The life-changing magic of a morning routine

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I’ve been doing the Mindset Reset program with Mel Robbins this month and it is ROCKING MY WORLD. If you haven’t heard of Mel or this program, go to her website at melrobbins.com/mindsetreset and check it out. It’s a FREE, month-long program to help you literally re-program your brain so that you can create a healthier and happier mindset.

One of the most important life-changing aspects of the course has been establishing a morning routine.

Thanks to Mel, I now have a science-backed routine to start my day. Here goes...

  • Wake up at 6:20 am. (NO snoozing. The phone alarm goes off in the bathroom. I get out of bed, turn off the alarm but I do NOT look at my phone.)

  • Make the bed.

  • Take a shower, get dressed and put on makeup.

  • Sit down with my cup of tea and my 5 Second Journal page. (You can print out your own blank printable pages for free right here.)

  • I reflect on my mood, my most important project for the day, what I’m grateful for, and whatever else I need to braindump.

  • Then at 7:10 am, my daughter wakes up. I get her ready for school, knowing that I’ve already had 50 minutes, all to me, to start my day with intention.

I’m feeling pretty smug and proud because I recruited my sometimes-skeptical best friend to do the program with me, and she is feeling some MAJOR #lifechangingmagic from the program. #browniepoints

If you’re up for a mindset reset and to learn more about Mel’s ideas for how to start your day with energy and intention, head on over to her site.

Your Netflix questions. My answers.

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The excitement over the new Netflix show has been nuts!

Every day I get texts and messages from friends showing off their newly folded drawers and transformed closets. I LOVE that the show has been a catalyst for so many people to begin simplifying their homes and their lives.

With all the buzz, I’m been getting lots of questions. In today’s blog, I’m answering your most pressing questions about the show and the method.

  • What’s the real order for the KonMari categories? It seems like they skip around a lot on the show.

There are five KonMari categories: Clothing, Books, Paper, Komono (miscellaneous) and Sentimental.

Typically, when we do a tidying “festival”, we do it in this order because it helps us to hone our senses of what sparks joy in our lives. For example, we often have a visceral reaction to Clothing. It sets the tone for how we start our day and for how comfortable and confident we feel. It’s often easier to understand which items of clothing spark joy, so we start there, so we can learn what “spark joy” feels like.

Alternatively, we do Sentimental items last. This is often the most difficult and emotionally-charged category, so you need to go through all of the other categories first so that you can really hone your sense of what sparks joy.

On the show, you might see them bounce from Clothing to Komono. What happened to Books and Paper? In these cases, the homeowners have likely done these categories, but for the purposes of production, they have edited these out.

I always recommend doing the categories in order, when possible. But, as I said on Instagram, there are no “tidying citations” and no wrong answers. As long as you commit to doing the work and to asking yourself “does it spark joy?”, the rest is pretty flexible.

  • It seems like Marie Kondo leaves people to their own devices. I don’t think I could do all that work on my own!

I had the same thought! I thought “Wait, where she is going?!? She just left them with a mound of stuff!”. This is another place where reality TV steps in and production takes priority over true reality. When Marie or a KonMari consultant is working with a client, we typically work side-by-side with them in 5-hour chunks of time. We help them work through each item, and we ask questions when they get stuck.

That said, my clients DO often have a decent amount of homework. They might tidy handbags, scarves and belts on their own, once they’ve gotten a hang of things. Or they might have to make a trip to the tailor to hem all those skirts they’ve been meaning to hem.

I also suspect that there were individuals on hand to support these families behind the scenes so that they could continue the work with some guidance, but without Marie and the cameras.

  • Will all this de-cluttering be bad for the environment?

This is SUCH an important question. If you’ve been following me for a bit, you know that I am passionate about simplifying our homes and our lives SO THAT we can consume and waste less, especially when it comes to our clothes. When I work with my clients, I’m working with them on two things.

First, I’m focused on helping them find good homes for their discards. We take old towels to the animal shelter. We take old laptops to a great non-profit that recycles old electronics while also providing employment opportunities to citizens returning from incarceration. We take half-empty notebooks to the local Free Store. We donate maternity clothes to the local women’s shelter. We even send old worn-out socks to be recycled at Goodwill. It’s important to know the donation options in your area so that you can make sure that your non-trash items can find a second life. Here are some of my favorites in my area.

Second, we’re working on buying LESS. This is major behavior change, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s SO important. I wrote a whole blog post on this topic, and you can see it here. To learn more about over-consumerism in our country, I also highly recommend the documentaries Minimalism and The True Cost on Netflix.

Have more burning questions? Send me an email or comment over on Instagram, and I’ll try to answer them.

Happy tidying, everyone!


You can do this.

If you’ve been watching the new Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, you might have the sudden urge to purge.

Luckily, you can EASILY get in on the action. You can achieve your very own reality TV show “before and after” results in your closet, and it only takes 5 hours. Think about inviting a friend over to do this with you, and vice versa. (And if you REALLY full stuck, you can, of course, call me!)

Here’s how to do it:

Step One:

Find a time in your schedule when you can get five hours, distraction free. No kids. No husbands. No phones. This is YOUR time.

Step Two:

Pile every item of clothing on the bed.

  • Make sure ALL of your clothes are washed.

  • Drag those off-season clothes out of the basement.

  • Bring up those coats from the entry-way closet.

  • Pull out those old bridesmaid dresses. You know, the teal ones with puffed sleeves.

