Real Ways to Create Contentment

Real Ways to Create Contentment

On that sunny August day, I thought my life couldn’t get much worse.

Recently separated from my husband and with no support from him, I was teetering on the financial edge. My kids and I had just moved in with my parents, and I was desperately looking for a job to support my two middle schoolers.

I thought about our old life where the only thing I needed to get them ready for a new school year was a debit card and a couple trips to the mall. With school only a few weeks away, I didn’t know where I’d get the money to buy clothes and shoes or pay for annual physicals.

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5 Ways to Foster Creativity and Stay Organized

5 Ways to Foster Creativity and Stay Organized

Learn 5 easy ways to foster creativity and stay organized at the same time.
stay organized and increase your creativity
I come from a line of crazy, creative women.

My grandmother was a designer, and then the first woman creative director for Hallmark Cards. She toured all over the Midwest giving talks about creativity while drawing with chalk at the same time. (They were called, adorably, “Chalk Talks”.)

My mom made many of my clothes growing up and is an award-winning quilter. (She made the “guest book” for Roger’s and my wedding – a king sized quilt that everyone at our wedding signed.)

And my step-daughter Amanda, can make anything more beautiful with her lettering, drawing and a little bit of purple glitter.

If you had asked me as a young adult if I was creative, I would have given you my standard reply, “It skipped a generation.”

But now, years later, I can finally say the words “I’m creative”, because I realized that all creativity is not just about making things pretty — we can be creative in a thousand different ways. Here are a few ways I have infused creativity in my day:

  • Putting a great meal on the table;
  • Writing a loving note to a friend;
  • Putting up a fun Facebook Live video;
  • Cutting branches from our trees to make “arrangements”;
  • Mixing up essential oils to make our room smell amazing.

And we all have the opportunity to infuse a little more creativity into our day, but one thing I’ve discovered about myself is that in order for me to be creative, my creativity demands a couple of things: order and space.

So here is how I foster creativity and stay organized at the same time:


Create Routine

We all have the picture of the wild and free spirit who is creating everywhere she goes. Her life is one big piece of art …

But what I’ve come to understand is that your creativity needs a safe place to be let out to play. Your creativity needs some rules and structure to feel secure enough to do what it wants to do. This is why I get up at 5:00 a.m. every morning, go downstairs, feed the animals, grab a cup of coffee, and start writing. I’ve trained my creativity to show up and perform on a schedule. I no longer have to wrestle her to the ground – we have a standing date.

This routine also helps me stay organized in the morning because when I start my day the same way every day, I am able to continue my day the same way. After I write, I walk the dog with my husband, come home, clean up, and get ready for the day. One of the beautiful things about routine is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time deciding what you’ll do next. It’s already been decided for you and your brain is free to think of other, amazing creative things.

Your To Do: Where is one block of time that you could create a little routine for yourself? Create a pocket of routine in that time and then start to grow your routine to two hours. (I highly suggest starting with first thing in the morning or last thing at night.)


Break Routine

As much as I believe in the benefits of routine, sometimes there is value in breaking out of it, for creativity’s sake.

Right now I’m sitting in the passenger seat of our Rav 4 listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s I Am a Rock while driving in Northern California with my husband by my side (singing about 40% of the words to the song while tooling down the freeway.) This? It’s not my optimal writing situation. But, sometimes, it’s good to get out of your routine, mix things up a bit, and challenge yourself to do the hard stuff and be creative even when the circumstances don’t lend themselves to it. I love to know that I can be creative – no matter where I am or what I am doing (or whose off key singing I’m listening to). I am a warrior!

Another way I love to break routine is to dedicate a couple of times a year to just being creative. I love to get away with a few friends to a cabin or house somewhere pretty and just hunker down and write all day. This is when I can get away from laundry and errands, hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my email (with an auto-responder) and just concentrate on getting my creativity on.

Your To Do: Don’t have a cabin in the words? That’s OK. Take a Saturday in a Starbucks, or even rent a hotel room with a friend. (But be sure to set up the schedule ahead of time so you know when to chat and when to write. There’s nothing worse than coming home from a writer’s retreat without having written anything…)


Plan Out Your Day

There is something about having a well-scheduled day that forces you not only to stay on track, but actually frees up your brain to think differently.

I love scheduling my day and seeing it on paper – it helps me see my day in chunks and make plans to create.

When I’m scheduling, I try to break up my “thinking-about-how-to-write-this-article” heavy thinking with “folding-the-load-of-towels” non-thinking so that my brain has some time to be free and play. As much as I would love to concentrate my way into brilliant thoughts, most of my favorite ideas come while unloading the dishwasher and removing puggle hair from the couch.

