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30 Mar 14:36

“No Matter How Mundane Some Action Might Appear, Keep at It Long Enough and It Becomes a Contemplative…Act.”

by (Gretchen Rubin)

Murakami1_2677991b“No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.”

–Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Agree, disagree?

Yes, I’ve quoted from Murakami twice in a row, but I just couldn’t resist.

If you’re interested in habits,  you’ll find this book very interesting.

Also, this quotation reminded me of my own rule about adding “meditation” to the end of any activity that’s boring. If I’m impatient while waiting for the bus, tell myself I’m doing “Bus waiting meditation.” If I’m standing in a slow line at the drugstore, I’m doing “Waiting in line meditation.” Just saying these words makes me feel very spiritual and high-minded and wise.

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Join the happiness discussion on Facebook, where every day I pose questions meant to help you think about your own happiness--also, just fun. Or join me on Twitter, @gretchenrubin, or Pinterest, or YouTube.

05 Mar 21:49

Want to Read about Writing? Here Are My Five Favorite Books about Writing.

by (Gretchen Rubin)

onceuponatimeEvery Wednesday is List Day, or Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: My five favorite books about writing.

It’s not easy to write a book about writing that’s also a pleasure to read. Here are my favorites:

1. William Zinsser, On Writing Well. I’ve read this book several times, and I’m due for another re-reading soon. It’s full of invaluable advice, and so beautifully written that it’s a joy to read. My favorite chapter may be “Humor,” which includes Zinsser’s example of his own magazine piece about women and their hair curlers–brilliant. I’d quote it here but you really have to read the whole thing to get the proper effect.

2. Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary. I’ve read this many, many times. Virginia Woolf kept a diary for twenty-seven years, and after her death, her husband drew from those diaries to create A Writer’s Diary, which includes the entries that refer to her own writing, that comment on the books she was reading, and that touch on the scenes and ideas relevant to her work. Extraordinarily rich and powerful.

When I was writing Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, which is a very unconventional biography, I thought many times of this passage:

Waste, deadness, come from the inclusion of things that don’t belong to the moment; this appalling narrative business of the realist: getting on from lunch to dinner: it is false, unreal, merely conventional. Why admit anything to literature that is not poetry–by which I mean saturated? Is that not my grudge against novelists? that they select nothing?….I want to put practically everything in: yet to saturate.

And in Happier at Home, I wrote a passage that’s a direct allusion to this haunting passage from Woolf:

What I must do is to keep control; and not be too sarcastic; and keep the right degree of freedom and reserve. But oh how easy this writing is compared with The Waves! I wonder what the degree of carat-gold is in the two books. Of course this is external: but there’s a good deal of gold–more than I’d thought–in externality. Anyhow, “what care I for my goose feather bed? I’m off to join the raggle taggle gipsies oh!”

(You can read a bit about my strange response to this passage and to the song, and you can hear the song, Raggle Taggle Gypsy, here.)

Okay I must stop, or I’ll end up quoting dozens of passages.

3. Robert Boice, How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency. This book is bizarrely, insanely expensive, and written very simply, but in terms of practical advice about how to get writing done, it’s very useful. I’ve been thinking a lot about it as I write my book about habit-formation, Before and After, because it’s all about creating habits that allow writers to be productive and creative over the long term.

4. Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters. Speaking of habits, how could I resist that title? Plus I’m a crazy Flannery O’Connor fan. These letters are fascinating, especially about her writing. I include one passage, from a 1957 letter, as an epigraph to a chapter in Before and After, about the Strategy of Scheduling:

I’m a full-time believer in writing habits…You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away.…Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place.

5. Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird. This is an encouraging, accessible account of how to keep going as a writer. I love the story from which the book gets its title:

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

How about you? What are your favorite books about writing?

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I'm really looking forward to speaking -- and listening -- at the Habit Conference at Stanford on March 25. I'm speaking at the Habit Summit at Stanford on March 25th. For $50 off, use this link. So many interesting people will be there.


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28 Mar 02:13

Monthly Clean Home Challenge: Clean Out Pantry

by Jennifer Jones
Jessica Kendrick

I want my pantry to look like this!

Welcome back to the Monthly Clean Home Challenge daily task!  I am on a quest to maintain a clean and organized home in less time and the goal is simple; four daily tasks, four weekly tasks and one additional quick task each week day. 

In no particular order, here are the individual tasks I am tackling each day this month:

  1. Make cleaning supplies
  2. Cycle clean appliances
  3. Clean out cars
  4. Clean out microwave
  5. Wipe down cabinets/appliances
  6. Wipe down trim/doors
  7. Clean out one drawer
  8. Clean out fridge
  9. Clean out freezer
  10. Vacuum under furniture
  11. Vacuum mattresses
  12. Clean oven
  13. Clean out one closet
  14. Wash out garbage can/recycle bin
  15. Wash windows
  16. Scrub grout
  17. Clean out one cabinet
  18. File paper piles
  19. Purge bathroom toiletries
  20. Clean out pantry

Today I am chatting about the extra task:  Clean Out Pantry

Well, this month you have seen a lot of our messy areas.  In fact, you may be wondering what actually is organized around this place we call home.  And although our fridge and freezer were a bit of a disaster going into this month, I am happy to report that our pantry organization is still going strong.

Just over a year ago we took everything out, lined the shelves and organized things the way we thought they would make the most sense for our family {you can catch up on all of that here}.  Although there are times when the pantry is sparse or a bit overstocked and cluttered, it has been really easy to maintain and we have been really happy with the way it functions.

Each week while we are meal planning, we take a look at our existing foods and try and plan around those before purchasing anything new for the week.  Because we keep the process quick, there comes a time when the pantry just needs a good cleaning out.  This closet is used every day, multiple times per day, so it tends to get dirty.  The shelves receive a lot of traffic, crumbs and an occasional spill, while the back corners of the floor seem to be a magnet for dust.

As you can guess, I started by emptying everything out of the closet.

And taking a couple of minutes to wipe down all of the individual shelves {we are still LOVING The contact paper covered foam core by the way}.

Once all of the shelves were clean and splatter free, I moved onto giving the floor a quick vacuum.

With everything feeling shiny and new and smelling of fresh lemon, I was selective about what was returned and had the opportunity to evaluate where everything was being placed.  I found some items that were beyond expired to an embarrassing extent {sugar cookie mix from 2011 anyone?}, proving the importance of doing occasional pantry sweeps.

One more day of this monthly cleaning challenge!  Don't be surprised if you spot me running up and down a random set of stairs with a boombox on my shoulder playing the theme song from Rocky on repeat when all is said and done!

Looking for something?  Check out my favorite cleaning products below:

04 Mar 11:01

nine years

by Jane Brocket
Jessica Kendrick

this is an excellent argument for blogging


[still quilting after all these years*] 

Sometime in February this blog hit the nine year mark. I couldn't think of anything that happens in nines apart from human pregnancies so I had a quick google and it seems nine years are most closely associated with prison sentences, wars, mortgages, circles of hell, cats' lives, and the length of Robin Thicke's marriage. So, all in all, not a great number.

But there are also nine muses in Greek mythology, and I have been writing here for nine years with my own nine muses: family, home, books, art, baking, knitting, quilting, flowers and life. And mostly I've had a good time doing so. There have been a few vicissitudes but that's to be expected, and I've now stopped wondering and pondering too much and learned instead to simply get on and write, say what I want to say and enjoy doing it. I don't know what I would be doing now if I hadn't started yarnstorm in 2005, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have written all those books you see on the sidebar to the right of the screen, and I doubt I would have managed to put into words all the thoughts and ideas and opinions I have published here.

Because this is the big thing: blogging is a brilliant way to publish. In the past it would have been called 'vanity publishing', but now that it has a new name and a new image and an immediacy and connection that writers could not have dreamed of even a generation ago, it's shed many of its negative connotations and instead has become a fast, cheap and egalitarian way of publishing. When I first pressed that 'publish' button, I couldn't believe how easy it could be. I didn't need to wait to be commissioned, I didn't have to write proposals or collect rejection letters and keep them, framed, in the downstairs loo as so many writers have (allegedly) done. I didn't need to seek permission to publish, or pull strings (not that I have ever had any strings to pull) to see my words on a screen. It was and still is an amazing way to publish and that's why I haven't stopped even though I've got my name on a fair few book spines and can find my books in libraries and shops. I get a thrill every time I put up a post and I always have a look at the blog as readers see it as soon as I've published something because it's a matter of wonder that my words and pictures can be there, just as I intended them, and be viewed by whoever wishes to do so, without any mediation or charge or sales talk or blurb.

So nine years have flown by in this way, and the blog has enabled me to develop a style and it's given me the freedom to choose what I want to write about and what I don't want to write about. It's pushed me to take photographs which pushes me to look more closely. In turn, these processes make me appreciate all the things I enjoy just that little bit more, because when you write about them you have to decide what you really think rather than simply saying 'this is what I like and this is what's important to me'. All in all, it's been good and, I imagine, a lot better than being married to Robin Thicke for nine years. 

* a few of the quilts I've made in the last year or so. 

31 Jan 04:29

UHeart Organizing: Paper Eliminating Apps!

by Jennifer Jones
Jessica Kendrick

some of these I use... some are helpful. but sometimes a paper and pen kick butt.

I am excited to welcome back my superfab contributing team in 2014, and also introduce you to the newest member, Beth! 

It is no secret that I have been dragging my feet when it comes to using my gadgets and technology for organizational purposes.  I love to organize.  I love technology.  Really I should marry the two right?

Considering I have little experience utilizing technology to better my life, yet that is the way the world is essentially moving, I invited Beth to join the IHeart Organizing team.  She loves to make use of her gadgets to streamline her day to day lifestyle, and I am beyond excited to have her here sharing all of her tips and favorite apps with us.

