Friday, March 15, 2019

Vintage Recipe: Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake

I'm digging into old recipe boxes and rediscovering the family favorites hidden inside! You'll find carefully handwritten recipe cards, newspapers and magazines clippings and even some hastily scrawled directions on scraps of paper, all from years (and years) ago! They're all getting scanned and transcribed so you can enjoy them in your own home kitchen. 


I grew up with Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake (though it was a different version from this one). Don’t let the word “mayonnaise” turn you away. The mayonnaise makes the cake extra moist. My mom would also add pudding mix and chocolate chips to the batter. She would bake 3 layers and frost the inner layers with whipped cream and the outside with a rich chocolate frosting. It was the only chocolate cake I ever really liked…and I LOVED it. Decadence.



DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


Monday, March 11, 2019

DEBT FREE (And Staying That Way)



This is a recent picture of Mr. LH and I on our 20th anniversary. We celebrated it with a rare night out, but instead of it being just the two of us, we took the whole family. The Boy and The Girl (a.k.a. "The Pickles") came along because this was also a family celebration. We were celebrating being DEBT FREE!

That's right! We did it! We paid off our last debt in our debt snowball! A big, ugly student loan.

Full disclosure...our debt snowball did NOT include our house. That comes later in the process.

Our debt-free journey has been a long one. We started it waaaay back in 2012 and went full force for about three years as we followed the Dave Ramsey baby steps word for word. It was incredible how much we were able to pay off!

Baby Step 1: Put $1,000 into an Emergency Fund DONE!
Baby Step 2: Pay off all debt from smallest to largest using the Debt Snowball DONE!
Baby Step 3: Save 3 to 6 months of EXPENSES
Baby Step 4: Invest 15% of household income for retirement
Baby Step 5: Save for college for children
Baby Step 6: Pay off home early
Baby Step 7: Build wealth and give!

This book changed our lives!
In 2015 we had to move because our landlord was selling the house we were renting. And even though we weren't quite ready, we were able to buy a house because our debt-to-income ratio had dramatically improved. We tried to buy the one we were renting but it didn't work out.

After buying our house, we weren't quite as intense in our debt paying as before. After all, the driving force behind paying off our debt was buying a house. And while we still wanted to get out of debt, we now had the house.

We still didn't use credit cards, we still did a budget, and we still paid extra on the debt. In fact, we only had one big debt left...that student loan. We had been paying on it a LONG time and it didn't seem to be going anywhere. But we weren't REALLY hitting it hard with everything we had, either, so of course it wasn't going to go away quickly. We painted rooms, bought some furniture, did some landscaping, went on vacation, etc. We did a lot of those things you're NOT supposed to do while you are tacking your debt snowball.

Then in 2018, almost three years after moving into our new house, it seemed like everything started to go downhill. Murphy's Law. "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." Dave Ramsey would say "Murphy moved in with us." But truthfully, we kind of invited Murphy to stay a while.

Mr. LH and I took a vacation to Washington while The Pickles visited family in Florida.


We could have stayed home instead and enjoyed a stay-cation. But we didn't.

I loved visiting Washington and I am glad we went, but even after carefully watching every penny on that trip, I can't help but think of the money we spent that SHOULD have gone towards debt. So yes, we did contribute to the problem (although we did NOT accrue more debt from the trip).

2018 also brought some dark time to our family. A death in the family meant we needed to travel across the country on short notice. When something tragic happens, you don't want to sit there worrying about money. But when you have debt, you worry. How will you be able to make everything work?

We couldn't afford the price of last minute airfare for all of us and leaving some of us behind was out of the question. We would just have to drive. But we had to replace a power steering pump on the car first.

A few months later, a huge hailstorm hit. Two inch hail. Maybe larger.


Hail is common here, but this was the biggest hail I had ever experienced.

With the hailstorm came the need for a roof replacement. We needed to pay the deductible for that.

The timing belt went out on the car and did a ton of damage (the same car we just had the power steering pump replaced on). Thousands and thousands of dollar signs went flying out the window.

In the fall, we got news that The Pickles BOTH needed their wisdom teeth removed. We scheduled it during Christmas break so they would have plenty of time to recover.

The thought of another setback made me feel nauseous. We were so close to being debt free but after all of this, I felt broker than I had in a very very long time. We cut our modest Christmas budget in HALF so we could use the funds to take care of some of these issues (and you know, we still had a great Christmas).

Regret sank in as I remembered the vacations and those 3 years of lackadaisical debt-paying we did. If we had just kept up the momentum it would have been paid off by 2017...maybe even sooner!

In early January of this year, we took our cars in for oil changes and received another laundry list of needed repairs. For what it's worth, our cars are old...2001 and 2004 year models, and we don't usually have this much stuff to do to them. It just all coincidentally happened to hit at once.

