I've dreamed for years about writing a book.
In fact, in college, I wrote a children's book about my brother and I that I read every single year to my students. And then they read and reread it.
I never published it though, like my mom said I should. I just ordered it printed through an online scrapbooking site.
For now though, I decided that there's no time like the present to make a dream come true.
In the summer of 2017 (five years ago now!), as we were purchasing and moving into the farmhouse, I started to dream about writing a book for adults.
Just sharing my story and some lessons I've learned on this journey called life.
You might have seen that I've published a morning routine journal this year and I've created a little farmhouse 654 blank notes journal.
And today, I've added a printable eBook to my published books.
You might have noticed that I've added a new tab to the blog called "freebies".
I've decided to feature one freebie a week over on my Instagram page.
The printable documents you'll find on the freebie page will range from home management to parenting, from marriage to wall art. I'm just hoping to share some of the tools that I use in my day-to-day life with you all, so be watching for that on Fridays!
Today, I want to showcase a printable I shared a few weeks ago and give a little background as to how it has been helping our family!
We just weren't great at managing all of the ideas and projects we had for our property.
We moved into the farmhouse in summer of 2017 and immediately completed some of our big projects.
We added a bathroom upstairs, tore down an old barn on the property, and made some minor cosmetic changes to the house, in the first few weeks that we owned the house.
And then...it was time for the school year to start.
Every once in a while through the school year, we would find time over a weekend or a break to complete a project or two. However, for every bit of progress we made, we ended up adding three or four new projects to our "to do" list. There was never a time that we felt we had done EVERYthing we needed to do to get the property how we wanted it to be!
Looking back at pictures of what our property looked like back in the 40s, 70s, and even the 90s...I always felt a little ashamed that we could not figure out how to get the whole place the way we wanted for it to be.
Over each summer, when the girls and I were off school, we would try hard to knock out some big projects...but like I said before, we would add several NEW tasks to the list, as we worked through other items.
Fast-forward to 2020.
Due to COVID-19, the girls and I had been doing school and working from home for a few months, so we had been able to get some decluttering & organizing projects complete.
However, Mr. Farmhouse was still working, so some of the bigger projects were still on the back burner -- until May, that is.
Because several people around our house had some storm damage, Mr. Farmhouse drove home on his lunch break to check our place. He called me as he was driving up to the property and said, "You'd better come on home."
One of our barns was blown completely over (as you can see in the photos below). By the end of the insurance inspection, we needed a new roof on the house, new guttering, a new barn, a new carport, a new roof on another one of the sheds, a new swing set, a new basketball goal, and some other items that were broken in the storm.
Sidenote: We feel so very blessed to say that nobody was hurt on our property during this storm. We know that buildings and belongings can be replaced and we are grateful that our most challenging part of this project was cleaning up and rebuilding.
The night of the storm, we began cleaning up and continued through the next few weeks, during our free time.
Parts of our barn were found a few miles away.
The girls' playhouse was in pieces all up and down our road. In fact, we found one of the chairs that was inside the playhouse up IN a tree.
Storms are crazy.
We made steady progress cleaning up from the storm, but honestly -- we were not moving as quickly as I would have hoped and of course, the rebuilding tasks were in addition to the "house projects" list we had started in 2017.
And then came the dreaded q-word -- quarantine.
We were exposed to COVID-19 and had to stay home for fourteen full days...all of us.
It was in the heat of July and we decided to use our time together in a productive way. We started knocking out unfinished projects left and right.
We built a loft playhouse for the girls.
We cleaned out the old barn.
We did all of the dirt work for the new garage we were getting ready to build.
And now...eight months later, we are still making progress.
So how did we do it? And could our method work for YOUR family? I think so.
On the very first day of quarantine, we sat down together and made a list of every single project that we needed to accomplish at the farmhouse -- big and small.
Then we chose what projects we thought we could get finished on Day 1.
We worked through the day and enjoyed our evenings together -- with bonfires, movie nights, and softball games in the yard.
We repeated this process for the fourteen days of quarantine and at the end of the two weeks, it was crazy what we had accomplished.
After we completed so many projects in fourteen days, it really inspired us to continue this journey even when we went back to work.
This is when the four-week plan was born.
Instead of meeting every morning to plan our days out, we started adding this conversation into our Sunday night family meetings. At the beginning of each month, we would use our "four-week plan" worksheet to fill in some goals for the next four weeks. Then we would try to accomplish these items during our free time.
The next Sunday night, we would revisit and revise our list for the upcoming week.
This process served us well over the last six months and we've continued to mark larger tasks off of our lists.
A few months ago, right after Christmas, Mr. Farmhouse and I decided that we should probably refinance the house soon. We talked to our lender and decided that we would try to prepare for an appraisal over my spring break in mid-March.