Beth is a wife, mom, freelance writer and PR/Marketing Consultant.  You can find her sharing her sharing her awesomeness at The Little Magpie, The Food Adventuress, Magpie Marketing and Arkansas Life.  And now IHeart Organizing as well!  Today, she is here to chat about apps that help her on her quest to live a paperless life.  So please, give a warm IHeart Organizing welcome to the darling Beth!

Hey there, organizers!   I'm Beth, and I'm delighted to join the IHeart Organizing lineup this year.  Like so many of you, I'm on a constant quest to better organize my life so that I have time for the things that really matter.

As the years go by, it becomes increasingly obvious to me that the areas of my life that are controlled and organized bring me the most pleasure (or, the highest ratio of days that include feet propped up in the bubble bath, reading a good book, hiking with my family or enjoying a glass of wine with my husband).  Conversely, the areas of my life that consistently feel chaotic, disorganized and behind the eight ball are the top contributors to my stress.

So, suffice it to say that I've been an enthusiastic reader of IHeart Organizing for quite some time.  However, there is one area of my organizing style that's just a little bit different from many of the posts I've read here at IHeart: while I adore organized cuteness, binders, labels, mason jars and gallery walls as much as the next gal, I'm also a big fan of organizing with technology!

In fact, I'm going to just say this out loud: I am on an obsessive, multi-year quest to eliminate useless paper from my life.   I want less junk in my mailbox, fewer paper stacks on my desk and a shortage of decade-old magazines gathering dust on my shelves (despite my affliction with vintage and the fact that I actually contribute frequently to magazines)!  Anyone with me?

Excellent.  Allow me to share a few amazing tools that you just might need in your life.  And please: keep posting those gorgeous projects with labels, mason jars and gallery walls... even the organizing app lovers like me are drooling over them!  Without further ado, here are a few tools to eliminate scraps of paper from your life, focusing on three of the most common sources.

Paper Culprit #1 - Small Humans

While I love seeing special pieces of art and keeping up with my kids and their progress at school, I feel absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of paper that education institutions generate… it just never ends.  Hope springs eternal in my heart that this will change in my lifetime, but for now, I have implemented coping mechanisms.

Everyone has different degrees of sentimental feelings. I do love keeping a select few pieces of my kids’ art, but most of the worksheets and quick drawings head quickly to the recycling bin. We used to use family binders - one per kid per school year.  Regardless of whether you have an adorable binder, box or portfolio for physically keeping your kids’ artwork, I strongly suggest scanning it.  The digital versions can be used for craft projects or just archiving, and you can even take a photo of the child proudly holding up their work.  Even worksheets are fun to save because there are always some humorous responses!

The best tool in my book for this task is Artkive.  You’ll be able to set up a “folder” for each kid and then file work by age, grade and other details.  Plus, the Artkive shop is specifically set up for printing gifts such as a book of artwork for grandparents and other items to preserve all those masterpieces. You can also automatically share their creations with family members or to social media.

Last year, we even took photos of our oldest daughter’s end of year project for the Reach program - so fun!

Artkive is available for iOS and Android (free). Alternative: Art My Kid Made, which I am digging for its compatibility with Evernote (more on that soon!) - iOS (free).

Paper Culprit #2 - The Quest for Food

While there are a lot of papers that enter our lives and are worth keeping (I loved the greeting card organizer in the link party post earlier this week), there are approximately a million more that are completely irrelevant: and frankly, I would rather they never existed in my house at all!  High on that list are grocery lists - I don’t even want cute ones hanging around!

Plus, it’s very common for me to be out near a store and find a pocket of time - while the list is still hanging on the fridge. So, this was another great area of my life to go digital.   My absolute favorite (after trying many options) is Ziplist - it syncs across my Macbook, iPad and iPhone so that I (or family members) can sit down near the kitchen and add dozens of items while planning meals for the week, or just quickly add items on the fly into my phone.

If you’ve thought about going the digital route with your grocery list, now is the time to let your inner nerd/über-organizer flag fly high. Ziplist gets lots of bonus points because I can add items by store and even sort them by the appropriate aisle.  That means I can keep separate shopping lists within the app for the grocery store, hardware/home store, even articles of clothing or vintage items I’ve been on the lookout for (which always escape my mind when I’m standing in the actual store).

Two great examples of the power of an electronic versus paper grocery list:

Vacation:  On our last beach vacation, we stayed in some lovely state park cabins and fell in love.  However, their version of “fully stocked” and mine were very different (I consider dish soap, chopped garlic and salt & pepper essential).  So when I made a list before heading to the {pricey!!} grocery store to stock up, I made it a permanent list in my collection and titled it Vacay.  In a few short months when we head to that sweet cabin again, I’ll know exactly which basics are worth picking up more cheaply here at home and packing along with us.

Holidays:  Normally, I work from a consistent list of our traditional holiday recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I shop as far in advance for those grocery items as possible.   This year, a combination of chaotic work projects and inclement weather had me dropping by a grocery store on the fly.   If that window had presented itself and I were a paper list keeper, I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of it - but instead, I just pulled up my standard Thanksgiving ingredient list, skipped the items I knew I had in the pantry and knocked it out in an hour.  Victory!

The Ziplist website also prompts you for items you might need based on past purchases, and there is a downloadable recipe clipper for your browser.

Ziplist is available for iOS and Android (free). Alternatives: Our Groceries - iOS, Android (free), Buy Me A Pie - iOS, Android (free), Out Of Milk - iOS, Android (free), Grocery IQ - iOS, Android (free).

Paper Culprit #3 - The Daily Grind

Here's another confession: I need a checklist for everything.  I mean, everything.  Without the ability to check things off every morning, I would wander the barren landscape of my home seeking coffee and a little direction. I kid you not... my brain does not have the capacity to remember the simple things such as take vitamin, start laundry and unload dishwasher.  Seriously.

Laugh if you may, but I know there are more of you out there like me!  I want to get up, look at a checklist and start marking things off so that I don't end up in my PJs (I work from home) with my teeth unbrushed and staring off into space when my husband comes home at 5 o'clock.  Enter the Routines app by Coopla:

It's genius because it keeps all of these paltry tasks out of your actual to-do list with errands and tasks that are less consistent and predictable (drop dry-cleaning, pick up supplies for a kid's school project).  Add the things that you do - or want to do - every morning, afternoon, evening, weekly on Mondays and even monthly (sharpen knives) or annually (optometrist appointment).

I've even got my zones set up in the monthly section, keeping me on top of deep cleaning the kitchen during the first week of the month, living spaces - second week, bathrooms - third week, bedrooms - fourth week, other spaces (only needed a few times a year) - fifth week.  This ensures that the whole house is tackled by the end of each month.

Best of all, you can force your tasks to clear at midnight so that you've got a beautiful, clean new list of tasks to tackle again tomorrow... and who doesn't love to check things off?   {Me, ME! I love to check things off!!}

The Routines app by Coopla is available for iOS ($2.99). Note: tasks are not synced across devices; however, most users tend to grab one particular device to cruise through daily chores, so this is not a huge issue. Alternative: HomeRoutines for iOS - works well with FlyLady systems.  To ensure you don’t get a bunch of to do/task apps, search your app marketplace for “home routines” or “daily chores.”

"I’m Beth, a freelance writer and PR/marketing consultant living in a 1905 house in northwest Arkansas that could have starred in the 80's film The Money Pit.  Fortunately, I'm married to a man capable of tackling everything from plumbing and electrical disasters to reincarnating hardwood floors, and he keeps the place livable for us and our two daughters, Sophie and Ainsley.  Like so many others, I vacillate between incredibly organized {see: my alphabetized spice rack and neat living room} and embarrassingly disastrous {see: my closet and The Room We Do Not Enter}.  I have an affliction with words and ideas, so I churn out the excess at The Little Magpie and The Food Adventuress and through my business, Magpie Marketing in addition to writing about food, wine, travel and the treasures of my home state for publications such as Arkansas Life.  I love emerging technology and you'll find me first in line to try new apps and gadgets.  I'll share the best tools to keep your life on track here at IHeart Organizing!  

03 Mar 17:05

Monthly Clean Home Challenge

by Jennifer Jones
Jessica Kendrick

Cleaning takes up a large part of my brain-- why do I have to do it again? Should I do it better?

Welcome to the month of March!  I always try to start thinking spring like thoughts in March, however, with four plus feet of snow still on the ground it can be a bit challenging at times.  How is the weather where you are?  Does it have you wanting to open your windows and get into the Spring Cleaning groove?

One of the areas in my life that I really wanted to focus on this year is balance.  How to best juggle my daily tasks; time as a mom, time as a wife, time to take care of myself, time for work and time for play.  I have been doing a lot of reflecting on what matters to me in terms of how my time is spent, and often times left wondering how I can scale back on things to make more time for enjoying this beautiful life.

Last month, I decided to dissect my cleaning routine.  Do I take our home too seriously?  Are we doing more than necessary?

The first step was defining what was acceptable to me?  I basically want a home that is simple to maintain and keeps a presentable appearance for ourselves first {a clean and organized home should translate to a less stressful environment} and our company second.  Meaning we are the reason for the clean house, not to impress anyone that should stop by.

I have always loved to clean, I find it gives me an appreciation for our home and this amazing energy when I accomplish a few tasks.  But on a scale of loves, time with my family ranks even higher.  And let's face it, our cleaning plan works pretty good when we stick to it and have the time to do it.  I have never been a huge stickler over it, and if we miss days it doesn't stress me out.  But what does stress me out is when life gets so busy that our tasks are thrown to the wayside to the point of a snowballing effect and hours spent on a weekend trying to make up for it.  Binge cleaning sessions give me a case of the yucks.

