asana…an app to replace your paper lists!

Are you looking for a new, paperless way to keep lists?  I used to keep lists in an organized way, like in a planner, but it was always a mess tracking the progress of these “to-dos”, and in the end I had lots of crossed-out words.

I’ve been using asana.com and the asana app to keep track of things for years now.  I use it to keep lists and plan projects.  I use it for both work and personal use, and really recommend it.

Asana was created by a co-founder of Facebook and other individuals to help improve productivity at Facebook.  It’s a great tool because it allows one to create a project, and then tasks under that project, or just create tasks independently from a project.  You can set due dates, make them recurring if necessary, assign tasks to individuals, allow individuals to follow tasks, add attachments, etc.

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Asana has an add-on in Gmail which is great when you want to clear out your inbox and make the email content become a task instead.

There are other productivity tools like asana out there, like Trello, and so this blog post is for you if you needed the nudge to go and try one!

Being blessed with discomfort

Discomfort comes in all kinds of forms.  The sickness inside…the heartache…stress at work…being woken up by a newborn 5x in the middle of the night…discomfort means different things to different people.  To the early bird, getting up early is just the thing.  To the night owl, waking at 5am to write a blog doesn’t seem fun, but here I am up with my 2 year old and I’m tired, but glad to find the time to write this week.

Albert Einstein once said: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”  Not everything that matters can be measured, quantified, etc.  Right now…sleep…I feel like that’s something that matters and can be measured, but then again, how much does one really need?  Everyone’s different.

As a CPA, Einstein’s quote doesn’t surprisingly bother me.  As someone who’s trying to declutter it motivates me – not everything in my house counts – I can live without…  As a mother who’s trying to get sleep I’m wondering if I can apply the counting concept to the lack of sleep, sometimes, and trust that God will multiple benefit of the sleep I do get.

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger,
At injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears,
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort and
To turn their pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

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Art Depicting St Francis of Assisi (see link)

The Family Dinner Project

My husband was traveling for work recently, and I found myself at the dinner table with our three little girls, and I Googled “dinner table games”.  I found this website and have been hooked on it: https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/fun/dinner-games/.  Here are my favorites:

abcs of gratitude

ABCs of Gratitude

Go around the table and each take a turn, in alphabetical order, to say something or someone you’re grateful for.  My oldest daughter who is 6 did really well at this game and it was so much fun.

20 Things I Love About…

For this game you pick a person, place, season (really anything) and you say 20 things you love about ________.  We actually did this game a bit differently at my moms (MOPS) group at church – we went around the table and all wrote down something we liked about the person whose name was at the top of the paper, and then we all read them at the end.  It was really encouraging.

Celebrity

Name a celebrity (say, Whitney Houston) and then another person name’s with the first letter of the previous celebrity’s last name (Hudson Taylor)…then repeat (Thomas Jefferson)…(Jennifer Lopez)………..

GREAT GAMES for car rides too!

Lists using chalkboard paint

Each season our family makes a list of activities, family visiting, vacations etc. – this helps the kids realize that there’s something to look forward to in every season.  It’s fun to look back on what we’ve done and I take a picture of each list.  We’ve done three lists so far and I’ll share them here to give you some ideas!

Summer:

Christmas:

Winter:

Spring has already started, so we better get moving on our list!

It was easy to make the chalkboard – I simply bought chalkboard paper and chalkboard paint markers.  I still have paper left on the original roll after covering the door that you see.  I simply erase with water the chalkboard paint and I’ve gotten three uses out of the one placing of paper.

Here’s the chalkboard paper…

…and chalkboard markers that I used:

This has been a lot of fun!

Birthday Presents (for Kids)

Hi to all (the mommas) who cringe about having a birthday party because of all the fuss and all the ‘junk’ (their kids get)!!

To reduce the birthday clutter, I have used the following poem to accompany the Evites for my oldest daughter’s birthday parties the past couple years and it’s been great for reducing birthday presents (which I have termed ‘junk’ after her 4 year old party):

Just wanted to mention – I’d like to spare you the fuss,
(not to mention my house feels just like ‘toys R us’)
I would like to suggest that for her special day,
If you’re feeling generous and to help on her way,
a couple dollars would be simply terrific,
as she wants to save money for something specific.
I hope you don’t mind or think me too rude
But I’d really appreciate the help if you could!

Some of my friends like to say only bring $7 if the child is turning 7, that sort of thing, but I don’t specify.

My daughter last year was able to buy a bicycle with the money from her party last year and it was awesome!

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I have another friend who does experiences (i.e. memberships, tickets, etc.) for Christmas and birthday gifts – she lets others give her kids physical gifts.

What have you done to minimize the birthday ‘clutter’ but still make your kids feel special and not minimize the celebration?

Toy Control

Disclaimer: we still have a play kitchen and some Little People castles, and a wicker basket for stuffed animals, but otherwise here are the bins that I limit the toys to in our sunroom:

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Current categories of bins: Dishes, Food, Little People, Magnetic Blocks, Balls, Figurines, Stackables.

