Posts Tagged ‘Mommy Time Management’

5 Time Management Tips For Moms

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

I’m so happy to once again have my good friend Meagan Francis here to share with us- this time all about time management tips for us busy moms. Let’s keep those hours from slipping away!

5 Time Management Tips for Moms- keep your hours from slipping away!

I’ve not always been good at managing my time. I’m amazed sometimes when I look back at my pre-kid life and consider all the hours upon hours I frittered away, without even good grades in school or career advancement to show for it.

Having kids didn’t immediately improve my time-management skills: it wasn’t until I had my third child and decided I needed more structure to my life to function–and, at the same time, decided to take a real, serious stab at writing professionally–that I started, out of sheer survival instinct, to develop habits to help me get things done.

Now, several children, four books and many published articles later, I’m still not perfect but I’ve got a much better handle on using my time efficiently. Here are five of my favorite tips and tricks for making good use of time:

5 Time Management Tips

1. Pay close attention to what makes you tick…and what doesn’t. My first child fit pretty well into my free-form, no-schedule lifestyle, but when I added my second just 22 months later, everything fell apart. Trying to protect myself from failure, I’d set low, low expectations of what I might be able to accomplish in a day. And (just like in high school and college) as it turned out, the less I expected of myself, the less I delivered. I realized my true colors: I need deadlines, I need expectations, and I’m really not that type B, after all. Maybe you’re the opposite–overloading your schedule when what you really need is some breathing room. We’re all different. Just be sure you’re clear about what really helps you, not necessarily what you think should help you. (And try to ride the middle a bit, either way – if I had suddenly ramped my expectations way, WAY up, I would have burned out fast.)

2. Always leave a room better than you found it. I believe in this so strongly –and find it so helpful–that it’s always worth mentioning. There’s no need to spend lots of time picking up and decluttering if you build cleanup naturally into your day.

3. Create good habits. We all have habits that drive us throughout our days. Some habits help us and some make our lives more chaotic. For example, if you never start thinking about what you’ll have for dinner before 5 PM, you’ll probably waste a lot of time, money and energy trying to figure out what you can throw together (or pick up from the drive-through) on super-short notice. It does require a re-wiring of the brain to start preparing for dinner at 3 PM instead (or better yet, plan it out the day or even the week before) but it doesn’t take any extra time. In fact, it’ll save you time and energy, because you can prepare in stages instead of madly trying to throw everything together and realizing at the last minute you forgot to defrost the chicken…again.

4. Write it down. Getting my to-do list out of my head and on paper is an essential just-before-bed exercise. I keep a notebook with my running list next to my bed and look at it first thing in the morning: that way I don’t waste time futzing around on the Internet while my brain tries to wake up enough to remember what I was supposed to be doing today. There it is in black ink, and just seeing the words on the paper brings me back to the mindset I was in when I wrote the list and helps get me on track.

5. Identify your values. The word “values” is not inherently laden with judgment. Perhaps you value sports more than your neighbor. Maybe your best mom friend values preschool education more than you do. That doesn’t mean she’s right and you’re wrong or vice versa. Even if you and your sister are both into healthy eating, maybe one of you is opting for local farmer’s market fare while another does her best at Aldi and another shops the organic produce at Whole Foods. It’s only when you understand your own specific values that you can prioritize. Try making a list of ten things you really value, then look at your how you spend your time: do your actions reflect your stated values?

What’s one bad habit you could turn into a good habit, that wouldn’t take any extra time or energy, but would actually save you time and energy in the long run?

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When Mom Needs a Timeout

Monday, April 14th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

When Mom Needs a Timeout |

“Mom? What’s for lunch? Mom? MOM! Hey! MOMMMMMMMMMMM! What. Are. WE. Doing. FOR. Lunch?!”

Before she could ask – or say my name – One. More. Time, I said, carefully and through gritted teeth, “I can’t talk to you right now. I do not have anything nice to say.”

We were driving home after church, after a week full of fighting and talking back and directly disobeying every big and little thing. We were headed home (by way of Taco Bell), after a morning full of arguing and interrupting the grown-up talk and smarting off in front of the pastor.

Though my newborn has started sleeping for a few more hours in a row overnight, I still feel like a stiff wind could knock me over – or at least lull me into a nap – most days. So fighting against a strong-willed six-year-old had worn me down.

This mama needed a time-out!

Wouldn’t it be nice if, every time we feel overwhelmed, we could escape to a place like that beach up there? {You know, like maybe the week after spring break? Or on snow day #472?}

Unfortunately, a beach vacay isn’t really in the cards every time I feel like pulling out my hair.

When Mom Needs a Timeout |

Last summer I wrote about wanting to run away. Just for a bit, just long enough to refill my emotional tank so I could face whatever chaos or challenge waited for me at home. On that particular day, I had dropped off my daughter at the babysitter’s house and driven straight to a diner, where I sat – alone – eating pancakes and avoiding a small-but-maddening kitchen renovation at home.

But even that feels luxurious – and impossible – some days. Sometimes you can get away, but sometimes you’re stuck in the house or without extra money or a babysitter or a couple hours to spend on yourself. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a break.

When you need a timeout and want to run away, here are a few things – some more luxurious than others! – you might try:

  • Light a candle. The one that smells so pretty and makes you breathe deeply and your shoulders relax, just a bit? Yep, put it way up high and out of reach of little hands if you must, but light that candle.
  • Schedule a manicure. Or a pedicure. Or a haircut. And then go to the appointment. Turn off your phone if you can stand it and just enjoy being pampered. Even if I’m using a coupon to get my hair trimmed at a discount salon, those two minutes of having someone else wash my hair seem awfully close to that beach paradise I long for!
  • Go to lunch. Call a friend – maybe one you haven’t seen in a while – and make plans for lunch. A little grown-up conversation can do wonders for the soul. (Or, if you’d rather, go eat that lunch on your own. Take a good book or your iPod, and enjoy the alone time!)
  • Go to the bathroom. Yes, I said it. I’m not telling you what you need to do in there! But if you can escape the kids for five minutes, walk into the bathroom and shut the door. Yeah, all the way closed.
  • Take a shower. What? You’re offended that I assume you didn’t already do this? Well, fine, you are a better woman than me! Seriously, I know that mom showers often get shorter and less regular during some phases of life. These days – living with a newborn – I feel good if I manage one every other day. But when I finally do step under the hot water, even if it only lasts for four minutes and 27 seconds? It. Is. Wonderful.
  • Take time for a quick workout. Or a chapter in that book you’ve been dying to read. Or the latest episode of your favorite show. And do it in the middle of the day. GASP! I know! Can you BELIEVE I said that? But seriously – despite our collective understanding that we should sleep when the baby sleeps and work our tails off when the toddlers nap, sometimes a mom just needs a break. Take yours.
  • Go shopping. Swing into Target and peruse the dollar spot. Or the clearance racks. You don’t have to buy anything. Sometimes just wandering around and looking at the pretty, clean, new things is enough to clear my mind. Likewise, much as grocery shopping can be a chore, doing it alone? Can feel like a two-week vacation.
  • Take the long way home. Sometimes after I drop off one daughter at school and the other at the babysitter, I don’t rush right home to begin working. Deadlines are pressing and emails are waiting for replies, but driving the long way home – while blaring something that is not children’s music – is what I need to decompress from a rough morning. On the flip side, I’ve been known to scoop up my daughter on non-work days, drive through Sonic for a cherry limeade during happy hour and sit in the kindergarten carpool line for an extra 15 minutes as my car-sleepy baby gives me a break.

