simplify 101
Creative Organizing Blog

December 14, 2011

Christmas Gift Ideas: Books

One of the items on my Christmas wish list each year is at least one book. I love it when I find a book under the tree, especially if it’s one loaded with inspiring photos. Then, my Christmas Day is set:  after we open gifts and eat breakfast, I spend the better part of the day relaxing on the couch with my new book. (I hope Santa reads my blog…)


Books are also one of my favorite gifts to give. So I thought it would be fun to share a few books that would make great gifts for someone on your list, or to add as a last minute addition to your own wish list.


First up is Mamarazzi, the perfect book for any mom on your list who wants take better photos of their kids. (And really, what Mom doesn’t want to do that?) In this book, professional photographers share their secrets for taking great photos of kids of every age (including toddlers and teens.) Written by professional photography and mom, Stacy Wasmuth, the book is loaded with tips from Stacy as well as other photography super stars like Tara Whitney (one of my personal favorites.) This is absolutely the kind of book I’d love to find under my tree on Christmas morning—it is the perfect mix of inspiring photos and extremely useful information.



Next up is Better Homes and Gardens New Decorating Book. If you or someone on your holiday shopping list has home decorating projects on the New Year to-do list, this book is a must-have resource. The book includes hundreds of beautiful photos and tips to help you “think like a decorator” as you apply the ideas to your own spaces. You’ll also love the organizing tips that are sprinkled throughout the book. If you’re a fan of Better Homes & Gardens magazine (like I am), then you’ll love this book. Inside you’ll find everything you love about the magazine presented in one inspiring package. Again, this is a perfect book for a Christmas morning on the couch – lots of photos coupled with easy-to-read text. I think the only trouble will be staying on the couch Christmas day (instead of jumping up and starting a project!)



For the blogging mom in your life, pick up a copy of Mom Blogging for Dummies, by Wendy Piersall. Whether she is interested in starting her own blog, or she has a blog that is ready to go from hobby to business, this book is loaded with current information on all things blogging. Contents include discovering, building and expanding a blog, mistakes to avoid, and examples of other successfully blogging mamas. The real meat of the book offers hands-on guidance for attracting advertisers and sponsors. As with most “for Dummies” books, it’s well organized and can be read cover-to-cover or in chunks to help her quickly get the info she needs when she needs it.



Are you giving any books for gifts this holiday season? Or do you have any books on your own wish list? If so, which ones are you giving or hoping to receive? I’d love to hear (and maybe add a book or two to my own wish list!) Thanks for sharing!


November 01, 2011

Get Organized for the Holidays Online Workshop Q + A

Get Organized for the Holidays started today and I'm so excited. It’s so fun to be back in this workshop. Several of the participants have made this workshop a holiday tradition—some are back for their third session of this workshop!


So you may be thinking...hmm...must not work so well if they keep coming back. Right? Well, they actually come back because this workshop did work for them. :) It helped them create the kind of holiday season they wanted to have. But don't take it from's what some of this year’s classmates said in their welcome posts in the forum:


“This workshop really helps me get on track with my holiday planning. My goal is to have a stress free Christmas and to get to enjoy some fun activities in the festive season.” 

“I think this is three years now for this class. It helped me SOOOOOOOOOOOO much - I remember the first time thinking I probably wouldn't get much out of it .... but WOW it really helped me organise my Christmas.”

“I think it is my favorite of Aby's classes.”



I've been getting quite a few emails about this workshop, so I thought I would post the answers here. If you have a question that isn’t listed here, just post it in the commments! I’m happy to help. Alright…on to the Q & A:


Is this workshop a webinar? Are there a certain times each day of the week we are suppose to watch it?

Get Organized for the Holidays is an online workshop, but it’s not a video workshop or webinar. This means you can do the workshop any time of day or night that works for you. 

My concern is I am so busy during the week but could possibly do the workshop on the weekend or maybe a week night. Would that work? 

Absolutely! Lessons for the Get Organized for the Holidays workshop are released on Tuesdays. Once a lesson is released, you can read the lesson and do the action steps any time that fits your schedule. You don’t need to be available to connect at a specific time. Instead, the workshop system is available 24/7 while the workshop is in session. So you can post a question for me or a discussion topic for your classmates anytime you’d like.


How does an online workshop work? How are the lessons provided? 