Take a ‘before’ picture of your closet AND your pile.

Step Three:

Divide the clothes into broad categories like: Tops, Bottoms, Skirts, Pajamas, etc. Don’t worry about deciding what to keep yet. Focus on sorting, not discarding.

Step Four:

Now this is where the magic really comes in. You are going to take each and every item of clothing in your hand and ask yourself: Does this spark joy?

Pay attention to how the garment makes you feel. Does it give you a jolt of happiness? Do you love wearing it? Or do you frown, think about feeling frumpy, or have a bad memory?

If it doesn’t spark joy, thank it for its service and let it go with gratitude, ie put it in your “donations” pile.

A few tips:

  • Get quick wins. Start with a smaller category so that you can feel the momentum.

  • Make a “maybe” pile. Don’t lose momentum by trying things on that you really can’t decide on. Make a “maybe” pile and try all of those on at the end. (You’ll likely let go of 95% of them!)

  • Make notes. As you go, write down items that need to be replaced or upgraded.

  • Take a break. Midway, take a 15-minute break. Have some tea and a light snack.

  • Take stock. Take stock at the four hour mark. You might need to leave a few categories for homework, like shoes and bags.

Step Five:

Put all of your donations and items to sell right in the car! While you have them sorted, you can even enter the donations into an app like It’s Deductible or onto a printed Goodwill checklist. You can save thousands at tax time with donations!

Step Six:

Put all of the clothing that sparks joy back into the closet and folded in their drawers. To learn how to do Marie Kondo’s special folding method, visit this video. Think about using all that extra space in your closet to display your favorite items. I put my favorite books and my grandmother’s milk glass on the top shelf of my closet, where all of my bulky sweaters used to fall over onto each other. Some people hang artwork inside the doors or display wedding photos.

A few tips:

  • Someday = Never. If you find yourself thinking, “I might wear this someday,” think again. Think about your life today. Check out this post for what to do with clothes that don’t fit.

  • Don’t get bogged down on sentimental items. Set aside sentimental items. Can you turn that fabric into a cool pouch? Can you display it?

  • Beware of the temptation of ‘selling’. It’s tempting to want to sell your items. Be aware that consignors are VERY selective. Often, you will get more back by donating the item and cashing in on a tax refund. Check out this blog post to learn more about the pros and cons of consigning.

Now sit back, take that after photo, and enjoy!

After just five hours and six steps, you’ve created a closet that gives you joy, easy mornings and a boost of confidence.

What’s on your 2019 bucket list?

Photo by  Raw Pixel  on  Unsplash.

Photo by Raw Pixel on Unsplash.

Last year on the Happier podcast, Gretchen Rubin and her sister, Liz Craft, introduced the awesome concept of “18 for 2018”. It’s a fun spin on the traditional New Year’s resolution.

Think of it like a bucket list for the year ahead.

Instead of putting all of your eggs in one basket with ONE BIG FAT PRESSURE-FILLED New Year’s Resolution, why not instead create a list of LOTS of things you’d like to do in 2019?

You can sprinkle this list with all sorts of things, big and small, fun and mundane, important and trivial.

Some of the things on my list last year were:

  • Finally get our front steps fixed (check!)

  • Read more books (check!)

  • Get our wills done (nope!)

  • Organize the basement (mostly!)

  • Get disability insurance (check!)

  • Get my car detailed every quarter (mostly!)

  • Paint my bathroom (check!)

  • Do @cleanmama three times a week (shaky at best!)

You might consider things like:

  • Putting your phone away between 6 and 10 pm

  • Trying a meditation app for 30 days (My favorite is the Calm app.)

  • Asking your mom to teach you three of her favorite recipes

  • Making Friday night movie nights

  • Hugging your spouse twice a day

  • Hiring a handyman to fix some nagging things in the house

  • De-cluttering your house (hint, hint!)

I’m still brainstorming my 19 for 2019, but here are some initial ideas:

So what might YOU put on your 19 for 2019 list??! Tell me, tell me!

Do a toy detox

Photo by  Raw Pixe l on  Unsplash.

Photo by Raw Pixel on Unsplash.

So … let me start with a shocking statistic, just to get you in the holiday mood.

The United States has 3% of the world’s children but buys 40% of all toys sold worldwide.

Yeah, I know. It’s terrifying. At one point, I think 40% of the world’s toys were living under my daughter’s  bed.

This month, if you’ve got kids, you’re likely going to have an influx of new gifts and toys, so it’s the perfect time to learn how to help kids wade through the toys and create space for what sparks joy.

Either before the new toys come, or after the holiday dust has settled, consider implementing some of the tips below to decrease the clutter and increase the joy.

  1. Help them identify what they truly love. Ask your child “Does this spark joy?” or “What are your favorite toys”? Kids actually really understand the concept of “spark joy” (sometimes more than adults!). Introducing this question into the toy conversation will help them start to distinguish between the things that they truly love and the things that always end up at the bottom on the toy bin.

  2. Create a Wish List. Every time your child asks for a toy, say “Sure, honey. I’ll add it to your wish list.” Then, add it to a Wish List that you’ve created, ideally in a notes app like Wunderlist or Evernote so that it’s always on hand. They will feel like their desire has been validated and “recorded”. They won’t actually remember 90% of the things that they’ve asked for, but some things may come up again and again. So that’s your “hot list” for the next birthday or holiday.