What do YOU do when you need a timeout?

{Photo sources: johnmichaelmayer and miamism}


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Back to School Recipes, Organization Tips, and Other Hidden Resources

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Good morning, friends! Today my daughter heads back to school and my son will be shortly following behind her on Wednesday. I am a sappy momma and tend to sob on both days that the children head to school. I also am the one in sunglasses for the entire day to hide the tired circles and red eyes from all of the crying. They do drive me crazy sometimes when they are here, but I miss them when they are gone.

It has been a flurry of activity- uniform shopping, clothes shopping, shoe shopping, backpack shopping, school supplies shopping, back-to-school nights,  ice cream treating, lots of individual dates with each kid, and plenty of talking about the exciting year to come.

I just wanted to point out a few of my favorite resources for moms that might help you as you ease back into your busy school year! These are my favorite resources for organizing and feeding my family during this busy time!

Back-to-School Breakfast Ideas:

Blueberry Pancakes (make and pop them in the freezer for the school week)

Fluffy & Light Pumpkin Pancakes (make and pop them in the freezer for the school week)

6 Amazing Waffle Recipes & Tips for Getting Your Waffle On

Protein-Packed Strawberry & Banana Smoothies

Banana Cream Pie Smoothies

Slow Cooked Oatmeal

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls (a great way to celebrate your week at school on Saturday morning)

Honey Nut Granola

Vanilla Scented Granola

Deliciously Homemade Granola Bars

Getting Organized for Back-to-School:

One Month of Slow Cooking (perfect for those days filled with after-school activities)

The Essentials for Saving on Back-to-School

Weekly Planner Sheet

Weekly Menu Planner Sheet

Transforming the Paper Clutter

Choosing a Great Family Organizer for Your Family

Simplifying Your To-Do List

Ideas for Celebrating That First Day of School:

Back-to-School Celebrations

World’s Greatest Homemade Slushies

Throw a Frugal Pizza Party

For Capturing Those Back-To-School Photos:

Capturing Your Children Through Photography

Making Lunch Special:

Free Printable Lunch Box Notes

Writing Love Notes to Your Child

Fun with After-School Snacks:

Deliciously Easy Raisin Bran Muffins

Deliciously Homemade Granola Bars (I think I like the word deliciously)

Lemony Blueberry Muffins

Simple Oatmeal & Chocolate Chip Muffins

Delicious & Easy Cereal Bars

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Good luck to each of you that are on this journey again with your kids! I hope you all get off to a successful school year start!

Transforming Your Mount Everest… One Hour At a Time

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

We have so been enjoying our “new-to-us home” and all of the renovations that we did to make our small spaces more livable. On this side of the basement, it has been all rainbows and sunshine. I have been spending lots of time in my favorite chairs, working hard in my little home office, and sipping coffee while snuggling under quilts in the evening with a big stack of books.

On the other side of the rainbows and sunshine was a space that I would like to call the Mount Everest of Clutter. It was where everything that did not fit into our “new to us home” went to live.  It was that room that would make my heart beat really fast if anyone wanted to see what was on the other side of the office. It was the room that I prayed that nothing would ever malfunction in because I would have been so embarrassed for anyone to see it.It was that room that made my laundry routines difficult, that made me spend money on repeat items we already had… it was that room that made me feel ashamed.

Perhaps you have a room like this? Your Mount Everest could be a craft room gone awry, a junk drawer that seems to multiply, it could be that pile of papers that you swear you will deal with next week, it could be the closet that harbors clothes of years past that will never be worn. If you don’t have a single spot in your home like this, please write a blog or book and I will buy it and read it. For me, I have many places in my life that need a little remodeling…this is just the big one for me.

I decided that I would set a timer and I would try to organize this space for one hour with no interruptions. I would avoid the rainbows and sunshine sides of my home and I would brave the rugged terrain of hideous clutter to show myself what could be done in one hour.  I would spend zero dollars.  I would commit to only what could be accomplished in an hour. I would be brave.

One hour later with zero dollars spent, my space has shaped up quite a bit. It is organized enough that I now can see my floors and I can find items that I need much easier than I could before. With only that hour, I have made my Everest into a small hill. There is still work to do, but it is manageable work that doesn’t seem half as daunting.

What happens when you tackle a Mount Everest? Well, sometimes a ripple effect seems to happen. When you organize a space, you find an unused item that could help organize another hill of clutter in your home.

This little bookcase happened to be in that pile of clutter in our basement. After a good dusting, it found a new home in my son’s room. He had oodles of books that were taking over his desk and drawers. This bookcase matched perfectly with his room and is a useful storage tool for all of his reading materials.

This little nightstand in his room was no longer needed and was moved into a tiny corner in my bathroom for bathroom storage and to make finding the important things that might be needed by our guests (*ahem*)  easily accessible.

In that hour, I feel a little bit of those rainbows and sunshine pulling through in cringe-worthy spaces from before. It is just a start, but it does feel like a good one!

Want to tackle a Mount Everest of Clutter in your home? Here are a few easy tips for tackling your project today:

Set Your Timer- Give yourself a set amount of time to tackle whatever project has been bothering you the most. Remember that you can always do another round later, but see what you can accomplish if you devote just one hour to that project.

Try To Reduce Your Items Not Spend More- It can be tempting to buy tons of shiny new containers and organizing tools to tackle your clutter project. See what frugal organizing solutions you already have and try to use those instead of heading to the big superstore for the latest and greatest in organizers. You might be surprised how little you actually need.

Schedule a Regular Clutter Date- Make one day a week your day for tackling one thing you have been meaning to do, but have never gotten around to it. I try to aim for Wednesday because I usually have very little going on during the midweek, but you can make it whatever day works with your own schedule. Devote that one hour each week to a task that should be done, but just never seems to get checked off the list.

Reward Yourself- After I was done with this project, I sat in the beautiful sunshine, in my favorite chair, with my favorite coffee drink, and read a mindless summer novel. It was the perfect reward for the hour I devoted towards tackling this project. Make sure that you reward your efforts whether it be with a trip to the library, renting a movie just for you, an at-home pedicure or bubble bath, or a favorite drink. After all of that work, you will have earned every minute of that reward.

