Cleaning and Organizing

How We Use Our Home Management Binder

We are prone to paper clutter.  Are we alone?  I don’t know what it is, but we have lived for the past three years of our marriage with piles of papers around the house, usually on the dining room table.  We make lists and leave them out so we remember to look at them.  When mail comes in, instead of having a place for all the different types, they would sit in different piles.  I can’t stand it anymore!  So, I decided to become proactive!  I created a home management binder using mostly free printables (for now) until we know for sure it works for us.  I’m tempted to design my own binder pages one day, but for now, it seems to be working for us.  Come along on a tour of our Home Management Binder!


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Printables Used:


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How I Print, Cut, and Punch My Filofax Printables

Many people have asked me how I am able to customize my Filofax using printables I find or make. Usually, people have trouble print, cutting, and punching the printables to fit in their planners exactly how they want them to. Every page in my Filofax, besides my monthly calendar, I have printed, cut, and punched to fit into my A5 Aqua Malden Filofax. It took a little trial and error at first, but now I feel that I am a pro! I whipped up a video for those of you interested. Keep in mind that I am showing you how I do a week’s worth of my daily pages (plus an action list that I use at the start of each week to write down things I need to get done before I plan each individual day), so your printables might be different, but usually the method will be very similar. This video can also still help you if you are using a size other than an A5, but you will simply need to figure out the measurements on your own (or search online) for exactly how much to take off on each side for your page to be exact specifications for your planner and for all the pages to line up perfectly.

I apologize for how quickly I was going through everything in this video. I had limited time to film it, but wanted to make sure I got it filmed so I could help those who are struggling with this. If you have further questions, please leave them in the comments section here or on the video and I will be happy to help you out further as much as I can!



Products Mentioned in the Video:

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Entryway Update & Hidden Office Storage

It is almost laughable how excited I am to finally be able to share this update with you!  You see, in our last home tour video and blog post, we had started turning our second bedroom on the main floor into an office.






Little did we know that three days after posting that home tour, we would conceive our child, so needless to say, the second bedroom will not become an office anymore.  I definitely was excited about creating an office, but that was mostly because I needed something to look forward to when my greatest dream of having a baby seemed like something that might never happen.  Now that it actually is happening, I am very excited to move everything out of that room and design a nursery!

When I overhauled the now-navy lateral file cabinet in the photo above, I knew that it would have a use even if we got pregnant or adopted down the road.  Although we don’t have a space for an entire office right now since the basement remains unfinished, we need the capabilities of having an office on our main floor since I have a photography business and we do normal office-related tasks at our home such as bill-paying, budgeting, filing important papers, preparing our files for taxes, and so on.  So, we had to get creative about how we would make our living area, which is definitely not huge, function as a living room and dining room while also functioning as an office.   However, the office part had to be secret because we don’t want our home to look like an office when we have people over, so we had to get creative.

Enter our newest addition to our home: an entry way drop zone and little decorative nook.

We brought the file cabinet out of the second bedroom and placed it next to the half-wall on this blank wall that we see upon entering the house:


Now it looks like this!



The file cabinet does not look office-y at all and ties in perfectly with our navy rug in the living room.  We absolutely love how this little nook sets the tone of our colorful, quirky, happy house.



On the file cabinet, we have a little pedestal vase filled with some decorative vase filler from Target.  Next to that, we have some candy for guests to take when they enter and leave our house.  I just love those little details!  Stealing the show is my favorite print we own that I got for Christmas two years ago.  It’s the Michelle Armas Trellus print.  I love how it ties in so many of the colors in our house and is just so vibrant!  I can’t help but smile when I see it, and now I get to see it all the time!  I also put a decorative blue frame San got me probably six years ago for my birthday from one of my favorite local stores, Patina.  It holds one of our engagement photos.  In front of that is just a little quote plaque.


I am in love with decorating shelves.  We love the ones we have in our kitchen, but those do not get changed up very much because we love them just the way they are.  Because we don’t have a fireplace/mantel, I have always wanted a place to decorate for the seasons, to hang stockings from, and to change out whenever the mood strikes.  What a better place than in our little entryway portion of our living room?  Right now, the shelves were somewhat decorate for Independence Day, but the colors work in our house so I’m just leaving it for now.

