Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Make Haste and Start Your New Years Resolutions Now

I am a goal setter and a black and white thinker. I am either all in or all out. None of this middle of the road stuff for me. So when I set goals I am all in! I do not succeed when I set fuzzy goals like work out three times a week. I need specific dates and times that I schedule into my calendar. I like checking it off of my to do list for the day.

I have my favorite gym I work out at and I am always amazed at how packed it is starting January 1. But by the third week it is back to business as normal and the regulars are on the treadmill. What would happen if you started your resolutions December 1 instead? I remember three years ago I challenged myself to work out at least 30 minutes a day for the month of December. Yes I was in my office doing yoga on Christmas Eve. But man it felt good to reach that goal. It felt even better to know that I did it in the busiest month of the year.

So I am going to challenge you to set your goals for 2016 now and start on them in December. Don't wait to hit the gym in January. Dust off those running shoes and find that gym membership card and start going now. Speaking of dusting, start de-cluttering now as you decorate for the holidays. Donate the holiday items you don't decorate with. Start eating healthy now as December starts and don't wait until the gluttony of the holidays is over. By starting now you will be ahead of the game and the pounds on the scale will be reflective of that. What will your goals of 2016 be? Here are some tips to help you make sure that you are successful.

Find a partner. It is always better with a friend. Having a buddy to keep each other motivated on the journey is so important. I have different friends helping me through my different challenges in life. I know that I can send them a quick text and they will set me right. I do the same for them. It is a great feeling to know that you are not alone in your goals and challenges.

Find a group. Not only is it important to have one person to hold you accountable but there is something about the power of numbers. Whatever your goal is,  know there is a group out there for you. You could even join a virtual group by doing a search on Facebook for a group to join

Set realistic goals. Don't set goals that are so far out that they are difficult to see the results. If your ultimate goal is to lose fifty pounds, break it up into smaller pieces in five or ten pound goals. If you want to de-clutter your whole house start one drawer or small area a day. Don't try to organize an entire room in an afternoon.

Reward yourself. Celebrate along the way! As you reach those smaller milestones take time out and reward yourself. If you are trying to be healthy an appointment to get a massage or a movie with friends.

Make yourself a visual reminder. I like printing off a calendar and marking a big red "X" showing that I did it. There is something about knowing I get to mark the day off that gets me motivated. There are apps that will track your progress as well. But for me I love the simplicity of paper and pen.

Take before and after photos. Nothing can motivate you more than a picture. Yes there are the fitness before and after photos but there can be the junk drawer before and after's or the pile of books that you read for 2016. Whatever your goal is, take a picture at the beginning. This picture will help you stay motivated.

By setting goals now for a healthier you now you set yourself up for a great January and be even more energized when everyone else is working towards their goals. Be a step ahead and set yourself up for success!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity


Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

To Give With A Grateful Heart

I looked at my husband last week over lunch and declared that I know what I want for Christmas this year. Ever the eager husband, he leaned forward ready to memorize my list. I told him I want to give. He looked at me and I explained that we have everything we need. Sure I would like some "things" but that really is not who I want to be anymore.

I furthered my argument that the only thing I want to buy for him is a few shirts and a new pair of jeans. These are not gifts of the heart. When we were kids when we received the few shirts and a new pair of pants we were thrilled! We only received clothes twice a year. It was a treat and something to be cherished. Now buying clothes for many families is no longer special. My husband agreed and said he wouldn't appreciate the clothes.

He waited for me to tell him what I wanted. I exhaled and said I want to give money to friends who I know are struggling. I realized this summer the power of crowd funding. I watched my middle son create a Kickstarter with the greatest number of supporters in North Dakota history. When I talk about crowd funding or Kickstarter people often don't know what I mean.

The concept is simple. Instead of going to a bank for a loan people are turning to the general public to help finance their needs or dreams in life. We are the crowd and we fund the project, often with nothing in return but for the knowledge that we helped another human being. The one my son worked on was for the Enchanted Highway, the worlds largest collection of scrap metal art. He worked with the artist to help him generate funds towards his next sculpture. Without crowd funding and the support of Kickstarter the next sculpture would not happen. Over the summer we got to know the artist Gary and his mission in life to save his small town in western North Dakota.