What corner of your home do you want to transform? Do you have any tips for a problem space that you have resolved? Please share!

It Hasn’t Always Been Easy…My Fitness Confession

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

I have to admit that I am doing a few things that I don’t feel entirely comfortable with today. I am sharing with you a very vulnerable place in my heart, I am exposing a time in my life that I wasn’t the most proud of, I am sharing one picture (of many) of a person that I don’t really recognize, and I am telling you that I am trying to be different…knowing that saying it out loud is the hardest part.

In my college years, after numerous indecisions about what I wanted to do with my life, I settled on a career path in Food & Nutrition. While learning about the formula for calories, flunking my cooking class twice, and taking courses on exercise and physiology, I became a blimped out version of my former self. I ate out almost every single day, stopped exercising, partied hard, and lived a sedentary life. My hair suddenly became greasy, my face was shiny all of the time, I had chronic stomach problems, exercise-induced asthma, chronic back pain, high cholesterol, and I need to nap because I was constantly tired. Freshman 15 would have been mild compared to the Freshman 35 that I put on. It was such a gradual process that I don’t think I even realized what was happening.  So gradual, in fact, that I found it strange when I overheard a guy friend say that I had a pretty face and would be cute if I could just lose some weight. I was that girl now.

I bring this up because I know that sometimes it can be hard to relate to someone if you don’t see the struggle, the work, and the decisions that are made daily to accomplish their current body, and the daily commitment that is made after you have reached your personal goals for fitness or weight loss.

In my thirties, I am in better shape than I ever was in my teen or college years. My skin is great, I no longer take any medications, I have no chronic health conditions, I am at a healthy weight for my body, and I am proud to show my kids that physical fitness is an essential part of my day.  When a ten minute workout would have winded me before, I can now run on my treadmill miles at a time. Each day that I put in my exercise time, I remind myself that I am running and exercising against a family history of diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, low bone density, stomach problems, and am running towards quality time with the people I love.

How is fitness and frugality related? Well, frankly, it is simple… the more fit you are, the less you pay in medication and doctor visits. Fitness doesn’t require a big investment at all, but it is an investment that will pay off for years and years down the road.

Believe in 30 Day Goals- I still believe firmly that you can accomplish anything with small thirty day goals. I started with a 30 day goal to complete a Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred workout. Now I have a thirty day goal to run a 5K in great time on the treadmill. Someday, it would be wonderful to be able to run a mini-marathon or be able to keep pace with my runner husband.  Think of a fitness goal that you would like to accomplish and work thirty days towards making that dream into a reality.

Eat Healthier During the Day- No matter how hard I was exercising, I was still eating whatever I wanted and not seeing the results that I was looking for.  As a mom it can be difficult to not give in and just eat whatever the kids are eating. My days were filled with macaroni, chicken nuggets, crackers, chips, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Unfortunately, that was not filling me up and I would feel hungry throughout the day.

Each week, I now chop up salad, fresh veggies, and fruit at the beginning of the week. I roast and dice chicken breasts as I chop the veggies so I have all of the perfect fixings for a satisfying salad bar at home.

Start with small switches- oatmeal or a protein-packed protein shake for breakfast, a handful of almonds instead of heavy carbs for snack, a colorful salad instead of a sandwich for lunch, and whole grains instead of the white stuff could all be small changes that make a big difference in how you feel.

Be frugal, but make wise fitness investments- Thanks to the wonderful consignment shops in our area, I was able to score most of my workout gear and paired it with inexpensive tank tops and sports bras from Walmart. I was proud of my frugal workout gear, but my back was hurting after my workouts.

I started to realize that I had not made one important investment… a new pair of tennis shoes. While new tennis shoes were a big investment for me, they are an investment that has really paid off and allowed me to workout longer and not feel achy after my workouts.

Don’t be afraid to make an investment if it will improve your fitness experience and help your endurance levels with working out. My tennis shoes are just one example of something that had held me back from feeling my best, and something that has made a huge difference in my motivation to keep moving.

Switch up your routines- If you are hitting a plateau in your fitness routine, then it might be time to switch things up a bit. For many years I have been working out at home. I found a lot of variation in my routine compliments of the library and the DVD’s that they offered.  Recently, I got a new writing gig that could pay for a monthly gym membership. My kids were finally at an age where I could do this and so I joined a gym. The results in these last two months have been phenomenal and the variation and equipment is much wider than what I had available to me at home.

Think about what you are spending your money on and see if it could be allocated to something healthier. Do you have a movie club membership or premium cable plan? What if you put that money towards a gym membership instead?  With my cable plan and my movie membership, I felt forced to sit in front of the boob tube. After canceling the movie membership, I have felt less dedicated to television time and more dedicated to the things that matter most to me.

Having a workout buddy has also pushed me out of my comfort zone for trying new classes and we help each other stay on schedule.  I was proud that for Cinco de Mayo, I went to a 2 ½ hour Zumba class and danced my little heart out instead of sitting on the sofa this year. These small changes are making a big difference in my confidence and how I feel.

Turn off Distracters- The hardest part of working out for me are all of the distracters that can pull me away from my goals. I make deals with myself where I am not allowed to login to Twitter, Facebook, or my email until my workout is complete.  What distracts you from reaching your goals? Some distracters (our children, for example) are more difficult to reduce, but many are silly things that could be pushed aside until your workout is done.

(my beautiful inspiration)

Get inspired- What inspires you? Is it a picture of your former self on your fridge, is it having an awesome workout buddy that you can check-in with, is it reading the victory stories of weight-loss from other bloggers? Is it being able to keep up with your crazy children?

Whatever it is, get inspired and try starting a new workout routine today.

Fitness Sites to Inspire: Groove Shark is my new favorite site to create great workout mixes that help me stay motivated when I am on the treadmill. Put on workout anthems that can force you to go that extra mile and create mixes that help keep you pumped! At LogYourRun you can keep track of your running and other exercise progress and sign up for one of our free training programs to help you improve your performance or train for your upcoming marathon. LogYourRun will help keep track of how many miles you have on your shoes and you can trace your routes on a map to figure out how many miles your favorite route is and share with your friends. Looking for a community-driven site to help keep you motivated. With SparkPeople, you can create personalized diet and fitness plans, track your calories, track you your workouts, and connect with others like through the support teams available.

Mamavation- Looking for some added mamavation, then the Mamavation site might be a hot spot for you to visit. They have a great team of writers who share inspiring stories and up-to-date health/exercise information that can help you reach your goals.

How do you reach your fitness goals? What sites, people, or workout routines are motivating you right now?

