The Best App for Organizing Kids Artwork and Schoolwork

Learn more about the best app for organizing and managing your kids artwork and schoolwork

When I was in 9th grade, my mom brought out a box of my old school papers, pictures I had drawn as a young child, lists of my first words and favorite foods to eat at different ages and so on.  She apologetically told me that she’d tried to keep as much as she could but couldn’t hold onto everything and hoped I was okay with what she’d held onto.  I opened a box and it was like a walk down memory lane, except I didn’t have memories of everything in the box.  I tried to organize everything by age and then school year but my mom couldn’t remember all the dates and could only give me approximate time frames.  If I was lucky, I found a year or even a full date written on the back.  All those pictures and school assignments are now in a scrapbook of mine that I started on shortly after receiving this box of memories and I continued to add to it as the years progressed.  Now I have kids of my own and I find myself wanting to keep every single picture they draw or art project they make, but let’s be real: there is no way I can physically hold onto everything.  So what’s the solution?  I’ll tell you: it’s called Keepy.

I received a subscription from Keepy to try it out and share my experience with you.  As always, all opinions are 100% mine.  This post contains affiliate links.

What is Keepy?

Learn more about the best app for organizing and managing your kids artwork and schoolwork

Keepy is an app you can download onto your phone (or other iOS or Kindle device) that is basically a way to keep track of all your kids art projects, drawings and even schoolwork.  By creating an account for each child, you can easily organize each picture or video you take.  You can then invite family or friends to view the pictures/videos you save and they are the only ones who have access it to.  No more group texts every time you want to show off how creative or smart your child is–just save the picture and anyone on your list will get an email about the new Keepy you’ve saved and they can view it on their own time frame.  (You can also choose to send it to a specific person rather than everyone.)  Another awesome thing about Keepy is that you can add descriptions, crop, rotate and even add video of your child talking about the project, drawing, artwork or schoolwork.

My Experience with Keepy

I have to tell you that I was so excited to learn about this app.  I had already started taking pictures of my daughter’s preschool crafts that she brought home last year and tried to organize them into a folder in another app, but it was annoying and time consuming, plus I didn’t think everyone I was friends with would care about seeing them.  I continued taking pictures, hoping to find another solution.  When I was approached about trying out Keepy, my answer was a huge “YES!”  I actually had this pile of papers in my kitchen that I’d been meaning to take pictures of so I grabbed that and got started.

Setting up the app was really easy.  I downloaded it from the Google Play Store and right off the bat, I received prompts on how to set everything up.  (I have an Android but it’s also available for iOS and Kindle.)  As part of my collaboration with Keepy, they provided me with an unlimited account which meant that I could download and save as many pictures as I want in a month for up to a year, at which point I would need to either renew or continue with a monthly or basic (free) account.  I set up accounts for both of my kids and started adding “fans” which are the people I want to share my Keepys with.  (If I want to add my husband to the account as a parent, he can also add photos or videos to the account!)

Learn more about the best app for organizing and managing your kids artwork and schoolwork

Then I took pictures of each item I wanted to save, cropped and rotated them (if needed), wrote a description about the project and saved it under the right kid.  A few days after downloading the app, my daughter brought me a picture she’d drawn and started telling me a story about it.  After she was done I told her I wanted to record her telling the story again, so I grabbed my phone, took a picture of her drawing, and recorded a video of her talking about the picture.  (They have it set up so that it uses the forward facing camera and kids can see themselves talk.)  It was a really fun and cute way to save that little memory and there’s no way I could have captured that simply in words in a description of the picture.

Learn more about the best app for organizing and managing your kids artwork and schoolwork

Each time I take pictures on my phone, I receive a prompt from the app asking if I want to organize the photos.  This is great because I have the best of intentions of saving pictures in the right place, but forget so the reminder is really helpful.  I can always go back and edit the description or add a video which means I have flexibility and don’t have to do everything right then.

Another great feature of Keepy is that you can save videos as well as pictures.  You can organize everything into different folders, tag which child(ren) are in it and share it the same way you do with pictures!  Seriously, I’ve been blown away at how versatile and robust this app is!

So far, I’ve loved using this app and it’s ease of use, flexibility and range of features have been a huge motivator for me to continue using it.  I did have a couple of questions as I started using the app and when I emailed their support, they got back to me really quickly which I greatly appreciated.  They were helpful and my issues were resolved quickly and efficiently.

Learn more about the best app for organizing and managing your kids artwork and schoolwork

Now What?

So you’ve decided you want to get a handle on managing and organizing your kids artwork and schoolwork.  Good for you! *wink*  Click on this link HERE to download it on your phone (or other iOS or Kindle device).  You can try out a basic account with no strings attached and see how you like it.  Each account has a password you can set up so you can access the app from different devices.

With a basic account, you can upload up to 5 photos/videos per month.  If you want to do more than that, you can upgrade to a monthly account for $2.99/mo, or a yearly account for $9.99/yr.  Both will give you the ability to upload unlimited photos/videos.

If you want to have something more tangible to give as a gift (Mother’s Day or Father’s day anyone?) or keep at home, you do have the option to print out an 8×8 photobook of your Keepys.

I hope my experience with Keepy has motivated you to check it out, use it and feel like you can still keep your child’s memories without feeling like you have to keep every. single. paper. *wink*

What feature of Keepy appeals most to you?

Medicine Cabinet Organization

Use drawers, containers and labels to organize your medicine cabinet.

When my husband and I first got married, we had a handful of medicine for basic things like headaches, sore muscles, allergies, a bag of cough drops and cold medicine.  A single box of band aids lasted us a year or more and a tube of Neosporin was barely used in the same amount of time.  Fast forward almost 9 years and the amount of medicine we have has at least tripled if not quadrupled and I’m buying a new box of band aids every other month (more in the summertime) and of course my kids insist on “girl ones” and “boy ones”.  Trying to find the right medicine in the middle of the night was starting to become a problem because everything was all over the place.  Can you relate?

As we started to accumulate more medicine, I knew that we’d need a good storage solution to keep things organized.  I found a little three drawer organizer at Walmart (similar) that was the perfect size to fit on one of the shelves in the hall closet.  When I originally bought it, I tried to group the same types of medicine together and put them in each drawer but things have gotten a little out of control lately.  Probably partially due to the fact that we’ve just gone through major cold season and have been in the drawers more often.  Whatever the case, our medicine needed some serious organization.

Here is a lovely (and somewhat embarrassing) before picture:

Use drawers, containers and labels to organize your medicine cabinet.

