New Home, New Plans, Start Here

Our moving process has just about come to an end.  The painter was back for touch ups today and the last light will hopefully be hung next week.  I have had the boxes unpacked for a while, but we are still (I am still) finding a place for everything.  I have said it before and I will say it again, while I love my new home and am ever so grateful to have had this opportunity, the best part of this move has been releasing.  I tell you, this recovering perfectionist has learned a lot about releasing over the course of the past three years-releasing people, feelings, situations…  The icing on the cake has been releasing stuff as we have prepared to move.  I feel twenty pounds lighter (in my dreams, and that’s another blog post for another day).  My family has embraced this process and I can honestly say I do believe we are down to having in our home only those things we love and find to be useful!

I was born with an innate desire to have order and simplicity.  I’m not one to like chaos, although I love change.  I’m not one to like collections.  I’m not one to like lots of color and pattern, in my home or on my person. I feel better when things are fairly simple (my girls say ‘boring’).  Piles do not energize me.  They drain me, as if calling out to me, “One more thing to do!”  While this innate desire for order and simplicity has driven me to a love of organization, I truly embrace organization because of the life it enables me to live.  I don’t ever want my home, my blog, my speaking engagements, etc… to prompt anyone to go home and begin organizing so they can present a certain image, or think it is a must do.  I don’t want any of us to emulate the pristine pictures in magazines or on Pinterest.  My prayer, my hope, is that anything I write, say, picture, about organizing creates a longing in others for peace, for a life that is fully lived.  I love being organized, having an organized home because it frees me to serve others, to use my home as a sanctuary and place of refreshment and nourishment.

Over the course of the next few months I thought I’d give you a glimpse into our home and along the way pass along some of my tips for keeping things ordered.  Today we will start at the front.  Our front door opens into our entry and dining room.  This home has been a challenge.  We have moved from a two story English style home, with lots of separate rooms, to a more English country open, one story floor plan.  I love it, but boy does it ever beg for order.

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I have yet to find an entry rug I like, nor have I landed on what to put over/behind/with the small silver chest on the entry wall.  We have 14 foot ceilings in the entry and dining.  I love the expanse.  I feel like I can take a deep breath and relax when I walk in.  I decided in this home to move away from the more traditional English colors I had used in the past, deep reds, navy blues, deep greens, and gold.  I moved completely out of my comfort zone and went with tone on tone.  The trim is slightly darker than the walls.  It is a greige.  I think that’s what they call this new trend.  The walls are subtle taupe/white.  We have a lot of family wood pieces and I wanted those items to pop and yet the home to feel light and slightly more modern.  Not sure we pulled it off completely, but it is feeling like home and we all like it.

Our dining room is a big part of our home.  Not in terms of space, but in terms of how we live.  We LOVE to entertain, and so our dining room really does get lots of use.  I am blessed to have a 1960 Ethan Allen dining set once owned by my mother-in-law.   In fact, it was her gift to us just two short years before she passed.  I treasure it.  I love the simple lines.  She loved order as well, so she had great storage pieces.  There is a bar cart my husband’s father still uses, so I don’t have it yet, but one day the set will be completed again.

We keep our dining table extended, ready for seating 8.  I love to decorate for the various seasons, but always try to keep the decorations centered on the table, so nothing has to be moved in order to use the table.  It just makes life easier.  I like to throw a few books and decor items in the china cabinet, but by in large, I store china and crystal in the china cabinet.  It keeps it safe.  It keeps it close at hand for use.  For those of you who never use your china, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.  I got to meet and hear a Royal Doulton VP speak shortly after I got married.  A real treat.  He took a china plate and through it on the floor.  It didn’t break. He took a piece of every day dishware, through it on the floor and it shattered.  Bone china is actually very strong.  It is resistant to chipping and breaking.  Now, if you slam it up against the granite counter, well, no help there.  My point is, while it may look fragile, it really isn’t.  I could go off on a whole other path here spiritually comparing women to bone china and reminding us how very strong we are, but…  I also learned that bone china is dishwasher safe.  I heard you gasp.  And yes, my grandmother and mother just might faint.  It is the truth.  bone china, even with gold or silver banding is dishwasher safe.  The trick?  DO NOT use dish detergent with lemon in it.  In all actuality using dish detergent with lemon in it is bad for ALL your dishes, glass ware, cookware etc…  The lemon causes pitting.  Use the plain Jane dish detergent.  I use the good old Cascade plain.  I have for 24 years and my china is as beautiful today as the day I got it.  My gold bands are in tact.  The second secret is to let it air dry.  Adjust the setting on your dishwasher-it’s simple.  I tell you all of this to say-USE YOUR CHINA!  Why have it, why store it, if you are not going to use it?  If it just isn’t you, not your taste, you registered to get your mother off your back, then take a deep breath and let it go.  If you love it, dream of using it, then get it out and USE IT!

