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How I Keep My Head Above Water – Organization for a Crazy (fun!) Life!

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Hey buddies!
Okay so I’m asked often how in the world I keep my head above water running a small design business, keeping up with a family of four little girls ages 7 and under, managing a growing Instagram and blog, and and and….  Now I’m tired just writing that all out!!  πŸ˜‚  Honestly, our life is just very swirly at times, and that’s why I employ a few tricks along the way to make sure we keep things at least semi-organzied and on schedule.

Now, let me be the first to tell you that I do NOT succeed at this all the time.  I’m the mom who forgot to send three different colored apples for “Apple Day” at my daughter’s school, and I routinely get behind on things like laundry, answering emails/DMs, and my house might look picked up in some pictures on Instagram, but I’ll be honest that it’s often in need of a serious vaccuum and/or (but usually AND) a good deep cleaning…. 😬  So please don’t take this post as me making some kind of declaration that I’ve got it all together.  I DO NOT.  These are just a few small ways I try to keep my head above water in this swirly life that I love so much.  We all have different degrees of swirliness throughout the varying phases of life, and, for me in this phase of very small kids and a blooming business, here’s how I do/try. πŸ˜‰

 

CottonStem.com hallway organization drop zone hall tree for school kids farmhouse cottage decor

HALLWAY SCHOOL DROP-ZONE

One of the most practical projects we completed in the summer of 2017 was this hallway drop-zone for the kids.  A few sheets of beadboard, some trimming out, a few hooks and shelves and lights from Hobby Lobby, and boom.  Easy organization for the girls!  Of course, this pic was snapped right after completion of the project, and you better believe it’s not always this neat and tidy and, well, EMPTY! πŸ˜‚  But having a designated spot for the kids to hang backpacks, church bags, dance bags, and coats, plus spots for outside boots, hats, gloves and lunchboxes has proven to alleviate the clutter in their rooms and closets, and it makes things easy when we are trying to get out the door on time (….another area in which mama struggles….πŸ˜¬πŸ˜‚)!

SOURCES:
Hooks, lights, corbels, stools, baskets and bins are all from Hobby Lobby
“Always Come Home” custom wood sign from Harper Grayce
Boots are Hunter wellies
Bead board and other building supplies from Home Depot

 

 

LISTS, LISTS, AND MORE LISTS

This might seem like a no brainer, but when I’m feeling overwhelmed and like I almost can’t even take that first step to get started with my daily chores or goals for my business, something as simple as making a big, jumbled list of tasks and writing them down as they come to me starts to sort my brains out!  After I make one big, jumbled list of things I need to do, I make another list and sort all to-dos into categories: WORK (IG/blog/design clients), HOME (kids/chores/house projects), and OTHER (errands, other miscellaneous to-dos).  I even try to make this second list run in order of importance or deadline date just so I can see what needs to get done first and foremost.

Most of the time, I start crossing things off of the daily lists at the top, and then it’s pretty normal for me to have to carry over the items at the bottom of the list into the next day.  There are only so many hours, right?!  I think for me, the point is that allllllllllll those jumbled thoughts and worries and “oh man, I canNOT forget about this one thing!” get pinned down on paper so I don’t lose them in the recesses of what used to pass for my brain.  πŸ˜‰  Do I finish every single thing every single day?  Nope!  But it’s almost like once I’ve captured that thought and pinned it down somewhere, I can relax in my thoughts knowing I won’t be able to forget it.  Lists are my friend.

SOURCES:
French chair can be found at Target
Desk, planter, faux succulents and tiny lamps from Hobby Lobby
Cedar planks and brackets from Home Depot
Mug is Rae Dunn

 

 

OLD SCHOOL PLANNER WITH ACTUAL PAPER

My husband , Mr. Technology, will never understand why I prefer to use a beautiful old school planner with actual paper and pencil, but there’s something about actually flipping through pages and writing things down by hand that helps me remember better.  I love to have my real deal planner filled with to-dos and lists and calendar activities, and I also use my iPhone calendar as a backup and to sync with my hubby’s calendar so we can stay in communication about the week’s activities.

And speaking of planners, this is my very favorite one I’ve used!  It’s this gorgeous rose gold color, and it’s the A5 size, meaning it’s nice and big with room on the pages for lots of lists, design sketches, calendaring and more.  I recently fell in love with these planner insert pages from Natalie Rebecca Design, because they are simple yet beautiful.  Some of the more “scrapbook-y” looking planner page inserts are sort of distracting for me, and I love the simplicity and understated feminity of these pages…plus the prices are great!

I like to keep my planner on my kitchen counter open to the day’s calendar, and I love the “This Week” organizer pages for quick list making AND calendaring all in one.  If the planner is left open on the counter, I pass by it many times a day and can check in on my lists, add or cross things off (is there ANY better feeling than crossing things off a to-do list?!  It’s like therapy or something! πŸ˜‚), and then I can easily scoop it up when I head out to my little she shed office for work.  This pretty planner serves me well!

SOURCES:
Rose gold planner by Webster’s Pages in size A5 – [HERE]
Planner page inserts by Natalie Rebecca – [WEEK]  [MONTH]  
Rose gold ink pens from Amazon

 

So what about you guys?  Any of you still use an old school, real deal planner, or are you like my hubby who can’t understand why everyone doesn’t go full-on technology with their calendaring and organizing?!  πŸ˜‰  Or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle like me?  Let me know if you have other easy tips and tricks about keeping your own swirly life somewhat organized!  I’d love to learn new ways to control our cray! πŸ™ŒπŸ»πŸ˜‚
❀️ERIN

 

SOURCES:

(*some affiliate links used in this post – thank you for supporting the brands that help support this little ol’ blog!!)

