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!

12 Days to an Organized Christmas

The holiday season is a busy time. We often have extra responsibilities during this season, which can cause stress and feeling overwhelmed. I wanted to share 12 things you can do, one each day, to prepare for the holidays and make your holiday season run a little more smoothly. As of today (December 13th), we are 12 days away from Christmas!

{{DAY 1}}

Create a holiday to-do list. Writing out everything that needs to be done – whether with a pen and paper, or in a list app on your phone – begins the process of getting everything organized. From decorating, baking, and purchasing gifts; to wrapping gifts, sending holiday cards, and planning for parties, it can all be very overwhelming. Start by listing all the tasks that need to get done.

{{DAY 2}}

Allocate tasks to each day leading up to the holiday. It can be daunting to look at that list you just made. But, as you begin to plug in tasks to different time slots on your calendar, you begin to feel less stressed as you make a concise plan to get tasks done.

{{DAY 3}}

Clean up and organize your family drop zone. Everyone has a “drop zone” in their home – you know, that place where your family members seem to organically DROP all of their things when they return home? It could be a kitchen desk, mudroom, or entryway. Get this area into shape so that it functions well. Add labeled baskets, a file sorter for kids school work, or a bin for mail. This area of our home can cause a lot of stress if it is chaotic, and our stress level is already high during the holidays.

{{DAY 4}}

Keep a list of inventory. It’s important to keep track of everything you have purchased and need to purchase. You can write this down on a notepad, or use an app on your phone. Keep track of the gifts you have and need to purchase and how much you have spent to stay on budget. Also keep track of what you need to purchase for baking, special meals, or items for parties. Be sure to assess what you already have – check what holiday paper and ribbon you have leftover from last year to determine what you need to purchase. See what you already have in your pantry or refrigerator/freezer to determine what items you need to get for baking and holiday parties.

TIME TO DECLUTTER!

{{DAY 5}}

Holiday decor. After you have decorated your house for the holiday season is a great time to assess what you did not use this year. The chances of you using something next year that you did not use this year is very slim. This is an easy declutter process as it happened naturally just from you decorating! Purge what is leftover!

{{DAY 6}}

Pantry and refrigerator/freezer. Right before the holidays is a great time to declutter unused or expired food from your pantry and refrigerator/freezer. At this time, you can assess what needs to be replenished. We always need special items which we don’t tend to buy throughout the year for the holiday season – especially baking items.

{{DAY 7}}

Kids toys! This is a great time to assess what toys are broken and can be thrown away and what toys your children aren’t playing with. Include your children in this process. Remind them of the boundaries in your home with regard to toys and that you need to make room for the new toys that will arrive on Christmas morning. Encourage them to be generous, as it is a season of giving, and have them choose toys that you all could take to a women’s shelter or children’s home to bless those less fortunate. Not only are you teaching them about boundaries and decluttering, you are also teaching them about how this season is about giving.

{{DAY 8}}

Coats and blankets. This is a great time of year (at least for those of us living in the northern hemisphere!) to gather coats and blankets that you are not using. Again, get your family involved to declutter their items as well and take your extra coats and blankets to a homeless shelter.

{{DAY 9}}

Last on the decluttering list is mugs. Mugs seem to be an item that many people accumulate. Many of us are regularly using mugs during this season to enjoy hot drinks. Choose your favorites, and donate the rest!

{{DAY 10}}

Prioritize what is important to your family this holiday season. There are a lot of opportunities to spend time together with family and friends. There are parties, extended family gatherings, traditions, and more. It’s okay to say “no” to things in this season. Do what works best for your family, and the life phase your family is in. Maybe there is a tradition that worked well and was fun when your kids were really young, but now as they are getting older it’s just annoying to them. Find something else that will be meaningful and memorable to do together!

{{DAY 11}} 

Prepare for guests arrival. This won’t pertain to everyone, but many of us have guests in town for the holidays. Inflate the blow up mattress, wash the guest room sheets and towels, prepare a basket full of necessities – like an extra toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. for in case your guests forgot something. You could also include extra things like water bottles and snacks to make your guests comfortable. Another idea is to display a picture frame with the wifi network and password. Or go all out and provide slippers and/or a robe for your guests!

