simplify 101
Creative Organizing Blog

January 25, 2013

New Finish It Friday + 13 in 13 Post Over at the New Blog

Just in case you missed my post earlier this week about our big move...I thought I'd let you know that I just published a new Finish It Friday and 13 Goals in 2013 post over on the new blog. Click here to go there now... (See you soon....)

January 23, 2013

The Creative Organizing Blog has a new home!

I'm happy to announce that our new website is live at! (Hooray!!) This means the creative organizing blog has a new home! I won't be publishing any new posts here anymore, but there will be lots of fresh new content on the new site. (Plus, you'll find ALL of the old posts from this blog.) So come on over and check out our new site.

The Creative Organizing Blog's new home is 

See you over there! 


June 29, 2012

Freebie Friday: Project Life Giveaway!

I don’t know about you, but I think summer is a perfect time to do a little scrapbooking. For one thing, it’s a great indoor activity for when the heat outside is too much to take. (Like yesterday, for example, hello 107 degrees! Let’s just stay inside and play with photos and paper, right?)


What's more, though, is that summer is also about making memories and keeping things simple, which is why I L-O-V-E today’s Freebie Friday:  Project Life from Becky Higgins! (Can I hear a big woohoo on that one?) Project Life is about making it easy and fun to stay inside and do some scrapbooking! So if the temperature outside isn’t reason enough—Project Life is. Here's a bit about Project Life and what's up for grabs with today's giveaway:


Project Life simplifies the process of scrapboking 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.

Project Life Giveaway Postcard

Good stuff, right? So if you aren’t a scrapbooker currently, or you’re a scrapbooker who is looking for simplified approach to memory keeping, Project Life is for you. Which is why I’m thrilled to offer this Freebie Friday giveaway. Becky has offered my readers a chance to win one of her Project Life Binders, the coordinating Core Kit, and a Big Pack of Design A Photo Pocket Pages! The winner will be able to choose any one of the 5 different Project Life editions that they are currently having reprinted. However, due to Project Life shipping requirements, the winner needs to be a U.S. resident.


How to Enter: In the interest of simplifying things, I am using rafflecopter for this giveaway. I think this is super fun, and an easy way for you to enter up to 5 times! The giveaway ends at 12:01 a.m. on 07/02/2012.


I hope you are having a wonderful time making and keeping your memories this summer. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

*** Comments are now closed and the winner has been contacted. Congratulations, Jessica G! Thanks to everyone who entered! ***

June 20, 2012

Summer Fun: Everything Tastes Better When It's Free

One of the items on our bucket list this summer is Annie's Frozen Custard. Well guess what we saw when we were driving home from the haircut place today...?



So exciting, right? So we took a fun little work break this afternoon for some yummy, delicious white chocolate frozen custard. Yum! Perfect for a hot summer day, made all the tastier because it was free. And it's a check mark on the summer bucket list — making it even sweeter still. Woohoo! It's the little things in life, isn't it? 


How are you doing on your summer bucket list?  Checking things off? Enjoying yourself in the process? I'd love to hear your updates!

I hope you are having a terrific first "official" day of summer!


P.S. Speaking of free...we're offering a free sample of Lesson 1 of Organize Your Paper Clutter through Monday, June 25, 2012 at 9:00PM and you're invited to join the fun. Go here for all the details. :)

May 24, 2012

Summer Bucket List: S is for Spot it!

Today’s summer bucket list add-on is the game Spot it! from Blue Orange Games. They offered me two complimentary games, and being the game lover that I am, I simply had to say yes. I’m always up for a fun game, and if it is cleverly packaged, all the better. Spot it! comes in a cute, round, metal tin which makes it handy for taking with you on vacation or to play while waiting for a summer concert or fireworks to begin.




Packaging aside, this game is really fun. Here’s how it works. There is always one and only one matching symbol between any two cards. Spot it and you win. That’s all there is to it. And even though it may sound too simple to be fun, it really is a lot of fun. Sometimes you sit there staring at the card for minutes, thinking “This is the set they got wrong. There’s no match.” But there always is. And there's only just one match. Plus it’s a quick game, which means you can sneak it in during a few minutes of down time. My whole family enjoys this game, and we took it with us on our trip to Michigan—they loved it up there, too. I gave my second game set to Jennifer and her family thinks its great fun, too. So if your looking for a fun new game to ad to your bucket list this summer—S is for Spot it!


By the way, if you have younger kids, no worries, just in time for summer, Blue Orange Games introduced Spot it! Jr. Animals. Spot it! Jr. Animals features 31 brightly colored cards with six different animal images on each card. With only one matching animal between any two cards, this delightful visual perception game is really fun for all kids. Children are natural learners and will love spotting the animals and matching them in this fast-paced game designed for children 4 and up, and for 2 to 6 players. 



