5 Good Reads On Organization

Organization is one of those things I often struggle with. I love the process. In fact, that is just about my favorite part of anything, the planning process. Brainstorming, creating systems, setting goals…I love all of it.

It’s the follow through that I struggle with.

Never the less, I press on! I read all I can about homemaking, cleaning systems, and organization. I set up my own systems and little by little, I improve. There are days I get frustrated with just how little it is, but the grace of God carries me through.

5 Good Reads on Organization - Simply Vicki vicki-arnold.com

My blogging friend Marcy over at Ben and Me started a monthly link up that I thought was such a great idea last fall. Then life happened and not much blogging was going on here so I haven’t yet participated. But I am today!

The concept is simple, share 5 good reads each month on the fifth of the month. Any subject. If I read it in the last month and believe it should be shared with you, it goes. I intend to keep my 5 on the Fifth posts topical. This month I am sharing 5 good reads on organization.

5 Good Reads on Organization

10 Minutes to a Clutter Free Morning – Becoming a Minimalist

What I love about this post is that it is practical, a checklist of sorts. Printed out, this would give a nice visual checklist that the kids could even help with at night. You know, since most of the items are directly effected by them…

8 Ways to Get a Handle on Paper Clutter – Clean Mama

Paper clutter is the bane of my existence. I organize it in piles which is moderately effective. I can pretty much find things when needed, but no one else can and if a pile gets knocked over, all bets are off. These are much better options.

8 Clever Ways to Organize With Ikea - Decorating Your Small Space

My husband sort of hates Ikea, he finds it claustrophobic. I, on the other hand, LOVE it. I love the little rooms and displays. I love the colorful prints and fun designs. I LOVE coming across posts that use their products, both in the way they were meant to be used and Ikea “hacks.”

7 Ways I’m Minimizing Decision Fatigue in My Daily Life – Modern Mrs. Darcy

I keep thinking that #1 would make life so much easier, but then I also think boring. I really, really like #5 and think that needs to happen. And I appreciated the linen discussion at the end. ;)

6 Things I Do Every Day to Keep the House Clean – Clean Mama

I recently discovered Clean Mama and love it. I appreciated this list because it was equal parts encouragement that I am on the right track and keep going I can do better.

So those are my 5 good reads on organization for this month. I’m not sure what next month’s topic will be, but I have been reading a bit on homeschool already this month because of convention season starting. So there is a good chance that might happen.

If you liked this post, you might want to check out this one:

Organization ideas for the home - part 4 of 5 in the How Do I Teach Organization & Time Management Skills When I Have Neither? series

What I’m Reading & A Giveaway!

I never got around to posting my 2015 to read list. Heck, I didn’t even get around to writing it this year. So today I thought I would share what I’m reading so you could check it out and maybe get some inspiration for your reading list.

Oh, and I’m participating in a rather large Amazon gift card giveaway, so you will want to check that out at the bottom of this post.

What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading

That’s it. I could give you the long list of books that are in my “reading” stack, but these are the two titles I’m actually reading right now. Life is busy and I find reading takes a back seat in a busy season. My bibliophile heart mourns this actually. It is something I long to remedy.

I’d love to hear what you are reading right now though! I may add it to my already ridiculously long list.

Now, it’s giveaway time!

$500 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

I am so happy to be partnering with some other bloggers to bring you a $500 Amazon gift card giveaway!

Amazon Gift Card GiveawayGet excited, because today we are helping our friends at Pretty Providence celebrate their 3rd blog birthday with an amazing $500 Amazon gift card giveaway! Which is basically like winning $500 cash, only better, because they will deliver the goods strait to your door and when it’s in gift card form you feel no guilt spending it…am I right?!?

We have some of our seriously amazing blog friends helping us bring this giveaway to you today, and it wouldn’t be possible without them, so how about some quick introductions?!birthday-giveaway-pinterest-logos

Pretty Providence ||Tips From a Typical Mom || Mandy’s Recipe Box || Cupcake Diaries || Housewife Eclectic || Simply Vicki || My Natural Family || A Thrifty Mom || Redefined Mom || Tastes Better From Scratch || The Mama’s Girls || Brunch with Joy || Feel Great in 8 || Saving Cent by Cent || My Daylights || My Mommy Style || Meg O. On the Go || Moms Without Answers || The Wells Collection || My Life as Maya || The Things I Love

Okay, now let’s get down to the goods! All you have to do to enter is follow the prompts on the rafflecopter below, and this one is so easy ! I mean, who doesn’t love some great new blogs to follow on Pinterest?!