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I keep my silver in the silver drawer.  You can buy replacement liners and/or spray for the liners at the Container Store.  This keeps my silver from tarnishing quite so quickly.  Again, I keep it here so I will use it.  And we do-even a little tarnished.  I also keep our table cloth, chargers, table runners, box of plate stands etc… and a box of candles in the cabinet.  I literally have everything at my finger-tips when needing to set a quick table or prepare for a festive gathering.  You’ll notice the table cloth drawer is not full.  I keep a cream table cloth and a brown one.  That’s it.  I have found those two meet my needs.  And in all honesty, more often than not we just use place-mats or chargers.  I know there are TONS of gorgeous table cloths out there.  I know many of you have drawers brimming with them.  My question is, “Why?”  Do you use them?  How often do you think about using them, only to decide you don’t want to iron them or you don’t want them to get dirty.  My challenge to you is this-free up the space.  Get rid of them.  Life is way too short to fret over table cloths.  Keep the one or two you REALLY use.  Release the rest.

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I change out the art next to the china cabinet by season.  It’s an easy spot to add some holiday decor, yet doesn’t clutter things or require moving a lot of other stuff around.   During the fall I actually have framed pumpkins my kids did back in the 3rd grade.  I loved the look of them and as a mom, I struggled during those elementary years with storing their art.  I actually have quite a bit of it framed and we use it in our home.   It’s amazing how many comments we get.  I love it.  My girls love it.  One day I hope their children will love it and be inspired.

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As I have sought to become less of a perfectionist and more of an organized mom seeking peace, beauty and a full life, I have come to realize that having less often means having more.  Our dining room is fairly simple.  I have let go of a lot of stuff-and I am ashamed to say so.  Good grief the decorations, table cloths etc… I have spent money on.  Oh well, lessons learned.  As you can see.  I use every inch of the china cabinet and keep the table open for guests (which also means I don’t have to store the table leaves).  I have tried to be creative with my kids’ art, saving money at the same time.  While simple, we love our dining room and we use our dining room.  We serve friends and family there.  We play games there.  On occasion the table is cleared and we work on scrapbooks there.  We enjoy it.  And that dear friends, is a full life.

I challenge you to rethink your dining room.  If it’s really not your style to have one, then repurpose the room.  I have helped a client turn hers into a craft room.  A friend of mine uses hers as a billiards room.  If you want to use your dining room, then do.  Clear out the chests, get rid of the excess.  Use it, enjoy it.


More on My Perfect Planner

As I have mentioned, I found the perfect planner.  The perfect planner for me.  You see, that is the secret.  There is no perfect planner.  There are only planners of various kinds.  We find one, or a combination of several (as I have done) and create the perfect planner for ourselves.  For some it is an electronic version.  Although, as someone who consults as an organizer and time management coach, I will tell you I have found most women still work best with a paper system, using the electronic calendar only as a month at a glance family calendar or to provide reminder alerts.  Why?  We are more right brained.  We were created to be creative.  As such, I think most of us like the visual aspect of paper planning, as evidenced by all the amazing photos on Pinterest of colorful, sticker full planner pages.  Way beyond my capacity, but some of you creative women out there can go all out!  Second, we are more tactile.  Our days are full of “touching”.  We place hands upon our homes through cooking, cleaning, decorating…  We place hands upon our family loving, encouraging, supporting.  We place hands upon a lot.  Getting to place our hands upon something tactile we can use to track our days is refreshing, rewarding and provides a great sense of accomplishment.  If you are anything like me, getting to strike a line through any of my “to do” tasks gives me sheer joy!  So today I share with you a few more sections and tips from my Personal Perfect Planner.