  3. Institute a “one in, three out” rule. For every new toy they ask for, tell them they will need to let go of THREE. This is especially helpful if your child has way too many toys but has a hard time letting go of things. If the new toy is something they really want, they will often quickly be able to identify three things to let go. This also curtails splurge purchases at the store. Sometimes, I ask my daughter to just name the three toys that she’ll let go of. Then, we can buy the new item and collect the items to donate when we get home.

  4. Show them where their donations go. My husband works at a community center, so we often donate my daughter’s toys to the daycare center there. When she’s having a hard time letting go of something, we’ll tell her that the babies at the center really need a ball pit or shopping cart or sandbox and tell her that if she gives it to them, we’ll send her a picture of them using it. She loves seeing the little babies using her old things!

  5. Prioritize “non-fixed” toys. In this article I wrote for Motherly, I talk about the importance of non-fixed toys, or toys that awaken a child’s imagination, versus fixed toys that typically do only one thing and don’t spark much creativity (or keep them busy while you’re trying to cook dinner!). Try keeping these non-fixed toys out and consider rotating out the fixed toys, so that they can eventually be forgotten and let go off.

  6. Consider instituting “fun money.” This is a little different than an allowance in our household. Each week, our daughter has $10 to spend. It can be on ice cream, visiting a play place, a piece of candy, or a toy. If she doesn’t spend it, it carries over. So when she asks for something, I can say “let me check your fun money”, which lives in a separate pocket of my wallet. If she has the fun money, she can usually get the item. If not, she can’t. It takes the focus away from “my mean mommy who won’t let me have it” to a more neutral place of “oh well, I don’t have enough money.”

Teaching your kids to choose toys wisely and to treasure the toys they have is not something that happens over night. But you can slowly change the conversation, put some boundaries up and help them curate a collection of toys that spark joy for them and that minimizes clutter for you.

So, maybe, just maybe, next year our sweet little American kids will own only 39% of the world’s toys. #goals

How to consign

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When we de-clutter our lives, we are often faced with figuring out how to give our items a second life.

For high-quality, gently-used clothes, consignment can be a great way to let them spark joy for someone else, while also giving you a little cash back for those investment pieces that you still need.

How much cash back exactly?

Think about the rule of thirds. If you’ve purchase something for $99, the consignor will usually sell it for a third of that, or $33. You’ll get roughly a third of what they sell it for, or $11.

If you have lots of high-quality clothes to consign, this can add up. If you only have a few items, it may not be worth your time.

Since consigning your items can be time-consuming and consignment shops are usually very choosy,  it’s important to know your options and choose wisely.

There are many options, either online or in physical stores. Regardless of the option you choose, it’s important to note the following:

  • Clothes should be clean and free of stains, pilling, or tears.

  • Clothes should be from a name-brand and usually they must be 2-5 years old.

Online Options

ThredUp

ThredUp will send you a clean-out bag that you can fill and send in at your convenience. When thinking about what items are sellable, they suggest that you ask yourself the question: “Would you give this to your best friend?” They accept only about 40% of items that are sent in. They will donate the items that are not chosen for consignment.

Poshmark

With Poshmark, you snap a few quick photos of your items and then post them for sale online. You’ll get bids and offers, and then ship the items directly to the buyers. It’s important that the item be name-brand and in excellent condition.

The RealReal

The RealReal is for your highest-end luxury items. Think items priced at hundreds of dollars. They offer several options for how to get your items to them.

In-Store Options

Greene Street

Greene Street has several locations. They will review your items quickly (usually in less than 10 minutes), tell you which items were accepted, and then you’ll receive a check in about 90 days. It’s important to note that they must accept at least 10 items at a time. So, if you go, make sure you go with a bagful, and not one or two items.

Clothes Mentor

Different from Greene Street, Clothes Mentor will take much longer to review your items and they’ll give you cash on the spot. They give priority to those stay in-store while their items are being reviewed, but even then, it can take an hour or more. They do not have a minimum number of items that they must accept.

Independently-owned consignment shops

There are many independently-owned consignment stores available. They often have more flexible requirements and a more personable experience. Magic Threads Consignment in Media, PA is owned by personal stylist Catriona Whitehead, so she brings the best of her clients’ fashion right to you.

As you can see there are many options for finding a second life for your clothes. Just make sure that you review the guidelines carefully before beginning.

What about clothes that don’t fit?

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The number one question that I get is “What should I do with clothes that don’t fit?”

As my fellow KonMari consultant and wise friend Christina Rosenbruch says, the beauty of KonMari is that it brings us into the present. It’s about celebrating who we are TODAY and surrounding ourselves with what brings us joy TODAY.

So, what to do? Change the script.

I often say, “Our clothes are talking to us.”

Do you want a closet that says, “Good morning! I’m filled with things that you love and feel great in. Come on in. You can’t go wrong!”

Or, do you want a closet that says, “Ugh. Half of your clothes don’t even fit. Good luck finding something to wear today.”

Um, NO. That latter closet is totally rude, and it needs a new script.

Why do we need a new script?

Because our clothes set the tone for the day. They affect how quickly we get ready in the morning. They affect our mood and our confidence. They affect how physically comfortable we are. So, changing the script in your closet is a change that can provide amazing ripple effects, not just in your day, but in your career and relationships. Feeling like a million bucks changes everything.

So, do “joy checks” of ALL of your clothes, even the ones that don’t fit. (Check out my article here that walks you through how to tidy your clothes step-by-step.) This will give you the opportunity to identify those pieces that truly spark joy and that deserve a place in your home.

