simplify 101
Creative Organizing Blog

January 02, 2013

Looking back. Looking forward.

I’ve been so wrapped up in this website change that I haven’t even wished you a Happy New Year yet. So here it is officially—happy New Year! I hope your year is off to a great start.

I wish the week between Christmas and New Year was more like a month. I love that time of closing up old business, and making plans for the New Year ahead. As 2012 came to a close, for the most part, I was really happy to see it go. For me, 2012 will forever be the year I lost my Dad.

2012 got off to a great start. I felt really energized and had so much momentum going. And then, right around my birthday, the breaks slammed on. It was then that I realized things were taking a turn for the worse with my Dad…that this time the chemo wasn’t getting the job done. For the rest of 2012, my focus became my Dad.

I wouldn’t change any of it – the trips to Michigan, the time I spent with him in his final days, none of it. But it feels like the year got cut short, or at least, that it turned in a completely different direction than I had envisioned in January 2012. 

I wish that somehow missing my Dad was something I could have left in 2012…but it followed me into 2013. And I’m afraid it will be with me for a long time to come. But I’m ready to look—and move—forward. I'm ready for 2013. I'm ready to create momentum again. 

During the space between Christmas and New Year, I thought a lot about my word for 2013. I wanted a word that encourages me to keep moving forward and to do so in a way that honors my Dad and his memory. I considered the word "count" as in "make it count" which is what my Dad did with the later part of his life. He made the days count. He even found ways to make the seconds count. He found ways to live life and laugh...even in the face of death. 

I also liked the idea of counting...counting goals, counting progress, counting blessings. 

But then it started to feel too technical and it felt like there was a better word, a word that would better encapsulates what I want in 2013. Another word kept coming up for me—the word is happy. 

As I look back and think about my dad, what I remember most was what a happy guy he was. Always laughing, always finding ways to have fun and be happy. And he made me happy just by being around him or talking to him on the phone. Even though I miss him and feel sad that he is gone, what I know for sure is that he would want me to be happy. And so, for 2013, my theme, my goal, my focus is on creating and spreading happiness.

And so my word for 2013 is happy. I'm looking forward to creating and sharing happiness in 2013.

What's your word, goal or theme for 2013? Thanks for sharing! Here's to making 2013 a wonderful year. 

Happy New Year! 



And the waiting continues...

So the new site won't be going live today. (Big sigh.) We are hoping all the technical details will get resolved and tomorrow will be the big day. If you're enrolled in a workshop, you should be able to log in and post as usual. And I'll keep you posted via this blog as developments continue! :) Thanks for your paitence! And if you have extra to spare, send some my way. I'm going nuts! ;)

Update: Website Upgrade In Progress

Hello friends,

The big day we've been waiting for is here. We are in the process of changing over our website. Exciting, right? Well, in more ways than one. So far, we are early in the process and are encountering some unexpected technical difficulties. I won't bore you with the technical details (in fact, I couldn't bore you with the technical details because I don't understand them myself) but the bottom line is this:  

If you are having trouble logging into your workshop or with anything else on our site, the trouble is on our end. There is a team of people working on getting it fixed as quickly as possible. 

Our fingers are crossed that the rest of the process will go (much more) smoothly and you'll be seeing a fresh, fun and fully functional simplify 101 later today! 

I'll keep you posted here on the blog. Thanks so much for your patience. 


December 03, 2012

Monday Check In

Happy Monday morning! How was your weekend? Here’s a quick update on mine…



  • Boot camp. Ouch! Errr….I mean check!
  • Basketball game. Check! Very exciting game, but we lost by 2.
  • Set December fitness goal. I’m remembering why I stopped going to boot camp while I was trying to hit mileage goals in running. Doing both was a bit too much for the muscles. I've decided that I'm not going to set a specific mileage goal in December so I can handle boot camp a bit better. My December fitness goal is to run or go to boot camp three times per week. (Long way of saying:  check!)


  • Laundry. Check!
  • Plan meals for the week. Check!
  • Holiday preparation. Planning Kailea’s birthday celebration counts as holiday prep around here…so I get a nice little check mark on this one, too!
  • Make progress on a simplify 101 project. Check, check, check! Spent lots of time on this over the weekend…
  • Get a birthday gift for my sister. Check!
  • Return socks. Check! Okay…so the alarm did not go off when we walked back into the store…which explains how we got out of the store with the security thingies attached to the socks. What's more is that nobody wondered why we were returning the socks and didn’t seem at all concerned that the socks still had the security thingies attached. It seems there are a few flaws in that particular security system, but hey, I got a check mark. That's what really counts, right? ;)

How was your weekend? 


