Surviving Quarantine

All of our lives were turned upside down just a few short weeks ago. With the spread of the Coronavirus, COVID-19, it’s almost like we’re living in some sort of thriller type movie. With many being quarantined at home, we’re trying to find a new normal. We’re searching for ways to keep some normalcy from what our lives used to be like, but the truth is life has changed. And it has changed dramatically.

As someone who considers herself a homebody – and does a good portion of my work from home, I wanted to share some tips on how to keep sane in this time. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing that you are required to stay at home. It can be a time when you evaluate what your life looked like – how you spent your time, energy, and money, and decide if there are any changes you want to make moving forward once life “gets back to normal.”

The first thing I would suggest is to make a schedule and write it down. Make a schedule for you and for your kids. I understand that not all people “like” to live with a schedule. For you, it could be more of a loose schedule. But when we don’t have a schedule, it’s easy to waste time and get side-tracked which ultimately can lead to feelings of depression. Prior to this pandemic hitting the world, many of you had a routine which happened organically. Likely your children had the same experience, especially if they are school aged or went to daycare. Although you could fly by the seat of your pants everyday, it would benefit you to create some sort of routine.

There are several areas in life where a schedule would be beneficial. One area would be a cleaning schedule.I have found that spreading out the chores for your entire house over the course of the week, as opposed to doing it all in one day, is much less overwhelming and stressful. In addition, when you choose one or two chores to do each day, keeping the house clean seems more manageable. You don’t need to worry about the entire house every day – each day choose one or two chores to complete and those are the only chores you will need to think about that day. Typically this won’t take longer than 45 minutes. You could even break it up into a couple “cleaning sessions” in the day.

Here is my schedule for the spring semester (this was prior to the lock down instructions.)

A few more things that need to be worked into your schedule is of course work (your career), checking in with your kids and their work, exercise, and downtime. I recently heard in a news story that a good balance would be to work for 45 minutes, then check in with your kids for 15 minutes each hour (this will obviously depend on the age/independence of your children. My college-aged kids are on their own! Hahaha!) Building in time to exercise and downtime is really important in this time too.

The second thing you can do is to keep things as normal as possible. While this is difficult since many of our lives have changed dramatically, there are small things we can do to keep normalcy in our lives in this uncertain time. Keep routines that you previously had that still work. Take a shower, get dressed, put on makeup, make your bed – anything to make things feel routine. It could be easy to not keep these regular routines since you aren’t leaving the house, but it can make you feel more normal and maybe even more productive.

Something else I wanted to suggest {{OBVIOUSLY}} is to take advantage of this extra time at home by purging and organizing your spaces. Perhaps choose one room/space per week to focus on and do a little each day. It may seem counter intuitive to purge in this time where there is a worldwide crisis because the tendency in this sort of environment is to hoard, however if your space is neat and only has those items you love and use, it will be a lot easier to get work done and stick to your routines. Oftentimes (not for everyone), a cluttered external environment causes your mind to feel cluttered making it difficult to focus and get work done.  If you’re leery of getting rid of things at this time, collect items in a bin and store them in your garage or basement for 6 months to see if you can go without these items. If you do in fact need any of them, you are able to easily retrieve them. There are several places in your home that could be tackled, and I have a couple different blog posts if you need some direction, but a great place to start would be with your food – your pantry and refrigerator/freezer. Across the world, it has grown increasingly difficult to acquire the foods we want and just to go out to get it with the lock down instructions in place. It can be a great time to assess what food you already have and find creative ways to use what you have! I know many people feel emotionally drained at this time, which can also make you mentally and physically drained, making it difficult to tackle something like decluttering. Just remember, you can start small. Do one drawer or one cabinet, and that can give you momentum to declutter other spaces.

Lastly, I wanted to share that this is a great time to instill new, positive habits. They say it takes 21 days to create a true habit. Who knows how long we will be asked to stay on lock down, but you can start today to create new habits while you are forced to stay at home and potentially have more time on your hands. Some ideas are to create cleaning routines/habits, make exercise (even just walking!) a regular part of your life, or begin to spend time in prayer and/or mediation (this doesn’t even have to be “spiritual.” You can meditate on positive affirmations). This is also a great time to focus on drinking lots of water and getting enough rest. If we do contract this worldwide virus, it’s best to have healthy practices to give our bodies the best chance to fight it off.

I hope this encouraged you to see the silver lining in this time that you are stuck at home. Enjoy the slower pace of life, reevaluate what you do with your time and money, instill new positive routines and habits into your life!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post.

My Intentional Spending Year Reflections, Part 1

For those of you new to my blog, last year in 2019 I did a no spend year. You can read my reflections from each month by clicking on the “No Spend Year” link under categories on the right side of the home page. After that experience, I didn’t want to go back to my old spending habits. The reason I decided to do the no spend year was to reset some of my negative spending habits. Moving into 2020, I decided to do an “Intentional Spending Year,” focusing on being more intentional with what I brought into my home. I wanted to give an update on how that has been going now that we are well into the third month of the year.

At the beginning of the year, I was struggling to buy anything. Since I took a year long spending fast, it almost felt like “cheating” because my brain became so accustomed to not spending. So far, I feel like I have been very intentional about certain purchases, while other purchases I don’t feel like I am being as intentional as I had planned on being.

My biggest struggle so far this year has been with Poshmark. This is a clothing resale app in which you can buy and sell clothing to other users. There were several clothing items which I had “liked” even when I wasn’t purchasing clothing. For those of you not familiar with the app, it is set up similar to social media where you can follow certain people (their closets) and you can “like” certain clothing items. I did purchase several items from my “likes” over the first couple of months of 2020.