First thing I did was pull everything off of the top two shelves in the closet and put it on the kitchen table.  (I figured I might as well do a little organizing there since I was already working on the one shelf with the medicine.)  After getting rid of garbage and rearranging the rest of the items that needed to go on the shelves, I was left with the medicine drawers.

Use drawers, containers and labels to organize your medicine cabinet.

I emptied everything out and grouped it together into the following categories: allergy, cold, first aid, digestion and pain.  I also put all the band aids together and emptied the cough drops into three IKEA containers I’d originally bought for the pantry but have been sitting empty for the last couple of years.  (I knew I’d find a use for them eventually!)  I separated and labeled the different kinds of cough drops into: 1) sugar free cough drops, 2) regular cough drops and 3) sugar free throat drops.  I also had some baby/infant medicine such as gas drops and teething tablets and since I don’t need any of those items right now, I put them in a small storage pouch I’d received at my first baby shower.

Use drawers, containers and labels to organize your medicine cabinet.

Use drawers, containers and labels to organize your medicine cabinet.

There wasn’t really any method to which drawers I put the medicine.  I basically looked at what I had and found that I had a lot of cold medicine and not a lot of allergy medicine, so I put those in one drawer.  Digestion and asthma went in another drawer.  First aid and pain medication in the last one.

Use drawers, containers and labels to organize your medicine cabinet.

There are some people in my family *cough* my husband *cough* that don’t always put the medicine back where it goes, so to help keep everything organized, I made some simple labels, which I placed on the front of the drawers. 

Use drawers, containers and labels to organize your medicine cabinet.

Once that was done, I put the medicine organizer back on the shelf with the cough drops and band aids.  I am SO happy to finally have this organized again.  It makes my organizing-loving heart go pitter-patter. *wink*

Click on the links below to see other ways I’ve organized my home:
Junk Drawer Organization
Multi Purpose Closet Organization
Craft Room Organization

Do you have a way to organize your medicine?  What are the most challenging things or areas to organize in your home?

Define Your Time: More Than Just A Time Management Course

Define Your Time is more than just a time management course.  It's a new way to look at your life.

Last November when I went to Pinners Conference, I attended a class about how to make the most of your time.  The speaker, Nicole Carpenter, founder of MOMentity, gave us 10 tips for getting more done and most of them were easy enough that you could implement them the next day if you wanted to.  If I had to guess one of the top 3 things most people say the don’t have enough of, it’s time.  It’s elusive.  It goes by too quickly.  It’s viewed as either your enemy or your friend.  It’s something we don’t have control over.  Or do we?

After the class finished, I approached Nicole and asked her if she would be interested in a collaboration.  I loved her upbeat, positive attitude and her enthusiasm was contagious.  A week later, she emailed me and asked if I’d like to participate in her upcoming Define Your Time course: a four week workshop where you work through four different modules, attend training calls and complete homework assignments.  While I feel like I’m pretty good at managing my time and staying organized, I also recognized the opportunity to learn some new skills to help me manage my life even better.

I received the Define Your Time course for free in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are 100% mine.

Define Your Time is more than just a time management course.  It's a new way to look at your life.

Nicole is a mom as well as a business owner, so she totally gets both aspects and how life can get crazy and out of control.  From her website:

“I know you are overwhelmed and, on some days, losing your mind! I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to love your kids to pieces but be unhappy with yourself (and even your life). I know what it’s like to FAKE HAPPINESS and be TOTALLY DISCONNECTED from your kids.  I even know what it’s like to WISH FOR DIFFERENT even when others would say what you have is pretty great.  Do you feel this way? It’s OK, there is a way out! Out of disconnect and out of overwhelm. MOMentity is here to help moms lost in motherhood realize they can both love themselves and their family and teach them a process that can make it happen.”

Doesn’t she sound like someone who “gets it”?

The class started and it was a fairly small group of women.  Some had taken the course before and others, like me, were new.  Nicole does a great job leading the calls and making sure everyone is able to share their thoughts, questions or concerns.  Nicole is so sweet and completely genuine.  She is passionate about helping women and is motivating to listen to.  She really knows and believes and applies everything she teaches.  She is also super real and not afraid to share the times when she has trouble, even with her own program.  I really appreciated this because it made me feel like even if I were to get off track, that I could jump back on board and keep moving forward.

For me, the most helpful part of the course was the first section where she lays the foundation for the following modules.  Define Your Time isn’t just about giving you a bunch of tools for time management, although that is part of it.  It is about figuring out your own values, where you currently spend your time and where you want to spend your time.  Once you’ve laid all that out, then you build on that newer, stronger foundation as you move forward with the other modules.  The reason I liked this portion of the course so much was because I realized that where I was spending my time and where I wanted to spend my time weren’t in alignment.  As a result, I was conflicted with how to best manage my time.  It was actually a very eye-opening experience and it’s something I’m still reflecting on a month after I finished the course.

Overall, I thought the course was very well put together.  Nicole does everything she can to help you be successful and apply her methods and tools to your own life.  She makes everything very personal and applicable and helps you think about time in a different way.  After taking her course, I feel more in control of the time that I have available because I have the tools I need to make time work for me instead of the other way around.  Define Your Time is a great option for anyone looking to get control of their life and make some positive changes using proven tools.

If you’d like more information about the Define Your Time course, click HERE to go to Nicole’s website.

Do you feel like you’re good at managing your time?  What areas are hardest to manage?

DIY Hanging Necklace Holder

Make your own hanging necklace holder using a piece of scrap wood and some cute drawer knobs!

When my husband and I first moved into our house almost 6 years ago, we had our first shared closet since we’d been married 3 years before.  Up until that point, we’d always lived in apartments and all of them had small closets.  Or maybe they just seemed small to me considering all of my clothes fit into one closet with no room leftover for my husband…  My poor hubby always had to use the closet in the second bedroom for his clothes in each of the places we lived.  So when we moved into our home, we had a bigger closet, which was great.  But there wasn’t any room for me to put my jewelry.  I don’t like keeping it out on my dresser and prefer to have it out of reach of little hands.  So what to do?

To utilize the wall space in our closet, I made a quick necklace holder using a piece of scrap wood, some fabric, nails, hooks and a sawtooth hanger to hang it on the wall.  It’s been totally functional and a great way to organize my necklaces but over the last few months, I decided I wanted to change it more to fit my current style.  You can see what my original necklace hanger looks like below.  Not bad right?  But not great.

Make your own hanging necklace holder using a piece of scrap wood and some cute drawer knobs!