Both Spot it! and Spot it! Jr. Animals can be bought online through,, or in stores across the country that carry Blue Orange products. 


How about you? Do you love to play games in the summer? What's your favorite game? Thanks for sharing. 


May 22, 2012

Summer Bucket List: D is for The Book of Doing


Continuing on with our summer series, in my next few posts I’m going to share a few add-ons for your alphabetized summer bucket list. The first one is THE BOOK OF DOING: Everyday Activities to Unlock Your Creativity and Joy by Allison Arden. 


Here’s what the publicist shared with me about the book:  Arden, the Vice President and Publisher of Advertising Age, never intentionally set out to write this book. In fact, THE BOOK OF DOING came out of her decision to start living life rather than just going through the motions. Approaching her fortieth birthday, Arden wondered whether she needed to leave her job in order to find passion in life, or if she should continue with her day-to-day responsibilities (working and being a married mom) and just commit to figuring it all out eventually.


Arden kept thinking about her childhood and how she loved arts and crafts. Even as an adult, simple creative tasks like decorating cupcakes with her daughter or going to a crafts store excited her more than she ever thought it could. She loved trying out new activities and getting her hands dirty: “What I loved most of all was the physical act of ‘doing.’ With it came a simple focus on pure delight.” Arden took this newfound strategy to the workplace and to her everyday activities. She tested new concepts and reworked packaging at work while making up local tasting tours and park visits at home. The joy and freedom she discovered while doing this led her to write the fully illustrated and designed THE BOOK OF DOING, in which Arden passionately encourages readers to do what they love most, create new ideas and engage with the world around them. She includes 94 fun activities such as learning code, making a popsicle stick replica of your five favorite people, crafting something special out of a sentimental article of clothing and learning the meanings behind flower types and colors. 


THE BOOK OF DOING is a fun, must-have guide for anyone looking to reawaken their senses and reclaim the serenity of doing the things that they love.



I wanted to share what the publicist had to say about the book because it really encapsulates the book and what it’s all about. Plus, I wanted to give you a feel for why I said yes when the opportunity to review this book landed in my in-box. What really struck a chord with me was that Arden originally contemplated leaving her job to find her passion. But instead, she figured out how to make her job and the rest of her life more rewarding by bringing her passion into her job and life. She discovered that what she needed to live a creative and joyful life was already inside of her. As she says in the book “No need to vacate your life. You will find all you need in your daily acts of doing.” 


The book includes 94 fun activities that you could do to ignite your own creativity and joy, and if you’re like me, as you’re reading the book you’ll think of even more. The book begins with "The Laws of Doing" which are 18 terrific suggestions for how to digest the concepts in the book. And they’re also pretty terrific guidelines for life in general. For example, Arden suggests that you can always find time for things you want to do, and when you do make that commitment to yourself, you’re better in the process.


So if your summer bucket list is short on books to read, or you’re looking for an idea that starts with D, or you’re looking for a resource that will give you loads of inspiring ideas for your bucket list, or you’re ready to reignite your creativity and joy, check out THE BOOK OF DOING. I found this book to be incredibly inspiring – and that was before I even starting doing any of the ideas in it! I started thinking about my life and my to-do list in a different, more creative and joyful way. 


One final note:  When I am offered books to review I tell the author’s people that I will share the book with my readers only if I like it. In this case, it was a no-brainer. I couldn’t wait to tell you about the book so you, too, can be inspired to start doing the things you love to do.


Now it’s your turn:  What books are on your must-read list this summer? Thanks so much for sharing!


May 18, 2012

Welcome to Summer!

It’s a bright, crisp morning outside. I hear neighbors heading to work and birds singing warnings about the neighbor’s cats. But inside my home, it’s still and incredibly peaceful. I’m not packing lunches or reminding anyone of the time or encouraging “less talking, more eating” at the breakfast table. In fact, the children are sleeping in — a well-deserved rest to celebrate this first day of their summer vacation from school.


This year, I feel like I have a vision for how I want summer to be, and a loosely structured plan on how to make it happen. My vision for the summer is for our family to relax and have fun! So I kicked off our summer by surprising the girls after school yesterday with this Pinterest-inspired bit of fun.



Can I get honest with you here? Since they began school, I have never been a big fan of summer break. In fact, I met it with more of sense of overwhelm and maybe even a little dread. I have friends who would comment that they couldn’t wait to have more time with the kids and less demands on the schedule, and I would feel quietly guilty that I didn’t share that sentiment. Oh, of course, I love my children infinitely. Yes, I love to be with them. But, I still had a job to do, plus housework and errands. Summer meant trying to keep up with it all while now having them with me 24x7; trying to keep them occupied and structured enough and also find time for all this family fun we are supposed to be having. Overwhelmed is an understatement.


