simplify 101
Creative Organizing Blog

January 05, 2012

The Project Live Giveaway Winner Is...

Project Life Giveaway Postcard
... Alexes Brown, who was chosen by random selection. Alexes commented, "I totally need this! My two little ones ages 2 and 9 months keep me so busy that I'm so behind on documenting their lives. I would be so thankful to win so I can no longer feel so bad for getting so behind."


Congratulations, Alexes! Please email jennifer at simplify101 dot com so we can arrange for your goodies to be sent to you. And thank you to everyone for entering!

December 08, 2011

Christmas Gift Ideas: Homemade Gifts

I know I just blogged last week about getting inspired by things I see on Pinterest for Christmas! Gift-giving is no exception. In fact, if anything, I actually have too many ideas for homemade gifts this year. I also find myself wishing I were more skilled when I see some of the projects out there. I am drooling over Aby’s knitting abilities. Take a look at this scarf she made, and just wait to see the gorgeous scarf she is knitting for her mom. So pretty!



I love the idea of homemade gifts, but I don’t think I actually “do” homemade very well. Maybe that’s just because of my perfectionist tendencies, but really… stuff doesn’t usually turn out the way I see it in my head. So I’ve learned that when I pick something to make as a gift, it needs to be a very low cost investment and have very few steps. (Less to mess up, and less money down the drain if it doesn’t turn out!)


That’s why I am loving the up-cycled scarves made from t-shirts. I’ve just made one for my step-mother, and my girls loved it so much that I might make one for them, too. Here is my scarf. I think I'll add a contrasting flower for a bit more embellishment. 



I’ve also pinned lots of ideas for teacher gifts, and my daughter, Joy, has picked out a very simple sugar scrub for her teacher this Christmas. Her teacher is frequently using hand sanitizer and then lotion, so we decided this is perfect for her! It’s so simple that Joy will make it herself. I will even turn off my perfectionist tendencies and allow her to make her own label and embellish it however she wants to. In the end, she will proudly hand her teacher a useful, consumable, heartfelt, hand-made gift. How sweet is that?


Do you sew? Paint? Crochet? What handmade gifts will you be giving this year?


Happy Holidays,

Jens signature black

December 07, 2011

Christmas Gift Ideas: Experience Gifts

When my husband and I asked our children what they most enjoy about the holidays and what would make this Christmas even better, we were a little bit surprised by their responses. It’s the wish lists and the toy catalogs and the presents that seem to garner most of their day-to-day holiday chatter, but their answers to this question were unrelated to all of that. They are most looking forward to the festivities that allow us to spend time with family and friends, and they would like more of that.


One of their favorite traditions is a “white elephant” gift exchange we have each year in my family. It always produces hilarious results. No money is spent on these gifts. And even more interesting is the fact that this exchange is only for the adults, and we do this after the little kids have already unwrapped all their gifts. To me, that just proves the point that what they really want, what they’re really excited about, are the experiences. The time together. The memory-making. The relationships.


It’s important to my husband and me to nurture this in our girls. I don’t expect them to tear up their wish lists anytime soon and declare a non-consumerist holiday, but I do have ideas. For starters, one of their gifts from us this year is going to be a booklet with coupons they can cash in for experiences with mom and dad. These include things like going out for hot chocolate together, letting them plan a family game night, having me come eat lunch with them at school, and play time together. (I found this fun printable to use.)



I’m also asking them to think of things they would like to do with their grandparents, aunts and uncles. That way, when asked for gift ideas, I can offer up suggestions of experiences my children would enjoy with them.


I like this idea so very much for a number of reasons. 1) Experiences are clutter-free! I won’t be nagging anyone to put away their Date with Dad or Ice Cream Excursion. 2) It’s far less consumer-driven than most of today's holiday gifts. 3) Though there will be costs associated with some of their coupons, several are free. Plus, the spending gets spread out a bit, which helps our December budget! 4) It reinforces the idea that gifts are not always things. 


Here are a few experience gift ideas for children:

  • Take a lesson together (art, cooking, fencing, karate).
  • Go on an educational fieldtrip to the zoo, museum, historical sight, science center.
  • Make a movie or dinner date.
  • Offer to teach them how to do something you do well (knit, bake, sew).


For the adults on your list:

  • Make a movie or dinner date.
  • Rather than just a gift card to their favorite store, plan a shopping spree with them.
  • Take a class together (art, cooking, dancing, rock-climbing).
  • Consider the recipients' hobbies and interests, and consider an excursion based on those. Wine tasting? Photo safari? Bird watching? Garden tour?


The possibilities are nearly endless. I think the key here is to choose something your recipient would enjoy. It shows you know something about the person and that you are interested in being part of their world. Plus, it gives you the time and space to nurture your relationship and make memories together. Now that is a gift!


Happy Holidays!

