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My Journey to Clutter Free {2012 in Review}

This year marked the beginning of my journey to a clutter free home and life. I began this blog so that I could get my act together and figure out this thing called motherhood, moreover, stay at home motherhood. My life was happy and fulfilling, but it was also cluttered chaos. I'll take you through my journey from this year and launch us into a new year with hope and inspiration to face next year confidently head on!

Before I was Mommy...
I could go to sleep when I wanted.
I could dress up or down to go to the office.
I could shower every.single.day.
I could eat out and not give it a second thought.
I could spend an entire work week devoted to organizing a resource room {prego nesting bliss!}.
I could call every night "date night".

Now that I am Mommy...
There's hardly a minute I can call my own.
Showers are a privilege.
Laundry doesn't get sorted before going in the wash.
My body was used as a vehicle to a miracle.
Life is seen through fresh new eyes.
Playtime is quality time.

Motherhood is a funny thing. It changed my life for good. It brought out the best version of me and drives me to get my act together.

Remembering the Chaos
For those who are just tuning into this blog, this is the chaos that I found myself in just one year ago. It became my tactical mission, Operation Clean House.
That is why I needed to get my act together. I had a baby boy to take care of, a house to keep up, a family to help run, not to mention our life outside the walls of that house with family and friends. I was feeling my walls closing in on me, then I discovered blogworld. That single discovery has changed my life in such a way that bridged who I was before and after kids.

A Journey in Progress
Little by little I began to transform my home into what it was prior to my son's arrival. Take a quick journey into my humble beginnings.

The Pantry Palooza
The Bathroom Boom
The Drop Zone
From Closet to Office
Organizing Hand Me Down Clothes
When one space was finished, it motivated me to move on to the next space and before I knew it, I was blogging on a regular basis and the clutter in our house was subsiding. What do you think happened when nearly all my space got organized? We moved.

Now in a way I'm practically starting all over again, but I do have the many organized spaces from before to give me a firm foundation to move forward. My journey to being clutter free was well on its way, then something else happened that I didn't expect.

Getting my house in order was one thing, but taking on a project like blogging is something that most people aren't fully prepared for, myself included. I would organize, write, post and then read OPB {other people's blogs}. This went on for months. All along I knew this blog wasn't just for me, but in my very early months of blogging, I found my calling to develop others through this blog.

Sharing how I organize my house turned into sharing how I use technology to organize my life, which turned into sharing how I organize my blogging. Every step of my learning in these areas of my life has prompted me to gift it forward to you, my friends. If I can help make one person's life easier by sharing what I learned, then all this work is well worth the effort.

Today I can see the evolution of my blog heading in an even deeper level of self discovery. I've said here time and again that organizing comes from the inside out and I hope to give you that gift of self discovery in the year to come.

Coming Up Next
Although organizing comes naturally for me, it has been refined through the years by many different sources. I want you to feel like you can harness the same power within your self and use those gifts to serve your loved ones.

Some of the topics I have bubbling for the upcoming year include...
Discovering your strengths
A day in my shoes
Mapping out your time
Organizing the paper trail
More bloggy learnings
More organizing and techy awesomeness!
A clutter free house and life is an ongoing journey for us all. This year has been therapeutic, invigorating, challenging and amazing! I have all of you to thank for that. Thank you for allowing me to be me. Thank you for using my printables. Thank you for the gift of speaking into your life. One year into this journey and I feel as much inspiration to go on as I did when I began. Gift!

Tools for Becoming Organized

I have noticed that many love the idea of being organized, but lack the tools. One of the reasons why I began this blog was to provide you with the tools to organize your own home, and not just showcase my own organization. As the saying goes, "Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime." Let's go fishing for tools to become organized, and give you a head start on your New Year's resolution.

It all begins with a plan

In order for organization to have a lasting affect, it needs to come from the inside out. Having a plan is the best way to accomplish this. Whatever space you have that needs organizing, whether the trunk of your car or your entire garage, a plan will give you a better sense of purpose and get you to the end result. My Room Organization Planner can help you get a running start and is my gift to you!

Purge, Sort, Categorize

Digging into the mountain of clutter can be difficult, but once your plan has been set, it will motivate you to dive in! Now it's time to get your hands dirty. Have a large trash bag close by for purging, lots of space to work for sorting and paper and pen for categorizing sort piles. I recommend doing this as you empty the space that needs organizing, it will be more efficient that way.

The process of purging, sorting and categorizing can be therapeutic and addicting. Beware, this process can make your mess look worse than when you started, but it's all part of the process.

Contain What's Left

Your plan is in motion, your space is empty and clean, and you have everything sorted and categorized. This is the time to decide how to contain what's left. Many often do this step first and buy a random container that could suit their needs, which often leads to a job half done and still cluttered. Buy a container after you have determined what needs to be contained. It will save you time, money and frustration!