That was IT. Murphy needed to move out. The debt HAD TO GO. We didn't have much left, but it was going to GO AWAY.

Every dime extra that we had laying around went toward the debt. I avoided going out to the grocery store and instead made some interesting creations from what we had on hand in our freezers and pantry. I avoided shopping of any kind. I spent my time freelancing or working on my Etsy shops trying to earn a little extra. Any tax return we received would be dedicated to debt and car repairs.

For motivation, I borrowed Chris Hogan's book, Retire Inspired, from the library (and realized we HAD to get moving on our retirement savings quickly).

I listened to Dave Ramsey's show while I worked and listened to people do their debt-free screams.

I crunched numbers to see how much we could save this year once we were debt free if we attacked a savings plan as intensely as we were now attacking the last of our debt.

And all of those actions combined to FINALLY push us across the finish line to FREEDOM.

The student loan now has a balance of ZERO. The car repairs have been DONE.

Our dishwasher even broke the same week but I was able to just shrug it off and order the replacement part to fix it myself without too many days in between of hand washing (we go through a LOT of dishes at our house).

If you have debt but haven't started this journey yet, do it. If you think you can't do it for whatever reason, change your thinking. It may take some time, but slow progress is still progress.



DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


Friday, March 8, 2019

Vintage Recipe: Spanish Rice

I'm digging into old recipe boxes and rediscovering the family favorites hidden inside! You'll find carefully handwritten recipe cards, newspapers and magazines clippings and even some hastily scrawled directions on scraps of paper, all from years (and years) ago! They're all getting scanned and transcribed so you can enjoy them in your own home kitchen. 


This recipe for Spanish Rice was fairly quick and easy. Instead of the bouillon cubes and water, I used 3 cups of unsalted chicken broth and 1/2 tsp salt. I make my own chicken broth but you can certainly use canned chicken broth instead. If you used canned broth, you may want to wait on the addition of salt. Canned broth can have a high amount of sodium.



DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


Friday, March 1, 2019

Vintage Recipe: Fudge Squares

I'm digging into old recipe boxes and rediscovering the family favorites hidden inside! You'll find carefully handwritten recipe cards, newspapers and magazines clippings and even some hastily scrawled directions on scraps of paper, all from years (and years) ago! They're all getting scanned and transcribed so you can enjoy them in your own home kitchen. 

This recipe for Fudge Squares appears to be similar to (if not exactly like) a chocolate brownie. The recipe was handwritten in beautiful blue script on both sides of an index card. The recipe card is dated 8/8/41. 





DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


Friday, February 22, 2019

Vintage Recipes: Peanut Butter Frosting

I'm digging into old recipe boxes and rediscovering the family favorites hidden inside! You'll find carefully handwritten recipe cards, newspapers and magazines clippings and even some hastily scrawled directions on scraps of paper, all from years (and years) ago! They're all getting scanned and transcribed so you can enjoy them in your own home kitchen. 


This recipe for Peanut Butter Frosting was handwritten in beautiful script on an index card. The recipe is part of a modest collection of vintage recipes, some dating back to the 1940s. Other than this clue, the age of the recipe card is unknown.



DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


Friday, February 15, 2019

Vintage Recipe: Chocolate Frosting

I'm digging into old recipe boxes and rediscovering the family favorites hidden inside! You'll find carefully handwritten recipe cards, newspapers and magazines clippings and even some hastily scrawled directions on scraps of paper, all from years (and years) ago! They're all getting scanned and transcribed so you can enjoy them in your own home kitchen. 

This recipe for “Frosting” is actually for Chocolate Frosting. It was handwritten on an index card. The recipe is part of a modest collection of vintage recipes, some dating back to the 1940s. Other than this clue, the age of the recipe card is unknown.

The original recipe has been scanned and is transcribed below. It can be printed for use in your own home kitchen. Enjoy!


See more recipes from this collection

Please Note: Every effort has been made to transcribe these old recipe cards completely and accurately. Many have faded, are stained, or simply do not include every step or tool used in the process. We have changed the wording in some places and added instruction in others to make the text a bit clearer. We do not test or verify all the information found on these old cards. If you choose use the information found here, please know that you do so at your own risk.
vintage recipe, chocolate frosting, icing
Pin it

Chocolate Frosting

ingredients:


instructions:


  1. Melt Chocolate.
  2. Add sugar, egg and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
  3. Add butter 1 Tbsp at a time, beating smooth after each addition.
Created using The Recipes Generator




DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Whitening Old Yellowed Plastics - Hallmark Snoopy Ornament

While thrift shopping, I came across an old ornament from the late 1970s that I didn't want to leave behind. It was the first in the Hallmark Snoopy series of Panorama ornaments. The problem was, it was so yellowed!


I wasn't sure whether the yellowing was from age or from storage conditions, but I knew I wanted to at least TRY to revive it.