Shifting Your Focus to Thankfulness

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.”  ~Meister Eckhart

I have discovered a very annoying habit about myself. When I get nervous, I repeatedly say thank you. Not once, not twice, but usually around fifteen times.  When I was in labor, I had the nurses in giggles because each time they would ask me something, I would say thank you… even in the deepest pain and anguish of labor.When I got in a car accident, I said thank you to the lady who hit me. Not because I was thankful, but because my nerves get the best of me. I was once told this is a self-esteem issue and that I have a desire to be liked. That is probably true and I suppose I could act in far worse ways than expressing repeated thankfulness.

In reality though, living in thankfulness in a world of immediate gratification, speed of light technology, and the busy hum of our lives can be a practice that is often overlooked.  Each day as my kids get older, I find myself looking at the clock in the morning and glancing at in the evening, never realizing that so much time has passed or that I have not acted thankfully once the whole day.

Everyone has a different way of showing their thankfulness for what they possess and own. I know many who keep a gratitude journal where they take a moment to jot down a few things in life that make them happy. I attempted this, but found myself repeating myself over and over again. It is hard to say thank you without saying thank you for your spouse, your children, your home, your God, and for what you already have. I’d shut my little gratitude journal and say, “Well, that’s four.”  No, the writing process quickly bored me, but I still wanted to find an outlet that would remind me of all of the little things in life that make my world go round.

I needed a more creative outlet for my gratitude and a daily reminder of what I posses. Sometimes it is the big things- a new job that pays the bills, a new furnace when our furnace was going out, a financial goal that is met for our family. Other things are smaller, but are still absolutely special- movie nights with my family, freshly folded laundry, or just a great cup of coffee.

I decided to start a Things That Make Me Happy virtual photo album and began to add those super special moments and the perfectly ordinary that I find extraordinary in life. Behind the lens of my camera, I try to capture to me what makes me thankful each and every day.  Almost every single day, I try to find one thing that makes me happy and to take a picture of it.

I then loaded all of these beautiful things that make me happy into a digital frame that we had. It had been gathering dust in our office,  not loaded with pictures since my daughter was a tiny baby.  I put all of these pictures into the digital frame and put them in my front room where I do all of my best thinking.

As I see the images flashing before my eyes, I silently give thanks over and over again.

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

If people find it strange that I have random photographs of waffles and library bags mixed throughout our family pictures, no one has ever been brave enough to inquire aloud. I am sure they chalk it up to the weird artsy mother who hangs pictures of shoes on walls and mistreats her home.

As Jacqueline Winspear has said though, “Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal.  It’s a way to live.” I want to live thankfully, to be aware of every blessings (great AND small), and the more aware I become the more thankful I am. The more thankful I am, the more blessed I feel.  It is a richness that money can’t buy.

Try a little thankfulness today:

Find a New Way to Say Thank You- If you have a digital frame gathering dust, start loading it with pictures that make you happy to remind you of what you have to be thankful for. Other ideas could be updating your screen saver on your computer with images of thankfulness, starting a free Flickr album, keeping a small family journal on an online site like Cozi,  or printing out a photo album at a place like Shutterfly so you can glance through it with your morning coffee.

Give a Little of Yourself to Say Thanks- The best way to show that you are thankful to those around you is to let them know that you care. It could be bringing them a meal when someone is ill or needs caring for, it could be just sending them a card to thank them for something they have done, it could be as simple as sitting down and spending time with them. Put one person on your thankful list each week and do something that will make them feel special. Rinse. Repeat.

Compliment Someone Today- Want to make someone feel immediately special and at home in your presence? Give them a compliment. This past week, I got an hour to volunteer in my son’s class. Each child that came through, I tried to make them feel like the most special person in the world. I told them how smart they were, how amazing their ideas were, and would compliment them on something they were wearing or doing. The faces…beaming. The warm fuzzy I got from the experience… priceless. You may think that was just a child’s response, but if someone compliments me, I beam like it is the Fourth of July. You never outgrow the beauty of a compliment and telling someone they are special and that you are thankful for them is something that will last long after you have said it.

Thank Your Children- When was the last time you thanked your child? Praise is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our kids and I want to give it to them freely. I don’t always succeed, sometimes I really hate my nagging self or how easily I can lose focus on offering praise. The best way to raise a grateful child is to be grateful. I want to do this so much better and I want my kids to remember that I thanked and praised them often.

What are some ways you are practicing thankfulness? What is one thing you have done to show your thankfulness that you are really proud of?

Boosting Energy By Embracing An Exercise Routine

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

I have great motivation to keep a healthy lifestyle which is what fuels me to continue to exercise and keep up with my active lifestyle. My motivators might be different from yours, but I am sure there is something that motivates you. For me, I find myself less depressed when I exercise, the aches and pains that I have seem to subside with regular exercise, I am trying to avoid the health problems that have plagued my family,  but most of all… I have the energy to keep up with my two energetic children.

I used to attend the gym regularly before I had children. On my lunch hours, I would head to the gym and take difficult kickboxing classes, pilates, power yoga, and aerobics classes. I had college weight to lose and the time to think about just me. The longer and the harder the class, the more I loved it! I would spend my afternoons at the gym and the evenings doing community theater and just thinking about me. It was just all about me all the time and it was glorious.

Those days seem a lifetime ago. My workouts have to be quick and effective,  crammed between two kid’s extracurricular activities, homework, laundry, and daily life.  I find myself trying to figure out how I can just find twenty minutes to myself. In fact, my workout routines are mixed in with children trying to exercise rightwithme and a cat that insists on rubbing against me while I am doing my ab work. Kids are crying for computer time or needing help in the bathroom and I am pausing the DVD and running back, hoping to continue my little burst in energy. What a far cry from an hour at the gym for just me.

That being said, I wouldn’t have it any other way and as the kids see me exercise, I know that I am modeling for them the importance of taking care of the body that God gave you. I could join a gym, but I have found that driving over to a gym takes more time and more energy than popping in a DVD or using the workout equipment we own at home. That being said, it requires a great deal of discipline to maintain a workout routine on your own. Thankfully, interacting online with my real life friends and internet friends keeps me motivated enough to do it all on my own.

What I have discovered is that moms need to find a solution that works best for them. The gym might be for some, but it might not be for you. Workout equipment at home might not be helpful to you, but for others they find motivation in having what they need right at their fingertips. Realize that as long as you are moving, you are doing exactly what your body is intended to do.

1.    Make it quick and convenient. Try aiming for just twenty minute sessions and do what fits best with your schedule. If going to the gym doesn’t work for you right now, stick to a workout DVD. If you can’t manage either, try a brisk walk around your neighborhood. Whatever you do, make it something that is easily doable and can be done in a short period of time.

2.    Make an appointment with yourself. Find the times that work best for you and do it every single day. If something gets in your time slot, push it back, but do not push it off.

