How to Beat Soul Overwhelm: Encouragement and Guidance for When Life is Too Much

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You're buried underneath a mountain of obligations, requirements, and commitments: half an hour for a conference call here, an hour for that unnecessary work meeting that could've been handled over email, a couple hours stuck at your grandparents' house as they tell you a story for the seventh time even though you're running late for the yoga class you somehow managed to squeeze into your schedule that's bursting at the seams.

It's all just too much sometimes.

What do we do when we're just plumb tired and overwhelmed with the stress of overstuffed calendars and over-filled to-do lists?



First, we take a break and just breathe. That's it. Just breathe.

Whether it means we have to literally walk away from the situation before us or just mentally disconnect for a moment, taking a break can be the easiest way to become refreshed and gain new energy.

The wonderful thing about taking a break is that it doesn't have to be complicated. You can take a break right where you are. You don't have to go anywhere specific, say anything in particular, or do anything special. You just need to give yourself some breathing room so you can return to the task before you with more peace and renewed focus.

I like to take breaks from my work every afternoon to go for a walk. It helps me disconnect, de-stress, and allows me to think more freely and creatively because there's not so much pressure to sit down and create.



How are we spending our time? Perhaps we're truly just overworked and overcommitted, and that's what's causing the soul overwhelm. 

In our culture of go, go, go, it's completely normal to have schedules filled to the brim with work, errands, meetings, family obligations, and just trying to keep ourselves and our homes from falling apart.

If you're not aware of how you're currently spending your time, you might think you don't have time for a coffee date with a friend, a date night with your boyfriend, or an afternoon spent reading your new book. But if those things are important to you, you can find a way to make time for them. We all make time for what matters most to us. It's just a matter of saying "yes" and "no" to the right things.

The best way I've found to discover how I'm truly spending my time is to conduct a time inventory with a tool like my time tracker. It allows you to write down how you spend your time for a full day so you can see where your time is really going, and then it follows up with questions for you to consider as you seek to spend more of your time investing in what really matters to you.



What are we really prioritizing? If we say our priorities are family, health, and friends, but we continue to work 60+ hours every week, we're not acting in a way that supports those priorities.

The way we spend our time ought to reflect our priorities, but that's not always the case. Sometimes we get it backwards and let our schedules dictate our priorities, allowing ourselves to fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent. 

If we fill our calendars first with time dedicated to what matters most to us-- slow Saturdays with our loved ones, screen-free Sundays, Wednesday night coffee dates with our friends, runs to the farmer's market, time to read each evening, time to work out each weekday morning-- then we'll guard that time more effectively and find that we do have enough time for the things that are most important. And as a result, the less important things will be seen as just that-- less important. They'll be relegated to their proper position, gaining space only when there's enough margin in our lives for us to take on that extra project, make that extra trip to the store, or take on that extra hobby that everyone else is doing. 

I once saw an illustration that went like this: Imagine someone is filling a glass vase with rocks and sand. There are large rocks, small rocks, and the sand with which to fill the vase. Imagine the person filling the vase puts in the sand, representing the little details of life, the plethora of options and opportunities that are fun and alluring and exciting and new, first. He then adds the small rocks which represent the somewhat important things like work deadlines, volunteering in that after school tutoring program, and attending his mom's friend's kid's graduation party he got invited to. Finally, he tries to add the large rocks that are meant to symbolize the most important things like his immediate family, close friends, health, and work he's passionate about. By adding the sand, then the small rocks, and then the large rocks, there isn't enough room in the vase for all the pieces. They just don't all fit.

But when he tries again and reverses the order, something entirely different happens. He puts in the most important things first, creating a foundation inside the vase. He then builds upon that foundation with the somewhat important things, fitting them around the larger rocks at the bottom. And then he adds the sand last, allowing it fill in the cracks and gaps between the other rocks, fitting in where it can, creating something whole and beautiful. And it all fits because he put the most important things in first.

Our lives are the same way. If we focus on our top priorities first, we're setting ourselves up for success, and we're allowing the less important things to be added only where there's room. Once our lives are full, they're full. And if we try to squeeze in some of the large rocks after we've already filled our vase with sand, we're going to be frustrated and we just might break the vase in the process.



Our bodies and minds need to take regular breaks for rest in the midst of our hectic lives. If they don't, they get worn out and overwhelmed. Taking periodic breaks is great, but taking regular breaks helps us to run more efficiently on a consistent basis and can help prevent the overwhelm in a proactive way.

Setting aside specific time to rest and worship, instead of rushing around and doing all the things, will refresh us and allow our souls more space to breathe. It helps us remain centered (or get re-centered) and remember what really matters in the grand scheme of things.

Whether you observe the Sabbath on Sundays or choose to work into a different day of the week that fits better with your schedule, setting aside a day to disconnect from the chaotic pace of the world around you will give you the space and time you need to refresh.

Some things I've found helpful in creating my own practice of Sabbath are the following:

  • act intentionally, doing what gives you life
  • spend time with your people
  • do more of what makes you happy
  • take a break from work, house work, and errands 
  • take a break from mindless social media consumption
  • get outside and enjoy nature
  • pay attention to what you really need-- a nap, a walk, a talk with a friend, time to journal, a cup of tea, a relaxing movie night-- and honor it


What ways have you found to beat soul overwhelm? I'd love to hear from you in the comments or via email at!

Later, lovely!Jessie (1).png

10 Steps to Clean Your Entire Home {Simpler Steps to Spring Cleaning, Part 3}

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Spring cleaning is officially upon us! Do you feel like you're behind? Do you wonder if you're doing it wrong? It can't possibly be this hard, can it?!

I feel you, friend! Our homes are so often the center of our lives, especially in the cold winter months when we hunker down to avoid the bitter chill outside (I live in Minnesota, also affectionately called Minnesnowta, so I know this all too well).

And once things begin to thaw, the windows open, everyone starts coming out of their houses like bears after their winter hibernation, and our eyes are opened to the havoc that we wreaked on our homes over the last season. Spring is a time of new beginnings, and an opportunity to give our homes new life as we clean out the old and the grime to refresh things and give them new life.

Don't forget to grab your printable version of the list here!


1. Declutter and organize your stuff before you try to clean around it. 

You're making your job harder if you're trying to clean around clutter or disorganized chaos. If you first get rid of what you don't want, then organize what's left, your home will be much easier to get (and keep!) clean. It's the order of operations at its finest!

If you haven't decluttered yet, if you're not sure where to begin, or if you're just looking for some additional pointers, you can check out the first post in this series here. And if you've already decluttered and looking for organizing tips and tricks, you can find those here.

2. Gather your supplies.

The key to success with any endeavor is preparation. Before you begin cleaning, make sure you have the supplies you need on hand.

Now, you could go crazy and have different cleaners for every surface in your home, but I'm all about simplicity, and I don't think it needs to be that complicated.

I recommend antibacterial microfiber cloths (like these), an all-purpose cleaner for your toilet and particularly nasty spots (like this; most of the time antibacterial microfiber cloths do the trick!), and a good polishing cloth for glass (like this). You might also want a dusting mitt or wand, and you're going to want a broom, mop, and vacuum, too. But that's really it! If you're in a pinch or like the DIY natural approach, you can always use vinegar, baking soda, lemon, and essential oils, too!

3. set a timer.

One of the biggest reasons people don't accomplish their goals is because they think they don't have enough time. As you strive to clean your home, set a timer. Whether you can commit an hour or two or just twenty minutes, set a timer so you know your time is dedicated to the single purpose of cleaning.

Not only will doing so keep you focused, but it will also let you know when you can take a break. Breaks are just as important as focused work.

4. Pull things out.

I know you might have just decluttered and organized your home if you're following this series. And if you honestly did clean out the spaces when you emptied them to declutter, then you can skip this step when you get to it. But assuming that you haven't (like most of us with most of our spaces) taken all the things out of all the spaces in your home, this is the time to do it!

