Category: Tips

Ideas, suggestions, and lessons learned during our adventures.

How to Change a Habit of Being Messy

How to Change a Habit of Being Messy

Messy is a habit formed by consistent practice the same as clean or organized are habits. It is the day to day practice that will create the difference.

break messy habits
The squirrel scampered up the tree with a dead limb three times its size. I watched it as it went up the tree knowing it was in the process of building a nest and curious where it had decided to create its home.

We have some very tall trees, and I’m always amazed when the squirrels perch so high that it seems like sheer will holds the nests in place.

This squirrel did not go very high. It stopped on a limb and went to work, right next to a limb that already had a nest built.

I thought it was odd the squirrel would build so close to another squirrel. “Maybe it’s starting a squirrely neighborhood.” I was raised in a rather squirrely neighborhood myself so I understood the appeal.

The actions of the squirrel drove me to do some research. Did you know when a squirrel’s nest becomes too messy the squirrel abandons the nest and builds another one?

I guess that is one way to deal with a habit of being messy, but it’s probably not the most cost-effective – especially for us human parents of boys!

Messy habits are learned behaviors. If I want to avoid having to abandon the house for a new abode then I need to develop the actions and behaviors to change my messy habits (as well as those of my children if I don’t want to be cleaning up after them for the rest of my life).

control the squirrels

Change a Habit of Messy

  1. Keep the table cleaned off. Over the years I’ve discovered any location near the door becomes a dropping place for random stuff. There are two ways you can avoid letting tables becomes storage locations. One, clear the table every meal. That is not only a way to get the table cleared but also a way to encourage family mealtime. Two, remove the temptation. If you don’t need the table then get rid of it.
  2. Put clothes away when you change. It is an easy habit to drop your pajamas in the floor because you know you are going to put them back on later. Instead, create a home for your rewearables. Have a space in your bathroom drawer or a hanger in your closet that holds your rewearables until it is time for them to be reworn.
  3. Put clothes away when they come out of the dryer. I have to remind myself that “in your room” is not put away. The clothes need to go into their home before that task can be marked off.

  4. Put the dishes away when they are clean. The longer you wait to put away the plastic drying in the rack or the dishes in the dishwasher, the more likely you are to create a backlog in the sink. Once dishes start piling up in the sink they magically multiply. The last thing you want is to wake up in the morning to have to face down a sink full of dirty dishes. Put the dishes away and you have space to clean as you go.
  5. Take out the trash when you get out of the car. If the small trash bag if full, take the whole thing. If there is one piece in it, then just take out that one piece. Again, this is the “clean as you” process that makes changing a habit of messy easier.
  6. Get rid of the boxes. Stacks of boxes might look better than piles of stuff, but you need to conquer the stuff instead of hiding it away. Take one large empty box and set it next to the door. Once a week, go through one of the boxes you have stacked up and determine if you want to keep, repurpose, or release what has been hiding in there. The key is you have to find a permanent home for anything you keep. Put all release items in the box by the door. When it is full take it to a thrift store or charity.

Messy is a habit. If you want to change the habit of messy then you have to make the choice to do things different. Don’t invest the time and energy you have into putting things off (which allows things to pile up). Clean as you go. Take one step at a time. And just keep going. You will get to the place where messy is no more.

What are your habit changing tips? Share your ideas in the comments below.



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Six Tips for Meals on the Go

Six Tips for Meals on the Go

Following a few simple tips can help you make the most of your meals on the go. Taking to the road does not mean you will leave a wake of fast food containers or restaurant receipts in your wake. I have learned from experience.

Take the Meal on the Road

Feeding my man family – two teenage manboys, a husband, and ready to be a man but not quite a pre-teen – almost requires taking out a loan when we stop at restaurants or fast food establishments. I long for those days when one meal could be spread out between a child and a parent . . . but I fear that longing will be all that I get to do.

The kids are growing, and that means some creative meal planning when we are going to hit the road. As long as I think ahead and pack well, we can eat healthy and happy without having to hit a bank along the way.

My Tips for Feeding the Family on the Go

  1. Offer something different (or maybe it would be better to say special). Road meals should be treats that will not be had at any other time. I have a fond memory of peanut butter and honey sandwiches that they gave us at summer camp, but only when we went on the canoe trip. I loved those sandwiches. That is one of my favorites for “only get this when we are on a road trip” meals. I up the healthy status by baking the loaf bread from scratch and using almond butter in place of the peanut butter.
  2. Keep the meal easy. The more moving parts to the meal, the more opportunities there will be for a train wreck – which means messes. I have taken the morning biscuit to a new level by modifying the sausage ball recipe. I added extra flour mix and several eggs so that the resulting “sausage baseball” is more of a well-rounded breakfast meal than just a meaty appetizer.
  3. Make sure that it can close. I have used drink bags and even canned items in the past, but sooner or later (and often both) a spill is going to happen. We have gone to individual water bottles that we use for hiking and camping. I can pack a container of sweet green tea and we know that even if the car makes a sudden stop the drinks will not end up everywhere. Be sure that the main container will also seal shut for that moment WHEN it tips over (because it will).
  4. Provide garbage cans for all the rows in the car. We have several of the little bathroom cans in the Suburban. We use the leftover plastic grocery bags to line the cans. This makes for easy cleanup. Be sure to empty the cans each time you stop – even if they are not yet to the point of being declared full. Roll up extra bags and keep them stored in the bottom of the can underneath the liner.
  5. Take a moment and eat outside the car. Use gas stops and bathroom breaks as meal breaks. You will have more opportunities to enjoy the unique scenery of the places you are passing through. You will keep the driver from trying to eat and drive (because something gets spilled or messed up no matter how nice the intentions). Most importantly, it helps to keep the car clean.
  6. Consider a travel cooler. We have several full-sized coolers that we use for camping and activities. Our travel cooler is about two feet by one foot and offers just enough space for some sandwiches and a few snacks. It is the perfect size for sitting in the middle of one of the rows of seats and it is easy to access while we are on the move.

