Little things matter. Along the way you discover they weren't so little after all.

Tag Archives: Organization

Do you have a hobby? Maybe you like to scrapbook or maybe you’re a duck hunter? Maybe you collect vintage cigar boxes or propagate orchids.

I have varied interests but there is one thing that seems to have risen to the top of my list:

The quest for the perfect lipstick.

I realize that by admitting this I may have immediately lost some of the points on my feminist leaderboard,

And it gets worse.

What started off as a quest for the perfect lipstick has expanded.

It has grown in size and scope.

Now rather than simply looking for a nice, longwearing, subtle shade that compliments my skin tone,

I’ve started looking for other makeup products that can give me the same buzz as finding a candidate for the perfect lipstick.

This isn't all of it.

This isn’t all of it.

I know. It’s a problem.

In my defense, the photo you’ll see below represents ALL the makeup I own. Can you wear the same stuff in the dead of a Minnesota winter that you wear in the middle of a humid, sunny summer? I think not. Therefore, in my defense, it looks worse than it really is. I think.

My sister was so flabbergasted to discover the depths of my storehouses that she insisted we go through it together and clean out what I didn’t use anymore.

“What?” I said.

“Let’s get rid of the stuff you don’t need,” she suggested.

“What?” I said.

“Come on, bring it out here,” she bullied.

And that’s when I discovered that perhaps I have a little more than is reasonable to hang on to. Observe:

She's sad and is my niece.

She’s sad and amazed…so is my niece.

Yes, a couple of those bags are empty, but at least one of them is filled to the gills.

In sorting through it all, we discovered that I had 16 eyeliners. 16. Some were worn down to the nub and needed to go. A couple of them were extremely similar in color…like almost exactly alike. So she made me get rid of those.

She’s bossy like that.

While we went through it I came to the conclusion that I like concealer and blush, a lot. In my defense, I have chronic dark undereye circles (and apparently I have bags too although I did not know about this problem until a peppy, unrepentant girl at a sales counter informed me of this ailment. ‘Come out from behind the safety of that counter and tell me that,’ I thought.) that take some attention and sometimes multiple products are the only way to make a dent.

That still doesn’t justify how many concealers I had.

There was some negotiating, some finagling on my part to make my sister see the merits of certain products.

You see, Rae is a minimalist.


She hardly bothers with makeup at all, and when she does she’s got five things to choose from in her tiny makeup bag.

I think I gave her four of those five items.

Therefore, Rae cannot grasp the necessity of two different types of bronzers.

“All you need is one,” she claims, as if she’d know.

And when I explain what a primer is, she has a look on her face that is both confused and longsuffering.

“How many mascaras does one person need?” She shifts subjects to keep me off balance, thinking I won’t notice that she just threw away the primer we were discussing.  I’m wise to her tactics and while she’s helping my niece put on a string of pop-beads I fish out the primer from her “throw away” bag.

In the end, we got rid of a lot. It may not look like it in the picture, but this is now my entire arsenal of makeup, all seasons of the year represented:

She got rid of a couple more things after we took this picture (but I snuck them back into my bag when she wasn't looking).

She got rid of a couple more things after we took this picture (but I snuck them back into my bag when she wasn’t looking).

Rae asked me how I felt once we had completed the job. And I have to admit, it did feel good to clear out all the broken, worn out, bad color pieces from the collection. I gave my niece a couple things to play with, thus securing my spot as Best Auntie for the day. I felt lighter, more in control of my stuff rather than the other way around.

In truth, it bothered me to see how much money I had invested over time.

Maybe that was what made it hard to get rid of any of it — I knew I had paid money for it so I needed to justify it by keeping it…

Kindof backwards logic when you spell it out, huh?

In the future, I plan to keep better track of what I have, in order to spare myself the trouble of storing things I hardly even use, along with freeing up space in my mind and budget. And if I need to get rid of a couple things, I’ll probably pass them on to Rae. Lawd knows she has room in her makeup bag.

Do you have a quest for a perfect item, be it jeans, jacket, haircut or lipstick? How do you keep it in check? What do you stockpile that you could do without (or do with less)?