So off I went to Hobby Lobby to find some cute drawer knobs.  I watched for them to go on sale (yay for 50% off!) and found 6 that I thought went together without being too matchy-matchy.  If you’ve ever looked at the knobs and pulls they have at Hobby Lobby, you know that they have an awesome variety, but in my case, this actually made it so much harder for me to choose.  Besides choosing coordinating knobs, they also had to have a big enough space between the end of the knob and the screw in part to hold the necklaces.  I’m not kidding when I say that I spent a solid 45 minutes looking at knobs.  My kids were going crazy of course: “Don’t touch that!  Put that back!  No, don’t put it in your mouth.  Please, get off the ground!”  (Anyone else?)  Total I ended up spending $14 for the knobs.  I also bought a small bottle of white chalk paint since I wanted to distress it a bit.

Once home, I put the bag in my craft room and there it sat for a good 2 months until I was cleaning out my closet and found it again, still in the bag on the floor.  (Haha, this is the story of my life when it comes to crafts.)  I finally got around to making my new necklace holder and it only took me about an hour, including dry time!

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own:

Make your own hanging necklace holder using a piece of scrap wood and some cute drawer knobs!

  • a piece of scrap wood
  • sandpaper
  • chalk paint (or acrylic paint)
  • foam brush
  • petroleum jelly (for distressing)
  • knobs (I used 6)
  • power drill (optional)
  • 1/4″ drill bit (optional)
  • paper
  • pencil
  • sawtooth hanger
  • nails

To get started, measure the space where you want to put your necklace holder.

Cut your wood down to size or find a piece of scrap wood that happens to be lying around your house from previous projects.  Mine is 12″x5″  but yours may vary depending on how many knobs you want to use and how many necklaces you need it to hold.  Also, be aware that you’ll want to use a thicker piece of wood since the part of the knob that gets screwed in is about 1 1/2″ long.  If you use a thinner piece of wood you’ll run into a problem when you try to hang it on the wall since the end will be poking out the back.

Sand the cut edges so they are smoother.  How much you sand is completely up to you.  I just went until the edges were slightly rounded and when I ran my hand over it, I didn’t come away with any splinters.

The next step is optional, depending on if you want to distress your wood or not.  I did a tutorial a while back about how to distress wood using petroleum jelly.  It’s a technique I use all the time because it’s less messy than painting first and then sanding it down.  You can also do it in layers if you want multiple colors on your wood.  Find the full tutorial HERE.

Grab your petroleum jelly and rub a small amount in random places on your board, paying close attention to the grain of the wood, as this will help the distressing look more natural.  You can see where I added mine because it’s a little bit shiny.

Make your own hanging necklace holder using a piece of scrap wood and some cute drawer knobs!

Next, paint your board using a foam brush.  You can paint right over the top of the petroleum jelly.  I only painted the front, top, bottom and sides since no one will see the back.  Let it dry.

Once dry, use a paper towel and gently rub over the places where you put the petroleum jelly.  It will rub right off!  So much easier than using sandpaper and getting dust all over the place.  Again, see the full tutorial for more details.

Make your own hanging necklace holder using a piece of scrap wood and some cute drawer knobs!

Now it’s time to measure and mark the placement of the knobs.  I used 6 knobs and staggered them so each row is off center and the middle two knobs split the center.  First, I measured the exact center of the board.  Then I measured the length of the board and tried to figure out how much space I wanted between each knob.  This was actually a little trickier than I originally thought it would be so I got a piece of paper out, measured out the size of my wood and then used that to figure out the placement of each hole.  Then I cut it out, placed it over my wood as a template and taped it down before pre-drilling my holes.  So much easier than trying to make marks on my painted wood and I got it exactly straight!

Make your own hanging necklace holder using a piece of scrap wood and some cute drawer knobs!

I always try to “pre-drill” my holes to make it easier on myself.  You’ll find that drawer knobs are flat on the end and getting the hole started will save you time and you don’t have to use your muscles as much. *wink*  I used a hammer and nail to get the placement right, removed the template and then I grabbed my husband’s power drill and a 1/4″ bit and pre-drilled about 3/4 of the way down.

Make your own hanging necklace holder using a piece of scrap wood and some cute drawer knobs!

I had one knob where the end was just slightly longer than my wood was deep so I ended up drilling a hole all the way through.  It poked out the back a little so I got a small piece of felt and glued it to the back of the board to cover the end of the screw so it won’t scratch my wall.

Make your own hanging necklace holder using a piece of scrap wood and some cute drawer knobs!

Next, I decided what order I wanted my knobs to be in and then started screwing them in.  Each of my knobs came with a nut and washer on the end.  I didn’t need the nut but I kept the washer on.

Make your own hanging necklace holder using a piece of scrap wood and some cute drawer knobs!

Lastly, grab your sawtooth hanger, measure the center of the board (on the back) and down about 1/2″ and then nail it in.  Get another nail for the wall where you want to hang it up, hammer it in and then hang your new necklace holder.  Easy peasy!

Make your own hanging necklace holder using a piece of scrap wood and some cute drawer knobs!

I love my new necklace hanger!  It makes me so happy when I walk in and see it.  One thing (among many) that I love about this project is that it’s completely personalized.  Plus, it’s pretty enough that you could hang it up in your room if you want and it will look nice on the wall and won’t take up space on your dresser.  Win-win!

Make your own hanging necklace holder using a piece of scrap wood and some cute drawer knobs!

Make your own hanging necklace holder using a piece of scrap wood and some cute drawer knobs!

What do you use to store your different pieces of jewelry?

4 Tips For Staying Organized Using A Paper Planner

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: I love paper planners!  I received my first one in 7th grade and I’ve been hooked ever since.  But it wasn’t until I got into high school and college that I started buying planners that were both pretty and practical.  I mean, it’s so much more fun to stay organized if you love what you’re using to keep yourself organized, right?

About the same time as I got my first paper planner, the fancy schmancy PalmPilot was becoming popular for kids my age.  Do you remember those?  Everyone wanted one and you were counted lucky if your parents bought you one for your birthday or Christmas.  But as for me, I was never interested in one.  I loved being able to look at my whole day or whole week or even my whole month and see exactly what I had going on.  It just made sense to me to put it on paper, plus it was a whole lot prettier.  You can’t doodle your crush’s name using Gelly Roll pens on a PalmPilot! *wink*

Even now, 17 years later, I’ve had people (like my husband) ask me why I don’t just do everything digitally.  Dump the planner and use the apps on my phone.  I’ve actually tried different apps and systems, but nothing compares to my good old fashioned paper planner and pens.  Call me a creature of habit, but nothing else helps me stay organized the way a paper planner does.

If you feel the same way and are part of the paper planner fan club, head on over to Time Saving Mom to see how I personally use my planner to keep my life organized. (see note below)  Plus, I’m sharing 5 of my favorite brands for pretty planners to get you excited to stay organized in the coming year!

