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Pardon our dust! (And, yay for changes!)

We’re doing a little spring cleaning here at The Happiest Home! Sarah’s been working hard behind the scenes to switch us to a new theme that will make it easier for you to navigate content and discover gems that have gotten buried over the years. We appreciate your patience while we roll out the new changes, and – whoops! – apologize if some older content somehow winds up in your inbox along the way. Want to stay up to date on what’s happening here amid all the changes? Fill out the box below and we’ll get in touch with you via email

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Looking for inspiration and real-life connection? Join me at the BEYOND Retreat next fall.

You know one of the biggest benefits of slowing down and doing less? When you step off of the merry-go-round of doing, doing, doing just because it seems like, well, the thing to do, you suddenly have all this “new” time and energy and brain space to pursue things that mean a lot to you. For years I’ve been dreaming of putting together an event bringing together awesome women in one place to dream, plan, recharge and get inspired. And now it’s time to make it happen. In October of 2015 I’ll be hosting a small but mighty group of women (is

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“Fun Parent” vs. “Boring Parent” – It’s Not Fair! But Is It True?

My husband made this lunch for my daughter last week. I know. I should have known it was coming when I caught him poring over Bento box tutorials on YouTube, watching a woman meticulously arrange smiley faces onto tiny rice-ball heads, then cap them off with pita-pocket hats. The very next day, Jon made a special trip to the grocery store for supplies. And that evening, he and Clara hovered over the kitchen island for a good half-hour creating The Lunch To End All Lunches.  Heart-shaped salami framed by heart-shaped cheese slices, people. A tiny little star cutout peanut-butter sandwich with honey and sprinkles

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Delegate Like Downton: A Strategy For Managing Home Helpers

Imagine this: it’s a Sunday afternoon. One child just got done shoveling the walk, and another is unloading the dishwasher. You, on the other hand, are reading a magazine, sipping a cup of tea and enjoying the calm of a neat (enough) kitchen…that you didn’t even have to tidy up yourself. Sound like a fantasy? It’s not! It’s actually how my Sunday afternoon played out…and it’s a pretty common scenario around here. It hasn’t always been this way. Earlier in marriage and motherhood, I was surrounded by mess and chaos, and bogged down by resentment. Why didn’t other family members recognize

At Home with Meagan

5 Must-Have Kitchen Tools

I’ve been wanting to do a regular video series, like, forEVER. But when I had kids home with me during the day, I found it was just too difficult to find quiet pockets of time to shoot and edit regularly. A five-minute video may not seem like it takes much time to do, but there’s a lot of set-up and production involved, even in the most “candid” vids.  Now that my days are my own, though, I’m finding that I’ve got the space and quiet to take on some of those things I’ve been wanting to do! So, here it

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Whimsical Girl’s Bedroom Ideas

We’re moving! In less than two weeks my family is relocating to Southern California and we couldn’t be more excited. Our new house is ready and waiting for us and I’m itching to get into it and start settling in. One of the biggest differences between our current house and the one we’re moving into is the flooring. We have carpet now – lots of it – and we’re moving into a house with all hardwood floors. And while the new floors are beautiful, it’s going to be awfully echo-y in there until we get some area rugs down. One problem:

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Gardening with Kids, The (Really) Easy Way

I’ve always wanted to think of myself as the kind of mom who grows herbs indoors using a DIY seed-starting kit, turning toilet-paper rolls or egg cartons into frugal mini-gardens which nurture her child’s green thumb, creativity and resourcefulness. In reality, I’m the kind of mom who intends, every year, to start seeds indoors eight weeks before the ground is warm, or start a windowsill herb garden, but always forgets to gather the supplies or set aside an afternoon for putting together a system. So this year, I decided to skip all the usual “Oh man, I can’t believe I

Organize your school year calendar YOUR way

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photo: photosteve101

Many kids headed back to school this week, and the rest of us aren’t far behind. I thought I’d republish some tips I wrote a few years ago for creating a school-year calendar that works for YOU: 

1. Set an intention for the school year.

Think about the words you’d like to use to describe your fall. Do you thrive on a burst of frenetic energy at the beginning of the year, or are you better off easing into the hustle? If you’re at home during the day, how do you want your days to go when the kids are at school? Will you participate in fundraisers? (don’t feel guilty if the answer is ‘no’.) If you want to read to your child’s classroom or visit the classroom, when will you do it? Will you exercise? Just envisioning how you’d like your fall to look can help you make plans fall into place.

2. Check in with reality.

Now that you’ve thought about how you’d like the fall to go, make sure your plans are all going to fit. Check your calendar against the school year calendar, and make sure your schedule is realistic. Remember, nobody can – or should – do everything. That includes your joiner 13-year-old who wants to be in five clubs and two sports all at the same time.

3. Create a time management system that works for you, and plug in the details.

No matter how cool that jumbo organizing system with eighteen different compartments, a zip-out change purse and a built-in calculator might seem, it’s utterly worthless if you won’t actually use it. Ditto that amazing new phone app into which you keep forgetting to plug your appointments.

It took me years to realize that I’m actually not a hopelessly disorganized, scatterbrained mess – I simply wasn’t using the right tools for my work style and personality type. After a lot of trial and error I realized a few key things about myself:

  • Any planner held closed with a zipper simply never gets opened
  • Ditto purse-sized calendars
  • While smartphone technology is great for on-the-go scheduling, I need to write appointments and to-do lists down -with an actual pencil or pen, and sometimes more than once – for them to really “stick”
  • I need one place to keep track of scheduled deadlines and appointments and a separate place for brainstorming and list-making – and it’s best when those dates and lists are hanging where I can see them many times throughout the day.

I used these self-discoveries to create a planning system tailor-made to the way I work best:

  1. The first piece of the puzzle is my wall calendar, where I keep track of recurring deadlines and family-oriented dates – things that involve more people in the house besides just myself, or things that I really need to be reminded of with a quick glance.
  2. I also have two white boards – a large one that I use as a “master task list” to keep track of ideas and one-day goals rattling around in my brain, and one that offers a week’s worth of spaces for planning out the coming week.
  3. Then I tie all the components together with a notebook-sized month-at-a-glance calendar. 

Even though it’s got a lot of moving parts, once I really figured out what I need in an organizing system, mine was a snap to create (and I had one of those “Duh, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before!” moments once it was all in place.)

My personal system is great for me because it really helps me quiet the noise in my distraction-prone brain. Each different “type” of information has its own place, giving me space to separate long-term goal-setting from short-term to-dos. If I have a deadline coming up next week, I can fill in a day to work on the project on my weekly whiteboard (and move it easily if I need to.) If I have a few minutes available and can’t think of something to do, I can quickly glance up at my master list to grab an idea of something I’d like to be working on. If I need to check whether a deadline conflicts with a family event, I can easily cross-reference the family calendar with the planner. And I can take the weekly/monthly planner with me when I work at the library or coffee shop. 

But that doesn’t mean you should copy my system wholesale, unless of course you totally identify with the way my brain works! Maybe you are the person who likes to keep it simple with a single planner or wall calendar. Maybe you need wall-to-wall whiteboards for doodling and brainstorming. Maybe you really are the person who can keep track of everything on a smartphone.

When it comes to organization systems, we all have unique needs. I love technology, but I’m a pen-and-paper girl at heart. I’m a “if it’s not in front of me I’ll forget” person. I’m a “the less possibility of me misplacing a calendar the better” person. How about you?

 

 

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