{{DAY 12}}

Leave margin for rest! As I mentioned before, the holiday season can be a very stressful time of year. Plan into your schedule time for rest – to get a manicure or massage, or maybe it’s just leaving room for the things that you do all year long to recharge – reading a book, journaling, or exercising. If you organize your schedule and have a plan, then it’s much easier to include time to relax!

I hope you are inspired to start making a plan for this holiday season! The 12 day countdown to Christmas is on!!

No Spend Year, November Reflections

Wow. It’s December and I only have one more month to go in my no spend year! It’s been such an interesting and informative challenge for me. I know moving forward into 2020 I will need a plan to be intentional with my spending habits. I wanted to share how things went in the month of November. I have mostly continued to glide along this month, as I did in October. I just have a couple things to share.

First, all year long I have noticed that my creativity has skyrocketed! I’m not totally sure if this is due to the no spend year and the extra time that afforded me or due to taking some scary steps, like working on my website and starting a YouTube channel. I have been learning so many new skills over the past several months. However, my creativity in regards to styling my home has caused me to purchase a couple of larger items (small decor like tchotchkes and wall art were included in this no spend year, but larger pieces like furniture were not). I ended up sprucing up one of our rooms – purchasing a coffee table (cheap + second hand at Salvation Army) and an area rug. Have you ever read that children’s book “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie”? The idea is that one thing seems to lead to another. I found that amazing vintage coffee table, but it looked off with our wood floors, hence the rug! In any case, I’m wondering if my spending habits have just shifted away from clothing and home decor to other things.

The next story I wanted to share is about a visit to one of those large last chance Goodwill stores. As a poor college student, my daughter loves shopping at this place. If you’re not familiar with it, you pay by the pound. Everything is stored in huge plastic rolling bins. It can be a sport to wade through all of it, but many times you can find gems. Whenever my daughter is home, we like to go together for fun. I mostly find it an interesting place to people watch, but I have found some unique and cool clothing pieces there in the past. On this occasion, we purchased 9 items, and the total came to $8.88! I wasn’t going to get anything, but I did find an Ann Taylor blouse and a pair of Levis shorts, both in great condition. I plan to sell the blouse in my Poshmark closet. I haven’t decided about the shorts because I do like them! AND they fit me! AND they were only $1! UGH… the justifying! So, if I keep the shorts, once again this month I technically failed. However, I still feel like I’ve learned so much this year and have grown from this experience.

Here are some of the things I am thinking about doing moving into the new year.

Buying things used – thrifting for clothing and home decor. Purchasing vintage home decor when I can.

➤I would like to support small businesses, rarely if ever purchasing clothes and home decor from places like Target. I want my clothing and items in my home to be more curated.

➤Speaking of Target, I would like to stop shopping for entertainment. I will go into Target with a list.

➤I want to be more intentional with my wardrobe. I hope to have some time within the next two weeks to assess my clothes again, and see if there is anything else I can get rid of.

I have actually enjoyed the freedom of not making decisions. I go shopping for other needed items for our family, and I don’t even have to think about making a decision on items I see and like. I’m learning to appreciate the item in the store without having to purchase it and take it home. I’m excited to read back through all my blog posts this year to compile all I’ve taken away from this year in my next No Spend Year Reflections post in January! 

My Definition of Minimalism

Minimalism has become a fairly popular trend over the last several years. The word typically evokes an image of white walls, sparse furniture, and house plants. Many people have written blog posts and articles regarding this topic of minimalism. Their response is based on their experience and preconceived ideas about what minimalism is, or the definition of a minimalist.  It saddens me that “minimalism” has become more of a recent movement that has changed the meaning of true minimalism. It’s not a one size fits all, as a lot of those who claim to be minimalist make it appear.

