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December 31, 2011

Six Ways to Turn Your Resolutions into Realities

As the new year approaches, have your thoughts turned to setting New Year’s resolutions? As someone whose life is centered around helping others create change, I find January to be the most exciting time of the year. It’s time to wipe the slate clean and start anew. It’s time to leave the old and turn your thoughts to creating change. If you’ve set resolutions in the past, only to find your enthusiasm fading a few days into January, there are simple things you can do to make this year different. 


Following are techniques you can use to transform your resolutions into realities. These strategies are things you can do on your own and they’re also built into simplify 101’s online workshops. I hope you enjoy reading about these ideas, but most of all, I hope you use them to create exciting, positive change in your life in the months ahead! Here’s how to do it. 


Tap into what you really want. Is your typical resolution list a list of things you should do instead of a list of things you want to do? Give yourself permission to dream about what you truly want. Maybe you’ve grown tired of the clutter in your home, or the stress of the morning routine as you and your family race around looking for homework papers, backpacks or something clean to wear. Or perhaps you keeping wishing for a new job, or you dream about eating healthier, getting in shape or going on a tropical vacation.



Regardless of the nature of your dream, the first step in making your resolutions a reality is to listen to those little whispers (or loud shouts) that are telling you what you really want. Capture those dreams in a journal or simply jot them down on a piece of paper. 


simplify 101’s online workshops include worksheets and exercises to help you become crystal clear about your goals for the workshop and the changes you want to make in your home and life. I share a simple formula you can use to create an ultra-compelling goal statement that motivates you to take steps forward. 


Focus on fewer things to create more lasting results. If your New Year’s resolution list typically looks like a laundry list of every single thing you’d like to change about yourself and your life, try a new approach this year. Focus on just one or two meaningful changes. You’ll create results more quickly and those results are more likely to stick. Last year, for example, I started the year by adding just one more workout session to my weekly routine. And guess what—I’m still doing it! If you start to want to do it all now, say this mantra to yourself:  Fewer things. More results.


Our online workshops are designed to help you stay focused on fewer things, so you create lasting results. In Organizing 101, you start with one small organizing project—so you’re certain to start and finish during the course of the workshop, and then you put together a plan for tackling the rest of your projects—one at a time. 


Decide to do it! Once you’ve created a list of things you want, the next step is to decide that you’re going to do it! Deciding is the difference between saying “I wish I was more organized” and “I am getting more organized!” Once you’ve decided to do it, cement your decision by doing something that shows your commitment.  Tell a friend about your resolution. Or join a simplify 101 workshop and share your decision with me and the online community. By deciding, and then going public with your decision, you’ll motivate yourself to take action. 


Give yourself permission to ask for help. As someone who is very independent, I know this one is tough. But asking for help is truly an empowering thing to do. So if you don’t have all the answers about how to accomplish your goal, or there’s something that you know for sure is standing in your way, reach out for the resources, ideas and people you need to get moving. Help can come in many forms. You could research ideas online, read a book, take a class, ask a friend for help, or work with a coach or mentor. Regardless of the form of assistance you choose, you will get where you want to be more quickly and you’ll enjoy the process more, too. Last year’s goal to start a new weekly exercise class is a terrific example. My instructor inspired me to work harder than I ever would have worked while exercising at home alone, and as a result, I felt better and got in better shape much faster than I would have on my own. 


Simplify 101’s online workshops include great information AND access to the expert who created the content. This means you’ll get answers to your questions, stay motivated, and achieve your goals! 


Take action now! Here’s another mantra for you:  Action creates change! So the sooner you begin taking steps in the direction of your goal, the sooner you’ll cross the finish line! So why not start right now? You don’t have to figure out every single detail before you get started. Instead, figure out one or two steps you could take, and then just take them. As you move forward, you’ll create momentum and enthusiasm, which means all the steps to come become easier and easier to take. Believe me, the hardest workout class I went to in 2011 was the very first one. (I was sore for four days!) Every single class after that was easier, because I had the confidence that I could do it! As you take action, you’ll gain confidence, and the next steps forward will become easier and easier to see and accomplish. 


simplify 101’s online workshops are designed to make it simple to take action! Every workshop includes straightforward action steps you can take right away, as soon as you’re finished reading each lesson. Plus you can share your progress with the online community, which means you’ll feel accountable to move forward, and you’ll be inspired by what your classmates are doing, too.  


