Potty training in 3 days without Pull-Ups

Drying diapersJudah has been showing interest in the potty for a couple months now, but mostly never did anything when we took him in there. Just a couple weeks ago he finally started acknowledging when he needed a new diaper, so I set a goal to start the process this month after my extended maternity leave began and while my husband was on vacation.

I considered several options for potty training undergarments — disposable Pull-Ups, expensive cloth trainers, cheap reusable cloth trainers, and some hybrid DIY cloth trainer options. But the majority of people who offered advice told me that going straight to underwear is the way to go. Anything else is just an expensive crutch that delays the inevitable. The idea of giving up diapers cold turkey terrified me — I imagined my expensive furniture covered in urine and ruined by the end of the first day — but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

After a little more research, I found a huge following for an intense method that people call “potty training boot camp.” There are lots of different versions of the method (Google search it for lots of different perspectives on the topic), but the most popular involves three days of intense, pantsless potty training at home followed by three months of no pants at home. I decided to modify it a bit and try it myself.

Protect your furniture.

First I had to take some precautions. We have laminate flooring, so accidents on the floor don’t concern me much. My furniture, on the other hand, is only a year old, and it was a huge investment for us. Our decision to spring for fancy slip-covered furniture actually paid off. We were able to wrap the cushions in large trash bags beneath the slip covers to protect them. The covers are 100% cotton and wash up like a dream, so I felt much better knowing that an accident could be quickly cleaned up without affecting the cushions beneath. We also put towels on top of the cushions in the hopes that we could catch small accidents without having to wash the covers every time. This step made the whole process feel a lot less stressful. If you have removable covers on your couch cushions, I highly recommend you do this!

Clear your calendar.

This potty training method relies on your commitment to stay home for at least three days. It is not easy. By the end of day 3, our whole family was going stir crazy. Staying home really did make all the difference, though. It gives the child a chance to build a solid foundation of learning without interruptions. We chose the long Memorial Day weekend, but my husband is also on vacation this week, so we knew we could take an extra couple days if necessary. Having backup was really helpful. You have to watch your toddler like a hawk the whole time, so a second pair of eyes is huge.

Throw away the diapers.

The next step is easy: say goodbye to diapers. That means Pull-Ups, too (during waking hours anyway). When your toddler wakes up on day 1, tell him or her that it’s time to wear underpants and go on the potty like a big boy/girl. Choose underwear that your toddler will like with fun characters on them to make it more exciting. Put them on your kid, and don’t look back!

Many people who use this method choose to let their toddler go bare-bottomed to make it easier for them to go. But there is also a downside to this — once the kid gets used to running around half naked, it’s an extra step to convince him to wear underwear or teach him to pull his pants down when it’s time to go. I also have enough trouble convincing Judah to wear pants at home — I didn’t want to encourage his natural inclination toward nudity. The other possible downside is that the toddler won’t feel as wet after accidents, which I think helps make the connection with how it feels when they need to go. Sure, there is more laundry to do, but those tiny underwear don’t take up much space in the washer. Plus the underwear will at least contain the poopy accidents somewhat.

Watch and remind.

The first day was extremely stressful. I tried to relax, but the truth is I was on edge, watching him like a hawk expecting an accident any minute. I used this free Potty Baby iPhone app to track when he used the potty and remind me to remind him. We started by reminding him every 15 minutes. We let him drink as many fluids as he wanted (I even allowed juice, which is usually a special treat). We only had a handful of accidents on day 1, but I was diligent. I put his potty right in the living room (I found it easier to have it front and center near where he was playing instead of all the way in the bathroom at the end of the hall). I asked him every 15-20 minutes if he needed to sit on the potty. If he said no, I encouraged him and bribed him with stickers or M&Ms — whatever it took to get him to sit down and go. We celebrated when he sat down and tried, and went bonkers when he succeeded.

We also found it helpful to watch the potty episodes of his favorite TV shows. This episode of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” — available on Amazon Prime Instant Watch for $1.99 — was particularly helpful for him. He liked to sing the little song when he was waiting on the potty, and he has been very adamant about washing his hands every time he goes. Bonus points for good hygiene!