On Monday I took you through the first few sections.  I stopped at my Project Pages.  Let me reiterate again, how important these are.  Not only do they help me keep track of what I need to do on each project, giving me a big picture view, but they keep me accountable.  When I see too many Project Pages piling up I know I have failed to say yes to the best, and have let myself fall prey to trying to please others by never saying no.  Ugh.  I know you have been there.  Especially if you are a woman of faith.  It is hard, hard to say no and not feel guilty.  Hard to know what the best is versus the good.  Here are some tips, things I do, to help in saying yes to the best.

  1. Never give an answer at the moment you are asked.  ALWAYS ask if you can have a day to a week to think about it.
  2. Pray daily, asking God to give you direction.
  3. Review your Life Purpose Statement.  Does the task/commitment align itself to your Life Purpose Statement.
  4. Review your Project list.  How many things are you committed to right now?  Are any of them drawing to a close?
  5. Assess whether or not being involved in this task or commitment will use your spiritual gifts and human talents.  God does not call us to do things He has not gifted us to do.  Don’t take the joy away from someone else.
  6. Respond back succinctly.  We owe no one but God an explanation.  If your yes is yes, then just say so.  If your no is no, then just say so.

The next section in my planner is Special Dates.  I keep a list of birthdays, anniversaries etc… here.  I am that old fashioned girl that still likes to send a hand written note as much as possible.  Each Friday I review the next week and then over on my daily pages write down when I need to send a card off.  I love Mardells and keep a stock of Dayspring cards, which you can always purchase in bulk on sale.  I wish I could tell you I never miss a special date, but I am not perfect and sadly I sometimes let this priority fall off my mind.  This section of my planner is from Life is Crafted.



Now we finally come to the meat of my planner.  The sections I rely upon daily to keep me centered and keep me effective.  The next section is my Month at a Glance.  While I love the Life Is Crafted system, her monthly pages do not have lines.  Being a little on the OCD side, I need lines.  I can’t stand looking at a page with crooked writing.  I know.  At this point I should stop and call my therapist.  All joking aside, not having lines just doesn’t work for me.  So, for this section I use the folio size Day-Timer Month at a Glance pages.  In addition to the fact that they are lined, there are several other things I LOVE about their layout.


The front page of the Two Page Per Month has a “To Be Done” section.  This is where I write those things that need to be done annually or quarterly.  Things like, “run cleaning cycle in washing machine”, power wash patio”, “seal granite/marble”…  You get the idea.  This is NOT where I put all my “to do” items.  I keep those on the Master To Do list and transfer those to my weekly pages.  (more about that next week)


The Two Page Per Month layout is great, including at the bottom the previous month’s calendar and the next month’s calendar.  To the right there is a column “To Be Done” and “Notes & Memos”.  If there is something on my Master To Do list that must be done during a particular month, I DO transfer it to this “To Be Done” section.  I use the “Notes & Memos” section to write down names/phone numbers of people I need to contact that month, but mostly use it as a reminder section for any Mary & Martha business alerts or reminders (for example if a new product is coming in stock or an out of stock item is going to be restocked on a particular day).  The daily blocks in the month layout are used for appointments.  As you can see, I do some color coding here.  Things due or critical appointments are in red.  My girls are blue and pink.  I am green.  No “to do” items are here, only appointments.  Each Friday I set aside time to sync this paper planner with my iphone calendar.  I try to keep it all synced as each day ends, but let’s get real.  I am over 40 and sometimes forget. Second, some days by the time I have a spare moment I can do little more than fall into bed.  Fortunately, I haven’t missed anything critical and this once a week “sync” on Friday seems to keep me up to date.