I have a neighbor that is raising funds to help train local law enforcement and provide equipment for children and vulnerable adults who wander with a project called projectlifesaver.org . Another friend lost her leg unexpectedly and needs months to recover and find a new normal while not being able to work. And still another friend is in the process of adopting a baby from Ethiopia as their name came to the top of the list much faster then expected.  This is what I want for Christmas. I want to help.

We all have people we know who are in need. So don't wrap another gift, instead take the funds towards that shirt and pair of pants and give instead. This is easy for my husband and I as we are adults. But what if you have small children who are "expecting" large gifts? My one piece of advice is to start small.

When our children were young we would grab the tags off the tree at church and buy some gifts. Take your children shopping with you. Have the discussion that to some people having new socks is an exciting thing. These are important conversations to have with our kids.

Sort and find the nearly new toys that your children do not play with and find an organization in your community to drop them off to. I think it is always important to take your children with you so that they can see the impact. Often it will just be the dropping off at a front desk. But you can have the conversation about what a shelter is depending on your child's age.

Volunteer to ring a bell as a family. Take it a step further and don't just ring the bell, but talk to your family about what happens to the funds that end up in the bucket. Make it real for them. Or perhaps prepare a meal for the families that stay at a Ronald McDonald house.

Sponsor a child through the many organizations that are out there. Contact your place of worship and see if there is a family that is flying under the radar that needs some assistance. When I worked as a family law lawyer I remember a family where the children were organizing a fake food fundraiser, the food was for them. That took my breath away. Simply find a cause that is near and dear to your heart. There are so many deserving organizations and people if we just take a look.

Just please make sure that the funds that you are sending are to a reputable source. Either know the people directly or research the organization ahead of time. There are some holiday Grinch's out there so do your homework.

So join me in wrapping a few less gifts this year and instead impact a family or a person in a different way and give a gift that will keep on giving. Or if you buy some shirts and a pair of pants for your husband, instead drop them off at a local shelter because often the adults in need are over looked during this time of year.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity


Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Revamp Your Holiday To Do List

The older I get the less I want to do for Christmas. I am tired of the material possessions that we find under a tree and that comes in the form of credit card debt. I am more for the memories. I want to spend time and not money on my friends and family. I recently saw a list of Holiday To Do's crossed off with some better ideas. I have taken that list and added some more of mine.

Buy Be Presents: I saw a post by a mom who counted how many times her kids looked at her while she was sitting on the floor while they played. They looked at her over 20 times. If she had been looking at her phone, she would have missed those 20 glances from her kids. With technology at our fingertips, literally, we need to be even more aware of when we should put it down and power down. Leave your phone in another room while you are home with your children. Turn your phone off when having coffee with a friend. Unless you are on-call for a job or expecting word from someone in the hospital, checking that constant dinging on your phone is not important. Build that blanket fort. Make that craft. Read that story. Have that cup of hot chocolate.

Wrap Gifts Someone In A Hug: If I have to spend more than 30 minutes wrapping all my gifts, that is too much time. I am not a gift wrapping ninja, my husband is. But even then, I don't want to spend hours wrapping gifts. I would rather spend that time giving people a hug. I challenge you to spend as much time hugging this holiday season as you do wrapping gifts. Now don't be hugging the wrong person as that could land you in jail. But hug the right people. And make sure it is a real hug. I define a real hug as two hearts touching. You know it when you receive one. They are magical.

Send Gifts Peace: Instead of standing in line at the post office mailing out packages at the last minute, what if you were to mail letters to our service men and women as well as wounded soldiers? In the past The Red Cross has taken care of distributing these cards. Contact your local Red Cross for events in your community and send some wishes of peace and thank a soldier.

Shop For Donate Food: If you are one of those families who goes all out and have lobster and crab, keep track of what you spend and match it with a donation to the food pantry. I promise your Christmas meal will taste so much better knowing that you provided for many local families for their holiday meal.

