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,
I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas morning as a child.
There was the year that we woke up to 10-speed-bikes sitting in front of the tree, surrounding the rest of the gifts for my little brother and me.
There was the year that it was snowy and cold and after all the gifts were opened, we both got carried outside with our eyes closed to find the playhouse they had ready for us. In fact, Mr. Farmhouse and I used that playhouse as our chicken coop until just last year when we moved to the farmhouse.
There was the year that he and I peeked at our gifts and our two "big gifts" were missing on Christmas morning. My mom had saved them for last and had wrapped them up with our parents' names on the tags. We were trying to play it cool like we didn't know they were missing, because we didn't realize they knew we had sneaked out to the shop to look...lesson learned!
Even into adulthood, we have always been provided with everything we ever dreamed of, so naturally I have wanted to provide the same feeling for my own girls.
However, we have some financial goals that we are working towards to be able to provide for them later in life...in high school when they need a vehicle to drive, to help them with college expenses, and of course, when they get married and start having children.
Going into debt or dipping into savings at Christmastime is tempting, but after working so hard for an entire year to save and work the debt snowball, we don't want to lose our progress at the end of the year because of gifts.
I cannot even tell you how amazing the process has been.
The girls couldn't even think of three items for each category.
They were sitting together at the dining room table as they tried to think long and hard about what they truly needed and the conversation they were having warmed my heart.
H: I can't think of anything for "something I need". I don't think I need anything.
C: I put an electric toothbrush because mine broke a few weeks ago.
H: You know, I will be needing a new softball glove this year. I'll put that on there.
The girls are completely aware that we would buy toothbrushes or softball gloves during other times of the year, but instead of using that gift slot for something else, they both decided to use it to replace items that are worn out or too small.
I was able to shop for the gifts without breaking the bank and literally all in one night (Black Friday with my sis-in-law!).
They will each get stocking stuffers and one small gift from Santa and that is IT.
The tree is still pretty.
The farmhouse is still cozy.
The magic of the season is all around us.
With four gifts each.
I can't wait to see their faces on Christmas morning.
Happy December from the farmhouse, friends.
I am an over-thinker.
I often complicate things that should be simple.
I sometimes spend more time writing out a detailed and systematic to-do list than actually working on the task at hand.
I have often created elaborate New Year's Resolution plans and intricate systems for managing my work- and home-life.
These systems are almost always difficult to implement long-term.
Every day is a new day, full of surprises and challenges.
My work calendar has been filled up with meetings, webinars, and out-of-town conferences for the last few months.
I knew this year would be an adjustment period, but to be honest...it's been pretty overwhelming.
We've had some situations come up in my department that are uncharted territory for our district. We've had students transfer in and students transfer out. I've been working with and learning from several outside agencies.
I've been reading several books about leadership and project management and not putting unrealistic expectations on yourself.
Through my reading (and YouTube & blog exploration), I've come up with three goals for myself to really focus on from now until the end of this school year.
There are a million things biding for my time every single day.
I have some choices about what I allow to take my energy every time something new comes across my desk, across my phone or email inbox, or in front of my door.
I have choices about when to say "yes" and when to say "no"...and I can assure you that when it comes to my family, the answer should always be "yes".
I need to be intentional with my time, with my commitments, and with Mr. Farmhouse and the girls.
Some days, this might look like closing my office door and pushing through the items that haven't gotten enough attention that week.
Some days, it might look like closing whatever I'm working on at school and heading home right after school.
Some days, it might look like laundry, dishes, and sweeping the kitchen floor.
Being intentional is so important.
I have always been a "just in case" person.
I'd better keep that piece of paper "just in case" we ever need it again (even though I could print if off the internet any time I want).
I'd better save those toys and clothes in a tub in the basement "just in case" (even though I trashed boxes that hadn't been cracked open in over eleven years when we moved last summer).
I've realized through the years, however, that I have hardly ever needed those "just in case" items!
Thanks to the KonMari method, I pared down quite a few of our belongings right before we moved to the farmhouse.
I tried to be very intentional in my decorating and purchases made when we moved in.
I've tried to transfer a lot of my "paper clutter" from paper to digital copies.
My complicated systems are now simple and intentional daily reminders...a checklist that I move through during my free time at home and school.
Less is more.
A simple and manageable system is so much more effective than an over-complicated and unattainable plan.
One Day at a Time.
At the end of the day, we can't be all things to all people.
We WILL NOT mark every single item off of the "to do" list and even if we did, there would be more tasks tomorrow.
We have to be intentional with how we spend our time each and every day.
I wake up in the morning and do my Bible study, have some prayer time, and then I crack open my calendar app.