What kind of potty seat is best?

Initially, I planned to use a small seat that fits on a regular toilet like those made by toto toilets. I thought it would be nice to eliminate the extra step of teaching him to use the big potty eventually. But I found that the small, standalone potty actually has a lot of benefits. First of all, it can be brought into the play space (if you’re not squeamish about having a toilet in your living room for a couple days). Just put a nice thick towel under it to protect the floor from accidents and dribble. It seemed to work as a good reminder for Judah to see the potty seat right where he was playing, and it was also closer for him to get there as soon as he realized he had to go. The potty seat is also small enough that he doesn’t need help getting on and off, which saved us a lot of energy during an exhausting experience (especially since I’m 5+ months pregnant). He could run over and use it on his own without help by the end of the first day, but he will probably need help climbing on and off the big toilet for a while yet.

I also found it very helpful to be able to track whether he actually went or not and how much. He faked us out several times in the first couple days by sitting on the potty and declaring “I’m done!” — but he hadn’t actually peed. If the potty was empty, we knew we had to continue watching him very closely. There were also times when he went just a little bit, and we knew he’d need to go again soon. It’s harder to monitor that when you’re using a regular toilet.

We let him use the big toilet with the seat a few times throughout the day to make sure he was okay with that, too. I don’t think the transition will be too tough for him. But I will probably keep the small potty seat around for a while just because it’s easier for him to use without a lot of help.

What about naps and night time?

I didn’t think naps would be an issue, because Judah dropped his afternoon nap a couple months ago. The potty training excitement must have tired him out, though, because he fell asleep on the couch all three days. Since the couches were lined with plastic and towels, I let him sleep in underwear. I stayed nearby in the hopes that I could catch him as soon as he woke up and hustle him to the potty. I fully expected him to pee in his sleep on day 1, but I was surprised when he woke up totally dry. He was pretty crabby about it when I put him straight on the potty as soon as he started to stir, but with just a little convincing, he went. So that’s how we handled naps all three days.

I think he’s still a little young for night training, so we are putting him in a Pull-Up at bedtime. They’re pricier than diapers, but I wanted them to at least look a little different and slide on like underwear. I call them his “special night time underpants” so they seem a little different to him than diapers. He has been wet (and sometimes dirty) every morning. When I start to notice him waking up dry most days, we’ll move forward with night training. Ten hours is a long time to go without peeing for a toddler, and I’d rather have restful sleep than a night-trained 2-year-old at this point.

Stick with it at least 3 days.

We had several accidents on day 1. On day 2, we only had three — two in the morning, and one in the afternoon. By day 3, we had just one small accident, but he quickly realized it was happening and ran to the potty to finish up. Even though he wasn’t having accidents on day 3, I was concerned that he still needed a lot of reminding and encouragement to sit on the potty. I knew he was making good progress, though, because I’d increased the reminder time from 20 minutes to 40 minutes, and he wasn’t having accidents in between. He was holding it. He also went on his own a few times without being reminded. By day 4, though, something seemed to click. He woke up and went straight to the potty on his own (even though his Pull-Up was wet), and then continued to go on his own throughout the day with few reminders.

Make the first outing quick and familiar.

By day 4, we were all pretty stir crazy, so I decided to take the big step and get out of the house. My husband was skeptical about going out without a diaper or Pull-Up. I considered putting him in a Pull-Up, but I didn’t like the idea of taking a step back. I was afraid that as soon as he had that “diaper,” he’d just go about his business as he’s done the past 2.5 years. I decided to risk it and give him a chance to really test his new skills.

I did take precautions, though! I made sure he went right before we walked out the door, and I put a small dish towel under him in his car seat (nothing too bulky, or it could compromise the safety of the seat). I also brought a change of clothes just in case. We had a big talk about how important it is to stay dry in his car seat, and how exciting it would be to use the big potty at the store. We brought a big bath towel for him to sit on in the cart so clean up wouldn’t have to be too embarrassing or messy.