We’ve talked about getting organized and tailoring your routines to match your needs. We’ve talked about tackling the things that bug you and working in small chunks of time. I’ve got one more realization to share with you, but before we get to that, I did a little investigative documentation yesterday.

After the kids got on the bus, I timed myself doing my normal routines. The one difference was that I stayed on task (not something I do easily) and did the chore uninterruptedly from start to finish. Here are my results:

Make bed and clean up bathroom (wiped down the sinks, mirrors and toilet, changed the hand towels) = 10 minutes

Empty the dishwasher = 5 minutes

Load the dishwasher = 5 minutes

Tidy up living room/dining room and vacuum both = 10 minutes

Putting away miscellaneous papers, clothes, books and stuff = 5 minutes

All these tasks added up to a total of 35 minutes.

35 minutes.

That’s it.

That’s when I force myself not to get distracted from one job by another job, when I force myself to not dwell on the old greeting card I just found in a stack of papers I was sorting (just as an example).

35 minutes, and my house is a place in which I can sit or invite someone over without being annoyed or embarrassed by the tasks that need doing.

When you break it down, it isn’t quite as daunting anymore.

Organizing Your Meals

I had another area that took me a long time to adjust: meal preparation. When you’re a couple, you have flexibility and the capability to fend for yourselves when necessary.

When you’ve got children, they depend on your to feed them.

It should be obvious, I know, but it took me a long time to catch on to.

For a long time, when dinner rolled around it caught me off guard. I mean, didn’t these children just have a snack an hour ago? How can they possibly be hungry? For them to expect dinner seemed so unreasonable. In reaction, we’d run out and get fast food, or we’d try and go to a “sit-down” restaurant (because at all the other restaurants you’re forced to stand??). We’d end up stressed out from trying to contain impatient, hungry toddlers, or we’d be stressed because we spent too much money on eating out.

Not a winning situation.

meal planning

meal planning (Photo credit: LizMarie_AK)

When I finally realized that these people, however unreasonable, were going to want to eat EVERY DAY, we made a couple changes.

1. I joined a meal co-op.

The meal co-op was a fun idea that worked well for a while. I won’t go into great detail here, but it was a group of moms who delivered hot meals to one another.

2. I froze meals.

Freezing meals worked wonders for us. For example, we weren’t at a point where we could eat an entire 9×13 pan of lasagna. By preparing it in two smaller dishes and freezing one of them, we got two meals out of the deal. I found a fantastic book that had recipes that my family enjoyed and didn’t require a lot of exotic ingredients. It is still a go-to cookbook for me, and I recommend it to anyone, even just as a good general entrée cookbook.

3. I stocked up supplies for quick dinners.

Everyone has times when they just don’t feel like cooking, but eating out is expensive and not particularly healthy. We started keeping on-hand supplies for quesadillas and refried beans, soup and sandwiches, or taco salads. These don’t take much work, and my kids will eat them. It saved us stress, time and money.

4. If there was something I knew we needed regularly, rather than buying one I bought two.

For a long time I bought only what we’d need once we were almost out of it, and didn’t think ahead to when we’d need it again. Sometimes this was because it was cost prohibitive for me to buy ahead, but sometimes it was just a lack of planning. As we got more established, and I got better at managing our home expenses, it saved us trips to the store which in turn saved us money since we weren’t picking up all those little extras that end up in the cart when you shop with three children.

There you have it.

Getting our meals organized has made our supper times much more enjoyable. There are many tools out there to help you plan your meals, even planning out a couple weeks in advance, so I won’t offer those here. However, I do think that having a plan cuts down on the hunger induced crabbiness and anger that can well up when everyone wants food and no one knows what to do about dinner. It can also help the main chef in the house share the work of cooking. When there’s a plan, the chef can point out things others can do to help out.

I hope this series has been helpful. It comes from learning it slowly over time, the hard way.

My goal for structure  is to get things done and thus free me up to have adventures and fun everyday, investing in friendships and relationships. Rather than rigid schedules or routines, these little helpers are there to serve you and keep things working smoothly in your home so it can be a place people (including the people who live there) can be welcomed and valued.