Jens signature black

November 30, 2011

Using Pinterest to Get Organized for the Holidays

I knew as soon as I joined Pinterest that this would happen… my head is just swimming in incredible ideas for the holidays thanks to all the “Pinspiration” and “Pinteresting” things I find there! If you aren’t familiar with it yet, Pinterest is web site where you can store and share all the fabulousness that you run across on the web. Think virtual bulletin board, only more organized!


Right now, I am giddy over the cool ideas for Elf on the Shelf, not to mention great gift ideas and recipes! I just love to log in and instantly see things that are fun, simple, creative, and completely doable. I realized today, though, that I’m not yet using Pinterest in a way that makes total sense – getting organized for the holidays!


As I run across gift ideas for my family, I can Pin them. As I find recipes perfect for holiday gatherings, I can Pin them. When I see cute decorating displays, I can Pin them. I love that I can add notes right then to specify who, what, when or where I am thinking of using the idea. I have been doing this to some extent, but not necessarily in the most organized way. Today, I spent a few minutes reorganizing and adding boards that are more specific. Plus, I realized I can repin to multiple boards. So, if there's a gift in my Gift Ideas board that could be given any time, but I am thinking about it now as a great holiday gift for a neighbor, it can live in both places. Hooray!



I also just added a board for things I have already tried, thanks to Pinterest.  Here’s a photo of a thankful tree I made this year.




 Here is what inspired my Thankful Tree.


To really maximize Pinterest's ability to help us organize for the holidays, here are some tips for you:

  • Create new boards specific to the holidays, such as New Year's Eve Ideas, New Traditions, Holiday Recipes, Party Planning, Holiday Gifts, etc.
  • Go through your current boards to see what could be moved or repinned to your new holiday boards. For example, you may have an outfit on a style board that you would like to replicate for a holiday event.
  • Make specific notes on pins when you pin them. Quickly jotting down thoughts like "Great gift idea for my elderly neighbor," or "Pretty Christmas dress for my daughter," will help you remember what you had in mind when you revisit this later.
  • Create a board to repin all the stuff you've tried thanks to Pinterest. Delete or make notes on pins of things you tried but didn't like, that way you won't repeat the disappointment in a year or two!


Have you found holiday inspiration on Pinterest that you can’t wait to try? Have you tried things you really loved? We'd love to hear what's Pinteresting to you!

Jens signature black

P.S. You are welcome to follow Aby  and me on Pinterest! It’s another great way for us to connect and share!

October 05, 2011

Looking for Scrapbook Ideas & Fun? True Scrap Is Coming!


This post has moved to our new blog. Go to True Scrap is Coming!



September 29, 2011

Create a Sick Stash - Organize Supplies Before You Need Them

We all do our part to avoid getting sick, but how can you be prepared for the inevitable during cold and flu season? Jennifer shares her ideas on creating a "Sick Stash" to help get her and her family through the sick days.


Cold and flu season, you are so not welcome! We have already had our first big bout of illnesses at my house, and nearly everyone I talk to seems to be coming down with, or just getting over, something. Ideally these things would strike at a more convenient time, right? But you know how it really works. In our case last week, I reached down to detect a feverish forehead just as my husband was packing for business travel. There we were – the children and me - virtually homebound for 4 days. And it’s always the way it goes, isn’t it? You are also sick, or your partner is sick, or everyone is wildly contagious and ought to be quarantined for three weeks… Ah, but I suppose there’s never truly a good time for illness, no matter what.


I did have a bright spot in the week of sickies, though. I didn’t have to text a friend to ask them to please pick up children’s ibuprofen. That seems to be the thing we never have when we need it, which is odd because it’s a medicine chest staple! I’m not the kind of person who can’t ask for help, but it was a relief to feel prepared for the illness at hand. That sense of relief got me thinking about the other things we seem to not have but really, really need when illness strikes. And then… AHA! Why did I never think of this before? If I create a stash of supplies to keep on hand, I’ll be a lot more prepared for sickness even if I am also sick/have a sick or travelling spouse/am required to wear a hazmat suit.



I made a quick list of things we seem to need or need extra of, scrounged up an unused canvas bin, and (as soon as we were well enough to get the store) put it all together. Here’s what I included:

  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Applesauce
  • White soda
  • Gatorade
  • Children’s ibuprofen
  • Tissues
  • Toilet paper
  • Cough drops
  • Disinfectant wipes



Honestly, this is all stuff that we usually have on hand (unless someone is ill and we actually really, really need it), except for the disinfectant wipes. I generally make my own cleaners and try to avoid commercial stuff. But when I’m up against something like strep or norovirus, it’s chemical warfare time. I also find it easier to grab one of those wipes and swipe over everything my sweet little germ-spreaders touch.


I am certainly not inviting illnesses to visit us again anytime soon, but I do wonder if my Sick Stash will be as handy as I expect it to be. What else would you include? What would you leave out?