I’ve tried a million different planners, and Iwhat I’ve learned is that I need a planner without a ton of structure. This one from Ruth Choe Simmons, The Gracelaced 17 Month Planner is just perfect for me – with enough structure to keep me on track, but enough blank spaces to give me the room I need to think outside of the lines. It’s exactly what the creative one needs: a little guidance in her life.

Your To Do: Spend just five minutes planning out what you want to get accomplished today (or, if you’re better at night, plan out what you want to get accomplished tomorrow). You will be amazed at how much more room your brain will have to be creative.


Organize Your Tools

One of the fastest routes to creativity is to have your tools ready and waiting for you when it’s time to create. Every night I set my coffee to auto-brew, charge my computer, and make sure that my notebook and pen are next to my writing chair before I go to bed. That way, all my tools are where I need them.

The less obstacles you have to get to your creativity, the faster you can start being creative.

Your To Do: Define what your tools are and where you are going to keep them that will require the least amount of hassle.


Create Some Space

“Clutter makes me creative!”, we scream. But, actually, all the research says the exact opposite.

We do our best work in an area where we are free from distractions, and let’s be clear; all clutter is a distraction.

Your To Do: Create a space where you can be as free from distraction as possible. An uncluttered area where you can create keeps your mind on the beauty of what you are creating, not the clutter that is trying to steal you attention.


stay organized and creative giveaway

Giveaway to Help You Stay Organized!

How do you up your creativity? Share your idea below and you will be entered to win our grand prize sponsored by Harvest House Publishers so you can be creative and stay organized too.


Declutter Before and After: Tina’s Story

Declutter Before and After: Tina’s Story

Get motivated to declutter YOUR home with this declutter before and after story.

Tina knows the feeling of overwhelm all too well. Chronic depression made getting started on a project seem impossible. Tina found help when she received a copy of the book Clutter Free, by Kathi Lipp. In the beginning, she says, “I would go and stand in the room and just stare. At everything. And not know where to begin. Sometimes I’d walk out and other times I’d put in 15 minutes.”

Can you relate?

Tina ’s clutter challenge was boxes of paper from many years past, some stuff that belonged to her kids and other things that were her Grandparents’. It all needed to be sorted and passed on to her siblings. She also accumulated things over the years that she had a hard time letting go of, even though they had no sentimental value.

declutter before and after
The most valuable Clutter-Free tip Tina used was asking herself the 3 questions:

  • Do you love it?
  • Would you buy it again?
  • Do you need it?

This simple tip helped Tina so much. She said, “I took my boys their things. I went through my closet a number of times, once passing on 16 pairs of good shoes. I passed on purses and clothes I never used to my daughter-in-law, who has an online store. Many things went to the thrift store. I passed on books I’ve had for years and never read. Out went about 12 cook books!”

She started calling her “junk room” her office and eventually shredded boxes of old bills, bank statements, etc. “My husband used to say ‘Less is more’. I believe him now!

Tina learned that she did not enjoy clutter. She just thought that was how people lived because she grew up in a cluttered home.
“I like to have a place for everything and everything in its place. I’m not a stickler about it, but if I’m going to another room and see something that goes in that room, then I’ll take it with me and put it in its place. I still have more to do but I can now use my office as a reading room, a quiet place, an exercise area,” Tina says.

I’m so thankful to Kathi Lipp!” she exclaims. “Her books, videos, blog and Facebook group inspires me. I could not have done this without her tips and encouragement.”

If you could use some encouragement in your battle against Clutter, why not head over to the kindest corner of the internet, Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Academy Facebook group? There, you’ll find encouragement, tips and motivation to continue the practice of living Clutter Free.

The Simply Organized Home – 10 Cute Ways to Contain All that Stuff

The Simply Organized Home – 10 Cute Ways to Contain All that Stuff

The Simply Organized Home – Learn ten cute ways to store your stuff. 

The Simply Organized Home -- Kathi Lipp
Oh friend, when it comes to having a cute house you love to live in and look at, you really only have two options: either make sure your stuff is cute, or make sure your storage is. (I wish there were a third option, like something from Star Trek where you push a button and whatever you want either materializes or disappears, but sadly, I think we are still a few years from that.)

It’s great when your stuff is beautiful and you want to put it on display. But we all have those necessities of life that need to be stored out of sight, but not out of mind. (When I need that bottle of Tylenol, I want to know where it is, no matter how cute the storage is.)

So how do you have cute storage and find things at the same time? Here are some ideas to keep you – and your house – cute and organized.