I’m always on the lookout for other ideas to make things easier around family life. If you’ve got any favorite routines or tips, please share them with the rest of us! And as always, thank you so much for reading.


laundry (Photo credit: bies)

I think this is going to be a three part series, just like a good sermon, right? But my main points aren’t all going to start with the same letter. You’ll just have to find another way to remember them. 😉

This month I had a revelation.

Some of you are really smart and have already known this thing for years. It was such an unspoken assumption that you never thought to mention it to me. But it really was a new thought in my head.

Wanna hear it?

My revelation is simple.

It dawned on me as I was emptying the dishwasher that I will have to do this EVERY DAY.


Yes. It is no longer a once every couple days type of thing. It is an every day activity.

The same goes for laundry (well, almost every day).

The same goes for dinner.

These things must happen every single day.

When my family consisted only of me and my husband, we could go days before the dishwasher would be full enough to justify running it. Laundry was only as needed, maybe once or twice a week. We could whip up meals easily and in a pinch we could scrounge a series of snacks and call it good.

Not so once you have a bigger family.

These people want to eat all the time.

And they must be forced to wear clean clothes or, if you’re not watching, they’ll wear the same thing four days in a row and two of those days there was mud adventures and coloring time with sidewalk chalk and markers.

Plus they can’t do much of the heavy lifting chores themselves. That will change but for now, it mainly fall to the person who stays at home with this wild crew.

And that’s me.

Everyday Flexible Routines

Part of my problem is that I don’t love routines.

Traditionally they’ve made me feel confined and limited, bossed around, if you will.

Dishwasher, open and loaded with dishes

Dishwasher, open and loaded with dishes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But as I’ve tried to wrap my head around the necessity of routines, I’ve realized they also free me up to be able to keep one step ahead of the other people in my house.

If I keep up on the laundry, then nobody is bugging me for clean socks two minutes before the bus arrives.

If I make sure the dishwasher is emptied (by me or the child who is assigned that duty) then everyone else can more easily put their dirty dishes INTO said dishwasher.

If I maintain a rough routine, it allows me space to schedule all kinds of other things because I know the bare bones have been taken care of.

Here is an example of the everyday tasks I’ve admitted need to be done every day:

  1. Run a load of laundry, including folding and putting away (some days it doesn’t get put away but at least it is folded and clean).
  2. Unload dishwasher. If there are any dishes left in sink that didn’t make it in before I washed it, load ’em up.
  3. Make the stupid bed.
  4. Wipe down bathroom sink and make sure clothes and other items aren’t left in there.

See? That’s not so bad. Some of these routines only take a minute but they contribute to a sense of order and cleanliness. (Dorky word choice but dontcha just feel better knowing that you’re not going to get a glob of toothpaste on your hand when you turn on the faucet in the bathroom? That’s the power of cleanliness)

Tackle What Bugs You

My list probably won’t look the same as yours.

For example, it makes me crazy to leave our bed unmade. In my head, it makes my entire room look like a disaster, and maybe it is, but the unmade bed just accentuates that fact.

But that’s my thing, and it may not be yours.

Other people need to vacuum every day, or change the sheets daily. This seems like overkill to me, but if that’s what helps you keep your ship afloat, you should do it.

Some people are highly sensitive to crumbs and must sweep all floors in order to be assured the five second rule (you know the one where you’re eating something and it fall s on the floor? You’ve got five seconds to pick it up before it is officially dirty) can be safely and confidently implemented.

Whatever your thing, be it mail, garbage, a pristine refrigerator crisper drawer, go ahead and make it part of your routine, but I would encourage you to only include the things that really create a hitch in your day if left undone. Most people can get by without washing their windows every day, but it is harder to ignore the food demands of a family. See the difference?

You’re the Boss of Your Routine

If you start to teeter into being unable to leave something undone, or if you’re habitually late because you can’t leave your house until you lock and relock the doors five times each, then you may need to step back and re-evaluate the role of routine. Is it helping you or is it controlling you? Remember,

You’re the boss of your routine, and it exists to serve your purposes, not vice versa.