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Good luck everybody! We hope YOU win ;)! Be sure to check back at Pretty Providence because they have a new birthday themed post and a new giveaway going live every day this week!

Ultimate Guide to Gardening Fun With Kids

If you have been around the blog for a while, you may have noticed that come spring time I love to talk gardening. Today I am bringing you what I am calling the Ultimate Guide to Gardening Fun With Kids. Oh, and a great giveaway at the bottom.

You’ll notice a couple things about this ultimate guide. One, it’s not overly complicated. Two, it’s not overly lengthy.

Why? Because I believe the more you complicate a matter, the less likely it is to actually be accomplished. So let’s just get to it!

Ultimate Guide to Gardening With Kids at Vicki-Arnold.com

Ultimate Guide to Gardening Fun With Kids

Just to reiterate, I like to keep things simple. So I broke this down into general tips, specific tips, crafts and activities if you are not ready for actual gardening yet, and finally, some resources for teens and adults because learning isn’t just for kids.

General Tips to Get Started

  • Don’t overthink it and don’t let it intimidate you if you have never gardened before.
  • Start small. Pick a small patch of ground or try a few containers. It is much better on your psyche to do small well than to flop because you went too big. Trust me.
  • Gather supplies. Get your containers and dirt, or some tools and compost for your ground plot, your plants and/or seeds, and start working your soil.
  • Choose some easy plants to get started.
  • Don’t forget to check your plants daily. You want to check to see if they are getting enough sun, if they need water, if there are pests that need handled, and if there are any weeds that need dealt with.

Here is another post from a fellow Kid Blogger Network blogger that has her 5 Tips for Gardening With Kids. And another KBN blogger has a review of a super cute gardening tote and tool set.

Specific Ideas for Gardening with Kids

Garden Themed Crafts & Activities

If you have a while before you can do your chosen gardening activity, warm your kids up to the idea with some garden themed crafts and activities.

Gardening Resources for Teens & Adults

Ultimate Guide to Gardening With Kids at Vicki-Arnold.com

Kid Blogger Network Giveaway

Win one of THREE $500 cash prizes directly in your paypal account! This giveaway is open internationally. You must be 18+ years old to enter. Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary. Winners will be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Please see detailed terms and conditions below the giveaway for more info.

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Kid Blogger Network Spring Activities

The Kid Blogger Network is full of blogs dedicated to kids. We have a very wide range of what that means, too. There are blogs with activities for kids, blogs about parenting kids, blogs about teaching kids (homeschool and in a classroom setting), and more. Check out all their spring round up posts for this event below!

Gardening Posts I’ve Written Elsewhere

Spring time means garden time around here and that means gardening posts. Every year we jump into our garden planning hopeful that this year will be better than last. Eternal garden optimists.

As I was doing research for an upcoming post, I realized I had several garden-related posts on various blogs that I never got around to sharing with you, my awesome readers!

Gardening Posts - Herbs, Books, Beginners, & Kids at Simply Vicki

Today, I am remedying this. In no particular order, here are gardening posts I’ve written elsewhere on the internet.

Gardening Posts I’ve Written Elsewhere

G is for Gardening - ABCs of Home Schooling at My Joy-Filled Life - Ways to use gardening in your homeschool.

G is for Gardening – I wrote this post for My Joy-Filled Life’s ABCs of Home Schooling. I shared six ways to use gardening in your homeschool.

Gardens Kids Can Grow - a guest post at ALLterNATIVE Learning

Gardens Kids Can Grow – This post was for ALLterNATIVE Learning’s Earth Day series. I shared ideas for gardening with kids from preschoolers to teenagers.

How to Get Started Gardening With Kids - Intoxicated on Life

How to Get Started Gardening With Kids – I was a contributor over at Intoxicated On Life last year and I quite enjoyed it. I wrote each month on gardening and garden related topics. The next several posts came from that time.

Gardening for Better Health for Beginners on Intoxicated on Life

Gardening for Better Health for Beginners – One of my first gardening posts over at Intoxicated On Life. I covered a handful of reasons gardening is good for your health and some easy tips to get started.

Herb Gardening for Beginners on Intoxicated On Life

Herb Gardening for Beginners – One of my favorite graphics, even though I recently realized it’s technically a flower and not an herb. I won’t tell if you don’t. Also, the article has helps for those wanting to grow herbs.