The other struggle I had was having items “stored up” from the year that I had my eye on or needed to replace, and really still wanted. Where I would only purchase 1-2 items like this per month in the past, I had several items I wanted. I needed a new black leather jacket (as my old had an obvious worn spot). I also had my eye on a specific pair of shoes that I had first seen probably 6 months ago. In addition to that, I had some workout clothes that were no longer fitting me right, and needed replacing (whoever designed high waisted workout pants are a genius! No more slipping! I replaced a couple pairs of tights that were not high waisted.) I needed to replace one of my white t-shirts that had a stain. And the list could go on!

Leather jacket and basic white t-shirt which I replaced.

Another struggle, which I mentioned in several of my no spend year reflections – was this idea of the slippery slope. I think I purchased some items just because it was “okay to buy things.” I realize now that my biggest struggle is with SHOES! I definitely make excuses as to why I “NEED” a pair of shoes.

Just one of my three shoe racks! I also have some shoe storage boxes on the top shelf of my closet to store out of season shoes!

I do feel like I’m slowing down on the purchases now that I’m through those first couple of months. Part of it is now I’ve purchased those things that I’ve had my eye on, or needed replaced. Another part of it is just being disappointed in myself – wanting to do a better job at being intentional with what comes into my home.

Pair of shoes I had my eye on for over 6 months!

If you read my past reflections from last year, you will know that clothing items were much more difficult for me to not purchase versus the home decor. I feel like I have been much more intentional with home decor purchases. In addition to that, I feel like I’m getting to a place where I can appreciate something in a store without having to purchase it. I probably am erring on the side of NOT purchasing when it comes to things other than clothing.

I purchased these brass birds from my friend’s vintage Etsy shop.

Even with clothing items, I did have a couple of “wins.” Unfortunately, in February, I had to travel back to my home town for my Grandma’s funeral. Ordinarily, I would want to purchase a dress for this occasion. I remembered back to my experience with wanting to purchase a dress for my son’s graduation, and realized I have plenty of dresses to choose from (even though they were all sleeveless or short sleeved and I was traveling to Indiana in the middle of winter! But I added a blazer and it worked!) I also went on a trip at the end of February. I often will purchase clothes specific for trips, but I chose to wear what I had – and I made it work!

Me with my four sisters at the lunch after my Grandma’s funeral.
My son and me at Magic Kingdom!

One other thing I wanted to share, which is difficult to open up about, is one of the reasons why I may have been spending more (other than I was “allowed to.”) I learned while on my no spend year that when I was tempted to shop, I replaced it with other habits – like watching Netflix for instance. As I reflect, I realize that oftentimes I am tempted to shop when I am stressed out or going through something difficult in life. It was my way of numbing out life. I have gone through several difficult personal things over the last few months – making me more susceptible to seeking out ways to find comfort. I’m thankful for the no spend year, and how it has contributed to my ability to see more clearly reasons behind my habits. Moving forward, I will find more healthy ways to deal with the stressors of life. I used to journal a lot, but have not been consistent for several years now. I want to use journaling as a way to brain dump my thoughts and feelings. I also want to turn to meditation and prayer when I recognize that I’m going down that path of self medication.

Moving forward this year, I would like to be more intentional than I have been thus far. Practically I am going to do this by doing a few things. First, I want to come up with more concise “rules” for my year. For my no spend year, I had specific rules that helped me stay on course. I didn’t really come up with specific rules for my intentional spending year. I think this will help keep me grounded. I plan on cutting way back on looking through the Poshmark app. I also plan on just not going into stores. This will be easy now that we are staying at home more with the Coronavirus pandemic. In addition, I plan to shift my focus. I found during my no spend year that I had so much extra time, and this was because my focus was shifted away from things! I will also, as I mentioned find healthier ways to deal with difficult circumstances in life.

How To Keep A Tidy Home

Keeping a tidy home can be a difficult endeavor. Life is busy, and filled with responsibilities other than just housekeeping. I wanted to share with you some tips on how to stay on top of household duties in order to keep a tidy home.

One of the main things I do in order to keep my home tidy is to deal with things immediately when I can. A perfect example is our mail. I don’t get the mail until I am ready to deal with it – sift through and throw away all junk mail, then immediately pay bills or deal with mail. If it is something I can’t deal with immediately, I hang it on our magnetic calendar dry erase board, which is located in a prominent place in our kitchen. I will see it every time I’m in the kitchen as a reminder to take care of it. Another way to deal with things immediately, is when you get home from somewhere – put everything away in its place. If I have some trash and/or a glass of water by my bed from the night before, I bring it downstairs with me when I get up in the morning and throw away the trash and put the glass in the sink with the dishes on deck for the dishwasher. If I see a mess, I will take the extra 2-3 minutes to clean it up right away.

Another tip is to have a schedule. I have a schedule for all of my household chores. I choose one or two chores per day to get done, making it less overwhelming. In addition to this, each week I choose one room to deep clean and declutter. Sometimes I do it all on one day, and other times I spread it out throughout the week depending on what my schedule is like for that week. 

This is a screen shot of my Google Sheets document with my schedule.

If you’re interested in learning more about deep cleaning one room per week, check out my blog post on zone cleaning!

Another thing that can help keep your home tidy is to enlist the help of others. Our kids had consistent chores by the time they were in upper elementary school. We can teach our kids not only about helping out as part of a family through consistent chores, but taking care of their own things. This can help tremendously in keeping things from getting out of control. If your partner doesn’t have this bent to naturally put his/her things away, then you can communicate your desire to have him/her take care of their own things.

