Frugal Living Interview

Stephanie O'Dea

When you read Stephanie O'Dea's blog, Totally Together Journal , you can't help but feeling like you know her and you like her so much! Her easy manner and sense of humor makes her feel like she's your best friend. It is so much easier to take advice from an 'expert' that you feel comfortable with, don't you think? But don't let it fool you - Stephanie is a home organization guru!

I am pleased to welcome Stephanie O'Dea to Frugal Living Now today to share with us some of her secrets for being Totally Together!

1. Hi, Stephanie, thank you for joining us today! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog, Totally Together Journal .

I thought of making a daily planner for moms when I was working full-time with my 6-month old in tow running child care centers. I loved being able to work with my baby, and found that the only way I could keep on top of all of my professional, personal, and mommy to-do lists was to write them all down in a page-a-day calendar. Excited, I emailed the Franklin Covey company, and did hear back from their product development division, but nothing ever came from that email exchange. A few years later, I dug out my notes while in the midst of a move (we had 2 little ones by then!) and was inspired to hunt for an agent and publisher. I was able to secure both, but the publisher decided to not go ahead with publication, which really bummed me out. I had already started the blog to help promote the book, and have decided to try my hardest to keep it going.

I'm also the author of Make it Fast, Cook it Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slowcooking based upon my New Year's Challenge to use a slow cooker every day in 2008. I really like helping busy families in any way I can, and the slow cooker is a no-brainer when it comes to quick, easy, nutritious and low-cost meals. This book is doing quite well, and is enjoying a third week on the New York Times Best Seller's list!

2. I think a lot of moms can relate to your dilemma of wearing what often feels like too many hats to be able to organize all those jobs without going crazy. How did you come up with your organizing solutions?

I think it's okay to acknowledge that you're going crazy once in a while, and that's when you need to enlist help. It's okay to enforce rules around the house for your children (and spouse!) to tidy up after themselves, and to help with meal-planning and household organization. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, it's usually because I've tried to take too much on, and need a bit of a break. Sending the kids to a neighbor for a while, or sending my husband to the store helps big time. I like delegation. As for coming up with organizing solutions, nothing I've come up with is really ground-breaking. I like shortcuts, and I like getting things done and over with as soon as possible so I can move on to bigger and better things (or a nap. :-) ). If something works for me and my family, we do it. If it's too much work or a bother, we chuck it out and brainstorm how to better accomplish the task at hand.

3. How has your life changed since you decided to write about organization?

I don't think it has. The slow cooker site and book has been more life-altering, because now I spend the good majority of my day answering emails from readers.

4. I especially like your bathroom wipe down idea for keeping your house clean (enough) day by day. What is your favorite time-saving (or sanity-saving) tip?

I like the bathroom wipe-down, too. I also try to use "found time" to quickly tackle a chore while waiting for the coffee pot to brew, the microwave to beep, or while on a phone call. I'll flip the laundry, wipe down the table/countertop with a cleaning wipe, or return stray shoes to their rightful spot. I also tend to look around a room each time I leave it to gather up what doesn't belong. Usually it's my "missing" coffee cup!

5. I notice that your meal plan even includes snacks. How much do you actually stick to your plans? Do your children ever complain about what you have planned for a particular meal or snack?

If I post the meal plan on the fridge, we stick to it, down to the snacks. Sometimes we'll swap a snack here or there, especially if we're running low on something, or if I didn't make a fresh batch of edamame. During the slow cooker challenge, it was very tough to stick to our scheduled meal plan, and things kind of fell apart. During this past pregnancy, things fell apart, too. I look forward to a bit more consistency in this new year. My children don't complain about the snacks or lunches, since they help prepare our meal plans, and we tend to stick to tried-and-true favorites. They are a bit more hesitant to try new food for dinner, but are getting much, much better.

6. With all your other responsibilities, how much time do you spend each week working on your blogs?

I work full-time answering email and writing, both on the blogs and for freelance opportunities. I'm never too far away from the computer. If I go a few days without answering email, it piles up and I am uncomfortable not responding to questions as soon as I can.

7. What is the status of your book, Totally Together? I followed a link to and it gives the option to sign up to be notified when it becomes available. Are you going ahead with publication?

I am actively seeking publication, either in a journal/planner format or in a traditional book.

8. Thanks again for the interview, Stephanie! Are there any last words of advice that you would like to share with our readers?

Thanks to you! I don't really have any sage advice----I'm learning as I go along. I do seem to do better when I take a step back and realize that life is short, the kids are only little once, and nothing ever really is the end of the world. I really like cliches. :-) Happy 2010!

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