Build your goal into your schedule. Regardless of the goal you’re going after, you’ll be (much, much!) more likely to achieve it if you make it a part of your regular routine. Decide when you will work on your organizing projects, or go to the gym or search for that new, fulfilling job. When I think about my new exercise habit, there are many reasons I was able to make this change stick. But one of the biggies is that I found a way to fit fitness into my schedule. My workout class happened to be at exactly the same time as my daughter’s Saturday Taekwondo class, which meant it was simple to fit the class into my regular routine. As you consider the changes you’d like to make in 2012—whether it’s to get more organized or go after another goal—carve out time in your schedule to make it happen.




Our online workshops always fit your schedule. You don’t have to be online at any set time to take a simplify 101 workshop. Instead, once a lesson is released, you can log in and access the lesson materials any time that works for you—day or night!


So there you have it, six simple and effective techniques you can use to transform your resolutions into realities in 2012! I wish you the happiest of new years and much success on your journey to your goals.


 P.S. We’ve also made our online workshops risk-free to try. Check out our cancellation policy, and then, sign up for a workshop! Let’s make 2012 the best year yet!  

December 30, 2011

It's a Fabulous Freebie Friday

I’m so, so excited about today’s Freebie Friday. I think this product is one of the biggest things to hit the scrapbook world in years. And it was created by a scrapbooker who, when I first started scrapbooking, inspired me like no one else. Maybe you can guess who and what it is?  


Well, the product is Project Life, created by the amazing Becky Higgins. Super exciting right? I remember getting Becky’s book Scrapbooking Secrets and literally reading it from cover to cover the day it arrived. I also remember being so excited about scrapbooking that I couldn’t sleep that night—I tossed and turned, totally inspired and excited to scrapbook! (There are very few books in my life that have kept me up tossing and turning in a good way! This book was special.) 


The thing about scrapbooking, though, is that often it’s hard to keep up with all of our great ideas and record all the memories we want to record. Life happens, and sometimes it becomes difficult to fit in traditional scrapbooking. And that is what is so awesome about Project Life. As Becky’s website says…


Project Life simplifies the process of scrapbooking with a back-to-basics approach - focusing on pictures, stories, and the "stuff" of life. This simple format requires no skill - only your pictures and a pen. Our mission is to inspire you to document your life - no matter what your style or life situation. Putting pictures + stories together in Project Life makes us more aware of our blessings and encourages us to cultivate a good life.


Who doesn’t want that, right? So if you aren’t a scrapbooker currently, or you’re a scrapbooker that is looking for simplified approach to memory keeping, Project Life is for you. 


What first drew me to scrapbooking were two things:  

1) Getting my photos organized into albums so my family and I could enjoy them. And, 

2) Marrying photos with stories. Something magical happens when you tell the story behind a photo. 


Project Life makes it so much simpler for me to achieve these goals because it takes out the part of the scrapbooking process that I struggle with most—figuring out how to get photos and stories to coexist in a beautiful fashion on a 12 x 12 page. (Or in other words, it’s laying out the page that stops me in my tracks.) Project Life removes my stumbling block from the scrapbook equation. It includes divided page protectors for your photos and journaling cards. No more shuffling stuff around a blank 12 x 12 page for hours and hours on end. Hooray! 


So, perhaps you’re sensing my enthusiasm for this product? It truly is that great. And what’s even better is that you have the chance to win some of your very own Project Life goodies! Here’s what’s up for grabs…


Project Life Giveaway Postcard

The winner will receive all they need to complete their own album - a core kit, a coordinating binder, and 5 packages of the Design A Photo Pocket Pages. The winner will be able to choose any one of the 4 different editions of Project Life that are currently available. 


Here’s how to enter for your chance to win Project Life.

1) Leave a comment sharing why you need Project Life to help you organize your photos in 2012. And / or...

2) For a second chance to win, mention this giveaway post with a link on Twitter or Facebook. Then, leave a comment here telling me where you mentioned this giveaway. And / or...

3) For a third chance to win, like simplify 101 on Facebook. Then, leave another comment here telling me that you did.


Please note that the giveaway is available to U.S. residents only. Comments will stay open through Wednesday, January 4th at 9 PM Central, and the winner will be announced on the January 5th!  Good luck!


** comments are now closed. thanks for entering! **

Happy Friday!