Can we really expect our homes to get thoroughly cleaned if we don't take the time to clear off our shelves before we dust them? Despite our hopes, the answer is unfortunately no. So take the extra few minutes and clear off the shelves instead of dusting around the books and plants.

5. Start high and work your way down.

Can you just imagine with me for a moment what would happen if you slaved away sweeping and mopping your kitchen floor, only to realize you hadn't dusted the tops of your cabinets or your countertops? If you go back to do the dusting and wiping, you're inevitably going to cause dust, crumbs, and who knows what else onto your freshly-cleaned floors. Which means you'd have to clean the floors all over again. Let's try to avoid that scenario, shall we?

Start with dusting the highest things-- top cabinets, ceiling fans, sconces, wall decor, high shelves. Then work your way down to counters and furniture. And then do the floors. You will thank yourself later when you don't have to double up on the floor cleaning.

6. Clean a room or a zone at a time.

Part of the reason spring cleaning feels so overwhelming is because there's this unspoken pressure to have to deep clean your whole house in a single weekend. In case you've fallen prey to this belief, let me crush it for you. You don't have to tackle your whole house at once. You can take it one step at a time.

Additionally, consider how cleaning everything at once might limit your use of your house. For instance, if you sweep and mop all the floors in your house at the same time, you won't be able to use any of your bathrooms until the floors are dry. I speak from experience. It's usually better to stagger it just a little so you're not mopping yourself into a corner.

Cleaning just one area at a time gives you a single task to focus on. It's more manageable because you can see the whole space at once. Your progress is more easily noted because the space is contained. If you were to measure your progress against your whole house, it would take longer to feel accomplished, and you might be tempted to stop. But if you focus on one space at a time, you can gain enough momentum to keep going!

7. Make it fun.

Okay, so this may not be quite as practical as some of the other tips. But it's still worth mentioning! If you can make cleaning-- or any relatively unpleasant task-- fun, you're more likely to stick to it and see it all the way through. You have to clean your house, so why not make the process more enjoyable?

Turn on some fun music. Listen to an audiobook. Do whatever you like to do so that your cleaning experience can be more fun for you!

8. Enlist help.

There's no rule saying you have to clean your whole home by yourself. Everything's better when done together, right?

Whether you live with a whole bunch of other people or by yourself, you can gather people to help you! If you have other people who live with you, delegate some tasks. Have your spouse or roommate take care of one room while you tackle another. Or have them sweep while you go behind them with the mop. If you have kids, send them before you to tidy up the rooms and ready them for sweeping or vacuuming.

If you have company while you clean, you'll have a better time, and the time will just fly by!

9. clean during the day & with natural light.

I understand schedules get crazy, and you might have to cram cleaning into a packed calendar. But whenever possible, clean during the day when you can have natural light coming in. 

We too often underestimate the power of sunlight, but it will help illuminate areas that are dirtier than we realized. The top of that bookshelf might look okay in the evening, but in the bright afternoon sunlight, the dust looks like a fuzzy blanket. And any streaks left on mirrors will be more visible when the sun's shining into the house.

Plus, sunlight makes us happy, which will make cleaning a more enjoyable task than trying to scrub and dust and polish in a dark, dungeon-like house after sunset.

10. Tackle the grimiest and hardest tasks last.

If you do the easier tasks up front, you'll have more momentum to tackle the bigger tasks. And if you manage to keep up with a regular cleaning cycle, you'll save yourself the time required to do a full spring clean, lowering the barrier to getting started next year! If you regularly sweep and mop, for instance, when you're spring cleaning, you can instead focus on less frequent spots.

This is your opportunity (see what I did there? Framing it as an opportunity helps with the positivity! Bonus tip!) to clean your baseboards with soapy water, scrub your window sills, and clean your oven. This is your chance to clean your patio furniture before you put it out for the summer. Now is the time to do the dirty work so your house can sparkle in its cleanliness!


Which one of these was the most helpful for you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Don't forget to grab the printable version of the list here!

And if you're looking for more help and encouragement to tackle your decluttering, organizing, or cleaning, let's chat about it!

Later, lovely!Jessie (1).png



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On Change and Control

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I don't always do so well with change. Okay, that might be just a little bit of an understatement. ;)

I have a reputation among my family and closest friends of handling change very poorly. They'd be quick to offer up little stories to back up that claim, but I'll spare you the anecdotes here.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who struggles with this. It's not our responsibility to smooth everything out and guard ourselves against every possible challenge in life. But that doesn't stop us from trying!



I can handle change when I initiate it. When I chose to cut my hair and donate it, I was cool as a cucumber. It was my decision. I had prepared for it. I made the plans months out and had more than enough time to wrap my head around it and let it sink in even before it became reality. I realize it's a small change, but it was a big deal for me to be completely comfortable with it.

Last year, my sister and I bought a townhouse. That was one of the craziest, busiest, most stressful things I've probably ever done, but the change didn't phase me because it was our decision. We knew we wanted to move out of our apartment, and that was our chance. I had time to pack. I had time to dream about life in a new place. I had time to process leaving the old place. I had a plan. I was ready.

But we don't always get the luxury of making all the changes in our lives on our own or get to control their timing.



"Change is a sign of life." says author Myquillyn Smith, and I think that's a beautiful way of reminding us that things are always changing around us, and that's a good thing because it means we're still alive, that we're not stagnant or still, but vibrant and thriving.

But when things change without my consent, that's hard.

I like to control things. I like things to be predictable. I like making plans and keeping them. I like it when things go smoothly, according to plan, and in a logical progression.

When things appear seemingly out of left field, it rubs me the wrong way, to say in the least.

Sometimes even when the initial change was something I orchestrated, unforeseen consequences throw me off guard just as much as if I hadn't asked for it in the first place.

I chose to graduate from college early because I came in with credits from high school and it seemed like the most pragmatic choice, especially from a financial point of view. But doing so required leaving all my friends and my rock-solid community to move home to a place that didn't feel like home anymore. Though the decision to leave was mine, the effects were still out of my control.

I have a hard time letting go of my planned-out route. I sometimes try to fit surprises that come up into my previous plans anyway, but it's usually like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

My stubbornness rarely pays off. Instead I find myself fighting to go right when God's pulling me to the left, and I end up slowing my forward movement, my contentment, and my sanity by striving to hold to my original plan instead of listening when God calls me to make a last-minute change.

After graduating, I fought so very hard to try to find a full-time job right out of school because I thought that was the only right way to do it. I worked so hard to find something, but nothing panned out. I just couldn't make it work on my own. And I wasted so much time being stubborn and frustrated about the whole thing that I didn't enjoy life very well in that season. I let the struggle and the fight take over my life, and it only made things harder in the end.



But God's in control. I'm not supposed to be. This isn't my world. He knows what's going on and why. He has a reason behind everything He allows.

I was talking to a friend this week about an unexpected family situation of his, and the need for trusting God through it. Sometimes you're confronted with the fact that things are just completely out of our hands.

And I was talking to another entrepreneur a couple weeks ago about needing to trust God through the ups and downs of starting a business, because if it was up to me, none of this would still be here. I would've quit. The only thing keeping me going some days is knowing that this is what God has called me to in this season, and even when I can't see the path ahead, I am called to obedience, and this is what being obedient looks like here and now.

I can either try to control everything in my life and be full of stress, frustration, and disappointment every time things go a different way, or I can choose to hold things with open hands and let God do with them what He will.

I don't know about you, but I think the second option sounds much better and far more joyful and peaceful! So that's what I'm intentionally choosing today-- trust, joy, and peace. What will you choose?

Later, lovely!Jessie (1).png



P.S. If you want to talk about finding joy in any season or pursuing purpose in your current circumstances, I'd love to talk to you about it!