I’ve taken a lot of these ideas from Melissa Michaels’s new book Simple Organizing: 50 Ways to Clear the Clutter. (Check out my interviews with her this Tuesday and Thursday on the podcast.)


The Simply Organized Home: Contain Your Stuff

Look around at the items you need handy on a regular basis and see if there is a way you can contain them in something cute.


Bathroom Toiletries

Use white canisters for things you’d like to hide, and clear, glass canisters for things pretty enough to display. (Cotton balls come to mind.)

Anything can look tidier when you put it in a container.


The stuff on my kitchen sink went from scattered to downright adorable once I put it all in this white enamel bucket from


Laundry Supplies

One of my favorite ways to keep the laundry area tidy is to use a tissue holder to dispense dryer sheets. Also, having a little garbage can for used dryer sheets, lint and oddities left over from someone’s pockets is a way to keep things looking lovely. I use glass containers for my Homemade HE laundry detergent as well as my Method laundry pods.



I love a good makeup caddy (this one is a lot like the one I use.) The key to a cute makeup caddy is to:

1) not overstuff it – just store in it what you actually use;

2) throw it in the dishwasher once a month to keep it looking great.


Cooking Utensils

My most valuable real estate in my house is my kitchen counter space. But I also love to have some of my tools within easy grasp when I’m cooking. Use crocks to store utensils on the counter for a fun, country feel.

Look at how Melissa stores her antique wooden spoon collection! Adorable!


Coffee Supplies

We are coffee lovers, and we don’t mind if the world knows it. We put our addiction out there for the world to see. We use glass canisters to hold our coffee and filters, and ceramic canisters to house our Splenda and KCups. I’ve turned this corner of my kitchen into my favorite coffee bar.


Office Supplies

Of course, my goal is to have as little paperwork as possible (because, the best-looking paperwork is NO paperwork). But for the papers I do need to keep, I use my galvanized bucket with file folders. For office supplies, I use a combination of fabric shoe boxes and filing boxes in neutral colors. So simple, so cute!


The Simply Organized Home: Embrace Every Day On Display

One of the concepts I love in Melissa’s book is the idea of “Every Day on Display,” which is simply the act of taking what you already have and arranging it in a beautiful way. Here are some ways to take everyday necessities and turn them into something beautiful so you can have a simply organized home.

Bulletin Boards

One of the things I love about bulletin boards is their ability to tell a story about your space. Don’t overcrowd your board, but leave enough space that it becomes a feature, and a focus of the room.


Silverware Caddy

When the handles of your silverware are this cute, you want to put them on display. (Plus, if you hate to do dishes as much as I do, you will feel like you’re cheating when you just dump your silverware into a basket.)


Buy Cute

When shopping for that new coffee grinder or your next pair of scissors, decide whether you are going to need to contain them or find something that is cute enough to be on display. Normal scissors? Boring. Pink-handled scissors? They demand to be on display.


Consider the Finish

If you decide on a finish for a room, and buy containers with that design, it can pull together the whole look of the space. Here are some of the finishes I have in my house that I just can’t get enough of:

  • White enamel
  • Galvanized metal
  • Fabric
  • Wicker

So much of the time, having a simply organized, beautiful space isn’t about your stuff  – it’s about how you’ve arranged your stuff to make it beautiful.


Would You Like to Have a Simply Organized Home?


What’s your favorite way to stay cute and organized at the same time? Comment below, and you will be entered to win this Simple Organizing gift pack from Harvest House Publishers in celebration of Melissa’s new book Simple Organizing: 50 Ways to Clear the Clutter!


Get Tasks Done: How to Tackle Your Never-Ending To-Do List

Get Tasks Done: How to Tackle Your Never-Ending To-Do List

Learn 3 simple ways to get tasks done so you can spend time on what matters most.

get tasks done - how to tackle your to-do list
If I could pick one word to describe being a single mom, that’s the word overwhelmed. When Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory came out with the book Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore your Sanity, I’m pretty certain I was one of the first to sign up to be on the book launch team. I was only a few chapters in when I went to my Small Group Coordinator at church and offered to lead a women’s small group diving into it.

And that group filled up fast.

It’s. Not. Just. Me.

So many of us struggle with that feeling of being overwhelmed and how to get tasks done. Where do I even start with this? Overwhelm can apply to a lot of things in our lives—our clutter, our calendars, our projects that need to be tackled on top of daily necessities, or our daily necessities!

When my husband was alive, we could divide and conquer. And if I was just out of steam, he could cheer me on to finish or begin a task that needed to be tackled. He helped me with motivation and I helped him. (Ever seen a husband’s face when you hand them a Honey Do List on a sunny Saturday? That’s encouraging them to be productive, right?)