A friend recently posted on Facebook an interesting article about minimalism. The main idea was that people who are creative and artistic tend to be disorganized and messy, but that was a positive thing because it’s the messy environment which boosts their creativity. I recognize that everyone is different, but for me external “clutter,” “stuff,” “chaos,” whatever you want to call it stresses me out and distracts me. I know I’m not a minimalist by most standards, but I do strive to only live with what I truly need, use, and love. On the other hand, I would not classify myself as messy, but I do think I am a creative – and flourishing in my creative skills! 

The problem that I see, as a professional organizer, is that people don’t have logical, efficient systems in place to keep their things.

Another point that was made in this article was that messiness was an effective organizing tool. While this might be true for a very small amount of people, typically piles are not an efficient way to organize things. Searching through piles, and finding the correct pile where the item you are looking for is located can be time-consuming. The problem that I see, as a professional organizer, is that people don’t have logical, efficient systems in place to keep their things. I think if disorganized, messy people are honest, they would agree that a chaotic organizational system is not effective.

She also made the point that minimalism isn’t sustainable. I would argue the opposite – disorganization and mess isn’t sustainable – it has a toll on your mental health {{{I have another blog post here, detailing this information.}}} Once you are able to declutter enough to only have items you need, use, or love, it is VERY easy to maintain. You become intentional with what comes into your home. The other things that organically come into your home become easier to deal with since as a minimalist you have the space and mental bandwidth to assess all those things – kids artwork, free gifts with purchase, junk mail, and more! It’s also much easier to take care of your things – keeping them clean and organized.

The last point this article made was that messiness is “authentic.” I don’t totally disagree with this point. I have gone over to a good friend’s house on a moment’s notice and find it comforting to see the pile of laundry on her sofa or dirty dishes in the sink. But, guess what?? THIS CAN HAPPEN TO A MINIMALIST TOO! Most minimalists own clothes and dishes, both which need to be washed from time to time {{{GASP!}}} The difference might be that with less stuff, we have less to take care of, therefore there is less likely to be piles in our home. Having friends over at a moment’s notice is easy and not stressful for a minimalist.

So, what is “minimalism” to me? Minimalism to me is about living with only those things you use, need, or you find beautiful/inspirational. Some people find inspiration in books – therefore they may own more than someone who doesn’t. Other people may find inspiration from beautiful home decor, while someone else wants little or no decor. We are all different, living in different phases of life which requires different things, and that is why minimalism isn’t a one size fits all.  It’s also about living intentionally – deciding where you want to spend your time, money, and energy. It’s about being intentional with what you bring into your home. Everything we own has a cost – up front cost as well as time and energy to maintain, which takes away from being able to do other things. Excess stuff can distract us from fully enjoying (and perhaps being inspired by) the stuff that matters!

An Organized Holiday, 5 Tips to Prep for Thanksgiving

The holidays are such a wonderful time of year, where we get to celebrate and enjoy slower, intentional  time with family and/or friends. But, this time of year can also be very stressful and overwhelming. I wanted to share five tips to help you prepare for the holidays. Having an organized schedule and being prepared will help your holiday season go smoothly so you can enjoy the beautiful parts of this season. 

{{ONE}} Make a list of all that needs to get done, then allocate tasks leading up to the holiday. There is always so much extra to do around the holidays. Extra cleaning that needs to get done, extra cooking, and extra shopping. Plan ahead and allocate different extra tasks to different days. Maybe you want to get some deep cleaning done prior to guests coming into town. You could plan to do that a week or even two weeks out. Then, you will just need to do last minute cleaning before their arrival. If there is any shopping – food or gifts – that needs to get done, do it in advance. Having a plan to get things done ahead of time will prevent that feeling of “scrambling” to get things done.

{{TWO}} Prepare food in advance. In conjunction with allocating tasks ahead of time, plan to prepare some of the holiday food ahead of time. Are there any dishes you could make a week or two out and freeze? Is there any prep work you can do in advance to make preparing the dish easier closer to the holiday?

{{THREE}} Plan to make easy meals right before and after the holiday. You could make some meals ahead of time and freeze them to have leading up to the holidays. Alternatively, maybe this is a good time to check out meal plan services. Many of these companies that send you meal kits to your front door offer very simple meal options that might be worth investing in just for the holidays. Crockpot or Instant Pot meals are another great easy option as there are many all-in-one meals you can throw together very easily. 