3.    Schedule your workouts when it is best for you, not when you think you should workout. I can admit it; I am not a morning person. I have tried being a morning person and I just can’t do it. I will no longer apologize for not being a morning person and will understand that maybe I will come to a stage in my life where morning workouts work better for me, but for now I am content on being groggy in the morning and doing afternoon workouts instead.

4.    Get pumped up. Find what motivates you to get moving and incorporate that. Music is a powerful motivator for me and I love to get music from the local library and play that or load fresh music into my iPod for working out.

Others are pumped by community sites that help them track and login their workout times. SparkPeople is one resource where you can track your caloric content and exercise schedule while chatting with others through forums. Others are motivated by having a workout buddy or making a daily date with a girlfriend at the gym. Whatever it is, find what motivates you and get your body moving.

5. Challenge your spouse. My husband and I decided to challenge each other one month to an exercise challenge. I did a workout routine for 30 days straight and he did did sit-ups every single day. Both of our bodies were transformed by the experience and so was our mindset. Adding an element of competition encouraged me that I could totally take him on and added another level to my workout routine. Adding a little trash-talking in our dinner conversation also helped with our friendly competition that not only ended up rewarding ourselves with a more active lifestyle, but even added a little bit of spark back into our relationship!

5.    Get some workout gear. I don’t know why, but I have a hard time spending money on workout gear. The year 1997 called though and they wanted their workout clothes back so I knew it was time to make an investment. Buy a few good workout pieces for yourself and try washing your tennis shoes to freshen them up. Just slip off the laces and throw the shoes in the washer. Wash them on a warm setting with a little laundry detergent. After they are done, stuff the interior of the shoes with newspaper (to help hold its shape and also to absorb any lingering odors) and let them dry outside in the sunshine. Fresh workout gear can make all the difference in how you feel about yourself and can help you commit more to making exercise a priority.

6. Reward yourself. Rewards to myself are exactly what keep me motivated and what you might find keeps you motivated too. It could be something simple like a glass of wine in the evening, a bubble bath with a good book, a new pair of jeans after reaching a certain weight, a new DVD that will keep inspiring you to workout,  or a protein-packed smoothie that can only be drank if a workout is complete.

7. Switch it up. I need new routines each day to keep things fresh and keep myself motivated. I love to visit our local library and check out workout DVD’s for free and add variety to my workout routines without spending any money. If your library doesn’t offer a great selection, try pooling your workout DVD’s with friends and trading with one another to add different elements to your workout routine. If you have a movie membership, use that for a workout DVD instead of another couch potato night.

Dust off that old treadmill, use the Wii Fit that you told your hubby you would use regularly, but quickly gathered dust in your family room, grab those DVD’s that you just had to have to keep your workouts fresh, and put those five pound weights and mat that are still wrapped in their packages to work.

Do it for you, do it for your kids, do it for your spouse, do it for your body,  do it because YOU DESERVE TO BE HEALTHY! Do it for whatever motives you, but DO IT!

This is my motivation. I want to see them go to high school. I want to watch them at graduation. I want to meet the loves of their life. I want to watch them walk down the aisle. I want to hold my grandchildren.  I want to hold my great-grandchildren. I don’t want to miss a moment of any of it. I know I can do all of that if  I take care of myself and the body that God gave me.

(I am continuing to work on getting happier this year through the help of, “The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Rubin I recommend you read it too!)

What motivates you to exercise? What routines have you found to be effective for your busy lifestyle?

Boosting Energy by Tackling Life’s Nagging To-Do List

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

We all have one.  It is a nagging list of items that you intend to do, but never get done. There is always a great reason why you don’t have time to do one more thing with such a full schedule, but deep down, you know that many of the items on the list would only take a few minutes. Some of the things on your list might be routine appointments for yourself, home ownership projects that never get done, paying bills, or an errand that has been looming. How about a really embarrassing to-do? How about the fact that my daughter is four and I still haven’t ordered her birth certificate!? Oh yes, I have a nagging to-do list and it can be a total energy drainer.

I sat down and jotted down my running list of things I need to do. It is the list of things to do that swims in my brain right before bed and causes me not to sleep as well. I did a brain dump on a sheet of paper and decided that this month I would tackle all of the things that have been bugging me.

Some of the items proved to be easier to tackle than I thought. My contacts could have walked away and stood to attention by themselves because I was in desperate need of an eye exam. I called Sam’s Club to schedule an exam and they had an opening in an hour. Within one hour, I got my eyes examined, got new contacts, and took my daughter to go get her ballet shoes (another nagging thing that needed to be done). It was almost too easy.

Other things on the list took much more time. I spent an afternoon ripping out the old caulk on our tub and caulking it with fresh caulk, we repainted our bedroom to a bright and cheery color,  and I spent a great deal of time researching flight prices and getting my schedule together for the upcoming BlissDom conference.

Two thing still remains to be done…getting a birth certificate and sending out thoughtful notes to the grandparents for the holiday gifts. I promise to tackle those this week.

Let me give you an example of how much better tackling something on your nagging list of things to do could be with an afternoon of time invested.

Our bedroom really was in need of a new update. We have lived in our home for six years now and this was one of the first rooms in our house that we had painted.  This room does not get a lot of natural light into it, the art lacked the personality that I want our home to have, and it was cluttered. After tackling our closet, I was ready to make this space our own by updating the paint and decor.

We had an extra gallon of paint leftover from painting our front room and we used this same Honey Bear color in our bedroom. I already owned the bedding and just bought two throw pillows ($12.99 each) from Target to add a new accent color to the room. One shade had not been hung because we couldn’t find the hardware. After decluttering our space, I found the hardware and we hung them in the room. We took down the dated curtains and decided not to hang any at all.

My husband asked for this print of Boston as a holiday gift and I bought a poster frame ($17.99) to frame the art. We miss Massachusetts a lot and this was a way to remember our first married years together and the home and friends that we love there.  This spoke so much more of us and what we love than a picture of fruit in a basket, don’t you think? Again, this pulled in our new accent color without costing us a lot of money.

This little storage crate was one splurge purchase that we desperately needed for putting away bed linens. I have had linens in a basket underneath a side table for years. This made for much more attractive storage and keeps the linens fresh, put away, and dust-free instead of the spot they were in. I put off-season blankets in this and spare sheets for the children. I got it for $79.99 at Target, but they have it on sale this week for $59.99. (Note to self- add a price adjustment to my nagging list of things to do)

The true transformation though didn’t cost a dime. It was the absence of clutter… the wall clutter, the knick knack clutter, the useless objects clutter, the items-that-gathered-dust-but-were-never-useful clutter.

One of my favorite wedding gifts was the bowl that was pictured above. You would have never known it because it was filled with useless items. Emptied and dusted, it makes me so much happier.

The nightstand is empty and waiting for my library books to dive into, the little china saucer my best friend gave me is the perfect place to stick a glass of milk with my late night snack.

