Save on School Supplies (& Give Your Students an Important Lesson)

Save on School Supplies (& Give Your Students an Important Lesson)

Learn a quick way to save on school supplies AND teach your kids an important lesson.

Save on school supplies

Last night, I was at the office supply store along with about every parent and school-age child in our county. Fortunately, I was able to dash in and out in a matter of minutes to get the labels I needed for a project.

Not so much for all those families wandering the aisles.

Each of them had a pre-printed shopping list provided by the teachers, of what they would need to get through the first several months of classes .I listened as kids read off items and the parents dutifully grabbed supplies from shelves and put them into their shopping carts:

“Paper Towels”

Of course, the store was ready and waiting for them. End caps of tissue and paper towels waited for those lists and carts to roll by. And flashbacks to my own “Back-to-School” shopping came flooding back.


I Remember

I remember blindly going down the aisles of Target, wanting to get all the check marks on the list. Throwing in overpriced tissues and paper towels that were conveniently located in the back-to-school aisle, not even stopping to consider that we had tissues and paper towels from our last Costco run. Buying scissors even though we probably had a dozen pairs tucked away in drawers and desks at home. Buying boxes of fresh crayons instead of going through the craft drawer.

As a recovering clutterer, I remember loving having an excuse to buy all new things because they are “on the list.”


Give Your Kids One Thing That’s Not On The List

But the best thing I can give myself and my kids is not school supplies in brand new shiny boxes. It’s something else: resourcefulness.

Giving your kids a budget for school supplies is teaching resourcefulness — and will help you to save on school supplies!

Having our kids hunt for school supplies in our own homes before heading to Target is teaching resourcefulness. (Even washing backpacks so they look good for this year.)  Going through sales flyers with your kids and finding discounts on what you still need is teaching resourcefulness.


What If You Don’t Have Kids In School?

My plan for back to school? See what I have extra (I’ve been known to be an office supply hoarder) and ask my teacher friends what they can use.

Hint: They can always use a box or two of tissues.

I may not have kids in school, but I care deeply that kids in my area have what they need. I would rather it be used in a classroom than taking up room in my office.

Part of being Clutter Free is making sure we are using our resources wisely, and that we can be a resource for others during their time of need.



Join the Clutter Free Academy and conquer your clutter!

Click HERE to learn more.

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.

Click HERE to read the rest of this post on Girlfirends in God.

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