So what’s the secret to tackling the must-do-but-not-fun-to-do things when you are the grown up and there’s no one there to help you get motivated? How do you persevere to complete the things you’ve been avoiding once you realize YOU are the grown up?


How To Get Tasks Done


Microsteps for the Win

In Overwhelmed, Kathi and Cheri talk about microsteps. It’s such a simple concept, really, but one that we often forget. I even forget to use it when trying to get my kids to do their chores or tackle their odious tasks. Microsteps are simply breaking the big task down into smaller pieces and then breaking those pieces into smaller steps.

There’s a psychological payoff to this that might seem silly, but has been proven. When you accomplish something and put a little check mark by it on your list, you get a bit of a mental rush. “Yay! That’s done!”

Recently I needed my kids to step up and clean up the house for my son’s graduation. Company was coming and I’ll be honest—I’m not the best at housekeeping. I can let it go for too long until it’s a whole lot harder. Tackling this kind of huge cleaning project often led my kids to losing momentum and devolving into whining and complaining. Instead, I put this micro step plan into action.

I didn’t say, “You clean the bathroom and you clean the living room.” I wrote out all the things that needed to be tackled in each room we were cleaning. Then I said that anyone could tackle any task, just let the rest of us know what you were working on and put a check with your initials when done. The bathroom list, for example, included:

  • Clean outside of the toilet.
  • Clean inside of toilet.
  • Clean mirrors.
  • Wipe down tub.
  • Sweep floor.
  • Wipe down floor and baseboard.
  • Pick up dirty towels and take to laundry room.

You get the idea.

It was an amazing change. The house was cleaner than it had been in a long time. No one fought. And only the littlest one ran out of steam before we were fully done.


Make a List and Check it Twice

Santa’s not the only one who likes lists. Writing down the steps of tackling an overwhelming job can help you feel like you’ve got a plan. It lays out for you in black and white exactly what needs to take place and lets you mentally follow the progress and celebrate each step accomplished as you get tasks done.


Set a Reward

Kids aren’t the only ones who like a reward for finishing something loathsome. My reward for my kids when we tackled the whole house was a promise of no one having to get up early the next day (teens love their sleep) and no one having to do any chores either.

But what about you? Do you give yourself a reward for finishing the grown-up list that you need to tackle? Maybe it’s getting to binge watch your favorite Netflix or Hulu show for a bit. Maybe it’s going to coffee with a friend. Maybe it’s doing your nails or some other type of self-care pampering. You may not need a trip out for ice cream, but setting yourself a reward for finishing a task is a mental motivator that shouldn’t be overlooked.


We all have those things that we hate to do—cleaning, running errands, making appointment calls, balancing the checkbook…. I could go on for a while. But we all have to get tasks done so sometimes we need to just do it. Help yourself by using micro steps, making a list and rewarding yourself to make it fun.

Now go out there and be productive! You can do it!

Jenn Buell is a writer, speaker, radio DJ and widowed mom of four kids who lives in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. She loves using her superpower of encouragement to cheer on other Christian single moms through her blog and podcast, “Right There With You.” You can connect with Jenn at

How to Pack and Move the Clutter Free Way

How to Pack and Move the Clutter Free Way

Learn how to pack and move without all the clutter!

Learn how to pack and move the clutter free way -- Kathi Lipp


In 2003, I became a single mom. Not only did I have to sell my first house, I had to take the contents of that three-bedroom, two bath home and move it into my parents’, where we would have two bedrooms (one for me and my daughter, one for my son) and a small living room area.

I researched all the ways I could organize, so I could move as cheaply and easily as possible, and shocker — the most common suggestion was to get rid of absolutely everything you could before the move.

When it comes to relocating, it’s not about reorganizing – it’s about reducing.


What to Consider Before You Pack and Move

Why declutter before you pack and move? Let’s consider your four most precious resources when moving: Space, Time, Energy and Money.


Whether you are upsizing or downsizing, the idea of bringing all your old stuff into your new space should fill you with abject terror. And if you are downsizing, you won’t have room for all that stuff anyway, no matter how much you “organize” it.
No matter what size home you are moving into, space is limited. Spend it wisely from the start. You don’t want to start in your new home feeling cramped and pre-cluttered.


Your biggest time suck when it comes to moving? Packing things to transport. That is why decluttering before a move is so vital: the less stuff you have the less you have to transport – so the less packing you will have to do.

And it’s not just packing it up on the moving end . It’s unpacking at the new house, and then making a decision about where each item goes. Once you get to the new house, much of your time will be spent finding everything you need amongst all the stuff that you brought (most of which you probably don’t need).
Just think of how much time you will save for every object you decide not to bring with you.