When you sign up for Get Organized for the Holidays (or any other simplify 101 online workshop) you gain access to a private area of the simplify 101 website. The lesson content is delivered in this private area in three ways: 

1. Online web pages you can read.

2. Audio files (MP3s that you can listen to on your iPod, phone, mp3 player). And 

3. PDF documents you can print and read.

This area of our website also includes a private forum where you can ask questions and share your holiday plans with your classmates and me!


Do these online workshops work for people anywhere in the world? 

Yes, these workshops most definitely work for people anywhere in the world. We have students from all over the world in all of our workshops. For the holiday workshop this is one of the most fun parts (for me anyway)—sharing and learning about the different holiday traditions all over the world.


I’m really busy during the holidays. How will I fit this into my already busy schedule?

This workshop is less time intensive than other simplify 101 workshops such as the Paper Clutter workshop. Also, instead of adding new items to your to-do list, this workshop is designed to help you simplify the items that you’ll be doing this time of year anyway. You’ll create a holiday plan you can use year after year to simplify the must-do tasks on your list, so you have more time for the seasonal activities that are most meaningful and enjoyable to you and your family members. 


Can I still join this workshop even though it started today?

Yes, absolutely! There’s still plenty of time to join the fun! 


What if I join this workshop and then decide it isn’t for me?

We realize that online workshops may not be for everyone. So if you join this workshop and decide it isn't your cup of tea, we offer a full, no-questions-asked refund in accordance with our cancellation policy.


If you still aren’t sure if this workshop is for you, take a look these testimonials from past participants of Get Organized for the Holidays. I hope you’ll join me for this once-a-year tradition at simplify 101, and make 2011 your favorite holiday season yet! 


October 19, 2011

Storage Solution of the Week: an “Up-cycled” Glass Bottle

In celebration of my new VIDEO online workshop Organize Your Kitchen (which is now open for enrollment – woohoo!) this week’s storage solution is for the kitchen. The idea of upcycling an item in your home to give it purpose and infuse your space with style, however, can be used in any room! I hope you are inspired to look at the items in your home with fresh eyes and put this idea into action soon.

What it is:  An old olive oil bottle repurposed for use as a dish soap decanter. 



Where I got it:  The bottle came from Folie à Deux Winery near Napa Valley. I got it in 1997. The dispenser top came from Bed Bath and Beyond in St. Louis, and I got it last week.

Why I love it:  On the surface, this storage solution looks like a bottle being used to dispense dish soap in a stylish way. For me, that could be enough. I love the idea of replacing the plastic, retail packaging for dish soap with a container that is a more stylish and attractive. This simple upcycling makes the everyday task of washing dishes a drop more fun.

But this particular bottle is even better because it’s meaningful to me. And I love infusing spaces with meaningful items. If they have a purpose, all the better! This bottle is one of a handful of little souvenirs I brought home in my suitcase after our honeymoon to Napa Valley in 1997. Now, in 2011, as part of my kitchen reorganization and spruce up project, I’ve pulled this bottle out from the depths of the cabinet under our sink and put it to use. Now, this little honeymoon memento is out on display, serving a useful function in a space I use every single day. What’s not to love about that?


This week’s storage tip is less about using a glass jar to decant dish soap (though that alone could make your heart sing, if you’re anything like me), but is more about looking at items in a new way. What meaningful item in your home could be put to use serving a stylish and useful purpose? I have used a ceramic bowl from a Florida vacation to corral sponges and dish scrubbers in the past.



And my spoon rest is a ceramic dish from a trip to visit a friend in Chicago. When I see these things in my kitchen, they make me happy and yet, they still perform important kitchen tasks.




When you marry meaning with purpose, you’ll love how your spaces look and feel. This will give you one more incentive to keep your spaces organized going forward.

Do you use meaningful items in functional ways to organize in your home? If you do, I’d love to hear the item you use and how you use it. If you don’t do this yet, begin looking at your items with new eyes. What meaningful vessel could you upcycle into a functional and inspiring storage solution? I can’t wait to hear what you come up with! Thanks for sharing. 


October 12, 2011

Storage Solution of the Week: the Lazy Susan

 What it is: Today’s storage pick is the Lazy Susan.

Lazy susan 1-copyright simplify 101

Where I got it: I got the wooden lazy Susan pictured here at Target several years ago. But Lazy Susans come in a variety of materials including wood, metal and plastic, and they’re pretty easy to find at stores that carry containers and other organizing products. 