Labels are an Organizers Best Friend

When looking at an organized space, one of the first things I look for is labels. If your hubby or kids don't know where to find something, it's probably because it's not labeled. It's really not enough to have everything in beautiful baskets if you're the only one who knows what's inside. A label doesn't have to just be a white strip of paper with boring text. Make it fun, cute, and crafty if you like! This is where your creative side can blossom and will give your space the personalized warm touch of being yours.

Tying Up Loose Ends

Often in the purge, sort, categorize phase, there are loose ends or items that should never have ended up where they are. Once your space has been set, find a home for the loose ends that creep their way into each space. You may find that these items can be either dumped or donated. If there wasn't a space for it where you "thought" it should belong, maybe you don't "need" it after all.
I've had friends tell me that their space is a mess, and what I find when I get to that space is that it's not as bad as they perceive. Often, they just need some guidance as to how to organize the space. Sometimes furniture placement is off {creating wasted space}; other times, they bought random containers that just don't work together to suit their needs {created by a lack of planning}. I hope this has given you some practical tips and tools to get your organizing juices flowing.

Still need help? I'd love to take a look at your space and give you some inspiration on how to organize it! Your space could even be featured right here on the blog! Email me at GiftsWeUse{at}gmail{dot}com and tell me about the space that needs organizing and be sure to include a photo or two. Or you can visit my contact page and fill out the yellow help form! I will be sure to keep you as anonymous as you like.

It's My SITS Day!

Happy, happy, happy day! Today is my SITS day! For those of you who do not know, SITS is a blogger network of over 40,000 women that all support each other's blogs by way of comments, networking, forum discussions, and the SITS Bloggy Boot Camp Blog Conference held throughout the United States. They feature bloggers from their community everyday and today is my day! Heeeey SITStaahs!
About Me
On the outside, I'm a wife, mom and blogger. On the inside, I'm a planner, organizer and dreamer. Combined, I am a lethal weapon! {ha!}

Ten random facts about me {in no particular order}...
  1. Not crafty, but creatively techy.
  2. Love to organize, loathe to clean.
  3. Jesus loves me, this I know.
  4. Planning gets me motivated.
  5. Junk mail {via snail mail or email} is my enemy.
  6. Laundry continues to elude me.
  7. I could spend hours at The Container Store.
  8. There is a special place in my heart for my readers {that's you!}.
  9. I have an office supply fetish.
  10. I'm all thumbs when it comes to using scissors.
Here's our latest family photo for your enjoyment.
Why I Blog
Nearly one year ago, I was surrounded by a swirling mess of a house and a toddler whose needs were rapidly changing. I came to a breaking point and I needed to get organized! In my previous life, I was as organized as you can get without being deemed psychotic, but motherhood threw me for a loop! Discovering blogworld was the driving motivation to begin my journey to a clutter free house and life and I hope to inspire and encourage you to do the same as I blog about organizing, family life and my adventures in blogging.

To my SITStahs
I'd like to invite you to get to know me better, stay a while, and tour the blog. Likes and follows are also welcome. {wink}

I love that you came for a visit and want to gift it forward! If you'd like to be featured on my blog, tell me about the gifts you use to be considered for a guest post spot right here!
I am honored and humbled to be featured on SITS today, and it reminds how awesome the blogging community is. If you blog and don't have a supportive community, get one now! It will be the best thing you have ever done and will give your blogging fresh eyes and legs.
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What It's Like to be Critiqued

{and What I Learned in the Process}

Not many people enjoy being critiqued, and even less go around seeking it. I recently put my blog to the test and voluntarily had a pro dissect my About page. Melissa from MomComm critiqued my About Page. If you haven't read it, go there first, then come back. I'll wait.
Why I Chose to be Critiqued
As nerve racking as it can be, I did put this upon myself. Some would question why I would put myself through such scrutiny. The answer is simple. I want to know if I'm doing it right. I trust the person I have given my blog to and I genuinely want to know how it is perceived by someone besides my loved ones and myself.

Waiting is the hardest part. First, I don't want to look like an idiot. Second, I hope that my hard work is paying off {and that I'm paying attention to what I'm learning}. Pins and needles all over, all day, until I see the post go live. It's like waiting to see the test results of an exam you studied really really hard for.

Seeing my page elsewhere
I cannot tell you how exciting it is for me to be featured on a blog that I admire. It's honoring, it's humbling, it's stinkin' awesome! If you haven't felt the thrill of being featured via a guest post or other means, I highly recommend it. Take the risk and step out of your own blog bubble. It's totally worth it. You can even guest post right here!

Advice I took {and what I learned}
I didn't change the layout of my page at all, but what did make a difference are the few minor tweaks that Melissa suggested. I updated my photo, added a shot of my abode, then shortened and streamlined the content.