Wishing you wellness,


July 05, 2011

Camp Card Ideas

Around here the last few weeks have been all about getting ready for camp. My daughter is going to her very first, week-long, overnight camp later this month. And while she is super excited…I’m starting to wonder if I really will make it through a week without talking to her…even once.

To make myself feel better, I decided to load her up with lots of notes and letters. Some will be sent with her in her duffel bag, and some will be mailed the week before she leaves for camp so the letters will arrive while she is there. This weekend, I decided to do a little creative organizing…and make some cards, notes and other goodies for her to take along with her. 


It all started with a little tin which Kailea decorated with stickers and rub-ons. 



This will be tucked inside her duffel bag and filled with the cards she will be sending home, little pens for writing her letters, and my notes to her—one for each day of the week.  



I thought it would be fun to make her a little note card scrapbook, so she can write down how she spends each of her days at camp. 




Here's a peak inside...



I also thought it would be fun to make some little notes...for whenever she may need a little pick-me-up. 



All of these little notes are tucked into a little envelope, which goes inside the little tin.



And all of the little notes have holes punched in them, so she can add them to her memory book.



 Here are a few more photos of the cards...




This card has a little note tucked inside...




I think...I'm ready to send my girl off to camp. 


Do you have any kids headed off to camp this summer? Any tips for this first time camper Mom? I'd love to hear from you!

April 06, 2010

Create an Errands Center Mini Zone

Today's post is a sample of my weekly organizing quick tip. If you don't currently subscribe, you can sign up here. Enjoy. :)

A simple yet effective approach to controlling clutter is to establish “mini zones”—compact areas in your home that house everything you need to complete routine tasks or activities. Mini zones are covered in detail in my online workshop Quick + Simple Clutter Control (which starts this Thursday, April 8th).


In the meantime, to whet your mini zone appetite, here’s a simple and fun idea that will make your weekly errand shopping a notch more efficient. Put together an errands mini zone, stocked with everything you need to plan and execute errands and shopping trips. Creating your errands mini zone is as simple as corralling the following items into a basket or bin.

  • A pre-printed grocery list / menu planning sheet
  • Paper or note pads for other shopping lists
  • Pens or pencils
  • A recipe binder loaded with your favorite recipes and meal ideas
  • A clipboard to use while shopping
  • Store circulars
  • Small accordion file for coupons, gift cards and frequent buyer cards


Now all that’s left to do is shop!

Happy shopping,


P.S. If you’d like more ideas for creating clutter-busting mini zones plus a host of other terrific clutter control solutions, join me in Quick + Simple Clutter Control. Class begins Thursday—so learn more today! 

August 05, 2009

Back to School Idea: Lunchbox Notes

One of my favorite organizing solutions for the school year is my lunch bin, something I blogged about a few years ago. It is still going strong and making the everyday task of lunch prep a notch simpler and a notch more enjoyable.

One of the items I have tucked inside my lunch bin is a supply of lunchbox notes. I found these “lunch mail” notes when my son was starting kindergarten. I fell in love with the idea of surprising him with a little extra something in his lunchbox. I didn’t put a note in every single day, which added to the element of surprise and made note days even more special.


(Photo from the compendium inc. website)

Here are some ideas and resources for stocking up on your own lunchbox notes.

Buy pre-made lunch notes. I found these super-cute lunch notes at Starbucks this summer, on clearance. They already have messages printed on them – but there’s room to also add something of your own, if you like.


I noticed they were made by Compendium, so I checked out their site, and found they carry the lunch mail notes I originally purchased years ago, plus a variety of others like the “You’re incredible” series, and “dream big” and “I’m proud of you.” These are seriously cute. They’re such a great way to send your love to school with your child in his or her lunchbox–which can be great therapy for Mom and child alike.

Make your own notes ahead of time.If you’re up for a creative project, pull together some basic craft supplies and make a few custom-made notes before school (a.k.a. the busy season!) begins. Use up some of your cardstock and patterned paper scraps, and some of your almost-gone-but-I-can’t-throw-them-away-yet letter stickers or phrase stickers. Your kids won’t care if their notes don’t use up-to-the-minute supplies, so it’s a terrific opportunity to breathe new life into some of your older supplies. If you don’t scrapbook, you can still get in on the fun. How about finding fun words and phrases in magazines and make some ransom note inspired lunchbox notes. That sounds fun, doesn’t it?


Create notes on the fly.At the end of the day, the truly important thing here is sending a note to school with your child. This can be as simple as jotting down a quick “I love you” or “Good luck on your test today” on any piece of paper you happen to have around. So if you’re short on time or don’t want to purchase pre-made notes (or can’t choose just one style because they’re all too cute!) consider this last option. Simply corral together some small pieces of paper and some markers, and stow them with your lunch-making supplies, along with any purchased or custom-made notes. You’ll be ready to spread a dose of cheer any time the mood strikes!