My clients often find that they don’t even like many of the ill-fitting clothes that they have, so there is no need to have them in your closet talking to you!

Choose to keep ONLY those ill-fitting clothes that you love, but then GET THEM THE HELL OUT OF YOUR CLOSET. Put them in a box with a cheeky label, like “ill-fitting clothes that I love” and then relegate them to the basement or other storage area, where they can’t be rude to you every day.

Welcome to your new morning conversation with your closet.

PS - If you’re looking for clothing brands that can help you spark joy at any size, check out Alice Alexander. They are a size-inclusive, ethical and sustainable fashion boutique with colorful, beautiful pieces that are sure to bring some joy to that closet.

Try this at home: The 20/20/20

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It can be so hard to stay on top of the daily clutter in our lives. We spend all weekend getting the house “just so” only have it all fall apart by Tuesday.

There’s a simple tool that can help with it. It’s called the 20/20/20, and here’s how it works.

Set a timer for 20 minutes for three separate chunks of time: Reset, Prep and Rest. Get the WHOLE family involved. This is a time for everyone to pitch in!

Chunk 1: Reset from the Day (20 minutes)

Take this time to reset and clean up from the day’s activities. This might include things like:

  • Putting folded laundry away

  • Washing the dishes and wiping the counters

  • Emptying lunchboxes

  • Putting dirty laundry

  • Taking paperwork out of backpacks

  • Putting bills in your “needs attention” folder

  • Putting toys away (Tip: I tell my daughter that I will donate whatever she doesn’t put away. #truestory)

Chunk 2: Prep for the Next Day (20 minutes)

Take this time to mitigate any snags the next day. You might do things like:

  • Pick out outfits, and iron if needed (or wear clothes that don’t need ironing!)

  • Pack lunches, or get the lunch supplies ready

  • Put out cereal bowls and cereal

  • Take out something to defrost for dinner tomorrow

  • Check the calendar and the weather

  • Put any important paperwork or supplies in backpacks and purses

ChuNk 3: Rest and/or Primp (20 minutes)

This is where everybody gets to reap the rewards. The kids have been a big help, so reward them.

  • Make yourself a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine

  • Take a hot shower

  • Do some relaxing skin care, like a face mask or exfoliating face wash

  • Give your nails some love

  • Let the kids play some video games or have a favorite treat

  • Do some reading

  • Surf Instagram

And that’s it! On paper, it may seem like a lot, but once you get moving, time flies. And, if you think about it, if you start at 7:00 pm, by 7:40 pm, you have a clean, clutter-free house and a steaming cup of tea in front of you.

Pro Tips:

  • Get the family involved. Decide who does what during the 20/20/20. Make lists and post them.

  • Make it fun. Put on music. Try to beat the timer.

  • Don’t overdue it. When the timer stops, you stop. You can do the rest tomorrow.

By the time Friday rolls around, you will have kept on top of things and you won’t be planning to clean your house ALL WEEKEND.

Soooo, will you try it ONE DAY this week and tell me how it goes?!

Why I’m hosting a film screening

A few months back, I watched a movie - The True Cost - that created a major change in me.The film explores the environmental and social costs of the ways that our society now makes, buys, consumes, and disposes of clothing. It talks about living wages and factory disasters and toxic dyes and clothing ending up in landfills.

It is NOT an easy movie to watch.

I’m always a little bit hesitant about watching these types of movies. I worry that I will come away feeling guilty and unsure of what to do differently.

In this case, there was a definite feeling of guilt after watching it, but there wasn’t the huge hopelessness. There were actually real ways that I could be a part of the solution. ESPECIALLY given my unique role as a professional organizer.

Every day, I am given the unique honor of going into my clients homes to help them de-clutter and simplify their lives. As we implement the KonMari Method™ together, we get into real, deep conversations about how our “stuff” is making us feel stressed-out, overwhelmed, and often times, downright guilty. My clients often know exactly what they are ready to let go of, but they don’t want to carelessly donate to the local bin behind the strip mall.

They want to be much more mindful of what they buy, and when they are ready to let it go, they want to do so purposefully.

So THAT is why I am hosting a film screening. It creates the hard, visceral reaction that is necessary to truly understand a major systemic problem, and it creates the opening for an awesome, practical dialogue of what can be done.

I shared this desire to host a screening with some amazing #ladybosses at Wellstruck’s Ladyboss event, and the stars aligned. Mary Alice Duff of Alice Alexander graciously agreed to host the screening in her boutique, which is a size-inclusive, ethically-made women’s apparel brand. Each piece in the collection is designed, cut and sewn in Philadelphia by a talented team of sewers paid fair wages. Materials are sourced from within the United States with a focus on sustainable materials.

So, call up your lady friends and invite them to a night out in East Falls, PA on Saturday, November 3rd. Space is limited to 25 people. Shopping and mingling starts at 5:30 pm and the movie starts at 6:15 pm. You can get your tickets right here.

What it’s like to work with a KonMari consultant

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Working with a KonMari consultant is a LOT like working with a personal trainer.

You hire a personal trainer because you want to get fit and strong, so that you can feel your best and live your best life.

You hire a KonMari consultant because you want your home to be peaceful and beautiful, so that you can feel your best and live your best life.

It’s hard work, but there is exciting and measurable progress along the way, and you feel better and lighter even after the first session.