Most of the little nicknacks were collected over time or were gifts from friends.  I grabbed some of our blue books to add some color and used nicknacks as book ends.  The red horse chess piece was a gift and the white ceramic owl (Owlfred as we like to call him) is from a cool Australian store that is in the Mall of America, called Typo.  The other wall plaque was a gift, the mason jars I purchased at estate sales and were used in our wedding, the vintage Pepsi-Cola can was found at a thrift store on our honeymoon, and the lantern was purchased at Target, I believe.

On the top shelf, the lantern with a candle was a gift, the Bless this Home frame was a gift and I just painted it with coral paint, and the silver vintage jug was also used in our wedding.  The flying pig is actually very special to me.  I have always had a thing for pigs (I’ve always wanted a pig named Disco), and I even had Vans shoes with flying pigs on them in high school.  I adored those shoes.  I don’t remember where I saw the ceramic flying pig, but I had to buy him that second.  We named him Edwin, naturally.  Anyway, he is signed by John and Sherry from Young House Love during their book tour.  Funny story, I was actually mentioned on their blog twice (once in photo form, and once I got an actual mention) because I posted a funny photo of myself holding their book in front of our gallery wall in our old apartment in my pajamas because I was so eager to pick up the book that I walked through our apartment building looking like that to pick it up.  I chronicled all the madness and excitement on my photography blog.


Here are some closeups of the decorative goodness:





Now, the file cabinet is not the only way we conceal office storage.  In fact, our beautiful buffet we added during the renovation is full of office-related supplies, even a huge color laser printer (WHAT?  WHERE?), but you will have to watch the video below to see how we conceal our office supplies in the buffet (and you can see more of the entry way nook as well).

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Planning on the Go

I work as a nanny ten hours a day with an additional hour and a half of driving total as my commute. I am also a photographer and wedding season and just busy season in general is upon me, so I am not lying when I say I am away from my home a lot! I use my Filofax religiously to keep track of what I need to do each day while I’m nannying, while the little boy I watch naps (my productive time), and after I get home from work.  In order for me to know what I need to do, I have to bring my Filofax with me, but it’s too big for my purse, so I came up with another solution.


A few months ago, the planning/organizing online community went nuts for the Orla Kiely Weekender makeup bags at Target (link is to the version they currently have in stock that is different than the one I purchased which is discontinued, I believe).  Although, the bag is designed for makeup, it is the perfect size for planners, pens, scissors, and other planning accessories.  I pinned one down and bought it just before they discontinued them.  It fits perfectly in my Thirty-One tote I bought a couple years ago that I bring with me to work every day along with my laptop in the pink sleeve.


I love getting inspiration from others of how they plan on the go, so I thought I would share what I keep in here on a typical day.


My A5 Aqua Malden Filofax fits perfect in the left pocket.  It’s nice and safe in there and is easy to take out.


In the middle organizer, I keep extra pencils, pens, highlighters, scissors, magnetic paper clips, and a dry-erase marker.


It can fit a lot!



On the other side of the middle organizer, there is a zipped pouch where I keep some notepads.  I love me some notepads!


On the right full-size pocket opposite of the one I keep my Filofax in, I keep the following:


My rainbow assortment of Staedtler pens I used for color-coding and doodling.


My journal and two oft-used notepads.


My decorating/renovating and organization project management notebooks.


And a pencil case with some washi tape, extra pencils, lead, and a Bic Wite-Out.


Can’t it fit a lot?  Honestly, I don’t use all of these things on a daily basis, but I have used all of these things at one time or another, so it is convenient for me to have them all with me at home and at work.  The bag has held up very nicely over the past couple of months and has just worked so well for my needs.  I am dying to know how you stay organized on the go!

Living an Organized, Cheap Life

We have been having lots of fun interacting with others with similar interests on Youtube and through our blog. I was super excited when Hilary from My So-Called Home tagged me to do the Organized Cheap Life TAG.  Basically, the tag involves sharing organization products, cheap finds, and thing that have helped improve our life in some way.  I had a lot of fun putting together this video!  I hope you enjoy!

If you have a Youtube channel and do this tag, please leave a link to it in the comments here on the blog or on the video itself.  If you don’t have a channel but want to play along, share your own organizations products, great deals, and things that have improved your life in the comments!