We decided to take a quick trip to Target, partly because there were a few things we needed, but mostly because he’s familiar with the place. (We’ve also hit the family bathroom there a ton since I’ve been pregnant.) I brought him into the family bathroom first thing and let him sit right on the big toilet (with my help so he wouldn’t fall in). I had read several recommendations to bring a portable potty seat for public bathrooms, but I wanted to see if I could convince him to use the regular toilet to avoid having to carry a potty seat around or teach him to do it later. Sure enough, he did just fine! He was really excited to flush the big toilet and wash his hands in the sink.

I set the timer on my phone to remind me in 30 minutes, and we hustled through the store. About 20 minutes later, my husband and I had split up briefly, and Judah told his dad that he needed a diaper. My husband rushed him back to the bathrooms, helped him climb back on the toilet, and he went again. I was impressed that he asked to go even out at the store. He made it through the entire 1-hour outing completely dry!

Number 2 is not so easy.

At this point, I would say the whole thing has been a huge success. He has been going independently with few reminders. But as of day 4, we still have not had a #2 on the potty. He either goes in his Pull-Up first thing in the morning … or he has an accident in his underwear. When that happens, I do NOT shame him or get angry. But I do bring him over to the potty and have him sit down. Then I tell him, “Poop goes in the potty now, so next time try to let me know BEFORE you go so we can put it in the potty!” I then make a big deal about dumping the waste in the toilet, and I let him flush it down to show him that’s where we want to put it now. He still seems pretty skeptical, but I’m hoping he’ll figure it out as he gets more comfortable using the toilet. The accidents don’t seem to phase him or upset him too much.

We’ve offered him a pretty big bribe when he finally does the deed — a set of all the Toy Story toys that he’s been wanting for months — but this doesn’t seem to be something he can control. He’s been going this way for 2.5 years, after all. It’s going to take a big psychological step for him to go on the potty. I’m hoping he’ll take that last big step sooner rather than later, but I’m following his lead. Any advice on that front would be much appreciated.

I’m also prepared for additional accidents and possible setbacks. I know we’re not done yet. There are still a few occasions when I’ll probably lean on the Pull-Up crutch — a long car trip, for example. But I’m thrilled with his progress. He is initiating using the potty on his own, remembering to go most of the time, and he’s not wearing diapers! It was an intense few days, but so worth it.

What worked for you when you were potty training?

Potty training without Pull-Ups?

I would love to have Judah potty trained before Baby 2 arrives in September. At almost 2 and a half, he is definitely showing interest. But every time we’ve tried, as much as he wants to get it, it seems like his brain and his bladder just aren’t on the same page.

He frequently asks to go to the potty, and I take him, but nothing usually happens when we get there. It’s a big game. I know he needs more direction and something other than diapers to help him make the connection, but I’ve been putting it off for weeks hoping that I would start to feel better.

I do feel a little better now (somewhat), but more importantly, my husband will be on vacation for a month in May and June, so I’ll have some help. We’ve decided to give it a shot and see if Judah is ready with a little guidance and more intensive efforts on our part.

I know that putting him on the potty while he continues to wear regular diapers is pointless. Those dang things just keep them so dry (great for newborns, not great for potty-training). He needs to feel when he’s wet to make that connection. I considered putting him back in cloth diapers, but I need something that’s easy on and off so we can manage quickly or he can do it himself.

Pull-Ups are the most popular option, but I just can’t get over the price. Twenty five to 30 cents a diaper?! And that’s for the generic brand! We currently pay about 16 cents per diaper for the Target-brand diapers we’ve used since Judah switched out of cloth at 12 months, so doubling our diaper cost is a tough pill to swallow. Especially since the few times I’ve put him in Pull-Ups, they’ve leaked terribly. Plus I really don’t like how similar to diapers they are. I feel like he needs something new and different to help him understand that it’s time for him to try to stay dry.