**UPDATE 12/17/16**

Amanda has decided she is no longer going to be running the Time Saving Mom blog so that she can focus her efforts in other areas.  She offered to let me move my content from there to here so that nothing would be lost.  Below is the post that originally appeared on Time Saving Mom on December 12, 2016.

17 years ago, I received my first paper planner.  I was in 7th grade, still learning how to navigate the halls, find the right classroom and remember my locker combination.  I was in a new school and feeling a little nervous about all the new changes and experiences I was having.  My mom had just gotten remarried and we were living in a new house.  It might sound silly, but having a planner really helped me feel a sense of control in  my life when I didn’t feel like I had a lot of control in so many other areas.  Being able to organize my time and obligations in this way helped me stay grounded and created a calm space in my otherwise crazy life.
I am, by nature, a planner and organizer.  (If you read my interview post on TSM, I talk about it there.)  It comes easily to me and I often have people ask me how I’m able to keep things organized in a way that sems beyond their reach or understanding.  I tell them that I don’t do anything fancy–I just have a planner and I use it.  Granted, I’ve had a lot of practice over the years perfecting a system that works for me, but I truly think that anyone can use a planner successfully if they put their mind to it.  I think one key to this is finding a planner that you like and makes sense to you.
Today I’ll be sharing 4 tips on how I personally organize my planner to give you some ideas and a jumping off point for your own planning.  Plus, I’ve picked out 5 brands of pretty planners that will (hopefully) help motivate you to stay organize in the coming year.
Keep Your Planner Visible  If you want to remember something, one of the best ways to do it is to make it visible.  Put it in a place where you know you’ll see it.  This is why we’re told to put our goals, positive affirmations, quotes or anything else important some place like the bathroom mirror.  We know we have to go into the bathroom at some point during the day and we’ll see it.  Same thing goes for a planner.  I keep my planner in my kitchen next to my computer and pens.  A lot of my time is spent in that area of our house, so it makes sense to keep it there.  If something comes up that I need to write down, I know exactly where my planner is and I have pens readily available to make note of it.
Use Color Coding  When I first started using a planner, I just wrote everything down one right after the other.  It took me a little time to figure out that using different colors for different things helped me stay more organized because I was able to see exactly what I needed at a glance.  I’ve used both highlighters and colorful pens to keep things fun and help me stay organized: one color for appointments and things that are static (example: preschool for my daughter), another color for my to-do list and another color for anything that doesn’t fall into one of those two categories.  I recently changed to a new planner, so I don’t use color coding in terms of different pens, but I use stickers to help bring important things to my attention.
Plan Out Your Week Before It Starts  Each Sunday night, I pull out my planner and pen and plan out my week.  I’m able to view my entire week at a glance which gives me a starting point for what the week looks like.  I start with the non-negotiable items, such as appointments, meetings, preschool, and fill those in first.  Then I look at what needs to be accomplished that week and determine what has to be done on a certain day but maybe not a certain time.  Lastly, I add in flexible items that can be done at any time, trying to space out my time throughout the week so I have flexibility if anything else comes up.  When I start my week off this way, I feel more prepared and ready to face whatever is ahead.
Make It Fun  The last tip I have is to make it fun!  Gone are the days of boring planners with a solid colored cover and no pretty designs or colors inside.  I honestly believe that paper planners are here to stay because they are so much fun to use!  When I mentioned color coding above, I said that I use pens.  These are just pens you accidentally steal from the bank.  They are cute, fun, bright colors and a little higher quality.  I personally love these felt tip pens.  I even like to use double sided scrapbooking markers.  Just using something that is a little nicer makes me happy and more likely to use it.  I also love these and these stickers, which I use in my Happy Planner right now.
As promised, I’m including my 5 favorite brands of paper planners below.  Check them out and see which one you like best and order it!  Make a new goal for the new year to get organized and start with a pretty planner.
The Happy Planner  This is the planner I am currently using.  I got it when I went to Pinners Conference at the beginning of November and it is so much fun!  It’s like a cross between scrapbooking and planning and definitely falls into the pretty and practical category.  I use stickers to help me color coordinate and draw my attention to certain items.  I love the week at a glance, the motivational words scattered throughout and how easy it is to personalize.

Sugar Paper  This is the planner I just finished using.  I love the cute and simple covers they have to choose from and they are also thick and super durable.  The smaller 5×8 size is perfect for throwing in your purse or bag.  The inside is pretty basic but there are lots of lines for each day which I really like.
Blue Sky  I’ve used this brand of planner many times and love it.  The covers are fun and the inside has color and pattern as well.  It is also pretty basic in terms of how it’s set up but very easy to use and see what you have going for the current week.
Orange Circle  I’ve never used this brand, but just look how pretty it is!  I love the colors and designs they have available, plus they have inspiring quotes throughout to help motivate and uplift you.  We all need that!
Bloom Daily  This is another planner I’ve never personally used, but I just love the designs they have available.  Included in their planners are places for you to write down your monthly goals, as well as end of the month reflection questions.  A fun and unique planner for sure.
I hope you found my tips helpful and that you found a planner or two that you are interested in.  Paper planners are so fun and I love how you can use them to create a system that works for you and keeps you organized.  
What planner was your favorite?  What helps you stay organized?

Multi-Purpose Closet Organization

Simple tips to help organize those crazy multi purpose closets

When our home was first being built, my husband and I visited the site multiple times a week to check on the progress.  We were walking through one day during the framing phase and noticed what looked like a closet where we weren’t expecting one.  This was really exciting for us because you can never have enough closets!
After we moved in, we couldn’t decide what to put in this closet.  Over time though, it’s become a multi-purpose storage area.  Kind of like a junk drawer, but on a much larger scale.  (See how I organized ours HERE!)  It’s got crock pots (yes, multiple), an ice cream maker, rice maker and pressure cooker, as well as the kids playdough, coloring books, crayons/markers/pencils, educational workbooks and so on.  There is a ton of stuff in this closet!  As you can imagine, things can get a lot little disorganized.

Simple tips to help organize those crazy multi purpose closets

I opened it the other day to pull something out and had to move five things just to get what I wanted.  I decided I’d had enough.  I started pulling everything out of the closet and pretty soon my counter was full.  It gave me a chance to declutter, group similar items together and see what didn’t belong and needed to be moved.  Once that part was done, I determined that I needed more storage bins.

Bins are a great way to keep things looking organized and they aren’t very expensive.  I already had a couple of plastic ones and a couple of pink canvas ones I found at Target a few years ago.  Before I left to the store, I took a few pictures of the things that needed to go in bins so I could have a visual when I was there looking at the different sizes.  I also measured the height, length and depth of the shelves so I knew what size of bin to look for.  I spent about $10 on four more bins of various sizes at Walmart.