How can I get a clean and happier home in less time?

It got me thinking.  What are the very basics that need to be done to keep our home clean enough?  How could I spread a few of my weekly tasks out to monthly and build the quarterly/semi-annual tasks in as well?  How about taking time to purge and cut clutter?  How could I be sure that we don't have to waste a half of a weekend day cleaning and making up for a busy week?

After some thought, here are the chores that we should be doing daily to maintain:

  1. Keep a clean kitchen:  After dinner each night, this will require us to clear the table, wash the dishes and wipe down the counters, table and stove-top.  A quick sweep up of any crumbs and sweep of the counter for any clutter piles.  Total time: 10 minutes
  2. Laundry:  Laundry can become the biggest thorn in our sides if we don't keep up with our daily chore.  We are always looking to conserve on the amount of laundry we need to do, however, being a family of five does mean it builds up quickly.  Tossing our hampers into the wash each day, and running it on the days it is full, will ensure we are only having to fold and put away one load at a time {a couple of shirts and pants and a pair of PJ's}.  We wash all of our clothes together {minus whites and linens}, so that means there is less for each person to put away each day.  Total time: 5-10 minutes
  3. Bathrooms:  From toothpaste in the sink to splatters on the mirror to life with three boys in general, our bathrooms can go from squeaky clean to just ew in .5 seconds.  A quick wipe down of the sink, mirror and floor around the toilet will keep the grossness from building each day.  And although I am cleaning for us first, guests do tend to go straight for the bathroom when they arrive, and I don't want to be shaking in my slippers wondering what they are about to find....  Total time: 1 minute/bathroom
  4. Pile Pickup:  The goal is to do a quick sweep to clear surfaces of piles and clutter and to straighten pillows and blankets from any lounge sessions.  Just the very basics to give our surfaces a blank slate to start the day the following morning.  Having a place for the daily items that tend to be problematic, is definitely helpful in the process {a basket or magnetic fridge clip for mail and papers, a system for shoes, backpacks, hats and mittens, a basket near the stairs to place items that need to be transported and a basket near the sofa for blankets and pillows}.  I place focus on our primary living areas when doing this task.  Total time: 5-10 minutes
And that is it.  It may sound like a lot, but just doing those four tasks each day will keep the house looking and feeling clean throughout our week of school, work, projects, sports and activities.

Then, once per week, there are four more chores we add in:

  1. Clean Toilets/Showers:  A quick toilet scrub and wipe down of the shower.  Quick tip, clean the shower while you shower. 
  2. Vacuum/Mop:  Run the vacuum through the entire house and a mop over any solid floors.
  3. Dust/Glass:  Run a duster over all surfaces and follow up with wood or glass cleaner
  4. Wash Linens:  We try to do our everyday clothing throughout the week, and each weekend we wash bed linens and towels.
When working together as a family, we maybe have to dedicate a total of 30-60 minutes on a weekend to do these extra chores.

Seems easy enough right?

We tried this in February and it was fabulous.  Turns out that when we work together to get these done, it goes quite quickly.  And we do what we can to multi-task while doing chores.  As I mentioned above, things like wiping down the shower while taking a shower, running the garbage/recycling out when cleaning up the kitchen, or washing and folding linens while watching a favorite show, really doesn't seem like you are doing chores at all.

But the inner clean freak in me knows that it isn't enough.  It is enough to have a clean home and maintain a decent appearance on the surface, but there are a lot of other little tasks that I like to do to go above and beyond.  Things from cleaning appliances to organizing drawers and closets to cleaning out the fridge.  

So, Mon-Fri I try to add in one more quick chore.  I made a list of chores that shouldn't take much time and things I can do while catching up on a show saved on my DVR.  Here are the chores I added to my March cleaning list {many of these chores would be the same each month, while having the option to swap a few out}:
  1. Make cleaning supplies
  2. Cycle clean appliances
  3. Clean out cars
  4. Clean out microwave
  5. Wipe down cabinets/appliances
  6. Wipe down trim/doors
  7. Clean out one drawer
  8. Clean out fridge
  9. Clean out freezer
  10. Vacuum under furniture
  11. Vacuum mattresses
  12. Clean oven
  13. Clean out one closet
  14. Wash out garbage can/recycle bin
  15. Wash windows
  16. Scrub grout
  17. Clean out one cabinet
  18. File paper piles
  19. Purge bathroom toiletries
  20. Clean out pantry

Some people may want to add all of those chores up and do them in a single day.  I personally prefer to do one per day because it still feels like I am getting a lot accomplished and frees up more time for the things I really love to do.  {A few get done while doing the daily chores, others may happen in the morning after the kids go to school or in the evenings after they go to bed.}

We gave this system a whirl in February and I looooved it!  It was not stressful, my house felt clean and I felt like I got a lot accomplished. 

Finally, I realized something about myself long ago.  What really inspires me and motivates me personally is visuals.

Do you ever watch a TV show, read a magazine or a blog post and get up right then and there to go and clean or organize something?  It happens to me all of the time! 

So I am hoping to do that this month.  Each day, I am going to pop in and share my daily task with you.  Some may be boring {vacuuming our mattress?} and others may be a bit more exciting {cleaning out a drawer}.   And if you want to join in and do it with me, that would be crazy fun. The thing I love most about this blog community is that we are always sharing tips and tricks and inspiration which one another, to continuously make our lives easier and happier.  And if you are like me in liking to plan things out, write things down and check things off, I created a free printable as well.

{click HERE to download your free Monthly Cleaning Planning sheet}

And no worries, for those that don't want to play along.  I know this schedule is not for everyone, so I will continue with many of my regular posts as well {home project updates, reader spaces and contributors}.  The daily cleaning challenge is an add-in, unless I take a drawer or closet to the next level of course. 

So who is in?  Anyone else have a similar system and how is it working for you?   What cleaning chores do you get done while multi-tasking?  Any other "shortcuts" you can share?

Pssst!  I will be back soon to share today's daily cleaning task. 

24 Feb 17:20

what will survive

by Jane Brocket
Jessica Kendrick

Arthur! An Arundel Tomb!


[detail of the Arundel Tomb in Chichester Cathedral]

"Side by side, their faces blurred,   
The earl and countess lie in stone,   
Their proper habits vaguely shown   
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,   
And that faint hint of the absurd—   
The little dogs under their feet.
Such plainess of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand."
These are the first two stanzas of the poem by Philip Larkin which ends with the famous last line 'What will survive of us is love'. There's a framed copy of it hung up on a column next to the Arundel Tomb in the cathedral so you can read it standing pretty much where Larkin stood when he visited with Monica Jones.
I am fascinated by Larkin, his poems, his letters, his life in Hull, and in many ways he's the last person you'd expect to write this famous line (which is so often quoted out of context, and not as clear-cut as it seems). Still, it's in keeping with the complexity of his life and his poetry which both have a seemingly, outwardly simple form (unmarried provincial librarian writing short, easy to read poems) until you delve deeper. But both the sight and poetic image of the husband and wife holding hands for all eternity never fail to move.
11 Dec 19:00

Do You Have These Friends? Must Friends, Trust Friends, Rust Friends, and Just Friends.

by (Gretchen Rubin)

crayons in a circleEvery Wednesday is List Day, or Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: Four types of friends.

Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree that a key — perhaps the key — to happiness is strong relationships with other people. We need to have intimate, enduring bonds; we need to be able to confide; we need to feel that we belong; we need to be able to get support, and just as important for happiness, to give support.

We need many kinds of relationships; for one thing, we need friends.

Now, the term “friend” is a little loose. People mock the “friending” on social media, and say, “Gosh, no one could have 300 friends!” Well, there are all kinds of friends. Those kinds of “friends,” and work friends, and childhood friends, and dear friends, and neighborhood friends, and we-walk-our-dogs-at-the-same-time friends, etc.

Obviously, such relationships are very different, although they’re all “friends.”

In Geoffrey Greif’s book Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships, he identifies four categories of friendships:

Must friend: a best friend, a member of your inner circle, a person you count on when something big happens in your life

Trust friend: a friend who shows integrity, someone you feel comfortable with, that you’re always glad to see, but not in your inmost circle; perhaps someone you’d like to be closer to, if you had the time or opportunity

Rust friend: a person you’ve known for a long, long time; you’re probably not going to get any closer to that person, unless something changes, but a part of your life

Just friends: a person you see — at a weekly poker game, at your child’s school — who is enjoyable company, but you have no desire to socialize outside a specific context or to get to know that person better

I think it’s helpful to think about the different types of friends. Even if you wouldn’t invite some people to your wedding, they can still add a sense of warmth and richness to your life.

A friend of mine did an interesting friend-related exercise. She took a big piece of paper and made a chart of her friendships, based on clusters. As she did it, she highlighted the names of the people or institutions that had introduced her to a particular cluster. What she found — and this struck me as so interesting — was that a few people had served as very important connectors. Until she made that chart, she hadn’t realized that these few individuals had made such a difference in her social life.

I keep meaning to do this exercise myself.

What do you think of the four categories: must, trust, rust, and just friends? Are there any kinds of friends that aren’t captured in those four terms?

If you want tips for making new friends, look here, and tips for maintaining friendships, look here. I write about friendship in The Happiness Project, chapter on friendship.

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I continue to be staggered by the response to the four new 21 Day Projects.  If you want to make some concrete, manageable changes in your life, I hope these Projects will be helpful. Curious about the breakdown?

Know myself better is in the lead; De-clutter my life is next; Quit yelling at your kids; and Cope better with difficult people.

Intrigued? Of course you are! Learn more and sign up here.