There is a very delicate balance when it comes to an About page. It's important to find that balance between too much and too little content and embellishments {like photos and links}. Giving the reader a visual "break" helps to balance my page visually and gets readers wanting to read more.
Next Steps
For now, my About page is pretty much set. Minor updates may happen to update my favorite posts and my features, but that's it. I recommend taking a tour of your blog every once in a while to see how a first timer might view it and tweak anything that clutters your blog.

Do you want to know how your blog measures up, but don't want to hand it off to anyone? Well you can! Melissa has released a successful ebook entitled Do It Yourself Blog Critique, so you can get your own copy right here! It will open your eyes and get your blog in the best shape it can be.
Putting myself out there for all to see was scary, but what I learned was much more valuable in the end. Getting critiqued has really given me a fresh perspective when looking at my own blog and I encourage you bloggers to do the same.

Did you learn anything from my About Page critique? Are you going to get the ebook and critique yourself? Let me know in the comments!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

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Next in the series, Blog Planner Weekly Goals >>>

This post is part of the Learn As I Blog series

Blog Planner Weekly Goals & Printable

I am thrilled to have seen much success with my Blog Planner printables since its release. As important as it is to stay ahead by planning blog posts with an editorial calendar and blog post worksheet, getting through other long and short term bloggy goals on an ongoing basis is important too. I'm here to share with you my newest method of prioritizing and planning blog tasks with my Blog Planner Weekly Goals!
Why Have Weekly Goals?
As I become more and more serious about blogging, I find that I need to be more structured in how I execute tasks to make the most of the time that I have to blog. Here are some reasons I decided to create weekly goals:
  • Because blogging entails so much. Whether you are a rookie or veteran blogger, there is a lot to do in order to run a blog. The reality is that the list never really gets shorter, in fact, it is just the opposite in most cases.
  • Because time is limited. Blogger is never the only "hat" we wear in life. As much as some would love to blog all day and night, time to get other things done competes with blog time, so time efficiency is key.
  • Because sometimes a month is too much. Having a monthly outlook is good, but I often find that monthly steps to bloggy goals is too steep and I need to break up my goals and tasks into manageable pieces and spread them out week by week.
How to use the Weekly Goals
Here is a peek at my weekly goals {I have greyed out the planner so you can see how I use it}.
Follow these steps when filling out the Weekly Goals:
  1. List out goals in each category {or carry over goals from a previous week}.
  2. Lay out blog posts on the weekly calendar.
  3. Decide which blog category{ies} to work on each day of the week.
  4. Optional: Designate a time limit to work on each category and set a timer for yourself.
  5. Whistle while you work, hum a merry tune or do whatever it is you do to increase productivity!
  • Week at a glance: Lay out posts and events for the week {in blue} to help plan next steps and create your workload. Then spread out your goal categories throughout your week {in pink}.
  • Plan: Consolidate your supply list for the week and get everything at once, or use this to brainstorm your next project.
  • Research: Shop for the best fabric, read up on that topic to reference in your next post and do whatever homework you need for an upcoming post.
  • Write: This may be a task that is repeating daily or done two or three times in a week depending on how productive and creative you are feeling. You may even get to write a whole week's worth of posts in one night! One can dream, right?! {wink}
  • Promote: Another category that can be done quickly each day or done all at once for the whole week. Do what works best for your work style.
  • Develop: This is your bloggy dream list to develop your blog into the best that it can be. There may be lots you want to do, or just one thing that you've been meaning to do for a while. List it here and finally get it done!
  • Network: A very important piece that often goes ignored or over used. I know that when I start socializing with my favorite blogs, I could easily spend two hours going from one facebook page to another tweet and then I've lost my whole plan for the day! Setting a specific time aside to network will hopefully keep the networking in check. Setting a timer for yourself will help too!
  • Support: This is another important piece that could also work to promote your own blog and network with other bloggers, but I felt it was important to call out because all bloggers need support from other bloggers by way of commenting, sharing other blogger's posts through your own social outlets, and maybe even email another blogger personally to encourage them {also networking!}.
  • Train: The most important for new bloggers is the self training piece! That has been the key to my learnings this year. But I spent a lot of time learning and researching, maybe too much. Spending too much time on the training piece can contribute to blogger burnout. Failing to make training a priority can leave you in the bloggy dust and behind on the latest and greatest tools and techniques.
The key to working with Weekly Goals is to have a set amount of time each day to accomplish your weekly goals and then choosing which goals work best with the way you work based on what your week looks like. I love the flexibility of this because I determine how much or how little my workload is, and each week will look different, but the goals are pretty much the same.

A Gift for You!
Now it's time to take your big bloggy dreams by the horns, break them apart and actually accomplish them by using the Blog Planner Weekly Goals printable! My gift to you.

Having trouble with the image? Click here to download your gift!
I'm a firm believer that planning is critical to success. Using the Weekly Goals, I hope that you are able to accomplish all the bloggy greatness that lies ahead of you. May this make your love for blogging a bit easier and more tangible so that you can use your gifts to bless others who need encouragement and inspiration.
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