Simple tips to help organize those crazy multi purpose closets

When I got home, I moved the bigger items, like the small kitchen appliances, onto shelves since those obviously weren’t going in bins.  Then I used the bins I bought to organize the other things: kids craft supplies, small electronics, etc.  Before I started putting the rest away, I thought about what I had and the shelves I had and what made the most sense for me and my family.

Simple tips to help organize those crazy multi purpose closets

For example, I put the playdough, coloring books and kids games on the bottom shelf so that my kids could reach them easily.  However, I didn’t want them to be able to get into the crayons/markers/pencils, glue and scissors without my help so I put those on a higher shelf.  (This closet also has one of those childproof doorknobs so they need my help to get into the closet in the first place.)

Simple tips to help organize those crazy multi purpose closets

Simple tips to help organize those crazy multi purpose closets

Simple tips to help organize those crazy multi purpose closets

It was a little bit of a puzzle trying to get everything to fit without looking crammed.  Again, the bins helped with this.  When I was done, I took a step back and gave myself a pat on the back.  Multi-purpose closets aren’t easy to organize, but I think I did a pretty good job.

Simple tips to help organize those crazy multi purpose closets

Here are a few tips for organizing a multi-purpose closet:

  • Use bins!  This will make organizing so much easier because you are able to pull out one bin, find what you want and put it back in the closet.  In addition, it helps you keep only the things you want stored in the closet, in the closet.  If it doesn’t fit in one of your bins, get rid of it, or find somewhere else to store it.  (Obviously not everything can go in a bin, but you see my point.)
  • Think about who is using the closet.  For us, we have small children who need to have access to certain things and other things we don’t want to them to be able to get to.  Take this into account when placing your belongings.
  • Ask yourself this question: Does {fill-in-the-blank} belong in this closet or does it need to go somewhere else?

So there you have it!  I hope seeing what I did in our closet will inspire you in organizing your own!

How To Host a Successful Yard Sale

How To Host A Successful Yard Sale--10 tips for organizing, advertising and running a money-making yard sale

Each summer, my mom would hand us boxes or bags and tell us to go through our room and get rid of the things we no longer liked or used.  She also had us help with going through other rooms in the house.  Then we’d price the items we wanted to sell so we could put them in our yard sale.  We had to get up early on the day of the yard sale and help set up, try and sell things to our friends and then take it all down and give away anything that didn’t sell.  For as long as I can remember, we did this every single summer.  Even after I moved away to college, I could count on my mom holding a yard sale.  I learned how to let go of unwanted/unused items, how to price to sell, how to count change and many other skills.

So when my in-laws decided they wanted to sell the home they’d been in for 26 years and needed help getting rid of stuff, I volunteered to help sell it.  I had sold plenty of my own items using Facebook yard sale groups (a post I will do soon!) and knew I could help make them some money as they purged.  As their unwanted items continued to accumulate, I knew I was going to need to do a yard sale.  The thought kind of excited me because I love the challenge of selling things to others (although I am definitely not a sales person and could never be one).

For the last two weeks, I’ve had two words on my mind: yard sale.   Eat, sleep, breath, yard sale.  Eat, sleep, breathe, yard sale.  Slowly our garage filled up with all the things they wanted to get rid of.  Finally, this last weekend, I held a yard sale at my house and made over $1100.  How?  Let me tell you.

Advertise Like Crazy  If you’re going to spend the time that it takes to sort through your stuff, price it and set it all up in your yard, you better make sure that as many people know about your yard sale as possible.  I am part of 15+ Facebook yard sale groups and two neighborhood Facebook groups.  In addition, my city allows you to submit your yard sale information and they will post it in their yard sale listings for free.  So when it came time to let people know about the yard sale, I posted in every single yard sale group I belong to, the two neighborhood groups, the city listings and my personal Facebook page.  That is over 20 listings that expose 1000s of people to the date, time and location of my yard sale.  The day before the sale, I posted in each of the groups I just listed and also included pictures of some of the best items I was going to have for sale.  Items such as furniture, tools, baby clothes and home decor are great because people are always looks for good deals on those things.

*Extra Tip: Clean the items you’re selling to make them look as nice as possible, both before taking pictures and during the yard sale.  People will pay more for something if it looks clean.  Even if what you have is nice, if it is dusty or has cobwebs on it from being in storage, people won’t look as closely at it.  If they do look close, they might not want to pay as much as it’s worth because it’s dirty.

How To Host A Successful Yard Sale--10 tips for organizing, advertising and running a money-making yard sale

3 B’s: Big Signs, Big Words and Balloons
Part of advertising for a yard sale is making it as easy as possible for people to get to you.  This year, I bought two pieces of white poster board and three yard sale signs with a place to write my address on them from the dollar store, as well as balloons (all the same color).  During the summer, there are a lot of people who do yard sales.  If you want people to come to yours, you have to do two things: 1) get their attention and 2) tell them where to go.  When making a yard sale sign, I only include the following: the words YARD SALE (or MULTI-FAMILY YARD SALE or MOVING SALE), the date, the time and the address, and usually in that order.  Use black sharpie and make your words big and bold.  I generally write in all caps.  Don’t get fancy.  The mistake a lot of people make is trying to fit too much in a small area and then you can’t read anything because you don’t know what to focus on.  Give people the basic information they need to know and they will come.  Another way to get a person’s attention is balloons.  How often do you see balloons attached to a sign and wonder what it’s for so you look when you pass by?  Other people do the same thing.  Be consistent so people can follow your signs.  (This is why I use all the same color poster board, markers and balloons on each sign.)  Place your signs at crossroads (like a four way stop) and at the entrance(s) to your neighborhood.  Include arrows on your signs so they know which direction to go.

Organize Items Into Categories
This tip might sound like a no brainer, but if you’ve ever been to a yard sale where anything and everything is just thrown haphazardly onto tables or blankets, you know this is important.  Whenever I do my yard sales, I always put similar items together: home decor, tools, craft supplies, games/toys, holiday/seasonal, jewelry, kitchen, etc.  As I’m sorting and pricing, I try to keep the same things together in bins or boxes.  Then, a day or two before the sale, I set up tables in my garage and start sorting the bins/boxes into tables so I know exactly how much I have in each category.  This year, I had a ton of home decor stuff so I found that I needed two tables to display it.  Kitchen items also needed two tables.  Yard and tools needed one.  And so on.  Doing this makes set up go a whole lot smoother the morning of the sale.