I also considered reusable training pants like these Flip training pants. They’re easy on and off, but I’ve heard conflicting reports from friends who’ve used them about how effective they are (according to some, the liner shifts and causes leaks). I’m also having the same problem with price. They’re a little more affordable than the all-in-one training pants I’ve seen for $15-$20 each since the cover can be used a few times before washing, but the reusable inserts cost about $6 a piece. If I bought two covers and 12 inserts, I’d pay almost $100 for the whole system. Probably still less than I’d pay for a few months in Pull-Ups, but still. Yikes. Especially since I’m not even sure how well they’ll work.

Several people on my Facebook page suggested DIY options. I found this tutorial for DIY cloth training pants that involves modifying Gerber training pants (the kind that are basically cotton underpants with a little extra layer of padding where it’s needed) to add a few extra layers of flannel and a waterproof outer layer. I like that they look and feel more like underpants, which I think will make a big difference for him psychologically. Plus they’re less bulky. They will definitely leak, but I’ve yet to hear about a training pant that doesn’t. It seems like that’s kind of the point — if they’re as effective as diapers, there’s no incentive for kids to stop wetting them. At least these won’t cost a fortune! They should cost about $2.75 per pair. I can make a dozen for what I’d pay for a few weeks’ worth of Pull-Ups. That seems a lot more doable for something that my toddler is going to pee on.

I haven’t made them yet, and I obviously haven’t tested them, so I guess we’ll see how it goes.

I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed at the prospect of starting this process, though, so I’m curious how you did it. Did you use Pull-Ups? Or are you one of those brave people who went cold turkey with diapers and just cleaned up messes for a few days until it clicked? (I can’t even imagine that right now, though I do hear it’s effective.) Send me your potty-training advice and encouragement!

Here we go again …

Judah has big news to share.

Big brother

Only he says, “I’m not a big brother, I’m a SMALL brother!”

His small(er) sibling is due in late September, which makes me 17 weeks along. Things are going well so far aside from the continued nausea, the hip and pelvic pain that showed up around 10 weeks, and various other pregnancy complaints.

My extended maternity leave begins in May, so I’m hoping to be around more online this summer and early fall.

Here’s hoping for a healthy (and quick!) 23 more weeks. Send us some good vibes!

Why I’m done with New Year’s resolutions

Every year on New Year’s Day I feel anxious for a fresh start. “This is the year,” I tell myself. And I really mean it. I really believe that opening a fresh new calendar will give me the motivation I need to make all the changes I failed to make the previous year.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever followed through with a single resolution. The closest I came was the year after Judah was born when I resolved to take at least one photo a day. I made it to July before I stopped making an effort to use my camera each day. Let’s be honest, though, my success was probably more likely due to the new baby who stayed relatively still looking cute. Once he started moving, I was done playing photographer.

This year is no different. I have a whole list of things I’d like to change about myself — get in shape, be more organized, finally get to the home improvement projects we’ve been putting off, be more creative, make more time for the things I enjoy doing.

When I really started thinking about it, I started to feel really bad about myself. That’s the thing about New Year’s resolutions — most of them are pretty focused on what’s not good enough about us. As I ticked off the huge list of possible New Year’s resolutions in my head, all I could think was, “Man, I’m doing a lot of things so wrong.”

I think most of us get enough of that kind of negative self talk as it is without focusing an entire yearly tradition on what’s not good enough about us, what we need to change.

I’m not bashing self-improvement. It’s important to be healthy, take care of ourselves, and banish bad habits. However, instead of making a resolution and setting myself up for disappointment if I fail, I’m changing my perspective this year. I’m focusing on the positive. Instead of thinking about all the things I need to change about myself, I’m surrounding myself with people, things, and ideas that motivate and inspire me to take care of myself and my family in the way that we deserve.

The problem with “New Year’s resolutions” is that when we tie our motivation to a time of the year, the motivation inevitably wears off. Anyone who regularly works out at a gym is familiar with this phenomenon. Every January 1, there is a flood of new faces in the cardio room and the classes. Suddenly you’re waiting in line for a treadmill when just before Christmas 90% of the machines were empty. By Valentine’s Day, the crowds are gone. All of those people who rushed to the gym after the holiday gluttony and resolved to finally get in shape have gotten back to their busy lives.