10 Steps to Organize Your Whole Home {Simpler Steps to Spring Cleaning, Part 2}

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Have you ever walked into someone else's home and wondered how in the world they keep it so clean and organized?

I have! When I see people's craft spaces that are beautifully organized or filing solutions that make everything look so easy to find, it motivates me to improve upon my own space! It's not a competition, but it can serve as inspiration and a reminder to revisit my own organizational habits. And in doing so, I came up with some wonderful tips for organizing your space!!

Don't forget to grab your printable version of the list here!


1. Declutter before you organize. 

"Stuff is the enemy of clean," says The Lazy Genius Kendra Adachi, and I couldn't agree more. If you try to organize without first clearing out the excess stuff in your home, you're going to get stuck in a never-ending cycle of organizing and tidying up because there's just too much chaos to reign in with bins and cute labels.

If you haven't decluttered yet, if you're not sure where to begin, or if you're just looking for some additional pointers, you can check out the first post in this series here.

2. Put like things together.

Corral like items from around your home, and put them in one place. All the documents for your house in the same filing cabinet. All the shoes in the front closet. All the games on one shelf in the basement. It's much easier to find what you're looking for if it's all in one place!

3. Put things in the first place you look for them.

If you go to the kitchen drawer to look for your scissors, then keep them there. If the first place you look for your tools in the garage even though they've been in the basement, maybe it's time to put them in the garage.

Keeping things where you're most likely to look for them will save you time and energy in the long run! Imagine how good it will feel to know where things are and not waste your time looking in places they're not!

4. Keep things you use most often easily accessible.

If you use a certain kitchen appliance on a daily basis, make sure it's easy to get to. If you have to put it up high or tuck it into the back of a cabinet every time you use it, you're giving yourself more work!

Top shelves, high cabinets, and the back or corner of other cabinets are best used for things you don't use on a regular basis-- seasonal dishes, extras, etc.

I use pots and pans all the time, so they're at the front of one of the lower cabinets in my kitchen. By comparison, I rarely use my rolling pin, so it's on the top shelf of one of the upper cabinets, where I have to use a stepstool to reach it.

5. Have some rhyme or reason for your organization.

There are a lot of options for how you can organize your things, and you get to choose how you want to do it!

You can organize things like books in several ways: by color, by height, by genre, by author, by title. You can do the same with movies (okay, height doesn't apply, but you get the point).

When it comes to things like paperwork, you're going to want to organize that in a way that makes sense to you, too. You can sort things by year, type, or action required. I like to sort mine by type, so I have different sections for papers pertaining to my house, my car, my health, my IRA, and my taxes.

6. Use baskets and bins.

Baskets and bins can keep stuff organized in an attractive way. Sometimes our things don't look too appealing on their own, like all the cords we have for various electronics or a bunch of pens or file folders and binders. 

I'm a big fan of unifying both form and function. Whoever said organization is purely practical? It can look pretty, too!

A single bin or basket looks far less cluttered than several separate things on a shelf, and you can label it, so you know exactly what's inside it! Speaking of labels...

7. Use labels.

To make sure you know where things are without taking extra time to look inside of every jar, bin, basket, or folder, use some labels.

There are so many good options out there now, from clear adhesive labels to tie-on chalkboard labels. Some can be reusable if you change the contents of a container. If you're not interested in getting more supplies and want to use what you have instead, I've also found that some pretty decorative masking tape (or washi tape) and a permanent marker can do wonders!

8. Create a command center.

If your home gets chaotic because there are just too many landing places for everything that comes inside (mail, kids' homework and artwork, work projects, laptops, purses and bags, food, and whatever else accumulates on the horizontal surfaces in your home).

If you have a single dedicated space from which you can funnel everything into your home, you'll feel more prepared to handle it all. You could post the household calendar with everyone's activities, include a meal plan for the week, and have folders or a sorter for each person's mail or homework or projects. If everything has a place, and it's all kept in that one place in your home, it won't spread as easily all over, and it will be much more manageable for you!

9. Establish routines for things coming into your home.

It's great to get the clutter out of control and organize it in a way that works for you, but if you don't change how you handle things coming into your home going forward, the change won't last long.

Whether you use a formal command center or not, it's important to have certain routines and rhythms for how you process the things that come into your home. 

How are you going to sort your mail? Recycle the junk. Pay the bills. File the statements. Keep it from piling up and causing more stress.

When you get home, make sure you funnel things through your command center. Instead of hanging your jacket on the back of the chair, put it in the closet. Hang your bag where it goes. Put kids' homework and artwork where it belongs instead of piling it up on the dining room table. 

10. Adopt a one-in, one-out rule.

One of the simplest routines to keep the clutter from coming back and to keep things organized is to adopt a one-in, one-out rule. 

When you buy a new sweater, you donate an old one. You maintain a limited number of things this way, instead of continually bringing more stuff into your home that will only add to the mess.

This rule is so simple that everyone can do it! And it serves as a sort of check-and-balance for your shopping habits, too! Because if you're not ready to part with an old dress in order to buy a new one, then you don't want the new dress enough, and you know you can pass it up! It's a win-win! 


Which one of these was the most helpful for you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Don't forget to grab the printable version of the list here!

And if you're looking for more help and encouragement to tackle your decluttering or organizing, let's chat about it!

Later, lovely!Jessie (1).png

Decluttering Do's and Don'ts: The Right Way to Declutter Your Home

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Decluttering seems simple until we sit down to do it. Then we begin wondering if we're doing it wrong because it feels like we just cleaned out these closets and drawers. Is there a wrong way to declutter? Is there a right way? A better way?

Yes, there is a better way to declutter, and I'm going to give you my very best tips for what to do and what not to do in order to make it the simplest, smoothest, stress-less process it can be!

Are you ready? Let's dive in!


DO: Declare your goals for decluttering.

DON'T: Feel obligated to declutter just because it's what the cool kids are doing these days.

When it comes to pursuing any goal, you have to know why you're doing it. Just because your neighbor, best friend, coworker, or sister is signing up for a workout class to get fit doesn't mean you have to do it just because they are. If you don't have your own motivation to declutter your home, you're going to get overwhelmed with the work and be tempted to quit halfway through. You have to have a bigger, deeper "why" behind your goals (decluttering and otherwise). 

Do you want to be able to invite people over without worrying about dishes falling out of your cupboards when a guest goes to get a glass? Do you want to stop spending all your time searching for that lost bank statement or unmatched sock? Do you want to be less distracted by all the mess and chaos and more focused on and invested in spending time with your people?

Knowing why you are decluttering helps you stay focused when it gets to be challenging. It gives you a big-picture view and a clearer view of the end goal so you know what you're working toward and so you can feel more accomplished when you're finished. If you're decluttering just because it's what everyone else is doing, you'll never know when you're done because you haven't taken the time to determine what the end goal is for you. So take a moment and declare what your decluttering goal is.


DO: Set aside a specific amount of time to work on decluttering.

DON'T: Say you'll declutter when you find the time.

More time won't just magically appear. We make time for what's important to us. So if decluttering and simplifying your home is important to you, you're going to have to set aside dedicated time for it. It doesn't have to be a whole weekend; it can be just twenty minutes a day. But you have to choose to focus on decluttering for that time in order for it to work.


DO: Declutter one area of your home at a time.

DON'T: Try to tackle the whole house in one fell swoop.

Not only is trying to declutter your whole house at once ridiculously overwhelming, it's also insanely chaotic. If you take everything out of your spaces and begin sorting things, moving things into other rooms where they belong, and creating piles everywhere, it's going to feel like your clutter is winning. It's going to seem like the piles are taking over your home and your life.

If instead you choose to focus on one space at a time and work your way through your house, it will feel much more manageable and less stressful. Start with a drawer or a closet. Work through one room at a time. Make your way around the room clockwise. Finish one room before moving onto the next, leaving it put back in order so you can have just one area you're working on at a time. I promise, it will feel like much less of a burden.