While researching how to do this, I came across this video:



The video shows how to use a Sally Beauty Supply Peroxide creme and UV light to remove the yellowing from plastics. It seemed this was at least worth a shot so I stopped by a local Sally Beauty Supply and picked up a small 4oz. bottle of the 40 Volume Creme Developer. It was very inexpensive (less than $2) and if it worked, I could always go back for the larger bottle for future products.


I didn't have a UV light as suggested in the video so I was going to have to chase the sun around with my little ornament.

Wouldn't you know it, the clouds decided to stick around for the next few days after I started this project. The first day, I noticed the peroxide dried out on the surface. I wasn't sure it this made a difference, but I reapplied the creme and then stuck the ornament into a plastic zip top bag. That kept the peroxide fresh and meant I didn't have to worry about getting it on everything (I later learned that keeping it in the plastic bag wasn't such a good thing - it exposed the metal cap and gold foil trim to constant moisture ).

I think this picture best shows just how yellowed the ornament was. I covered the cap in tape and had just slathered a layer of the peroxide creme all over the plastic.

Whenever the sun popped out, we would put the ornament outside to catch some rays. Other times, especially on very windy days, we would set the ornament inside on a windowsill.

You can see where the peroxide creme was really effective here. It is where the creme was the thickest. This was after the first day.
Even with limited sunlight, the peroxide worked its magic! After a week of doing this (and forgetting about it a couple times until late in the day), it appeared all the yellowing was gone!


You can see the damage that the peroxide did to the gold trim. If I were to do this again, I would be more patient and not use the zip top plastic bag.

I tried this with a couple of other yellowed items and they have been revived as well! There are still plenty more projects available in that tiny bottle of peroxide, making it very cost effective, too.

So if you happen to have some yellowed plastics around your house, perhaps give this stuff a try. Only a couple bucks at your local Sally Beauty Supply (though you can also buy it online at Sally Beauty Supply or Amazon).



DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


Friday, February 8, 2019

Vintage Recipe: Coffee Frosting

I'm digging into old recipe boxes and rediscovering the family favorites hidden inside! You'll find carefully handwritten recipe cards, newspapers and magazines clippings and even some hastily scrawled directions on scraps of paper, all from years (and years) ago! They're all getting scanned and transcribed so you can enjoy them in your own home kitchen. 

This recipe for Coffee Frosting was handwritten on an index card. It was found in a modest collection of old recipe cards. The age of this particular recipe card is unknown.

The original recipe has been scanned and is transcribed below. It can be printed for use in your own home kitchen. Enjoy!


See more recipes from this collection

Please Note: Every effort has been made to transcribe these old recipe cards completely and accurately. Many have faded, are stained, or simply do not include every step or tool used in the process. We have changed the wording in some places and added instruction in others to make the text a bit clearer. We do not test or verify all the information found on these old cards. If you choose use the information found here, please know that you do so at your own risk.
vintage recipe, coffee frosting, icing
Pin it

Coffee Frosting

ingredients:


  • 2 Egg Whites
  • 1½ cups Granulated Sugar
  • ½ tsp. Cream of Tartar
  • 1/3 cup Strong Coffee
  • 2 tsp Light Corn Syrup

instructions:


  1. Combine ingredients in top of double boiler, stir to blend well.
  2. Place over boiling water and beat until frosting holds it's shape. Remove from heat.
  3. Continue to beat until frosting stands in peaks.
Created using The Recipes Generator



DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Cleaning Your Dryer Vent

Last month in my organizing tips, I mentioned the surprising amount of lint we blew out of our dryer vent last summer. I wanted to go a bit more in detail about that since it was so unexpected and really changed our maintenance routine (and let's not forget that dryer lint is a huge fire hazard).

According to FEMA, "2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss. Failure to clean the dryer (34 percent) is the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires."

Our dryer vents are really long - a serious design flaw in the house. Last summer, our dryer started taking longer to dry - to the point that we considered calling a repairman. 

One afternoon, Mr. LH and I pulled out the dryer (no small feat in our tiny laundry space). We detached the vent hose from the dryer and vacuumed out the dryer exhaust and the end of the hose. I also went outside to clean out that side of the vent. While we were standing there with our dryer pulled out and the vent opening exposed, I suggested we use our leaf blower to force air into the dryer vent, hopefully to blow out any extra lint that might be clinging to the sides of the vent (we had done this in our other homes in the past with some success).

What resulted shocked us. After only a few seconds of directing the leaf blower into the vent, a HUGE cloud of lint exploded out the vent and deposited a massive lint pile into our back yard!

I gathered up the lint and took a photo
We clean our lint trap after every cycle. I also run a long lint catcher (you can use a Swiffer Duster) into the lint area regularly to collect any loose lint, regularly wash the screen AND make it a point to check the outside exhaust to be sure there is no build-up. I didn't expect to have so much lint built up INSIDE the vent!