So I decided — no New Year’s resolutions this year. If I choose to eat better, exercise more, organize more efficiently, or start a new home project, I’ll do it because I’m feeling motivated and inspired to do so in the moment — not because of the date on the calendar. I’m not going to spend the beginning of the year feeling bad about myself because of all the things I need to change.

Do New Year’s resolutions work for you? How do you motivate yourself to make positive changes?

Photo credit

How to throw a toddler birthday party for cheap

I grew up with three sisters, and I was third born, so birthday parties weren’t a yearly deal for us. We each had a party or two to celebrate big milestones, but my mom didn’t throw a huge party for each of us every year — and I don’t blame her. I probably won’t either.

For Judah’s first birthday, we had a small party with cake and food for family only. This year, I’ve made friends with some families near us who have children around Judah’s age, so I wanted to have a fun kid party to celebrate what we’re hoping will be Judah’s last birthday as an only child. When I started researching party ideas, I was shocked at how expensive most party venues are. I would love to have a backyard barbecue, but that’s not really an option for November in Indiana, and I was afraid to let loose 10+ kids under 4 in my living room. By making a few compromises, we were able to celebrate Judah’s second birthday with all his friends without spending a fortune.

Throw a joint party.

I’m lucky to have a friend whose son is just 5 days older than Judah. It was her idea to combine their parties this year, and I’m so glad we did it that way. We share a lot of friends, so our guest lists would have had a lot of overlap anyway, and we were able to split the cost of the venue, food, and decorations between two families. At 2 years old, the boys didn’t mind sharing their parties a bit, and since we were both pretty laid back about the party, my friend and I didn’t have any trouble planning it together.

Plan ahead.

I was particularly proud of the goody bags, which included a 24-pack of crayons, a full-sized Play Doh, some Play Doh molds, fruit snacks, and a print out coloring sheet. The Sesame Street “Thank You” sign is an Internet printable that my friend found on Pinterest, and we used Zip lock bags to hold everything. I bought the crayons in bulk during the back-to-school sales for 50 cents a box, and my friend got the Play Doh in a Black Friday sale for under 50 cents each, so each bag cost us under $2. And of course splitting the costs between the two of us made them even less expensive. I was happy to hand out fun toys that the kids would actually use instead of cheap things that would be thrown away or lost before they even made it home.

For toddlers, all you really need is a lot of space.

We called the zoo, inflatable play places, museums — all of them wanted $300+ for a 2-3 hour party, not including food. Even though we were splitting the cost, that was just too much for a toddler party. Finally we found a fun play place that’s really just a giant open space with lots of toys where the kids can run around. It cost $100 for 15 kids and 2 hours of play.

Other cheap (or free) options we considered:

  • Many local libraries have conference rooms that can be rented out for cheap or even free.
  • Your home if you have the space for it and the energy/desire to clean before and after the party.
  • A park or your own backyard if weather permits.

As long as the kids have room to run around, you won’t need to plan activities or games. It’s hard to wrangle kids and keep their attention anyway, and you’ll kill yourself trying to plan things. Since we only had two hours, and our boys are too young to have any expectations for gifts, we also asked our guests not to worry about presents. This gave the kids more time to play and saved us the trouble of coordinating gift opening for two active toddlers.

Always buy less food than you think you’ll need.

RSVPs are notoriously inaccurate for kid parties. Kids get sick, they miss their naptimes, things happen. We ended up with about half as many kids and parents as we expected. Add to that the fact that the kids were too busy playing to eat much (Judah ate a single bite of pizza and threw a mega tantrum when we got home because we was starving, pfft). We ended up with about 8 whole pizzas to get rid of at the end of the party (we ordered 15). Keep all of this in mind when ordering, and try not to overdo it. In fact, for very young children, you’re probably better off serving just finger foods and cake and having the party between meal times (2-4 pm, for instance). Trying to get the kids to sit still and eat is almost impossible, and without a big meal there will be more time for play.

Make a cake.