DO: Remove everything from the area you're decluttering.

DON'T: Assume you know everything that's inside your closets, cabinets, and drawers.

Unless you take everything out of any given space, there's no telling what might be lurking in the dark back corners! It's amazing what I've found (even in spaces I've previously decluttered) when I've taken the time to remove everything. I, too, am tempted to cut corners and skim through the contents of a drawer or closet to take out what I think I can get rid of, but I always find more things to toss and end up feeling more satisfied and accomplished when I take everything out first.

The only way to see just how much stuff you have is to take it out and examine it all. As you're clearing out your drawer, cabinet, or closet, laying out the contents will be the best way to get a clearer picture of all the things that were inside of it. It's always amazing to see how much stuff fit inside that space! And it's eye-opening to reveal how many similar items might have been lurking inside-- six very similar t-shirts, five cans of sweetened condensed milk, eight rubber spatulas, twenty-five pens that have run out of ink. 


DO: Get really honest about your stuff and why you've kept it.

DON'T: Keep things out of guilt.

There are so many reasons why we keep things, but if we let guilt motivate us into keeping things, we're going to continue to fill our homes with things that don't serve us.

If you've spent your own money on things that you know you don't use but feel guilty about getting rid of because it seems like a waste of money, consider it a learning opportunity. You could try to sell it to recoup some of the cost, or you could donate it and know that someone else will get more use out of it than you are right now.

Consider what it's really costing you to keep things you're not using to their fullest potential-- the cost of the space those things take up, the time and energy it takes to maintain and care for them, the mental energy it takes to convince yourself to keep them because you spent money on them. How would you feel if you gave yourself permission to let go?

I myself have experienced a great deal of freedom in letting go of things that are no longer serving me, despite the money I spent on them initially, sometimes selling them if it's worth the time and energy to list them, often donating them so I can have more breathing room and less of a burden from holding onto things I'm not using or loving anymore.

Sometimes we're given gifts by people who mean well but don't have the same taste as us. And if we feel obligated to keep all the gifts we've received, our homes will become full to the brim with stuff we don't like or use. We feel bad, though, for wanting to get rid of things our people gave us. But can I tell you a secret? You can cherish the relationship and still let go of the stuff. Someone else might get more use out of it (certainly more than we are while it's collecting dust on a shelf in our basement). And those people who gave us the gifts? They care more about our relationships with them than they do about what we do with their gift. I promise.

Certainly, there are things we feel compelled to hold onto for sentimental reasons. And that's not always a bad thing. Some things have very special memories tied to them. It's great to keep some mementos that are especially dear to us. But we don't have to fill our homes with boxes of them. I advocate for keeping the very best-- the best of your childhood artwork, the best of your writing projects, your favorite toys you want to pass on, the best of a collection of tea cups from your grandma, your favorite necklace from your great-aunt. You don't have to keep the whole collection if it's not meaningful or useful to you-- you can keep part of it, enough to cherish it and remember that person or that time of your life, and you can choose to let the rest go gracefully.


DO: Establish new routines to keep the clutter at bay.

DON'T: Think that once you declutter once, it will magically stay that way.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing we've always done but expecting different results. So if we keep living like we did before decluttering our homes, the clutter's just going to build up again. We need to be proactive to keep our homes from returning to a state of complete chaos.

Have a plan for how you're going to shop differently. Create a shopping list and stick to it. Avoid impulse buys. Go home and wait 24 hours (or 30 days if you're considering a really big purchase or are just really disciplined) before buying that thing you think you "need." Adopt a one-in, one-out rule so the next time you buy a sweater, you have to donate one of your old ones. Suggest experiences as gifts instead of more stuff. Learn how to say, "No, thank you. That's lovely, but I already have something similar and don't have a use for it" to decline cast-offs from others. Handle your mail as soon as it comes in, funneling it through a command center or filing it in appropriate places or sorting it into baskets or trays or whatever works for you. Just have a plan for things coming into your home, because that part never stops. There's always more stuff coming your way.

Tidy up regularly. It will make your space feel less cluttered, and the more you do it, the easier it is. If you tidy as you go, it's a no-brainer. Put your shoes where they go as soon as you take them off. Hang your jacket up instead of putting it on the back of the chair. Fold the blanket and put it back in the basket instead of leaving it bunched up on the couch. Wash the dishes or put them in the dishwasher instead of piling them in the sink. Wipe down the counters when you're done with dinner. I promise it will make things feel so much less chaotic, and you'll thank yourself for it later!


What are your decluttering do's and don'ts? I'd love to hear from you in the comments! And if you're looking for more help decluttering, simplifying, or organizing your home, let's chat about it!

Later, lovely!Jessie (1).png









10 Steps to Declutter Your Home: {Simpler Steps to Spring Cleaning, Part 1}

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Decluttering has become quite the buzzword lately, but where do you begin and how do you do it? Is it even necessary? I mean, the clutter always comes back, doesn't it? And there are so many different perspectives, resources, cheatsheets, and instructions. How do you know what to listen to?

I'll make it simple for you and condense the information I've found all across the Internet into just one place with step-by-step instructions to simplify the process and remove the overwhelm for you!

First, let's establish the importance of decluttering. Kendra Adachi, the wonderful woman behind The Lazy Genius, says, "Stuff is the enemy of clean." The only way to have a home that's peaceful and clean instead of stressful and overwhelming is to have less stuff. Period.

You can organize your stuff till the cows come home, but if you have too much stuff, it's going to continue to be a problem, and you'll feel like a hamster stuck in a never-ending wheel of cleaning over and over and over again. So we need to first get rid of the extra stuff!

>>Don't forget to grab the free printable version of this list here!<<



Where do you want to begin? I usually suggest starting small, with a junk drawer or closet instead of a large room. That way you can get your feet wet before jumping into the deep end and realizing you've gotten yourself in over your head.

When I'm going to do a round of decluttering, I typically start with my bedroom closet. I'll go through my clothes there, then maybe move to the rest of my room, and then the living room or kitchen. I work my way up from smaller projects to larger ones.

The biggest thing here is that you start somewhere. Yes, it's easier if you start small. But really, just pick a place and start!



Take everything out of the area you're decluttering. Yes, everything. I'm so serious. It's the only way to make sure you don't miss anything.

I caught myself trying to sneak around this step just the other day, thinking I've been decluttering long enough that I didn't need to follow all my own rules. Wrong. I had to go back and do it right because I noticed I actually was missing things. I had assumed that certain things would stay because I thought I used them, but when I went back to really look at them, it dawned on me that I hadn't used them in ages and knew I wouldn't miss them, so out they went. And I went back to following my own advice.

So please, learn from my slip-up, save yourself some time and headache, and take everything out the first time around.



When you're taking things out of your space, group like things together. It's the absolute easiest way to see where you've accumulated too much. Put all your sweaters in a pile, all your jeans in a pile, all your sandals in a pile-- well, you get the picture.

It might take a little longer to remove everything from your space and sort it into piles before even considering what you might want to keep or get rid of, but it's an important part of the process. Every time I group things together this way, I'm surprised by how many duplicates I see. When things are spread out more, I don't notice it as easily, but when things are grouped by category, it becomes glaringly obvious, and I'm much more willing to let go of what I need to.



Now that you've taken everything out of your space, look at each item one at a time. Hold it in your hand. Consider whether you want to keep it or not. 

It's tempting to focus on what we're getting rid of when we're decluttering, to take pride in the piles of things accumulating as we go through our homes. But I've actually found it to be much more fulfilling and joyful to focus on what I'm keeping instead. When I carefully choose which clothes to keep, for instance, I feel happy with the wardrobe I'm left with. I'm proud of my choices. I'm content with the end result. I don't feel deprived or restricted because I forced myself to get rid of things, and I'm not focusing on the sadness of getting rid of things I used to love, or any guilt associated with getting rid of things. It puts a more positive spin on it.

