simplify 101
Creative Organizing Blog

« December 2011 | Main | February 2012 »

January 31, 2012

Make Progress on Your Goals with New Routines

I mentioned in my Finish It Friday post last week that I’m trying something new—cleaning during the week instead of on the weekends. One of my underlying motivations for doing this is to create bigger blocks of time on the weekends to work on projects and goals. One of my big goals for the year is to freshen up my home with some decorating and reorganizing projects. So I have lots of DIY projects in my future. Since I work full time Monday through Friday, the best time for me to really dig into these bigger projects is on the weekends. Any breathing room I can create in my weekend schedule will help me make more progress on my goals. 


Moving tasks from the weekend to weeknights has meant creating fresh routines—and I’m finding this process to be very energizing. It’s a bit like the feeling I get when I organize and declutter. There’s an energy that comes from moving things around, whether it’s physical things, or tasks and activities. When you move things around in your schedule, you let go of tasks or activities that no longer matter and give priority to tasks that matter more. And that feels pretty darn good. 


Want to get reenergized with new routines of your own? Here are some ideas to get you started.


Start with one goal or change in mind. When I want to change something in my life, it helps if I have Set-goalsbigger purpose or an underlying reason for making the change before I start. So start by identifying just one goal or reason for changing-up your routine. For example, my underlying goal for changing my weeknight routine was to create more time on the weekends to focus on DIY projects which supports one of my primary goals for 2012. What’s one of your goals for 2012? Start there. 


Identify one step you can take on a regular basis that will move you closer to your goal. That one step is the task you incorporate into your new routine. My step is doing a weekend task (cleaning) during the week to free up time on the weekends. What if your goal is to is to get more organized this year? Well, you could do as I did and rearrange your weekday schedule to handle some of your recurring weekly tasks like cleaning, meal planning, grocery shopping, running errands or doing laundry, during the week, and free up bigger blocks of time to organize on the weekends. Or you could carve out fifteen minutes each weekday to declutter or make progress on an organizing project, which would allow you to make ongoing progress over the course of the entire week. Either way, you’re building organizing into your new routine, or making a habit out of making progress on your goals. Pretty exciting stuff, right?

Calendar-72-copyright-simplify101Decide when.
The key for me when changing up my routines is to decide when I will do my new routine. In other words, I need to decide where my new routine will fit into my existing schedule. F
or example, we selected Mondays as our new cleaning night, and we fit cleaning right in between afternoon activities and dinner. When everyone gets home from their afternoon activities, I make a veggie pot pie for dinner. While it bakes, we clean the house. It’s working great. And the best part is that this change is motivating me to change up other things in my schedule and create even more time on the weekends for my other projects and goals. Good 

I’d love to hear from you. What new projects or goals are you working on this year? How are you fitting goal related activities into your daily and weekly routines? Thanks for sharing!



P.S. Once you get started with new routines, you’ll probably be like me and want keep a good thing going. You’ll want to look for even more ways to energize and simplify with fresh routines. Good news—my friend Janine Adams is back with her online workshop Simplify Your Life with Habits + Routines. Class begins next month so learn more now >>>

January 30, 2012

Monday Morning Check-In

Happy Monday my friends! I hope you had a great weekend. Mine was one of those that kind of took on a life of its own. Let's just say not everything went according to plan, but some things did get done. Here’s the update:


Play List:

  • Boot Camp. Check! 
  • Get together with friends. We went to a trivia night—our first one—and had a great time. Lots of fun. 
  • Go to Kailea’s basketball game. Check!  

Okay…so far so good, but here’s where things started to get dicey.  