There is just so much peace in this space now and I can finally relax. One day spent tackling something that had been nagging me for months should give me many, many days of enjoyment.

(I am continuing to work on getting happier this year through the help of, “The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Rubin I recommend you read it too!)

What has been on your nagging to-do list?  Anything half as embarassing as getting a birth certificate for your child? Please make me feel better!

How to Get Back in the Groove of Reading

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010
Picture Credit: Ryan Grayson

Last month, I was asked by Mandi Ehman of Organizing Your Way to share on a particular issue near to my heart for her 30 Days of Organizing Challenge. After reviewing all of her fantastic categories, I chose the one that has been something that I have been striving to do more of this year…reading more! Mandi is sharing her ideas for how to make reading a priority too today!

The number one complaint when I talk to other moms is that they have no time to read. Even when I was burning the candle at both ends, I still found ways to sneak in a little reading and I know that you can too.

Those difficult newborn days filled with cranky babies, nursing, and late nights, I longed to just run away and hibernate with a good book. Instead, I pulled a basket of reading material next to the glider and would squeeze in a chapter while the baby ate or would lock myself in the bathroom and soak in the bathtub for an hour with a book.

There are times were I am able to crank out four to six books a week and other times where I read a book in a month. Both situations are gratifying for me because I am still reading.

These are the best tips that I have for moms who are trying to squeeze in a bit of reading time:

Join a community of readers- Likely, there are communities of readers in your town that could help you get motivated to read again. Check your library’s calendar of activities and see if there is a monthly book club meeting you could join. Bookstores also offer great book discussions and opportunities to chat with local and well-known authors. Check their websites for details on these great options!

If there are no groups in town meeting, start your own book club! The best part about starting your own group is that you can create your own rules. Only love children’s literature? Get a group together to read books from your childhood. Only love chick lit? You could start a chick lit book club and meet at fun spots in town that fit with this lighter genre. Never read the great literary classics growing up? Try something new this year and meet quarterly over Gone With the Wind or the Great Gatsby.

If you aren’t able to meet anyone in person, there are so many great online groups that you can join or you could check on Meet Up to try and find a group locally.

Take advantage of reading windows- Reading for me is carved into that tiny window of time between getting one child off to school and then the other. I find a window when we have time with the television off and the kids are spending their quiet time reading or drawing. Another window is generously given to me by my husband when he completes the kid’s evening routine and I disappear on the couch. These tiny pockets of time are how it works for me now. I look forward to having bigger windows of opportunity in the future, but I crave these little pockets of time for me!

If you are a new mom or a busy mom running your kids off to the next extracurricular activity, I know that there are still windows, they just might be different windows than my own. Time spent waiting in the minivan for the kids to come out of school? Time when the baby is feeding or you are rocking that colicky baby for the hundredth time that day? Time when eating lunch in solitary after the kids eat? Heck, do you go to the bathroom?

In all seriousness, there are windows there, you just have to find the windows that work best for you!

Turn the television and computer off- I know it is hard, but if I keep the television and computer off in the evening, I know that I can spend that time reading instead. Find a quiet space in your home that is television and computer free and designate that as your reading spot. Encourage your other family members to do the same!

My scaled down social networking probably has not boosted traffic to the site or made me the social media maven I sometimes wish I could be, but boy, do I feel a sense of satisfaction when I read a book!

Create your own book basket- Who says book baskets are just for kids? Fill a basket up for yourself and make a regularly scheduled date with yourself to visit the library. Put it on the calendar and savor those moments of peace choosing great books to read.

Do it for your kids- When my kids see me digging into my book basket, they want to dig into theirs too. Think of what an incredible example you are when you are showing them how much fun it is to read. It is through your example that they will learn a love of reading!

Read what you want- We have enough pressures on us as mothers, but to be pressured to always be reading award-winning books doesn’t have to be one of them. If your life is full of stress and chaos, a good chick lit book might be just what the doctor ordered. I like to read one heavy book and one light book and alternate them. When my children were smaller all I wanted to read was something that would make me laugh. No matter what you read… just keep reading!

Here are a few great books that I have read this last month to get your reading list started! Many of these have been fantastic recommendations by YOU so thank YOU for all of the reading ideas.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This book came highly rated by so many of my friends and I have to say that this one did not disappoint.

The story is told through the unique perspective of Death, which adds a certain darkness to this book, as he shares the story of taking souls and the increase in unnecessary and cruel deaths during the terrifying reign of Hitler.

While so many books I have read have concentrated on all that the Jewish people had to endure, this book told their story, but also told the story of a poor German girl who is taken in by a foster family enduring poverty and the heartache of the loss of her family members.

Her moments of joy come when her adopted father teaches her how to read and she becomes engrossed in learning and reading the written word. In a time of great poverty and where books were scarce, the little girl becomes a “book thief” stealing books for these sweet moments of treasure during a time of aching heartbreak in her life.

When her adopted parents hide a Jewish young man, by the name of Max, in their basement, they form a fast friendship and this protection of this man becomes of great importance to their family.

The book takes you on so many twists and turns and I found myself weeping for all that this little girl has to go through. The book truly touched me and I believe it is one that will stick with me for many, many years!

As an aside, while the novel started out very slow for me, the second half really picked up and made it all worth the time invested to read the first part of this book. If you have a hard time getting through that first part, keep on reading…it will be so worth it! I promise you!

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

This book was an unbelievably fun adventure that chronicles the life of two best friends from the time they are children until they are grown women. It goes through each decade, the hair, the pop culture references, and the politics that are happening as they are growing up.

Kate & Tully are as opposite as friends can be, but they are both outsiders in their own ways. Kate is a bookworm and shy while Tully has been uprooted to a new school and feels unloved by her mother. Regardless of their differences, they become fast friends whose lives become quickly entwined.

As they get older, new issues face them. Tully is career-driven and hungry for a job as an anchorwoman. Kate, on the other hand, is more laid back and unsure of her life goals. Kate really just longs to be with someone while Tully ends up with the someone she longs to be with.

In some ways the book was predictable, in others, it reminded me of the chick flicks I love to see with my girlfriends. I laughed out loud and I cried a little bit too. It was just an all-around fantastic read!

I gave this gift to my girlfriends for the holidays because it is just one of those books that you can’t not share!

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

I am becoming such a huge fan of Lisa See and now am anxious to read Peony in Love after having read this great book. Snow Flower & the Secret Fan takes place in 19th century China and is centered around the lives of two girls who are paired as laotong (or “old same”) at the tender age of seven years old. As is customary in their tradition, Snow Flower & Lily are paired together to be lifelong friends and to see each other through their marriages, children, and through the ending of their lives.

They write back and forth in a secret unique language called nu shu on a fan to communicate to each other without allowing the prying eyes of men to see their true feelings and discussion about what goes on in their household. The messages written on their fan start in their girlhood and begins as an introduction to one another. It later reveals the true secrets of how they feel about their status and about one another, shared between only them.