And just like taking everything out of your space helps you to not miss anything, so does forcing yourself to look at each item on its own.



When it comes to making decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of, it's easy to have some biased thoughts about the worth of our stuff. But if we truly want to conquer the clutter, we have to be willing to let go of some things. I've found it helpful to ask myself some clarifying questions to help weed out the things I no longer need to hold onto:

  1. When was the last time I used this?
  2. Do I have another thing like this that serves the same purpose?
  3. Does this fit me? Is it flattering?
  4. Do I have all the pieces?
  5. Would I buy it if I saw it in the store today?
  6. Would I miss it if I got rid of it?
  7. Could someone else get more use and joy out of this?
  8. Would I rather keep this or enjoy the space it frees up in my home and my life?
  9. What is keeping this really costing me?
  10. Could I replace it down the road if I discover I really do want it?



I think most of us are guilty of keeping things out of obligation. We receive well-intended gifts from loved ones, hold onto memorabilia from our own pasts, and might have things passed down from family members. How do we handle the sentimental things we no longer use or find much joy in?

This is where grace comes in, because there is no one right way to handle sentimental things. There are some tips and some encouraging words I want to share, though.

First, know that you can cherish your relationships and hold onto your memories without feeling obligated to keep all the tangible reminders. Certainly, if you have physical things you truly cherish, use, or desperately want to hold onto or pass onto your own family, then keep them! That's wonderful! But if you're holding onto things due to a sense of guilt, maybe it's time to let them go gracefully. You can take a moment to walk down memory lane, cherish the memory, and then choose to hold onto the memory while letting the tangible reminder move on.

You can get creative, too, repurposing old things, or finding new ways to give them life so they can bring you joy or be useful again. Maybe you could create a quilt from old t-shirts that hold special memories but are just sitting in a box or the bottom of a drawer. Or you could frame recipes your grandma gave you that are gathering dust in your cupboard. Or maybe you could frame a collage of your kids' artwork instead of keeping boxes full that neither you nor they will actually want to take the time to sort through later.

And when it comes to gifts given to you by loved ones that just aren't your taste or that you've outgrown, I encourage you to think of the freedom you might feel in letting them go. Someone else could likely use them, too! Chances are, the person who gave you the gift won't notice or remember, and they certainly value their relationship with you more than the gift, so don't worry about it. 



As you're deciding what to do with all of your things, I recommend creating a few different piles so you can sort things without having to take the time to get up to take care of each one.

First, a "yes" pile of things you're carefully choosing to keep.

Second, a "donate" pile for things going to charity.

Third, a "recycle/trash" pile (or piles, really) for things beyond donating.

Fourth, a "relocate" pile for things that you're keeping, but that don't belong in the space you're currently working on.

Fifth, a "maybe" pile for things you're just not sure about yet. 

I'm a big advocate for a "maybe" box. If you're not sure about something, put it in the "maybe" box and keep the box out of sight for a defined period of time (two weeks, a month, however long you want to wait until you take your donations to charity). If you want something from the "maybe" box in that time, then you can get it without any guilt. If not, then you can get rid of the whole box, also without any guilt. You've then proven to yourself whether you want it or not.



Before you put the items you're keeping back into the space you've just decluttered, take a moment to clean the space out! This might be your only chance to clean it while it's completely empty!

I know my closet and various drawers and shelves are never completely empty except when I'm decluttering, so I always make a point to clean them quickly before I put things back. Then it's like killing two birds with one stone, and the space feels extra clean and organized.



Once the space is clean, you get to put back the things you're keeping! This is the fun part, because your space is going to look so much better than it did when you started!

This is also your opportunity to take the trash and recycling piles out, find a place out of sight for your "maybe" box, and figure out where you want to collect your donations while you declutter the rest of your home. 

And this is when you can relocate misplaced items to their rightful places in your home. That pair of scissors that wandered into your room? Back to the office. The hammer and nails you used to hang a picture a month ago? Back to the tool box in the laundry room. 



One of the hardest parts about decluttering is the fact that clutter comes back if we're not really careful to prevent its return.

Once you've done the hard work of the initial purge, it's time to establish habits and routines for handling your incoming stuff going forward.

I'm a big fan of the "one in, one out" rule. If I buy a new pair of shoes, I try to compensate by getting rid of an old pair (which usually looks more like not buying a new pair until I've worn an old one into the ground and need to replace it). I have a finite amount of storage space, so I know that I can't keep adding more stuff and expect it to fit. 

Have a plan for how you're going to handle incoming paper clutter, schoolwork, artwork, and gifts. Know where things will go, how you plan to organize them, and what kind of systems you need to have in place.

Do you need a mail sorter? A command center for your whole house? A filing cabinet? Do you need to unsubscribe from mailing lists so you get less stuff to begin with? Do you need to have conversations with family members, asking them to focus on spending time with you or enjoying fun experiences with you instead of giving more stuff? That's your next step once you've cleared out the clutter-- and I promise it will make it ten times easier to keep the clutter from coming back!


That's it! Don't forget to grab the free printable cheatsheet! And stay tuned for the next post in this series next week, which will cover how to organize all the things you're keeping!

Later, lovely!Jessie (1).png



And if you're looking for some more help or guidance with your decluttering, simplifying, or organizing goals (or any other goals!), let's chat about it!



April 2018 Favorites

I thought it would be fun if I took a moment each month to let you know what things are currently striking my fancy, so here goes the April installment! 

[This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting Notes from Jessie!] 



I've been reading The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde, the next book in the series of Thursday Next novels, which has been pretty good! I also read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I had a really good conversation about what life would look like without technology with some friends last week after having read it. I read Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand, which I enjoyed, and Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst, which was so good and touched my heart in more ways than one. I enjoyed Dolly Parton's Dream More and Charlie Lovett's The Lost Book of the Grail, too. Clare Mackintosh's I Let You Go was a little darker than I typically go with my reading, but it made a nice contrast with Flat Broke With Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha. April was a busy reading month, as I had to catch up on my Goodreads challenge after the time it took me to make it through Gone With the Wind in March!



"Rush always leads to ruin." - Tauren Wells. I tend to rush through everything from projects to health to life as a whole, trying to constantly be getting ahead, but I'm learning that's not the right way to do it. Haste makes waste, right? When I rush, I don't do my best, and I often have to backtrack and do things over again in order to do them the right way. It's actually more efficient to do them the right way the first time, even if it takes a little longer. And when I rush ahead in life, I find myself unprepared for what I face because I didn't let the waiting do its work in refining my character. 



I've been watching Jane the Virgin, which I'm enjoying more than I thought, given the overdramatic nature of the telenovela satire. It has some really good parts, though! I also watched the new season of New Girl on Netflix (love me some New Girl!), which was hilarious as always. And I've been watching Flash on Netflix, which has also been really good!



"She's With Me" by High Valley has often been playing when I get in my car or change stations lately, and I'll take it! It's such a sweet testament to staying by someone's side through both good and bad. And it has a catchy tune to beat!



I had a friend in town for a couple days, and we made some delicious arroz con pollo (although I used cauliflower rice) and some shrimp stir fry that were both so good! And then I proceeded to share my recipe arsenal with my friend, so I'm sure there will be more amazing meals for us in the future!



My freshman roommate came for a couple days, and it was so good to reconnect with her! I hadn't seen her since August, and she'd gotten engaged since then, so it was especially sweet to get to talk all things wedding planning.

I also went to the Tenth Avenue North and MercyMe concert, which was so much fun! I love both bands, and I spent quite a bit of time listening to their music before the concert so I could sing along to each and every song because I think that's the best way to enjoy concerts!



I'm looking launching my Decluttering Bootcamp, which goes live today! But it's not too late if you haven't signed up yet; you can still do that here!