There is no telling how ling this had been building up. We had already lived in the the house for two years at the time and didn't have furry pets (now the Girl has a guinea pig) but the lint had dog or cat hair in it. It's possible the dryer vent had NEVER been fully cleaned out.

Anyway, I was so surprised by the shear amount of lint that I posted the photo, along with a public service announcement, on NextDoor for my neighbors to see.


One neighbor mentioned she experienced a fire in her childhood home because of dryer lint. Another neighbor, with the same floor plan as ours, was so alarmed by this that she tried using a leaf blower. When nothing came out of her vent, she went down to the crawl space and disassembled her dryer vent. She said there was a HUGE clog. Her vent was so packed full of lint that the forced air from the leaf blower could not get through it or move it. And with every use of the dryer, the situation got worse. It was a huge fire hazard. I am so thankful she was able to clear her dryer vent!

Clean those vents. No joke. We have added "Blowing Our the Dryer Vents" to our regular 6 month maintenance plan.





DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


Friday, February 1, 2019

Vintage Recipe: Peanut Butter Fudge

I'm digging into old recipe boxes and rediscovering the family favorites hidden inside! You'll find carefully handwritten recipe cards, newspapers and magazines clippings and even some hastily scrawled directions on scraps of paper, all from years (and years) ago! They're all getting scanned and transcribed so you can enjoy them in your own home kitchen. 

This recipe for Peanut Butter Fudge was handwritten in beautiful blue script on an index card. It was found mixed up in a modest collection of recipes dating back to the 1940s. This particular recipe card had the date 9/9/41 written on the bottom. Also “Seattle P.I.”. We’re not sure, but perhaps this is a publication where the original recipe came from.

Also noted on the recipe card is “12/83 Doesn’t set – use less milk?”


We made this recipe (using salted butter and omitting the pinch of salt) and found that when heated to the correct temperature (soft ball stage), it does indeed set. Soft ball stage is 240°F but is different at high altitude. To adjust for your altitude, decrease the temperature 2° for every 1000 ft above sea level. I am just below 6000 ft which meant for my altitude, soft ball stage would be 12° less. I cooked the sugar and milk mixture to 228°F (240°F - 12°F = 228°F).

Waiting for the soft ball stage. I'm using a Wilton Candy Thermometer that clamps to the side of the pot.

I added in the butter and then the peanut butter. Almost as soon as I added the peanut butter and started stirring, the mixture practically seized on me! I didn't have a chance to take a picture because I was scrambling to do something with it.



DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

31 Days to Organization - Day 31: Favorite Organizing Tips

Day 31 - Favorite Organizing Tips

January is National Organization Month so I've been be posting organization tips every day for the during the month of January. I hope you've enjoyed them! You can find all the tips HERE.

Since today is the last day of the "31 Days to Organization" event, I am going to list my own favorite organizing tips.


1. Baskets are some of the best organizing tools available. They are versatile, they add character to a room and they keep things looking neat and tidy. Here are some basket uses:
  • Use in kids rooms for toys or books. 
  • In a mudroom or entryway, assign each person a basket to place items they will need the next day – use labels or colors so you know whose is whose.
  • Hang labeled baskets with each child’s name at the bottom of the stairs or store a basket on each step. As you locate misplaced items around the house, place them in the appropriate child’s basket. They can carry the load upstairs to their room on their next trip. Put a time limit on the basket (i.e. a week) before the contents are given away/thrown out. 
  • Smaller baskets can be used in the pantry to hold seasoning packets for gravy, stews, etc.
  • Have a "snack basket" in the kitchen where all the snacks are kept.
  • Magnetic baskets can be kept on the fridge to hold coupons, pens and a notepad, shopping list, etc.
  • If baskets just aren’t your style, try boxes or bins. They come in a variety of materials such as wood, canvas, faux leather and plastic. 


2. Clear shoe boxes are for more than just shoes! Use them to store small items or collections. Great for crayons, markers, stencils, office supplies, small toys and more. They stack easily and you can always see what you've got!

3. Hang a coat rack lower on the wall so children can hang up their own coats and bookbags. Line baskets below the hooks to store their hats, mittens, galoshes and other bulky items that won't hang from the hooks.


4. Have a container dedicated to storing all your back-up discs, recovery discs and software installation CDs (especially the big ones like your operating system). If something happens to your computer, at least you won't have to stress about finding all your necessary installations discs.

5. Twice a year, take a few minutes to check or change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Also, change the air filters in your furnace, clean under the refrigerator, and clean out the dryer vent line. 

Consider BLOWING out your dryer vent line. Our dryer vents are really long - a serious design flaw in the house. Last summer, our dryer started taking longer to dry - to the point that we considered calling a repairman. So before we made the phone call, Mr. LH and I pulled out the dryer (no small feat in our tiny laundry space) and used our leaf blower to force air into our dryer vent. A huge cloud of lint came bursting out the vent and deposited the massive pile of lint pictured below into our back yard. 