To Finish:

  • Laundry. What I discovered was that doing a load a day during the week, didn’t lead to as much laundry breathing room over the weekend as I had anticipated. Darn! I sort of thought it would be easy to get to empty laundry basket status on Sunday since I had done so much during the week. Instead, I discovered that wasn’t the case. So now I need to decide if I’m okay with laundry not being caught up every Sunday. Maybe I’ll pick a different day in the middle of the week as my empty hamper day. I’ll keep you posted on this exciting development…  
  • Continue with paper projects in my office.  Nope. This one didn’t happen…
  • Calcium research. Yep. I put together a little calcium tracker form so I can keep track of how much I get calcium I get each day. I also did some basic research to get a feel for which foods have how much calcium, and added this to my little form. All that’s left to do now is eat a whole lotta yogurt and cheese every day. ;) 
  • Check out  First, much thanks to everyone who shared comments and recommendations on mint and other solutions. I really appreciate your thoughts and comments. Second, this task is the one that kind of unraveled the rest of the weekend. Here’s what happened. I wanted to download the iPad ap for mint and discovered it requires ios5, so I needed to upgrade. Well…that didn’t exactly go so well as I lost my aps and some data. Most of this can be restored, since luckily my iPad is new and there isn’t much on it. But the biggest loss was all of my lists on Remember the Milk. (Note to self, next time make sure everything is synced before upgrading operating systems!) So my time was spent doing the upgrade and freaking out that my lists were lost, as opposed to actually checking out mint. 
  • Attend a basketball meeting. Check!
  • Plan weekly meals. Check! 
  • Research paint for “new” chairs. Well, I brought home a can of spray paint and decided it isn’t the right color. So…back to the store I will go.
  • Pinterest to-do:  Make Martha’s tub scrub. Okay…this was the big hit of the weekend. This tub scrub really works! This was truly one of the highlights of my weekend. (Which I do realize is kind of sad, but it really made my tub so white and clean! And I really like it when things work.) 


So there you have it, my Monday check-in. How did your weekend go? Thanks so much for joining me this weekend! See you back here on Friday. :)


January 27, 2012

Let’s Get Organized for the Weekend: Share Your To-Do List

Hello my Finish It Friday friends! Are you ready for an fun and productive weekend? If you’re new to my blog, each week I set up a Finish It Friday post where I share my to-do list and encourage you to share yours. When you go public with your to-do list you'll be amazed at how motivated you are to get things done! Make sure your weekend to-do list also includes something fun. We like to call this your “play list.”

So do you want to join the fun this week? We’d love to hear from you! I'll get things started with my list. 


Checklist-copyright-simplify101Play List:

  • Boot Camp. Yay, I can go this week!
  • Get together with friends. And beforehand, figure out a snack to make. 
  • Go to Kailea’s basketball game.


To Finish:

  • Laundry. I’ve been doing a load a day all week, so this should be a really manageable task this week. Hooray!
  • Continue with paper projects in my office. I need to add binder tabs to binder Number 3 and other stuff like that.
  • Calcium research. I went to the doctor this week and was reminded that I need to get more calcium. So, I’ve got to put together a plan!
  • Check out  Do you use or any other online financial website? If you have any thoughts or recommendations, I’d love to hear from you. Thanks! I'm just going to check things out this weekend...don't plan to dive all the way in yet. So if you have any thoughts or advice, please share!
  • Attend a basketball meeting.
  • Plan weekly meals.
  • Research paint for “new” chairs. I’ve got a new DIY project in my future in the form of some chairs I found on Craigslist. Step one this weekend is to figure out what color to paint them.  
  • Pinterest to-do:  Make Martha’s tub scrub. Okay, so I love Pinterest and collecting inspiring photos and project ideas. I have a project ideas board…and it has 213 pins! That means I have 213 projects that I’m considering doing! And this doesn’t even count my board called Things to Do Soon (which has 54 pins) or my scrapbook ideas board (69 pins) or my knitting board (9 pins). If you’re doing the math…that’s 345 pins that represent potential projects…things I’d love to do. Holy smokes! No wonder I’m having trouble sleeping—my want-to-do list is spiraling out of control! It’s time to pin (just a bit) less and start making a concerted effort to do some of those super fun projects that I’m pinning. Want to join me? If so, just add at least one item to your to-do list this week that you found on Pinterest!