Well my friends, this is it—the last Friday of 2011! Do you have big plans for welcoming in the New Year? We’re going to celebrate at home with a nice dinner, crackling fire, and maybe a good movie. It will be quiet and relaxing…and I’m really looking forward to it. But before we get to that (or maybe after) there are some things to get done! Here are my lists: 

Checklist-copyright-simplify101Play List

  • Boot camp. My cold is gone, so I’m going back in for another week of boot camp. Woohoo! It feels so good to be heading into a new year with a good fitness habit built into my routine. I’m looking forward to adding more fitness in 2012.
  • New Year’s Eve celebration. Really looking forward to a relaxing end to 2011 and start to 2012.


To Finish

  • Freebie Friday post. That’s right—I’ve got a super fun Freebie Friday later today. So be sure to come back and enter!
  • Laundry. I’m in good shape right now—I’ve been doing laundry throughout the week. It really seemed to multiply last weekend. So this week the goal is just to do a couple of loads and start the week with empty hampers. (I love starting the week with empty hampers. Weird, right?)
  • January’s Get Organized Checklist. Keep your eyes out for that this weekend!
  • Put away the holiday decorations and take down the tree. 
  • Take care of a few more returns. 
  • Finish 2011 bookkeeping. We’re in really good shape—just a few little missing pieces to get into place. Hooray! It always feels good to have that done. 


So…it will be a mix of busy activity and relaxation on Saturday night. I hope you have a terrific weekend, and a safe and happy New Year!


P.S. Are you excited about creating change in the New Year, like I am? Join me in the online workshop How to Achieve Your Goals + Create a Life You Love! It’s a January tradition here at simplify 101 and I’d love to have you join in the fun this year. Tap into the power of goals and see how much fun it is to create a life you love!


December 28, 2011

Running Towards the Finish Line

A few weeks ago, Aby and I were talking about the beauty of being part of simplify 101’s online workshops, and it hit us both how much this is like running. You probably know that Aby is a runner. And if you’re around my husband for any amount of time, he’ll find a way to proudly tell you that I’m a runner, too. For me, it’s a harder to say that, and I’ll be honest with you – it makes me feel a little tingly! See, up until 15 months ago, I absolutely, positively hated running. I hated it my whole life!


But, I kept getting these little nudges to try it…

  • I wasn’t content with my fitness level or weight, even though I already exercised regularly.
  • I was fairly bored with the exercise I was doing, so I was looking for something different.
  • Every time I talked to someone who looked fit and healthy, it turned out they were runners.
  • I had numerous friends who had great experiences with the Couch to 5k program.
  • Finally, I watched this video. And then, I laced up my shoes.


One thing Couch to 5k really encourages is not just to be able to run the 5k distance, but to actually sign up to run a race. I found a nearby 5k race that coincided with my training schedule, took a deep breath, and registered. Because I was NOT a runner, to say I had doubts about running 3.1 miles is an understatement.


That first day, I will tell you it was incredibly difficult to run a full minute. But I did it, and you know what? It felt really good. By the next week, I was ready to take it to the next level. And on and on I went, achieving the mini-goals that led me to the pinnacle – running for a full 3.1 miles.


When race day rolled around, the truth is that I’d already run that distance a couple times already. So, why would I pay money to get up really stinking early, drive 45 minutes away, brave the cold weather, and run that Jingle Bell run with a whole crowd of people? Why wouldn’t I just hop on the treadmill in the privacy of my climate-controlled basement and run a 5k at my convenience? Surely it wasn’t the 6-sizes-too-big T-shirt I received? 


I think it was this:

  • Signing up for that race put a date on my calendar. There was a real target to work toward, and that got me out of bed plenty of early mornings.
  • I was being held accountable. I had a friend who’d signed up with me, not to mention all the people I’d told about this goal.
  • Achieving a goal with a whole group of people is simply indescribable. For one thing, I discovered that running with other people brings out my best effort. And for another, runners cheer each other on. If I start to struggle, it’s likely someone is going to run up from behind and remind me that I can do it. Once I get my second wind, I offer encouragement to others, or cheer the ones who zoom past me at a pace I can’t comprehend.
  • Having a professional measure the distance and time made it official.  (I even got a medal to prove it!)

(Here I am with my 5k buddy after we jingled all the way. Oh, what fun!)


I think all these same points hold true for our workshops as well. We find the people in our workshops are ready to make changes they haven’t been able to make by going it alone. Often times, they aren’t sure they can really do it. But then, they take those first steps and find themselves gaining confidence and motivation. Like the experience of a formal race, our participants find a whole community of people sharing the same goal, offering each other encouragement along the way. And through it all, there’s the support, advice and encouragement of an expert.