Eating on the road can become a fun part of family travel traditions. The right planning can help you save on your travel costs, but also allow you to see even more while you are out on an adventure. These top tips can help you make the most of your meals on the go.

Let me know if they work for you and if you have any great tips for meals on the go.

Signed,

The Mom

Travel Fun to Make the Going Easier

Travel Fun to Make the Going Easier

Make travel fun for everyone with a little planning before you go. Too much of anything can be bad thing – even what should be a good thing.

My son, the youngest at the time, crawled up in my lap and sighed. “Can we go home now? I’m tired of opening presents.” It should have been a magical time for him. My mom had loaded him down with so many presents that it lost its fun.

That moment locked in my mind and flashes anytime I am planning something for kids and for adults. The motto “keep it simple” rings true because it is true. Piling too much into your trip will take some of the magic away from the experience and leave you all too exhausted to enjoy the things to come.

Tips for Making Travel Fun

1. Do stuff. The longer the trip, the more you will need to discover. Find little nooks along the way so that you not only get to stop and stretch but you get a chance to enjoy the stop. One trip to Quincy, Indiana took us near Metropolis. We detoured long enough to get our pictures taken with Superman. The internet makes it easier than ever to find the unexpected and to plan a trip around a visit.

2. Don’t do too much. Our last trip to the gulf allowed for a stop at Battleship Park in Mobile, Alabama. The website said that the tour would take about 2 ½ hours but that you could stay as long as you wanted. It turned out that the estimate was on the fast side. We had another event to attend, so we had to cut the visit short and missed out on several of the other attractions because of our lack of time. Next time we make it to the port city we will plan for a longer visit to the amazing park.

3. Plan to splurge. We are stretching our budget so that we can visit more places by camping it along the way, but sometimes a hotel room or special meal hits the spot. Activities can also run up the cost of the trip (Battleship Park ran our family around $50). Calculate the cost of these specials when adding up your travel budget.

4. Don’t overdo it. The specials can add up fast. Setting a budget in the beginning and setting out a plan for the trip (with different options for activities) can keep you from getting caught up in the moment and throwing away your traveling budget.

5. Make a new tradition that costs little to nothing. Every place we visit, we make one of those engraved pennies. The resulting souvenir takes up very little space and costs less than a dollar. We are also starting the tradition of planting letterboxes in some of the places that we visit (be sure that you have permission from the location). It gives us something to visit in the future. It gives others something to enjoy. The total cost for planting a letterbox is around $12 (depending on the items you put in the box). We are also trying to find letterboxes where we visit, which cost us nothing. These little traditions give us something to take with us from our trip beyond the ordinary and expected.

6. Take turns picking the activity, attraction, or even the location. Get the whole family involved in the research and the planning. You will all learn more about the destination and have more fun if you all plan together.

Taking time to see the sights and enjoy each other’s company make traveling worth the trials and errors that will come along. Making a few choices ahead of time and following these simple tips can make family travel the fun experience you desire.

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What are your top tips for making travel fun for the whole family? Be sure to share here or to visit us on our Facebook page. We look forward to finding more ways to make our upcoming trips all that they can be.

Flexibility in Camp Cooking

Flexibility in Camp Cooking

Developing flexibility in camp cooking can be a necessity when you take off for the wild unknown. Equipment had been known to malfunction. Campsite design may not meet your specific needs. Items can be left behind when pack up occurred.

Flexibility in cooking – under any circumstances – can be a valuable tool for survival (or just to stop the growling of the hungry menfolk). A few simple changes can help you adjust to any of the circumstances that might show up while camping.

camp-cooking

Develop Flexibility in Camp Cooking

    1. Pack spices – you can purchase small containers of garlic powder, onion powder and other multi-purpose seasonings. You can also make use of small containers (like old candy containers (like Tic-tac) and fill them with your favorite spices. Be sure you also pack salt and pepper. Just being able to add seasoning to your cooking can make all the difference.

    2. Pack a variety of cooking utensils. Campfire cooking will require longer utensils, so pack your grilling set. Stove cooking can be done with pots and pans, but fire cooking will need heavier items. Aluminum foil can be formed into cooking items for the fire or the stove.

    3. Plan a snack. Shifting the cooking method may mean more time to cook. A snack of cheese, fruit, or chips (try some nachos) can hold back the horde until the food has time to cook.

    4. Chop up the food for easier (and faster cooking). Whole potatoes can take over an hour to cook on the stove or in the fire. Chopped potatoes will take half that time. The same goes for many of the camping food favorites.

    5. Accept that the plan may not fit the means. The wrong cooking option can throw the whole menu out the window. Make a new menu.

    6. Keep it simple. Healthy and tasty meals can still be simple. Include vegetables, a meat, and a starch and you should be able to cook any meal with any means available.

The last two trips, my menu had to be tossed. The first time the fire ring was so deep that I had no way to use it. The second time the single burner was left home alone. A few adjustments in the desired cooking method, a few tweaks of the menu, and a few changes in the preferred cooking pan allowed us to eat well, eat healthy, and eat happy with my camp cooking.

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Be sure to take a moment and share your secrets for camp cooking. All of us have faced different challenges and you never know what may come up the next time you camp out.