November 26, 2012

Happy Monday!

Happy Monday to you. I hope you had a really nice weekend. Ours wasn't normal for Thanksgiving weekend...but it was okay, kind of quiet and slow. I didn't mention this on Friday (it seems I was in a hurry because I didn't even mention laundry or meal planning on my to-do list!) but Kailea woke up Thanksgiving morning with a really high fever. She didn't feel well all weekend...which kind of changed up the normal rhythm of Thanksgiving holiday decorating, no birthday planning, etc. Thankfully she is doing better now...and I'm not at all concerned that the other stuff didn't get done. I'm very relaxed about the holidays this year. It'll get done in time. :)


So here's how the rest of the weekend turned out.  



  • Run. I ran 4 miles on Saturday and 6.4 miles on Sunday. Sunday's run helped me achieve two goals. The first goal was to run a 10K in 2012. Originally, I had intended to run in an organized 10K...but as you know this year didn't exactly go as planned. So, instead, I decided to run my own little 10K yesterday. The spirit of the goal was to be able to run that distance without stopping...and so that is done! Feels good. This run also put me at 100 miles total for October and November...which checks a second goal off the list. (Now...I need to figure out a goal for December.) 
  • Knit. Check!


  • Black Friday shopping online. Check!
  • Holiday planning. The main thing I wanted to figure out this weekend was Kailea's birthday plans. To give you an idea as to how bad she felt—she didn't even want to talk about her birthday. Poor kid. (To say it was a quiet weekend is an understatement.) So...we'll figure out what she wants to do for her birthday this week.
  • Work on a simplify 101 project. Check! Lots more than four hours. :)
  • Clean house. Check! (This is an add-on, but I want credit.)
  • Laundry. Check! (Ditto.)
  • Plan meals for the week. Check! (Ditto!)


How was your weekend? Hope it was great. :)


November 22, 2012

Thankful Thursday: 30 Days of Gratitude Days 16 to 22

Happy Thanksgiving! As luck (or good planning) would have it, our third thankful Thursday just so happens to fall on Thanksgiving. Enjoy!


Day 16:  Inspiration



I'm grateful for inspiration of all photographs from magazines, inspiring words, and the people in my life who inspire me to be me...only better. 


Day 17:  Weather

30 days of gratitude - day 17 weather-2

I'm grateful for unseasonably warm weather that's great for running outside. 


Day 18:  Change

30 days of gratitude - day 18 change


I'm grateful to live in a part of the world that has four seasons. I look forward to the changes each season brings like the changing leaves of fall, the snowy days of winter, the bright green leaves and flowers of spring, and the bright sunny days of summer. 


Day 19:  Laughter



I'm grateful for the man who gave me my sense of humor and my love of laughter. 


Day 20:   Food

30 days of gratitude - day 20-food

I'm grateful for it nourishes my body and soul, how preparing it relaxes me, and how eating foods from my childhood remind me of special days gone by.  


Day 21:  Home

30 days of gratitude - day 21 home


I'm grateful for all the little things that make my house my colorful ceramic bowls, our dog Maggie, and our cozy, big brown chair.


Day 22:  Color



I'm grateful for color and how it can brighten even the dreariest of days (and boring black and white planners.)  


And I'm grateful for you. Thank you for being a part of simplify 101 and for reading my blog. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving day filled with yummy food and lots to be grateful for. 



November 19, 2012

Happy Monday to you! How was your weekend? Here's my update:



  • Run (3-1/2 miles) and roughly map out the rest of the month. Check and check!
  • Knit. Check!
  • Read. Check!



  • Holiday planning + make shopping / gift lists. Check and progress made but not a full check.
  • Laundry. Check!
  • Work on a simplify 101 project. For at least four hours on Saturday and/or Sunday. Check!
  • Menu plan + grocery shop. Check!
  • Clean the house! This was an add-on, but I want credit, so…check! ;)


All in all it was a good weekend. How about you? Thanks to each of you who joined me this week and giving me the extra motivation to have some fun and get things done. :)


November 16, 2012

Tips to Organize Your Weekend To-Do List

Hello friends, it's time for the weekly tradition called "Finish It Friday." That's right, it's time to organize your weekend to-do list. This week...I'm including a few tips, for new readers, and as a reminder for those of you who have been joining me in Finish It Friday for a while now. Hope you enjoy!