This summer, I am super happy to tell you, I feel differently. I. Am. Excited! Why? I think it’s a number of reasons. For one, my girls are getting so much more self-sufficient. Two, it was a tougher school year in a lot of ways, and we are all relieved to be through it. Three, this is my first summer working at simplify 101, and that has meant planning for weeks in advance on how to structure my work time. Four, I’ve been absorbing all the good stuff that Aby has been doling out in the Get Organized for Summer blog series. I think all of this has come together and put me in a very good place for the summer ahead of us.


I don’t have things worked out 100%, and I don’t expect perfection from our summer. But I feel ready for it, and I am going to embrace it.


How about you? Do you loathe summer or love it? 


Happy Friday!

Jens signature black

March 30, 2012

From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds: a book review + giveaway!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you know that when I do book reviews they are typically on self improvement books, organizing books, or decorating books, as these are the kinds of books I most enjoy reading. On the rare occasion that I stray from my genre of choice, my next favorite type of book is humorous, non-fiction—a comedic recount of real life events—like Julie and Julia and Eat, Pray, Love. These two books, by the way, just so happen to be the only two non self-improvement and non-organizing books I’ve read since starting this blog. Well…until now.


I recently finished reading the book From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds, by Amy L. Peterson. This book is about “Amy a 30-year-old woman who spent many years polishing an unapproachable outer shell and maintaining a long list of reasons why not to have children. She keeps a canoe on her front porch, a mountain bike in her kitchen and a balance in her checking account.


Mark is an older, divorced man with four kids. He sleeps on an Army cot and eats out of pots and pans given to him by his therapist. He has a Ph.D. in stream ecology, a VW Rabbit with 285,000 miles on it and enough fishing tackle to sink a small boat.


Amy falls for Mark hook, line and hundreds of dollars in sinkers.


This is Amy’s humorous yet compelling story of becoming a stepmother. The book’s catchy chapter titles and over 70 tips make this a must read for stepmothers and future stepmothers. From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds is a fun ride that will convince women that with the right guy, being a stepmother can be rewarding, fun and full of surprises. Amy wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

From-zero-to-four-kids-in-thirty-secondsLike most of the other books I review on my blog, I was asked by the author’s “people” to read the book. In this case, however, the author’s people just so happen to be my people, too. You see, Amy, the author, is my sister and this is her story—a comical recount of how her life turned upside down when she fell in love with Mark, a man with four kids.


I can’t begin to tell you how fun it was to read this book—it was like spending the afternoon with my sister, which is a rare treat for me (since we live over eight hours apart from one another). Her writing is real and personal, as are the stories she shares on the pages of the book. And like the other memoirs I mentioned above, this book made me literally laugh out loud on several occasions. (And I don’t think this was simply because I personally know the entire cast of characters in the book.) Amy is, and has been for as long as I can remember, a gifted writer with an incredible sense of humor. (One book reviewer on Amazon compared her to Erma Bombeck. How cool is that, right?)


Aside from being a fun love story, the book also has 70 useful and humorous tips for step moms.  Like this one:


Tip #34:  If your man is like most men, he doesn’t fumble very often, so enjoy yourself.

This tip is from the part of the book where Mark asks my Dad (who is also Amy’s Dad, in case you are skimming) for Amy’s hand in marriage. My Dad probably saw this coming…but he didn’t use that as any reason to take it easy on poor Mark.


“So---,” Mark started, as he reached for his tie like he wanted to loosen it.

“So--,” my dad repeated. He looked at me kind of funny. I shrugged and tried to wipe the grin off my face. My Dad cleared his throat and wiped his mouth. Mark wiped his mouth for the third time.

Finally, Mark said, “So. Well. I’ve been trying to figure out something all during diner. How to ask you something.”

“Any particular kind of something?” my dad asked, sitting up straight now and looking cool and controlled.

“Well, as a matter of fact a pretty special something,” Mark said, and, then, in the same explosive breath added, “Like asking for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”


My father said nothing as he coolly removed a comb from his back pocket, combed his mustache and said, “Well, that is kind of a special something.” Then staring right at Mark he added, “So, why don’t you go ahead and ask me?”




Mark’s face turned beet red as he reached for his tie and fumbled with the knot. After swallowing loudly, he finally sat back and sighed loudly before admitting, “I wasn’t expecting that.” He laughed an odd little laugh. “Okay.” He cleared his throat. “Mister Peterson, would it be okay if I took your daughter’s hand in marriage?”

“Well now,” my dad began, “you really should take all of her, you know, not just her hand.”


“Lord,” I said.


My father broke into a smile and said, “Of course you can marry my daughter. I trust her judgment completely and if she says you’re the guy, then I’m all for it.”