23 DIY Projects for Gardeners on Intoxicated on Life

23 DIY Projects for Gardeners – A list of projects in these categories: supplies, beds and containers, season extenders, equipment and tools, and decor.

Books About Gardening to Read at Intoxicated On Life

Books About Gardening to Read This Winter – Actually, you can read these any time of the year. This post was just written in winter.

And there you have it, a list of gardening posts I’ve written elsewhere in the blogosphere. I hope you find one that blesses your gardening endeavors this spring!

Gardening Posts

If you are new around here, be sure to check out my other gardening posts. If you are new to gardening, start with my Beginner’s Guide to Gardening posts.

What the Heck is an Instagram Challenge?

What is an Instagram Challenge?

Instagram is a great tool. I’ve not used it to its full potential, but was determined to change that this year. A lot of bloggers use Instagram as part of their marketing efforts. Me? Not so much. I personally like my Instagram feed to be full of “real life” versus the promotional.

So if you are looking for a post on how to use Instagram in your blog marketing efforts, this probably isn’t going to be of much use to you. If you want to see how Instagram is a great tool for the intentional life, just keep reading, just keep reading…did you read that in your best Dory voice? I did as I wrote it. The toddler is on a Finding Nemo kick right now.

What is Instagram?

In an effort to not put the cart before the horse, I’ll start here. Instagram is an app for smart phones where you can create a profile to share photos you take with said smart phone. You can follow your friends (or friendly bloggers…) and see their photos in your feed.

In your feed, you can heart (similar to liking on FB) and comment on those photos. There is also an explore section where you can search for people sharing specific topics and hashtags (like #capturinglifelaughterlove).

That’s the nuts and bolts of Instagram.

The What & Why of an Instagram Challenge

An Instagram challenge is simply a set of prompts for a set number of days that is meant to inspire you to post to your Instagram account. The prompts are simple and there is no right or wrong way to interpret them. A few examples from last month’s Capturing Life, Laughter and Love challenges, click on the prompt to see how I interpreted it in my photos:

Why would I participate and even co-host an Instagram challenge? For me, it’s personal. I am terrible about taking photos, even though I have an awesome DSLR (actually, I have two…), a great point and shoot camera, an iPhone, and various other devices that take decent photos at my disposal each day. I wanted to change that.

I wanted to be intentional about capturing these moments before they become memories long-forgotten. That’s my why.

If you have ever started a 365 photo challenge and run out of steam, then using a prompt guided challenge may be a great way to help you meet that goal!

Instagram Challenges

Capturing Life, Laughter, and Love isn’t the only Instagram challenge out there, though I am pretty partial to it. ;) Here are a few other options to check out:

  • Capture Play – Aims to encourage parents to play with their kids with one word prompts each month.
  • 10 iPhoto Photo Challenges – No need to commit to a long term challenge if you aren’t up to it. This can be done on your own time.
  • #100HappyDays – I simply love the concept of this challenge. Look for the happy every day!
  • Project 52 – Maybe every day isn’t your thing, surely you can manage on a week?

Finally, here is a list of 11 Tips for Completing a Project 365 that is helpful for any photo challenge you may take on. There really isn’t a wrong way to go about this, just be intentional to snap some photos each day. You don’t even have to share them on Instagram!

If you decide to join us for Capturing Life, Laughter, and Love, you will receive a free ebook in your welcome email called 20 Tips to Improve Your Instagram Photos.

Challenge Yourself…Intentionally

Challenge Yourself...Intentionally - How to use challenges to better your life this year and every year.

“New year, new me!”

Did you see this in your Facebook newsfeed a few weeks ago? How about the posts of varying levels of making fun of such posts? I had both in my feed. It’s kind of amazing to me how pessimistic so many people have become about things like resolutions and goals.

I’ll say it again, I’m a fan of goals and resolutions, or whatever you want to call them. I believe them to fall in the same vein as Proverbs 29:18a – “Where there is no vision, the people perish“. Goals give us a vision of what the future can look like.

Does that mean our future WILL look like our vision? Not always. Sometimes we start out with certain goals for specific reasons and along the way we realize that God had different reasons. And sometimes that reason is for us to fail.

Yes, I believe that God wants us to fail sometimes. Is that scandalous? It totally flies in the face of any prosperity or candy-coated gospel, for sure. Life as a Christian isn’t all sunshine and roses. If it was, why would we need faith in God? Why would we still need a savior?

Yep, I believe God wants us to fail sometimes because it reminds us of three things:

  1. We can’t do this alone.
  2. His grace is sufficient for our shortcomings.
  3. He is always working in us for a greater good.

