simplify 101
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November 12, 2012

Monday Check In

Happy Monday my friends! How was your weekend? I hope it was filled with lots of fun and some getting things done. Mine was a nice mix. Here’s the update:



  • Run. My goal was 6-1/2 miles for the weekend…but I ran 8! Hooray.
  • Girls Night In and Wine Night. Check! Both were lots of fun and relaxing, too. Just right.
  • Knit. Check!
  • Take photos for 30 Days of Gratitude. Not yet. On the list for this week.



  • Baby Shower. Check!
  • Pick up bagels for baby shower. Check!
  • Wrap a birthday gift. Kailea wanted to do this. So that was an easy check! :)
  • Plan weekly meals and shop. Check!
  • Laundry. A check for progress.
  • Make progress on 28 day challenge. Check! This was the big one. After the baby shower (and before wine night) on Saturday I washed the windows inside and out. I love it when that is done.


It was a nice weekend. I hope your was, too. Let me know all about it in the comments.


November 09, 2012

Organizing Your Weekend To-Do List

It’s that time of the week my friends—time to organize your weekend to-do list. Around here we call it Finish It Friday. If you’re new to the blog, the general idea is this. Each Friday you spend a few minutes planning the weekend ahead by focusing on two main areas—fun stuff and get-it-done stuff. If you haven’t participated in Finish It Friday before, you are officially invited to do so today. You’ll be very surprised at the extra motivation you have to get some things done and enjoy the fun stuff, too. So what do you say—are you in?


I am and here is my list:


  • Run. I need to run 6-1/2 more miles this weekend to hit my goal of ten for the week. Yikes!
  • Girls Night In. Friday night.
  • Wine Night. Saturday night.
  • Knit. I started a new scarf last night. I just love knitting this time of year!
  • Take photos for 30 Days of Gratitude.



  • Baby Shower.
  • Pick up bagels for baby shower.
  • Wrap a birthday gift.
  • Plan weekly meals and shop.
  • Laundry. (It’s in good shape at the moment, which is always good news.)
  • Make progress on 28 day challenge.


Alright…I think that’s it (and plenty of it!). I have lots of simplify 101 stuff to wrap up before the weekend officially begins, too, so I better get busy! I hope you have a great weekend…and I hope you’ll join me for this week’s Finish It Friday. If you want in on the fun, simply share your to-do list in the comments, and then, check back in on Monday to let us know how your weekend went. Have a great one!  


November 08, 2012

Thankful Thursday: 30 Days of Gratitude Days 1 through 8

Welcome to our first Thankful Thursday. As we mentioned last week, Jennifer and I decided to join in Positively Present’s 30 Days of Gratitude Photo Challenge, and do a weekly “Thankful Thursday” blog post to share our photos of the objects of our gratitude. The challenge suggests what to take photos of, which has been a fun gratitude twist for me. I am in the habit of sharing my daily gratitude (via email and this time of year, also in my Get Organized for the Holidays online workshop). But this challenge has caused me to think more deeply about very specific things and recognize how these things benefit my life. It has been quite fun…and we’re only 8 days into it! Let's get to the thankfulness...


Day 1: Words

30 days of gratitude - day 1 words


A big part of what I do for a living is writing, so it goes without saying that I’m extremely grateful for words. And I’m even more grateful for the people who read my words.


Day 2: Technology

30 days of gratitude - day 2 technology

You may know this about me, but I’m really not the most techie person around. I am grateful, however, that technology helps connect me with people I love via Facebook, texting, and phone calls. But my newest object of technology gratitude is my running app. This app helped me track my October running goal, and it really helped solidify my love of running. Who knew technology could be good for the mind and body?


Day 3: Nature

30 days of gratitude - day 3 nature

I’m not exactly what you would consider a nature girl either (my sister claimed that gene in our family), but I am grateful for the gifts of nature, especially those found through the changing seasons. This fall I’ve been more up close and personal with nature because I have spent so much time running outside. I’m grateful that running has allowed me to appreciate nature such as changing leaves, deer crossing on the road just ahead of me, and clear skies that suddenly changed to ominous stormy skies. (And I’m really grateful I went for a short run that night, and got home before the skies opened up!)