As my girls have gotten older I have taught them to put their own items on the iphone calendar (which is in our Cloud and shared).  This year, they are now 15, I am slowly implementing the policy that if it is not on the calendar it doesn’t happen.  Obviously having to give a little grace and use it failed moment to provide a little instruction, reinforcement.  However, if it is purely social I will tell you I have used those opportunities to be pretty hard core.

The meat of my planner are in the pages that follow this Two Page Per Month Layout.  Looking forward to sharing that in the next post.  In the mean time here are some sites you might want to check out if you are interested in creating your own perfect planner.

Living Small-Living Large: Lessons for Living (temporarily) in Small Spaces

The saga of the move continues.  At this point, it really is amusing to us.  Not to mention, we are definitely chalking it up as a “learning experience”.  My husband and I both discussed the fact had this happened 10 years ago, we would be completely unglued.  It would be UGLY.  Thankfully, we’ve both matured a little in the past 10 years-maybe not matured, but we’ve grown, learned a thing or two and had to face some harsh realities about ourselves-be willing to let God prune.  It’s not been easy.  Some days I wonder if I will ever change, be that person God has called me to be.  It’s easy in the largeness of life to lose sight-to feel overwhelmed and defeated, to think I will never learn, things will never change…  But in the stillness, in the small moments, when I quit striving and just take one more step in obedience I realize the good, the growth, the changes, the life worth living.

We are about to enter phase two of the move-the move from one furnished apartment to another, at a completely different complex up the road about 5 miles.  Not of our own doing or wishes.  Nope. Someone, yet to be determined, made a mistake.  We then, get to move.  I have to tell you though, these past three weeks in the current small, two bedroom apartment have gone by rather quickly and we have sort of gotten in a groove.  I am proud to say, we are quite organized as well, and have yet to have any sort of meltdown based upon not knowing where something is.  Mind you, I did not say we have yet to have any meltdowns.  I did say we have twin 15 year old daughters on this adventure with us, right?  For them we have ruined their life, their summer fun, etc… Forget they are moving into a new home, with separate bathrooms and a pool.  It’s all about immediate gratification at 15.  In all seriousness though, they have managed really well.  Despite an early meltdown or two, they have pitched right in, failed to complain and really are making the best of it.  Some days they’ve done better than I have.  I’m proud of them.

If you have followed my blog at all, or know me, you know I am all about “containment”.  I believe in and live by, “Everything in its place, and a place for everything.”  I’d go insane if I had to manage my home any other way.  As we have traversed this move (because yes it feels like an obstacle course), I have realized one of our saving graces has been my obsession with containment-which includes containers.  Yep.  I’ve got ’em and I love ’em.  And yep, my husband rolls his eyes and friends love to chide me about them.  That’s O.K.  They work!  Containers, used to contain specific, like objects work! They have made our move easier.  They have enabled us to continue with school, home school, personally owned businesses, volunteer work etc…  I thought I’d share a few shots of our current apartment.  Next week I’ll share some of the new apartment we will reside in for 45 days until the BIG move, which hopefully brings an end to this move as a whole.

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The apartment came with a nice little built in desk area, complete with cabinets above.  We have been able to set up office nicely, complete with wireless printer, laptop and my “mommy central” box intact just as it was in our old home.  (see previous post).  May not seem like a big deal, but that little box carries all our current info and means if I have it with me, I have everything I need for the immediate-everything not carried in my planner.  In the knee space below I have the girls keepsake boxes which include all their special mementos.  Love these soft sided boxes from Container Store. On the wall behind the desk and round dining table, I have bins of clothes (we were having unseasonable cold weather here in AR until last week and couldn’t put away all our fall/winter stuff.  Seriously you all, it was 40 degrees two weeks ago.)  We are also at the end of school so these boxes hold uniforms and will hold the remainder once school ends TOMORROW!!!!!)  We have picked up a few  items for the new house (life doesn’t stop) and so those items are packed in sturdy boxes.  In the corner you see yet another great tote, this one by Thirty-One. It contains our home school supplies and planner.

