A Proven System to Eliminate Clutter and Organize your Life – THE BIN.

(This is an updated post from a few years ago. Most of the system has remained the same, but we have made a few improvements to include more positive reinforcements).

At the Ronne homestead we employ many systems in order to maintain some level of functionality for the family and for the parent’s sanity. The bin system is by far the most useful and consistent tool we use as it has been in place from almost day one of our blended family. This is a system that I grew up with (as the oldest of 10 children) and loathed with every cell of my being as a child. Funny how it made its way into my grownup family as well.

The bin (or the brown box that I grew up with) is just a plastic container that holds the children’s misdemeanors for the week. The system starts with a six dollar allowance for each of the children (minus Luke and Annabelle.) They do their daily chores for this money. The majority of these chores occur on Saturday morning and take each child approximately an hour – if they’re getting to it and not screwing around. These chores do not change. Weekly changes became too overwhelming and stressful – mainly for the mom – so we determined who was good at what and that’s what they got for all of eternity. For example, take Mya. She has to clean her room, put her clothes away, and clean the kitchen every Saturday morning.

Each child also has a nightly chore such as wash the table, set the table, take the trash out, sweep the floor, etc. If they don’t do a chore well, or they forget to do it altogether, or they need multiple reminders, they get a ticket (a sticky note with their offense and their name scribbled on it). These tickets are placed in the bin, and they are worth a quarter.

Throughout the week if the kids leave items lying around after bedtime: socks, shoes, clothes, scissors, whatever, those go in the bin. If there is a character problem such as back talking or saying a bad word or hitting (worth a $1.00) or lying (also worth $1.00), these are also tickets that go in the bin. You get the point, the premise is that each item or ticket comes out of their allowance at the end of the week. However, they can also earn plus tickets for kind behavior or for doing an extra job and those are also worth a quarter or more if it’s a bigger job.

Every Friday I go through the bin and sorts out six piles, one for Caleb, one for Tate, one for Mya,  one for Mabel, one for Josh, and one for Jada. Each one’s allowance is then calculated according to how many tickets or items they have in the bin, and they have to immediately put their stuff away when they come home from school. But the system doesn’t end there. Ryan and I were recently frustrated because the kids seemed to be content with making a quarter at the end of the week, and they didn’t seem at all motivated to make their full allowance for some reason. We decided to implement some positive reinforcement by introducing family movie night/ice cream sundae bar on the same Friday where they learn how much wealthier (or not) they are.  Caleb, Tate, and Mya have to earn half of their allowance ($3.00) to participate and the younger three (Mabel, Josh and Jada) need to earn $2.00 to participate. This has been a game changer. Rarely do we have a child who doesn’t make it, and if they don’t make it one week, we see a huge difference in numerous weeks after.

Finally, one last component. We used to have a little shop in a closet where we would keep dollar store and clearance items for the younger kids to purchase with their allowance, but it seemed to lose its appeal as they aged. Now, they can either cash out their allowance or they have the option to save up $10.00 worth and then shop on Amazon. This might not seem like a big deal to you urbanites reading but to our rural children who don’t have many opportunities to shop, it is a huge perk to get something special in the mail.

That’s it. The Bin in a nutshell. I rarely have to nag about picking up junk or cleaning up attitudes, and if there is something out at the end of the day, it goes in the bin. If someone is back talking, I write a ticket, and the problem comes to a screeching halt pretty quickly. I save my voice (and my sanity), the kids learn responsibility, and the house gets semi-clean once a week. How do you keep order? I’d love to hear about it and maybe implement another system – why not?

Just keep livin!

Healthier Chicken N` Dumplings Recipe

Simmering away and filling the house with deliciousness, my healthier take on a classic – chicken n’ dumplings. This version includes bone broth, organic chicken, a plethora of herbs, and lots and lots of fresh veggies.

Chicken N’ Dumplings

5 organic chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
Variety of fresh veggies (carrots, mushrooms, celery, leeks, even spinach, whatever you have on hand) roughly chopped.
Olive oil
Italian spice
Vege Sal
1 tea thyme
Salt if you must but the Vege Sal does a great job of seasoning if you let it.
Pepper to taste
2 cups water
6 cups bone broth (or vegetable or chicken broth)
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups all purpose flour
2 TB baking powder
1 cup plus 2 tea almond milk (or any kind of milk)
1 tea salt

(Feeds my crew of ten without any leftovers)

In a big pot (ceramic or cast iron ideally) heat the olive oil. Add the chicken pieces and coat liberally with Vege Sal and Italian herbs. Cook until browned on all sides and then remove to a plate. Add a little more olive oil to the pot and cook all of the veggies along with the thyme for about ten minutes or so. Return the chicken to the pot and add the wine. Cook for a minute or so stirring. Add the bone broth and water. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer for a few hours or all day long. Before serving, combine flour, baking powder, milk and salt. Scoop dollops of the mixture on top of the stew. Cover and cook on medium high for 15-20 minutes or until dough is no longer gooey. Enjoy!

Chocolate Cheese Recipe

Ryan and I enjoyed a wonderful, romantic dinner together on Valentine’s Day.  We don’t have the opportunity to travel far on most holidays or special occasions because of Annabelle, and since we only have two restaurants that we enjoy within about a ten mile radius of our home, Ryan suggested that we hire Mya to take care of Annabelle in the basement while he and I cook together.  We indulged in salad, pasta, bread, and one of our favorite, easy, desserts – dark chocolate cheese.  Sadly, we were too full from all the pasta, bread, and salad to even indulge in our dessert that evening.  No worries, we ate it the next day.  Here’s the recipe (if you can even call it that) for this decadent dessert.

1.     8 ounces of mascarpone cheese.

2.     Two cups of dark chocolate

In a double boiler or a make shift double boiler (glass bowl in a sauce pan with boiling water) melt the cheese and the chocolate together.  Pour into 4 ramekins.  Refrigerate until cool.  Enjoy!

(This constitutes as a “healthy” dessert because of the dark chocolate – in case you were wondering).

Just keep livin!

Healthier Cornbread Recipe

Okay, so I made cornbread for the first time ever (not including those cheap Jiffy boxes) the other night to go with some turkey chili, and my kids loooooved it.  I made the regular, high calorie, non healthy version full of butter and sugar because I was a little worried that they might moan and groan about the turkey chili, and I wanted to give them a good incentive to finish dinner.  A few days later leftover chili was on the menu so I attempted a healthy spin on the cornbread recipe. Only one kid (the one with super sensitive taste buds) noticed the difference, and she called me out on the coconut taste – which was the coconut oil I substituted in place of some of the butter (not all of the butter).  Here it is.  Completely approved by all the kids.


Healthier Cornbread.

1/4 melted butter

1/4 melted coconut oil

Mix these two together in a big bowl.

Add 1/4 cup plus 2 TB Maple syrup to the butter/oil mixture. Stir well.

Cool this mixture.

Add 2 eggs, 1/2 tea baking soda, and 3/4 cup almond milk to the same bowl. Mix well.  Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup corn meal, 1/2 tea salt.  Mix again.

Grease a large cast iron skillet with coconut oil.  Pour mixture into the skillet and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.