone to look backward and some more prone to look forward. Which are you? I tend to direct my eyes straight ahead. I’m a future thinker through and through — a lot of times even to my own detriment! I have my kids to thank for forcing me to live in the present.

Anyway, I have quite a few goals for 2017. Some of them are small, some are big, some are vague. I feel strange writing them on the internet as now I will be held accountable! Oh well, here they are:

  • The first goal on my list to be a better wife. Our three kids suck up a lot of my attention and time and patience. My husband shouldn’t get my leftovers, but he does. I have lots of areas to work on, but I’m starting with kindness — in the way I speak to him, the way I treat him and act around him.
  • I’m an over-thinker. This year I will redirect that brain power to something that will actually make a difference. I want to stop thinking, thinking, thinking and start praying, praying, praying. I also plan on keeping a list of the things I am praying for so I can see how God has answered them.
  • I will memorize 12 verses this year, one a month. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but my brain just does not memorize things easily. Since I’ve discovered it’s harder for me to memorize things than the average person, I’ve let myself off the hook of memorizing the Bible. However, I was deeply convicted a couple months ago when I heard a pastor ask how many verses the congregation thought they could memorize by midnight if he would give them $1,000 for each one. He said the words of God are worth more than paper money and we should treat them as such. Ouch. I would also like to help my kids memorize scripture too, but I’m not sure how to go about doing that. Any ideas would be appreciated!
  • I want to do one kind thing for someone else with my kids each month. I want to keep that Christmas giving spirit going all year, showing them what’s important, not just telling them.
  • I want to send my grandmother something in the mail at the first of each month (a card, a small gift, photos). She doesn’t use a computer or cell phone — well, she has a cell phone, but doesn’t know how to use it — so mail makes her so very happy.
  • I’m informed by my sweet grandfather that I don’t email him nearly as many photos as my cousins do. Yikes! I will email him on the first of the month as well.
  • Along those same lines, I get sucked into my own world and neglect to ask about or care for those around me. I want to get in the permanent habit of calling or texting people that come to mind right then and there. When my friend’s mother is sick and I have a passing thought to ask how she is, I want to drop what I’m doing for a moment and send her a text. When a friend I haven’t talked to for a long time keeps popping into mind it might be the Holy Spirit, I want to be better about picking up the phone.
  • Is this boring yet? I’ll wrap it up. As far as my blog, I aim to post once a week, on Tuesdays.
  • And finally, I want to create a plant wall in my bathroom. My idea is only three shelves and some plants, so I’m not quite sure why it seems like climbing Everest.

I’ll be sharing some office organization ideas and my financial goals next week. I think. Oh man, my weekly blogging goal is already falling apart. How about you? What is your major goal in the coming year?

The photo credit and a big giant thank you goes to David Albers Photography for getting these amazing shots of our wild ones!

Best of the blog 2016

Every year, by God’s grace, I am learning to be a better writer, designer, photographer. Looking back on my posts this year, I also see how much room I have to grow and explore. I’m excited for the challenge in the coming year! These are the most-read House Mix posts of 2016:

1. Feeding a family on a tight budget

I’ve been experimenting, studying and learning how to lower our grocery budget and it’s working! My monthly budget is at least $200 less than I was spending two years ago, and even with one more kid, our pantry is fuller and we eat healthier.


2. DIY ruler growth chart

Get instructions for how I made this kids’ growth chart with my home printer and minimal supplies in under two hours.

3. How to make a succulent centerpiece

Here is how to build a succulent centerpiece that will last for months. Ours is now a year old! These naturally water-retaining plants do not like too much water, so drainage is very important. Get the step-by-step instructions.


4. Clean house schedule and playlist

The key for my cleaning motivation (besides a cup of joe) is a good playlist. My latest one’s got the whole family shaking their derrieres. Now the boys say they need some tunes to help them pick up the play room! I promise you’ll like it. This post also has a cleaning schedule ideas and printables. Let’s do it!


5. On going from two kids to three

And all of this changing is only intensifying as the baby of the family gets older. She’s napping less, eating more and demanding more of my time. The craziness of three little ones is just now sinking in, 10 months later. Here are the main practical ways I have adjusted going from two to three kids.


6. The week I changed the way I parent

The boys are three and five years old. I have shown them love with my whole heart during their short time on this earth, but I’ve also let them rule my emotions. I have let them get the better of my temper, lost control, yelled and acted like a child myself more times than I can count. But something has changed.


7. Kids chore chart to earn money

My five year old is starting to learn the value of a dollar. Ok, he doesn’t realize the value, but he has figured out that it can buy him things! I’ve known this time was coming and my wheels have been turning on how to allow him to earn money, but stay clear that some chores we do just because we are a member of the family. Printable chart included.


8. Our Christmas budget

Not every Christmas is the same. Some years cost less, some cost more. This year ours costs less and we plan on giving more. We’ve decided to budget Christmas expenses at $325 for this family of five. This includes decor, kids’ crafts, presents, cards, wrapping supplies, everything except the kids’ Christmas pajamas (which I bought on sale last month). Here’s how we did it.


9. Stenciled nursery with pom pom canopy

Clara’s room got a makeover! I added a playful stencil on the back wall and a dreamy white pom pom canopy, along with some other details. It changed the look completely.


10. Navy blue bedroom and home office

I finally figured out what to put in these gold frames in the guest bedroom/office and I’m calling it done! I put this room together on the very cheap with some hand-me-down furniture, spray paint and art from my own printer.

* * *

When I looked up the Top Ten, I was surprised some of these made the list. I’m also surprised when posts I wrote a year or more ago suddenly pick up popularity. Most of my traffic is driven by Pinterest, so sometimes I’ll see an influx readers for a random post I thought was dead in the water.

These are older House Mix posts just now making some popularity on Pinterest:

  1. Third trimester checklist (31.4K pins)
  2. Pom-pom curtains and curtain tricks you might not know (5.6K pins)
  3. Healthy pregnancy snacks (2.2K pins)
  4. How to make baby food in 45 minutes a week and save 50 percent (2.1K pins)
  5. Potty training 101 (1K pins)

My highest pinned article ever is how I simplified and organized my house with 175K pins. It’s still one of my most read articles today. I’m not sure I’ll ever top that one, but I’ll sure try!

Sometimes blogging can feel like writing to the wind. I LOVE to hear from you! Whether you have an idea, suggestion, or story you’d like to share, please leave a comment! The interaction makes it all worth it. Please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook too!

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2017! xoxo