Planning My Way to a Saner Sarah

Have you ever stopped to think about how much your life has changed since you were a child?  Now that I’ve been in the “real world” for a couple of years, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when I compare my life to how it was back in high school or even in college.  I’ve always been motivated to do things and often over-fill my plate, but working fifty hours a week with a business on the side is a lot different than working 25 hours a week and taking a full college course load.  As easy as it is to feel overwhelmed when thinking about how much more I have to do these days, it is also just as easy to feel optimistic when I think of all that I have learned about time management over the years.

A5 Aqua Malden Filofax 2014
I could never have handled the way my life is right now if I went straight from high school to my life right now.  I didn’t know enough about organizing, structuring my time, and keeping track of things to be able to take on the lifestyle I’m currently living.  I am so happy that I have tried a lot of systems and procedures along this journey to adulthood that has allowed me to be very efficient and productive.

One way I have always stayed organized is through the use of a planner.  In high school, my school gave out planners to each student to stay organized.  I diligently wrote down my extracurricular activities, assignments, and social engagements (because I was super fancy and called them ‘engagements’ back then – not) so that I wouldn’t forget.  In college, I scoured stores for the perfect planner that would give me enough space to write everything I needed to do while not being too large to lug around everywhere.  However, as more was piled on to my “to do” list, more time became devoted to finding the perfect planner.

During my final years of college, I transitioned to the Erin Condren Life Planner.  I loved that it was colorful, inspirational, and more structured than a lot of other planners I had used.  But, once I started my business and began teaching full-time (which I am now no longer doing but am nannying full-time), I needed something more.  I wanted a place to do long-term planning, daily planning, keep track of our meal plan, budget for the month, remember important dates in the future, and track progress in my health.  I wanted something that no store had prepackaged and ready to go for me.  I needed something customizable.

Enter the Filofax brand back about a year ago.  I purchased a Dakota personal size Filofax that I used for a few months.  I loved the customization capabilities but ended up hating the size.  As nice as the personal size was for carrying around, it was horrible for me when it came to writing things down because I tend to make very long, detailed (sometimes sloppy) lists that I constantly had to rewrite because the personal size didn’t have enough room for me.

A5 Aqua Malden Filofax 2014
I’ve now been in the A5 Aqua Malden Filofax for about four months and I could not be happier!  I don’t know what I would do with myself without my trusty planner.  Nothing would get done.  I just don’t trust myself with remembering details when I have so many things going on all the time.  I am able to delegate tasks throughout the week so I no longer am carrying around one giant “to do” list in my head, which would cause any person to get stresed out.  By just taking a half hour on Sundays to plan out my week, I can get so much done!

I know not everyone carries a planner, especially in adulthood if you don’t have a job that would require you to keep track of meetings and things like that, but they have been a lifesaver and timesaver for me!  I love to share things with others in the hopes that it can encourage, inspire, and inform them.  I created a video tour of my planner so you can see how I have it set up, what I used, and exactly how I use it.  I hope it helps you in some way!


I would love to know how you keep track of things to do! I’d also love to know of any products that you love for staying organized and accountable! Happy planning!


This post is linked up to A Bowl Full of Lemons’ One Project at a Time.

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How I Organize Our Organizing

Okay, that sounds a little obsessive, right?  Well, with a first house, a huge renovation, and my Type A personality, I think it is perfectly sane to organize our organizing!

What exactly do I mean by organizing our organizing?  Well, last week, I wrote about how I use Pinterest to keep track of specific ideas for our home and break it down by each room.  As promised, I’m back today with a video about how we keep track of the projects in a more tangible way by using notebooks.  Watch the video to learn more and then scroll down for links to things I mentioned in the video.

Links to things mentioned in the video:

How We Make Pinterest Work For Us

Two years after I first joined Pinterest, I am surprised by how much I still use it.  However, the way I use it today is much different the way I use today.  I’m just a tad bit obsessed with organization, which is hard to tell by our house which is currently mid-renovation, so I’ve been searching for other ways to organize my life before I am able to organize our house.  I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming, but practically the day we moved into our house, I started looking around and realized that there is a tremendously long list of things we want to do to our house.

I’m the kind of person who feels completely overwhelmed to the point of not being to do anything when I have a list of things in my head that I need to do.  Even if that list covers things that I need to do in the next decade, if it’s only in my head, I feel like I’m about to explode.  I’ve learned that getting those lists on to paper or some other form of getting them out of my head but somewhere where I can reference them easily calms me and eliminates the overwhelming feelings.