{{FOUR}} Enlist help.I have ordered the pre-made Thanksgiving meals from our local organic grocery store for the last several years – taking the task of most of the food prep off my to-do list. Perhaps plan a potluck meal for Thanksgiving or other holiday get-togethers, taking some of the food prep off of your to-do list. Have your kids help with the cooking and cleaning. It might not be perfect, but the work gets done and it teaches your kids some of the elements of hospitality. If you don’t have kids, maybe some friends can come over on a Saturday morning to help you get your house clean or food prepped. More hands = work getting done faster, and I have always found it way more fun to cook and clean with friends! 

{{FIVE}} Lower your expectations. I am giving this advice as a “recovering perfectionist.” I know we all like things to be perfect at the holidays, but likely your guests won’t even notice the cobwebs in the corners of your house, or dusty baseboards. And if so, WHO CARES! The holidays are about gathering family. Most family members are much less critical of our housekeeping and cooking skills than we think. I know I would not want family members to be stressed out trying to make things perfect for my arrival!

I hope this gave you some ideas of how you can get your schedule organized prior to the holidays. Doing a little extra work in advance each day will take some of the stress off leading up to the holidays. Remember, even if everything doesn’t get done, the important part of the holidays is celebrating and spending time with family! Wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday season!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post if you’d like to check it out!

The Importance of Organization

Why is organization important? I will hear people say things like: “I’m just a messy person,” “I thrive in the chaos of clutter!” or “I just don’t think I will keep things organized. I’m a disorganized person.” These are really just excuses to not deal with clutter. They don’t see the benefits of organization, or they think the cost to getting organized is greater than the benefit. I want to share with you how EVERYONE can get organized, and the importance of organization in your physical space.

One thing about organization that some people don’t address is how organization systems are not one size fits all. We are all very unique and thrive in different environments. Some people like to have everything put away and their environment to be visually clutter free. For someone else, this may cause them to not use those items – out of sight out of mind. Some people thrive in a visually cluttered environment. Their creativity is sparked by seeing all the things! This is why it’s important to find out what kind of environment you are striving to create when thinking about organizational systems.

Cass, from the Clutterbug, has come up with four different types of organizational systems, which I have found to be great classifications. Each one is represented with a bug. The first is the ladybug. This type of person likes things to be put away out of site, but their cabinets and drawers can get easily cluttered because they want to quickly shove things in drawers, baskets, or cabinets. They need a macro-organizing system – where things are quick and easy to put away. The next type is a cricket. They also like a clutter free environment, but they like things to be organized in detail, so micro-organization works best for them. The next type is a butterfly. They prefer everything be displayed. A butterfly also needs the fast macro-organizing solution, however they will want things to be visible. They often feel like they could never get things organized and feel messy, but the truth is they can have a place for everything fitting within the way they thrive. Lastly is the bee. These people are also visual people and want their things on display, however they want things to be organized in detail. Like the cricket, micro-organization works best for them. They are likely the type of people who are big into crafting or even have a home business with a lot of supplies that need to be organized in detail.

It’s important to recognize what type of organization works best for you, especially if you’re the type that likes things visible and macro-organized. This type of person typically feels like they are just not the organized type, so they give up. So, why is it important to be organized? I would propose, whatever type of person you are, it is beneficial to have some sort of organization system where everything has a place. Organization allows for us to be productive and efficient in our day to day responsibilities. We are not slowed down by clutter: finding someplace to put something, or worse – looking for something we can’t find! When there is order in our physical space, we are more efficient and productive.

Dr. Jordan Peterson, well-known Psychologist and professor, has a wonderful lecture about the importance of “cleaning your room.” I will insert a video of that lecture if you’re interested in checking it out. The premise of this talk is when there is something in your life you are struggling with, whether it’s mental health, a broken relationship, or just something you want to change about yourself, the best place to start is by changing the external: “clean your room.” You start with something concrete that you can control. He says so pointedly, “If you want to organize your psyche, start by organizing your room.” There is a connection between our mental and emotional health and our external environment. Cluttered environment often equals cluttered mind. Peterson says, “Is that their house [referring to someone who is a hoarder] or is that their being, their mind? The answer is there is no difference.” Starting externally, turning chaos into order, can put you on the path of bettering other areas of your life. Clean your room. It’s the easiest place to start.