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In the living area is a nice little built in bookshelf space.  My basket of current magazines sits on the bottom.  Our file boxes (again from Container Store) hold our printer paper and school paper.   Then you see my life preserving binders.  (That’s a whole other post, but suffice it to say we have a Family Notebook, all my major committees get a notebook, we have a printed contacts list-I have technology trust issues, and my businesses (SOS Simplified Organized Styled and Mary & Martha) have binders.)  Above it sits our change collection jar and the clear top bins host office supplies and photos to be placed in albums or photo boxes.  Again, life carried on smoothly because all I had to do was box these containers up, carry them over here and plop-everything was in place.  No frantic search for containers, no bulky file cabinet to move (we do have one in storage, but it could go there because it holds historical data only.)

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Then of course, my lazy susans.  Oh how I love them.   Y’all they are game changers!  I was able to quickly set up my little cooking center putting all my oils and frequently used seasonings on a lazy susan next to the stove.  My other items are neatly contained in white boxes (from Wal-Mart-I think they are Rubbermaid and sadly the design has been changed.) up in the cabinet.  Loves these and had them in my old home-they fit standard depth kitchen cabinets perfectly.  Same in bathroom.  Apartment bathrooms are notorious for having limited counter or cabinet space.  Why is this?  Any way, ours proved to be no different.  Solution?  You bet.  More lazy susans.  Our daily supplies are neatly contained on these lazy susans leaving the remaining counter space for use.  No frantic looking for items or fighting over drawer space.

Apartment living or small space living isn’t perfect and it is most definitely not easy, especially if you are used to living in 2500+ square feet.  But, it is doable, it is manageable.  You need a few special items and I am telling you, the secret to it all is containers.

We are living small right now, but it’s not keeping us from living large.  We can still have dinner round the table.  We can still laugh.  Even as I write one of the girls is entertaining a friend.  Business has carried on and to date, we’ve not missed a special moment in a friend or family member’s life.  We are also learning we can live small.  There are some good lessons in that too.  We are reminded home is where we are as a unit.  Home is what we make it.  Home is not our stuff (which we acknowledge we have too much of), it is a sense of place we create.

Storm Before the Calm


We are moving.  We have anticipated this day.  In fact, crazy of crazy, we chose this!

We are thrilled to be constructing a new home.  One built for us as “empty nesters”, though not yet there.  It’s also being built in hopes it will be an enticement for lots of friends, college girls to return home to, and one day grandchildren to play at.  I know.  Lofty expectations.  I seem to have a problem with high expectations!

As we prepare, although it’s a little hard to say “we”, I am reminded that more often than not, life is a storm before the calm.  I know the saying is reversed, but in my life, storm before the calm seems much more appropriate.  My schedule often hits storm level before I find my way to decisions about what I am to be engaged in, what is “best” for me/us.  The house often hits tornado storm stage, before I see clearly where I want things to b stored/used.  So it is with a move.  The house is in “controlled” chaos as cabinets are emptied and only what we love and use finds its way to the boxes.  Packing 13 years of stuff seems overwhelming.  The storm tosses and turns us as we seek to move towards the calm.

Yet, if I am honest (and all of my friends can attest to), I love change.  There is something about the storm that energizes me, drives me to activity and dreaming.  I push hard and accomplish a great deal.  Maybe it’s because I long for the calm and know it will serve as great reward.  Whatever it is about me, I love change.  I also love houses, and family, and entertaining and well, LIFE!  So, how do I survive the storm called ‘moving’?  I do it with a plan.  I attack it much the same way I attack any organizing project for SOS: Simplified, Organized, Styled.

1.  Pick a room and begin there.  DO NOT move on to another room until you have pretty much completed that room.  I began with the master bedroom.  I packed up our out of season clothes-being ruthless as I went.  I typically pack clothing and bedding in plastic bins purchased at a discount store.  I am going to try some of the new Zip Lock space saver bags.  (I’ll try to remember to post my opinion of  them.)  I then packed up books, recycled all the magazines, and packed the extra set of linens (If you remember from a previous post, I only keep one set of extra linens per bed-we use ’em ’til they are threadbare and ready for the trash-then purchase a nice new set. Why store linens when 90% of us just wash the set on the bed and put it right back on!)  All of these boxes are labeled MASTER and are stacked neatly in a corner.