The goal of organizing the home is to develop an atmosphere of hospitality, peace and security. A messy jumble of a house might be fun for a while, but it soon it starts to feel cluttered, stressful and unwelcoming. There’s a balance to be found — organized but not rigid, tidy but not sterile. Take a little time, look around your home, and figure out what things might need a little more daily attention and they’ll be so much more manageable for you. You can do it, and then put your feet up and reward yourself with a good book, knowing that you’re creating a home you’d want to live in!

You offered some helpful insights after the last post, and I would love to hear some other things that work for you to stay on top of the business of running your home. Let’s help one another.


Organized! (Photo credit: mgstanton)

Does anyone else think it’s hard to stay organized?

Does anyone else have a hard time getting organized in the first place?

Man, I’ve got other things I want to do.

There are a lot of more interesting activities than sorting papers or changing over clothes from one season to the next.


If I leave a stack of stuff in the corner for long enough, I don’t even see it anymore. And if I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist, right?

Not quite.

I’ve been getting after my kids about throwing their stuff on the floor rather than putting it away, but truth be told, I’m not a great example. While I might not throw it on the floor, I set down onto any convenient flat surface books, papers, stray earrings, pencil-top erasers, hair binders, chapstick and other miscellaneous items…

And then forget about them.

My dresser top is a disaster right now.

Five Minute Chunk

Part of my problem is that I don’t know where to start. Here’s how this process usually goes:

I consider where to start. I feel motivated and have a mental list of my goals.

I look around at the various options of things to handle. I feel overwhelmed.

I begin organizing one area, and while returning things to their proper place, I find a new task that needs attention. I get distracted by this new task and forget about the other one I was doing.

This process continues until I have five projects going all at once and the place looks ten times worse than it did before I started.

I feel discouraged.

I feel angry.

I abandon all projects and remove myself to a different location. Or I throw everything in a garbage bag and put it in the trash, only to discover there were important items that needed follow up, which was why they had been kept in the first place but now they’re long gone and my bill is overdue. The collectors come and repossess my house, my car and my bike and I have to go live under a bridge.

Which is a bummer.

Okay, that last part hasn’t happened but I have been drastic and thrown things out in a organizing-induced fury only to regret it later.

The way I’ve learned to handle myself so I don’t go all nuts-o is to stick to one area and work on it in five minute chunks.

You can do anything for five minutes, right?

At first it is harder than it sounds, since I apparently have the attention span of a gerbil. But as I remind myself to stay with the project at hand, I can get a surprising amount done in five minutes.

Then I can go play.

If I stick to the five minutes, I don’t have time to make piles of projects strewn about the house. I take care of the one, then I can gauge if I want to continue or if it has grown tiresome and I feel like doing something totally different. Usually it is the latter, but sometimes I see the progress I made and feel inspired to press on. Breaking it into manageable time portions helps keep it do-able, rather than seeing ALL the projects and feeling like I must complete them ALL AT ONCE.

I’ll admit this is a weak spot for me, so I’m open to suggestions. I know some of y’all are organizing machines, so please help those of us who are less gifted.

Why Get Organized?

There are some houses I’ve visited where everything was meticulous. You weren’t sure if you should even sit on the couch because it looked like no one had ever sat there before. Everything was pristine and it almost looked like it was a model home — nobody lived there.

I don’t want a house like that.

I’m okay with a little mess. (Some might say that I’m okay with A LOT of mess.)

When we have people to our home, including kids, I want them to feel welcomed and comfortable. If something gets spilled, nobody’s going to freak. If somebody needs to come in from a rainy or snowy day, I don’t want them worrying about messing up my entryway.

However, when things get too disorganized, there are no signals to people, or rather there are too many signals. “Put your stuff EVERYWHERE!” the signals say.

When things are tidied up, it is easier to notice things that are out of place. This makes it easier to maintain; it’s just getting to that point that’s hard.