It is much easier to keep your home tidy if everything has a place. When everything has a place, you and your family members will know where things go. You will be much more efficient in putting items away if everything has a place. If certain items don’t have a home, you will waste time and brain power deciding where it should go temporarily. Ultimately, you are less likely to put items away if they don’t have a home. Having organization systems in place will help with this issue.

Lastly, just don’t own a lot of stuff! I’ve said this many times before. The less stuff we own, the less we have to take care of. I know there are certainly areas where I could do a better job at owning less, but each day I work on only owning that which is useful, or that which brings me joy.

I hope this inspired you to stay on top of keeping your home tidy!

Here is my YouTube video with this information if you’re interested!

10 Reasons To Hire A Professional Organizer

Getting organized can be difficult and stressful for some people. I wanted to share with you 10 reasons why you might want to hire a professional organizer. I also have a YouTube video with this content if you’d like to check that out!

{{ONE}} You want to declutter, but you feel overwhelmed. Many people feel overwhelmed when thinking about organizing a space. It can be difficult to know where to start. A professional organizer can help you break these big projects into smaller tasks, making it a bit more manageable. We don’t have to stay with you the whole time. We can give you advice and homework to do while we are not there.

{{TWO}} You need accountability. Many people have good intentions but no follow through. Life can get in the way and before you know it, your good intentions get covered by the day-to-day busyness. Hiring a professional organizer will give you that accountability to push through and get a project done. Often times when we organize one space in our home, it gives us momentum to continue with other spaces.

{{THREE}} Another set of eyes for organization ideas. It can be really helpful to have another person looking at your space and giving you ideas of how to organize it, or ideas of organizing tools which would work well in the space. We may have things to share with you that you have never thought of for the space.

{{FOUR}} Someone to talk you through getting rid of things, especially the difficult things. We often get wrapped up in our emotional connection to items when trying to purge things on our own. We can also be blinded by the fact that we spent money on items, making it difficult to let go. Having someone else there to talk you through the costs and benefits of letting go of an item can be very helpful.

{{FIVE}} We keep you on task – it can be hard to stay focused. When working on decluttering and getting a space organized, it can be easy to get side tracked. Having someone there to keep you focused on the task at hand can make the process of decluttering and organizing more efficient and effective.

{{SIX}} Our expertise. Whether it’s from education, experience, or just a natural bent, a professional organizer has expertise that you may not have. This expertise can be very beneficial if you want to get a space organized efficiently.

{{SEVEN}} You don’t have time to organize your space. Life can be busy, especially if you have a full time job and/or kids. Managing your schedule, your kids’ schedules and other responsibilities can be time consuming.

{{EIGHT}} It’s worth it for your mental health to have organization systems that work well for you and your family. It can be challenging to find organization systems or tools that help to keep your spaces organized. A professional can organize your spaces in a logical way. It’s worth it for your mental health to have spaces that are organized and prevent you from feeling more anxious and overwhelmed.

{{NINE}} You’re moving. Moving can be a very stressful and crazy time in life. If you don’t have the skills to efficiently pack things in an organized way, it can be helpful to hire a professional. This will make packing up your old home easier, and then the unpacking process when you arrive at your new home a more smooth process.

{{TEN}} It’s more fun to purge and organize with someone rather than by yourself! I have had so much fun helping clients organize their spaces. It has been fun to hear their stories and to share my own stories as well. We get to know each other in this process, which is fun!

If you live in the Austin, Texas area and need help with organizing a space in your home, I would love for you to connect with me!

Inspired By Grandma

Unfortunately on Sunday February 2nd of this year, we had to say goodbye to my Grandma. She had lived a long, beautiful life. She was 93 years old, and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, so it was bitter sweet to say goodbye. Grandma was basically like another mother to me. My grandparents lived 10 minutes from our house, so we spent a lot of time over there. Before my Grandma was a mother or grandmother, she was a teacher. Even after she retired, she continued to “teach” us. I wanted to write about my Grandmother to honor her. Tomorrow I will be saying my last goodbye at her funeral, so I thought it was an appropriate time to share.

Grandma taught me that you don’t have to follow a recipe to whip up something with ingredients you have on hand. Or if we were following a recipe and we had missing ingredients, she always knew how to improvise. Not to mention her cooking was amazing! There’s just something about a grandma’s cooking, right? Almost every Sunday after church Grandma would host us all for lunch – our family, which included 5 kids plus my two cousins. I remember she would wear her apron to the dinner table. I always thought that was funny until I became the main cook of my own little family and learned her secret – that an apron is a sly way that an adult woman can wear a bib! Grandma grew up in the south, so it was fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, fried okra, and banana pudding! There was always a feast on Sunday afternoons.

My Grandparents with my husband and me on our wedding day.

Grandma’s house was a wonderland for kids! They lived in a big house with a basement – where all the fun happened. They also lived on acreage, including a wooded path behind their home. They had a big red barn where Grandpa did all of his woodworking. Every summer they had a garden, and they had a pool too. We spent many summer days over at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, picking ripe fruits and vegetables from their garden, swimming in the pool, and slurping popsicles out in the sun on the deck attached to the front of their house. Summer was the best time to spend the night at Grandma’s house. She would let us sleep with her. We would balloon up the sheets to make a “tent” and laugh and laugh. With the windows open, and the cool summer breeze rushing in through the screen, we would be lulled to sleep by the tune of the bull frogs and crickets who lived outside her window.