12 Dec 16:21

Secret of Adulthood: Enthusiasm Makes Difficult Tasks Easy.

by (Gretchen Rubin)

Further Secrets of Adulthood:



The more I think about happiness, the more I value enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm is a form of social courage – it’s safer to criticize and scoff than to praise and embrace — and I’ve decided that I’d rather be “enthusiastic” than “confident.”

I have a patron saint for enthusiasm. Can you guess it? Julia Child! (This post about Julia Child may be one of my favorite posts ever.)

It can seem cooler and smarter to be ironic, detached, or critical, and it’s certainly much easier and safer to adopt that sort of stance. But enthusiasm is more fun. Enthusiasm is generous, positive, energetic, and social. It’s outward-turning and engaged. It’s unselfconscious, warm-hearted, and kind of goofy. Like Julia Child!

Also, enthusiasm makes difficult tasks easy. One interesting question for self-knowledge is: What do you memorize without effort? That tells you something important about yourself. Do you effortlessly remember sports scores, song lyrics, scientific facts, vocabulary words, recipes, details about friends’ lives?

When I feel enthusiastic about some undertaking, it comes so, so, so much more easily to me. For instance, writing. My husband is great at writing, but I’m a writer, and he’s not — because I have endless enthusiasm for writing and revising, and he doesn’t.

How about you? Do you find that enthusiasm makes an otherwise difficult task easy?

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Bonus! If you pre-order the paperback of Happier at Home, I'll send you a bonus, a fun Tips sheet about "9 extremely quick and easy steps to become happier at home." Honor system. More info here. Because of the peculiarities of book publishing, if you're inclined to buy the book, it's a big help to me if you pre-order it now. I love all my books equally, but my sister the sage says that Happier at Home is my best book.

15 Dec 12:41

“Most of Us Need Some Sort of Plan to Give Our Lives Coherence.”

by (Gretchen Rubin)

fairbrother“Some people are born with the gift of being happy for the moment, but most of us need some sort of plan to give our lives coherence. And since human beings are mostly virtuous, we need to feel good and useful, that others are happy round us, that no one suffers through our doing. All this besides being warm and fed, and healthy, and occupied, and a dozen other luxuries. Small wonder that happiness is a fitful state.”

Nan Fairbrother, An English Year

“Some sort of plan to give our lives coherence”…this is one place where habits meet happiness. More to come in Before and After!

She also wrote, “ ”The happiness of others is almost completely unpredictable.”

Agree, disagree?

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Need a gift idea, or a good book to read? May I suggest...the paperback of Happier at Home is now available for pre-order. If you’re considering buying the book, I’d so appreciate it if you pre-order it now. Yes, right away. No delay! A fact about the book market these days is that pre-orders really help build buzz for a book, with booksellers, the media, and other readers.


If you’re thinking, “I’m intrigued! But Gretchen, how can I learn more about Happier at Home?” you’re in luck. You can…

read an excerpt from the chapter on “Possessions”

listen to a clip from the audio-book

watch the one-minute video trailer on “Ten ways to be happier at home”

request the one-page book-group discussion guide

watch the Behind-the-Scenes video ( spoiler alert, I reveal the book’s secret motif there)

- sign up for personalized, signed bookplates for you or or friends, (U.S. and Canada only, sorry)

23 Dec 14:28

christmas style

by Jane Brocket


I read a great  article about Margaret Howell in the FT on Saturday. It's an 'At Home' piece featuring her home in Suffolk, but at the end there's a little bit about MH's approach to Christmas. MH is 'looking forward to cooking, seeing friends and family and knitting in front of the television', and she says, 'I've always liked Christmas, the domesticity of it, making my own puddings and mincemeat, being at home and being a Mum'.

It's so far from the impossibly perfect and glittery scenes portrayed in so many magazines and TV programmes that I suddenly recognised it for my own ideal of Christmas. She (apparently) doesn't make a fuss, or worry about food or the house. Instead, she keeps to what she likes about Christmas and what she thinks are the important things, mainly family, friends, some seasonal cooking, and the pleasures of a break at home in winter.

She pretty much sums up our sort of Christmas, although I hadn't quite articulated it as succinctly and as well. We now have the mincemeat in mince pies (above), the family at home, Elf on a loop, and I have a pile of hexagons to stitch. I'd add books and walks and wellies and warm jumpers to the Christmas mix, but otherwise I'm with MH in being a pretty simple soul at this time of year.

(I love her style and aesthetic, but her wonderful clothes made out of classic fabrics such as cotton, tweed, linen and cashmere are way out of my range. However, the tastefully designed shop on Wigmore Street stocks some really good books on design subjects. 

This is part two of the April profile.)

Happy Christmas, and here's to the cosy domestic sort.


02 Nov 19:28

Want an Extra Hour in Your Day? Here’s a Painless Way to Get It.

by gretchenrubin
Jessica Kendrick

somehow I just need more sleep.

daylightsavingTo clear time to schedule a new morning habit, many people try waking up a bit earlier, but this can be tough for people who struggle to get out of bed.

One trick? Use the autumn end to Daylight Saving Time as a painless way to add an extra hour to the morning. (Obviously this only works if you live in a place that follows DST.) Getting up earlier is a great way to make time for something important to you.

We all love to “fall back” and to get that extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning. It’s a great boon to get a little extra sleep. In fact, car accidents and heart attacks are more common in the week after Daylight Saving Time starts, because losing that hour puts stress on people’s bodies.

But while you may love that extra hour of sleep, consider not sleeping in, but instead getting up after your customary amount of sleep. Your body is getting up as usual, but the clock will say that you’re up an hour early.  And there’s a lot you can do with that hour–especially if the people around you are still sound asleep.

A reader commented: “A couple years ago I decided not to reset my clock at the end of daylight savings. I had thought of myself as a night owl, but suddenly had writing/exercise time.”

You could use that time to do something like exercise or work on a project–or maybe you want to use it for pure pleasure. I have a friend who wakes up early to read for fun.

The morning is a great time to form a regular habit, because self- control is high, there are no distractions, and it’s highly predictable.

Now, this system wouldn’t work for true “owls” who stay up late and sleep late. But for many people, it’s possible to make a very satisfying use of that hour.

NOTE: If you try this strategy, you must also go to sleep earlier! It’s so, so, so important to get enough sleep, and if you lose an hour in the morning, you need to gain that time in sleep. (Here are some tips for getting yourself to go to bed on time.)

The question is: where would you rather have the hour? At the end of the day, or at the start of the day? Most people would use those slots in very different ways. Which hour would contribute the most to your happiness?

If you suddenly had an extra hour in your day, how would you use it? Have you ever used this method–or any other–to shift your waking time?

27 Oct 10:37

“A Man Gets an Immense Satisfaction from the Knowledge of Having Done Good Work.”

by gretchenrubin

delacroix“You increase your self-respect when you feel you’ve done everything you ought to have done, and if there is nothing else to enjoy, there remains that chief of pleasures, the feeling of being pleased with oneself. A man gets an immense amount of satisfaction from the knowledge of having done good work and of having made the best use of his day, and when I am in this state I find that I thoroughly enjoy my rest and even the mildest forms of recreation.”

Journal of Eugene Delacroix

Do you agree? For me, this is very true. Even when I’m having a bad day, even “if there is nothing else to enjoy,” knowing that I’ve done some good work, in some way, is a great comfort.

21 Oct 12:00

Coastermatic: your instagrams on stone coasters

by lollyjane
Jessica Kendrick

Cool, but $25 for 4 coasters? Um, Lame.

We are thrilled to share the cutest stinkin’ company with you today: Coastermatic.

If you are Instagram junkies like we are then this you will LOVE this awesome product: Instagram pictures turned into stone coasters. Brilliant! (And did we say CUTE already? I seriously looove mine!)

Get your instapics put on coasters. Super cute!

Simply head over to, select 4 of your fave instapics, add to cart, pay, wait a week (check mail each day in anticipation!) then set your gorgeous stone coasters on your coffee table, island, dining room table or anywhere in your house and sip on your drink while reminiscing about your fun images snapped now turned into permanent memorabilia. :) Coastermatic is a friendly instagram-to-coaster service that’s been designed to help you get your stories out of your phone on the table. Literally.

We loved working with Tash Wong, the interaction designer who began Coastermatic in the spring of 2012, and who likes to make things that bring people together in new ways. She says, “By combining the power of personal photography, granted by instagram, with our belief that physical possessions should be more expressive of the people that use them, we’ve succeeded in bringing thousands of conversation starting coaster sets to tables across the globe.” She has succeeded as I truly love mine and it really is a GREAT conversation starter!

Seriously easy to order….

Instagram pics into coasters- cute idea and super easy to order!

….and seriously fun to look at. Can you tell my 3 year old loves his “special” coaster of himself?! LOL!  Psst… these coasters would make awesome grandparent gifts for Christmas! ;)

Kids love Coastermatic! Cute instapics turned into coasters. :)

The coasters come in a set of 4 and measure about 4.25″ in diameter, and cost $25 + shipping. They are made from a super absorbent ceramic blend, and are 100% USA made, (woot woot!) My kids handle them multiple times on a daily basis (with wood floors) and they are definitely “shock absorbent” and kid-friendly! ;)

Coasters from instagram pics- love this!

A big thanks to Tash for letting us give a review of a product that we give 4 thumbs up to!

Get instapics turned into cute coasters!

Catch up with the Coastermatic latest on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. In the meantime check out this cool video to see more ideas of what to put on YOUR coaster!


The post Coastermatic: your instagrams on stone coasters appeared first on Lolly Jane.