In the beginning, Lily seems an unworthy match for Snow Flower and does not seem as learned and polished as her old same. Snow Flower appears to be the more polished one coming from a higher upbringing and is happy to share her knowledge on things such as writing, embroidery and sewing. Lily offers advice on cooking, cleaning, and caring for the home. They seem the perfect match.

A secret and misunderstanding sends their worlds into a spiral and the reader is taken on the journey where their friendship is threatened to tear apart. It is a friendship that endures through a war, through many pregnancies and miscarriages, through difficult marriages, but can it survive until the end of their lives? You will have to read this one to find out!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Marry Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

I wasn’t sure if I would really like this book as I dove in and realized that this book is entirely made up of a series of letters. In the past, I haven’t enjoyed books like these, but within a few short pages, I felt attached to the characters and loved to see how this story unfolded.

This book is set both in London and in Guernsey Island and is a series of letters from Juliet, a budding author looking for a new story, and the people of Guernsey Island as she learns about their Literary & Potato Peel Society that is set up as a way to survive the occupation of the Germans set up on a whim to explain why a group of them were out past curfew.

Juliet is a hysterically funny and witty character and comes to know The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society when one of the members happens upon a book of hers and inquires if she has anymore books to share with his book group.

Juliet asks for more details about this group and the members in it and through the letters comes to know more and more about them. After much correspondence, she decides to visit the Guernsey Island and begins a personal relationship with each of them and corresponds to her friends and literary agent about her special time there.

While the book was definitely predictable in parts, I still found the story endearing and felt as though I knew each of the characters so well. I would love to see a continuation of their story and how their friendships evolve through the years. It is a sweet and satisfying read that I thoroughly enjoyed!

After You by Julie Buxbaum

I am not much of a chick lit reader, but “After You,” was a fantastic read for those who embrace the chick lit and those who do not.

Ellie’s best friend, Lucy, is brutally murdered in front of her daughter and Ellie comes to stay with her daughter to help comfort her during this time of loss. Ellie arrives in Notting Hill to find her husband who is drinking and working to comfort himself while Sophie has decided to stop speaking after witnessing the death of her mother.

Ellie remembers that when she was small and lost someone she loved l that the book, “The Secret Garden,” was read to help bring her the comfort she needed. She begins reading the book with Sophie and as they dive deeper into the book, they both began to heal with each flip of the chapter.

As they read the book, Ellie begins working through her own grief losing her baby Oliver in her the ninth month of her pregnancy, the decline and fall of a marriage that she thought could withstand it all, and the reality that she didn’t know her best friend as well as she thought she did as a secret life begins to unwind.

I could not put this one down and now I am dying to read, “The Opposite of Love” because I enjoyed this book so much!

Before the Storm by Diane Chamberlain

After reading the fantastic, “The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes,” I was anxious to dive into another Diane Chamberlain novel to see if it would be half as thrilling as her first book that I read. I was not disappointed with “Before the Storm,” which sucked me in and was quickly read within two days.

Before The Storm is a complex family drama that is told from each family member’s point of view. Laurel is the mother of two children, but her focus is solely centered upon her son Andy who is her fifteen year old disabled son. When a fire to a church starts at a youth lock-in that Andy is attending, Andy for the first time becomes a hero saving all of the children in the church and an object of the town’s affection instead of being cruelly ridiculed by his classmates.

As the investigation as to what started the fire goes underway though, Andy becomes the focus as the arsonist instead of the town hero. Laurel is focused on proving his innocence and as she focuses all of her efforts, she loses sight that she has two children and not one.

Her daughter Maggie harbors deep secrets, but goes unnoticed because of all of the effort that is put into her brother and his special needs… and now his defense.

The book goes back and forth from the past to the present tense, setting the reader up to discover why Andy is disabled, the family secrets that shadow their life, and the complex relationships between each of the characters.

The only disappointment was the build-up to the grand finale, which was finished in a short epilogue and chapter. For over four hundred pages of build-up, I had hoped for a more in-depth ending. It reminded me of Jodi Picoult’s swift endings that take the reader by surprise, but leave you wishing more.

Thankfully, “Secrets She Left Behind” should fill that void as the character development continues in this sequel!

Secrets She Left Behind by Diane Chamberlain

This is a spoiler alert- don’t read this review until after you have read the first book! As a warning, this book is a sequel to “Before the Storm,” and I would definitely skip reading the reviews if you haven’t read the first novel yet.

We rejoin the Lockwood family in this sequel following Maggie’s prison sentence for the arson that she committed to a community church. She rejoins society only to be welcomed with great anger from the families of those that were lost or injured and finds it is more difficult to return to society than she could ever imagine. Even simple things like volunteering her time to charity becomes difficult because no one wants to be associated with her. She deals with the guilt for the wrong she has done and is faced with learning to try and love herself again. She is happily surprised when she meets a new girl in town who befriends her and seems to look past her faults. Will this friendship help Maggie love herself again?

In the meantime, Keith, Sara’s son, discovers that his mother has disappeared without a trace. He is now left alone with the burns from the fire, the emotional and physical pain that he now has to endure alone, and his anger towards Maggie for what she has done. Abandoned by his mother, he is forced to get help from the Lockwood family to help him survive the day-to-day expenses. Luckily, he meets a girl who makes him feel somewhat whole again and can look past his scars to the person he is.

The plot thickens as Sara’s past is told through her eyes, Keith and Maggie finally see each other after her time in jail, Maggie tries to find a way to forgive herself, Keith deals with the abandonment of his mom, and a surprising twist occurs at the end that will take the reader by surprise.

I found this to be a really satisfying read especially since I was so disappointed with the abrupt ending of the first book. I was able to read this in just a few nights and would love for the story of the Lockwoods to continue!

While some sequels can be read without reading the first book, this is one that you really need to read the first book to really get all of the family drama. It is a twisted family tree and reading the first book will provide reference to just how tangled those branches are!

Promise Not to Tell by Jennifer McMahon

If this had been my first introduction to Jennifer McMahon’s writing, I would have totally loved this book. Having just read Dismantled though (which I would consider one of the best thrillers I have read this year), I think I was a little disappointed with this one.

School Nurse, Kate Cypher, has returned to her home in rural Vermont to care for her mom who has Alzheimer’s. The night she arrives, a young girl in town is murdered in a horrific murder that eerily is the same as a murder that took place during Kate’s childhood to one of her friends.

The book flashes forward and through the past of these two murders, one to a social outcast named Del who is nicknamed the “potato girl” and is mistreated by her friends and family. The other murder that has taken place to another young girl in a similar way. The mystery of these two murders ends up colliding together as Kate begins to pull the pieces of these two murders together.

It is definitely a ghost story, a mystery, and a coming-of-age story that is pulled all together. Much like McMahon’s other books, it is a twisted story that pulls together with a nice twist at the end.