Day 4: Clothing

30 days of gratitude - day 4 clothing

I’m grateful for clothing that keeps me warm during these cool fall days. And I’m especially grateful for this cozy sweatshirt and all the trouble my sister went through getting it for me.


Day 5: Knowledge

30 days of gratitude - day 5 knowledge

I’m grateful for books and for people who share their knowledge through books. I'm grateful for the author of these books, Scott Stratten, who has the amazing and rare ability to share knowledge and humor all in one package. Finally, I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my knowledge with others via simplify 101—a big, heartfelt thanks for that one.


Day 6: Memories

30 days of gratitude - day 6 memories

I have never been more grateful for memories than I am now. It is memories that get me through those empty-as-a-drum days when I miss my sweet daddy oh so much.


Day 7: Innovation

30 days of gratitude - day 7 innovation-1


I am grateful for innovation and the ways it makes my life easier. It boggles my brain, really, the innovations that have happened just in my lifetime! I’ve gone from a time when computer programming was done via punch cards to a time when I can connect with people all over the world via an iPad (and pin stuff using the same handy device!) Innovation—what’s not to love?


Day 8: Sleep

30 days of gratitude - day 8 sleep

I am grateful for sleep and the way it restores my body, mind and soul. I’m also grateful for the incredilbe sweetness of a sleeping child. 


I'm also really grateful for everyone who is joining us in this challenge! We've been pinning images to our 30 Day Gratitude Challenge pinboard, and it has been so fun to see what you are grateful for! Thanks for joining the fun. If you haven't started yet, or you've fallen behind, no worries! Just jump in where you are. If you're wondering how you can join in the fun, the best way is to upload your images to instagram using the hashtags #simplify101 and #gratitude30. Let us know if you have any questions or comments.



November 07, 2012

Aftermath of an IKEA Shopping Trip

We're not fortunate enough to live within a respectable driving distance from IKEA, which is sad because it is my favorite store for home goods. I am, however, sure that the distance between me and the "big blue and yellow" is truly for the best. For one thing, it makes a trip to IKEA much more than an errand. It’s an event! It requires pouring over the catalog, flagging pages, measuring spaces in my home, making notes. It also requires at least one overnight stay, and possibly arranging childcare for my kiddos. (Can you say weekend away for Mom and Dad? Yippee!)


I have been pining for a new dresser for my daughter Joy’s room for a year now. Not just any dresser, mind you, but the 8-drawer Hemnes dresser in white. And everything else I saw paled in comparison, so my husband and I finally decided it was time to go for it. We lined up a willing grandma to keep the kiddos, booked a hotel room, and cleaned out the van for maximum cargo space. WOOHOO, we were off! We had a great weekend together as a couple, and of course made a major haul of home goods.


It wasn’t until the drive home that I think it hit us both. It wasn’t exactly buyer’s remorse. It’s more of what I would call “IKEA aftermath.” Those stacks of boxes in the back of the van? Um, those represented a whole lot of work now that we had them all home. Our little weekend excursion suddenly felt more like we’d enlisted in a DIY boot camp. Oh, and to add to this whole scenario, it’s important to note that my husband had to leave on business travel right after our return from the IKEA getaway. 


As we unloaded the van, we put the purchases in the rooms where they belong and tried to make peace with the fact that we would be navigating around boxes until we get all the assembly done. But then, I became even more overwhelmed as I started to look around the house. My daughter’s current furniture had to be cleaned off, cleared out, and moved from the room before the new furniture is built. And, oh my, she has quite the collection of “stuff” to cull through.




Dream? Yes, I have a dream of getting this mess under control!

Part of the reason we bought her new furniture was to be able to make her room more organized and functional for her. Case in point:  one whole corner is taken up by a desk. While a desk in her room is a great idea, she never actually uses it as a desk. Instead, it’s just a place where things get piled and stashed.