Make Wish List  Memories: Teach your children that this is not the time to receive, but to give. Simple gifts are best. Please don't be that parent where Santa brings the hot expensive electronic gadget of the season. Put something that will make memories like matching socks in the stockings. One year I wrote a handwritten note to all my family members telling them what they meant to me. Please note that my children can no longer read cursive writing and so I had to read them the letters. However this added to the memory.

See Be The Lights: I always like to look for opportunities to be a light in someone's life. I don't like to make a big deal of it and point the finger at myself. Rather I like to be stealth. But one thing I did last year that still makes me feel good was my grocery shopping experience Christmas Eve day. As I was shopping for Christmas Eve food I kept making eye contact with an older woman. She was pushing a small cart and she just had a box of crackers in the cart. She kept going up and down the aisles not adding anything to her cart. I went to the service counter and bought a grocery store gift card. I asked the service counter employee to go and give it to the woman and tell her it was from a friend. The worker came back with tears and her eyes, I had tears in mine too. That felt good.

So I challenge you to mix up your holiday to do list this year. Make it about the memories and the people and not so much as the gifts and the debt. Start your to-do list this week with new intentions.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Why Live A Life Of Simplicity

People think because I live a life of simplicity it must mean that I don't spend money and I am frugal. I am not, just ask my husband. The difference is that I choose to spend my money on experiences with people and not on things. Possessions don't thrill me. Sure I like a nice purse and a good pair of shoes. But I don't need seven nice purses and 30 pairs of shoes.

We get trapped into thinking we need to keep buying. The media convinces us that and also convinces our children. But take a minute to think about what all that consumption adds up to. For some it is credit card debt. For others it could be missed opportunities. Perhaps their kids don't invite friends over because the house is in bad shape. Believe me, you want to be that house where kids gather. The things you over hear and the stories you are told are priceless.

I am a big fan of seeing if I can borrow from a friend of family member before I purchase something that I don't need for the long term. My neighbor has a great lawn edger and hedge trimmer. Things we only need to use once a year. I deliver some baked goods when we return their items and it is a fair trade in goods. Another friend borrowed me her expensive purse as you bought a new one. She didn't need two. And I didn't need to spend the money on a new one. I used it for a couple of months and returned it to her. My garage has my dad's miter saw in it waiting for my husband to finish some trim work and our friend's tile cutter for my husband to start the bathroom remodel. We are good caretakers of their possessions. Note to my husband, let's get those projects done so we can return those tools!

Still not convinced that you want a life of simplicity, let me show you what living with less can do for you.

Cleaning: When you buy something to be displayed in your home ask if you love it enough to have to clean it. That fancy table that needs to be oiled twice a month. That silver that needs to be polished before you can use it once a year at Thanksgiving. Or how about that china that can only be hand washed. My favorite is the shirt that is dry clean only. I am a simple girl who doesn't like to dust and run clothes to the dry cleaner. Ironically I have ruined more clothes by not taking the time to read the label.

Buying Duplicates: When you can't find those double A batteries you simply buy some more. Same holds true for scissors, scotch tape and kids gloves. Instead of taking the time to get things organized and in an assigned place it is easier to buy duplicates. Often we don't even know we are buying the duplicates. Then one day we get the urge to organize that junk drawer and find 57 double A batteries.

Shop with Purpose: Gone are the days of going shopping because we are bored and looking for something to do. When I shop for something it is because I need it. I go to the store to buy my running shoes because my new ones wore out. I am in and out of the store quickly saving me time and money.

Saving Your Weekends: In the upper Midwest we need a beautiful weekend to clean out our garage. I don't know about you but I have better things to do. Last fall we did the big purge in our garage and donated about 50% of the contents. All the remaining things were placed in a closed cabinet or hanging on the wall. Now when we clean out the garage it takes 10 minutes to sweep the floor. Everything has its place and we aren't adding anything new. It is stripped down to the essentials and our weekends are free to do other things.