All the dryer lint that blew out of our vent
A neighbor was so alarmed by this information that she immediately . When nothing came out of her vent, she went down to the crawl space to investigate and disassembled her dryer vent line. She removed a HUGE clog. Clean those vents.

6. Always make a shopping list. Stick to the list. And never shop when you're hungry. This keeps your pantry and freezer from overflowing and it saves you money!

7. Type out emergency numbers and post a printout on the refrigerator. In en emergency, I get flustered and can't find information on electronics very easily or quickly. Having important phone numbers posted in a general location has always been much more helpful for me.
I keep my keys in an orphaned pottery plant saucer

8. Keep your keys in the same place. I was the worst when it came to losing my keys, my glasses, my purse, my scarf...everything! MR. LH even got me remotes attached to beeping tags to help me me locate the items. Still, I would manage to misplace the one thing that didn't have a tag.

I started putting everything in designated places and life became much easier. My keys were top priority and I have a pottery dish near the front door that holds my keys and sunglasses (and that's all). As long as I stick to the routine and put them there when I get home, I don't lose them.

Whether you use a bowl, a basket, a key rack or just a spot on the foyer table, place them there when you get home every single day.


9. Have a hook by the door dedicated to storing dog leashes.


10. An Over-The-Door Shoe Organizer can be used for so much more than shoes! We have a closet that is both a coat closet and utility closet. The "shoe holder" on the back of the door holds things like band aids, extra vitamins, flashlights and packs of pocket tissues at the top and cleaning gloves, extra vacuum cleaner bags and a tiny dustpan and brush at the bottom.

11. Keep a jar or cup next to the washing machine for all the loose change, buttons and other things that get left behind in the laundry. While you’re at it, establish a “finders keepers” rule for anything left in those dirty laundry pockets (it can be quite profitable). Everyone will quickly learn to empty their pockets while they look for spare change.

12. Be ruthless. If you find yourself saying, “I didn’t know I had that!” or ,”Oh, I had forgotten about this!” then just get rid of the item. You didn’t miss it before so you won’t miss it when it’s tossed out. 


13. Up-cycle t-shirts! I use strips of old t-shirts for a lot of things. Mainly, for tying around bundles of cords keeping them tidy. The cotton doesn't cut into the cords and the t-shirt stretches enough to make the hold tight enough. This works for both cords that are being stored as well as the mass of cords and cables that can be found behind desks and entertainment systems. (Just be sure to keep the t-shirt ties away from any live outlets.

I also use t-shirt strips in the garden. The fabric is so much more gentle on my plants than string or wire so I am always using t-shirt strips to tie and support my tomato plants or to train cucumber and bean vines up a trellis. At the end of the gardening season, I untie the strips and put them in a mesh laundry bag (usually used for washing delicates) before washing and drying. Then they can be re-used the next season!

To make the t-shirt strips, cut old t-shirts horizontally into strips about 1.5" wide and 8" to 12" long (you should be cutting along the width of the t-shirt). Then take each strip and holding each end, stretch it a bit. The fabric should curl up and stay curled when you let go. And that's it!

15. Put puzzle pieces in a zip top bag for safe storage. They can be kept in the original box that way, or multiple puzzles can be stored in bags kept in a space saving basket. Donate old puzzles to hospitals to be kept in the waiting room for visitors or used as entertainment for patients.

15. Sort your mail over a paper shredder. I keep a small wastebasket next to the paper shredder. I just dump everything that needs shredding into the wastebasket (credit card offers, anything with names, an address or "approval code", etc.) and then shred once a week or more frequently if needed.


16. 3-ring binder and plastic page protectors - these will organize anything from recipes and take out menus to appliance or toy instruction booklets and warranty information. I keep a couple in the kitchen for recipes and several on a bookshelf with instruction manuals (categorized by room).


17. Ice cube trays. I have honestly never used an ice cube tray for organizing drawers, but I ALWAYS use them for freezing things other than ice. And I love using the silicone trays for this. They are easier to get things out of.
  • When I only need a little tomato paste, I freeze the extra in 1 Tbs quantities. 
  • When lemons or limes go on sale, I squeeze them and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. 
  • Freeze fresh herbs in olive oil. 
  • Freeze eggs before they expire (scramble with a little sugar or salt before pouring into the trays and freezing - then pop out and store in a zip top bag. Label the bag so you know if you used sugar or salt and how much.
  • Pesto! I never need the entire recipe amount so I freeze it. The ice cube trays make perfect portion sizes.
Take these ideas. Use them. Experiment with them. Find what works best for you. If you think of something new, pass it along! I'm always on the lookout for more organizing tips!