Okay…clearly I need to go get busy. Have a great weekend my friends! Thanks, as always, for joining me for Finish It Friday!


January 26, 2012

A Printable to Simplify Meal Planning

If you follow along with my Finish It Friday posts, then you know my typical weekend routine involves planning the upcoming week’s meals. I have found that weekly meal planning absolutely simplifies getting dinner on the table, which means we eat at home more often and we eat healthier, too. So if one of your goals for the new year is to eat healthier, and you don’t currently menu plan, consider giving it a try. (I shared Ten Tips to Simplify Meal Planning this blog post, by the way, and here's a link to my meal planner.)


Now, I’m from the school of mix-it-up meals. In other words, I’d grow really bored if Tuesday was taco night and Friday was pizza night every single week. I find cooking to be a relaxing, creative outlet, so I like to try new dishes from time to time and I like to mix it up. 


Sometimes, though, I try a new dish, everyone loves it and then we forget all about it the next time we go to plan our meals. Or we sit down to plan meals, and everyone is fresh out of ideas. We flip through the recipe binder...but the same old stuff is the only thing that *sounds good* this week. What was that new thing we had a couple weeks ago? No one can recall. Not only is this frustrating, it also makes planning the weekly meals a longer process than necessary.


And so, it was time to simplify. Enter this handy-dandy form:  the tried+true meals list.



This list includes the recipe name and location, as well as space for other notes. I find the recipes I'm most likely to loose track of are the ones in my regular cookbooks, so this will help me tie together the recipes in my binder with the recipes in my various cookbooks. Bingo! Meal planning just got a notch simpler. Now I can simply scan my list of tried and true recipes each time we plan our weekly meals, and never again forget any new favorites. Hooray! 


Here are some other ideas for keeping track of new favorite recipes. If you’re not a list person and you prefer electronic recipes, you could create a “tried + true recipes” board on Pinterest. Or, if you prefer paper recipes (and your not a list person) you could create a “tried + true recipes” binder. If you already have a recipe binder, you could move your tried and true recipes to the front of each section of your binder. 


How do you handle meal planning? Any tips or ideas to share? I'd love to hear from you!


January 25, 2012

Storage Solution of the Week: empty cups for boot storage

What it is:  This week’s storage solution of the week are upcycled 32-oz plastic cups that I use to keep my boots upright in the closet.




Where I got them: Clearly mine are from Quick Trip, but any sturdy plastic cup of about this size would work. 


Why I love it:  Hmmm, well, because I love boots! But ugh, where do you store them? I don't have room to lay them in the boxes they came in. Obviously they can't go on my wall-mounted shoe rack. If I had shelves for them, they could go there, but they'd still flop over. They simply took up too much closet space, until I hit on this idea! I slide the empty cup inside, and voila, it's just sturdy enough to keep them upright.  The taper of the cup is perfect for the shape of the boot. And smaller cups work great for kids' boot, too!


How and where do you store your boots?


Happy Organizing!

Jens signature black

January 23, 2012

Monday Check In!

Hello my Finish It Friday friends! How was your weekend? I hope you had a great one! How did you do with your to-do lists? Here's my update. 


Play List

  • Play on Pinterest! Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Yep, there was no shortage of pinning this weekend, LOL. 
  • Go for a run. Check!


To Finish

  • Laundry. Check!
  • Plan weekly meals. Check! 
  • Declutter files in my office. I spent quite a bit of time on my office files this weekend. I set up one new binder and organized a second. And I cleared out a bunch of old paperwork and files. Woohoo! Feels good. There is still some work to be done (like setting up some permanent tabs and removing the purple sticky notes in binder 3), but it feels good to have made a lot of progress this weekend.   

  Biz reference binders


By the way, I absolutely loved not cleaning this weekend since we moved our weekly cleaning to Monday nights! Loved it! Will definitely keep on cleaning during the week. 


So now it's your turn. How did your weekend go? Thanks so much for sharing!