Given her love of books and need for more storage space, bookshelves make a lot more sense in this corner. BUT, before the bookcase is assembled, that entire desk has to be de-cluttered. Everything has to be moved off and out of the desk, and the desk has to go to a new home. That’s a lot of to-dos after an innocent trip to IKEA! Now, picture this process being repeated throughout the house, and I think you will begin to sense how overwhelmed I am feeling! I look around at these boxes and feel like we just moved in but without the helpful friends here to unpack us. (OK, OK, taking a deep breath here.)



box used as memo board

My daughter, Faith, is now using one of the boxes in the hallway as a giant memo board. Clever!


I am fighting these overwhelmed feelings by simply doing what I can in small slices of time. I cannot even lift some of these boxes, much less assemble them myself. This has to wait for hubby’s return and time in both of our schedules. In the meantime, can I declutter for 15 minutes here and there? Yes. Can I begin packing up items that will find new homes within the new furniture and storage solutions? You betcha. Can I begin the process of selling or giving away furniture that needs to leave our home? Absolutely. All of these are steps in the process.


Aby mentions frequently how helpful it is to break things into bite-sized chunks to make progress towards a goal, and I am finding that advice exceptionally helpful right now. I would certainly rather wave a wand and have this all finished, but making progress on these goals is relieving my stress and helping get us closer to completion.



book shelves

These shelves and everything on them is being placed in other rooms. My progress here is quite messy looking!

No matter what kind of organizing project we are working on, I think the aftermath of IKEA is a good reminder of two things:


1.  We frequently have to create much larger messes in order to achieve the results we desire.

2.  Working in small increments of time each day not only helps us get closer to our goals, but it also helps ward off those overwhelmed feelings. 


Whew. I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 


Are you working on anything overwhelming right now? What small steps can you take each day to move forward?

Jens signature black

November 02, 2012

What’s on your to-do list this weekend?

Before I get to the weekend to-do list stuff, I want to send a shout-out to my readers on the east coast. I had been hearing reports of power outages via Facebook...but then I saw photos of how sever the destruction is on the news. I'm floored. My heart is heavy for everyone who has been effected by this storm. I'd love to hear how you're doing. 


As for the weekend to-do list stuff, it seems like Friday arrived way too fast this week. I know this is due to Halloween and out of town visitors happening right smack dab in the middle of the week. Regardless, what this means is that there’s lots to do this weekend to catch up from the midweek break! Totally worth it...but the laundry pile runneth over, for example. Here’s what’s on my to-do list this weekend:



  • Run. I met my 43 mile goal for the month of October. My total mileage was 53.77, which I’m really happy about! Never would have dreamed I would run that far when I started the challenge on October 2nd. I set a new goal of 46.23 miles for the month of November. When I hit that goal I will have run 100 miles in two months! So…I better get busy running this weekend.
  • Take photos for 30 days of gratitude. I've also decided I need some words to go along with the will be doing a bit of writing this weekend, too. 


  • In-home organizing appointment. I have a weekend appointment with a terrific client. (Very much looking forward to this.)
  • Laundry.  There’s a big pile up in the laundry room as I type! Must address this by Sunday.
  • Plan meals + grocery shop.
  • Make progress on 28 day challenge. I’m going out of order…we’ll see what I’m inspired to do. If you’re participating, how are you doing with the challenge?
  • Do some paperwork. 


I’m going to keep my list short this weekend, since the better part of one day is already accounted for. What’s on your to-do list this weekend?


Have a great weekend!


October 29, 2012

The Weekend Recap

What a quiet Finish It Friday it was this week. I hope that all is well for my Finish It Friday friends. I wonder if some of you were busy getting prepared for the hurricane? If so…I was thinking about you this weekend, hoping that the storm dies down or somehow switches course and heads back out to sea. 


Here’s how my weekend turned out.



  • Boot camp and run (maybe). I decided not to go to boot camp this week, so that I could run and hit my 43 mile goal. (Which I did!) I’m up to 45.44 miles for the month and somehow this has caused me to create a new goal:  50 miles for the month. Funny how it goes that way, right? As soon as you reach a goal, a new one sneaks right in and grabs your attention! Does that happen to you, too? 