I'm also super excited to travel to North Carolina for my friends' wedding in a few weeks! And to get to go to the Kenny Chesney and Thomas Rhett concert this weekend-- it will be my first country concert, and I'm so excited!


What were some of your favorite things this month? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Joyful Living, Part 4: How Joy & Simplicity Work Together

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Living a joyful life requires simplifying our lives.

Don't believe me? How much joy do you think there is in trying to do it all-- working overtime in a stressful job so you can afford a bigger house and newer car, running errands every time you need just one thing, being in all the extracurricular activities, pursuing all your hobbies, saying "yes" to every social event, caving under all your family obligations, inevitably not getting enough sleep, through it all still trying to exercise regularly and eat well, wanting to learn new skills to keep moving up, longing to travel, and wanting to start a family, all the while feeling like you can never say "no"? 

Now imagine a life where you work a little less in a job that's less stressful, with a home and car that fit your stage of life, where you have fewer errands to run, only a select few favorite activities and hobbies to pursue, and where you say "yes" to only the most important social activities and family obligations, where you have more time and energy to focus on your family and your health and your goals. Doesn't that sound like it would be a more joyful life?



There is so much joy to be found in surrounding yourself with just what you love! When your home is full of things you're indifferent about or things you don't like anymore, it's not going to bring you as much joy as it would if it was full of things that bring you joy.

I've found this to be true in my own life. I've culled my wardrobe several times over the last few years since I began my journey toward a life of greater simplicity, and I'm working on curating a closet full of just the things I love. Then when I go to pick out my clothes, it's not so hard or time-consuming, because every option is a good option! And I'm not wrestling with any feelings of guilt over repeatedly not picking certain items because I've gotten rid of them and freed myself of that guilt.

Finding joy in having less automatically causes you to focus on keeping the things you love, which is a wonderful shift in focus! 

Pursuing simplicity isn't about what you get rid of as much as it is about what you keep and what you choose to invest in. It's not a matter of saying "no" to extra hours at the office, it's getting to spend more time at home with loved ones. It's not getting rid of bags full of clothes and books; it's getting to always wear your favorite clothes and reread your favorite books, and knowing you're surrounded by your favorite things.

[S]he entered into voluntary simplicity where the fire of purging away 'stuff' left a clearer picture and path to the internal life. When stuff, people, and the problems they bring fall away there is a stillness. Only in that stillness can we ever find the joy that resides inside of us, dependent on nothing external in order to exist. 

Her joy came from deeply held spiritual beliefs but it also came from a place even beyond that. Joy comes when you make peace with who you are, where you are, why you are, and who you are not with. When you need nothing more than your truth and the love of a good God to bring peace, then you have settled into the abiding joy that is not rocked by relationships. It's not rocked by anything. - Sandra L. Brown



Not only does having less stuff make decision-making easier and bring you joy by creating an environment in which you're surrounded by your favorite things, there is also so much less stress with less clutter!

It's not just physical clutter, either, although that's often the biggest culprit. There's also less mental clutter from having to make so many decisions, feeling guilt about keeping certain things or getting rid of certain things, and stressing about not prioritizing what you want to. And, of course, there's less calendar clutter when we commit to the few things that really matter to us instead of everything we get invited and asked to do.

This lack of clutter gives us room to breathe, room to enjoy our lives instead of rushing through them on autopilot. This way of living more simply allows us to have more white space, more margin, and more freedom. And with those things, we're able to pursue our goals, invest in time with our friends and family, and live the kind of lives we've dreamed of.



Having less physical, mental, and calendar clutter is great, but the thing that mattered the most to me in pursuing a simpler way of living my life was gaining a clearer sense of purpose and seeing how the act of pursuing purpose reinforced my joy.

Before I discovered simplicity, I had no idea what my purpose was or what I wanted to do with my life. And because of that lack of clarity, I was spreading myself too thin. I did everything because everything sounded fun and people kept asking me to do things. But it wasn't fulfilling because I felt like I was trying to run in twelve different directions at once, which got me nowhere.

By choosing to simplify my focus and prioritize investing in the things that mattered the absolute most to me, I was able to arrive at a place where I could understand my purpose, and from there, make decisions about what to invest in and what to let go of.

I thought it would be hard to say "no" to so many things, and at times it was, but more than that, it brought so much freedom and joy! I knew what I wanted and why I was pursuing it. I had peace with my decisions. And I had more space to do what mattered to me and enjoy it without wondering if I should be doing something else because I already decided what I needed to be investing in. Choosing to simplify brought me greater joy, and I get to experience more joy in living with simplified focus every day.


How have you seen joy and simplicity work together in your life? Do you know what your purpose is, and have you found joy in pursuing it? If you're struggling to pin it down or follow through with it, I'd love to talk to you about it!

Later, lovely!Jessie (1).png










Happiness vs Joy -

Joy - VS - Happiness by Sandra L. Brown, Psychology Today

For When I Wonder: Finding Peace in the "What If" Moments of Life

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Did I make the right choice? Should I have gone the other way?

What would have happened if I chose differently?

Being the indecisive person that I am, I have struggled with making big decisions like which college to go to, what to major in, what career path to pursue, where to live, and what to strive for.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have chosen differently.



Should I have gone to graduate school? Many of my friends did, and it seems like they have more guidance for a career path after having gone to school longer for a more specific degree.

Or should I have chosen a more defined major and minor in undergrad? Would I have found a job that allows me to really help people?

What if I had taken a different job after college? Or not moved home, but stayed in La Crosse or moved somewhere else entirely?

Should I have waited to start my own business? Was the timing right? 

I don't know the answers to any of those questions, but I do know one thing. I can't go back and change any of those things. I can't call a mulligan.

I can only move forward.



I can only make the best decision I know how with the information I have in the moment. I can't waste my time and energy worrying about what might or might not happen. God will work it all out for good in the end, and experience is the greatest teacher!

The only real way to deal with the decisions of the past and heal from any mistakes or missteps is to keep moving forward, trusting that it will all work out for good in the end. Every challenge is an opportunity for growth and character development. Every obstacle provides chance to gain strength. Every hard-fought battle teaches us something. None of it is worthless, even if it's not easy.

All the choices I've made were based on what I truly wanted at the time or what I thought was best. There's no reason I should regret those decisions. I did the best with what I had-- the information, the perspective, the experience. The choices I have made are the choices that have made me, for better or for worse.



When it comes to facing the "what if" moments of life, I find it helpful to remind myself of what I know to be true. 

I'm not in control at the end of the day. God is. And how grateful I am for that! The weight of the world doesn't rest upon my shoulders. The weight of my own fate doesn't even rest upon my shoulders! That's not my burden to bear. I merely have to follow God, one step at a time, trusting that He knows the way and will work out all the details that don't seem to fit together from my perspective. 

I'm doing the best I can, and that's all I can ask of myself. As long as I'm looking for ways to serve others and love and honor God, as long as I'm choosing things that could contribute to His Kingdom, I'm succeeding.

Of course, obstacles and challenges will come. Of course I'll still wonder if I maybe should have gone right instead of left, but if I make the best decisions I can based on the information I have in the moment I'm making them, then I'm doing my part in being faithful. If I'm serving and loving, then I'm doing it right, no matter how much I might question (or how much others might question) if I'm doing it wrong.

If I had made different decisions, I wouldn't be where I am now. There's no telling where I would be or even who I would be. And there's no point in spending all my time wondering what would have happened if I had chosen differently because I can't choose differently. I made my decisions. I can only learn from my experiences, letting them inform my future choices. I can only make an informed, prayerfully considered decision and go forward boldly.

So what if I it turns out the road to the right might have been smoother than the one to the left? At least I didn't stay frozen in indecision, refusing to move forward for fear of making the wrong call. If I make an informed decision to do something good ("right" or "wrong" labels aside), then I can rest knowing it was a good choice.