Gathering Around The Table: When the kitchen table is cleaned off a family can eat a meal there or play a game. I know there were nights when I was running 17 different directions that it was easier to eat out than to clean off the table. Eating out costs more and chances are it isn't as healthy for you. Then you have the added benefit of having a flat surface to play cards or a board game.

So take some time this week to see what a life of simplicity could do for you.  

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Create A Morning Routine

I admit it, I like to stay in bed under the warm toasty covers in the morning. I am sure I am not alone in this sentiment! But when I do wake up, my routine is far from routine. Because I work for myself, I set my own hours and structure my own day. But what happens is I am constantly distracted and my morning and then my day and then my night get away from me. My husband will then ask me what I did during the day and I am at a loss.

But what would happen if I started waking up with an intention? What would happen if the start to every morning was a routine? And sometimes the answer is staring you right in the face. I had the book "The Miracle Morning" by Hal Elrod on my bookshelf unread for a year. A friend borrowed it to me and told me I would love it. But there it sat, unread. Then I saw another friend post about it and it was a reminder that I had the book on my bookshelf and perhaps now was the time to read it. To add to this serendipitous reminder, I had my best friend over and she saw it and said she has been doing her Miracle Morning for several weeks now and loves it. How many more signs do I need? So I read it and committed to doing the daily practices for 30 days in order to see how having a focused morning can get me going in the right direction each day.

Elrod breaks the morning power hour in to six powerful self improvement practices. I admit I have done all of the six practices before, but not all in one hour. Heck I didn't even do some of them once a month. Now is my time to see if I have the initiative and drive to commit to this for thirty days. You will need to set the alarm an hour earlier. But the energy you have after committing to this after a few days will help you not hit that snooze button.

The six practices Elrod calls life S.A.V.E.R.S and will help you attract the life that you desire. Each letter stands for a different action or activity.

"S" is for Silence. You spend a few minutes each morning in silence. Yeah, not so easy for me. But I found that I am able to sit still and just empty my mind. Well not really, I still have my errand list in my head and the laundry I need to do and the meal I need to cook. "S" should be for Stop It! My mind really struggles with silence so this is a great practice for me!

"A" is for Affirmations. Remember the Saturday Night Live segment from years ago staring now Senator Al Franken as Stuart Smalley? That is what I think of when I hear the word affirmations. But it turns out the Senator may have been onto something. If you say something often enough your brain starts to believe it and you will change. Keep the affirmations positive and keep them consistent.

"V" is for Visualizations.  I have been doing vision boards ever since the movie "The Secret" was made popular by Oprah. I dug out my most recent vision board and started looking at the pictures I had glued down of exotic locations and healthy body images.  I imagine myself sitting on the shores of the beach enjoying the sunset and drinking a glass of wine at the vineyards.

"E" is for Exercise. During the hour Elrod has you do some exercises. I do not do this during my hour but I commit to head to the gym before the morning is over. This works for me for most days and on the days I know I won't make it to the gym I will incorporate exercise into the hour. If you drive by my house in the early morning you may see me doing jumping jacks through my picture window. But then I will need to stop as I have birthed three children and jumping jacks are not a good idea!

"R" is for Reading. I am a reader but I do not consistently read in the mornings. The time set aside in the hour for reading goes by too quickly. For those of you that are not readers, you will enjoy diving into a book first thing in the morning.

"S" is for Scribe, or in other words, write. For myself I am focusing on things that I am grateful for. I write three things that I am grateful for. Focusing on the positive is a great way to open your heart. So often we are bombarded by negativity in the media. The only control we have is to turn it off. During this time I commit to being positive about all that I have in my life.