Tip #1: Make it fun.  For optimal results, include stuff you need to get done, and things you'll do for fun on your weekend to-do list. The weekend is a terrific opportunity to make progress on projects, but it's also designed for rest and you're ready to dive back into your weekday life when it rolls around again. sure that the fun stuff is restorative stuff...stuff that makes you feel like you actually had a weekend.


Tip #2: Make it doable. Pull out your calendar when you plan your to-do list. This will help you get a feel for how much you realistically can get done. I usually estimate (in my mind) how much time things will take, so I can get a feel for how much I can put on my to-do list. Sometimes priorities change and you can't get it all done, and that's okay (and nothing to beat yourself up about!) The main idea is that you get more done (and have more fun) when you plan your to-do list ahead of time.


Tip #3: Stay motivated. You'll have more fun and get more done...when you participate in Finish It Friday. I'm amazed at how much this still motivates me to get things done! I make it a point (when possible) to include at least one thing on my list that I really need to do...but might be able to talk myself out of if I didn't add it to my list. If you want to put a little extra fire and motivation on your to-do list this weekend, join us for Finish It Friday.  


Alright...let's share our lists! Here's mine:


  • Run (3-1/2 miles) and roughly map out the rest of the month. I have just over 20 miles to go for the month. 
  • Knit.
  • Read.



  • Holiday planning + make shopping / gift lists.
  • Laundry.
  • Work on a simplify 101 project. For at least four hours on Saturday and/or Sunday.
  • Menu plan + grocery shop. Need to do this early and beat the Thanksgiving rush! 


Alright...that's my list. What's on your to-do list this weekend?


Have a great weekend!


November 15, 2012

Thankful Thursday: 30 Days of Gratitude Days 9 to 15

It's time for our second Thankful Thursday, Days 9 through 15 of the 30 days of gratitude! This means, we are half way there, which is hard to believe. Let's get to it.


Day 9: Holidays

30 days of gratitude - day 9 holidays


I’m grateful for holidays and how they cause us to temporarily slow down and spend time with friends and family. They give us cause to decorate, eat, and celebrate.


Day 10: Kindness

30 days of gratitude - day 10 kindness -2 copy


I’m grateful for simple and random acts of kindness, like a this glass jar of flowers picked from the garden and placed on my desk...just because.


Day 11: Friendship

30 days of gratitude - day 11 friendship-300


I’m grateful for friends, near and far. I’m grateful for the friendships I have renewed and strengthened this year as a result of social media and how my friends supported me through some sad days.


Day 12: Music

30 days of gratitude - day 12 music


I’m grateful for music and its power to uplift and motivate me, especially when I run.


Day 13: Time

30 days of gratitude - day 13 time


Time is the currency of our lives. It is the greatest gift of all. This photo captures two slices of time. The photograph is of my two grandmas, my mom's dad, my two uncles, and my mom and dad...oh so long ago. The green bracelet is one my Dad's friend made for all of us, to show support in his fight against cancer. This vignette sits on my dresser and reminds me that time is indeed a precious gift, not to be taken for granted. I am grateful for the gift of time. 


Day 14: Creativity

30 days of gratitude - day 14 creativity


I’m grateful for all of my creative outlets, especially knitting this time of year.


Day 15: Family

30 days of gratitude - day 15 family


I’m grateful for the family I grew up in and everything I learned from them about life, people, and most of all, love.


What are you grateful for today? 


P.S. To see the full collection of gratitude photos, visit our 30 Day Gratitude Challenge pinboard

Running Q&A: How to Start Running

In October, Jennifer reached her goal to successfully complete a marathon, and I reached my goal of running 43 miles in one month. Clearly, running is something we talk about a lot, both here in the office and on the blog. Last week, our reader Virginia said she was interested in running and wanted to hear our stories about how we got started. Thanks for your questions, Virginia!


We obviously both enjoy running, but the reason we enjoy talking about it on the blog is that it's a great illustration of pursuing dreams and achieving goals. If you're not a runner, don't click off just yet! If you have other goals and aspirations of your own, there are good nuggets here that can definitely be applied to other things...


What prompted you to start running?