So Mark, now glowing with perspiration, turned to me and asked almost plaintively, “Am I the guy?”


I sat back, looked him up and down and with a critical eye and said, “Well, now let me just think about this--.”


Throughout the book Amy shares that my Mom told her (over and over again) that she had no idea what she was getting herself into, marrying a man with four kids. And mom was certainly right. But from the sounds of the above, Mark didn’t really know what he was getting into either by marrying a Peterson. None the less, it turned out great for everyone. My sister went from living alone, with no T.V. (and truly a bicycle in her kitchen) to living with five people who loved to watch T.V. She went from living in an apartment with an oven she never turned on, to baking birthday cakes for kiddos four times a year. (It was when she started baking that I knew Mark had caught her hook, line and sinker.)


Amy truly never wanted kids—or at least that’s what she thought. What I know for sure is this:  Amy is and always has been an amazing sister, daughter, and wife, and I think she is a pretty incredible step Mom, too. She approached becoming a step mom with a sense of knowing that she really didn’t know what she was getting herself into, and with a willingness to do her best as she figured it out. Most of all, she went into her role of step mom with one of her very greatest gifts—her sense of humor. And this is exactly what she shares on the pages of From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds.


So here’s some really great news, Amy’s people ;) have arranged for me to giveaway a signed copy of her book. Woohoo!


To enter for your chance to win a signed copy of From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds:

1) Follow Amy on Twitter and then leave a comment here letting me know you did.

2) Like Amy on Facebook and leave a comment here letting me know you did.

3) Subscribe to Amy’s blog and leave a comment here letting me know you did.  And / or 

4) Share your thoughts on this question in the comments:  Do you think if you married a man with four kids that you would a) laugh to tell about, b) write a book to tell about it, or c)                                               (fill in the blank.)


Please leave a separate comment for each thing you do and post your comments by Monday, April 2 at 9 PM US CST. Winner will be selected at random and notified by email! Thanks for entering!


Have a great weekend!


**Comments are now closed! Thanks so much for entering. :)**

March 19, 2012

How to Choose a Label Maker

Poke around simplify 101 just a tiny bit, and you’ll quickly pick up on the fact that I’m a huge fan of labels. I even have labels in my fridge. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but it does make me happy and helps keep my refrigerator organized. 


Lazy susan 2-copyright simplify101

Before I had a label maker (years ago, as you can imagine) I wondered if it was really worth the investment. The label maker itself doesn’t have to break the bank, but the cost of label tape can add up quickly. I can tell you this—for me, the finished look a label maker label gives a space is well worth the investment. It gives your space a polished feel, which gives you an extra bit of motivation to keep your space organized going forward.


I’m often asked in my online workshops for my opinions on label makers. Which ones are the best? Which ones are most worth the investment? While I haven’t tried every label maker on the market, I have been using two models for years. The first is the DYMO Letra Tag 2000. This is an older model (they have newer ones on the market right now) but I like it. I have two of these—one I keep in my organizer bag that I take to clients and the other one is just inches away from where I sit at my desk so I can easily label file folders anytime I need one. 



This label maker has just one font (it looks like Arial) but you can print in a few different sizes. This means you can print small labels for binder tabs, and larger, bolder labels for storage bins or your refrigerator doors and shelves. The label tape is relatively inexpensive and available at office supply stores, Target and Wal-Mart. You can often find these label makers on sale during (or right after) back-to-school time. I love the portability of this labeler. It is small, lightweight and easy to use. 


My other labeler is a Brother P-touch PT-1230PC. This cute, little labeler plugs right into the USB port in your computer and instantly a screen pops up where you can type in your labels. It’s that simple. You plug it in. You type. You click print. And out comes your label! This labeler allows you to use any font on your computer to make your labels—which is super fun. And you can also add small graphics, wing dings or swirls, if that makes you happy. (Which if it does, believe me, I get it. I have labels in my fridge, remember?) One downside is that this labeler leaves a long trail of blank label tape before and after each label (which can make you a bit nutty), but you can solve that by printing several labels back to back, and then use scissors to separate them and save label tape. 



So, the Brother labeler offers more font and design options, but the DYMO is more portable and uses less expensive label tape. I love them both, and use them for different things. I use the Brother for labels I will see a lot (like the ones in my fridge) and where I want to use fun fonts. For file folders and client projects, I use the DYMO due to its portability and the affordability of the label tape.


There are many good label makers on the market today. Simply choose one that offers the functions you care most about at a price point that fits your budget. 


I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you use a labeler or are you on the fence about getting one? And tell me about your refrigerator—labels or no labels? I’m dying to know. Thanks for sharing!



P.S. Quick + Simple Clutter Control begins tomorrow! Learn more today. :)

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! **

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