16 Oct 13:56

Do You Fall for Any of These Common Clutter-Clearing Myths?

by (Gretchen Rubin)

peacefulrocksEvery Wednesday is Tip Day (or Quiz Day or List Day).
This Wednesday: Do you fall for any of these twelve myths about clutter?

This post is back by popular demand.

One of my great realizations about happiness (and a point oddly under-emphasized by positive psychologists) is that for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. More, really, than it should. After all, in the context of a happy life, a crowded coat closet is trivial. And yet over and over, people tell me, and I certainly find this, myself, that creating order gives a huge boost in energy, cheer, and creativity.

But as much as most of us want to keep our home, office, car, etc. in reasonable order, it’s tough. Here’s a list of some myths of de-cluttering that make it harder to get rid of stuff.

Myths of Cluttering:
1. “I need to get organized.” No! Don’t get organized is your first step.

2. “I need to be hyper-organized.” I fully appreciate the pleasure of having a place for everything, and perhaps counter-intuitively, I believe it’s easier to put things away in an exact place, rather than a general place (“the third shelf of the linen closet,” not “a closet.”) However, this impulse can become destructive: if you’re spending a lot of time alphabetizing your spices, creating eighty categories for your home files, etc., consider whether you need to be quite so precisely organized.

3. “I need some more inventive storage containers.” See #1. If you get rid of everything you don’t need, you may not need any fancy containers. Be very wary of the urge to “store” something. Except for things like seasonal clothes and decorations, if you’re “storing” something, that’s a clue that you don’t really plan to use it.

4. “I need to find the perfect recipient for everything I’m getting rid of.” It’s easier to get rid of things when you know that you’ll be giving them to someone who can use them, but don’t let this kind intention become a source of clutter, itself. I have a friend who has multiple piles all over her house, each lovingly destined for a particular recipient. This is generous and thoughtful, but it contributes mightily to clutter. Try to find one or two good recipients, or if you really want to move your ex-stuff in multiple directions, create some kind of rigid system for moving it along quickly. We have a thrift shop two blocks from our apartment where we send a lot of stuff.

5. “I can’t get rid of anything that I might possibly need one day.” How terrible would it be if you needed a glass jar and didn’t have one? Do you have gigantic stores of things like rubber bands or ketchup packets? How many coffee mugs does one family use?

6. “I might get that gizmo fixed.” Face it. If you’ve had something for more than six months, and it’s still not repaired, it’s clutter.

7. “I might learn how to use that gizmo.” Again, face it. If you’ve had a gizmo on the shelf for a year, and you’ve never used it to make gelato or label a sugar jar, it’s clutter.

8. “I might lose a ton of weight and then I’d fit into these clothes again.” If you lose a bunch of weight, you’ll want to buy a new pair of jeans, not a pair you bought seven years ago.

9. “I need to keep this as a memento of a happy time.” I’m a huge believer in mementos; remembering happy times in the past gives you a big happiness boost in the present. But ask yourself: do I need to keep all these t-shirts to remind me of college, or can I keep a few? Do I need to keep an enormous desk to remind me of my grandfather, or can I use a photograph? Do I need fifty finger-painted pictures by my toddler, or is one enough to capture this time of life? Mementos work best when they’re carefully chosen – and when they don’t take up much room!

10. “I need to keep this, because the person who gave it to me might visit my house and be hurt when it’s not on display.” Is that person really likely to visit? Is that person really likely to remember the gift? Will the person really be upset by the lack of viewing of the gift?

11. “If I have any available space, I should fill it up with something.” No! One of my Secrets of Adulthood is Somewhere, keep an empty shelf. It’s funny; people often ask me, with open suspicion, “Gretchen, do you still have an empty shelf?” Yes, I do! Want to see it for yourself? Watch here in the behind-the-scenes-of-Happier-at-Home video; the shelf appears at 6:40. (Gosh, it was fun to make that video.)

12. “Yay, it’s free, I should take it!” Be very, very wary of accepting something because it’s free. It’s so easy to take that water bottle or tote bag, then realize that you’ve just brought more clutter into your house.

What other clutter-clearing traps have I overlooked? Do you fall prey to any of these?

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29 Sep 12:43

“The Fountain of Content Must Spring Up in the Mind.”

by (Gretchen Rubin)

Samuel-Johnson-reading“The fountain of content must spring up in the mind…he who has so little knowledge of human nature, as to seek happiness by changing any thing but his own dispositions, will waste his life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the griefs which he purposes to remove.”

– Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, No. 6

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02 Oct 13:23

Do You Fall Prey to These 4 Types of Impulse Purchases?

by (Gretchen Rubin)


Every Wednesday is List Day, or Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: Do you fall for the four types of impulse buys?

When we’re trying to change our buying  habits, one challenge is that marketers are so clever at enticing us into making impulse purchases.

In David Lewis’s book Impulse: Why We Do What We Do Without Knowing Why We Do It, he provides a list of the four main types of impulse buys, developed by industrial economist Hawkins Stern in 1962.

Do you recognize any of these categories in your own purchasing patterns?

1. Pure impulse buying — you make a true novelty purchase, or escape purchase, that’s very different from your typical purchasing pattern

2. Reminder impulse buying — you see an item or remember something that reminds you that you need an item

3. Suggestion impulse buying– you see a product for the first time and imagine a need for it

4. Planned impulse buying — (isn’t this label an oxymoron? oh well) you make a purchase based on price specials, coupons, etc.

Now, I know that some folks out there are my fellow under-buyers, and we have to force ourselves to make impulse purchases of the #2 sort. Even when I know I need something, I hate to buy it!

Interestingly, Lewis notes that people generally don’t consider it a mistake to make impulse purchases. Research suggests that only about 1 in 5 people regret it, and 2 out of 5 say they feel good about it. (If you don’t feel good about it, here are 5 tips to resist impulse shopping.)

If you battle impulse purchasing, what category gives you the most trouble? How do you combat it? Of course, we’re always told to shop with a list–and seeing these four categories makes it clear why that’s helpful in fighting impulsive spending.

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23 Sep 20:31

A Happiness Lesson from Claire Danes.

by (Gretchen Rubin)

danesThe September 30, 2013 issue of the New Yorker had an interesting piece, John Lahr’s Varieties of Disturbance, about actor Claire Danes.

Though I’ve never watched My So-Called Life (yes, I know this is unacceptable, and it’s on my to-do list), I do love Homeland, so I was interested to read the profile.

Danes was quoted saying something that really caught my attention.

“One of the lessons of her adulthood, Danes has said, was ‘that there is real honor in being a total goofball.’”

This struck me, because I’ve really worked hard, myself, to embrace my inner goofball. Not to worry about seeming dignified, or sophisticated, or knowledgeable, but to Be Gretchen.

In this respect, one of my patron saints is Julia Child, and of all the posts I’ve ever written, one of my favorites is my encomium to her. She was goofy yet masterly, light-hearted yet authoritative.

Enthusiasm is a form of social courage.

Realizing this was part of my embrace of my love for children’s literature. And therefore it’s especially appropriate for me to quote, in this context, a great master of children’s literature.  In his brilliant essay, On Three Ways of Writing for Children, C. S. Lewis wrote:

When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

Yes, there is real honor in being a total goofball.

Agree, disagree? In what way do you allow yourself to be a total goofball?

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20 Sep 20:17

Ever Been Stuck Talking to Someone Who Keeps Telling You How Wrong You Are?

by (Gretchen Rubin)
Jessica Kendrick

So many thoughts. SO MANY THOUGHTS. I feel like the internet does nothing but heighten this phenomenon in people: most would never out and out flat disagree with everything someone said, but somehow, on the internet, it's ok. Crazy.

ConflictBack by popular demand is the assay I wrote about the “oppositional conversational style.” This post really seems to strike a chord with people.

Which surprised, me at first, because when I identified OCS, I thought I was the only person who had ever noticed it. Turns out that many people have noticed it! From both sides of the OCS-dominated conversation.

A person with oppositional conversational style is a person who, in conversation, disagrees with and corrects whatever you say. He or she may do this in a friendly way, or a belligerent way, but this person frames remarks in opposition to whatever you venture.

I noticed this for the first time in a conversation with a guy a few months ago. We were talking about social media, and before long, I realized that whatever I’d say, he’d disagree with me. If I said, “X is important,” he’d say, “No, actually, Y is important.” For two hours. And I could tell that if I’d said, “Y is important,” he would’ve argued for X.

I saw this style again, in a chat with friend’s wife who, no matter what casual remark I made, would disagree. “That sounds fun,” I observed. “No, not at all,” she answered. “That must have been really difficult,” I said. “No, for someone like me, it’s no problem,” she answered. Etc.

Since those conversations, I’ve noticed this phenomenon several times.

Here are my questions about oppositional conversational style:

Is OCS a strategy that particular people use consistently? Or is there something about me, or about that particular conversation, that induced these people to use it?

Along those lines, is OCS a way to try to assert dominance, by correction? That’s how it feels, and also…

Do people who use OCS recognize this style of engagement in themselves; do they see a pattern in their behavior that’s different from that of most other people?

Do they have any idea how tiresome it can be?

In the case of the first example, my interlocutor used OCS in a very warm, engaging way. Perhaps, for him, it’s a tactic to drive the conversation forward and to keep it interesting. This kind of debate did indeed throw up a lot of interesting insights and information. But, I must admit, it was wearing.

In the second example, the contradictory responses felt like a challenge.

I described oppositional conversational style to my husband and asked if he knew what I was talking about. He did, and he warned me, “Watch out! Don’t start thinking about this, and then start to do it yourself.”

I had to laugh, because he knows me very well. I have a strong tendency towards belligerence—for instance, it’s one reason I basically quit drinking—and I could easily fall into OCS. (I just hope I don’t exhibit OCS already, which is quite possible.)