Aby: I originally started running about nine years ago. I had always had a secret dream of running a marathon after hearing the commencement speech of a marathon runner at my brother-in-law's high school graduation. But the primary reason, at that time, was just to get in better shape. At that time, exercise wasn't a regular part of my life. (I can't imagine that now! How did I survive?)


Jennifer: I needed a change in my exercise routine. I was bored with the cardio and weights workouts I did at home a few times each week. Plus, I wanted to increase my fitness level and lose some weight. Every time I would take a look at people in my life who seemed to have the healthfulness I wanted, they were inevitably runners. Even though I had detested running as long as I could remember, I decided to give it another earnest try.


How long have you been running?

Aby: Nine years, though I had to take a break a few years ago due to injury. I restarted running just under two years ago after boot-camp got me back in shape.  


Jennifer: I just celebrated my two-year “runniversary” in September. 


How did you start?

Aby: I just started. I didn't have any real plan I was following, but I did set a goal to run a 5K after I got a bit more serious about running. I followed a training plan from a magazine to get ready for that 5K, along with tips from a book. (You can read more about that initial 5K on this post and this one.)  


Jennifer: Slowly. LOL. I followed the Couch to 5K plan, and I highly recommend it. I thought about starting a few weeks in as opposed to Week 1 Day 1, because after all, it’s not as though I was a couch potato. However, on the advice of others I followed the plan as suggested and only advanced when I’d been able to successfully complete each week. It took me longer than 9 weeks to complete it, but that’s OK!


What are your favorite running apps?

Aby: I use Runstar which I love. It works great for running on the road and tracking distance and time, both of which has really fueled my motivation to run over the past month and a half. Usually after completing a race (which I did at the end of September) I lose the desire to run. But the monthly mileage goal, coupled with Runstar (and tracking via has kept me motivated! (Runstar doesn't work well for running on a for that I count laps manually and just track my time with Runstar.)


Jennifer: I love Runmeter because it connects to Facebook and dailymile, so if someone posts encouragement to me in either of those places, I hear it through my ear buds. It’s definitely not as accurate as a Garmin, but it’s the most accurate smart phone app I’ve used so far.


What is your number one bit of advice?

Aby: Set a goal, such as to run in a 5K, or to run/walk a certain number of times a week, or (after you're up and running (pun intended)) to run a certain number of miles in a month. This gives me the motivation to run, even when I don't feel like it. I'm always glad I ran when I'm having that extra incentive to get out there and do it, really pays off. 


Komen Race St. Louis

I love running in big races like the Komen Race. It inspires me to train harder and there's nothing quite like joining thousands of other runners in support of a common goal. 

Jen: I think I hated running because I don’t ever remember anyone “training” me to run, so my biggest piece of advice is to start slowly and progress at your own pace.


What has been your greatest accomplishment or experience with running?

Aby:  My greatest experience so far was running in the Miles for Mesothelioma race last September. I ran in that race six weeks after my Dad passed away, and it was Mesothelioma that claimed his life. I felt so close to my Dad when I ran, both training for the race and on race day. Running has played a big part in my life in the weeks since my Dad passed away. It keeps me going on the rough days, and that's what I really love about running.   


It has been said that the true value in setting a goal isn't in reaching the goal, it is in who you become on your way to it. I can definitely say that has been true for me in running. Even though I haven't yet achieved my initial goal of running a marathon, I have no regrets. Running has made me a stronger person physically and mentally. It is a terrific stress reliever, and it has gotten me through some tough times and has been the source of many happy times, too. If you want to get into running—or go for any goal or dream that you're itching to try—go for it! Even if you don't end up exactly where you thought you would, you will grow as a person and learn so much about yourself in the process. 


Jennifer: It would be easy to say completing a marathon, and while that was absolutely a life-changing event, it’s not my answer to this question. I think my greatest accomplishment is that my daughters, who were 5 and 7 when I began running, have seen me try something I thought I couldn’t do and thought I hated. They’ve seen me discover that I not only can do this, but that I love it. They’ve watched me sacrifice and work hard to reach my goals, and they’ve discovered that I’m a happier, better mother when I run. 


Color run

Knowing they are truly proud of me is just awesome. But, my greatest accomplishment is that my daughters are learning the value of being a strong, healthy woman. 


Are you a runner? We'd love to hear your tips and suggestions for new runners. Thanks for sharing!

How to achieve your goals and create a life you love workshop

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