(Me, among a whole crowd of amazing runners, fighing back tears after having just crossed the finish line of a half marathon in October.)

Today, even with another 5k, a 5-miler, and two half-marathons under my belt, I’ve been feeling my motivation wane. So, I found out what my running friends are up to, and I’m planning my next couple races. I need those targets on the calendar and the friends to keep me running towards that finish line!

Happy New Year,

Jens signature black

P.S.  Could you use a little help in achieving your goals? Are you hoping to make 2012 the year you get and stay organized? Take a look to see if one of our upcoming workshops is just the thing you need!


P.S.S. What are your goals and resolutions for 2012? We’d love to hear them! 

December 27, 2011

Gift Idea: Hot Chocolate in a Jar

I have gotten quite a few questions via comments, email, etc. about my hot chocolate jars. So I thought I'd do a quick post. I think this is a fun gift idea for any cold weather occasion like Valentine's Day or a winter birthday. Or you can tuck this idea in your back pocket for next Christmas.



Here's a quick run-down on the supplies I used and how I put the jars together.



Jars:  Hermetic Glass Storage Jars from The Container Store

Ribbon:  Offray from Walmart

Tags:  I made the tags using Word and my laser printer. The front said “Hot Cocoa” and was printed on white card-stock. The back of the tag was printed in red and had instructions for making the hot cocoa. (Mix 3 tablespoons of cocoa with ¾ cup hot water. Stir + enjoy!)

After printing out the tags I used two circle punches to form the circles. (The back, red circles were about 1/4" bigger than the white circles.) I glued the red and white circles together using glue stick. 

Next, I used my Crop-A-Dile to punch a small hole at the top of each tag and add an eyelet.

Inside the Jars:

I filled the jars in layers (from bottom up) with:

Hot Chocolate:  Stephens Milk Chocolate Gourmet Hot Cocoa

Mini marshmallows. 

Mini chocolate chips.

After the first failed “make-your-own-hot-chocolate” experiment, I decided to go with something tried and true. Stephens has been my personal favorite hot cocoa for years (since 2007 actually), and so I thought it was the perfect cocoa to share with family and friends.

I measured enough cocoa to have complete servings in the jar (such as six servings per jar) but left room on the top of the jars for mini chocolate chips and mini marshmallows. After adding the cocoa, I shook the jars back and forth a bit to make sure the layer was flat in the jar, and then added the chocolate chips and mini marshmallows on top.

Once the jars were full, I strung a ribbon around the top and tied on the tag with white embroidery floss. Here's one more look at how they turned out. 



I'll definitely give these as gifts again. (I’ll just skip the step where I make a really awful batch of homemade cocoa before breaking down and going with my tried and true Stephens.)


Let me know if you have any other questions about this project. Thanks!


December 26, 2011

Monday Check In!

Happy Monday! My son calls today the lamest day of the year. In his eyes, everything pales when compared to Christmas. I'm in another camp. I welcome today with open arms. While I love the holiday season, I’m always happy to get back to my regularly scheduled program. And today, is the start of all of that. Ahh...


I hope you had a wonderful holiday celebration, and that you got your holiday stuff done with plenty of time to relax and enjoy all your hard work and preparations. Here’s how it all went for us…


Play List:

  • Both dinners, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were wonderful—very much a celebration of the holiday season. We loved spending the day at home yesterday…leisurely opening gifts, eating a nice big breakfast and a light lunch. It doesn’t seem like I spent as much time on the couch as I had pictured in my mind…but I wouldn’t change a thing about how the day played out.
  • Boot camp. This didn’t happen.  My cold made it hard to breath, which makes it really hard to exercise at that level of intensity. But…I’m happy to say that the cold was much better by Christmas Eve afternoon…and is now just about gone.
  • Make snowflakes. Check! We all got in on the fun. It was a great before-Christmas project.


To Finish:

  • Finish wrapping gifts. Check!
  • Grocery shopping.  Check! (Thank you Jay.)
  • Baking. Check! Jay’s Baklava was delicious.


I hope you had a great weekend, too. Let me know all about it in the comments. :) And I hope you enjoy today, whether you love today or you're in my son's camp when it comes to December 26th. 


December 23, 2011

Happy Friday + Merry Christmas!

Hello my friends! It’s the last Friday (and the final Finish It Friday) before Christmas! Is everyone in good shape with their holiday preparations? What else is on your to-do list this weekend?