Since the boys were sharing the party, I wanted them each to have a cake. I am hopeless when it comes to decorating, and anything I made would likely end up looking like those failed Cookie Monster cupcakes we’ve all seen on Pinterest. So I ordered a small cake from the grocery store for $15. My friend’s mom is a talented cake decorator who made this adorable Elmo cake for the price of the cake pan and ingredients. Surprisingly, most of the cake did get eaten, so I don’t regret our decision to serve two small cakes. I probably could have saved a ton by baking a simple cake and decorating it with toys he already has (the baker at the grocery store suggested cars or dinosaur figures).

What are your tips for frugal kid parties? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

I’m still here

My three-month break from blogging wasn’t planned. That’s why I never had the chance to post a note explaining my absence. I was always on the verge of posting an update. Tomorrow. Next week. Any day now. Soon.

It started with good news. Shortly after my last post in August, I found out we were expecting another baby. We were elated. Then came the fatigue, the morning sickness, the aches and pains. All of that added to a rigorous teaching schedule and a 21-month-old gave me little time for anything else — not even this blog that I missed so much.

Unfortunately, our good news was followed by heartbreak. At our first ultrasound at 10 weeks, there was no heartbeat. I had a miscarriage at the end of October.

It was painful and sad, but now a month later I’m doing much better. We’re preparing to celebrate Judah’s second birthday (TWO!), and I’m reminding myself daily just how much I have to be thankful for.

Long story short, I miss you guys. I miss this space. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. I love this blog too much to give it up completely. I hope to start posting regularly again, and I hope that some of my readers have stuck around during my extended break.

To those of you who emailed me, thank you. Your concern means the world to me. All is well. Obla-di Obla-da, life goes on.

What’s new with you?

Reusable vs. disposable — which is best?

Marketing companies have drawn a pretty clear line in the sand between disposable products and reusable ones. Disposable is synonymous with convenience, ease of use, and less work — but you pay a higher price for that convenience. Reusable products are better for your wallet and the environment, but harder work. Is this always the case, though? Like most things, I think it’s way more complicated. Depending on the product and your life circumstances, these rules often don’t apply.

Here are a few examples based on my experience.

Mop and bucket vs. disposable floor cleaning pads

For most of my life, I lived in places with wall-to-wall carpet and just a small space with hard flooring — the bathroom and kitchen. Filling a bucket with water and swabbing the deck the old fashioned way just didn’t seem worth the time with such small spaces. For years, I used a Swiffer wet jet and I was perfectly content with the results. Then I moved into a house with wall-to-wall laminate flooring and a small child. Suddenly, the Swiffer was a huge pain. It took several pads to get through all the floors in our house, and I never felt like they were clean enough.

I finally broke down and mopped the floors with an old fashioned reusable mop and bucket, and I was shocked to find that it was easier. The large mop head cleaned the floors much faster. I used vinegar and just a little Dawn dish soap, so cleaning solution cost next to nothing (and is healthier for my toddler than chemical-filled cleaning solutons). When I was finished, I tossed the cotton mop head into the washing machine in an old pillow case with a load of towels, and let it air dry. It was so simple, and so much cheaper. I’m kicking myself for not switching sooner.

Paper towels vs. reusable rags

I made the switch to reusable rags earlier this year, and I’m happy I did it. Paper towels cost a fortune, they aren’t very eco-friendly, and I’ve found that it’s easier and faster to clean most messes with a nice thick rag. Rags are a little fussy to wash — if you throw them into the hamper wet, they will mildew and stink. It’s also a good idea to put them through a hot wash with vinegar and a second wash with detergent to prevent stink problems. It’s been worth the trouble for me, though.

I do still keep paper towels on hand for some messes, though. I don’t like to use reusable rags or sponges to clean the counter or sink after handling raw meat, and paper towels are the best way to clean glass and mirrors without leaving streaks. Switching to rags 95% of the time has saved us a bundle, though, and reduced our footprint.