So, whether you’re a ladybug, cricket, butterfly, or bee, you CAN get organized. Organization is important so we are efficient and effective in basic routines in life, freeing up the time and space we need to live a more full life. We are able to work on our health, to work on our relationships, or to work on something we have been wanting to change in our lives. The upfront work of organization can be challenging, but worth the end results.

No Spend Year, October Reflections

I would say the month of October was a win for my no spend year! I quit browsing through the Poshmark app, as I intended to do. Having that distraction cut from my life not only prevented me from breaking my rules, but also gave me more clarity. This month was for sure a month of a deeper understanding of the root cause of my spending habits. I have been waiting all year to have these kinds of revelations, and exactly what I was hoping for with this no spend year.

First, I will talk about the one thing I did purchase. I purchased a top for our annual family photos. I will assemble that with other clothing items I already own for the outfit. I will revisit the rules I set in place in case this is the first time you are stumbling upon my blog. I am allowed to purchase items for special occasions.

I purchased this velvet top from Poshmark to pair with other items in my wardrobe for our annual family photos.

The main thing that I have been evaluating this month is the idea that there are root issues in all of our lives which hold us back from living more fully. These issues can easily get covered up with distractions. For me, that distraction was shopping. For someone else it may be binging Netflix, eating too much or unhealthy foods, drug/alcohol use, and many more vices. It’s difficult to do the work of reflecting on what holds us back in our lives when we don’t leave space for that work. I think it is natural to want to distract ourselves from these issues and not deal with them. Reflecting on our lives and making necessary changes is difficult! 

As I reflected, I realized I used shopping as a way to find value and stay busy. It’s in my nature to make things beautiful. I love organizing, decorating, and putting together creative outfits. I feel safe in these areas – meaning I have confidence I can do them well. We all have a certain amount of time and energy in each day. I was using shopping, and organizing, and decorating, and putting together new outfits as a creative outlet. This was hindering me from growing my organizing business – which is scary and requires facing unknowns. I used these things as a distraction from dealing with the root issue of fear in my life: fear of rejection and fear of failure. I’m growing. I’m moving outside my comfort zone. I’m trying new things. I’m beginning to grasp that if this new thing or that new thing fails, or if I’m rejected, THAT’S OKAY. At least I put myself out there. At least I tried. 

Over the last month, I have been promoting my business more via word of mouth. Owning and saying “I’m a professional organizer,” instead of saying, “I’m a SAHM, but I kinda, sorta started a business.” I also updated my LinkedIn profile. I recently started a YouTube channel, where I will be sharing organizing tips. I’m beginning to lean into my giftings as a creative in a way that brings more purpose.

Here is my first YouTube video. My plan is to make one video per week. Would love for you to check it out!

One other thing that I thought about during this month is decision fatigue, which can waste our time or worse paralyze us from moving forward. I had some items that I needed to purchase at Target. Items in which I would have to make decisions. In the past, these decisions felt overwhelming or I felt like I was always making the wrong decision. This time, it didn’t feel that way. I instead felt confident in my decisions. I wondered if it was because when I used to shop at Target, prior to this no spend year, I would go in with a list but get sucked into the dollar spot, the home decor section, or the clothing section. I would see things I liked or wanted and I would have to make decisions about those items – on the spot! After walking through Target, I was completely done with making decisions, perhaps even before I got to the items that were actually on my list!

I’m still in the process of thinking through what I would like to do moving forward into 2020. I do think I’m going to be intentional about sticking to my list, especially in places like Target or Home Goods where it’s easy to get sucked into browsing. Share with me any ideas you have on dealing with consumerism in your life. What types of “rules” do you have in place for yourself? A budget? Certain number of clothing or home decor items purchased per month or per year? I do want to have a plan as we move into the new year!