How To Host A Successful Yard Sale--10 tips for organizing, advertising and running a money-making yard sale

Up Off the Ground
One of the best tips I can give for hosting your own yard sale is to borrow as many tables as you can.  I borrowed at least 12 from family and friends (in addition to the two I already had) and I still didn’t have as many as I would have liked.  The reason having tables is important is because stuff sells better when it’s on a table as opposed to the ground.  It displays better and it looks nicer.  When you couple this with organizing items into categories, you will have more people buying things because it’s easier to browse through and it’s more visible.  They don’t have to stoop down to sort through what you have.  Get your stuff off the ground.

Make Signs
Another nice touch is to make signs for each of the tables indicating what is on them.  Some people come to yard sales with specific categories they are looking to browse through.  If you make it easy for them to find what they are looking for, they may be more willing to buy what they find.  I’ve had plenty of customers come up and tell me they liked how organized everything was.  People will notice if you take the time to add little touches like signs for your tables.

Label Everything
This is definitely my least favorite part of prepping for a yard sale.  It takes a long time to label everything.  But if you decide not to label your items, you’ll be frustrated during the sale when you have people constantly coming up to you asking what the price is for this or that.  The only things I don’t label are clothes.  Instead I put the price on a sign: $1 for long-sleeve shirt, $.50 for pants, etc.  If you make signs for a group of items, be sure to have a list of the prices with you at checkout.

*Extra Tip: If you are hosting a group yard sale, I would suggest color coding or marking each label with the seller’s initials.  Section off a few pages in a notebook for each family/person participating in the yard sale.  Have the notebook with you at checkout.  Take off the price stickers as you total their purchase.  Then put each sticker in the notebook on the corresponding page.

Greet People When You See Them
If you’ve ever worked in retail, one of the most important things they teach you is to try and greet every person who walks in the doors.  The same goes for yard sales.  When you see someone come up, try and catch their eye and say ‘hi’ or ‘good morning/afternoon’.  It lets people know that you saw them come up and they will feel good they were recognized.

Make Friendly Conversation
I always make an effort to talk to the person who is checking out.  I will comment on the items they bought or compliment them on their shirt or purse or ask them what they plan to do with the item they purchased.  It (generally) puts people at ease and it passes the time while you are totaling up what they bought.  Smiling and being friendly will go a long way and people will feel good about their experience.

How To Host A Successful Yard Sale--10 tips for organizing, advertising and running a money-making yard sale

Sell Baked Goods and Drinks
If you have kids, and even if you don’t, selling baked goods and drinks at a little homemade stand just makes people feel more comfortable.  We had a lemonade and cookie stand at our most recent yard sale with a cooler full of soda pop and bottled water.  Last year, I had muffins and banana bread next to me at checkout and I had a lot of early morning shoppers buy some for their breakfast.  It’s an easy and inexpensive way to provide something that people want or need, especially on a hot day.  Plus, if you have cute kids manning the stand, you might get the neighborhood kids coming too!

Be Willing To Negotiate
It might be tempting to want to sell your things for exactly the price you marked them at, but when it comes down to it, you need to be willing to negotiate.  You have to get into the mindset that you put these things out in your yard to sell and if you want to get rid of them, you might have to take a little less than you’d like.  If it’s a decision between a few dollars and selling the item(s), just sell it for less.  For example, I had a family purchase a ton of stuff, mostly small items, but it was about $85.  This was a great deal for what they were getting.  They asked if they could get a discount for buying so much stuff.  I offered to knock off $5 and make it $80.  And then, rather than asking, “Is that ok?”, I said, “Does that seem fair to you?”  By forming the question this way, they had to think about what they were getting in proportion to what I was offering to do for them by lowering the price on already low priced items.  There are always exceptions of course.  We had a handful of things that I wasn’t willing to negotiate on.  One was a Christmas tree from Costco that my in-laws had bought for $350 and used it one year.  I had it marked at $75, which was a fantastic deal.  There were a few people who offered $40 or $50 but I turned it down because I knew the tree was worth more and I knew that if I didn’t sell it at the yard sale, I could sell it online through a Facebook yard sale group.

So there you have it!  My recipe for success!  While I can’t guarantee you’ll make $1000 at your next yard sale, I can tell you that if you follow these tips, you’ll have a much better chance of getting there.

**Also, if selling items online is your preference, or you just don’t have the space or enough items to host a sale, you can check out these great posts about how to sell your stuff online.  It’s a four part series which goes over the following:

Good luck! 

Mod Podge Notebook

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

If you are anything like me, you like notebooks.  Big, small, patterned, solid.  I’ve got them scattered around my house and at least three in my diaper bag.  You never know when you’re going to need to make a note or a list.  I’m also one of those people who really likes to write things down and I still have a daily planner.  (My husband buys me a new one every year at Christmas.)

And while deep down I know the purpose of a notebook is just to write things down, another part of me just loves pretty notebooks.  However, I don’t like spending an extra couple dollars just to have a pretty print or a cute quote on the front.  Do you feel the same?

So to make my notebooks cuter, I take advantage of my scrapbook paper fetish and use up some of it on an inexpensive notebook.  I’m sure you’ve seen the composition notebooks at the store.  I found mine at the local dollar store (Dollar Tree).  The front isn’t all that cute and they have these formulas and all sorts of random information on the inside covers that I don’t find useful or pretty.  So I just cover them up and personalize them.   

To make your own notebook, you will need the following:

  • composition notebook
  • mod podge
  • foam brush
  • scissors or paper trimmer
  • 12×12 scrapbook paper
  • vinyl (optional)
  • embellishments (optional)

The first step is to find the scrapbook paper you want to use.  If you’re doing this with a big group, I’d recommend either having everyone bring their own paper or to buy a big pad of 12×12 paper that has coordinating patterns and colors to take some of the guesswork out of it.  (I generally stick to 2-3 pieces of patterned paper.)  Decide which paper you want to use for your main pattern and which will be your accent for the binding.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

Cut the main paper in half so you have (2) 6×12 pieces.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

Lay the paper on the front of the notebook so there is about 1/2″ overhang on the far right side.  Crease the top and sides so you can see about where to place the paper once you get the mod podge on the notebook.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

Using a foam brush, spread the mod podge out on the front of the notebook only covering the area that the 6×12 will cover.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

Place the 6×12 paper on top of the notebook.  Be sure to smooth out the bubbles, working from the middle outward.  I have a little plastic tool I use, but you could also use a credit card/gift card to smooth it out.