In short, I provide the expertise, the accountability and the momentum. You show up and commit to doing the work.

Here’s how it all plays out.

Step One: We chat on the phone

Before deciding to work together, we chat on the phone for 15-30 minutes and I pepper you with questions.

What’s your life like now? What do you want it to be like? What’s causing you pain? What would you focus on in your life if your house was tidy? How much do you want to do this? What’s been stopping you? How does the family feel about this?

This conversation helps us figure out if we are a good fit and if you’re ready to dive in.

Step Two: We choose a package

One of the hardest parts of the job is figuring out how long it will take. This totally depends on a few things: your speed in making decisions, how much stuff you have and how much “homework” you can take on between sessions. The typical American home can take between 50 and 200 hours to complete! Knowing this, clients choose from the following packages:

  • 15 hours (Three 5-hour sessions) - You live in a small 1BR or 2BR apartment.
  • 30 hours (Six 5-hour sessions) - You live in a medium to large home and you want me there to help you start each of the 5 categories, and you’re going to do LOTS of homework in between.
  • 50 hours (Ten 5-hour sessions) - You want to go deep into the work and you might have less time for homework in between .

If clients wrap-up the project sooner than anticipated (which almost never happens!), they have a full year to use remaining sessions. (You can see more detail about the packages here.)

Step Three: I show up on the first day.

You’re feeling nervous and excited. You’ve kicked your family out of the house. You’ve put the phone on silent. You’re wishing you had cleaned up a little, but I’m glad you didn’t! (It helps to see things in their natural state.)

You give me a tour of the house for about 20 minutes, we take some “before” pictures, and then we dive right into the first KonMari category: Clothing.

We are going to pile EVERY PIECE OF CLOTHING THAT YOU OWN onto the bed, and one by one, you are going to choose those items that “spark joy” and gratefully say goodbye to those that don’t. You say: Right now? I say, Yes, right now.

After five hours of hard work and a few protein bars, you are exhausted but proud.

I whisk away your donated items (or help you to schedule a pick-up) and then I send you a link to your own personalized online KonMari journal, where you’ll be able to see all of your progress, and most importantly, the homework you’ll need to complete before the next session.

You take “after” photos and text them to your friends to brag. #myclosetsparksjoy

Step Four: We continue through all of the categories

On Day One, we picked a KonMari “graduation day”, so over the next few weeks or months, we will continue to work towards that date by tackling the next four KonMari categories: Books, Papers, Komono and Sentimental.

You may choose to do entire categories on your own as homework, or you might do bits of pieces of each category.

Along the way, you might discover that you need some repairs or some help around the house. I’ve got you covered. I can recommend everything from my favorite house-cleaning service to painters to handymen.

Step Five: Enjoy your home that sparks joy.

You’ve worked hard and now you are reaping the rewards. Your house is bright, open and spacious. It is filled with only things that spark joy. When people come over, you insist that they look at your closet.

And over the next few months and years, you fine tune. You edit more.

In your new space, you discover new possibilities. You are living a more “spark joy” life.

Ahhhhhhh. Sounds nice, right?

The Story of Indigo

Cerro Tololo Observatory near Vicuña, Chile, 1998

Cerro Tololo Observatory near Vicuña, Chile, 1998

People often ask me how I came up with the name Indigo Organizing.

The answer is a bit long and windy. It spans many years, from childhood to today, and it means a great deal to me.

The name “Indigo” came about in three seemingly unconnected ways:

  • When I was a teenager, I was a bit of a science geek. So much so, that I majored in physics and astronomy in college and took an entire semester off to do a dream internship at an astronomical observatory in the Andes mountains of Chile. Thanks to being that lanky science geek, I know that, in the 1600s, Isaac Newtown identified "indigo" as one of the seven elemental colors. It represents a focus on what is necessary, what is elemental. A building block for seeing so much else.

  • Now for the second part … I have a husband with an eye for design. (He is another little treasure that I brought back with me from Chile.) He has lots of beautiful design books laying around. One day, as I was still brainstorming a name for my business, I opened up one of his books, and it immediately turned to a page describing what the color blue signifies. It said: 

“The colour blue signifies relaxation, a successful result … trust … reliability, expansion, recovery, harmony, satisfaction, peace, stillness … endlessness, cleanliness, hope, solidity, intelligence, yearning [and] courage."

UM, YES. That is exactly what I want all of my clients to experience. 

  • The last one gets me a little choked up … My parents love birds and nature, and we spent much of my childhood camping and hiking. It is from THEM that I learned that there is a bird, called the indigo bunting, who migrates by night, to South America, guided by the stars.

And so, years ago, like an indigo bunting, I traveled to South America, guided by the stars. 

And many years later, that husband from Chile with an eye for design helped me to make another dream a reality by designing a beautiful logo, with those amazing little indigo buntings nesting together.

And now today, guided by all that the word “indigo” means to me, I get to help others find more joy and simplicity in their homes and their lives.

Sniff. (I told you that it would be long and windy.)

PS - Sign up for my newsletter to never miss a blog HERE.

Life is Not a Pinterest Competition

People often say to me, “your house must be perfect.”

It’s not.

My friends and family can attest to that.

Sure, it’s my own little Petri dish and I have a lot of fun figuring out how to make it as organized as possible. I get to experiment and tinker in the hopes of a more streamlined and peaceful existence.

But it does NOT look like the cover of a Martha Stewart magazine. Or a model home for the Container Store. Or a recent HGTV makeover.