Actually there are more reasons, but suffice it to say that we learn a great deal from our failings and God is more concerned with growing us in our faith than He is with our earthly circumstances.

This is why I don’t mind setting new goals, even if I didn’t meet a previous goal. I want to always be learning and growing.

Enough backstory, now I want to challenge you.

One of the best ways to jumpstart change in your life is by taking up a challenge. What kind of challenge? Well, that depends on what problem you want solved and your end-goal. Let’s break it down a bit by common areas people look to make change in their life.

Faith

Does your faith feel stagnant? Don’t be satisfied with that! Listen for that still small voice in your heart and see where God wants to grow you. Consider challenging yourself in these areas:

Prayer

Reading the Bible

  • Pick a topical study of the Bible and do it daily.
  • Read through the Bible or a portion of the Bible in a set timeframe.
  • Commit to reading the Bible daily for a week or month (baby-step it, whatever you need to do to create a better habit with this).
  • Choose a book of the Bible and read it every day for a week.

Service

Daily Life

If you want to see improvement in some area of your life, challenge yourself to start today. Are you miserable in your job? Map out a plan to change jobs or even career fields. Set a time frame and get going! A few other ideas:

  • Reduce your spending. Challenge yourself to not spend any money for a whole month (outside of necessities that you decide upon BEFORE starting).
  • Save more money. Do you have a daily purchase like coffee or lunch out? Or maybe a bigger weekly/monthly purchase like dinners out? Commit to skipping that for a month (or 2-3 if it is a bigger/more sporadic expense) and saving the money in a special account.
  • De-Clutter. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of STUFF in your life? Try out a de-cluttering challenge, there are a LOT of options out there. A few to consider – 10 Minutes a Day, 31 days to clutter free, or do a mini challenge.
  • Better food choices. Give up sugar for a month. Drop your daily coffee or soda. Try meatless Monday for a month. Add a green smoothie to your day for a week. Pick your weakest area and challenge yourself to make better choices (spell it out better than that though).
  • Move more. Sit at a desk job? Commit to standing while talking on the phone for two weeks. Or use your break time to take a quick walk outside all week. Work at home or are a stay at home parent in a rut? Set a timer each hour for 10 minutes and climb steps, stretch, bounce on a rebounder, or go outside and pull some weeds in the garden.
  • Keeping a clean home. Try leaving your sink empty each night for a week. Or challenge yourself to clean something everyday that you won’t have to touch again for at least 2 weeks.

Health

  • Weight loss. If you are struggling with weight loss, commit to no sugar for a time of at least 21 days. This will help reset your cravings and likely jumpstart your loss.
  • Drink more water. Try setting a goal of 6-8 glasses of water each day for a week or more and then see how you feel at the end.
  • Exercise. If exercise is a 4-letter word to you, but you want to lose weight, tone up, or boost your energy…you’re going to need to add exercise to your list. Challenge yourself to try a new form of exercise every day (or 3-5x’s per week) for a couple weeks. By trying new things, you may find a form of exercise that you just love to do!
  • Kick bad habits. Pick one and hyper-focus your efforts to kick it to the curb. Replace bad habits with good ones. It takes 21 days to create a new habit, so be patient with yourself.

Intentional Living

The whole point of these challenges is to try something new. Make different choices to see different results. It really isn’t about the goal, it is about the day-to-day decisions that lead you there. Be intentional to challenge yourself this year and see where God takes you!

Super Simple Meal Planning Method

Super simple meal planning method. Get more vegetables in your day.

Meal planning is one of those classic tips for those looking to be more intentional with either their food choices and/or budget. Taking the time to plan out your meals ahead of time wards off things like last minute drive-thru stops and takeout orders. Both are hard on the wallet and can be hard on the waistline, too.

I have used a variety of meal planning methods over the years. I’ve planned out every meal and snack, created lists of options to pick from each day, planned out two week’s worth of meals, and worked week by week. I haven’t tried the monthly meal planning method as of yet, but I know some swear by it. I can see how it works, but I’m not ready to commit to that right now.

I recently switched to a super simple meal planning method designed to put more of a focus on vegetables. I’ve mulled this format over in my head for a while now, but couldn’t quite make it work until recently. We decided to take some time off from eating meat so that we can be more intentional about getting more veggies in our diet.

This can very easily work with eating meat, too. In fact, I will probably continue with this method for a while. It really is simple.

I do this with a pencil and a piece of paper, but I typed it up so I could give you a clearer look at my plan. (After seeing it all typed up, I will likely do this moving forward.)

