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Happy New Year! …and Setting Goals

This is me.  20 pounds lighter than I was last January 1st.  My house is just a little more organized and a little less cluttered (at least in theory–all the incoming Christmas presents make our house, once again, feel cluttered).  Our finances are a little more in order, and this blog is a little more populated with posts from the previous year.  And this is all because at the end of 2014, I set some goals for 2015, and though I didn’t achieve all of them 100%, I did enough of each one to know which I’d like to try again and which I’m done with…at least for this point in my life.

This enabled me to make some goals for 2016.  Some are health related and about developing and maintaining healthy habits (like drinking water, starting my day with yoga/pilates, getting enough sleep).  Some are spiritual.  Some are house and organization related.  (Yes, I’m going to do the declutter missions again!)  Some are business related (like adapting my business and helping Raf start his), and others are family and relationship related.  I actually have a lot of goals this year.  I don’t expect to achieve them all 100%, but I’ll do what I can do.  And I know from this past year that even doing all them of at least a little feels like a big accomplishment.

I’ll be completing challenges (usually 5- or 7-day ones) that I find online and elsewhere every few weeks to improve all these different areas, and then I’ll be blogging about them here afterwards so that you know if you want to give them a try.

For now, try setting some goals for 2016, even if they’re just a couple.  (My husband has 2 goals.) Write them down and hang them up so that you can look at them throughout the year.  It’s easy to remember them now, but in July, how likely will it be that you can remember exactly what you wanted to do?  (For me, not likely.)  Writing them down also allows you to check them off as you achieve them, which is satisfying and acts like receiving a reward, which in turn is motivating and encourages you to continue improving yourself and working toward becoming the you that you want to be.

So, Happy New Year!  If 2015 was good to you, I hope that 2016 is even better and that you will actively work towards making it your best year yet.  If 2015 was a difficult year for you, I pray that 2016 gives you rest and peace and that you give yourself permission to not take on so much.  Good luck this year, and God bless!



Create a Paper-Plate Skeleton for Halloween

Meet Ada and CJ’s paper-plate skeletons.   By the faces, you can probably tell which was done by the 2-year old and which one was done by the 7-year old.

It’s always nice when a good idea comes to me.  Of course, I don’t mean that I came up with this idea.  I’m rarely that creative.  By “come to me,” I mean found me.  I didn’t even go searching for it. It ended up on one of my feeds, probably Facebook, maybe Pinterest.  In the end, that doesn’t really matter, does it?  All that matters is that the kids had a great time making them and were really happy to see them come together and get hung on the wall.

You can find the directions and templates at Pickup Some Creativity.

Some tips from having done it already:

  1. When you trace and cut out the templates, don’t worry about drawing/cutting out all the jagged edges.  If you use the cheap paper plates, they have a crinkly edge that gives a similar effect without all the work.
  2. Since you have to cut out all the bones for the arms and legs, it’s easier to trace it onto the top plate of a pile of plates (3 or 4 at a time) and cut through the whole stack of plates instead of tracing and cutting one at a time.
  3. If you’re doing this with a small one that can’t trace and cut by themselves, it might be better to do most of the work beforehand and just save the tracing of the child’s hands and feet, the drawing of the face, and the assembling of the skeleton for them to help with. The tracing and cutting part is pretty boring when they can’t really help.
  4. The original directions call for string to tie the parts together.  We had metal fasteners, and it’s always CJ’s preference to use them.  I think they worked really well. The skeletons would be even taller if we had used string, so I think the fasteners worked out best for us.

So if you have young children in your house, why not try making a paper-plate skeleton for Halloween?  It’s fairly easy and fun.  And if you do end up trying it, take a picture and share in the comments.  I’d love to see them!

Triggering habits


Every morning, I get up, go to the bathroom, brush my hair, brush my teeth, get a glass of water, check my e-mail while I drink the glass of water, and then do 5 or so minutes of pilates/yoga.  The last three habits are the most recent editions to my morning routine, and I’m happy to say that I’ve been doing them every day for about a month now.  Previously, I had done them off and on, but I don’t think I ever managed this consistency before.  I read The Healthy Habit Revolution: Create Better Habits in 5 Minutes a Day, though, and it really helped give me a good basis for how habits form.