Plastics bags vs. reusable shopping bags

This one is a no-brainer for me. Reusable bags are affordable, carry more stuff, and are generally easier for me to carry. The only real downsides are remembering to bring them and keeping them clean (I do ask for a plastic bag to transport raw meat, and I wash my bags regularly). I occasionally request plastic bags for small purchases, because I like to stock pile them and use them as trash bags for the little trash cans in the bathrooms. I figure it’s better to reuse a plastic bag than buy plastic bags for that purpose. Aside from that, reusable bags are a clear winner.

Disposable toilet bowl cleaners vs. a toilet brush

Disposable toilet bowl cleaners are my guilty cleaning secret. The OCD germophobe in me can’t handle the reusable toilet brush. I never felt like I could get them clean, and then I couldn’t figure out how to let them dry without leaving them out in the open in the bathroom, so I’d stick them back in the stand wet and they’d start to mildew or mold and ugh. I can’t handle it. So I pay a small fortune for the convenience and sanitary bliss of replacing disposable toilet bowls cleaners. When I’m done, I pop the cleaning pad into the trash, sanitize the wand, and get on with my life. So worth it for me.

Disposable diapers vs. cloth diapers

This one was a toss-up for me. For the first year of Judah’s life, I absolutely loved my cloth diapers. They saved me money, are better for the environment, and I really didn’t feel like they were too much hassle. Just a couple extra loads of laundry every week. Then my son turned 1. We stopped breastfeeding shortly after his first birthday, and suddenly cloth diapers weren’t so easy anymore. I made the switch to disposables full-time, boxed up my cloth for the next baby, and I’m thankful I did it every time I change a poopy diaper.

So what do you think? When do you prefer disposable over reusable and vice versa?

Photo credit

The best times to tackle deep cleaning projects

Most people feel motivated to clean and reorganize in the spring. Since most of fall and winter is spent indoors, I prefer to prepare for the long winter hibernation by cleaning, purging, and reorganizing. I’ve been creating a to-do list in my head of things I’ve been putting off all summer, and it got me thinking about how I could make things easier on myself. Is there a most convenient time to tackle the household chores we all dread?

Here are some ideas I’ve come up with. I’d love to hear how you make this stuff easier on yourself.

Clean the refrigerator after vacation.

I tend to be a little OCD about old food in the refrigerator — I throw away uneaten leftovers and expired condiments every week on the night before our trash is picked up so funky food doesn’t hang out in the fridge or our trash can for too long. Giving the fridge a good deep cleaning is a bit more challenging, though, since it’s full of food most of the time. However, right before we leave town for a vacation, I always do a major purge and try to leave the fridge mostly empty so we don’t come home to funky smells. Before restocking at the grocery store when we get home, the first thing I do is take out each shelf and give it a good scrub in warm soapy water, double check condiments and toss anything old or expired, and scrub down the nooks and crannies that aren’t visible when the fridge is stuffed with food.

Clean out the pantry before grocery shopping.

You might be surprised how much food is actually available in your kitchen. Hunt for meal ideas in your canned foods, throw away anything that is no longer edible, and put foods that need to be eaten as soon as possible at the front. Taking stock of your pantry before grocery shopping will also save you some money since you’ll be less likely to buy an item you already have on hand.

Reorganize closets when the seasons change.

Closet space in limited in our 1970s ranch, so we only keep current, in-season clothing in our closets. Out-of-season clothes are stored in giant plastic tubs in the guest room closet. When the weather changes each season, we swap them out. If you follow a system like this one, that seasonal clothing swap is the perfect time to purge things you don’t need and reorganize your space. Take a good hard look at each item before you store it for next season — did you wear it this year at all? If not, it’s probably time to donate it.

For bonus points, use the bedroom closet swap as an excuse to clean and reorganize other closets and cabinets in your house. If you tackle them twice a year, you’ll avoid a huge pile-up that will eventually require heavy-duty cleaning.

Clean your work space on Friday afternoon.

Whether you work from home or in an office, Friday afternoon downtime is the perfect time to purge or file paperwork and clear clutter. If there’s something that will need attention first thing Monday morning, put it front and center on your desk to remind yourself to get right to it after your relaxing weekend.

How do you make deep cleaning projects easier? Please share!

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