So who is ready to getting up an hour earlier? Maybe I should have started this in the summer when I could sit on my deck and enjoy the hour in nature. Instead I will grab the blanket from the couch and spend my time creating my miracle morning curled up in my chair positioned in the picture window.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity


Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fall Into Organizing

Fall really is my favorite time of year. I love the crisp air. I love the colors that Mother Nature has on display and I love getting organized. Perhaps it is because I live in the upper Midwest where we often have to hunker down for winter. It is like a nesting urge takes over. I want to make apple crisp and pies from the bounty of my neighbor’s tree. Surely they will not mind if I grab a bushel? I am pulling out my soup pot out and perusing Pinterest on my search for the perfect soup recipe! Snow will be here before I know it and I am in denial as I would like live to live in perpetual fall. However I know the last leaves will fall from the trees and the wind will start to swirl the first snowfall before too long. But these are a few of the things that I like to get done and taken care of before that first dusting.
Fall Accessory Storage: We need transition pieces before we pull out the heavy winter gear. And often these transition pieces take up a lot of space. Kids may have four lights jackets that they could wear on any given day along with matching hats and gloves. The important thing here is to put all of the child’s items in one place. Give them an assigned hook or an assigned section of the closet. Vertical storage is great for this because the accessories could all be stored in a vertical shoe organizer with pockets to give quick access.
Flip the mattresses: A great way to extend the life of a mattress is to make sure that it gets even wear and tear by flipping it. Doing so ensures that your bed doesn't all of a sudden become one where you have an outline of your body when you roll out in the morning. While you are taking the time to flip your bed vacuum it as well to help keep it clean.
Boot Organizing: Kids have the practical snow boots and moms and teen girls have multiple pairs of fashion boots. A boot tray to capture the drippings from snow filled boots will help keep the mess on the tray and out of the rest of the house. When you buy a pair of boots figure out where they are going to go before you make the purchase. A great tip is the one in one out rule. Before I buy my next pair of boots I know that I will have to have a pair leave. I always shop with that attitude in mind and it keeps my clutter under control. A cheap an inexpensive way to store your boots is with a cut up pool noodle, rolled up magazine or an empty wine bottle. I personally like boot organizers that can stay on my shelf and open from the end so I can slide my boots in and out without removing the organizer from the shelf.
Change or Clean your Furnace Filter: Some filters need to be replaced monthly and some less frequently. Save money on your heating and cooling costs by making sure you have a clean filter as your furnace and air conditioner will run more efficiently.
Schedule the carpets to be cleaned: Carpets will last much longer if you schedule regular cleanings. Did you know that a majority of household dust comes in from the bottom of your shoes? So if you want to cut down on dust in your home, have everyone leave their shoes out of the house. To encourage guests to take off their shoes you could have a basket of cozy socks waiting for them at the front door to slip on when they are at your house.
Check the smoke detectors: A reminder is often given that the changing of the time in the spring and fall is also a good time to check those smoke detector batteries. Grab a step stool and make your rounds around the house. Or grab a kid with a stick....just get them checked!
Disconnect hoses: Make sure that all watering hoses are disconnected from the house and water drained from then. With temperatures getting below freezing soon you don’t want a burst pipe caused by a hose that wasn’t disconnected. Also check for leaks and either decide to repair or get rid of the hoses with leaks. Don’t waste space by storing something that doesn’t work or is in need of repair.
Winterize the lawn mower and wash and clean it for winter storage. By keeping your mower nice and clean - and its blade sharp - you'll help extend the life of the mower. Better check that snow blower out at the same time while you are at it....we may be needing that way too soon!
Wash the inside and outside windows of the house. Two easy tips: find a cloudy day to complete your task and use newspapers to dry the windows. They don't leave lint behind and tend to result in streak-free windows. Also hose off the screens and store them for winter. Hosing screens is an activity that kids enjoy as they have fun getting rid of the dust and dirt with the hose.
Get your lawn ready for winter: For me that means putting down the last round of fertilizer, getting the yard aerated and mowing the lawn short. I have found that if my lawn is short, it tends to discourage winter rodent guests from taking refuge in my grass. Get those leaves raked and put in with the compost. If you have a sprinkler system you need to get it blown out and winterized. I am our sprinkler system, so no need to winterize me!
Grill maintenance: Give the grill a good cleaning and make sure it is stored in a proper place for winter. That may mean disconnecting the propane tank, or it may mean disposing of the old charcoal in a safe manner. I love using Soft Scrub to clean my grill as it cuts through the grease with minimal effort.
Check the gutters: Sadly I live in a part of Midwest where our trees haven’t grown tall enough to have our gutters filled with leaves. I pray that day will come soon...but we have been in our house for 14 years now and I am still waiting!
Now that you have all of the yard and house work done for the fall, pack a picnic and go on a bike ride or go for a drive to enjoy the brilliant display that Mother Nature has on display for us.
To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,
MS. Simplicity
Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Have An Organizing Party