January 20, 2012

Let’s Get Organized for the Weekend!

Okay, it was another super-speedy week around here. It’s really hard to believe it’s already time to share our to-do lists again, but it is! I hope you had a terrific week and are ready to have some fun and get some stuff done this weekend. I know I am! Here’s what’s on tap for me:

Checklist-copyright-simplify101Play List

  • Play on Pinterst! There, I said it. I’m going to do it anyway, so it might as well go on my list, right?
  • Go for a run. There’s no boot camp this week, which is oh-so sad. So, I plan to go for a run instead. I went for a short run last night, but, it certainly did not make up for a boot camp session.


To Finish

  • Laundry.
  • Plan weekly meals.
  • Declutter files in my office. I love doing this at the start of a new year. Feels so good to clear out the old and make space for the new. 


Other than that, I’m going to let inspiration be my guide. I have so many wonderful tasks and projects to choose from and the'yre all nice and organized in Remember the Milk thanks to last week’s Finish It Friday. Hooray. So it will be easy to choose something to do. ;)


What are your plans for the weekend? Thanks for sharing. I hope you have a great weekend!


January 19, 2012

Workshop Q&A: How to Organize Magazines

If you’re brand new to this blog, it won’t take you long to figure out that simplify 101 is never about one-size-fits-all solutions. I love seeing how that comes through in our workshop forums! Workshop participants pose questions like the one below, and Aby, along with other participants, offers suggestions.

One of our Organizing 101 participants recently shared this dilemma:

“I'm an interior decorator and collect tons and tons of magazines. I always cringe at throwing them away, although I'm not really sure I will go back through them. Any great ideas for storing them? They are going to take over the house!”

Here are a few responses from other participants:

Magazine boxes“I would think that using magazine files would help. There are lots of options for color, design, etc. I would keep them by magazine title & date, but with your line of work it might be best to keep them by category (kitchen & bath, bedroom, living room, etc??) We have tons of magazines, and I don't like to part with them either sometimes. I'm thinking of doing something similar with ours to keep them neat and organized. Good luck!!


Magazine-basket-copyright-simplify101“I have the same problem... I LOVE magazines and all the ideas they inspire! Most of my magazines are for fun reading only. I tear out favorite articles when the next issue arrives, and add them to my binder of inspiration (something I finally started doing after taking Organize Your Paper Clutter!). I save favorite magazines (intact, not articles ripped out) in nice-looking magazine boxes. Every 6 months or so, I'll go through one of the boxes and flip through the magazines. If there are a few pictures or articles I want to hold on to, they go into 
the binder as well. If I love the whole magazine, I'll save it. The rest get recycled or donated to the library. It's not a perfect system, but I'm not drowning in magazine clutter anymore. Good luck!”


And here is Aby's response: 

"Great suggestions from your classmates! What do you think about the idea of tearing out the pages you would use in the future? I think that if you're unlikely to go back through them, you should really consider if it makes sense to purchase storage for them. Also, where do you keep them now? Is there a place in your home where you could keep them that would make it more likely that you would access them?"



Do you have a great way to organize or store your magazines? We’d love for you to share with us in the comments below. Or better yet, sign up for one of our online workshops and take part in the workshop forums with us!

Happy Organizing!

Jens signature black

P.S. If magazines, catalogs, or other papers are threating to take over your house, our Organize Your Paper Clutter workshop begins February 16! We dig deeper in this workshop to get the root cause of the paper clutter, as well as figuring out what to do about it. You’ll eliminate your paper clutter plus the stress that comes along with it! 

January 18, 2012

Storage Solution of the Week: unused pizza boxes to store kids’ school papers

What it is:  This week’s storage solution of the week are clean, unused pizza boxes to store kids’ school papers by year.


Where I got them:  I get mine at Pizza Hut simply by asking for a few large boxes as we are leaving the restaurant. I remember working at a pizza place during college and occasionally having someone ask for a clean box or two, which I thought was odd until the manager explained they used them to store their kids’ artwork. Once a mother, it all came back to me when a friend shared that this was her solution to storing her children’s school papers.