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  1. I totally use a paper planner! Something about having that tangible item to list and organize this definitely swirly life!! πŸ’•

  2. Ashley says:

    I am right there with you girl!! Old school paper and pen! The feeling of checking things off my list is oh so good! πŸ™‚

  3. Maylynn Young says:

    Hey Erin just wanted to let you know as a nail tech. Myself, bondaid is a dehydrator for the natural nail. Meaning it take the natural oils off so that the polish lasts longer πŸ’…πŸΌ πŸ™ŒπŸΌ

  4. Ashley says:

    Planner all the way. Writing it down, physically getting to cross it off (hooray) and further yet I’ve completely colour coordinated the tasks with a highlighter as I run my own business as well.

  5. Jessica Woodford says:

    I’m right there with you with the good ol’ paper planner – why ruin a good thing? As a mama of 4+ kiddos (I’m a foster mama too – so the number of kids sometimes varies), a planner is a MUST for keeping track of #allthethings πŸ˜‰ and helps maintains the mom sanity πŸ˜‚. I’m also a firm believer in running a small load or two of laundry a day – small load, quick cycle, GET IT DONE. Boom! πŸ‘ŠπŸ»

  6. Suzi says:

    Spiral notebook on kitchen counter with daily To Do list. Love checking things off. Carry calendar in my purse. New to your blog and IG, came over as recommended by Lettered Cottage. So glad she told us about you.

  7. Yep. Paper planner here too! I use the Day Designer.

  8. Heidi says:

    I have used a paper planner forever and always. It has extra spots in the back where I keep track of birthday party planning, gift ideas, activities we want to do, movies we want to watch, random contact info, etc. I take notes on medical appointments, plan my tutoring, put my to-do lists in…it all goes in one spot, and I love it! Never go away, paper! 😁

  9. Crystal says:

    I so badly want to use a planner and always have great intentions, but it just never sticks! πŸ˜† I do however (and have for 12 years running now) use a desk calendar at work (I am a teacher). Love that it is right there with everything laid out for the month. I am also right there with ya on the lists. I’m a maniac about them and have at least 2-3 at a time on my desk annnnnd I love the ones you can put on your computer too! A little mix of paper and technology, haha! I also use my calendar on my phone A LOT and have lists there too! Can one have too many lists?! I think not! 😜😊

  10. Casey says:

    I actually work for an IT company and got so much flack for my old school, paper planner – that I worked out a way to use my favorite pages on my iPad. I use a combination of the GoodNotes app, my own planner pages (I usually create a quarter at a time – so I can flip from page to page, just like my paper one) and I use the Apple Pencil so I can write it all down! I actually love it! The app syncs to my phone so I can see my planner no matter what and don’t have to carry it with me. I may be a convert – time will tell!

  11. Chris says:

    I write everything on paper. There is something I left be about putting pen to paper. I recently discovered bullet journaling which is a open creative planning system that you design on your own. What I love about it is there are no more blank spots in my planner when I was too busy to write something down or on vacation and didn’t need to write something. Love you blog and IG feed. I too am a designer and mom of 4 and life sure is swirly at times.

  12. Erin says:

    I want to know about the flooring in your she shed!! Is it a laminate? Choosing flooring this week to finish our basement and I love yours!!

    Happy New Year!

  13. Erin N says:

    Thank you so much! I really love your brain dump tip which I often just forget to do! But I like how you took it one step further: the dividing it into WORK, HOME, and OTHER is a great tip I’m taking with me today. Also, your teaching roots are showing w/ your love of paper! 😘 ❀️

  14. Kayla says:

    Hi Erin! I tend to find that I write a lot of lists on paper, but I do a lot of calendar scheduling and reminders on my phone. I like the calendar and reminder apps on the iPhone that will remind me to get my stuff done or be at a specific place at whatever time.

    I learned in a psych class that writing to-do lists and crossing tasks off releases dopamine- which increases drive and motivation.

  15. Andrea says:

    Paper planner for sure!! I use the Erin Condren hourly planner! I’m a hairstylist so I can keep my appointments and home stuff all organized together!

  16. Chrissy says:

    I, too, am a pen and paper kind of girl. What you said about having peace of mind just knowing that it’s captured on paper rings so true!! I have also found that focusing on MIT’s (most important tasks) and building as many routines as possible helps me get things done more efficiently. I recently wrote a post on that: http://www.elegantearthling.com/4-ways-increase-productivity-get-things-done-every-day/ Thanks for sharing! I love reading your blog and am amazed at how you juggle it all!

    Chrissy | The Elegant Earthling

  17. Susan says:

    I love using paper planners – I can doodle all I want .

  18. Cathy says:

    Paper planners! I’ve used Franklin/Covey planners for over 30 years and love them. It ends up being part of my life history. There’s just something about writing things down! I use an electronic calendar at work and have important dates on my phone, but after losing several years worth of electronic planners (when I kept everything on my Palm Pilot) because technology changed and technical support disappeared, I don’t think I’m willing to give up paper 100%. My husband does NOT understand, either.

  19. Carla says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I have been searching desperately for a paper planner that like this!!! Love it!!

  20. Yes a paper planner is an absolute must for me. I’ve been using the Panda Planner this year and I love it for most things, but it does not stay open flat :(. Anyway one tip that my sister in law shared with me that has made a HUGE difference is: add 5 minutes per kid when trying to get out the door. If I need to leave at 5:15 and am taking 2 kids we need to head out the door by 5:05 because we both know how long it takes kiddos to get out the door;). Anyway, it seemed like a hidden gem, HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS RULE SOONER? Man! But we have been a bit better at being places on time when I remember to use this little trick. Thanks for sharing! I always love your blog posts!

  21. Emily J. says:

    Paper planner all the way!!! I still use iPhone / iPad calendar at times for high priority things. There is just something about writing things down that is therapeutic!

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