Why I love it: In general, what I most love about a Lazy Susan is that it—or rather she—makes what would be unusable, invisible and hard to access storage space easy to reach and see. You can use a Lazy Susan on a deep shelf (such as in your refrigerator or in deep closet) and suddenly, the stuff in the back is no longer out of sight or out of mind. Just give Susan a quick spin, and viola! you have easy access to all those things that just moments before were hiding in the back of that deep, dark storage area. How clever is Susan?


Lazy susan 2-copyright simplify101

I use my wooden Lazy Susan out in the open in my scrapbook room, but being able to give her a quick spin makes all my frequently used tools easy to see and access. (Plus, I love how it looks!) I’ve also used the wooden Lazy Susan for fondue dinner parties, which makes for less passing of sauces and raw food, and more time to for chatting and leisurely cooking the fondue. 

Do you use Lazy Susans anywhere in your home? If so, I’d love to hear how you use yours! Thanks for sharing. 


September 02, 2011

Organizing with Your Kids: How do you persuade kids that it is worth being organized?

Before we get to the blog post, I have something exciting to share. You may have noticed that there's a lot going on this week! It’s a new month…so there’s a new checklist. There’s a new workshop and a new instructor. And just when you thought I was done with all the new stuff…I’ve got something else new to share. Okay, I should really say I’ve got someone else new to share with you…and I couldn’t be more excited! Please meet Jennifer McClure.


Jennifer-McClure-250 Jennifer is the newest addition to the simplify 101 team. She joined us earlier this month as our marketing + content coordinator. Part of Jennifer’s role on the team is to contribute to the Creative Organizing blog! I’m beyond thrilled to have Jennifer’s fresh ideas, energy and talents—on the blog and elsewhere at simplify 101. Jennifer is the mom of two school-aged girls, and in her first post she shares first-hand how she has started answering the question “How do you persuade kids that it is worth being organized.” An answer Jennifer found lies in tapping into the other things your kids are naturally interested in. But…I’ll let Jennifer share all of that with you. Please join me in welcoming Jennifer to simplify 101!


It isn’t for lack of interest in being organized, I am sure of that. I actually think that she is a naturally organized person, if that’s even something you can truly assess at age 8. Yet time and again we are both completely overwhelmed when room-cleaning day rolls around. Every flat surface is covered in stuff, and the perimeter of her room is lined with piles. Neat piles that don’t bother her, mind you, but piles and piles nonetheless. She doesn’t know where to begin, and frankly, how could she? The chaos that is her bedroom is enough to make a grown mama cry.


I’ve helped, cajoled, offered advice, given suggestions. Some of it has been well received. She did embrace the concept of labeling, and now her storage cubbies are set aside for things like “piggy bank” and “tomorrow’s jewelry.” But unfortunately for us both, most of my sage words have met obstinate refusal. (Ah, that’s my fiercely independent eldest daughter, Joy.)  


So you might imagine how an American Girl book entitled Clutter Control: Tips and Crafts to Organize Your Bedroom, Backpack, Locker, Life would catch my eye, yes? After a quick thumb-through, I felt it would be well worth $8.95. “Hmmm, this looks kind of cool,” I quietly mused as I thumbed through it. This quickly caught Joy's attention as this was a perfect storm of her interests... books + American Girl = Hello! I let her take a peak and within moments she was asking if I would please, please, please buy it for her. “Well,” I said, “let’s see.” Respectable pause here. “OK, I guess if you really think you would like to try out these tips, we can get the book.” (Ha! I love having these clever, stealthy parenting moments, don’t you?)


Joy loves the book, particularly the fun, colorful labels supplied in the back. She excitedly asked her teacher on the first day of school if she could affix the “Take Me Home” label to her folder.



She loves that the book instructs her to focus on one area at a time, and her desk is an area she has been able to maintain pretty well. She loves… get ready… using a binder for her papers. I bought the girl a pretty binder and a pink 3-hole-punch, and she was over the moon!



She now has a paper management system of her own that actually works for her. Papers she wants to keep on display now hang from her new “gallery,” and other papers are either stored in the binder or recycled. Oh, thank you, American Girl! We may still have some cluttered surfaces and piles to sort through, but the few practices that she has already adopted are already paying dividends. 