My Grandma meeting my firstborn, Cora. Her namesake is from my Grandma’s mother.

A famous story told in our family is “that one time Lorraine (age 6) and Joy (age 4) ran away to Grandma’s house.” Who doesn’t love Grandma’s house more than their own?! Now as a mother with my own children, I am horrified to think about two little pairs of legs walking nearly 4 miles to their Grandma’s house! Don’t worry, I apologize to my mom every time this story comes up! My Grandparents raised our cousins, so our plan was to live in Tim’s room and he would bring us food. When we arrived on their property, we hid out by the big pine tree at the edge of their front yard. We kept peeking around the tree, to see if anyone would see us. We then ran to the next tree – a little closer to the house. Grandma caught a glimpse of the flashes racing across her yard. When she came out and saw that it was us, she of course immediately called our mom – drat, the plan to live in Tim’s room was up. But, she did give us popsicles and let us swim in the pool in our clothes. We were hot after all.

My Grandma with my daughter Cora at my sister’s house in Atlanta.

I loved writing and poetry when I was younger. Grandma always encouraged me to write – a poem or a short story, or just write about your day – what you saw, heard, or felt. A few days after Grandma passed away, I had the urge to “deal with” my teenage angst ridden journals. I had found them in my closet several months back when I was doing a closet purge and I had decided then that I was ready to let those journals go. I didn’t want my kids to one day stumble on these horrible tales of my childhood. I seemed to write only when I had negative feelings, and I wanted to shred those and dispose of them for cathartic purposes. I began the process of shredding. When I got to the mauve Precious Moments journal, and opened the cover, I saw the beautiful scrawling which was my Grandmother’s writing. I ran my fingers over the words, tracing them as I read them. She had given it to me right before I entered high school. She wrote in the front a sweet poem about keeping record of your days. This journal I noticed I used in a different way than the other journals. The other journals were more of a “Dear Diary” scenario. This journal I WROTE. I wrote poems, deep thoughts, and unprocessed unfiltered feelings. Although the content was still angsty, I decided to keep this journal. The timing was so serendipitous. It’s like my Grandma was talking to me through the history of words on paper.

My Grandma, sister, and my sister’s son came out to visit us when we lived in Oregon.

My Grandma  was a teacher at heart, and never passed up opportunities to teach us. She loved to bird watch, and would teach us about the different birds and different bird calls. When we would walk through the woods, across the dilapidated wooden bridge, she would point out different types of trees. One time, I remember collecting leaves, which we would bring home and preserve between two sheets of wax paper using an iron to melt the wax. We got out the encyclopedias to look up what type of tree the leaf belonged to.

Grandma with my son, Luke. My Grandparents came to Austin to visit us!

A great way she taught her grandchildren was through travel and learning about other places. Her and my grandfather traveled all over the world! For each of their 7 grandchildren’s 5th and 11th birthdays, they took us on a special trip somewhere. I had to share my trips with my cousin Tim, because he was my age. Which I didn’t mind because we were good friends. For our 5th birthday trip, we loaded up the camper and drove to Savannah, Georgia. I don’t really remember much from this trip, other than a ride on a ferry boat. I also remember walking down the shoreline, and finding a huge jellyfish. A photo of my cousin and I squatting over this sea monster is still displayed in her home today.

My Grandma with my daughter, Cora.

For our 11th birthday trip, we drove all the way down the northeast coast states – starting up in Maine and working our way down. We went to a small fisherman’s town in Maine, where I learned you don’t eat the tails on shrimp. We went to New York City where I saw the first homeless person I had ever seen, was lectured by a woman with a cane on the subway that I should learn manners and give my seat to the “elderly” (referring to herself), and tried to walk up all the flights of stairs in the Statue of Liberty because the elevator was broken. Well, at least we made it to her feet! We went to D.C. where we walked past the white house, saw the Capitol Building, the Lincoln Memorial, and of course The Mall. We also went to the Smithsonian Museum.

Grandma always had funny, made up songs for everything. She liked to make us giggle. One time, on a trip traveling in her camper, we were sitting in the top bed overlooking the road as Grandpa drove the 5th wheel. We drove through a section of roadway that was nothing but pine trees across the hillside, as far as the eye could see. She started singing, “pine treeeeees, pine treeeees, pine trees. Pine treeeees, pine treeeees, pine trees,” then she paused for a moment and started this chorus again. We were both rolling with laughter!

My Grandma with my sons, Luke and Cade.

My college degree is in Journalism. I loved writing, even when I was very young. I attribute my love for writing and poetry to my Grandmother, who encouraged it in me. Today, I may not have a job using my journalism and writing skills, but over the years I have written in different capacities including currently writing blog posts. I thought it apropo to write a tribute to my Grandmother. I’ll end with a poem that I wrote about my Grandma when I was young.

A Grandma’s Love For Nature

By Joy L. Vendrely

I always wondered why Grandma stopped to look at flowers…

…For hours.

Why did she want to look at a waterfall?

That’s all.

Or admire a mountain with trees spread across…

…As if she were lost?

Grandma loves to collect shells from the ocean off the sand,

Just because she can.

I always wondered, but now I know…

…Because nature told me so.

8 Ways To Organize Your Spices

For a long while now I have been unhappy with how my spice drawer is functioning for me. I decant all my spices into matching containers, so it looks nice. My spice jars are made of stainless steel and several of them have become corroded, making it challenging to open them. The last thing I want while cooking dinner is to fight with my spice jars! So, I decided to do an overhaul on my spice drawer! If you’re interested in seeing the YouTube video I made sharing that process, I would love for you to check it out!