I look at my list of the things that must get done that day on my Trello board and I schedule them into my little pockets of open time on my Google Calendar that used to be wasted.
As I work through the day, I mark items off my list as I complete them and I move the tasks down through the day if something comes up that is a higher priority item.
If I don't finish the tasks for the day, I have learned to forgive myself and move them to the following day.
We can only do what we can do.
We can do our very best...
give our best effort...
try to strive for perfection...
and still we will fall short.
We will never be "caught up"...but do you know what we can be?
We can be present.
We can wake up every morning renewed and full of purpose, ready to try again.
We can be intentional and we can strive for the beauty of simplicity...one day at a time.
Have a great week, friends.
Love from the farmhouse,
It's such a great word.
So fresh. So promising. So full of hope.
Happy New Year, friends.
Here we are. January 1st.
I used to set goals for the new year in several different categories.
I made these big elaborate lists and sometimes I stuck to one or two of my "resolutions".
A few years ago, however, I began trying to really focus in on one word or phrase each new year.
One year it was "balance", another year it was "no".
This year, I've had three words and/or phrases running through my mind over the last few weeks, so I think I'll use them all as my focus for 2018.
Our minister has been preaching for the last several weeks on the transformation that should come from knowing Jesus.
I want to focus this year on being transformed because of Who Jesus is.
I want people to be able to see Him in every aspect of my life.
I want to be transformed.
I read an article this week about the addictive nature of a cell phone for young kids.
I was convicted about the addictive nature of technology for myself.
I know that technology can be a good thing, but I think sometimes satan uses good things to distract us from our purpose.
The purpose of being a good wife.
...of raising Kingdom kids.
...of building deep relationships with people.
...of creating a home environment that is beautiful for our families.
...of taking care of ourselves so we can pour into others.
This year I will set limitations on social media usage and spend more time focusing on face-to-face interaction with those I love.
Do fewer things, better.
I am notorious for working hard to balance too many spinning plates.
I can usually multi-task without much problem.
I say "yes" often to lighten the load for others.
I get a lot accomplished and a lot of times, those accomplishments are just "good enough".
This year, I want to simplify.
To do fewer things and to do them better.
What are your goals for 2018?
Do you set resolutions?
If you could choose one word to take with you this year...what would it be?
Make it a great year, friends!
New Year's Love from the Farmhouse,
"How many sentences do I need to write to get a good grade?"
One of my third graders asked me this a few weeks ago when we started to write our first big writing assignment...the personal narrative.
"There's not really a certain number of sentences...I just want you to tell the whole story. The beginning, the middle, and the end. I want to be able to picture the story in my head as I read your words and I want you to take your time adding details to help paint a mental picture for your readers."
"Okay," he said, "So how many sentences would that be?"
I wish I could say that it's only 8-year-olds who are asking, "How good is good enough?"
But you and I both know that's not the case.
I think that in most avenues of life, the bare minimum should not be the standard by which we judge ourselves.
For the last four years or so, my teaching partner and I have departmentalized our instruction. He has taught the math and science while I've taught the reading, writing, and social studies.
We were very comfortable in our roles. We worked together to meet the needs of each third grader in our building and we supported each other in our various responsibilities.
To be frank...it worked really well for us.
We had seen growth in our test scores and felt like we were in each of our elements as we shared pertinent information with our third graders, using our own teaching styles and meeting our kids' learning needs.
Last year, a team from our school (including me) visited an elementary building near Columbia, Missouri, to observe how their multi-age model of teaching worked.
We were blown away by so many parts of the program and decided that it was definitely worth looking into for our own school.
We had meetings and planned and talked and spent time hashing out the details of how a program like this would work for our own district.
Ultimately, last winter, we decided to move towards this model for the 2017-2018 school year.
That meant lots of changes for the third grade team.
We were each going to be teaching all subjects.
We were teaming up with two other teachers.
We were moving to a model that would require us to hit both third and fourth grade learning standards during the course of the school year.
It would be a challenge, but we were ready.
We met with our team last spring on several occasions to align our standards, to share resources and teaching strategies, and to decide how our students and teaching responsibilities would be divided.
I was feeling good about the school year going into summer.
And then...our house didn't sell when it was supposed to sell.
We ended up having to jump through a lot of hoops by doing a lot of extra inspections on the farmhouse.
My Dave Ramsey car ("Dave") needed repairs and the air conditioning went out of the Yukon ("Ramsey").
When the first few weeks of the school year came, I didn't feel refreshed or relaxed or prepared in the least.
Nevertheless, we jumped in head first.