This decision meant that we wanted to kick our four-week plan concept into high gear over the next few months.
We filled out a four-week plan sheet with every space in the house that we wanted to focus on and then we listed all the tasks we needed to complete in those spaces on a "detailed plans" page. You can find an editable version of this form on my Freebies page or HERE.
If you are like us -- naturally DISorganized and in need of a checklist to work through projects, grab this free printable and start your four-week plan this weekend!
Working hard at the farmhouse,
1. Divide and Conquer
Our 14-year-old does at least one load of laundry each day for the whole family...sometimes two. She knows that this is a daily expectation and has built it in as part of her before school and after school schedule. The 6-year-old gathers the laundry from downstairs and takes it to the laundry room to help her big sister out.
Our 11-year-old is in charge of dishes at our house. She runs the dishwasher at night and puts the dishes away before school.
Mr. Farmhouse and I have daily chores that we complete, as well.
As John Heywood said back in the 1500s..."Many hands make light work."
2. Daily Routines are Key
My morning routine is an integral part of every morning. It starts when I make my bed and ends when I finish up my prayer journal before I leave for work. Making my bed takes about 4.2 seconds each day. I get dressed and ready for work by 6:00 and I have half an hour to do my Bible study and prayer time before heading out the door at 6:30.
Our after school routine is just as important -- for me, I walk in, take care of the mail, and get supper going. The girls go ahead and do their farm chores when they get home, then do homework, and relax.
Before bed, we do a quick pick-up (see step 3 below).
3. Quick Pick-Up
Before bed, we do what we call a 15-minute quick pick-up. Basically, we set a timer for 15 minutes and the whole family gets to work picking up the main rooms of the house (living room, dining room, kitchen, mud room, and hallway). Everyone just digs in and picks up whatever has been left out and puts it away. We are usually finished before the 15-minute mark, but this has seriously revolutionized our "house-keeping" when we keep this habit! By picking up each night, we don't let the house get out of control!
4. When in Doubt, Throw it Out
I used to use this phrase when trying to decide if it would be safe to eat leftover food. However, I have come to use it when discussing random extra items in our home.
By nature, I am a keeper. I have been raised to keep things that we might need in the future, to keep things that have sentimental value, and to keep things that I "hope to accomplish someday".
After reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White, Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith, and Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin, my mindset on this has changed immensely.
We still have "stuff". Our house is definitely not a stereotypical "minimalist" home. However, we are so much more ruthless when it comes to being intentional with what we allow to take up space here at the farmhouse. It we don't love it or need it...out it goes.
5. Make it Look Like a Magazine
This is a phrase I'm borrowing from my dad. Growing up, when we were cleaning house and reported a room finished, Dad would ask us if the room "looked like a magazine" before he came to check it.
Our home doesn't "look like a magazine" all the time, but when we went through and did a huge cleaning and organization project through every room of the house this past year, we tried to get every room to that point. We went through each room and decluttered, completed any undone projects, and decorated the space with finishing touches that made it feel "homey" and "cozy".
When a room is intentionally organized and decorated in this way, it's easier to get it back to that state when cleaning.
So, there are my five tips that are helping us to learn to stay organized!
What would you add to the list?
Tune in the next few weeks for some more "lessons from the farmhouse" in different areas of life!
Working on our refinance list today at the farmhouse,
Back before COVID-19 hit, I was part of a "supper swap" group with some girlfriends.
Hot meals on the table five nights a week and I was only responsible for ONE of them.
And if I'm being completely honest, it was nothing short of amazing.
While we're not completely "opened up" from our stay-at-home orders yet, I still want to share this concept for those of you that might be looking for a way to save a little money and eat at home more often once we're free to be out and about.
1. Form Your Supper Swap Group
Our Supper Swap group included my sisters-in-law, a few friends, and my mom.
For us, having five families in our group worked best. We each cooked one night per week. On the weekends, we ate leftovers and cooked for our own families.
Before we began this process, we listed out how many servings each family would need, any allergies, and any dislikes.
2. Fill out the Supper Swap Calendar
We used Google Docs to fill out our Supper Swap template. I put the dates in ahead-of-time and then the members of our group went in and decided what date each week would work for them to cook.
We also shared what meals we were planning on making. Our meals consisted of a main dish and one or two sides. Sometimes the side dishes were already cooked and sometimes, we would send canned goods for the family to fix. Every once in a while, someone would send a dessert, as well.
Another thing to discuss with your group is how each family will get their food.
For my family, my mom's house was a central location with an accessible refrigerator right inside the back door. So our group just made sure all the food was at her house by 4:00 each evening. Each family was responsible for picking up their own supper package.