It can be difficult to figure out how to organize a space to make it function to its full potential. Everyone is different and has different needs and spaces in their kitchen when it comes to organizing and storing their spices. I have used a spice drawer for many, many years. I thought I would share with you 8 ways you can get your spices organized! I love the way uniform containers look, and Amazon has a lot of reasonably priced options for uniform spice jars. However, you don’t need to have uniform spice jars to have an organized space for your spices!

ONE 

I’ll start with the way I just organized my spices, and that is to decant them into small jars and store them in a drawer. You can purchase small jars for a fairly reasonable price. I purchased these from Amazon. There were too many in this package for me, but I can use the extra jars as food storage, add something to them to give away as a party favor, or share them with a friend who wants to organize her spices this way! Another idea is to save and wash out baby food jars to use instead of purchasing some. You could spray paint the lids to make them look sleek.

TWO

You could also use magnetic spice containers. I used these for many years. I put them in a drawer, but this is a great option for small spaces as you can store them on the side of your refrigerator, the microwave, or attach a metal piece to your back splash to store near your stove top.

THREE

Using a tiered drawer spice rack is another great idea. I opted not to use this because you need a lot of drawer space to have enough spices to round out your collection. A typical rack will hold somewhere between 15-18 spice jars. If you’re someone who doesn’t have a lot of spices, or can spare a couple of drawers to organize your spices, then this is a great option! I really love how this looks! 

This is from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lynk-Professional-430411DS-Organizer-Metallic/dp/B07PGQL462

FOUR

Another great way to store spices is to use a wall rack. I’ve seen a really great cost effective option at IKEA for this. You could get uniform jars to make an extra special display, or just use the jars the spices came in!

These spice racks are from IKEA: https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/bekvaem-spice-rack-birch-40070185/

FIVE

A recent product I found to store spices in a creative way is spice grippers. They attach to the back of your cabinet door, making this option another great space saving idea.

This item is from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Spice-spice-gripper-Strips-Cabinet/dp/B075QZL8RS/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=spice+gripper&qid=1580774078&s=home-garden&sr=1-6

SIX

Another idea is to use a lazy Susan inside of a cabinet. I love to use lazy Susans to organize spaces. It’s a great way to efficiently use your space. Having spices on a turntable like this allows you to easily find the spice you are looking for!

SEVEN

Another idea for storing spices in the cabinet, is to get a three tier organizer. You will be able to easily see and assess which spices you have. This is a great option for someone who doesn’t want to invest in uniform jars, because this will be behind closed cabinet doors.

EIGHT

Lastly, the good old fashioned revolving counter top rack. I registered for one of these for my wedding, so the first several years of marriage it is what I used to store my spices. This is a great option, particularly if you are someone who doesn’t mind storing items on your counter top.

I hope this inspired you to organize a space in your home that isn’t functioning the way you would like. Are your spices organized? If not, I hope this gave you some ideas and inspiration to organize your spices!

My Last Decade: What I Did Before I Was a Professional Organizer

It’s hard to believe we have entered a new year, but even more difficult to believe we’ve begun a new decade! So much can happen in one decade. As we rang in the new year, I was reminiscing about the experiences I had enjoyed over the last 10 years. I thought it would be fun to share what I did prior to being a professional organizer (and now YouTuber!)

First day of 7th grade, 3rd grade, and kindergarten

Ten and a half years ago, in July of 2009 we moved from the Northeast side of Austin to the Northwest side. We moved primarily to live in a better school district for our children. Our oldest child, our daughter, was entering 7th grade that fall. Our two boys were about to enter third grade and kindergarten. We moved into a home that was a bit of a fixer upper.

That year was filled with soccer, basketball, band, and piano lessons. My daughter was involved in a non profit Christian club, Wyldlife (middle school version of Young Life) and I became involved in that as a parent helper. In addition to that, I volunteered in both my boys’ classrooms, brought them each lunch once a week, and began the long process of remodeling our home.

When we first moved into this neighborhood, I looked to see if there was a Mom’s In Prayer group. I found one for my kids’ schools, and joined right away. MIP is an international organization for moms of school aged kids to gather together to pray for their kids, schools, teachers, and administrators. I participated in this group for the last 10 years, and for the last 2 years I was the leader for the high school group.

I continued to help with Wyldlife when my daughter was in 8th grade, and ended up taking over as the lead parent role for Wyldlife. Once a week I coordinated dinners for the leaders, snacks for the kids for club, communicated with the parents to keep them informed about club and special events. Our parent team also planned our annual fundraiser every fall. The leaders were college students from the University of Texas in Austin, so I mentored a couple of college age girls each semester. It was fun to get to know them, make them care packages, meet them for lunch or coffee, text them, and pray for them! I was involved with this organization as the parent leader until the spring of 2019. It was bittersweet to leave that role. I developed so many amazing relationships through that role. I will be forever grateful for that experience.

In 2010, I trained for my third half marathon, we went on our first family ski vacation, and I continued to be chauffeur for after school sports for my two boys. That fall, I unfortunately began down a long journey of health issues and trying to figure out why I had some severe digestive issues and anxiety. Thankfully, I eventually landed in a holistic doctor’s office where I learned all about gluten intolerance. Within weeks of changing my diet, I was feeling so much better and eventually was able to go off my acid reflux medication.

In 2011 I undertook the big project of painting our kitchen cabinets. I loved how it turned out, and ended up painting our game room and bathroom cabinets as well. It was a huge project, but well worth the effort!