Now that we are getting closer to finishing the renovation (we will update you with pictures and descriptions soon – it’s a little chaotic around here right now), I’ve been seriously thinking about decorating, furniture-buying, and organizing.  Thinking about all the rooms to decorate, although it is fun for me to do, had me feeling overwhelmed.  So, I came up with a couple methods for organizing all of our ideas.  Next week, I will be posting a video of our tangible way of tracking projects and ideas.  Today, I’ll be sharing how I use Pinterest for this purpose.

The method we use that I will be showing you next week is more specific and detailed, which makes it useful in a different way than what I use Pinterest for.  I use Pinterest to house our ideas that I need help visualizing, to keep links to certain products we want to buy or websites that will help us with our projects, or for inspiration purposes.

For the past two years, I have kept my home-related Pinterest categories separated by room.  Anything related to bedrooms, I would oddly enough put in the “Bedroom” category.  Makes sense, right?  I thought so, too, until we had rooms in our own house that I had specific ideas for.  For example, in my “Bedroom” category, I would have all kinds of photos of different rooms with different color schemes, and ideas that if all put into one room would look ridiculous.  That folder just housed all of the things I liked, but not necessarily ideas I would want combined into one room.

Pinterest Organization

So, what I have done is added separate boards for each room or area of our house (even the future rooms like the basement family room, basement bedroom, and basement bathroom that aren’t existing yet).  I named these boards “Our Home’s _________” (with the __________ indicating whichever room in our house that board is associated with).  I renamed the old categories things like “Bathroom Inspiration,” “Bedroom Inspiration,” and so on.

Now, when I’m browsing Pinterest or looking at a store’s website and I see, say, an awesome board and batten tutorial, I can yell, “HUZZAH!  I’ll add it to my ‘Our Home’s Dining Room’ Pinterest board!” And, off I will go.  If I see a dining room that is awesome, but doesn’t really fit what I want in our current dining room, I will yell, “That’s amazing!  I’ll add it to my ‘Dining Room Inspiration’ Pinterest board!” And, a happy camper I will be.  I just love the structure this gives me to let my thoughts wander, but to leave a spot for me to always come back to when I am ready to work on a certain room.

Such a little thing makes a huge impact on my stress level and my creativity. I am so excited to watch these boards grow and eventually morph into actual projects we will take on.  If you are interested in seeing all of my Pinterest boards, you can check them out here.

Stop back next week for a detailed look into our detailed decorating, renovating, and organization project management.  It may involve a video!

Now, I’m dying to know if there are any awesome ways you make Pinterest work for you.

For the Lady Who Hauls it All

Would you believe me if I said that I searched for a purse (and I mean searched) for eight months with no luck?  Seriously, who does that? Unfortunately, it is true.  You see, I am slightly picky when it comes to shopping, especially when it comes to shopping for something I will use all the time.

Back in November, I realized that I wanted a purse that could fit everything I want to carry around with me.  As a business owner, it is important to me to have my planner on hand so I can respond to client emails on the go with dates I am available and so on.  Plus, my brain retains no information, so it is important for me to have a place to jot down any information that would otherwise get lost in my head.

I had just a few requirements for my new purse.  It had to have the option to be a crossbody bag because I was sick of having a sore shoulder from carting around a heavy purse on one side of my body.  It had to be either light blue (or mint green) or a light gray.  It had to be high-quality because I plan on using it for a long time.  It had to be just the right size – not too big or too small.  Because I am constantly going into and out of my purse, it had to have an easy way to close it.  It had to be somewhat affordable (read under $100).  And, it had to be cute.  No big deal, right?

Wrong.  Very, very wrong.  I spent a few whole days scouring the internet for the perfect purse over the course of a few months, I visited store after store, I asked for suggestions on social media, I regularly checked stores that I loved to no avail.  Eventually, I realized I needed to think outside the box.

As a photographer, I bought a cute camera bag a couple years ago for weddings and everyday use.  It is the Betsy bag in mustard from Jo Totes.  I love how versatile it is, the amazing quality, its affordable price, and how it does not look like a camera bag.  When I really got serious about finding a purse because I could not wait any longer, I searched Jo Totes for a camera bag that I would use as a purse.