Around here this week we’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on Christmas prep. The hot chocolate arrived on Monday in plenty of time to put together the teacher gifts. I'm happy with how they turned out. 



The weekend will be more of the same...finalizing preparations for the big day. Here’s my list:


Checklist-copyright-simplify101Play List:

Well, there will be lots of play this weekend and lots of relaxing. We have a nice Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner planned, and a very relaxing day planned for Christmas day. I plan to spend a lot of time on the couch relaxing and hanging out with my family.

  • Boot camp is a maybe. I have a cold. If it’s better by tomorrow…I’ll be at boot camp. :)
  • Make snowflakes. My son learned how to make some really cool, big, fluffy paper snowflakes at school, so we'll be learning how and decorating the house a bit more. 

I hope your list this weekend has lots of play on it!


To Finish:

  • Finish wrapping gifts.
  • Grocery shopping.
  • Baking. Not sure how much I’ll help versus just supporting the rest of my family due to my cold. Jay is planning to make Baklava…a once a year treat around here. I can’t wait. :)


And that’s it my friends. I’m sure I’ll do a little bit of laundry...leisurely. But other than that, this weekend is all about relaxing and enjoying the holiday with my family.  


I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and if you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a safe, warm and joyful celebration.


Happy holidays!


December 19, 2011

Monday Morning Check In

Happy Monday morning my friends. I hope you had a great weekend! Thanks for sharing your to-do lists on Friday. My Mom, sister and I had a great time on Friday...lots of stuff got done and we had loads of fun. Here's a recap of all the good stuff that got done over the weekend...


  • Finish Christmas shopping for Michigan family members. (Check!)
  • Finish wrapping gifts for Michigan family members. (Check!)
  • Dinner out with the whole family. (Check!)
  • Play cards with my Mom, Sister, and Kailea. (Check!)
  • Laundry. (Check!)
  • Plan meals for the week. (Almost a check.)
  • Knit. (Check!)
  • More Christmas shopping. (Almost done. Yay!)
  • Do some paperwork. (Check!)


All in all, it was a great weekend. It was so nice to spend time with my Mom and sister...made it feel like Christmas time. :) I hope you had a great weekend, too! 


December 16, 2011

Are You Ready to Get Organized for the Weekend?

Okay, that was sort of a trick question...because I'm not. ;) My Mom and sister are here for a super-speedy, spontaneous visit, so today my focus is on spending the day with them. We'll be doing some Christmas shopping (hooray!) and some gift wrapping and finishing up some other Christmas to-dos, all while enjoying our time together. So the weekend to-do list will have to wait until tomorrow.


I'd love to hear what is on your Play List and To-Finish List this weekend! Please share in the comments. :) I look forward to hearing from you!


Have a great weekend!


December 15, 2011

Christmas Gift Ideas: More Clutter-Free Gifts

As we wrap up this series on Christmas gift ideas, we can still think of so many other great gift ideas that are personal, simple, and clutter-free. In addition to homemade, experiences, and books, here are a few more ideas worth sharing.


Give lessons or classes. This is different from the idea of experience gifts because it’s solely for the recipient vs. something you do together. I love this suggestion particularly for moms with young children who struggle to make time for themselves. Some ideas include art or other creative classes, fitness or exercise classes like yoga, or even organizing workshops!


Give professional services like certificates for housecleaning, or a session with a personal chef, personal trainer, or lawn care service. I love this suggestion for people who really need the gift of time, and also for anyone who is aging and needs more help around the house.




Give personal services. You can create a coupon book for services you’ll give, like baby-sitting, breakfast in bed, washing the car, mowing the lawn, making dinner for a friend and so on.


Give personal indulgence gifts like gift cards for dinner out or Starbucks, tickets to performances or sporting events, and certificates for things like massages, manicures and pedicures.


Give to a charitable cause. We used to give my step-father gift cards to bookstores year after year. So boring!  But he loves to read, and he’s just one of those hard-to-buy-for people who seem to have everything. Then one year we made a donation in his honor to a literacy fund and wrote a letter to him explaining that we admired his love for reading and wanted to share that with someone less fortunate in the world. He told us (through tears) that it was the most thoughtful gift he had ever received. If someone on your list has a passion for something, think of ways to translate that into a gift in their honor.


I hope you enjoyed reading the gift ideas as much as Aby and I have enjoyed putting them together. It’s really got me excited over Christmas gift-giving! What are you most excited to give this year?


Happy Holidays,

Jens signature black

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