BEFORE
AFTER
BEFORE
AFTER

My boys had been playing soccer and basketball since they were in kindergarten, but both of them decided to try flag football in 2011.

In 2012, my boys continued to participate in sports – in the spring my older son played flag football and my younger son soccer, then in the fall my older son decided to join the middle school cross country team. My younger son played basketball that winter. Needless to say, I was busy running kids to practices and watching the games. That year, we decided to find a smaller church where we could make more connections. We found a church which we loved and started developing lifelong relationships. The pastor was looking for someone to take over some of the administrative roles that he had been doing, and I stepped into that role and worked there for a year and a half. 2013 and 2014 brought more sports, homework, and friends revolving through our house. I continued my role as admin for our church, and as I mentioned was still the parent leader for Wyldlife. My older son started the orthodontic journey in 2014, and my daughter decided she wanted to take ballet lessons. We decided it would be fun to do together, so at age 40 I picked up ballet! In the midst of all of this, I was still working on updating our home.

2015 was a momentous year for us. All three of our children graduated from their respective schools – our daughter from high school, our older son from middle school, and our youngest from elementary school. It was definitely a year of big changes. In 2016, with my oldest in college and my boys beginning to be more independent, I was searching for something I could do with my time other than the Wyldlife role. I became a BeachBody coach for a very short time – leading online fitness challenge groups. I quickly learned that I was not thriving in this role.

There was a home decor and furniture boutique that I loved to frequent and became friends with the owner. I told her to let me know if she ever needed help. In the fall of 2016, she contacted me to take me up on my offer and I started working for Vintage Fresh, managing the store while the owner was not there. It was there that I learned my love for organizing as I organized the inventory in the stockroom. I left this role in the winter of 2018 to begin research on starting my own business as a professional organizer. I worked with several friends that spring – helping them organize spaces in their homes. I worked on building a website – using Wix, as I knew this would be a good place to learn website building.

I loved organizing the stock at Vintage Fresh.

In the fall of 2018, our youngest son got very sick. He had GI issues that his pediatrician could not diagnose. He ended up missing many days of school, and in and out of the doctor’s office and finally a specialist. By the time he saw the Pediatric GI doctor, he had missed so much school that it was going to be difficult to catch up. We decided it was best for him to do online school instead because of his health. Overnight I became a “homeschool” mom, something I was totally unprepared for. Because of my son’s health and getting him settled into his new schooling routine, I had to put my organizing business on the back burner. I continued to write blog posts here and there. I also managed social media accounts for my business, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2019 that I really pursued marketing this business. I transferred my Wix site to a WordPress site and began more consistently writing blog posts and posting on social media. In November of 2019 I took the big leap of starting a YouTube channel in conjunction with my business.

The last decade has been a wild ride for sure! I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to stay at home with our children, volunteer at their school and in other organizations, and pursue my hobbies – one of which has turned into a business! I’m excited to see what the next 10 years will hold for me!

How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

We are just a few weeks into the new year. This is usually the time people begin to drop off on their New Year’s resolutions. It can be challenging to make life-long changes overnight. People often set goals at the new year: to lose weight, to eat healthy, to get organized, to name a few. Often, people use the new year as an incentive to muster up enough willpower to make the changes they want to make. But somewhere mid January or early February, the willpower isn’t enough and slowly the goals that had been set begin to go by the wayside.

To make lasting changes, I propose that instead of setting goals or making resolutions, you should focus on your habits. When we practice small, repetitive actions day in and day out, this can more effectively lead us to our goals. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against goal setting or making resolutions. That process is fun and exciting because we get to imagine and dream what life could be like. Resolutions are future oriented – making it easier for us to come up with lofty goals, because it is our future self that will have to have the follow through! One of my favorite sayings from the tv show, How I Met Your Mother, that I like to use when I’m procrastinating is “I’ll let future Joy worry about that.” And that’s exactly what we are doing – creating perhaps unattainable goals, and hoping our future selves will have follow through. This is often why year after year nothing actually changes.

I would like to share with you 6 things you can do in order to actually attain your goals.

{ONE} Put it on your to-do list. Habits happen by making something a part of your routine. Whatever you want to achieve, put it on your to-do list and then don’t make excuses and just do it! You want to exercise three times a week? Schedule it in. You want to spend more time with friends? Plan a standing weekly or monthly get together and have it on your calendar. You want to drink more water? Put timers on your phone to remind you to fill up. Want to get organized? Put it on your calendar each week to spend time purging and organizing a space in your home. Over time, these practices just become part of who you are.

{TWO} Choose the “basic solution” over the “quick fix.” Often times, along with resolutions, people buy in to “quick fix” solutions. Whether it’s a special herbal tea, a protein shake, or vitamins and supplements, these things can’t replace what will truly make a lasting change. Making it worse, marketers play into this desire we have to find a quick fix. These quick fix solutions nor our will power can replace making changes in our habits. If we focus on basic solutions and make those a part of our habits, we are more likely to succeed. A basic solution to the goal to “get healthy” might be to get 7-8 hours of sleep at night, to drink 8 glasses of water a day, to exercise a certain number of times per week, instead of taking pills or drinking teas or shakes.. We all know, there are really no shortcuts. People want some magical or secret solution, but the truth is that change happens through small, repetitive actions everyday. 