Instead of filling all of the bins that this organizer/shelving unit came with, we decided to eliminate some bins (like more than half of them).  Less to put away.  My husband came up with the categories and labeled them (engineer that he is 🙂 ).  The dishes bin is a bit out of control but most of the time a lot of those items go in the play kitchen so it’s not usually so overflowing.  We have significantly decluttered play food and figurines over the years – really all of the categories.

What do you do to keep the toys ‘under control’? 😉

Why some photos need to be printed

My mom kindly makes a Shutterfly photo album each year for each of my three daughters.  My daughters take these albums in their hands and talk about them.  I don’t want them looking at a phone or computer screen every time they want to see a photo.

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I had loose photos (from decades) in sleeves up until a couple months ago when I scanned the ones I wanted to save, and threw the hard copies out (save a couple I kept).  It didn’t do any good to have them in a big bin, neglected.

Our families make a calendar for my parents and my in-laws (and our extended families) with photos from the past year.  It’s a nice way to memorialize things.  LESS paper and MORE thoughtful than sticking tons of photos in an album, if you ask me.

Do what works for you, but I encourage you to explore photo book/project options rather than printing loose photos if they are just accumulating and not being enjoyed.

Leave a comment below to let me know how you organize your photos!  I’m sure there are ways out there I’ve never explored before.

Living in Toyland

“Science says that LESS is MORE in Toyland.”  Very often I have toys all over my living room floor.  Most nights I try to clean up – I need to make sure we don’t trip, milk isn’t left in the play kitchen’s refrigerator, food doesn’t get found by ants – you know, the basics.  We do a really good clean up at least once a week.  It takes time and I don’t always ‘have’ time to do it.  My oldest daughter is helping more and more which is wonderful!

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My children are currently 6, 3 and 2.  They need to play.  I decided today that we need some rules here in Toyland.

RULE #1 NO MORE OVERFLOWING TOY BINS!  That’s a benchmark I think I can follow.

RULE #2 STOP BUYING TOYS FOR AT LEAST A MONTH [when it feels like toys are taking over the house].  oh no…won’t my kids be upset?…

RULE #3 ______________ (fill-in-the-blank) – I feel like taking more toys out of the kids’ bedrooms might help solve things too but I’m still trying to figure it out….help!

We’re working on finishing our basement right now – it will be our primary playroom.  We will see if we can stick to this LESS is MORE once we have more space.  We need to start somewhere so for now, I’ll try to follow the two simple rules I’ve made.

Two bags

My mom is in town visiting and has always been so helpful sorting my kids’ clothing.  I would ask her what I should do to organize the clothing better, and she would always calmly say “you have too much”.  Wow.  So I could be more organized if I had LESS?  Not rocket science but it was mind blowing for me.  So it’s not a good thing to have MORE and MORE clothes in the house?!  I had already applied the KonMari method to my clothing – but could I possibly find an application to my kids’ clothing, when they couldn’t tell me what truly sparked joy for them? (You have to read Marie Kondo’s books to get the humor here).

Today I went through the kids’ clothing with my mom (really we had time for just the 4T clothing for my middle daughter).  It took SO MUCH TIME.  But in the midst of it all my husband and I got motivated to purge other things in our house, and my oldest daughter caught the fever and started purging things in her room.  Once in the groove, stay in the groove – and we did for a couple hours.

So the two bags…adobestock_22394284.jpeg…one for throwing out and one for giving away to a charity (i.e. Pickup Please a.k.a. Vietnam Veterans of America or to our MOPS consignment sale at our church).  The stuff that we kept had to find a home, and that home needed to have room (it couldn’t be put back in an overflowing bin).

My mom told me about her parents who had 11 kids – they were super good at continually getting rid of things.  Disclaimer: I think this may have not always been a positive impact on the kids, still I’m impressed to think about how they managed.  MORE space for kids LESS clutter.  I only have three kids – can’t I manage to fill two bags with things to throw out and/or give away, at least a couple times a year?  How about you?

Grocery lists figured out!

For years, my husband and I have shared a dynamic grocery list via the app Cozi.  A calendar and other lists can be shared on it as well.  It’s great for busy families.

Recently, though, I’ve also started using eMeals – a Dave Ramsey-endorsed meal planning and grocery list creating system.  The app is easy to use.  I love that I don’t need to figure out what size items I need (and can even add items not on the meal plan), and go searching all around the store for them.  For me, my grocery list gets sent to Walmart and I just pick up my groceries at a designated pick up spot outside Walmart.

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I was using Hello Fresh for about a year – we’d do it one week a month.  It was nice for a while, but eventually I felt like the meats weren’t the best quality, and a lot of the same ingredients were being used over and over.  I tried Blue Apron before that – off and on.  In the end, eMeals is a better price point – one year costs the same as one week of Hello Fresh meals.  Granted, you don’t get the actual food with eMeals, but the recipes are definitely budget friendly and have introduced me to Walmart Grocery – so I’m definitely not complaining, but rather, here I am, singing its praises!  Check it out – you can even do a two week trial.  I have a friend who used it and raved about it on Facebook, and here I am doing the same.