We’ve all heard that it takes at least 21 days to form a habit, so forgetting to do it once or twice can interfere with the habit-forming process. So how do we keep from forgetting to do it when it’s a new thing in our life? The main thing that I took from reading the first several chapters of this book was that each habit needs a trigger, something that signals to you that it’s time to perform this new habit.  The trigger could be an event, a time, or even a person, so if you want to make something a habit, there has to be a trigger that helps you remember to do it.    I used this idea to create a chain of triggers and habits.  Finishing in the bathroom signals that it’s time to get a glass of water, which I then drink while checking e-mail.  Finishing the glass of water signals that it’s time to do my morning exercises.    I also used this idea for doing the dishes.  Finishing lunch is the trigger to empty the dishwasher.  Finishing dinner is the trigger to fill the dishwasher. (It also helped to have a daily checklist of habits that I wanted to complete, like in the picture above, as a reminder throughout the day as I was trying to get started. Checking things off can help serve as a reward, which I may talk about in a future post.)

So if you’re trying to incorporate new habits into your life, try to find something that can be the trigger.  I recently wanted to start doing some weight training, but I would never remember until I was already in the shower at night getting ready for bed….and then it was too late.  Finally, I realized that I needed to add it to my train of morning triggers and habits, so now, finishing my yoga/pilates is the trigger to lift weights.  And I haven’t forgotten to do it once yet!

What healthy habits have you successfully incorporated into your life and what triggers do you have for these habits?  What habits would you like to develop?  What could be a trigger for each of them so that you don’t forget to do it?

Making Lists and “Eating that Frog”

If you’re wondering what eating frogs has anything to do with making lists, then you obviously haven’t read Eat That Frog!  The book is basically about the importance of making lists  and putting the most difficult, most important thing you have to do at the top, i.e. eating the biggest, ugliest frog first.

For the normal day-to-day stuff and probably in many lines of work, this makes a lot of sense, but I find that in application it doesn’t always work that way.  As a teacher, my biggest, ugliest frog is often grading that huge stack of essays.  However, the most immediate thing to do is plan for the next day’s class.  I need the plan before I need the graded papers in most cases, so I have to make that big frog wait.  It can’t possibly be first on my list, so for me, I’m more of an organize-by-time-and-due-date rather than by-difficulty-and-importance type of person (though perhaps we could argue that time=importance in this situation).

No matter how you do it, I do think it’s important to make lists.  At the beginning of the year, I made a list of goals.  I can go back and look at it every now and then and see that, “Oh, I’ve been focusing a lot on this one goal, but I totally forgot that I even had that other goal!”  I made a list of potential blog posts that I’ve been thinking about writing (this one was first on that list :), and then I can cross off and add to it throughout the year.  When I have a day at home alone, no husband and no kids, I generally make a gigantic list of all the things I want to get done, and even though there are things I never get to, it gives me great satisfaction when I cross off 3, 5, or even 10 items (like I did this past Friday)  that I completed.

I’ve heard it said that successful people make to-do lists first thing every day.  Admittedly, sometimes I’m lazy and don’t make lists, especially when my day is going to be pretty much the same routine as usual, but if I know the day has different required tasks, lists can be life/job-saving.  They help the memory (or lack thereof), and they help with motivation.

So I’m mostly a list person.  Are you?  Could you be?  Don’t worry–it doesn’t require actually eating any frogs!  Phew.

Decluttering Progress

I’m still moving right along with the Decluttering challenges, and I’ve made it through most of January and February.  I still haven’t created a household notebook/binder.  Maybe I’m still thinking that I’ll find the one I had, and I still have some dishes, cups, and mugs to declutter for February.  However, the progress that I’ve made is immense.

In January, I was able to clear a counter, and after a month, it still remains clean (at least once a week :).


I also organized our cabinets.  The one with the spices definitely showed the most improvement.


I’ve been making runs to the Dollar Tree where I can pick up little plastic containers that I’ve been using all around the house to help keep things organized.  I love that I don’t have to spend a lot to help stay organized.