{THREE} Let your habit connect to a priority in your life. If we want change, we must make these stepping stones to our goal a priority. If you value exercise, friendships, health, organization, then your habits must follow. The good thing about a priority leading your habit and not a goal leading it, is that you can change the habit if it’s not working for you. With a goal, if you “fail” once you feel like you have to start all over and this can be daunting. Say you make it a goal to exercise three times per week. Well, in February you get sick, and it derails this goal. At this point it could be easy to just give up. Habits are easier to “start over.” If exercise is a habit, then when you miss a week of it because of illness, you start over next week! You don’t have this feeling of guilt when you “failed.” Goals are great platforms to make changes in your life, but priorities ultimately dictate our behavior.

{FOUR} Reward yourself. It’s important to have small rewards along the way. This reinforces the behavior. Whether it’s external rewards – like having a soda or beer on Friday night after drinking your 8 glasses of water each day that week, or internal rewards – acknowledging how good you feel after a workout to remind yourself that it’s worth it!

{FIVE} Create an environment or systems to help you succeed. Often times we fail because we don’t have the needed systems in place to foster success. In the example of wanting to drink more water – buy a new water bottle, or have a water bottle out and ready to fill up in the morning, or set timers throughout the day to remind you. Visual cues will remind you to do what you set out to do.

{SIX} Don’t expect perfection. As I mentioned previously, it can be hard to keep chugging along after failure. If you miss a day of exercise, or eat a cheeseburger instead of a salad one day, THAT’S OKAY… start over the next day. It’s difficult to perfectly stick to good habits. Illness, travel, and special celebrations can get in the way of keeping our routines. It’s important to just keep moving forward with your habit.

I hope this encourages you that you CAN succeed in your resolutions this year. Focus on habits instead of goals. Habits are DAILY DECISIONS that can help you achieve your goals!

My No Spend Year 2019

Wow. I can’t believe it’s the beginning of 2020, and I completed my no spend year! It was definitely an insightful year, and I have plans for different shopping habits moving forward. I have learned so much, and I want to implement changes based on what I’ve learned.

One of the most insightful things, and something that kept coming up in each month’s reflections, was how much more time I had. I didn’t realize how much time I spent shopping. At first it was difficult to figure out what to do with that extra time, and I basically replaced shopping with other indulgent things –  watching more Netflix and YouTube, and eating more treats than usual for me. Once I figured that out, I was able to shift that time/energy into more productive things. I worked on some house projects, and later in the year focused on marketing my organizing business through transitioning my website to WordPress, and consistently writing blog posts. In addition to this, I started more consistently posting on my business social media accounts. In the beginning of November I even started a YouTube channel in conjunction with my business, sharing organizing tips and tricks. These avenues of expressing my creativity has been so fulfilling!

This year did not come without bumps and failures. I noticed I struggled when I would bend the rules a bit that I had set in place. If anyone is interested in doing some sort of spending fast, I would suggest being very explicit and detailed with your rules. One rule I had was that I could purchase things for special occasions, unless I had something that would work. While I did have some “wins” choosing to use what I had instead of purchasing something new, I learned that when I did choose to buy things for special occasions it was a slippery slope. The thing I struggled with the most was using the Poshmark app. I was able to sell many pieces of clothing that I wanted purge from my closet, however while in the app managing my items, I would see things that I liked. If you’re not familiar with PM, it’s similar to social media where you can “like” items. When you like an item, often times the seller will send you a discounted deal to entice you to buy their items. This is a technique that I myself use to sell items. I did mostly use the money from my own sales to buy the items that were a deal too good to pass up, however, again it was a slippery slope and I started justifying that I was only off by a little and would “make up for it” with future sales.

An outfit I purchased with my Poshamark credits.

In the beginning of the year, I struggled with that feeling of being drawn to things or really wanting them, but that feeling began to taper off with time. When I would fall into one of those time periods of the slippery slope, that feeling would come back again. One thing I noticed right away is how influenced I was by “influencers.” I would want something I saw someone else had, but in hindsight I’m glad I didn’t purchase those items because it would have been an impulse purchase and not something that I was being intentional and thoughtful about. I want to stay aware that this is why they are called “influencers” and to not be pulled into that sort of marketing. In general, I want to notice when I want to impulse buy things. I also became a little disenchanted with YouTube hauls. I’m not opposed to influencer marketing, but I want my purchases to be well thought through and not an impulse buy. If I see something an influencer is sharing, I will make a thoughtful, educated decision about if I need the product.

There were a few other things I learned through this journey. Stepping away from the consumerist mindset that I had been entrenched in, I could see more clearly. It’s hard to explain, but when I would be out shopping and saw someone dumping things in their cart, I was almost saddened – like I wanted to “enlighten” them. I’ve also learned about the effects consumerism has on our environment, particularly the fast fashion industry. In addition to this, not bringing new pieces of clothing in my wardrobe over the past year – other than select pieces which I purchased for our trip to Hawaii and the pieces I purchased using my Poshmark credits – it was easier for me to pinpoint my style. I’m beginning to look at my closet completely differently and I foresee another purge coming! Lastly, I was confronted by this idea of decision fatigue. One day while shopping for something specific at Target, I realized how easy the decision seemed. I found it odd, because in the past a decision like this would have been difficult for me. I always felt like I was making the wrong decision. I realized that what I used to do prior to the no spend year, was browse through all my favorite sections in Target. I would find things I liked and wanted and had to make decisions about – on the spot! – if I was going to purchase those items. But this time, I didn’t have to make any of those decisions. That’s when it clicked! I suffered from decision fatigue in Target! By the time I actually got to the items on my list, I was already tired of making decisions.