But I do recognize that to be on the receiving end of the oppositional conversational style—to have someone keep telling you that you’re wrong, over and over—is not pleasant.

It’s wearing at best, and often highly annoying. Even in the case of my first example, when the OCS had a fun, friendly spirit, it took a lot of self-command for me to stay calm and un-defensive. Many points could have been made in a less “Let me set you straight” way.

And in the second example, I felt patronized. Here I was, trying to make pleasant conversation, and she kept contradicting me. It was all I could do not to roll my eyes and retort, “Fine, whatever, actually I don’t care if you had fun or not.”

Now, I’m not arguing that everyone should agree all the time. Nope. I love a debate (and I’m trained as a lawyer, which definitely has made me more comfortable, perhaps too comfortable, with confrontation). But it’s not much fun when every single statement in a casual conversation is met with,“Nope, you’re wrong; I’m right.” Skillful conversationalists can explore disagreements and make points in ways that feel constructive and positive, rather than combative or corrective.

What do you think? Do you recognize it in other people–or in yourself? How I love to try to identify patterns in human behavior. Abstainers and moderators. Over-buyers and under-buyersAlchemists and leopards. Etc.

05 Aug 16:00

Writing Marathons: How to Write 11,500 Words In One Day

by ollintern

It was a hot Saturday in July and NaNoWriMo’s two volunteer Municipal Liaisons (MLs) in New Jersey were doing something pretty spectacular in the recesses of the public library.

You may have read about Bill Patterson’s plans for Monkey in a Box on this blog a couple of weeks ago. On July 20, during the one-day writing marathon event, Bill (the aforementioned “monkey”) wrote for eight hours in a glass box at the Woodbridge Public Library, for a total of 11,500 words.

Richenda Gould, Bill’s co-ML and event facilitator, said her favorite part of the day was when a mom and her 12-year-old daughter came over to see what was happening.

“This girl stayed and read Bill’s novel on the big screen that was displaying his writing, then she proceeded to join in and write for the entire day. She was a real trooper. She could have done anything with her Saturday, but she decided to spend it with us, writing, from before 10 a.m. all the way until 5 p.m. And she really wanted to know when we’d be doing this again. That makes it all worth it as far as I’m concerned.”

With fingers flying, did the story go in unexpected directions? “Of course it did!” said Bill. “I got about two paragraphs into it and had that wonderful feeling you get when whole new vistas of plot lines and dialogue open up in front of you.”

The online response from the NaNoWriMo community was huge, with people participating from from Australia, Norway, Finland, England, Wales, and Canada, along with folks in the United States from Massachusetts to Alaska.

“We had folks ditch work, or totally rearrange their weekend just to sit down and write, because some old geek was hammering away in a library half a world away!” Bill said. “Oddly, with that much pressure to produce, I didn’t really suffer from writer’s block. I had to crank out the prose, so I just buckled down and did it. I’m just blown away by how much everyone did,” said Bill.

If you’re looking for monkey writing wisdom, Bill has plenty and it’s good. “Open up your manuscript. Now, draw a whole line of dashes. Below the dashes, centered, write ‘This is just babbling!’ Draw another line of dashes.

What you are doing is unhooking your inner editor, and keeping your conscious mind busy with doing stuff like forming sentences. Your subconscious, where all of the writing really takes place, then starts plopping ideas out onto the assembly line, where your conscious mind is busy packaging them for the screen. Do it right, and you’ll suddenly sit up and go ‘Whoa!’ at what the depths of your mind can generate.

That’s when you draw another couple of lines, signal the end of babbling, and write the rest of the story.  This being NaNo, never erase any of the babble—all of those words count for the goal!”

“By the end of the day I was exhausted but really happy and proud,” said Richenda. “We pulled off something awesome this weekend.”

— Emily

Photos by Richenda Gould


04 Sep 16:00

I Published My NaNo Novel! Jason Hough on the Denial that Comes With Being a New York Times Bestseller

by ollintern


Jason Hough is the NYT best-selling author of The Darwin Elevator, a science-fiction novel set in Darwin, Australia. An alien race has built a space elevator there without explanation, and a deadly disease has started to spread across the planet, turning even survivors into “subhumans”. We were blown away by Jason’s success and he was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

You’re a New York Times Bestseller! Congratulations! How does it feel?

When my editor called, he asked me if I was sitting down. I said I was, but in truth I had my toddler in one arm and was pouring milk into a sippy cup with the other. Anyway, he took me at my word and broke the news. He and my agent were freaking out, sending virtual high-fives and hugs and tears. I was #24 on the NYT Bestseller list! All I could think was, “24 out of 25? That barely counts!”

So I think I’m still in denial. This all happened very fast, and I’m still in the mindset that I can’t believe anyone likes the book, let alone a lot of people. I’m trying to stay focused on what’s next and continuing to improve as a writer. Hopefully this doesn’t sound smug, but I know I’m just getting started.

How many times have you participated in NaNoWriMo? What have your NaNo experiences been like?

Twice. I first did NaNoWriMo in 2007. That was my first time writing anything with any seriousness. It was a romantic comedy called Tact or Fiction, and I went in with virtually no plan. What I thought was an idea for a novel was really just a single chapter. The story fell apart after that one scene, and it was a real struggle from there.

But, I did manage to finish (50,280 words). Afterwards I was proud, but I also had a newfound respect for authors. It was hard work! So hard that I decided screenplays would be my thing, instead. So that April I did Script Frenzy, and I was armed with a decent outline and a co-writer. It was much easier and resulted in a finished product I’m still proud of.

The friends I made during NaNoWriMo talked me into doing it again in 2008. This time I was determined to end up with a draft of a novel I could keep working on. I went in with a highly detailed outline, lots of character sketches and maps, and most importantly some idea of what I was getting into. That November resulted in the first 50k words of The Darwin Elevator, and I haven’t done NaNo again because I’ve been working on that book (and two sequels) ever since.

After November’s over, revision time inevitably rolls around. What was your revision process like? Do you have any advice for those of us who are struggling in the revision doldrums?

Step away from the project for a bit. How long is different for everyone. It could be a few days, or a month, or six. The benchmark to use is to wait until that time when you suddenly realize you haven’t thought about that project at all in a few days. That’s when you’re ready to go back to it with fresh eyes. If you can, get some people to read it during this “away time”, people you trust to give you actual honest feedback.

I know tools don’t really matter, and some people can write world-changing novels in longhand on paper, but considering using software tailor-made for writing a novel. Something like Scrivener. It makes the revision process so much easier!

Once your novel was polished up, what was your journey to publication?

Funny, even now I still feel like it could use more polish. But in my case, after I did my own revision pass I decided to hire a freelance editor. I really think this is something anyone serious about publication should do (especially self-pub!). He found all sorts of problems, big and small, and the resulting draft was much stronger.

Once that was done, I started to research agents and drafting a query letter. I had about twenty agents on my initial list, ranked by how good of a match they seemed to be for me. I spent a month or so reading queryshark to learn what the common mistakes were.

In the end I only queried my top choice, expecting a rejection that I might be able to learn from. Instead she signed me! Because of this the only advice I can really give on finding an agent is: do your homework! At least 75% of queries are discarded almost immediately by agents for simple mistakes. Lesson: It doesn’t take much to increase your chances significantly.

What is your favorite word and why?

'Was', because every time I see it, I get to destroy it. Incidentally that's one of the best and most succinct bits of writing advice I've yet received.

Jason M. Hough (pronounced ‘Huff’) is a former 3D Artist and Game Designer (Metal Fatigue, Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others). Writing fiction became a hobby for him in 2007 and quickly turned into an obsession. His debut novel, The Darwin Elevator (Del Rey), released on July 30th in the US and reached the New York Times Bestseller list the following week.

The trilogy, collectively called The Dire Earth Cycle, will be released in the summer of 2013. He lives in San Diego, California with his wife and two young sons.

Keep up with Jason:

11 Sep 21:24

7 Tips on How to Make Friends and Influence People–18th Century Version.

by (Gretchen Rubin)

dancing18thEvery Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Seven tips for “pleasing in company,” from 1774.

I love reading lists of happiness tips from days of yore — for example, I loved Sydney Smith’s nineteen tips for cheering yourself up, from two hundred years ago.

Here’s another olde liste, from Lord Chesterfield, a British statesman and man of letters was very preoccupied with worldly success. In his Letters, he bombards his son with advice about how to succeed in society.

Samuel Johnson remarked that these letters “teach the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing master” — not exactly a rousing endorsement. Nevertheless, I think Lord Chesterfield has some provocative insights. Here’s an assortment of his advice:

1. “Pleasing in company is the only way of being pleased in it yourself.” Agree, disagree?

2. “The very same thing may become either pleasing or offensive, by the manner of saying or doing it.”

3. “Even where you are sure, seem rather doubtful; represent, but do not pronounce, and if you would convince others, seem open to conviction yourself.” This is very, very hard for me. I’m a real know-it-all.

4. “You will easily discover every man’s prevailing vanity, by observing his favourite topic of conversation; for every man talks most of what he has most a mind to be thought to excel in.”

5. “The sure way to excel in any thing, is only to have a close and undissipated attention while you are about it; and then you need not be half the time that otherwise you must…

6. “Dress is a very foolish thing, and yet it is a very foolish thing for a man not to be well dressed.” As an under-buyer, I have to remind myself of this.

7. “Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.” I disagree here. As part of my resolution to “Enjoy the fun of failure,” I’ve taken up the motto, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” There’s merit to both approaches. Once again, it happens, the opposite of a great truth is also true.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with his advice?