I’ve learned some things here, as well. Organizing can be fun, even for kids. The question is really how to make it fun. I used to try to set up tubs and challenge my girls to toss the toys into them. That could sometimes create a few moments of fun, but my girls aren’t very athletic. It didn’t hold their interest. So, now I feel like I am onto a couple things. 1) Things my kids are interested in can help inspire them, even in an area like being organized.  2) If it can be their idea, it’s infinitely more successful than something I am trying to force on them. 


This weekend, I plan to mention all the cool things simplify 101 is going to do in the Organizing with Your Kids workshop that begins Sep. 6, 2011. I hope at least one of my children thinks this sounds like a fun thing to do with Mom and asks to sign up! 

~ Jennifer

September 01, 2011

You're invited to an online scrapbook event!

Hey my scrapbooking buddies...this post is for you. Have you ever wished you could go to a scrapbook getaway and learn from expert scrapbookers? But then there was the price of admission, air fare, meals, and the hotel (not to mention convincing your hubby that he really could handle the kiddos for an entire weekend while you ran away with your friends). Well...if this sounds familiar then you have to check out Spawn of True Scrap. Registration just opened today for this amazing weekend of scrapbooking and fun.  For just $127 you get 17 classes taught by 17 fabulous instructors! PLUS recordings of all the classes and a virtual make and take. (And you can do it all in your p.j.’s from the comfort of your own home!) How great is that?


Just check out this line up of instructor’s and their fabulous classes:

Design Your Story with Embellishment Gatherings {Noell Hyman}

Quick and Easy Digital Pages {Renee Pearson}

Show Me the Money! A Dozen Ways to Make Money Scrapbooking {Lain Ehmann}

Going Off the Grid: Creating layouts that are anything but square {Lisa Dickinson}

From Pages to Cards [Kristina Werner}

Stamping on Scrapbook Layouts {Nichol Magouirk}

Super Stamping Secrets II {Jennifer McGuire}

Spray Inks De-Mist-ified {Francine Clauden}

Ready, Set, Distress! {Nic Howard}

Phoning It In: Using cell phone photos effectively {Tami Morrison}

Mixed-Media Scrapbook Pages {Erin Bassett}

Solutions for Small Scrapbook Spaces {Aby Garvey}

Creating Digital Templates for Photo Printing {Paula Gilarde}

Go with the Flow: Creating flow in your scrapbook albums {Shimelle Laine}

Freud on Scrapbooking: Sometimes a page isn’t just a page… Inspiration for Free! {Kelli Crowe}

Photo Composition {Katrina Kennedy}

Stitch it. Dot it. Edge it. {May Flaum}

…Plus special guest interview with Cathy Zielske

This fabulous, three day online event will happen October 20-22 LIVE from your computer! Mark your calendar and then grab your spot here! I look forward to seeing you there! 

August 31, 2011

New Workshop + New Workshop Instructor

I am jumping-out-of-my-seat-excited to introduce to you the newest simplify 101 workshop AND our new workshop instructor! Woohoo! 



If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you’ve heard me talk about my friend, professional organizer Janine Adams who owns Peace of Mind Organizing. Janine and I met about six years ago at a National Association of Professional Organizers meeting in St. Louis. Janine is one of those super friendly people who just draws you in—you want to spend time with her doing just about anything…shopping, organizing, eating lunch, being her email and gratitude accountability partner, volunteering at festivals, and so on. Over the years Janine and I have become great friends. She is someone I know I can always count on. She’s there for me when I get in a pinch (okay, panic) because I need a new outfit for a big event and when I need someone to cheer me on and get to the bottom of my email in-box. 


When we had the idea to introduce a new workshop instructor at simplify 101—I instantly thought of Janine. Not only would I get to spend time with Janine working on the workshop, but (even better) all of you would benefit by learning from her. Janine is a super talented organizer with terrific ideas to share with you.


Routines_150x150_copyright-simplify101So what’s Janine’s workshop all about you? I’m so glad you asked! As you know, I firmly believe that being organized is a combination of two things: getting organized and creating the habits to stay organized. Janine’s workshop will teach you about the second part of that equation—how to create new habits. Whether you want to create better eating habits, better financial habits or habits that will help you keep your home clutter-free—the ideas in this workshop are for you. Janine’s workshop, Simplify Your Life with Habits and Routines is an excellent complement to the other workshops offered by simplify 101. Her workshop begins October 4, 2011. Sign up by September 8, 2011 to take advantage of early bird savings. 