It is a real home, with 3 real-life, complicated humans living in it. And I make it a point to tell people this.

Because life is not a Pinterest competition.

You do not have to have a pantry with matching glass containers that are perfectly and elegantly storing every piece of cereal, every dry bean and every grain of couscous.

You do not have to have every damn LEGO drawer color-coordinated until the day you perish.

You do not have to roast the chicken perfectly and then cut the chicken and then serve the chicken, all while your adoring children sit quietly in their hand-sewn-by-you outfits.

Instead, you can choose to surround yourself with only those things that bring you joy.

And you can be completely unapologetic about that.

Me and Ray LaMontagne Do the Dishes

Photo by  Facundo Aranda  on  Unsplash

I can't do the dishes without Ray. Ray LaMontagne, that is. 

You see, when I look at that messy pile of what-just-happened in my kitchen, my first thought is "ugh". My second thought is "Ray".

I ask myself, is this a "2-song mess" or a "3-song mess"? Then I get to work. "OK Google - Play Ray LaMontagne". 

(If you've gotten this far, and don't know who Ray LaMontagne is, stop right now and listen to this song. You're welcome.) 

So often, I feel downright annoyed by the drudgery of daily life. 

Wake up. Make the bed. Make the breakfasts. Pack the lunches. Pack the homework. Wash the dishes. Fold the laundry. Clean the floors. Run the errands. Pick up at school. Fold more laundry. Wash more dishes. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 

Let's be honest. It can be BORING. Especially when there are so many other more thrilling things to do. Like read articles about life hacks. Or read The Invention of Wings. Or watch The Handmaid's Tale. Or sleep. Oh, glorious sleep. (Can you tell I'm an introvert?!)

The thing is, when I think about it, usually that thing I need to do will take me no longer than two songs do it. Three songs, max.

So, I roll up my sleeves, tell my husband that I need some alone time with Ray, and then we (me and Ray) do the dishes. (Don't worry - it'll be my husband's turn to do the dishes next.)

After about three songs, the dishes are done, I'm humming my favorite songs, and I'm off to read my book, or watch my show, or cuddle with my daughter, or sleep. Oh. Glorious. Sleep.

Next time you're faced with a little drudgery, invite somebody to do the dishes with you. 

Just not Ray.

He's taken. 

Camping with a K

2018-06-17 15.03.03-1.jpg

Last weekend was a gorgeous camping weekend! 

We've been camping in the pop-up for 2 years now, and this year I finally feel like I am getting good at simplifying things. This helps SO much, because when you bring too much stuff, it's WAY more work and WAY more schlepping.

I'm now doing what I call "camping with a K", aka Camping the KonMari way.

Below are my top tips, and if you scroll all the way done, you can find photos as well!

  1. I pack everything in categories - Clothing, Linen, Food and Komono (miscelleneous). So, I pack at home in that order, then I unpack at the campsite in that order, and then vice versa.  It prevents me from "zig zag" packing ("what the heck am I doing right now?!?") and keeps me focused on one thing at a time.

  2. I use clear Sterilite bins from Target for each category.

  3. I use colored duct tape and an Extreme Sharpie to label the bins. I label each side of the bin. This way, no matter which way the bins get packed into the car, I still know where everything is.

  4. I use one gray packing cube for each of us. #wearthesamethingallweekend #itscampingafterall

  5. This time, I got extra fancy and re-purposed some plastic containers to make a DIY Shake 'n Pour pancake mix and a smaller container for milk to fit in the cooler.

Similar to my beloved #backpackchallenge, this helps cut down on the work of travelling and adds lots of time to #donothing.

Tell me how you simplify YOUR travel this summer!

Do Something Badly

Photo by  David Pisnoy  on  Unsplash

Photo by David Pisnoy on Unsplash

I heard a phrase the other day on my favorite podcast that felt like it was sent down from heaven: "Do something badly."

"What the heck does that mean?", you might say ... 

It means that you should give yourself total permission to do "that thing" that you always want to do but that you never do because you're afraid you'll be bad at it. So, do it anyway. Badly.

It means that you don't have to be good at yoga. You can do it badly.

It means that you don't have to be a great cook. You can do it badly.

It means that you don't have to meditate as if you were the second coming of Deepak Chopra. Do it badly. 

It means that you don't have to stress about the fact that you haven't written a blog post in two months because you just can't think of the perfect thing to say. (Ahem). You can do it badly.

Giving ourselves permission to do something badly means that we can get off of the hamster wheel of feeling like we have to be perfect at everything.

Life is not a Pinterest competition. There is so much beauty in imperfection. 

Do tell ... what are YOU going to do badly this week?

How to Get Dressed (Hint: Wear the Same Thing(s) ALL THE TIME)

My clients often ask me: "Do you wear the same thing every day?"

The answer is .... Sort of.

I don't necessarily wear the EXACT SAME THING EVERY DAY, but yes, I have about 4-5 outfits that I wear ALL THE TIME.

Why do I do that?

We make 35,000 decisions a day. That drains us. As a business owner, mom and CFO and COO (and housekeeper and launderer ...) of our household, I've got A LOT TO DO. So the last thing I want to waste my energy on is figuring out what the heck to wear.