    I decided, though, that boot camp is a really good part of my regular Saturday morning routine. When I go to boot camp, I accomplish the hardest thing on my weekend to-do list by 9:30 AM Saturday! That fuels my whole day, if not my entire weekend. This Saturday I felt really behind schedule all day, and I never really felt like I got in a getting-things-done groove. But it’s not like I was in a lounge-and-relax groove either. It was just like everything was moving really slow and not grooving at all. I finally got a wind (not even a second wind, but the very first one!) after dinner on Saturday...and started making progress on my “done” list. Moral of the story: boot camp is a really important part of my weekend routine!
  • Pumpkin farm. We went and we’re so glad we did. It was a really nice and relaxing (albeit COLD) afternoon. It was a great day to be out in the country, enjoying family.


Pumpkin Farm



  • Get ready for Halloween. Check! My extrememly minimal Halloween decorating is done. The candy is bought. And the costume is ready. All systems are a go!


  • Weekly meal planning + shopping. Check! We are all ready for the week ahead, including chili makings for trick-or-treating.
  • Make progress on 28 day challenge. Okay…so I dusted the cobwebs and the cold air returns, cleaned the cook top, and cleaned the light fixtures. This last task included washing the glass globes from the dining room chandelier. And here’s where the story get ugly:  I dropped one of the globes on the tile floor! A classic case of one-step-forward-and-two-steps-back. Let’s just say…my first wind died very quickly. Grrrr….  
  • Laundry. Check!


I’m ready (enough) for my sister and step-mom’s visit. I’m looking forward to seeing them…though getting ready for their visit made me really miss my Dad all over again. It's going to be so weird without him here this Halloween. I guess that’s just part of the process...going through those "first times without him" and riding the emotional waves that come with them. (The good news is, this morning I woke up excited to see my sister and step-mom. Every day is different.)


I hope you had a good weekend. I'd love to hear all about it in the comments. And stay safe my friends on the east coast. Stay safe. I'll be thinking about you. 


October 26, 2012

Are you ready to get organized for the weekend?

It’s time, my friends, to get ourselves organized for the weekend. Here are my weekend fun and done lists.


  • Boot camp.
  • Run. (Maybe.) I have 2 miles to hit my 43 mile goal for the month – woohoo! I have found that running and boot camp aren’t a terrific mix. So…I’m not sure if I’ll be up for a run by Sunday. If not, Monday will be the day I reach my goal. Yay!
  • Pumpkin farm. (Maybe.) We’ll have to see how the rest of the weekend to-do list unfolds, and see how everyone feels about it. We’re very wishy-washy about the pumpkin farm this year.


  • Get ready for Halloween. Okay…so this weekend doesn’t have a lot of fun stuff planned. Instead, I’ll be getting ready for the fun that will happen next week on Halloween when my sister and step mom visit. There are lots of little to-dos in here including decorating and cleaning…just getting the house guest-ready.
  • Weekly meal planning + shopping. This includes getting more Halloween candy and stuff for a little trick-or-treating get together.
  • Make progress on 28 day challenge. By the way, if you’re playing along at home and started on the first day, today is Day 4 and the challenge is to dust cobwebs and clean cold air returns. That is on my list for the weekend, as is cleaning the oven and cook top. I have already decluttered magazines (which is tomorrow’s challenge) and I may skip ahead and do a few later things like cleaning the baseboards.
  • Laundry.



So there's not too much to jump up and down about this weekend, but that’s okay. I’m really looking forward to our mid-week visit next week!


What’s on your to-do list this weekend? Hope you have a great one! (By the way, if you're doing the 28 day challenge, please feel free to share your progress in the Finish It Friday and Monday Check In posts. I'd love to hear how you're doing with the daily tasks! Thanks!)


October 24, 2012

Lessons Learned from a First-Time Marathon

Last week, I mentioned that Jennifer was running in her first marathon on Sunday. Today, I asked her to share her story with all of us, including the “secrets” to her success and what she learned along the way. Yay, Jen!