Trust me, on moving day, you will be so grateful to have gotten rid of so much stuff before your move. The less you have to take, the easier it will be on you when you’re hot, sweaty and just done with it. (Why is it that it’s always a thousand degrees when you’re moving? Is it somehow a law that we can only move on the hottest day of the year?)


One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is trying to get “some money” out of an item they bought. They paid $20 for that salad spinner and want to recoup at least $10. So instead of donating it, they take it to the new house.

Don’t do that.

If it’s something you don’t use and can’t sell immediately, it is time to give it away.

What not to bring with you? Much of this depends on how far you are moving and who is paying for the move. When you see how big a moving truck is, you might be tempted to just throw everything in there and sort it out later.

Resist that temptation. It’s now more important than ever to ask yourself the three questions of decluttering:

  • Do I love it?
  • Do I use it?
  • Would I buy it again?

I often ask my Clutter Free Academy people when they are really struggling with a decision about whether to keeps something or not, “Would you pay to move it?

But remember, there are several ways to “pay” for something: Space, Time, Energy, Money.


Items You Can Leave Behind When You Pack and Move

Here are some items you can leave behind:

Curtains and Window Treatments

I’ve heard from many military families that curtains never work from house to house – it’s better to just leave them.

Furniture That Doesn’t Have a Spot

If you can’t picture that extra wingback chair anywhere in your new house, don’t bring it with hopes that you will magically find a place.


Break up with the paint colors from your old house (and be a good guy and leave touch-up paint behind for the new renter/owner.) It’s time to dive in new into your new space and give it some fresh paint love.


Why would you bring parts from your old house to your new digs? Again, be a champ and leave them there for the new tenant.


It may be time to get rid of décor that you loved but haven’t pulled out in a couple of years. Each house has its own vibe, and you are going to want to make your space your own over the next few years.


Not all appliances automatically work in every space. Do your research before dragging that dishwasher across town (or especially across the country).

Knowing I had to move everything three hours away, and that our space had been cut in less than half, I had to get very specific about what I would bring and what I would leave behind.

Here are four questions to ask when you’re making those types of decisions:

  • How much time do I have before my move?
  • How much energy do I want to put into getting money out of my stuff?
  • How much do I need to get rid of to fit into my new space?
  • How much will it cost me to move?


4 Ways to Declutter Before You Pack and Move

So how do you get rid of all that extra stuff before you make your move?

Buddy Blessing

Early after we decided to move, I gathered up everything I knew I wanted to get rid of: books, decorations, food, school supplies, kids’ clothes, jewelry, my clothes, accessories, videos, kitchen supplies, tools, camping equipment and small appliances. Then I put it all in my living room and invited friends to come by and take what they wanted.
It was the fastest way of decluttering, and it’s good for the soul.

Free Pile

I had a yard sale and made some money from that, but then I put a “free” sign in my front yard. I would haul things out there, and twenty minutes later, they would magically disappear. Turns out the same family kept driving by my house, waiting for me to put stuff out. Finally, I just had them come into the house, point to the things I was getting rid of, and they hauled them away for me. It was a wonderful arrangement. They were taking the stuff to the flea market to sell, and I was thrilled to get it out of my house. (I was past the garage sale point – I was at the “Just get it out of my house!” point.)

Garage/Yard Sale

I’ve written a whole guide on How to Have a Clutter Free Garage Sale, and make a little money in the process. One of my readers, Mellanie, gave me this great idea for prepping for a garage sale: “My sister encouraged me to keep a package of sales sticker dots and a package of blank dots along with a permanent marker in a handy drawer. During the year when I came across something I didn’t use anymore, I put a sticker on it and put it in a box or storage container marked for garage sales. I have them down in my basement all stacked up. I tried it this past year and my stuff is already to sell. I just need to carry the boxes outside.”

Nextdoor App

Now, when I’m decluttering, I put things up on Nextdoor under the free column. I put in the description that someone has to come pick it up. I love not having to drag things to a donation center. It’s like a valet for my stuff that I don’t want anymore.


Moving is an opportunity. Look at your move as a fresh start in in new place when it comes to clutter.

If you’ve moved before, tell me in the comments below your best moving trick. You could be featured in an upcoming article here on Clutter Free Academy.

Join the You Don't Have to Try So Hard Book Club

We'll be conducting the book club through Kathi's Private Facebook Group, Clutter Free Academy. Join the book club to get access to the private facebook group. You'll receive an email with instructions once you submit this form. 

Check your email for more instructions!