Read all the posts from "31 Days to Organization" Here



DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

31 Days To Organization - Day 30: Practice, Practice, Practice!

Happy New Year! January is a time to start fresh...to begin again with a fresh, clean start...so it is only appropriate that January is National Organization Month! And since many people make a New Year's resolution to become more organized, I've been posting organization tips every day during month of January. Missed a day? You can find them all HERE.


Day 30 - Use your De-Cluttering Skills Everyday

There is no sense in de-cluttering your home or office only to have the clutter invade again and multiply. The goal here is to eliminate clutter and KEEP IT AWAY. But you have to practice, practice, practice. You will get better and better at it and it will become a habit.

Junk mail is going to continue to show up in your mailbox. Broken and unwanted toys will still surface. Clothing will be outgrown. These things cannot be avoided. Use the de-cluttering skills you've learned to handle these problems.
Never leave a room empty handed. Scan the room for items that belong elsewhere, then pick the item(s) up, take it to the correct room and put it away. This goes for laundry, dishes, books - anything and everything.

Put those de-cluttering skills to use everyday, keeping clutter out of your home, your office and your life.
  • Keep a large bin in a permanent location for donations. Every time you find something you no longer want, need, or that doesn't fit, add it to the bin. Make it part of your routine to take the bin weekly or monthly to the donations drop-off. If you have the space, set everything aside that can be re-sold and earn some money from your junk by having a garage sale!
  • Toss junk mail in the trash as soon as you get it. Don't let it pile up until you can "get around to it". Rip it up or shred it, then toss it.
  • Scan your laundry as you fold it for items that needs repairs, pieces that can be donated or clothing that needs to be tossed. Likewise, if you try on something that doesn't fit, immediately put it in your donations or yard sale bin instead of back into your closet. 
  • Before you buy something new, ask yourself why you want it. Does it make you happy...really happy? Is there something else you could or should be spending your money on? Do you have a place in your home for it? Sometimes when shopping, I'll hold onto something the whole time I am in the store, keeping it in my cart until it's time to check out. Then I'll put it back without buying it. By then I have "owned it" long enough and can let it go. Weird, I know. But maybe it will work for someone else, too.



DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

31 Days to Organization - Day 29: Long Term File Storage

Happy New Year! January is a time to start fresh...to begin again with a fresh, clean start...so it is only appropriate that January is National Organization Month! And since many people make a New Year's resolution to become more organized, I've been be posting organization tips every day for the during the month of January. Missed a day? You can find them all HERE.


Day 29 - Long Term File Storage

So you have sifted through all your files, purged and plundered mounds of paperwork and pulled out all the documents you will need for your tax return. Congratulations! Now you need to figure out a system for storing and preserving the files you have left.

The file storage system you choose should address how many files you are storing, how often you need to access those files and where you plan to store your files.

If the storage area you have planned for your files is in a musty basement, you'll want to take that into consideration when choosing your file storage containers.

How Many files do you have to store?

  • If you only have a folder or two for each year, you may simply need to keep a portable or desk top file holder on or near your desk to store the papers in. Categorize your files by year.
  • If you have many files for each year, you will need to find enough free space to accommodate the larger mass of paperwork and find appropriate storage boxes that you can organize by year. Place a prominent label on the outward facing end of each box. 
I use a Sterilite Show-Off tote to hold my bills for the year. It's great for holding hanging files! I have them separated into categories. When the year is over, and after I have done my taxes, I move the papers I plan to keep to more permanent storage.

How Often will you need to access your files?

  • If you constantly need to access your files, you'll want to store them somewhere that is easily accessible. If your office workspace is on the top floor, you don't want to walk down flights of stairs every time you need to get a file.
  • File boxes that need to be frequently accessed should not be stacked. Keep them on a shelving unit in single height rows. This makes them easy to find, easy to open and easy to put away.
  • If you won't be needing your files for a long time, you can seal them up tight, label them well and stack them in a dedicated, protected place. Be sure the label is facing out so if you ever need to refer back to an old file, it will be easy to find. 

Where do you plan to store your files?

  • If the storage area you have planned for your files is in a musty basement, you'll want to take that into consideration when choosing your file storage containers. Cardboard file boxes just won't do! Find boxes that will provide a protective moisture barrier like Iris Stor-N-Slide file boxes
  • If you are going to store your files on the top shelf of the spare bedroom, choose smaller containers that you can reach and pull down by yourself.
  • Open files on a shelf are perfect for smaller quantities and are safe in the climate controlled conditions. They can also be easily accessed at any time.




DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Community Garden Project - It's A Go!

I'm doing a happy dance here! I got the "Okay" to move forward with the community garden!

It's a good thing, too because I've already purchased a ton of seeds and plan to winter sow a bunch of them (mainly the tomatoes).


I got this batch from Botanical Interests, which is a Colorado company.

