Wednesday, April 6, 2016

My secret planner obsession…

     Maybe it is not such a secret but I can pretend!  I love planners.  Okay, I love to organize and be organized and planners are just an extension.  My obsession with time management started when I was introduced to the Franklin Planner.  It was in the days when I was na├»ve enough to think that I could make Amway, or whatever name they tried to disguise it as, a viable business and we could retire early and rich.  I firmly believe that all things happen for a reason and while I was never going to make it rich in Amway or Mary Kay or Pampered Chef, I could glean wisdom from each of these experiences.  The Amway crowd introduced me to the Franklin Planner.  Nowadays, I think they are called Franklin Covey because they merged or were bought out by Stephen Covey who is famous for his “Seven Habits…” books. 
     I used my Franklin Planner for many years.  Some months I was more effective at using it than others but it developed a few habits that have really helped me over the years.  The first rule I learned was only to have ONE calendar.  If you have more than one calendar you are setting yourself up to miss important events or not have the right calendar with you when you need it.  I took this to heart and centralized my calendar to keep track of everything.   The second rule or concept was the idea of prioritizing tasks.  Ten to twelve years ago, I ventured into the electronic calendar and began with Outlook.  This present somewhat of a dilemma to my one calendar rule because I couldn’t have my computer with me all the time.  I’m not sure how I did it but I managed to get everything into the computer and print out what was coming for the week ahead so I could maintain my one calendar rule.  Seven years ago, Google and technology decided to make my life easier.  I began to use Google Calendar.  At first it wasn’t as easy as it is now but it was convenient to be able to pull up my calendar on any computer.  As the girls got older is was also nice to be able to share my calendar and to have them create their own calendars so that we could see where people needed to be where. 
While the electronic calendar has helped me keep track of life it really didn’t meet the needs of prioritizing tasks.  I have some great to do apps and I used them more when I was working on multiple projects but there was always something missing for me.  I just don’t take their reminders as seriously as I do if I have physically written something down.   Sometimes seeing everything I needed to do, even if I didn’t have to do it for 6 months was completely overwhelming.  This lack of contentment with electronic options left me using index cards on a daily basis.  I was pretty good at keeping track of that card but there were occasions when I suddenly found myself with nothing to do because I could not find the card.
     All of this has left me searching.  I could go back to my old planner but I don’t want to give up my electronic calendar and it seems a wasted to only use part of it especially with the cost of a Franklin Covey planner.  I had to reconcile in my mind the difference between a calendar and a planner.  The calendar keeps appointments and schedules but the planner helps me manage the times not otherwise planned.  It may also help me say no to appointments but while they are connected, they serve two different functions.  Since I love my online calendar I wanted to keep that but I needed to find a way to effectively plan the rest of my time.  I decided that I would be okay maintaining my Google Calendar and then just transferring that information onto whatever planner I would use.  I usually do this Sunday evening when I am planning my week but I do have to remember to make duplicate entries during the week if something comes up.  I had heard about something called a Spark Planner on one of those pages to raise money and it sounded promising but they were sold out and it just didn’t seem like they were ready for the interest they received. 
     Pinterest showed me these lovely “Bullet Journals”.  Bullet journals basically use all those cool journals that you find and love at Barnes and Noble but no matter how many you buy you still don’t really journal because you don’t like to write that much with a pen.  There are templates for really cool looking pages where you can track anything you want.  I loved the creative side but there was a reality for me.  I don’t have the artistic ability or patience to create those pages and I have terrible penmanship so my pages never looked as beautiful as the ones I saw on Pinterest.  There’s a surprise, huh!  Bullet Journals led me to Happy Planners.  Happy Planners are basically planners decorated with stickers, washi tape, stamps or whatever you’d like.  I thought this would be a good way to use up some of the stickers I had collected over the years and have a little fun.  You can see a bit of what each of these look like by checking out my Pinterest board at
     I like the Happy Planner and even brought my daughter into the fun and creativity of making beautiful pages but it proved a little basic for me and there was another piece missing.  Enter The Catholic Planner.  For me, The Catholic Planner has the best of all of these worlds and it allows me to bring my faith into my daily planning in a more visible way.  It has pages to begin your planner with where you are at and where you want to be.  There are trackers for habits and rituals.  Space is also included weekly for brainstorming and journaling on the upcoming Sunday Gospel.  There are spaces to make note of priorities for the week and month and all of this comes in a simple black journal book that looks classy.  I don’t think they intended for me to decorate my pages the way a Happy Planner is decorated but I have and it works.  Not only do I have one weekly page to decorate, I have two!  Function and creativity all in one.

Here are some photos of their blank pages:

 And then, my decorated pages:


Nothing too fancy but just a little fun!

For me, it was about finding a balance of functionality and creativity.  My life is simpler now and doesn't need to complexities of some of the calendar planner systems that are out there but honestly, I can see myself having used this planner when I was a student, homeschooling and working.  I think it has plenty of versatility.  I doubt I would have had time to decorate pages regularly when I had all of those things going on but it is where I am now.  I think the important thing is to realize that time is a gift from God and we can either use it to the fullest or waste it.  In either case we will be held accountable.