February was all about organizing recipes and coupons, meal planning, and recycling.  My biggest accomplishments were getting my recipes organized because most of my recipes are on Pinterest.  Before, they were all crammed onto the one board.  Now, there are numerous boards categorized by the main ingredient or type of dish, and I’ve put all the recipes I’ve tried and liked onto a “Tried and True” board.pinterest-boards

My husband also created a meal plan for the month, shopping lists for each week included!  I recently saw a post about using dollar store picture frames, where you put a calendar or just white paper into the frame, and then write on the glass with a dry erase marker, just like you would a dry erase board.  I wanted to give it a try, but I didn’t have the right markers for it, making it difficult to see.


You get the idea, though.  In the end, I decided to order a cheap calendar white board from Amazon, complete with fine-tipped dry erase markers.  That should make it much easier.

Won’t you join in decluttering this year?  It’s turning out to be very rewarding, and it makes cleaning much easier, not to mention making just living in the house easier since everything has a place where it’s suppose to be.  This may be the usual thing for your house, but it’s not for ours…so it’s been nice.  Let me know how your decluttering is going, and if you haven’t started or don’t know where to start, gives simple missions with directions for each.


I am a bit of a pack rat…and a bit oblivious to messes.  That’s not to say that I don’t like things to be clean.  I just think there’s a lot of other things, sometimes more important things, that I’d rather be doing than cleaning.  Of course, with two kids, things quickly get out of hand, and the house is wrecked.

Around the New Year, someone shared a link to a Declutter 365 calendar, so I decided to give it a try.

January is all about the kitchen, so I’ve been working on the “missions” to get the kitchen straightened up and decluttered.  One of the first challenges was to get the counters as empty as possible, which for us, was a HUGE challenge that required cleaning cabinets, reorganizing the pantry, and shuffling things around to different drawers and shelves.  Doing all of these things actually completed the missions for other days, so I haven’t been doing them in order by any means.  They’re also supposed to take about 15 minutes, but most of them have been requiring more time than that.  I generally do several of them on the weekends or maybe one or two during the week while I’m cooking dinner.  Now, I’m proud to say that we have a clear counter and a mostly clear kitchen table, and every night or so, I make sure to clear them off again so that they stay that way and don’t get out of hand.

It’s been lovely to have prepping space, a space to put grocery bags while I put things away, and a place for all of us to actually eat dinner together!

As for the decluttering part, although the kitchen didn’t have a lot of things to get rid of, these challenges have definitely made the kitchen an easier place to cook and eat in, which is great.

If you feel like your house is always out of sorts or that you could just stand to get rid of some stuff, then consider trying Declutter 365.  There are links on the calendar that provide details, tips, and information for almost every mission.  Breaking everything into tiny tasks makes it more manageable, and you don’t have to do the missions on the exact day they’re listed.  I just print out the calendar and X them out as I finish them.  My goal is to finish most by the end of each month.  Will you join me?

Keeping a gratitude jar

Someone on Facebook shared the idea of a grateful jar.  It’s not really a new idea to write down things that you’re grateful for each day, but I liked the idea of keeping them in a jar and reading them at the end of the year on New Year’s Eve.

I decided to give it a try, but instead of one jar, my son and I made a jar for me, for him, and for my husband.  CJ has been learning about “filling people’s buckets” in school, so this goes along nicely with that.  He will really be able to physically see how certain actions fill his jar, and hopefully, he learn what types of things he can do that would fill other people’s jars/buckets.

It was a pretty easy task.  I just took some small mason jars, since that’s what we had on hand, and I cut up colored pieces of paper into eighths.

I traced around the inside of the jar lid, and we cut out circles to write our names on and glue to the lid.


Then, we taped pieces of paper to the side that said, “What filled your bucket today?”

CJ and I practiced by writing the date on one side and then the thing that filled our bucket on the other side.  CJ wrote, “We went to the mall,” and I wrote, “CJ helped make the gratitude jars.”  We folded them up and put them in each of our respective jars.


I can’t wait to watch each of our jars fill up.  I think it will be a good reminder that even though the year will no doubt be filled with negative experiences, which are often the things we remember, we should be thankful for all the good experiences we’ve had.

Let’s keep track of those things throughout the year that make us happy and that “fill our buckets.”  Even if you don’t keep them on pieces of paper in a jar, write them down and keep them.  It will be fun at the end of the year and maybe even years later to read about all the blessings in your life from 2015.

Happy New Year!

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