June 28, 2011

the stocked kitchen - an organized approach to dinner

The-stocked-kitchen-copyright-simplify101 If you’re like many of the people who take my online workshops, meal planning is on your “get organized” to-do list. That’s why I was super excited when I was contacted about the book the stocked kitchen by Sarah Kallio and Stacey Krastins. The concept behind this book is brilliant. Every single one of the 300 plus recipes in the cookbook can be made from a single list of ingredients—the stocked kitchen grocery list. So, not only will this book simplify getting dinner on the table, but it will also simplify grocery shopping and keeping your pantry organized. (Love that.)


The book includes recipes for appetizers, so you’ll never have to stress-out about what to prepare for a last minute get together. And of course it is also loaded with yummy breakfast, main course and side dish recipes, plus really delicious sounding deserts like carrot cake, lemon bars, and peanut butter brownie sundae. (Yum, I’ll take one of those now, please.) Last week I tried the tomato–artichoke pasta with ingredients I had on hand in my own pantry. It was super fast and simple to make, and very tasty. (The publisher provided a download of the tomato-artichoke pasta recipe if you want to give it a try!)


I was also thrilled to see that many of the recipes in this cookbook have the meat listed as an optional component. The recipes are made from real, basic ingredients, so you’ll avoid buying an exotic ingredient for one recipe only to find the mostly full bottle in the back of your pantry months later. The book doesn’t just share recipes, you also get advice on how to “get stocked,” with ideas on organizing your kitchen and stocking up on the essential pantry items. And if all of this weren’t enough, the book comes with tear-out shopping lists, which means it will be simple to re-stock your stocked kitchen. 


The two things I wish the book had are nutrition information for each of the recipes and more photos of the prepared dishes.  But all in all, for me the pros of this book and the organized approach to meal planning outweigh those two missing ingredients. (Pun intended.)


Last but not least, the two ladies behind the stocked kitchen are from my home state of Michigan. In fact, they live in Grand Haven, a place we try to visit every time we visit Michigan in the summer because of the incredible beach. (In fact here’s a photo of me with my Dad in Grand Haven last summer.)



For some reason, the fact that these two ladies are from Michigan (and one of them went to Michigan State) just adds to my excitement about the book. If you’ve ever moved away from “home”, maybe you understand how anything that connects you to your home state is just…well…a notch more fun.


So if you’ve been looking for an organized and simplified approach to getting yummy dishes on your table, check out the stocked kitchen. This book will be available starting July 5, 2011.

June 02, 2011

Decorating Your Home for Summer

Around here it’s starting to get hot outside, which has me dreaming of a cool retreat inside. Do you like to change out your home décor when the seasons change? I love the changing seasons and I love to celebrate each season by changing up my inside décor. Here are simple ways to welcome summer indoors and make it feel a notch cooler inside, too.


  • Display seashells, sand or beach glass in jars or bowls.


  • Roll up heavy rugs and let your floors go bare.
  • Remove just a few of the items you have out on display to create white space for your eye. An uncluttered room feels cooler and allows air to move freely throughout your space.
  • Display memorabilia from a prior summer vacations or place vacation scrapbooks in a bowl or basket for easy reminiscing.


  • Replace heavy bed linens or throws with lighter ones.
  • Cover dark or heavy sofas with white, cotton slipcovers.
  • Replace formal candles sticks with lanterns to create a casual look reminiscent of summers spent camping. 



  • Change out throw pillows to add pops of bright, summer-time colors.
  • Clean out the fire place and put potted plants or candles on display inside.
  • Cut fresh flowers from the garden, or pick up a bunch from the market.


What do you do to decorate for summer inside your home? Thanks for sharing your ideas!

November 30, 2010

Congratulations to....

...Jennifer who said "Oh, gosh, I wouldn't know which area to ask you to organize LOL! I could sure use some coaching ... great giveaway!" You are the winner of the one-on-one coaching package. Congrats, Jennifer! Email me for details and to get started.


Thanks to everyone who entered! By the way, check back this Friday for another Freebie Friday post. This week I have a super fun giveaway from FranklinCovey. (Woohoo --- thank you FranklinCovey!) In the meantime, check out their fun, interactive Gift Finder that will help you find the perfect gift. Very cool. :)

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