Some other families might do a drop-off, where the family that cooks takes the meals around to the various families, depending on how close you all live to each other.
A third option might be for each family to pick up their own meals at the cook's house each night.
This is something your group will need to work out. My sister-in-law and I live very close together, so every once in a while, we would just grab both meals for both families. One of our friend's kids rode the bus that my sister-in-law drives, so sometimes she would just drop her meal off with the kids!
Just think about your options and develop a plan early on so everyone in the group knows what to expect and what is expected of her.
4. Get to Work!
Now it's time to put in the work! To prepare for this venture, we all bought some reusable casserole dishes and plastic containers to share amongst the group. By doing this, we weren't always worried about getting dishes back to the owner. We just cooked in them the following week and passed them all around.
After your calendar is filled out and your reusable containers are purchased, it's time to start cooking once a week and grab a hot meal the rest of the week from someone else!
If you commit to having your meals ready for your friends once a week and putting forth the effort to make this concept work, I promise you will really enjoy this process!
5. Tweak the Process and Start Again
After your first week or two, you'll notice some things that you might need to change for the future. It's no big deal to just be in contact with your friends and make those changes right away or as you go into the new month. Just remember to be flexible with the process and to take good notes about what did and didn't work!
Bulk cooking takes a little bit of preparation, but by the second or third week, you'll fall into a rhythm.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments or over on Facebook that I missed here!
Looking forward to starting the Supper Swap again soon,
Secondly, we have dirty clothes strewn throughout the house. It's like the children get dressed in every corner of the house. And of course, Mr. Farmhouse sometimes drops his dirty clothes DIRECTLY beside the hamper.
And finally...we haven't built a laundry habit that includes at least one load a day.
As part of the 12-week challenge, I chose my January daily habit to be one load of laundry a day...from start to finish.
Through the washer, through the dryer, folded, AND put away.
Last fall, I started to make my bed every single morning. Even if I got nothing else accomplished during the time I had before leaving for work, I still made my bed.
And now...I don't even have to think about it.
Since starting the "one load a day" laundry habit, although I can't say I'm to the point where I'm doing laundry automatically, I can definitely notice a huge difference.
In fact, I only have one load that could even be done right now because we're all caught up on the rest of our clothes.
Some of you might have read my post about zone work this week and thought to yourself, "What? She only dusts once every eight weeks?"
The short answer is "Yep, true story!"
But the long answer is that each week, I try really hard to do a weekly home blessing.
Since we have been picking up (almost) every evening for 15 minutes, the floor and flat surfaces are staying fairly clear (except for the dining room table today...don't look at that until we have time to clear it off tonight!!!).
I read (in the FlyLady's book) about the concept of a Weekly Home Blessing...taking about an hour a week and doing a "clean sweep" through the main rooms of the house.
During the Weekly Home Blessing, you set your timer for 10 minutes and complete one task in each section.
The whole point of the Weekly Home Blessing is not perfection...it's just keeping a basic handle on some of the things we tend to put off.
Plan to find an hour between now and next week to do a Weekly Home Blessing...you won't regret it!
Blessing the Farmhouse ten minutes at a time,
These daily routines are so important to help keep the house manageable.
And when I started following the FlyLady 10-15 years ago, I learned how important cleaning zones in our homes can be too for those "deep-cleaning" tasks.
The basic concept is for you to divide your home into various zones.
I used to try and make sure I was getting through every single zone every single month.
However, starting this next week, I think I'll put my house on an eight-week zone rotation.
Today, and for the rest of this week, I'll be focusing on deep-cleaning the front porch, the living room, and our deck.
I make a list of tasks to get these three areas "all spiffied up" and I work on that list for 15-30 minutes a day (depending on each night's activities).
So...your task for today is to divide your home into zones.
You can decide how many.
You can decide what types of tasks to put on your zone lists.
The important part is to start to develop some habits for deep-cleaning a little at a time, instead of just constantly being stuck in the cycle of having a BIG cleaning day every few weeks.
Working my zones at the farmhouse this morning!
Using the insight I gleaned from these authors, I have set up a 12-week challenge to set goals for the first twelve weeks of 2019, to keep myself accountable, and to check my progress throughout the next three months.
After setting up my goals and weekly challenges, I thought to myself that maybe you all would want to join me!
Excited for the new year here at the farmhouse,
One of the comments I hear often from friends and family is, "I don't know how you do it all."
Well, let me be frank...there are days that I DON'T do it all.
I am a known procrastinator, who has been fortunate (or unfortunate) to be able to put things off until the last minute and still successfully pull them off...for YEARS.
One of my biggest struggles in life has been to keep our house clean and organized and we are STILL working to put systems into place to help keep things together.