  Run a Marathon - Check


Yes! I can officially check this one off my bucket list. I completed the Rock ‘n Roll St. Louis marathon last Sunday. How was it? It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. At different times it was fun, excruciating, exciting, daunting, easy, and impossible. And now that it is behind me, I am euphoric and also a bit numb. (But not physically numb. Ouch!)


I feel very fortunate that Aby asked me to write about it on the blog, and I’m honored to share what I learned from this! I have no secret weapons or super powers, but I think the following things were absolutely key.


I had a plan, or more accurately, I found a plan and followed it. Fortunately there are a lot of smart people out there who know far more about marathons than I ever will, and they’ve done all the groundwork. I just had to choose the one that seemed the best fit for me, which ended up being a training program by Hal Higdon, a renowned running expert and author.


I carved out the time. The very next thing I did once I had a plan was to actually put a schedule in my calendar. Having 18 weeks to get ready for something is great, but without assigning tasks to days, that time would have gone by and I would have been no closer to running a marathon. Having things on the schedule solidified my commitment, kept me on track, and also kept my family members in the loop with my training.


I had a team. Speaking of family members, it was imperative that they were on board. Before I even began training, we talked as a family about what it would mean for them. After all, they were not the ones signing up for this, and so I committed to do whatever I could not to take away from family time. This meant some very early runs and some late evenings on the computer mapping out routes and researching nutrition, but I was willing to sacrifice so that my family wouldn’t have to. I was also honest in letting them know there would be 3-4 long weekend runs towards the end that would take up a decent chunk of time and would likely leave me pretty wiped out for the day. I think it was critical to have them on the same page as me. They may not have run with me, but they were most certainly my team.

Marathon Family Hugs
Coming in for hugs from my family along the course.


I also had coaches. Or, perhaps they were more like mentors. Either way, I have two seasoned marathoner friends who were gracious enough to train with me. I have told them I don’t know how anyone trains for a marathon without Julia and Emily, to which they smirk, but I am not kidding. They joined me for my longest training runs, coached me about injuries and recovery, answered my questions, and most of all believed in me. Emily even met me on the course at the bottom of the very worst hill and ran up it with me, filling me with encouragement the entire time. Their expert guidance was invaluable. I’m so grateful!


I had fans. (Hey, why should celebrities have all the fun?) I chose to be pretty vocal about my goal and shared it with many people. I know from past experience that having other people cheer me on keeps me going and keeps me accountable. Thank you to everyone who commented on this blog, the race day spectators and volunteers, and my family and friends. I think we often times underestimate the power our words have. But, I read the comments. I saw the signs. I heard the cheers. And, I believed you. Thank you for believing in me.

  Honk for Jennifer


I celebrated my accomplishments along the way. I treated myself to the occasional piece of new running gear. I celebrated long runs with chocolate milk (because it is both a treat and a good way to refuel the body after a hard workout). But, I also celebrated in less tangible ways, and these were possibly the most meaningful. I celebrated running in different parts of the country, running through season changes, running through various types of weather. I celebrated beautiful views and encounters with nature. I celebrated starry nights and sunrises. I celebrated that not only was every run taking me closer to my goal, but was also allowing me to experience so much that I would have otherwise missed.


I changed my life. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t achieve this goal and then wake up as a different person in a perfect world. However, I learned important things about myself, and I gained new perspective. I think anyone who achieves a goal can identify with this. More than just checking the goal off a to-do list, it’s what happens along the way and as a result of reaching it that has the lasting impact. That’s how we truly change our lives.


Marathon Medal
If you look closely, you can even see the tears rolling down my face. I could not stop crying!



Happy day,

Jens signature black

October 23, 2012

28 Day Challenge: Get Your Home Ready for the Holidays

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28 Day Holiday Challenge
Last year in late October, Jen and I started a 28-day challenge to help us all get our homes ready for the holidays. The idea behind this challenge was to bite-size the process of getting our homes guest-ready before the season officially arrived.


Well, we had so much fun with it last year, and were so happy to have all that stuff out of the way before the holidays began, that we thought it would be fun to do it again. Listed below are the daily challenges along with links to the original blog post. Please note that we rearranged some of the challenges so that we weren't doing things like putting away Halloween decorations before Halloween. ;) So if you click on a link the day numbers don't correspond, that's what's going on. 