Our team refreshed ourselves on everything we had talked about in the spring.
We shared resources and ideas (again) and encouraged one another as we transitioned to this new way of teaching.
I knew the research showed that this model would be the best thing for kids.
I knew that we were capable of carrying out this model of teaching.
I knew that I would hold myself to the same standard of excellence that I had insisted on keeping for my whole teaching career.
And then...the students came.
The first few days were great.
We did lots of team-building activities, where all the third and fourth grade students met together. The four of us teachers were able to play off of each other in conversation about being a good leader and being scholarly.
The first few weeks came and went and we split into our own classrooms, teaching our own subjects, to our own specific group of students.
I started to realize that maybe this wasn't going to come as naturally to me as the years before.
A new curriculum.
A new group of students.
A new school for our own two daughters.
A new house (that we weren't all-the-way moved into yet).
I was overwhelmed with being a wife and a mom and a teacher.
I was questioning my own ability in the classroom.
This had literally never happened to me.
I love my job.
I live to go back to school.
I smile and encourage and show enthusiasm.
It's what I do.
Or what I have done every year of my teaching career so far.
But this year...I felt like I was falling behind from the get-go.
In all areas.
Until one day, a friend of mine said to me, "You know...sometimes you just have to let some things go."
Let some things go?
Sorry, that actually doesn't work for me.
I don't just "let things go".
When I took a moment and really thought about it though...she was right.
Sometimes good enough is actually good enough.
Sometimes laundry folded in baskets at the bottom of the stairs instead of put away into drawers is good enough.
Sometimes a Happy Meal from McDonalds on the way home instead of a home-cooked meal is good enough.
Sometimes putting the toddler to bed after wiping her down with a baby wipe instead of actually giving her a bath is good enough.
Sometimes taking one whole Saturday morning to catch up on grading papers instead of doing it every evening is good enough.
I'm not suggesting that we lower the standard for everything in life to "good enough".
I think sometimes we have to realize that even when we're not feeling able to be our very best, we can still do good in the world.
Even when we're struggling to keep afloat, we can make a difference.
Even when we don't feel like we can reach the standard of excellence that we usually strive for...sometimes good enough is good enough.
We picked clothes first, added shoes & accessories, and then thought about any evening activities.
After our piles were made, we would transfer them to the closet and the girls would bring them out and put them into our hallway landing spot each night to prepare for the next day.
One thing I liked about doing it this way is that we had the big "discussion" about specific outfits that either I didn't really agree with or they didn't really agree with on Sunday night. We compromised.
And eventually, we had five full days worth of outfits and items needed ready for the week.
It's awesome to have this discussion on Sunday evening, instead of throughout the week, each morning, in a panic!
The system has always worked pretty well.
In fact, I was kind of sad to see it go when we moved, as the farmhouse is just set up differently.
And let's be honest...the girls are older now.
They can handle getting up in the morning and getting dressed and ready for school in their bedrooms without much intervention from me.
I finally (almost) finished a room today.
The farmhouse bathroom is now (almost) complete.
I need to hang a picture of the girls and maybe a few other signs, but for the most part, it is how I want it.
So here it comes.
The very first "room reveal" for the farmhouse.
Try to remember that I had some "help" from a certain 3-year-old while taking the photos.
She has a specific order that you are to go in to make the system work and she promises that for those people who have gone through her entire program, she has seen no rebounds. Once I started this method, I was hooked. It became an obsession for me last summer and I flew through the decluttering and organizing tasks associated with several categories.
I was really making good progress.
Near the end of the summer, I was nearing the end of my KonMari journey. I still had a few categories left to go through.
And I stalled.
Right there in the first week of August, with the items sorted and ready to be tackled, I stalled.
I just left the sentimental items piled in a box, put the holiday decor back into the garage, put the tub of electronics into a cabinet in the laundry room, and took the teaching supplies back to my classroom storage closet.
I had made amazing progress and when I started working at school again, I just lost the momentum to continue!
The house stayed clean and organized for the first few months of school, but once we hit second and third quarter, I started losing control. Again. I rebounded.
Sure, we didn't own as many items as we did prior to my first KonMari round, and we were more careful about our purchases now, but still...it was just a little unfinished.
Fast-forward to this last spring.
Our buyers contacted us and we began to make plans to move. I was still exhausted by the end of the school year and unfortunately didn't have it in me to start another KonMari round before school got out.
In dealing with the house sale and purchase hiccups and trying to get the closing all worked out, I haven't even had a chance to start yet.
But guess what? It's coming.
I'll be starting my second round of KonMari this next week while we still have two weeks in the current house.