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12 Sep 14:14

“She Told Me What I Needed to Hear and I Was Ready to Listen.”

by (Gretchen Rubin)
Jessica Kendrick

I like her mantra. "There is no cavalry. No one is coming. It's up to me." While it's not true for everything... it can be the motivational push to send you to the next level.

toryjohnsonHappiness interview: Tory Johnson.

I got to know Tory Johnson when I spoke at her conference for startups, Spark and Hustle. Tory has a crazy amount of energy, and in addition to running this series of conferences, she’s also an on-air contributor to Good Morning America, and a writer.

In this last role, she has just published a fascinating memoir, The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life, about how she changed her eating habits, and lost more than seventy pounds, by making what she calls “The Shift.” The book was especially interesting to me because she writes at length about how the change in her habits and in her weight affected her happiness. For a long time, she’d felt out of control and trapped by her inability to control her weight. Losing weight wouldn’t boost everyone’s happiness, but it had an enormous consequence for Tory’s happiness.

One of my chief interest is the question: What allows people to change? Why is it that sometimes, people can’t seem to change, no matter how much they want to, and other times, they can change? (Hint: this is the subject of my next book!) For Tory, a single conversation with a colleague ignited “the shift” that allowed her to make a change that she’d wanted for a very long time.

Gretchen: In the last year, you’ve experienced what you call “The Shift.” What happened?

Tory: Eighteen months ago, Barbara Fedida, one of my bosses, told me my clothes didn’t do me justice and she wanted to send me to a stylist. Barbara is the highest-ranking woman executive at ABC News and I am an on-air contributor for Good Morning America. She never used the words “fat, diet or obesity” but her message was clear: I needed to lose weight. Let’s face it: on TV looks matter. I took her words to mean “lose weight or lose your job,” even though to this day she insists my role was never in jeopardy.

Barbara changed my life. I think she actually saved my life. She stopped me from continuing on an unhealthy path both mentally and physically and for that I will be forever grateful to her. That’s why I dedicated The Shift, my new book about how I lost 62 pounds in one year, to her. She told me what I needed to hear and I was ready to listen. In a nutshell, what I learned was that what I put in my head is much more powerful than what I put in my mouth. I changed my mind for a better life.  Now, with this book, I’m on a mission to share that message and more with others who have battled their weight for years and are finally ready to do something about it once and for all. If I can do it, anyone can.

What simple activities consistently make you happier?

Walking daily in Central Park, I notice something different every time. It might be a squirrel, a plant variety, details in the surrounding skyline or a cool sneaker color. I walk the same loop every time, but the scene is always refreshingly different and never fails to make me smile.  I return home energized and happy.

And as a girl who’s been fat forever, who was tortured by gym teachers, I never imagined that voluntarily going to the gym would make me happy. That was something I’d avoid at all costs and have for most of my life. Now it’s among my favorites activities of the week – a chance to think about nothing but pushing myself to be my very best.  I always leave happy.  Imagine that.

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

That it’s not a given, nor is it owed to me by the world. Happiness is a deliberate choice, one that only I can make for myself.  If I want to feel the joys of happiness, I must choose to be happy—and I do.

Is there anything you found yourself doing repeatedly that got in the way of your happiness?

Until I embarked on The Shift, I didn’t realize just how much being overweight distracted from my greater happiness. I was by no means unhappy on any given day, but once I began to lose weight and take control of my body, I began to reflect on many of the unhappy choices I felt forced to make because of my weight. Those choices range from my fashion limitations, which led me to wear a navy suit instead of white gown on my wedding day, to more serious issues like avoiding all doctors for more than a decade because I didn’t want to hear the inevitable lecture about my size. Losing weight freed me to focus on the stuff that makes me happy, from petty to serious, rather than settling for blah.  Now my happiness is increased from simple stuff like having an abundance of clothing choices to much more important things like hearing my doctor say everything looks great and I’m healthy.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that speaks to you?

“There is no cavalry. No one is coming. It’s up to me.”  The people I’m surrounded by give me great joy and happiness, but I always remind myself that I can’t rely on them or others to create my happiness. It’s up to me to find joy in them, to find joy in myself and to look for opportunities to turn the mirror on myself rather than blaming others.

Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?

In the last 18 months I’ve experienced both: I’ve had valleys where I’m upset that I wasted so much time being fat, then tall peaks when I’m the most content girl on Earth for discovering a greater sense of happiness by focusing on truly striving for my best, which includes pursuing and living a healthy lifestyle.  Keeping those moments of unhappiness top of mind — not in a way that dominates my thoughts, but as simple reminders — prevents me from slipping back into bad habits and downers.

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29 Aug 16:30

UHeart Organizing: Sew Cool Remote Caddy

by iheartorganizing
Jessica Kendrick

I am going to do this and make it look WAY better. Just sayin'.

Oh my goodness guys, I couldn't be more giddy about today!

I have always felt like there was a little somethin' somethin' missing around here.  And for me, that was good sewing projects and ideas, that can be used for organizing.  That is mostly because my sewing machine and I haven't taken our relationship to the next level yet....  but why should y'all have to suffer because I like to take things nice and slow?

That is why I have added a new gal pal to my IHeart Contributing team!  Please give a warm welcome to Palak, who is the author of Make it Handmade.

I am excited to have her here today, sharing her first sewing project with us.  It is something that looks simple enough that even I could do, and it is something that we personally could benefit within our own home.  Here she is now to share more!

Hi, IHeart Organizing Readers! I can't tell you how absolutely thrilled I am to be here and sharing a sewing tutorial with you all. I'm Palak and I sew {and blog about it} over at Make It Handmade. I also run a frugal sewing site called .

We are big football fans, which means that we watch more tv over the weekends than I care to admit. We are constantly losing our remotes on the counter, in the toy bin, and the worst-- in the couch cushions.

I came up with this remote control pillow to keep those remote controls right on the couch-- but out of sight.

Even if you've never sewn a stitch before, you can make this fun little pillow-- I promise. Pillows are a great beginner project. This tutorial will walk you through step by step, and if you get stuck; you can always email me and I'll do my best to help you out.

I've also created a compilation of free sewing tutorials especially for I Heart Organizing Readers. If you've never used a sewing machine before, this series of tutorials will walk you through the basics of sewing. You'll have this pillow made in no time!

  • 3 Fat Quarters
  • 1 14" Pillow Form 
  • Sewing Machine & Supplies

    Let's Sew!

    Step 1:  Decide which fabric you'd like to use for the pocket side of the pillow, and which you'd like to use for the pretty side.

    Cut each fat quarter into a 15x15 square.

    Step 2:  Fold the pocket piece in half, wrong sides together and topstitch 1/8 inch away from the fold.

    Step 3:  Place the pocket piece on the right side of the pillow back. Using your remotes as a guide; mark out where the pocket needs to be divided, and topstitch in place.

    Step 4:  Place the remaining square {pillow front} right sides together with the pillow back. Sew around 3 sides of the pillow as shown.

    Turn the pillow right side out through the little opening. Iron the pillow case out very well and then insert the pillow form into the pillow. The best way to finish the pillow is to hand sew the opening shut. For a super easy invisible stitch, check out my Magic Stitch Tutorial. If you are more adventurous, you can add an invisible zipper instead.

    Now you have your very own, one of kind, customized throw pillow with attached remote control caddy.

    To use, simply place the remote controls in the pockets to store. {Don't forget to tell your family where they are!}

    Turn the pillow pretty side out when your mother in law comes over.

    Thank you for having me Jen! I hope some of you give this a try. To check out some of my other DIY tutorials {sewing and otherwise} head on on over to Make It Handmade!

    "I'm Palak-- a slightly sleep deprived mom who has loved sewing, knitting and crochet for her whole life.  When I’m not chasing after my two rambunctious kids, or sitting behind my sewing machine, I write about my DIY exploits at my blog, Make It Handmade. I also own Sewistry, a site dedicated to stretching our sewing dollars with money saving projects, product review and buying guides.  Although organizing doesn’t come naturally to me, I’ve been inspired by Jen and her blog to find the joy in making my home beautiful and functional. I’m transforming my home one room at a time and using my sewing machine every chance I get! I’m simply elated to be able share sewing projects for your home as part of the IHeart team! "

    15 Aug 17:00

    UHeart Organizing: Speed Clean Your Car

    by iheartorganizing
    Our automobiles can literally become our second home.  Driving to weekly sporting practices and events, long commutes to and from work, family road trips or just the fast pace lives that we all tend to lead which requires us to be in twelve places at once.  It is a good idea to keep them clean and tidy, but not always the first thing on our list of things to do each day, and the thought of cleaning out our cars may even be a bit daunting.  However, my gal pal Casey from Pretty Organized, is here today to share some super quick tips for keeping your car in tip-top shape.

    Cleaning Shortcuts: How to Speed Clean Your Car in Five Minutes

    I had a friend who needed a ride at the last minute, and my cluttered car needed a facelift -- fast!

    Time-Saving Tools:
    • Glass Cleaner {wipes, spray, water & a rag -- pick your poison!}
    • Cleaning Wipes {I use wet wipes, but you can use special car cleaning wipes, too}
    • Timer
    • Trash Bag
    • Lint Roller
    • Duster {mine is from Flylady}

    Speed Cleaning Play-by-Play:

    I grabbed my timer {it keeps me moving quickly!} and got to work.

    1 minute, 30 seconds: Throw away the trash & take the other junk into the house. Stuff that needs to stay in the car gets put in the trunk or in its respective cubby.

    30 seconds: Dust the dash, vents, etc.

    30 seconds: Wipe the inside of the windshield and front & passenger windows {bonus points if you get the back windows!}

    30 seconds: Wipe out the cup holder & console

    2 minutes: Use a lint roller to quickly get rid of the dog hair on the upholstery, then hit the floor to grab dirt, leaves, etc. on the carpet.