We also put together a printable with all of the challenges listed on it. You can print that out and do the challenges in any order that suits you. Just think, with a little bit of effort every day for the next 28 days, we can get our homes ready ahead of time and enjoy the holidays even more.

Get Your Home Ready for the Holidays 28 Day Challenge

Download 28 Day Challenge Printable You will need Adobe Reader to open this file.  


So what do you say—are you in this year? Let us know in the comments, and then, be sure to check back throughout the challenge to keep us posted on your progress! Good luck!


Day 1:  Decide to Join and Collect Your Supplies

Day 2:  Create a List of Trouble Spots

Day 3:  Focus on Surface Decluttering for At Least 15 Minutes Today

Day 4:  Dust Cobwebs and Clean Cold Air Returns

Day 5:  Declutter Magazines and Catalogs

Day 6:  Clean the Oven and Cook Top

Day 7:  Wash Light Fixtures and Lampshades

Day 8:  Clean Behind Your Stove and Refrigerator

Day 9:  Clean and Organize Your Fridge and Freezer

Day 10:  Clean the Trash Cans and Recycling Containers

Day 11:  Declutter Your Food Storage Containers

Day 12:  Declutter Your Halloween or Other Holiday Decorations

Day 13:  Wash the Windows

Day 14:  Dust Clocks, Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Day 15:  Declutter Disposable Party Supply Goods

Day 16:  Declutter the Guest Room

Day 17:  Deep Clean Floors

Day 18:  Clean Baseboards

Day 19:  Declutter the Family Room

Day 20:  Declutter and Organize Board Games

Day 21:  Declutter Paper

Day 22:  Set Up a Holiday Card Mini Zone

Day 23:  You Choose

Day 24:  Set Up a Quick-Clean Mini Zone in the Guest Bathroom

Day 25:  Declutter Kids’ Spaces (or Your Own “Fun” Space) 

Day 26: Declutter the Coat Closet 

Day 27: Sweep Your Entryway 

Day 28:  Declutter and Organize Your Reusable Shopping Bags


Happy Organizing!


Get Organized for the Holidays Online Workshop

October 19, 2012

Running a Marathon: the Courage to Start

"Why would you do that?" It's the number one question I get asked about why I would willingly run 26.2 miles. And one I used to ask before I started running two years ago. Why would anyone run that far? That long? Oh sure, it’s pretty cool to get the sticker for the car window and the race t-shirt, but clearly it takes more than that!



26.2 shirt
My new cute running shirt hanging on my closet door until I've "earned" it!



I think the answer must be different for everyone who chooses to challenge themselves in this way, but I firmly believe that anyone who achieves this only does so when they are crystal clear on their reason. Here's mine: my whole life, I did not believe I was athletic. I did not think I had what it took to be an athlete. It was not in me. Then I did the Couch to 5k program, and discovered that not only could I run a 5k, but also that I love this running thing. So I wondered, could I do 10k? It turns out that I could. By then running was a part of my life. So, I set my sights on a half marathon. And with each goal I got a little better, a little stronger.


Even as I trained for that first 5k, I began to understand the kind of dedication, perseverance and sacrifice required to train for a marathon. It's so much more than being physically able, and I admired that tremendously. But, was it in me? Last summer, I decided to find out and committed to run the Rock ‘n Roll St. Louis Marathon on October 21, 2012. Even before Sunday, I know the answer: Yes, it is. It is in me.


John Bingham quote


I'm going into this weekend with a bit of an injury. I strained my hip flexor, which meant taking the last week and a half completely off from running, along with receiving physical therapy. My body is not at 100%, but my mind and heart are. So injured or not, I’m going for it. I have to be realistic, though, and simply hope to finish this race. I am staying positive about my ability to complete this, but if I have to bail, it's OK. I will get it next time because I know my answer.


Why would I run a marathon? Because I found the athlete I didn't know I was. And that feels simply amazing.


Enjoy your weekend!

Jens signature black

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