If you haven’t read McMahon before, I would recommend this one, but I definitely enjoyed Dismantled a little bit more than this one!


Photo Credit: Sarah Furnell

What if you don’t have a great library system? Well, there are some great reading alternatives out there! Here are a few book resources that I have gathered for the book lovers of the world:

GoodReads or Shelfari- I use GoodReads to keep track of all of the things that I am reading or plan to read. I am not good about remembering the books I have read or that I would like to read in the future. This site helps me keep track of my impressions of books and keep my bookshelves fully stocked with the books I am really interested in reading. I love to keep a pad of paper with me in my purse or make notes into my cell phone when I am at the bookstore so if I happen upon a book I am interested in, I can jot down a note so I can pick it up at my local library.

BookCrossing- This site offers a fun way for you to clear out your bookshelves. The idea is simple, but so fun. Just put a tag within your book to track it and release your book into the wild, which just means leave it somewhere where someone else can find it (coffee shops, doctor’s offices, schools, etc.). When someone finds a book with a BookCrossing ID number in it, they can enter that code into the site and report where the book has moved to. It is a fun way to track where your books have traveled and see how far they can go.

Library Elf- This program helps you keep track of your library materials so you won’t get socked with late fees. Elf is an Internet-based tool for keeping track of what’s due, overdue and ready for pickup. Reminders are sent when the user wants it — before items are due (up to seven days advance notice, weekly notice or everyday reminders). For my local friends, South Bend is not currently participating, but the Elkhart Library is. The basic membership to Library Elf is free.

Paperback Swap & Bookmooch- Just two of many sites where you can exchange books for free. You simply sign up for a membership and list the books on your bookshelf. You can then browse the books from other members and make a request to receive a book. When you are done with the book, you can list it back on the site or keep the book. New members start out usually with credits to get started on exchanging books. The more you ship and share, the more credits you receive to get more books.

Bookins- This is another great site where you can not only swap books, but also movies. Their system will automatically arrange for shipments from you to one member and from a third member back to you, and so on. You never have to contact anyone, there is no bidding, and there are no hassles of dealing with different traders and personalities for each exchange. The shipping charges are always a flat $4.49 for the service. You can keep what you get or exchange it again when you are done.

SwapSimple- This is a site where you can list textbooks, books, games or DVDs. Begin by listing what you have to be available to others. Right when you list an item, they will figure out what it’s current market value is, and award you 20% of it’s value up front for your use. You get the remaining 80% when you send your item to another swapper. This means you can list items, and get items immediately!

What was in your book basket this past month? Any book recommendations you would like to share?

30 Day Challenge: Reducing Clutter In Your Home

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Today I am sitting in a home that has been greatly reduced of clutter. Three cars (front passenger seat, back row of seating, and trunk)… all filled to the brim with clutter from my home. Another load sits, waiting to be distributed to those I know that are in need right now.

It is as though I can hear the drawers in our home give audible sighs as I open them instead of groaning underneath the weight of random uselessness. There is some emptiness in places that once housed chaos.

Even the man of the house has noticed a difference around here. “This doesn’t even look like our house!” he had exclaimed after car load #1 was removed. By car load #3 there was a sense of panic. “Will we have anything left? Please don’t take my stuff!”

You may have been under the impression that I live in a clutter-free existence. I am afraid you would be wrong! What has been removed from my home?

- The purse collection, whittled down to two everyday purses and one special occasion purse. Each gently unloaded of four hundred lip glosses and hand lotions…two items which I never thought I had.

- The size zero, ones and some twos pants are now donated and no longer a painful reminder of the body that I once had. I don’t have to try them on anymore and be disappointed. I remind myself that my size four body is a happier one and remember that my size zero body was when I was depressed and longing to get pregnant. I am the happy and proud mom of two beautiful children who love me if I am a size four or a size twenty-five. Go me!

- The collection of thrift store items that never really fit into my life. I confused my frugality for a need to deal seek and thrift seek all of the time. I can remind myself that I am maturing in my frugality and now know that I am saving a lot more if I don’t seek the deals anymore. A scaled existence is far more frugal than even those items that seemed to cost pennies.

- The mismatched linens, table linens, and cups that gathered dust in my home. Now the space has been freed for the matched existence that I love. I don’t have to shift the mismatched stuff to get the stuff I really adore. Hurray for space!

- Plastic. Goodbye promotional water bottles, plastic containers missing lids, random plastic clutter in my life. How refreshing to open a cupboard and not be attacked by a plastic monster.

- Stuff I have to dust. You will have to find a new place to live because I am tired of dusting and moving you around.

Here is my challenge, all neatly outlined, and what I was able to achieve this month:

October ’09 Challenge

Challenge: Reduce the clutter in our home. I planned to commit to take one car full (minimum) to the donation box each week until we have our clutter problems under control.

Did I meet the challenge?: Yes, I did! The first car load was easy to pull together, but each pile after that seemed more difficult. I had to really think about the things in our home and weigh their usefulness which took more time and thought then I had anticipated. I am very conscious of clutter and try to be careful about this so everything, at first, appeared quite useful to me.

How did it enrich myself/others?: The enrichment that reducing clutter has been immediately evident to me. For one, I am spending less time cleaning my home. When everything has a place and is useful to me, it is much easier to tidy up and maintain my home. The benefit to that is more time to do what I love…reading, knitting, and hanging out with my family.

The best part is that once you start decluttering, it can be difficult to stop. Suddenly I was dumping junk drawers and organizing seasonal clothing, tidying the basement, and clearing out the pantry. This organized living could become highly addictive!

We also enriched other families by making our donations to charity. I know that I am helping keep people employed at Goodwill and I know that the items I have set aside for those in need in our community will be put to good use. It is a fantastic feeling to bless others when we have been so blessed ourselves!

How I Plan to Continue the Challenge: I am going to be more aware of what I am bringing into my home and if I really need the items. I also plan to keep a bin in our garage going at all times to toss items in that don’t add to the quality of my life.

Let’s be honest though… I am the mother of two small children. It isn’t just my clutter that I am trying to maintain. I know that is unlikely that I will have a clutter-free home for awhile. I am honest with myself though and know that as long as they have oodles of space to play and I do the best I can, that is the most important part. I just want to create a home that is lived in, loved, and maintain a space that we all can love and appreciate. It is a modest goal that I know I can accomplish!

Reward- The reward is the new space that I am living in and the reward of the time that I have reclaimed in the process!

Next Month’s Challenge- I don’t eat breakfast…ever. I can count on one hand the amount of breakfasts I have ate this year. This month, I plan to commit to eating something every single morning and see if it has any improvement on my day.

Want to take on a 30 Day Challenge of your own? Read more details about how these challenges can be beneficial and share with me one thing you would like to change this month!