And next time, when I have to make a decision, I'll have more personal experience to help me make an even better choice. And I can continue moving forward boldly, trusting God to guide my footsteps and use every decision I make-- whether to the right or to the left-- for my good and His glory.

And I give you permission today to do the same! Make your decisions. Look forward. Stop playing the "what-if" game. Go forward boldly, my friend! It's the only way to really live.


Have you let the "what if" game carry you away into worry and wonder about whether you've made the right choices? What choices are you currently wondering about? How can I help you gain clarity in your decisions? Let's chat about it!


Later, lovely!Jessie.png

Joyful Living, Part 3: Chasing Everyday Joy

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My mom used to call me "Pollyanna" sometimes when I was growing up. Do you get the reference? Yep, that little blonde girl played by Hayley Mills who was constantly playing her "gladness" game and driving everybody around her completely crazy!

But for all the times she irritated others, she also inspired them to see the best of things and see opportunities to bless others. Her positive outlook and incessant joy radiated from her and impacted those closest to her. So I don't know about you, but I'm honored to have been compared to her!



I don't always feel much like Pollyanna these days. It's easy to get bogged down with stress and frustration and to-do lists. It's much harder to hold onto joy and gladness.

But I realized not too long ago that I don't want to be remembered for what I've accomplished. I want to be remembered for loving and encouraging others, for radiating and spreading joy. That's the legacy I want to leave.

And that means I have to choose joy everyday. That means I have to prioritize joy and love over accomplishments and productivity. That means I have to remember what's most important and let go of what isn't.

That means I have to pursue joy and look for it everywhere I go and in everything I do. I still have to wash the dishes and do the laundry, but I can look for joy in them. I still see the hard things in the world and in the lives of the people closest to me, but I choose to believe that God is still good and there is still reason to be joyful.

If I want my life to be characterized by joy, I have to live joyfully every day. Otherwise stress and busyness take over before I know it! Our small, daily choices become our habits, so if I want to be a more joyful person, I need to make regular decisions to seek and choose joy.



Much of chasing everyday joy is figuring out what it is that brings each of us joy. For me, it's a beautiful sunset, time spent with friends and family, really good food, pretty flowers, good music, and good books, just to name a few.

What brings you joy?

A child's smile?

A beautiful sunset?

A friend's deep belly laugh?

Hearing your favorite song come on the radio?

Getting to sleep an extra thirty minutes?

It's amazing, isn't it, the power such simple things have to bring us such profound joy?

In light of that, perhaps we can remember that joy can be found in the simplest of things, if only we would take the time to pay attention. Things like these are all around us, just waiting for us to enjoy them!



Joy is waiting for you in the little things all around you: time to yourself, nailing a presentation or project, crossing things off your to-do list, a coffee date or phone call with a friend, a sweet unexpected message, or hearing your favorite song on the radio. 

If we're not careful, we might take those things for granted and not see the immense amount of joy they can bring us. We might let our difficulties and stress overshadow the joy these things can bring about within us. Or we can choose to pause and celebrate each and every one, no matter what else is going on in and around us.



Do you know what else can bring us joy? Taking a moment to celebrate how far we've come. It's easy and normal to get so caught up in our projects and goals that we don't see how far we've come until we're done. But each step towards finishing or accomplishing our end goal deserves a little celebration! That's how we keep up enough momentum to keep going and maintain joy throughout the process.

Think about it. If you're trying to pay off all your debt, but you're not planning on celebrating at all until you're completely finished, you'll be waiting for a while, deferring your joy. But if you celebrate for each loan you pay off, you'll see your progress more clearly and keep your spirits up the whole time! Instead of focusing on just how much farther you have to go, you'll be able to better appreciate how far you've already come.

There's always going to be room for improvement, and we're always going to have some sort of challenges in our lives, but that doesn't mean we can't be chasing joy at the same time! We can make the most of our situations and find the greatest amount of peace and rest in knowing there is always something to be joyful about, always something to be thankful for, if only we would pause for a minute to see it.


What's bringing you joy today? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

And if you're interested in pursuing a life of greater joy with other women, check out my group!

Later, lovely!Jessie (1).png










Happiness vs Joy -

Joy - VS - Happiness by Sandra L. Brown, Psychology Today

5 Ways to Make Time for What Matter Most

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You're busy. Your to-do list is never-ending. By the time you check off the fact that you sent that email to your boss and finished, you've remembered that you have to add more: run to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription, pay the electric bill, call grandma, make dinner. Trying to get it all done starts to feel as impossible as herding cats.

There are just too many demands for your time. From your family. From your work. From your health. From your home. From yourself, as you juggle thoughts of what you could and should be doing.

How much time do you spend doing what you want to do?

Do you spend more time working than with your family? Is the way your time is divided up the way you want it to be?


1. List out your priorities.

What matters most to you? If you're anything like me, you think you have a good grasp on your priorities, but I'm going to challenge you to take a few minutes to write them down. It's one thing to say you have your priorities straight; it's another to actually have to write them down in order, as a numbered list.

Where does your family fall? Your relationship with your significant other? Your job? Your faith? Your hobbies?

Unless you choose to share your list, you're the only one who is going to see it. So be honest. You can only have one top priority, and it matters that you know what it is.

I'll go first. My priorities are:

  1. My faith in Jesus Christ.
  2. My relationships with my real-life people.
  3. My health.
  4. My work as a purposeful life coach.
  5. My relationships with and interactions with people outside of my inner circles (including social media).


2. Pay attention to how you're currently spending your time.

I'll be the first to admit it's really easy to spend our time doing trivial things because it's convenient and fun. I spend more time on social media than I'd care to admit, and I could spend a whole day reading, but that's not always the best use of my time.

When I first began trying to live purposefully, I thought I didn't have time to focus more on relationships. My schedule was full. It was one of those "I'm busy; sorry, I can't" sorts of things. I had just accepted my busyness as an inevitable side effect of living an adult life.

But I wasn't busy doing the best things. Notice I didn't say I was busy doing bad things. I was doing good things, just not the best things for me in that season, according to my priorities.

In order to notice that and be willing to change, I had to first open my eyes to how I was really spending my time. Until I wrote it all down, I hadn't realized just how much time was spent on certain things, like social media, watching Netflix, zoning out, checking email, or checking for the best deal before I purchase something on Amazon.

If you're serious about dedicating more of your time to what matters most to you (and who isn't?), then I encourage you to fill out this time tracker I created so you can pay more attention to where you're currently spending your time and begin to think about what could change to better align your life with your goals.


3. Embrace time blocking.

Multitasking might be a buzzword, but it's not the most efficient way to get things done. Sometimes we can do two things at once, like walking and chewing gum or listening to music while washing the dishes. But when it comes to things we have to focus on, we can only pay attention to one thing at a time. 

One solution to help me focus on one thing at a time in the midst of a world full of distractions is to create specific time blocks in my schedule for certain activities. I work from a specific time in the morning until lunch, when I take a break to eat and relax, and then I go back to work until my self-imposed quitting time. Within that time, I commit to working on one project at a time, giving myself half an hour to finish this project, or an hour for that one. Having a specific length of time helps me focus on the task at hand because that's the only thing that time is dedicated to. 

I work out for an hour after I wake up five days a week. It's not something I even have to think about. That's what that time is for. I attend church gatherings on Sunday mornings; that time is dedicated to that purpose. And I find that it works for plenty of other things, and I think you will, too! It helps with focus because I know what I'm supposed to be doing, and anything else that comes up can be handled when I finish the task at hand.


4. Enlist help.

Nobody can do it on their own. Believe me, I've tried! I'm independent to a fault, but I'm learning that I need help. I just can't do it all by myself. And none of us should feel the pressure to try to do it all by ourselves.