From here you can do one of two things: 1) cut off the extra paper around the edges, or 2) fold the extra paper around the sides and mod podge it to the inside of the notebook.  I prefer the second option because I think it gives a cleaner look.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

Once the front is finished, repeat on the back cover of the notebook.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

For the binding, you will need to take the second paper you chose and fold it around the binding, making sure to overlap the main paper by about 1/4-1/2″.  Crease or mark the paper, then trim it to size.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

Brush the mod podge on the back of the notebook binding and the front of the notebook.  Then place the binding of the notebook on the paper first, then roll it onto the front.  This will help you center it.  Then mod podge the back of the notebook and fold the paper onto the back.  Again, make sure to press out the bubbles.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

Trim the overhanging paper on the top and bottom of the binding using scissors.  It’s easier to trim it if you open up the notebook.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

If the inside of your notebook has random formulas and grammar rules like mine did, you can cover those up by mod podging some plain white (or coordinating) cardstock onto the inside.  Easy peasy.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

From here, you can be done if you like how it looks, or you can add more embellishments.

I thought it looked a little plain so I just cut out a couple of words from vinyl using my Silhouette and I think it added just the right touch.

Mod Podge Notebook--A quick, easy and cute way to update a boring composition notebook!

These would make great gifts for family or friends to use as journal or to-do list notebooks.  Another cute idea is to use it as a notebook to pass back and forth between you and your child, writing letters or notes to each other.  You could make these for a craft night with your friends or local church group or even a girls camp craft.  Super easy and super inexpensive.

What would you use your notebook for?

Craft Room Organization {Using Chalkboard Labels}

Sunshine and Munchkins: Craft Room Organization {using Chalkboard Labels}--an easy way to quickly organize your craft room!

When my husband and I started to work on finishing the basement, my only request was: “Can I please have a craft room?”  Knowing how much craft stuff I have, and how much my husband dislikes when I spread it all over the kitchen counters, he made sure that I had a space dedicated to my craftiness.  (He still likes to call it an office, but we both know it’s really my craft room.)

Please note that I received product for my review.  All opinions are 100% mine.

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

I’m still working on getting it completely organized before I reveal it to you all, but one thing that needed some serious organizational help was my tall cabinet of craft drawers.  This was on my list of “must-haves” when I was designing the space. I purchased it from IKEA from their Alex collection.  I love how many drawers it has.  Seriously, this thing is a dream.  Oddly enough, this is also one of the things that makes it so hard to organize because I can never remember which drawer has what in it.  Half the time I need something I have to go through two or three drawers to find it.

Sunshine and Munchkins: Craft Room Organization {using Chalkboard Labels}--an easy way to quickly organize your craft room!

*UPDATE 4/7/2017 – The chalkboard labels used in this post are no longer available via Amazon.  I received some different chalkboard labels for my review and I am recommending these chalkboard labels instead (plus they come with 2 chalk markers).  I have replaced the links in this post with the new labels.

So when I was asked to review some chalkboard labels, I knew exactly where I wanted to use them: my craft room!  The labels come in a variety of shapes and sizes, making it so easy for me to pick just the right one out.  Plus, there were six sheets of chalkboard paper that I could cut out into any size or shape I wanted.  (My Silhouette Cameo would be perfect for that.)

Sunshine and Munchkins: Craft Room Organization {using Chalkboard Labels}--an easy way to quickly organize your craft room!

To write on the labels I used regular white chalk as well as these cool chalk pencils.  They look just like colored pencils and they sharpen just like colored pencils, but they are chalk.  It made writing the words out on the labels so much easier and more legible, plus it added a little bit of color and character, which I liked.  Another thing I really liked about these labels was that the chalk came off when I wiped it.  I had to redo a few of the labels to get them the way I wanted and each time it rubbed off great.

Sunshine and Munchkins: Craft Room Organization {using Chalkboard Labels}--an easy way to quickly organize your craft room!

When it came time to place the labels on the drawers, I pulled out my ruler (I only had to check two drawers before I found it) and measured the center so I had a good idea of where to place the label on each drawer.  Then I peeled them off and put them on each drawer, trying to bend the label a little towards the middle and then outward as it stuck.

Sunshine and Munchkins: Craft Room Organization {using Chalkboard Labels}--an easy way to quickly organize your craft room!

TA-DA!  I love the way it turned out!  So nice and organized and labeled.  (My husband even peeked in and said it looked good.)  Chalkboard labels are a great way to organize your craft room (or any room really).  I like that they are permanent in that they stay on the drawers, but provide flexibility to move things around if I need to change out what is in each drawer and just rewrite what’s on the label.  Easy peasy.

Sunshine and Munchkins: Craft Room Organization {using Chalkboard Labels}--an easy way to quickly organize your craft room!

What are your favorite ways to use chalkboard labels?

9 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time

9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

In a previous post, I talked about what I learned as I planned our family’s first vacation to Disneyland.  We went and had so much fun and now that we are back, I have more tips to share that will make your experience at the park even more magical and stress-free.

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

Prepare Snacks/Packs the Night Before  Going in, we knew we could take outside food into the park so we brought a ton of snacks with us from home.  This worked out great for us and we didn’t buy any snacks in the park besides a Dole Whip (yum!).  That being said, I wish we’d done a better job of prepping our snacks the night before or possibly even at home.  The next time we go, I’m going to bring a box of sandwich bags with us and portion out the snacks beforehand and put them in the bags we are taking to the park.  I feel like half of our morning was spent getting ourselves ready and the other half was spent getting snacks into bags and sandwiches made and into coolers before we walked out the door.  It would have made our mornings run so much more smoothly if we’d done just a little more prep.

Lots of Snacks
As a kid vacationing with my parents, I remember them telling us to eat a big breakfast before we left for whatever it was we were doing that day so that we’d be full.  I was a growing girl and I liked food, so eating a lot wasn’t a problem for me, but my metabolism was.  About two hours after my huge breakfast, I would be hungry and asking for something else to eat.  When we were looking for a hotel this time around, we wanted to stay somewhere that had a continental breakfast so we could try and fill up before heading into the park.  My kids are pretty good eaters, but even so, they didn’t eat a ton at breakfast and I knew they’d be hungry sooner than later.  We literally lived off of snacks during our time at the park.  (You can find a huge list of snack ideas in this post!)  We didn’t want to spend $5 on a small bag of popcorn or $2 on a banana.  So we packed up our little cooler with sliced apples, sandwiches, granola bars, peanuts, fruit snacks, raisins, applesauce, goldfish…and it would be gone by the time we went back to the hotel for a rest and nap time.  Then we’d load it all up again for when we went back later that day.  With the exception of a few things, all the snacks we had were brought from home, which saved us a lot of money.  This is a benefit of driving versus flying (which I discussed in my planning for Disneyland post).