    BOOM.  Car = not embarrassing.

    If I had had more time, I could have used my dust buster, but the lint roller worked really well & was super fast. WIN!

    Don't Think You Can Do It In Five Minutes?

    Here are some quick tips for keepin' it clean on the go so that you'll never need more than a few minutes to tidy:
    • Throw out trash & tidy up while you're getting gas.
    • Whenever you leave the car, try to take whatever you brought in with you so that clutter doesn't pile up. 
    • Keep that lint roller in the car for easy crumb clean-up {it's like having a little travel vacuum!}
    • A small pack of wet wipes can handle everything from cleaning hands to wiping out cup holders, etc.
    • I stash my duster & extra trash bags in the door pocket of my car, and I fold the bags like little paper footballs to save space. {Here's the tutorial from A Lil Bird Told Me.}

    How do you keep your car neat & tidy?

    "My name is Casey, and I live in a sweet, tiny little house in Delaware with my hubby & our two adorable rescue dogs. As a longtime fan of Jen's phenomenal organizing skills, I am absolutely THRILLED to be a contributor for IHeart Organizing!  
    I used to be a total mess, but after I let go of the idea of “perfect,” I found freedom. I stopped trying to fit the mold & learned how to make organization work with my natural habits, and I have become obsessed with creative organizing solutions ever since! When I'm not drooling over the latest amazing project features over here, you can find me happily tinkering away on my own blog, Pretty Organized, where I share my addiction to aesthetics, small space storage ideas, DIY projects, and all things aqua!"
    23 Aug 17:44

    Our Project Budget Worksheet and a Freebie!

    by iheartorganizing
    Budgeting for projects around our house, has become inevitable.  It is what we do, it is what we love.  We are on a quest to turn this builder grade home into a personalized, forever home, and whether that means purchasing some storage or renovating an entire room, it is important to budget for that dream frequently.

    Did you see our bathroom reveal last week?  Oh. Em. Gee.  I seriously LOVE that makeover.  It is one of my favorites yet.

    And throughout the process, people started asking, how did you budget for this project?

    So a few things came to mind that I haven't really gotten into, and it is a process we are always tweaking:

    • We have a home improvement line within our budget, and we build that "account" over time.  If we know a huge project is coming up, we put more to the budget and cut somewhere else.
    • This budget is used for home improvement projects and supplies big and small, and is also meant to act as a reserve if our furnace goes out {yep, that happened this spring}, or our dishwasher dies.
    • We use a budget worksheet for larger projects, to ensure we don't drain our home improvement budget on a single room.
    • Although the bathroom seemed like it was done on a whim {the entire install happened in less than one week}, we actually knew it was coming a few months ago when our toilet died.  So, we have been planning on it and purchased a few of the items over time, vs. all at once.
    • We already had the tools we needed on hand for this particular project, but if we hadn't, those items would be included within the budget as well {paint supplies, sanding blocks, utility knife, etc...}

    Because this bathroom was a larger project, with a larger budget and quite a few items to purchase, we whipped out our budget printable.  It is something I put together a short while ago, and a few projects later, we have been loving it.

    But of course, I just printed the one above for a pretty example of what it looks like when we get started.  At the end of a project, it looks more like this one I used for the recent bathroom project:

    To get started, I list out all of the items we believe we will need for the project.  When it came to renovating the bathroom, we needed quite a few new things since everything was 12 years dated:

    Flooring, Molding, Paint for Walls & Vanity, Counter/Sink, Faucet, Mirror, Lighting, Hardware, Shelf, Frames, Toilet, Towel Hooks, Rug, Shower Curtain, Towels, Storage and Accessories.

    I also listed any details I already had in mind {this is where I should have measured for our mirror}, and where I planned on finding specific pieces.  I also give myself a limit to try to maintain for each item in order to reach our end all budget.  Knowing bathrooms can be expensive, and that things come up, we added in a miscellaneous cushion line for random supplies we may not have thought of.  In this case, that included the register cover, adhesives and caulks, plumbing parts and outlets/switch plates {replacing the bone color with white}.

    I didn't originally give myself a budget for a mirror or storage as I knew I had a mirror {or so I thought} and I could get creative shopping our home for storage.  I later needed to purchase a mirror because the one we had was a few inches too long, however, we had some budget "saves" which we were already seeing on the worksheet, so I knew it would be OK.

    Throughout the process, the numbers may change and get crossed out and fixed, but it still works and keeps us on track.  Once the mirror idea switched, that impacted the lighting.  We originally had purchased a single vanity light for over the mirror, but after we found the tall and long mirror, we had to return it and grab two side sconces instead.

    As you can see, the paper is folded and wrinkled.  That is because it is used and abused throughout the course of the project, and also tucked within an expandable file I found in the dollar section of Target a few months ago.

    The file not only holds the budget printable, it also holds all of the receipts we have used throughout the process, so we can double check our numbers.

    I just used some Washi tape and my label maker, to create labels on each section of the expandable file.  The front pocket holds receipts, the next holds the budget printable and the last holds receipts for items that we need to exchange or return.

    The expandable file gives us plenty of room to hold everything, yet is small enough to carry with us when we are out shopping for items and supplies.

    So that is about it.  Again, we don't use this every time, like if we are recovering a box with fabric, however, for larger projects, it has become our "go to" for keeping us on track.

    And of course, I know many of you love a good project or DIY, so I am sharing the printable with you fab friends as well.

    {click HERE to download your free Home Project Budget Worksheet}

    Now, back to another project {oh yes, we have a new one up our sleeves}.  Happy home projecting and....

    17 Aug 13:10

    How One Quick Click Could Inspire You to Change Your Life.

    by (Gretchen Rubin)

    Memento_MoriI recently ran across a reference to the internet site

    I clicked over to it, and entered a few simple facts about myself—birthday, gender, temperament, BMI, smoker/non-smoker—and the site spat out a projected death date that was quite startling in its specificity: Saturday, February 25, 2045. (It also provided a countdown clock that showed the seconds of my life slipping away. Yipes.)

    This was a bit horrifying, but also fascinating and useful, and served as a memento mori. A “memento mori” (Latin for “Remember that you must die”) is an artistic or symbolic reminder of death or mortality.  For instance, paintings depict skulls, soap bubbles, hour glasses,  burnt candles, rotting fruits and decaying flowers, or smoke, which illustrate the passage of time and its inevitable end.

    The questions asked by the DeathClock are also a reminder that although we don’t have complete control over our lives, and we’ll all die (obviously), nevertheless, there are factors within our control that statistically affect the length of people’s lives. In the United States, for instance, poor diet, inactivity, smoking, and drinking are among the leading causes of death—and these are preventable behaviors.

    The days are long, but the years are short. It’s useful to be reminded that actions have consequences, that what we do every day may influence our quality and length of life. Even if that reminder is a bit grim.

    What do you think? Do you find such reminders upsetting, or helpful? Did you check your own date?

    If you’d like to read more along these lines, check out Happier at Home, chapter eight.

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    07 Aug 14:57

    Mindy Kaling’s Rules For Writing in a “Voice Checklist.”

    by (Gretchen Rubin)
    Jessica Kendrick

    I love mindy. totes role model.

    mindy-kaling-mindy-projectEvery Wednesday is Tip Day or List Day or Quiz Day.

    This Wednesday: Mindy Kaling’s Rules for Writing.

    I’m a huge fan of Mindy Kaling. She is one of the geniuses behind one of my very favorite TV shows, The Office–and also played the great character, Kelly Kapoor. I love her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). And I’m looking forward to binge-watching her newish TV show, The Mindy Project. (Added bonus: I love anything that’s an “___ Project.”)

    Mindy Kaling also gave one of my favorite happiness interviews here. One great passage: “When I was 18 years old, I took a semester off from college and was an intern at Late Night With Conan O’Brien. It was the most glamorous job I ever had, and I idolized the writers there. I remember lying in bed every night telling myself that if I ever got a job as a comedy writer, I would be so happy and all my dreams would have come true. Six years later I got that job, working on The Office. I felt incredibly happy and grateful for a about a week, and then a whole new set of complaints set in. This would’ve shocked and disgusted my 18-year-old self. It’s helpful to remember the younger version of me because it reminds me to feel grateful when I want to be snotty.”

    Mindy Kaling was on the cover of Entertainment Weekly this week, and the accompanying article included “Mindy’s Rules for Writing,” which is the “voice checklist” that hangs in her writers’ room. “The truth is,” she explained, “it’s much easier to write a bunch of mean zingers.”

    Characters are helpful and kind.

    No one is a moron.

    Characters are polite.

    Conflict should never come from a desire to be cruel or mean.

    Do not fear nuance. Comedy from avoiding conflict, not instigating it.

    Characters don’t have to be maxed out to be funny.

    To me, this list also suggests how TV writers can avoid cliche. We’re also so familiar with the tired stock characters, the broad insults, the unrealistically extreme behavior that falls into the same patterns. These kinds of rules make it fresh.

    What do you think of these rules?

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    11 Aug 18:39

    mermaid-tails: babyl0bes: hungryhungryhiddles: travelingbythou...





    this is the greatest thing i’ve ever seen


    He’s just so happy

    Best cake boss episode

    28 Jul 13:46

    “Happiness Iss No Vague Dream, of That I Now Feel Certain.”

    by (Gretchen Rubin)

    sandgeorge“One is happy as a result of one’s own efforts, once one knows…the necessary ingredients of happiness—simple tastes, a certain degree of courage, self-denial to a point, love of work, and, above all, a clear conscience. Happiness is no vague dream, of that I now feel certain.”
    –George Sand