I made sure to get extra cilantro because my "grandchild" (The Girl's guinea pig) LOVES cilantro. I've never grown kale so that's a new one for me. I had great luck with the tomato seeds I got from Botanical Interests last year, probably because they were short-season tomatoes...perfect for my growing season. I'll be planting those again this year, just more of them!


I won't be planting all of these veggies for myself. There isn't enough space, even if I use a large plot in the community garden.

What I hope to do is hold a neighborhood "plant sale" in the spring and sell off a bunch of these plants to raise money for improvements to the garden.

Interest in the garden has really been growing just in the last several weeks. Several neighbors have pulled me aside just to tell me how excited they are about it. I also have a boy scout interested in doing a bunch of the renovations as an Eagle Scout project.

We'll still need documents and contracts for plot rentals drawn up so they can be approved before planting season. So while the snow falls outside, I'll work on paperwork and continue to plan the garden renovations.



DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


31 Days to Organization - Day 28: Tax Prep 101 - Year End File Organization

Happy New Year! January is a time to start fresh...to begin again with a fresh, clean start...so it is only appropriate that January is National Organization Month! And since many people make a New Year's resolution to become more organized, I've been be posting organization tips every day for the during the month of January. Missed a day? You can find them all HERE.



Day 28 - Tax Prep 101 - Year End File Organization

Although April 15th is still many weeks away, the tax deadline has a way of sneaking up on you and catching you by surprise. If you're not careful, you may find yourself rushing around at the last minute trying to get your paperwork in order and attempting to find all the information you need to get started, much less finished.

Make your tax season much less stressful by preparing in advance. A little planning and some organizing strategies can go a long way toward helping you get through tax season early and with minimal stress.

Did you know you can order copies or transcripts of current and previously filed tax returns from the IRS? Returns are available from the IRS for a fee of $50 per return (as of January 2019). Or opt for a transcript of your return which will include most of the line items of your return.

Watch your mailbox for necessary paperwork. Keep all the information that comes in the mail in a dedicated "tax file". If you don't have a lot of paperwork to keep track of for your taxes, you should still keep it in a dedicated place for safe-keeping. Having everything in one place eliminates the last minute "scramble". Here are some of the more common items to watch for:

  • W-2s from employers
  • 1099's
  • Mortgage interest statements
  • Rental income statements (if you have rental properties)
  • Interest-income statements from savings accounts or divided income statements for shares you own
  • Student loan interest and tuition paid
  • Personal property tax information 
Be sure you have the right forms. You can find them at post offices, libraries, and online at www.irs.gov. If you plan to use tax software, the appropriate forms should be included.

Gather deductible information such as any charitable contributions, child care expenses, insurance premiums, etc. Even if you don't plan on itemizing, having this information available can help you determine if a standard deduction is the way to go. Itemizing may prove to offer a larger refund for you.

Have previous years' tax returns on hand. You may need to refer to them for federal or state refund amounts or previous deductions you have taken. You can also scan through these to see if there were any documents you needed last year that may also apply to this year's return. If you haven't kept your past tax returns, they are available from the IRS for a fee of $50 per return (as of January 2019). You can also opt to get just a transcript of your return which will include most of the line items of your return.

Double check your numbers! All dollar amounts for income and expenses should be checked throughout your return, but even errors in street address numbers and social security numbers can slow down the tax return process if a digit is wrong or left out.




DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.


Sunday, January 27, 2019

31 Days to Organization - Day 27: Eliminating Paper Clutter

Happy New Year! January is a time to start fresh...to begin again with a fresh, clean start...so it is only appropriate that January is National Organization Month! And since many people make a New Year's resolution to become more organized, I've been be posting organization tips every day for the during the month of January.  Missed a day? You can find them all HERE.



Day 27 - Eliminating Paper Clutter

Do you have mountains of papers everywhere? Bills, documents, receipts and more are all piled or stuffed into folders anticipating the day they MIGHT be needed for reference? Yeah...that was me. Paper clutter had always been my nemesis. I was always worried that I might NEED that statement or receipt or bill or whatever it is that proves where I was, what I did or how much I paid. Let me tell you that moving over and over again with multiple file boxes full of nothing but old bills was just ridiculous!

I'm not sure when I started to let go of the paper, but I am so glad I did.  A lot of the little bits of paper cluttering up your counters and desktop and crumpled in your purse or car contain duplicate information. Your bank statement includes the same information you have on that crumpled ATM receipt. Your credit card statement lists all those tax deductible expenses you had. So what papers do you really need to hang on to?
Don't always follow the seven year rule for your personal papers. Certain papers should be kept for up to 3 years and others should be kept forever.