So, my general formula is:

  • I wear mostly black, dark blue, white and gray.
  • I usually wear black leggings with a tunic-style shirt. (My fave leggings are here: Athleta - pricey but worth it - and Old Navy - inexpensive, so you can buy several).
  • I try to buy higher quality items so that they last longer and wash better.
  • I choose things can be dressed up or dressed down. 
  • It has to be comfortable.
  • I have to feel great in it. (Like, you-might-run-into-your-celebrity-crush great)
  • No ironing!

And that's about it. There's no magic formula. There's no exact number of items. There are no rules.

Ok, so now you may be thinking. Sounds great, Amanda. All puppies and butterflies. But how the heck do I get to that point??

pare it down

  • Kondo It - The first fundamental step is to make sure EVERYTHING in your closet sparks joy. You can get this done in less than 5 hours, with a friend (or me!), and a glass of wine. Check out my step-by-step blog post here.
  • Edit often - Sometimes I'll catch a non-joy-sparking offender in my closet and ask myself "How the heck did you survive in here this long?" Toss it in a basket in your closet, and when the basket is full, donate it.
  • Keep a shopping list - I use Wunderlist to keep a running list of things I need. I do NOT wander aimlessly through the mall. Right now, I need a black camisole and black crew socks. That's it.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    When you are at a stage in life where you've just got TOO MUCH TO DO, then DO LESS.

    Channel your inner Steve Jobs (black tee and jeans!), make one less decision, and kick your morning off right. 


     

    A Script for Letting Go of "That" Gift

    Photo by  Kristina Balić  on  Unsplash

    When helping my clients to simplify their homes, we inevitably find a treasure trove of gifts that have been given to them that do NOT spark joy. You name it - candles, soaps, scarves, trinkets, souvenirs, the works. You can probably think of the ones in your home right now.

    We feel an obligation to hold on to these items, even though we don't find them beautiful or useful, for fear of offending the giver. The thing is, they are weighing us down.

    I help people let go not just of the item itself, but of the guilt that may come along with it.

    Here's how the conversation typically goes:

    Client: "Ugh, so this is a scarf that my daughter gave me a few years ago for Christmas."

    Me: "Does it spark joy?"

    Client: "Damn. I knew you were going to ask me that. I really don't like it, but I'm afraid she'll ask me about it if I let it go."

    Me: "The act of giving sparks joy in the moment. It's the person's way of telling you that they care about you. Once the act of giving is over, if the gift doesn't spark joy, then you can feel free to let it go and let it spark joy for someone else."

    Client: "But what if she asks me about it?"

    Me: "You say: 'Hannah, you remember how I am doing this KonMari process to simplify my home and my life? You know, I'm identifying everything that sparks joy? Well, I just wanted to tell you something. You spark a ton of joy for me. I love you. That scarf you gave me last year for Christmas does not. I let it go. [Wait for laughter and possibly a spontaneous hug of forgiveness.] And I want you to know that if I ever give you anything that doesn't spark joy, you can let it go as well."

    Client: "Ooooh, that sounds good. Will you write it down for me?"

    Me: "I'll write a blog about it and send it to you." 

    Remember, simplifying and de-cluttering your life means having a ruthless focus on what truly sparks joy, so that you have the time and space to focus on what really matters. It's the gift-GIVERS in your life that matter, not the gifts themselves.

    Happy simplifying, friends.

    PS - If you need a little laugh, check out this hilarious Saturday Night Live skit about the oh-so-frequent gift: the candle. :)

    How to Buy Less (hint: print this wallet card)

    One of the questions my clients often ask is: "After I've cleared out so much clutter, how do I make sure that I don't just go out and buy a bunch of stuff again?" I love this question because it really gets to the heart of why this work is so important.

      Starting in the 80s, with the arrival of cheap imported goods, Americans began consuming at an unprecedented level. Because we could, we filled our home with fast fashion, clever gadgets and, yes, lots of boxes and bins to try to corral it all. In the end, the average American household ended up with an average of 300,000 items in it. The thing is, we DO NOT NEED ALL THIS STUFF.

      Clearing your space of things that you don't need is incredibly important, but it's not always easy. It means several major behavior changes:

      1. First, you take on the life-changing task of removing ALL of the items in your home that don't spark joy.
      2. Then, you develop new daily habits to make sure that those joy-sparking items have a home, and that they always find their way back to that home.
      3. And finally, you maintain a VERY high bar of what new things are allowed to make their way into your home.

      So, how can we train ourselves to buy less? There are two ways.

      KEEP A SHOPPING LIST

      Use an app like Evernote or Wunderlist to keep a list of items that you truly need, so that when you are out shopping, you are ONLY looking for those items. When I help my clients de-clutter their closets, we often end up with a short list of items, like white tees, black leggings or black flats. Know what you need.

      HAVE A HIGH BAR

      My favorite resource comes from Sarah Von Bargen, an online financial coach and teacher. She has a fantastic wallet-sized card that you can put right in front of your credit card. It asks us to question our purchases BEFORE we buy them, with questions like:

          * If I had to wait in line for 30 minutes to buy this item, would I?
          * Before looking at the price tag, what would I be willing to pay?
          * Am I going to tear this open the second I get home because I am so excited to use it?

      (That first question alone saved me recently when I found myself in line at Home Goods with a lilac candle. I put it back, and walked out of the store.) 

      You can download the wallet card, which comes with a great workbook, here. Print it out, and let me know the next time YOU put something down and walk away. Your home and your sanity will thank you.


       

      Yes, you can buy time.