Super simple meal planning method to get more veggies in your day.

Simple Meal Planning Method

This is basically fill in the blank. I fill it in with what we have on hand and what I’m picking up from grocery shopping.

Here’s more detail:

  • Breakfast – We are moving away from cereals because they are loaded with sugar and are not very filling. We rotate between oatmeal with different fixings and eggs. For the eggs, I will either sautee the veggies and pour scrambled eggs over it or serve them alongside fried eggs.
  • Lunch – I’ve organized the veggies by how I cook them. Then for lunch, I simply pick two plus a grain/carb or do three different vegetables. My kids also love to do a veggie tray with ranch dip or hummus, we often have more than three vegetable options on that.
  • Dinner – This is where I’ve struggled to find what works best. I will be focusing on more protein, less/no carb meals. I’ve kept this simple specifically to motivate me to use more veggies than anything. I use the list from the lunch section to pick my veggies.
  • Snacks – Again, trying to focus on higher protein items. I also use my breakfast shake when I’m needing something sweet because I struggle with that.

Why This Simple Method Works For Me

I have found that I can always find a way to get carbs in my diet. What I struggle to get in are lots of vegetables and protein. I am finding that being intentional about these by writing them out helps me make better choices. I’m hoping this has a positive impact on my weight, too.

I find this method to be the perfect blend of needing to plan ahead and needing the freedom of choosing what to eat. I have never stuck with a “eat this at this time” regimen for more than a day or two. I find it to be suffocating and I tend to rebel when we have those. In other words, it has the opposite of a positive effect on me.

There are no recipes. I love to cook with recipes, collect them on Pinterest, and use my cookbook collection. But I have found that when my focus is on using recipes, I don’t actually cook as much because it ALWAYS takes me 2x’s the time listed on the recipe, but I never plan for that.

Going forward, I will probably have some recipe based items added because I don’t want to get bored with the options and my husband enjoys variety. For now, no recipes is working for me.

This simple meal planning method works for me. If you are struggling with getting enough vegetables in your diet or need to shake up your meal planning efforts, give this a try and see what you think!

If you need some other meal planning ideas, check out my Pinterest board just for that!

Follow Vicki Arnold’s board Food :: Menu Planning on Pinterest.
If you would prefer recipes to follow, you can check out these cookbooks for some plant-based meal ideas to get more veggies in your day:

Happy Eating!

3 Ways You Can Support Shop Small

3 Ways You Can Support Shop Small (and Why)

Shop Small Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but you don’t have to wait for an official day to support small business owners. You can shop small all year long.

Why Shop Small?

Small businesses employ local people, they tend to be very involved in their communities, and they give towns a unique flavor. They are good for the local economy, too. Just think about it, have you ever traveled to see a town because of its Wal-Mart or Bed, Bath, and Beyond? Not likely, small businesses create a draw because they are different.

Your shopping small ensures that they can stay in business.

I am not saying big business is bad. Big business has its place. I simply would hate to see big business completely demolish small business.

Go Local

Take a look around next time you are in your town or city and see if you can find a “mom and pop” store. In our town, you can shop at an independent book store, art store, and a fabric store. Look for small cafes and non-chain restaurants for your lunches or date nights.

Smaller businesses can be priced a little higher than bigger business because they don’t have the buying power that brings volume discounts. You can offset this some by signing up for the newsletters, emails, or mailings so you will be aware of special promotions and possible coupons from the store.

Go International

This is the opposite of shopping local, but not the opposite of shopping small. When I say international, I don’t mean buying lots of “made in china” stuff. There are a growing number of organizations and ministries that are committed to making a difference in the world.

These organizations work with impoverished, marginalized people to provide them with training for various life skills and crafts. Then they sell those items, with the majority of the profits going directly to the artisan. Your purchases have a direct impact on the lives of some of the neediest people in the world.

Go Independent

You can shop online and support small business. The most popular site for this is Etsy, but don’t stop there. A lot of small businesses sell on their own websites now.

Another option is independent consultants for direct sales businesses. Yes, I know. A lot of people are skeptical of the multi-level marketing set up. I get that, but I also see tremendous potential for supporting entrepreneurs. There are a lot of direct sales businesses, ask on Facebook and I’m sure you will have no shortage of options. If you are looking for hair pretties, I am a Lilla Rose consultant. ;)

Shopping small doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, be relegated to one day in November. You can support small businesses year round by being a little more intentional with your spending this year.