Why I love it:  The size is ideal. They are large enough for bigger works of art, but thin enough that I really have to purge excess and only store true keepsakes. Also, the size and shape makes them very easy to stack and store on shelves in our basement.


Schoolpaper storage - copyright-simplify101

If you are great at purging as you go, I would suggest keeping your current year’s box in an easily accessible place and putting those treasured reports and tests right in. At the end of the year, simply seal it up and put it in a more permanent storage area!


For me, it’s much harder to decide on the fly. It’s also hard for my children to see their work go directly into the recycling bin! So, most things go into under-bed storage bins during the course of the year. Each child has their own bin to keep their work separate.



During the summer, we go through to decide what’s to keep and what to let go of. I have one child who would let go of nearly all of it, and another who gets very distraught because it is all special. So, involving them in this process makes it more tricky, but I feel it’s worth it. I like knowing what kinds of things they feel are special from the year, and I also think it’s a great lesson in purging and organizing.


Aby’s system of saving her kids’ schoolwork in binders is another great way to do it, and we've hard from many of you have tried and loved it.



Do you have another system that works for you? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!


Happy Organizing!

Jens signature black

 P.S. If you are interested in more ways to organize paper in your home or office, our Organize Your Paper Clutter online workshop begins February 16, 2012!

January 16, 2012

It's Monday Morning! How was Your Weekend?

Happy Monday my friends. How was your weekend? Mine was busy, fun and fast! For some of you it may still be the weekend. My kids are off school today, but it's a business day at simplify 101, so I'm ready to call the weekend a wrap. Here's my update:


Play List

  • Movie night. Check! 
  • Boot camp. Check! 
  • Dinner with friends. Check! We tried a new restaurant in town and loved it! So fun when there's a new, yummy place in town! 
  • Holiday card project. Check!


To Finish

  • Update the family cleaning schedule. Check! We are going to try cleaning during the week. Everyone agreed that cleaning on the weekend is quite the bummer, so we'll see how it goes fitting it into the week night routine. We've divided the house, and divided the family into two teams, one adult and one kid per team, with each team getting one floor of the house. So that's the plan — now to make it happened!
  • Enter to-dos in Remember the Milk. Check! Some of you asked about Remember the Milk. I've just started playing around with it, and so far I'm really quite happy with it. First of all, I like the clean interface, the colors, and the cute little cow icon. Plus, it uses a handwriting font, which I love, too. As for functionality, my initial impressions are good. It allows you to keep separate lists for various types of tasks (personal versus business, for example.) And it has a place to keep notes associated with your tasks. So far so good. At this point I don't intend to use it to actually remember the milk (grocery lists) but rather for managing all the other lists in my life (things to do, books I want to read, etc.) If you'd like to learn more, here's the place: remember the milk.
  • Set up 2012 files in my office. Check! (Though I still need to tidy up my office a bit, and I need to pick up a few more file folders. But I did finish the piece of this project that I planned to finish this weekend.) 
  • Get and wrap a birthday gift. Check!
  • Clean house. Sort of a check. In light of our decision to clean during the week, I just did a little bit of cleaning and will do the bulk of it tonight. 
  • Select 2012 goals and write goal statements. I thought about this a lot...but didn't put everything into writing yet. I know what some of my main goals are for 2012 (in my mind) and made progress on them this weekend. So, things are moving forward. Hooray! 
  • Laundry. Check! The last load is in the dryer as I type.
  • Plan weekly meals. Check! And I cleaned out the refrigerator. 
  • Go to Michael's. Check! And luckily they still had the yarn I needed from the same dye lot as the half done scarf I'm working on. Whew!


I hope you had a fantastic weekend! I'd love to hear all about it in the comments. As always, I'm thankful to you for joining me for Finish It Friday. Each week your participation gives me more commitment and determination to get things done...and have some fun.


Have a great Monday!


Powered by Typepad