A few of the successes I had over 2018 were:
While I've made lots of changes over the last year to help with the simplification of things here at the farmhouse, I'm still a work in progress.
None of the growth I've made in 2018 would have been possible without some tools that I have discovered and used over the last nine months.
The Getting Things Done method has five main steps and the first one is to "capture" all of the thoughts in your brain by writing them down or typing them somewhere.
Allen calls this capturing and I call it a brain dump.
As part of my evening routine (and sometimes through the day if I'm having a hard time focusing on one task), I set a timer for about five minutes and start typing out every single thought that comes into my head.
These could be tasks that I've been putting off, worries that I'm struggling with, gifts I need to buy, people I need to call, projects that I'm dreaming about, blog posts that I want to write, and a thousand other things.
I'm basically taking all of the thoughts in my brain and capturing them so I can "clear my head", as the old saying goes.
When I first started this method of productivity, I would use a piece of paper to complete my brain dump.
And then...I discovered Trello.
Trello is a list-making platform that has a web-based component, as well as an app.
It's an online tool for managing projects and to do lists and it is AMAZING.
Simply stated, my Trello is filled with boards that are made up of various areas of my life (shown below).
I have everything...a long-term Bucket List, Christmas details for this year, a board for each girl, Farmhouse654, Finances, Meal Planning, Newkirk Photography, School, and Self-Care.
On each of these boards, there are categorized lists and cards on each list.
You can add notes, links, images, due dates, checklists, and lots of other details to cards...AND you can easily drag cards from one list to another!
My Brain Dump is on my "Getting Things Done" board. I set a timer and add things as they pop into my head.
Today (so far), I'm planning to finish our Menu for this week, get the Christmas decor put up, and go through a daunting stack of envelopes on my desk (that I've been putting off!).
I need to update my KonMari list for our purging project that we're planning between now and spring break, so I will move that task to "Current Projects", as it's an ongoing project and not something that will be completed today.
In my "Daily" column, I have those items that I need to do each day -- cleaning out my school bag each night, so I don't forget something important, reviewing my calendar each morning, and going through my list of current projects to see if there is anything I could move to my "TODAY" list.
My "Waiting On..." list are tasks that I cannot complete without some other piece of the project being complete. An example would be planning our Alaskan cruise for next summer. The cruise and flights are booked and we got our passport paperwork all sent off for verification last weekend. Now we're in the process of waiting for them to be sent back to us before we need to move forward with the rest of the detailed planning. So that task is sitting in the "Waiting On..." list until we get passport confirmation in the mail.
Someday Maybe includes items like "Explore Doctorate program", "Finish Book", and "Design Home Addition" -- dreams or thoughts for somewhat far into the future.
My last two lists on this board are "Desk Items" and "Waiting Room Items".
These are lists of tasks that don't have to be done right away, but could be completed while I'm sitting at my desk waiting on hold on the phone or sitting in a waiting room, working from my phone. It's nice to be productive when you're tied up on a phone call or waiting on a child to get finished at the orthodontist.
Google Calendar (with Reminders)
Google Calendar is where it ALL comes together.
From my calendar on my desktop at home or school, as well as my iPhone calendar, I can see all of the personal and school events we have going on, my Special Education meetings, event invitations, and my personal favorite part of the calendar...reminders.
I can easily add tasks by clicking anywhere on the calendar and setting a reminder.
The option is there to add a time stamp and have the reminder pop up at a specific time or check the box next to "All day" and have the reminder be part of the ongoing "to do" list like the one you can see above.
When you click the "Add day" option, whatever reminders don't get checked off that day will automatically move to the next day! Fancy-Schmancy!
I hope my Brain Dump, Trello, & Google Calendar explanation makes sense! My system is definitely still evolving, but I feel more in control than I have in a long time!
So...what questions do you have for me? What did I leave out? Would a video be helpful?
Have you moved into online planning or do you enjoy paper/pencil more?
What are you doing this week to set yourself up for a successful 2019?
Dreaming of an organized new year at the farmhouse,
There are 56 days left in 2018.
A few friends and I have been following along with Rachel Hollis's "Last 90 Days", where she has challenged people to make the last 90 days of the year count.
Well, I was successful in following her "Five to Thrive" for about 15 out of 31 days in October.
And now...that 90 days has dwindled down to 56 days.
So this weekend, I've taken some time to regroup and do some planning for the next two months.
The girls and I did some deep-cleaning in our bedrooms and the rest of the house.
I planned out our meals for the next few weeks.
We set some goals for ourselves and made a commitment to make these last few months of the year meaningful.
If you're feeling like things have gotten out-of-control and you just want to gain some peace and calm in the near future, feel free to join me in building some habits in the next 56 days that will help us to enjoy the holiday season.
More info to come in the morning.