Here are some reasons to get organized:


Organized! (Photo credit: nicholasjon)

  • To create or positively contribute to a sense of order, structure and peace

If things are a mess and you can’t find stuff, you get stressed out.

  • To avoid injury.

If you trip over toys left on the floor, you get mad or even hurt, and that’s no fun.

  • To allow family members to grow in independence

If you have a spot you keep certain items, people in the family know where to find certain items when they are needed (ie. pencil sharpener, keys, tape, etc.) and can do so on their own.

  • It leads (eventually) to more enjoyable time being together

When I sit down at home and see hair balls floating down the hallway, it isn’t as much fun to sit and relax. I’m better off taking the time to invest in a little cleaning/organizing now in order to better enjoy my down-time later.

  • It makes me more inclined to have people over (kids and grown-ups)

I’m more inclined to say yes to my kids ideas of having friends over, and I’m more apt to offer my home as a meeting place if I don’t feel embarrassed about the state of things or wish I had a spot for my friend to sit but too bad because it is covered in magazines and dish towels.

Getting organized allows more space for relationships to happen. And while I’m not super keen on organizing, I’m all about relationships. So today I’m going to work in five minute chunks to tackle a couple messy areas and contribute to the atmosphere of my home. If I’m not back in a couple days, send somebody over to check on me.) 🙂

What are some ways you stay organized? Is there a certain household task that you dread? If you’re going to put off cleaning, what is your favorite excuse?

This post is a part of a linkup with the Writers Unite group on Facebook. Search the Twitter hashtag #faithartlife to find other blogs that are participating in the linkup. You’re bound to find some great stuff.

Confession time.

I tend to compartmentalize things.

You wouldn’t be able to tell from looking around my house, since there’s pot holders in with the kitchen knives, potting soil next to the hats and scarves, and Lego guys next to the jewelry box. In the organizational sense, I wish I was better at compartmentalizing. My home could benefit from the “a place for everything, and everything in its place” mentality.

But when it comes to friends, children, work, church, and grocery shopping, I tend to forget these circles overlap. It’s a bit like running into an old high school friend in a different city; you don’t picture that person anywhere other than where you knew them.

Or it’s the same way children think their teachers never leave the school building and are mystified (and slightly alarmed) to run into a teacher at the library or a parade. Are the teachers allowed outside the confines of school? Yes, yes they are.

There are a couple things though, that I can’t contain even if I try, things that can’t be shoved into a box and put away neatly:

Winter Beauty

Winter Beauty



my faith in Jesus.

These two just spill out all over the place, willy-nilly.

They pervade my thoughts and attitudes, my observations, the way I listen, and my interactions with others. I can’t control it.

Here’s a practical example. My husband and I made a quick stop at a store last night and while he bought the few items we needed, I picked up coffee and waited for him at a table. Waddoya know, a man sat down at the table next to mine, clearly upset.

Two internal reactions:

1. Here’s a prime candidate for a slightly creepy, unpredictable character straight out of a Flannery O’Connor story. He had bandages on his fingertips, white socks with black orthopedic shoes, mumbled to himself and was sighing loudly and frequently. Another potential character was the employee, a Loud Talker who practically yelled at the poor guy when she asked him to wait while she got the incident report papers. This was great material.

2. Here’s a prime candidate for expressing care to someone who might need a little loving attention, an acknowledgment of his human-ness and inherent value as one of God’s creations. This guy was aching to talk to someone. I found out he fell and twisted his knee while checking out, and was worried that he might have busted stiches in his hand from his recent accident with a TABLE SAW when he almost lost three fingers.

You can’t make this stuff up, folks. Well, you can, but often the real stuff is just as compelling.

It was a brief encounter. I had to make a choice to engage that guy or keep my eyes on my coffee cup. That’s where art is not enough. Studying him to use in an upcoming suspense story is detaching myself from the situation and ignoring my role as an inhabitant of the world I observe.

My faith influences my writing and my writing gives me new insight into my faith. They flow back and forth into one another, leaking all over the place with no thought of compartments or boundaries…

…which is just the way I like it.

Purdy Leather Flowers

Purdy Leather Flowers

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