We all want to get organized but nobody seems to have the time. But we always seem to make time for a good party. So I want you to think about hosting an organizing party. The premise is simple, invite friends over, focus on the ones that are organized, and have them organize an area of your home for you, I mean with you. The hint here is to not invite your cousin Martha who you know is messy. Invite those friends whose homes look like they could come out a magazine.

In all seriousness I am certain your group of friends would love to do this. Often with organizing we need a push in the right direction. I know that if you put my husband on your invite list he would be a fantastic asset. I have at times said "organize the garage." I come back finding essential things missing, like the shop vac. In his defense he said it hadn't been used in a year and under my rules of organizing it needed to go.  He may even order you a dumpster to help with the organizing!

Some fun party themes:

"Thanks for the Memories" borrow a high quality scanner and scan in all of your photos to be stored in the cloud. You probably don't need to buy a scanner if you are just using it for one night. Ask your friends as I am sure that one of them has one to loan out for a few days. Having all your photos secured in a safe location gives you incredible peace of mind. Plus it is fun to reminisce with your friends about the pictures from high school prom or learning to ride your bike for the first time.

"Junk the Junk Drawer" party will have you focus on the junk drawer, junk drawers or perhaps even a junk closet or junk room. You will find that most things in a junk drawer do not need to be there. Remember that this drawer is not a catch all for things you can not make a decision about. Rather this is a place to keep the scissors and the tape in an organized location.

"Do these Pants Make My Butt Look Fat?" because sometimes we need an honest opinion. If my husband was to do this with me I know it would not be a party at all! He wouldn't want to hurt my feelings so I would be left questioning all the clothes hanging in my closet. The plus of this is if you have business clothes that you no longer are using, find your local Dress for Success drop off location to help dress local women who are entering the professional work force.

"Paper Purge" because we all have more than enough paper. Taking the time to sit down and go through all of the papers can seem daunting. But having friends with you who can shred while you file will make the time fly by.

Here are some tips to help you create the perfect organizing party:

  • Invite key friends. Some friends you are willing to take advice from, others you are not. Think about the friends who can give you tough love. The ones who can tell you that the high wasted acid washed jeans need to go back to 1985.
  • Invite only two or three friends. With too many friends it can get overwhelming with everyone in your business, and that will just overwhelm you.
  • Do not invite the friend who will guilt you into keeping everything, otherwise known as your mother.
  • Focus on one key area at a time.  Do not think that you are going to do your entire home.  
  • Have drinks and food. For some of us wine and chocolate make us work harder. Do not go overboard as you don't want to wake up the next morning finding your friends left you only with ponchos and yoga pants.
  •  Donate any items on a timely basis. When a friend offers to drop off your donations to a local center on her way to work in the morning take her up on it. The longer your items stay in your home the greater the chance that someone will look through them and want to keep things.
  • Take turns. Perhaps this month it is your house but the following months you will rotate through the friends who agree to do this with you.
  • Make sure your home is not full of distractions. By distractions I mean spouses, children and pets. You want your home to be quiet for you to focus as this time is limited and you have stuff to organize!
  • Turn off the electronic distractions. By stopping to check a text or post a picture to Instagram you will stop the forward progress. We are all too distracted these days, so make sure that you try to eliminate as many as possible.  
So gather your friends and start a revolution of organizing parties. We can sit around a shredder or a scanner just as well as a table in a restaurant. You will still have the quality of conversations with the added benefit of being a bit more organized!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

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