Life Your Way blogger Mandi Ehman gives advice on running an efficient, happy home

April 25, 2012

From where she lives (rural West Virginia) to what brand of laundry detergent she uses (Tide), Mandi Ehman and her husband make choices to provide their family with an organized home, money to spare, and rich quality time. A mother of four girls, Ehman, 30, has long championed what she calls “intentional and creative living.”

In 2009, the Montgomery County native started sharing her ideas with readers on her blog, Life Your Way, and now you can find her tips in her new book, “All in Good Time: When to Save, Stock Up and Schedule Everything for Your Home” (Berkley: Penguin Group, $15), written with Tara Kuczykowski, founder of the blog Deal Seeking Mom.

The authors focus on the timing of life’s chores, so that readers can buy bedding at its lowest prices and tidy up the house at the best hour of the day.

We quenched our curiosity for more time-saving strategies and spoke with Ehman from her home.

When it comes to creating a clean and organized home, why does timing matter?


Mandi Ehman, author of “All in Good Time: When to Save, Stock Up and Schedule Everything for Your Home.” (Renay Hartman)

Doing things at certain times saves you time and money. If you stock up on frozen foods at the right time, you don’t have to clip coupons or go to five different grocery stores. Or if you take time before Christmas or before a birthday party to declutter the toys, it’s a lot easier to fit those new toys in.

What are your daily strategies for clutter control?

We clean up almost every night so it’s not building on top of yesterday’s clutter; it’s just today’s clutter. We can get it cleaned up in 30 minutes and the house is as good as new.

What’s your favorite timesaving strategy for decluttering?

Set a timer, and say that I am going to declutter for 15 minutes today. Go through a drawer in your kitchen and say, “Which of these utensils have I not touched in the last six months?” Do it slowly and don’t try to force yourself to get rid of everything at once.

How does having less stuff save you money?

Being organized can pave the way to spending less money because you know what you have and what you need.

The book’s home tips are organized by room. Let’s talk about the kitchen: How do you keep the counters clean and the fridge full?

Create zones in your kitchen. You have your coffee pot here — you should have your coffee mugs and your coffee nearby. At the end of the day, almost all of my advice comes down to ‘just have less stuff.’ You don’t need an individual tool for every little thing out there.

One of your kitchen-cleaning strategies is to clean the fridge before you go grocery shopping.

Who wants to deal with that when you get home and have bags everywhere? I take time to clean it out and reorganize, and wipe down the shelves. Then, when I come home, things can be put away right away.

How do you keep your grocery bill down?

Decide when brand names are worth it to your family. I try the generic brand once so that we know why we’re paying more for something. I also love to shop at Amazon.com because you can buy in bulk and sometimes even save money over warehouse stores. We love Amazon so much that we started a blog to share deals that we find, called Jungle Deals [www.jungledealsandsteals.com].

As for the other rooms of the house, what are some of the best ways to save on decorating?

Shop the holiday clearance sales to look for neutral decor — browns and tans at Thanksgiving; whites and reds at Christmas — that you can use in your home year-round. I recommend shopping thrift stores. Curbly.com has really great tutorials on things you can redo, from furniture to a vase. And look for multipurpose items: an ottoman that becomes storage, a dress that can be a tunic as a little girl grows older, so that you’re not purchasing as many things.

But the easiest way to save money is just not to shop.

For those who are overwhelmed by disorganization, how should they get started?

Having my bed made up makes a big difference to my day. Identifying those pressure points and starting there is a really good way to feel more in control. You’ll feel better, and then you’re more motivated to tackle other areas.

What are the biggest obstacles to organizing your home and getting rid of excess clutter?

If you think you’re doing it because you’re supposed to, and not because you really want to. I have a friend who has four sons and three of them play hockey, so she is not thinking about organizing right now, because they’re gone to hockey practice four nights a week. For her, spring cleaning might come in June when things slow down.

As for the other rooms of the house, when are the best times of the year to decorate or redecorate?

I think it’s more about just being patient and being willing to wait for the right piece at the right price and asking for discounts. And stores like Target have such quick trends, so you can shop their clearance aisle for stuff that was on their shelves yesterday.

Roberts is a freelance writer in McLean.

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