Blessings and prayers,

Monday, January 11, 2016


Tidying is such an odd word in the English language.  When I think of tidying I think of a 1950's housewife in a beautiful dress with perfect hair, make up and nails complete with feather duster straightening an already immaculate house.   "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" may help you get to that image in the end, but that is not the way things will look or feel during the process.  Author, Maria Kondo, explains in her new book "Spark Joy" that there is a distinction between cleaning and tidying; cleaning pits us against nature while tidying affects the things in our lives.  Kondo is concerned with the things in our lives but we all know that the fewer things you have the easier it is to clean.
The process the book takes you through is a rather a violent way of disposing of the things in your life that do not spark joy.  She doesn't advocate spending 15 minutes a day going through a door or cupboard.  She wants you to take every item you own in a category out from every possible place you have them stashed and put them in one big pile.  Once you have done this, take some time to realize where else you may still have items in that category and get them as well.  Once you have done this you take each item in your hands and ask yourself "Does this item spark joy?"  If it does, you put it in the keep pile and if it doesn't, thank the item for having served you well and put it in the discard/donate/purge pile.  She cautions, to not put it in the pile to give to your sister unless you know your sister is looking for that specific item.  Our goal is to bring joy not clutter to our homes as well as those around us.  
Charlie and I listened to the book and we had some good laughs.  Holding and/or hugging an item to see if it sparks joy is a bit weird to me.  There is another part of me that just laughs at the idea of thanking an item for having served us well.  There is an underlying principle here that is really important and I will admit that it has completely changed the way I look at things and what I am willing to purchase and the way I look at items I discard.  I have been pondering these two thoughts in my head since I first listened to the book about six months ago.  The process felt very violent to me but in a good way because it was like I was cutting away dead skin from a wound.  There was definitely some guilt with the purchases I had made but can also say that I learned from making those purchases and in that regard I can be thankful for the lessons learned.
As a Catholic woman who has written to other women about what it means to sanctify our vocations there is a bright star of wisdom in these two simple concepts.  To me, "joy" comes from those things that bring us closer to God.  Asking myself whether something brings me joy causes me to consider what really makes me happy.  If it doesn't make me happy then I don't need it in my life because it isn't helping me to be the person God wants me to be.  God wants me to be happy!  Having fewer things to care for enables us to spend more time with the One that created us.   There will still be struggles if you only own things that bring you joy but at least as we struggle we will not be further weighed down by things.  Most of us that have lived a reflective life will realize that we can be happy during struggles if we place our faith in God and that it is usually during those times that God is working most in our lives.
If something doesn't bring me closer to God then it needs to be purged from my life... violently if necessary.  We don't go to Confession and just confess one or two sins.  We go and we purge the whole list so we can receive absolution and resolve to live better lives.  This is where I see benefit in Maria Kondo's process.  When I pulled every item of clothing I owned out of closets, drawers and bins I was able to see how much those things were weighing me down.  I had clothes from various sizes in case I lost or gained weight again and they weren't even items I really liked.  I did a first pass with this somewhat brutal method and donated over 7 large trash bags of clothes.  Since then, I have done a second pass and rid myself of a couple more bags of clothing.   Trying on six tops that didn't fit did not make me joyful.  
My goal on the second pass was to get myself down to a capsule wardrobe which is typically 37 items not counting undergarments and workout clothes.  In truth I probably have between 50 and 60 items and I'm happy.  This means that I only have clothing that I really love and that I wear things that are special to me even if the calendar does not say it is a special day.   It makes me feel good and I know I'm not going to go into my closet and take a hit to my self-esteem because all I see are clothes that don't fit or ones that I wonder what I was thinking when I purchased them.  I go into my closet and see clothes that make me happy because they fit or are getting too big.
Shopping has changed for me as well.  Because I have been losing weight, I did have a legitimate need to purchase some clothes that fit.  While I was shopping I would ask myself if the item I was looking at "sparked joy" and make my decision appropriately.  There were several times I was on the fence about an item and I decided to walk away because I wasn't sure it made me happy.  I do not even remember what those items were now.  As part of the capsule wardrobe concept you only add clothes to your wardrobe seasonally which for me means I am not shopping for clothes until mid-March.  I can't help but think that will help our budget!  As a side note, with a capsule wardrobe you do not replace every item but move out the pieces that are not appropriate for the season.  In my case, the long sleeve tops and probably most of my long pants can go away because it is too warm to wear them here.    I am eagerly looking forward to March and even considering whether I want to resume my love for sewing and make a few items.
I have used clothes as an example here but in KMing (the abbreviation that has been used for applying Maria Kondo's techniques) there are so many areas of life this can make a difference.  The fewer things we have the less space we require.  That was a big consideration for me when it came to books.  I love my books but do I them enough to have to pay for that much more home to be able to display them?  It makes me think more carefully.    I tried to do most of the categories as we were packing for our move last September but now that we are settled in I can see there is much more I can do and have started in again.  I recently found a comprehensive list of categories and subcategories to make sure you get everything.  As I can, I plan to go through the list more thoroughly.  It is likely we have another move in our lives this summer and I hope that when it happens I will have a much clearer picture of what sort of space we actually need versus what it would take to fit our stuff.
For years with The Little Way, I wrote about decluttering in 15 minute chunks and for some people that may still need to be the way you do it but I have to say I can truly see the benefit of putting it all out there so I can see the big picture and carving the pieces away that do not make that picture spark joy.  Do what works for you but do not let things rob you of joy and keep you from what is truly important.