I had some deeper thoughts about spending, shopping, and my habits in particular. I realized that shopping was a way for me to fill my time – one way to find purpose and meaning in my life. I still love to make our home cozy and beautiful, but I see now that I can do that in a more intentional way rather than just throwing items into a cart at Target. There is also certainly nothing wrong with putting together creative outfits, but moving forward I want to be more thoughtful about what pieces I bring into my wardrobe. As the year progressed, I realized that my attention and energy on making our home beautiful and putting together beautiful outfits was just covering up moving forward in other areas of life – my business and my blog in particular. I was focusing on an area where I felt confident, and wouldn’t fail. I was unaware of how much fear had changed the path in my life. I feared failure and I feared rejection. Now I feel confident that even if I fail, or get rejected THAT’S OKAY. Failure is not bad. Failure teaches us. We learn, and make different choices moving forward. I also came to terms with the idea that I’m not going to please everyone, and not everyone will like me. AND THAT’S OKAY

I did want to address December, and how I fared. I noticed halfway through the month I had some credit in my Poshmark app and decided to use the rest of it since it was the end of the year. Again, I spent a little more than I had available {{darn that slippery slope!}} however just this week I sold two more items! I’m clearly STILL struggling with wanting new clothes AND it’s the end of my no spend year! That is why moving forward I have a plan in place.

Items I purchased with my Poshmark credits in December.

So, what are my plans moving forward?? To sum it up, next year will be my Intentional Spending Year. I’m glad I spent this year retraining my spending habits. Here are the specifics:

No more impulse spending. I will not immediately click links from influencers or purchase items I see in a store which is not on my list until I’ve given it at least 24 hours to think about it.

I will first go to thrift stores or small businesses to purchase clothing and home decor. For clothing, I am going to be using the Poshmark app so I can find intentional pieces to add to my wardrobe. I want my decor to be more intentional and curated as well. I would like to purchase vintage as much as possible.

I will no longer buy clothing items or home decor from places like Target, Wal-mart, or Home Goods unless there is something specific that I can’t find thrifted or through small businesses.

➤When going to Target, I will not browse through clothes or home decor. I will stick to my list.

➤I will ACTUALLY stick to the “one in, one out” rule. I have tried doing this in the past, but have not succeeded. I will only purchase new clothes if I have a hanger or space for those items in my dresser or closet.

Thank you to anyone who followed me on this journey! I hope to inspire you to try a spending fast – maybe you feel intimidated doing a whole year… you could start with just one or two months first. I want to inspire you to evaluate your spending habits, and think about where you could make some changes.

Here is Part 1 of the YouTube video I made with this information!
Here is Part 2 of the YouTube video I made with this information!

Non Material Gift Ideas

The holiday season can be overwhelming for so many reasons, but one of them might be because we are trying to find the perfect gifts for everyone on our list. We also may be anticipating receiving gifts that will have to find a home for once Christmas is over. I wanted to share some non material gift ideas that you could give this holiday season.

First is AN EXPERIENCE. There are all sorts of experiences you can gift to someone. It can be an experience that you plan for them that you could do together, or it could be something that they can do on their own or with others. 

➤A vacation or plane tickets 

➤Movie tickets

➤Theme park tickets

➤A  tour – wine or factory tour or helicopter or small plane tour

➤Concert tickets

➤A spa day package

➤Nail salon gift card

➤Coffee shop gift card

➤A cooking, painting, or some other sort of class

➤Museum pass

➤Silent Disco tickets

I recently attended a silent disco, and it was SO fun!

Season passes or a gift card to a local venue they like to frequent:

➤The zoo

➤Children’s museum

➤Arcade

➤Indoor trampoline park/bounce house park

➤Roller skating rink

The next idea is to offer YOUR SERVICES. We all have gifts and talents to share with others. The gift of your time is a really great idea if you are on a tight budget. 

➤Maybe you like to cook or bake – you could offer to provide meals or baked goods. 

➤If you enjoy spending time with children, you could offer babysitting services. 

➤You could offer to clean, organize, do laundry – any number of household responsibilities. 

➤Maybe you have a craft – like woodworking or some other hobby where you could offer to make something for someone that they have been wanting.

Another idea is SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES/MEMBERSHIPS. There are so many online, streaming subscription services that many of us appreciate. 

➤Netflix

➤Hulu

➤HBO Go

➤Disney +

➤Spotify

➤Audible 

➤Gym membership

➤Yoga/spin studio membership

GIVE TO A CHARITY in their honor. There are many charities that appreciate end of the year giving. Think about what charity might be meaningful to the person you are purchasing this gift for. One year for Christmas, my husband purchased several livestock animals for “me” through an organization we trust, to help support an impoverished community in another part of the world. It was SO meaningful to me. I loved that I wasn’t bringing more stuff into my house, and we were able to bless someone else at the same time.

Lastly, is not exactly non material, but to give CONSUMABLES. Many people enjoy receiving special treats that they would not purchase for themselves. Eventually these items will be used up, so won’t need a permanent home.

Bath products

➤Bath bombs 

➤Bubble bath

➤Lotion 

I love getting these items at Lush, they have high quality items.

Food/Snacks

➤Candy

➤Salty snacks

➤Soda

➤Wine/beer (age appropriately of course!)

➤Funny treats (like an extra large gummy bear) VAT19 has great ideas for this!

You could come up with a creative way to display these items. One year for my son’s birthday I used a variety of candy to write out a fun message using the words from the candy to form the message. Or you could make a candy arrangement, like a candy bar bouquet or candy/snacks arranged in a tiered way to make it look like a cake.

I hope these ideas gave you some inspiration to find some non material gifts to give this holiday season!

Here is a video I made on my YouTube channel with this information!