Allison Purse in Mint Jo Totes Organization

Then, I found her.  The Allison bag in mint.  When I saw the bag online, I was certain that it had met all but one of my requirements.  The only thing I was unsure of was the price.  So, using the dimensions on the website, I made a mockup out of paper and carried it around my house.  Nerdy?  Probably, but it helped me make my decision.  I was able to lay out all of my purse necessities on the paper mockup version and a few seconds later, she was purchased.

Because it was such a struggle for me to find the right purse, I wanted to give you a detailed look at this particular purse and what I keep inside of it.  You know, in case any of you carry your whole life in your purse like I do.

Allison Purse in Mint Jo Totes Organization

This purse is definitely just as beautiful and well-made as I thought it would be.  It has a front pocket with a flap, a main compartment that easily zips close, two zipped pockets within the main pocket, and a back compartment that also has a zipped pocket.  The main compartment is velcro lined (the soft side that doesn’t stick to everything) and it comes with a couple dividers should I decide to use it as a camera bag and want to divide it into sections.

Allison Purse in Mint Jo Totes Organization

This is a view of what I keep in the main compartment.

Allison Purse in Mint Jo Totes Organization

I keep my wallet, my planner, a pen case, business cards, a tablet, and a portable keyboard in the open part.  I’m going to break down each item as well.

Allison Purse in Mint Jo Totes Organization

This is the wallet I use for my everyday purchases.  It is this Merona wallet from Target.  I hold my debit cards, license, library card, loyalty cards, and medical card in here.  I also keep a checkbook and my own personal blow money (money allocated in our budget that I can use to buy anything I want).  Later on, I will do a few posts on how we budget since we use a cash budget (envelope system) and how we keep that organized.

Allison Purse in Mint Jo Totes Organization

A few months ago, I bought my first Filofax planner.  I had used an Erin Condren Life Planner before that, and although I loved it in so many ways, I needed something smaller and more customizable.  I actually recorded a two part Youtube video about this subject (Part 1 and Part 2).  I currently use the personal sized Dakota Filofax, but it is no longer for sale on the Filofax website.  I actually purchased it in their sale section because I did not want to pay big bucks for the Filofax I really wanted before I knew if I liked the system.  I am sure I will do a more in-depth look at my Filofax (especially when I update it), but for now, the Youtube videos give a lot of information.  The pen case I use is this pink and white one from Target.

Allison Purse in Mint Jo Totes Organization

A little over a month ago, I received a Nexus 7 tablet (and this case) for my birthday along with a Zagg Flex portable keyboard.  I really wanted this combination for business purposes.  Eventually, I hope to get a calendar going that I can sync to my iPhone and my tablet so that I can easily add reminder and appointments for my business.  I also love that I can surf the web, add notes to my Evernote, and use my apps on the go, so it was extremely important that these could both fit in my purse.  I don’t carry them around with me always (like when I am just running errands), but I carry them often enough to need room for them in my purse.

Allison Purse in Mint Jo Totes Organization

In the front pocket, I carry the items I need the easiest access to.

Allison Purse in Mint Jo Totes Organization

This includes my phone and two sets of keys.  On one key chain, I hold our house key and the key/remote for my car.  On the other keychain, I keep the keys to my husband’s car (as well as a whistle – I used to be a teacher and you never know when a whistle may come in handy).

Allison Purse in Mint Jo Totes Organization

In the two zipped pockets within the main compartment, I hold the little items I don’t need all the time but might need at some point.  I did not picture my feminine products (I don’t think we need a visual of that).  I keep a Thirty One case with tweezers, nail clipper, bobby pins, and some hair bands.  I have a purse hook to keep my purse off the floor at restaurants.  I also carry chapstick, some tissues, a compact mirror, a flamingo keychain (I found it years ago and I don’t get rid of it in case it brings me luck!), a mini six-foot tape measure, and a whistle and pepper spray in case of an emergency.

All of that fits into my purse with some room to spare!  And, my purse isn’t huge with tons of space for everything to get lost in.  Although I’m really happy with my purse organization, I always love new tips and tricks, so feel free to share yours in the comments!

Sidenote: I am not affiliated with Jo Totes in any way and did not receive any compensation for this blog post.  I simply love their products and wanted to share my love with others!