2.  Pick the next room.  For me, it is the great room.  Books and shelving decor packed first.  Then small furniture cleaned and wrapped with protective foam on legs, drawers removed from side tables etc…  Once again, these boxes are clearly labeled and stacked together IN the great room.

Continue this process.  I generally live by the “15 Minute” rule, but for this project it’s more like the “1.5 hour” rule.  Turn a show on and get to it!  You’d be amazed how much you get packed and how ruthless you can be about stuff after a full day of work :).  My goal is always to have things grouped by room so that as the movers load the truck the items go on the truck in a group.  This should mean that as they are unloaded, they come out in groups as well.  The plan isn’t perfect, but after 9 moves, I can tell you it is 90% full proof.

I’d write more, but guess what?!  Yep, boxes are calling.  Remember, there’s always a storm before the calm.  Think towards, plan towards the calm.  It’ll be all the sweeter AFTER the storm!


From Chaos to Order to Thanksgiving

Lest anyone think I am always organized, completely together… I’m giving you a glimpse of my kitchen counter Friday afternoon.  Not pretty.  If you looked real hard, you’d see dog hair on the floor, along with some damp fall leaves drug in by our two furry friends.  




There was a moment of complete frustration.  And before I knew it the negative self-talk began in my mind.  “You don’t have enough time.”  “You are so behind.”  “There’s no way to have everything ready for Thanksgiving, then three weeks to Christmas and then the girls’ birthday.”  Thankfully, yes, thankfully, I had spent quite a bit of time Friday reading in God’s word before the sun rose, reading through Crystal Paine’s manuscript, and had lunch catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in two years.  We had laughed about memories past, shared our mothering struggles and even discussed the dysfunction in each of our families that can drive us crazy. But in the end, we had laughed much and recognized all the good in our homes, in us, in our husbands.  So, I took a step back.  I shut the negative talk down.  I looked at the calendar, saw an opening on Sunday and blocked off two hours.  I then jumped in the car with my family to enjoy an evening with friends watching basketball.  Sure enough, I enjoyed the weekend and my family, knowing in advance about my “blocked off time” left me to the quiet of my kitchen for an hour and half.  The mess on the counter got cleaned up. Coupons got clipped.  I finished filling out the gift idea list, scheduled the new events on the calendar and reviewed the menu for the week.  I blocked off time (with 30 minutes extra on the front and back side) for each task:  shopping, board meeting, real estate calls, church reminders, baking, food preparation, laundry etc…  I sighed a deep sigh of relief.  I wiped down the counters, grabbed a tall glass of water and just sat for a moment.  What a great feeling.

Life can seemingly go from good to bad to ugly in a matter of seconds.  And sometimes, that indeed happens.  A catastrophic event occurs.  But more often, we just think life has gone from good to bad.  We allow ourselves to get overwhelmed.  We wallow in the chaos and never stop long enough to take a breath and work at restoring order.  And that, that is what steals our joy.  That is what keeps us from experiencing gratitude and having a sense of peace.  Just a little quiet time focused on reigning in the tasks, getting a written plan in place, and life can go right back to great.  Yes, there’s a lot to do.  Yes, it may mean more time in the kitchen than usual.  I may be up a little later, but what a privilege.  How blessed I am.  How blessed we are.  How deserving of thanks is my God who is and was and is to come.  

So, don’t get bogged down in the chaos this week.  Take time, right now, to create order.  It is within your power.  Then, as I will do, work the plan.  Let the blogging, the extra house project, Facebook, etc… fall to the side.  This week they are not necessary.  Only your list, only your family, only Thanksgiving.  

My kitchen bar is still clear.  And as of tonight one of the tables is set and ready.  Be Still.  Let the God of Order fill your thoughts.  Be Thankful.