Do you have any ideas to add? I’d love to hear from you! 

July 20, 2009

Make a Quick & Simple Travel Planner

I have gotten a lot of emails about the travel planner article that I wrote for the July I thought I'd post the article on the blog. That way if you happen to accidentally delete your newsletter before your next vacation, you'll know where to find the article. :) Or if you signed up for the newsletter after this article was sent out, you'll know where to find the article. Or if you're new to the site /'ll get a chance to read the article. Hope you enjoy!  :)


Make a Quick & Simple Travel Planner
By Aby Garvey

Travel-planner If you love to travel, I’d be willing to bet you also love to take photos and collect travel memorabilia, too. Is that you? But actually tackling the job of figuring out what to do with all these treasures once you get back home can make you feel like you need another vacation just to recover! This simple travel planner project will not only help you stay organized while you’re away, but you’ll also have an easy-to-put-together travel keepsake when you get back home. Sound like a plan? All you need is a few supplies, a travel destination, and these simple instructions.

Step 1: Collect your supplies. To create a travel planner you’ll need a few basic supplies.

  • One 7" x 9" mini binder
  • Several sheets of 8-1/2” x 11” acid-free paper (one or two sheets for each day you’ll be away). 
  • Sheet protectors sized to fit your binder. 
  • Photo-safe adhesive. 
  • Fine point black marker. 
  • Travel-themed scrapbook embellishments such as patterned paper, rub-ons, stickers, chipboard letters, ribbon, and tags. 
  • Personal paper trimmer. 
  • Computer and word processing software. 
  • Camera.

Step 2: Plan your trip. As you set up your trip, record your travel details on this preformatted Word document, allocating one sheet per day. On the left side, type the day of the trip, the date, and your destination for that day. Under “Plans” list your itinerary, including flight information, hotel confirmation numbers, phone numbers, addresses, driving directions, sightseeing destinations, and shops or restaurants you plan to visit. Leave space below the “Our Memories” heading; you’ll use this as a journal while you’re traveling. (The right half of the page should be blank. This will be used for photos and / or additional journaling.)

When your plans are set, print your itinerary/memory pages on acid-free paper and use a paper trimmer to cut the sheets in half. (The “left” pages will have your daily itinerary and memories section, and the “right” pages will be blank.) Before printing, make sure your printer is set up to print in landscape orientation.

Step 3: Embellish your pages and binder. There are a number of ways to dress up your binder. Decorate the cover using chipboard letters and craft adhesive to spell out the name of your destination. Use strips of cardstock (approximately 3/8” wide) to embellish your pages (travel themed rub-ons or stickers can add a nice touch as well). Don’t over-decorate the individual pages—you’ll want to have plenty of room for photos and travel mementos.

Step 4: Set up your binder. Slide each itinerary and corresponding memory page into sheet protectors and insert them facing one another into your binder. Include extra blank pages and empty sheet protectors for days when you have a lot to record, and as a place to stash memorabilia you collect along the way. Add a map of your overall travel destination and / or specific locales. (You may need to do some cutting to fit these inside your sheet protectors.)

Step 5: Create and collect memories. Tuck your binder and a journaling pen into your carry-on and keep it with you during your outings—for referring to directions and other essential information, or storing brochures, postcards, business cards, menus, ticket stubs, coasters, and other interesting bits of paper you encounter along the way. Simply slide your treasures into the extra sheet protector designated for that day of the trip. Also, remember to take lots of photos each day you’re away!

Step 6: Record your reflections. Each day, chronicle your memories under the header called “Our Memories.” What did you do? What was most enjoyable? Did anything funny, extraordinary, or wonderful happen that you don’t want to forget? Capture these thoughts while they’re fresh in your mind and as an added way to focus on the fun you’re having on your trip.

Step 7: Turn your planner into a treasured keepsake. When you return home, turn your planner into a mini vacation scrapbook. Print out one 3” x 5” and one or two wallet-sized photos for each day of your trip. Attach these to the blank page for each day using photo-safe adhesive, and embellish your page with the memorabilia you collected on your trip. In no time at all, your handy travel planner will become a cherished lasting memento of your vacation – for years to come!


The finished project! The left page includes travel plans printed on the computer using the preformatted Word documents. Daily reflections were hand-written below. The right page includes photos. Each page includes simple embellishments—narrow like strips of paper and travel-themed rub-ons.

Bon voyage!


P.S. You’ll find that doing this little bit of preparation makes your trip and its chronicling so much easier, and really, so much fun! For a dose of this same kind of common-sense and easy-to-accomplish organizing know-how for any other paper clutter that ails you, you can sign up for Organize Your Paper Clutter. Class is in-session but there's still plenty of time to join us. You’ll be so glad you did. :)

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