      Photo by  Noah Silliman  on  Unsplash

      The New York Times just published an article about how "buying time" (aka outsourcing or delegating) can increase your happiness level. Whether it's ordering take-out on a stressful weeknight or paying someone to clean your house, outsourcing specific tasks in your life can significantly reduce burnout and increase happiness.

      So why don't we do it more? The researchers have a hunch: "a Protestant work ethic that values being busy or guilt over paying someone for a task that people could easily do ... 'We want to seem like we have it all together and we might be therefore resistant to spending money on time-saving purchases even when we can afford it.'"

      Sound familiar?

      In my work, I meet so many people working hard to "do it all". When you are in a state of overwhelm, there is only one thing to do: SIMPLIFY. One of the best tools to help you do this is the 4Ds, pioneered by legendary professional organizer Julie Morgenstern in her book Time Management from the Inside Out. Here’s how it works:

      • Diminish - This one is my favorite! How can you do something faster? Or, what’s the “minimum effective dose?”

      • Don't clean the whole house. Set a timer for 20 minutes and do your best impression of a Tazmanian Devil as you whiz around straightening up and wiping down.

      • Love hosting but don't have the time? Host monthly "come as you are" dinners, where your guests (and you!) might even be in sweatpants and enjoy take-out or grill some food. (Great tip from my fellow KonMari buddy Patty Morrissey.)

      • Defer - Can you do this later?

        • Use apps like ToDo to prioritize your to-dos and move tasks to “next week” with one easy click.

        • Look for open pockets of time on your calendar in the next week and schedule things that are important but not necessarily urgent, like finally making that vet appointment or renewing your passport.

      • Delegate - Can someone else (or someTHING else) do this for you?

        • I LOVE delegating my grocery shopping to Peapod. Every time that happy green truck pulls up and plops my groceries right on my kitchen floor, the joy sparks fly.

        • Get a robot vacuum!

        • On your to-do list, note items that a spouse or partner can do. My husband knows he’s in trouble when I get out the purple Sharpie...

      • Delete - Do you even need to do this at all?

        • Hate sending holiday cards? Don’t send them. That's all.

        • Got an invitation to a party that you don’t want to attend? Send your regrets. That's all.

      That’s it! Keep the 4Ds in mind when you are faced with too many tasks and not enough time. They can help you quickly focus on what is the highest priority, so that you have time to spend on what’s truly important.

      How might YOU buy more time, and happiness, in your life?

      Sentimental: Reflections on Spain

      I'm not a person who takes a lot of pictures. And if I do, they either end up in a shoe box or in my online Dropbox folder, never to be seen again. I think that's why I love the KonMari philosophy of tidying sentimental items in your home. It's not about holding on to every little thing that reminds you of a time that sparked joy. It's about really savoring those moments, while they are actually happening.

      It's been a few months since I've been back from Spain and I have to confess that I've been procrastinating on writing this blog post. If I don't take a lot of pictures, how can I tell the story? Then it dawned on me that this must be why I love Spain so much. I have very few pictures of my times there, but my memories are vivid and completely etched into my mind.

      So in today's world that seems to ask us to document and post EVERYTHING in photos, how can we step back and actually BE in the moment and savor that moment?? I love how best-selling author Gretchen Rubin teaches us to squeeze every ounce of happiness out of special moments

      To get the most bang for the happiness buck, I’ve realized that I should complete four stages of reveling in a moment of happiness:

       anticipate with pleasure,
       savor the moment as I experience it,
       express my happiness to myself or others, and
       reflect on a happy memory.
      — Gretchen Rubin

      I really made sure to follow this model as I prepared for Spain, as I experienced it, and now as I reflect on it. The way that I experienced Spain is the way that I hope to experience this summer...

      Essentially: Walk, Sit, Talk, Watch, Repeat. 

      Most of my days in Spain were spent walking through the city or on the beach, sitting in plazas, talking, laughing with dear friends, people-watching and stealing quiet moments to read in parks. So, as I think about those beautiful ten days, I can still feel the breeze throught the trees and hear the sound of the Mediterranean waves, and I plan to savor those memories for years to come.

      I may not be a big picture-taker, but it just doesn't seem right not to share a few of those moments with you. 

      Happy savoring. Happy summer.

      Exploring the beautiful winding paths of one of Barcelona's public parks, La Tamarita.

      Exploring the beautiful winding paths of one of Barcelona's public parks, La Tamarita.

      Sparkling green water in  Tossa de Mar .

      Sparkling green water in Tossa de Mar.

      I could have stood and listened to this fountain for days. Watch the video and enjoy 7 seconds of Zen.

      Sitting in the grass of Madrid's  Parque del Buen Retiro , enjoying some shade on a hot day. This park is HUGE, and has oodles of quiet space to escape the heat and the crowded touristy spots.

      Sitting in the grass of Madrid's Parque del Buen Retiro, enjoying some shade on a hot day. This park is HUGE, and has oodles of quiet space to escape the heat and the crowded touristy spots.

      Amazing pre-lunch tapas at my  EatWith  host's home. I highly recommend EatWith as a way to experience local culture, support residents of the city you are visiting and meet other travelers. 

      Amazing pre-lunch tapas at my EatWith host's home. I highly recommend EatWith as a way to experience local culture, support residents of the city you are visiting and meet other travelers. 

      Fresh ingredients for our paella after a quick trip to the neighborhood market.

      Fresh ingredients for our paella after a quick trip to the neighborhood market.

      The finished product!

      The finished product!