The "seven year rule" doesn't always apply to your personal papers. Some items can be discarded monthly and some annually. Certain papers should be kept for up to 3 years and others should be kept forever. But which is which? Use these guidelines to whittle down your pile of paper clutter:


These documents need to be kept for UP TO three years:
  • Papers confirming the selling/buying of stocks, bonds, etc. Discard your quarterly statements once you receive the year-end statement.
  • Pay stubs. Keep weekly/monthly stubs to match up to your year-end statement and W2. Then shred the stubs. Keep your year-end stubs for at least three years, but preferably up to seven years with your tax returns.
  • Personal utility and telephone bills. You may shred as soon as they are paid, or keep them for financial records. If you plan on selling your property in the near future, keep your records for at least a year. Prospective buyers may want to review recent utility bills to determine what they can expect to be paying for these services. If you really want to let them go, shred them. Most utility companies can send you a digital billing/usage history on request.
  • Credit card statements. If your statements list tax deductible expenses or charitable gifts, keep them with your tax papers. If not, shred at the end of the year. Somecredit card companies will send you an itemized/categorized list of purchases at the end of the year making tax time easier.
  • ATM receipts & bank deposit slips. As soon as these transactions appear on your bank statement, shred them.
  • Medical bills. Hang onto these for at least a year in case you have a dispute over a reimbursement or are billed for something already paid. Previously resolved disputes have been known to crop up again 2 and 3 years later. If the amount in question is very large, you may want to consider hanging on to it a while longer. Shred the papers unless they support a tax deduction, in which case, file with your tax documents. 
These documents need to be kept for at least seven years:
  • Income tax returns (state and federal) with all documentation. Supporting documents include receipts for business expenses, charitable contributions, and cancelled checks for any other tax-deductible expense. Usually tax returns will be audited within 3 years. Sometimes, an audit may be held 6 years after the return is filed. Therefore it is wise to keep tax returns and all tax documentation for the last seven years. If you haven't kept your past tax returns, they are available from the IRS for a fee of $50 per return (as of January 2019). You can also opt to get just a transcript of your return which will include most of the line items of your return.
  • Wage/salary records and annual payroll check stubs. This would include W-2's, 1099's, etc.
  • Cancelled checks and bank statements.
  • Savings account records.
  • Monthly statements including information from the bank, brokers, mutual funds, 401(k) and other retirement plans, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), Roth IRAs, and 529 college savings plans.
  • Guarantees and warranties. Write the date and place of purchase on the guarantee or warranty. If the serial number is on the box, be sure to cut that out and keep it with your receipt, too. I recently had this issue with a pair of headphones - the headphones didn't have the model number or serial number anywhere on them. Keep records of the type and date of all repairs. I don't usually store these with my regular financial papers. I keep these in manila folders in my filing cabinet. It is a good idea to have one for each of your large appliances, lawn machinery, and power tools.
These documents need to be kept forever (or until an item is sold/disgarded):

Store these in a safe deposit box at the bank or a fireproof box in your home. If you choose to rent a safe deposit box, it is a good idea to make an inventory of the contents and put the list in your financial notebook or permanent file at home. Consider keeping the files in waterproof bags (inside the fireproof box) to protect them in case of flooding, too.

Documents to keep in one of these storage places are your hard-to-replace documents including:
  • Your will (file a back-up copy with your attorney).
  • Birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, prenuptial agreements, alimony and child-custody agreements, divorce decrees, adoption papers, military records, and citizenship papers.
  • Passports
  • Your health care power of attorney, which gives someone the right to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
  • Copies of your IRA, 401(k) and other retirement account participation plans. These forms determine what happens to the money in these accounts when you die, not your will. If you haven't kept copies of the forms that name your plan beneficiaries, contact your retirement plan custodians and they will send you copies. Keep your beneficiary names and addresses current.
  • All your current insurance policies including home, health, disability, and auto. If something were to happen to your home, you need to have copies of these in a protected place.
  • Keep documents showing the dates and cost of improvements to your home. These records can help in the case of a dispute over damage from flood, fire, or other disasters and can help the insurance company cover your losses. Once you move or sell your home, you no loner need these. You can consider passing the information on to the new home owners. They may appreciate knowing exactly what floor brand is in their living room or where to get replacement tile for the bathroom.
  • For me, taking pictures was the easiest and fastest way to do our home inventory. A great time to do it is while you are packing for a move or unpacking from a move.  But don't wait for a move to start documenting what you have.
  • Keep bills/receipts for big purchases (e.g., jewelry, appliances, cars, collectibles, etc.) for proof of their value in the event of loss or damage. Take pictures of these items as well and file with the receipts.
  • Home Inventory - this can be photos or video on a flash drive, written documentation, or both. I recommend if you have a list to be sure to have a printed copy as well as a digital copy so one can be the backup for the other. 
  • Deeds, property titles, mortgages, stock and bond certificates, trademark/patent/copyright paperwork, and employment contracts.
  • Automobile/vehicle, truck, and farm machinery titles. When you sell it, give the maintenance records to the new owner along with the title.




DISCLOSURE:This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualified purchases. Thank you for supporting Little House In Colorado.