9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

Bring A Variety of Flavored Water
A great tip I learned while planning our trip is that you can ask any restaurant or drinking station with fountain drinks for a cup of ice water or to fill up your bottle.  We went into the park with full water bottles/sippy cups and we filled them up throughout the day.  But here’s the thing: I got kind of tired of drinking just water.  Not all the water we got was cold (like from drinking fountains) and after sitting in our bags in the hot sun, it got pretty warm and not very refreshing.  My husband ended up going to a local Walmart and picking up some Vitamin Waters for us to drink and let me tell you: it was a lot easier to down an entire bottle of that than it was a bottle of lukewarm water.  The next time we go to Disneyland, or any other theme park, I’m going to bring some of the individual packets of flavor crystals, like Crystal Light, or the liquid flavors, like Mio, to put in our waters.  I know my kids will drink an entire juice box in a matter of minutes, but getting them to drink that much water in the same amount of time can be hard.  We went during the second week of October and with humidity it was at least 90 degrees.  Staying hydrated is essential.

Getting to the Park
Parking at Disneyland is expensive.  It costs $17 per day!  So when we were planning our trip, we chose a hotel that was close enough to the park that we had the option to walk or take the shuttle.  We tried out both options to see which we liked better.  On our first day, we hopped on the shuttle in the morning and it took us 7-10 minutes to get to the park.  However, it took us 20 minutes to get back to our hotel in the afternoon because we found out that it was one of the last stops on its route.  After the kids had rested up, we decided to walk to the park and see if we preferred that over the shuttle.  It was later in the day and cooler and we made it to the gates in 12-15 minutes.  The second day, we walked each time and didn’t ride the shuttle at all.  My recommendation would be to find out what your options are for any of the hotels you are interested in staying at.  I simply called the hotel’s front desk and asked them.  Some hotels offer complimentary shuttles, while others don’t.  For us, the fee to ride the shuttle one-way was $3 for adults and $1 for kids while a day pass was $5 for adults and $2 for kids, with multi-day discounts.

9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

Strollers and Stroller Parking
Bringing our double-stroller with us was one of the best decisions we could have made.  We have a Sit n’ Stand by Baby Trend and love it.  It held both kids, our cooler, my diaper bag, drinks, sweatshirts and anything else we needed to throw in.  The kids were in and out of it throughout the day, eating snacks or resting or riding as we moved between rides/parks.  At night, they both fell asleep in it as we walked back to the hotel.  If you’re debating about bringing a stroller, just do it.  You will be glad you did.  (If bringing your own stroller isn’t an option, you can also rent strollers at the park.)  You can also check out this link for some other great car seat and stroller combos.

One other tip about strollers:  There are various places around the park for you to park your stroller, generally around the fences by the rides.  I was a little worried about leaving my bag and other items but I didn’t have any problems with my stuff being taken.  We did have a couple of times where we couldn’t find our stroller but it was because it had been moved by a cast member.  If you come up to a place where you see cast members moving strollers around, you can ask them if there is a spot they’d prefer you put your stroller so it doesn’t get moved around and it’s easier for you to find when you come back to get it.

Download the Official Disneyland App
A friend of mine who has annual passes for her family highly suggested downloading the official Disneyland app on our phones.  This app gives information on wait times for rides, the location of characters and restrooms, dining locations and menus, parade and event information and photo passes.  My husband and I both downloaded it on our phones before we went into the park and referred to it multiple times throughout the day.  It was especially helpful when my daughter all of a sudden said she needed to use the bathroom and we needed to find one quickly.  It was a lot faster than trying to look information up on our phones and much more efficient.  (If you want to keep it on your phone after you leave Disneyland, it’s a fun way to show your kids where Mickey Mouse or their favorite princess is.)

9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

Special Visit Buttons
I read about special visit buttons you can get for free at Disneyland when I was planning our trip.  They have First Visit, Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary and others.  According to what I read, you could pick them up at the Guest Services building.  When I went to go pick some up, there was a 10 minute wait at Guest Services, but the cast member told me that I could go to any store and ask for one.  I’m sure I read this somewhere, but I didn’t remember.  I had to stop by a couple of stores because they had already run out and it was only 9am.  So if you want one, try and get it first thing when you get to the park.

Also, if you’re child is wearing their button in the park, the cast members and characters generally try to make a point of saying something about it which makes it even more special for them.

9 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Going to Disneyland the First Time--great tips that will help you plan your vacation more thoroughly!

Visiting with Characters
Princesses: My daughter specifically wanted to see as many princesses as possible on our trip so I tried to find out as much as I could about seeing them before we got there.  There are two places where you will be most likely to find princesses: at the Royal Hall (to the left of the castle) and by the Snow White fountain (to the right of the castle).  If your child wants to see Anna or Elsa, you will only be able to visit them at California Adventure, but there are a couple of shows you can watch them in within the Disneyland side of the park.

Other Characters: By using the Disneyland app, we were able to find different characters whereabouts in each park.  There is always a cast member close by the line if you have any questions about the character you are going to see.  For example, a couple of times we got in line to see the character that was there, but the cast member told us that if we got in line that we’d be seeing a different character, or if we wanted to see that same character they told us when they would be back at that location.  Another time we got in line to see a character and the cast member told us that that particular character would be leaving but that another character would be coming at a different location so we could get in line there.  It was so nice to know ahead of time if we’d actually be seeing the characters we were getting in line for because then we could choose if it was someone we wanted to see.

*Note: If a character is out in one park, he won’t be out in another park.  For example, we saw Goofy in Disneyland so we knew that he wouldn’t be out in California Adventure.  Disney is very good about being consistent this way and not having the same character out in more than one park or at more than one location of the same park.

Take Time to Rest
Since we have small children (ages 3.5 and 18 months at the time of our trip), we planned out a portion of each day as a time to rest/take a nap at our hotel.  I know some kids who can sleep anywhere and others who need to have a quiet room.  My kids fall into the latter group.  So around 1pm we went back to the hotel.  Even though we missed out on about 3 hours of time at the park each day, by allowing our kids (and ourselves) time to rest, we were able to stay a little later at the park and our kids were much happier.  Plus, it was pretty hot during the day so we avoided some heat exhaustion by staying cool during those times.

*Note: We had a two day pass which we used consecutively, but you don’t have to do it that way.  Disney allows you to use your tickets for 13 days after the first visit.  This means we could have visited two times within a two week period since we had a two day pass.  Same thing goes for a 3, 4 or 5 day pass–you can use up your days any time within 13 days of the first use.  So if you have the time, you can definitely break it up a little so you don’t get burnt out.

What advice would you give to someone going to Disneyland for the first time that you wish you’d known beforehand?