We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and we're better together. So if you're not so good at keeping things organized, maybe your coworker could help you out. Or if you prefer cooking meals to cleaning the house, and your roommate or spouse would rather clean than cook, maybe you could split up the roles.

Or perhaps you just hate cleaning your house and resent the amount of time it steals away from you; you could outsource the work and hire someone to come clean for you so that you can spend more time with your family and friends.

Some common ways to delegate and outsource are:

  • hire a virtual assistant
  • hire someone to clean your house
  • buy the food for your next party instead of taking the time to make it
  • use a meal delivery service or subscription
  • have your spouse or kids chip in on the cleaning
  • put together a team to help you with your project

To put a different twist on it, you could consider doing a task with a friend. If you both need to grocery shop, for instance, and feel too busy to grab coffee, you could go on a grocery shopping date! It might seem like less fun, but you could make it fun by racing to see who can get all the items on their list first or who has to backtrack aisles fewer times. And you get to both accomplish the practical task of getting your shopping done while investing in a relationship that matters to you, so it's a win-win!


5. Start saying "no."

When you reach the point where there's too much on your plate that you can't just delegate or outsource, you've reached the point where you're going to have to let go of some things.

Everything you say "yes" to automatically requires a "no" to something else, but so many of us (myself included at times) try to say "yes" to everything.

It's just not sustainable. 

When my life and calendar are too full, I've learned that the only realistic solution is to take some things away. I have to start saying "no." 

I was in way over my head in high school, going part time to the community college for classes, participating in National Honor Society, working at the local coffee shop, going to youth group, serving as a leader with our youth group, leading in the children's ministry, helping with the children's musical, trying to stay faithful to a weekly Bible study, not to mention trying to spend time with my family and friends. It was just too much! But I loved it all, so I pushed through. It was one of the most stressful seasons of my life simply because of the pace I was required to keep. I nearly ran myself into the ground. I didn't sleep well. I didn't eat well. I didn't have much of a social life at all. It was rough in so many ways.

When I started college, I knew I had to live differently. Of course, I was drawn to many of the same things. But I didn't join them all. I chose to participate in leadership for my student organization, but I said "no" to joining the worship team. I joined just one student organization, even though others sounded like fun. I worked fewer hours and slept more. I didn't do it perfectly (nobody does), but I did it better. And it was far more enjoyable and far less stressful because I chose to be more careful with my "yes" and "no" responses.

    Some things you could consider saying "no" to are:

    • mopping your floors frequently (who will notice?)
    • putting together a beautiful table setting when you have people over
    • redecorating for every season
    • making homemade food for every potluck or friend with a new baby
    • keeping up with new technology and gadgets
    • having the perfect Pinterest-worthy party for every occasion
    • that new project that would take more of your time and energy, but isn't something your heart's really in
    • joining the HOA board, the PTA, the new team at work, or any other team you're not invested in



    One more thing we can all do to make more time for what really matters to us is to minimize distractions. We might think they're outside of our control, and sometimes they are (like children running in, calling your name, or an urgent email that demands to be handled ASAP), many times we can control the demands put on us to some extent.

    One of my favorite ways to minimize distraction in my life is to limit the notifications I receive. I only allow direct messages to me (Facebook messages and text messages) to show up on my lock screen. All the notifications about likes, comments, follows, and the rest go unnoticed. I don't need them interrupting me. My life has been so much more peaceful without constantly being notified when I get an email or a like. And it hasn't hurt my business or relationships one bit because I have dedicated time to check and respond to anything that does need my attention. 

    I also like to use the "do not disturb" feature on my phone when I'm going to sleep and when I'm going to be deep in work mode for a little while. Or when I just need a break, if I'm really being honest. I have it set up so that a few select people's messages and calls can get through (like my immediate family and a very close circle of others) so I'm not unreachable in the event of an emergency, but it keeps my phone from lighting up, buzzing, or making chiming noises all night while I'm trying to sleep or when I'm trying to record a new video or write an outline for a book.

    I've found, too, that it helps me to try to turn off other distractions, like music and TV, when I need to really focus. I'm not good at tuning them out, and while I've gotten better at handling background noise for certain tasks, there's something to be said about quieting our environments.

    So if you feel yourself being pulled in too many directions, along with writing out your priorities, evaluating how you spend your time, using time blocking, delegating, and saying "no," I suggest minimizing your distractions. Then you will find that you've made your work more efficient and made more time to do what really matters most to you!

    And if you're trying to live with more intention and joy so you can live the kind of life you want, I'd love to have you check out my Facebook group: The Joy + Full Living Community!

    Later, lovely!Jessie.png

    Joyful Living, Part 2: Joy Despite All Circumstances

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    It's no secret that our world and our lives are full of hard times, hurt, and more stress than we ever expected to endure.

    How can you be happy when there's so much hurt? How can you smile when things seem to be going wrong left and right? How can you be grateful when life is so hard?

    Those are some tough questions. I've heard different versions of them, but they generally trace back to similar lines of thinking.

    People want to know how it's possible to have hope and joy in the midst of difficult circumstances, whether ours or the world's. 

    So how do we hold onto hope and joy in the midst of hard times?

    At the risk of sounding trite, we remember that joy isn't dependent upon our circumstances or the state of the world around us. Our joy comes from a deeper place, from a Person who isn't shaken even when everything else is.



    In my experience, it comes down to choosing joy every day, regardless of circumstances.

    When I was approaching my college graduation, I was in one of the most stressful seasons of life I've ever experienced. I was about to leave the safety of the predictable student life I'd lived my whole life up to that point, walking away from a strong community I loved, leaving a city I'd fallen in love with, and headed into a season full of unknowns.

    Needless to say, I wasn't very happy about it. But I chose to pursue joy, to believe that God had it all worked out, and that even though my heart was breaking and my mind was frazzled from so many failed attempts to pin down a job post-graduation, I was secure because God was in control.

    It wasn't easy, and it wasn't a decision I made just once. I had to make it again every day. And sometimes every hour.

    Even though I had no idea what was ahead of me, I knew God would go with me. I still praised Him. I may have also yelled at Him and gotten incredibly frustrated with Him and his timing, but I also knew I could be frustrated and still praise Him. I could be irritated with my situation and still choose joy because my situation didn't change His character or my security in Him.

    In that season, I had to choose joy each day. Some days I had to choose to choose joy, reminding myself that I always have that choice. It's not an automatic thing. It's a daily decision to pursue joy instead of fear. I didn't know how things would play out, but I knew they'd somehow be okay in the end.



    What helps me hold onto joy is remembering God's promises. It's like there's a silver lining to everything because I know He's faithful to fulfill His promises, including Romans 8:28, which says that He's working everything together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for them. So I can rest knowing He's got this, whatever "this" might be in the various seasons and situations of my life.

    He has promised to never leave us or forsake us, to be with us always. And sometimes that's what I cling to the most. I don't always have to know how it's going to work out in the end; it's enough to just know that I'm not alone.

    He promises in Galatians 6:9 that if we keep going, if we don't give up, we will reap a harvest of blessing "at just the right time." It's taken me a while to realize that blessing might not look the way I expect it to or want it to, but if I keep pursuing Him, serving Him, and loving others, there is always some sort of blessing involved.

    He delights to give us good gifts, He came to give us abundant life. Obviously, those things also come alongside and amidst difficulties and struggles, but they are such precious gifts from Him, and I'm learning to recognize them as such and pause to cherish them and give thanks for each one.

    And when I focus on the blessings instead of the stress and pain, I can find greater joy in the midst of my circumstances. It doesn't remove the pain or whisk me away from challenging situations, but it gives me greater perspective and reminds me that God is still good.



    For me, it came down to deciding how I wanted to live my life. I decided years ago that how I live my life is more important than what I do with it. No matter what happens, no matter where I am or what I'm doing, there are certain things that I want my life to be characterized by.

    I choose joy because that's how I want to live.

    I don't want to be consumed by fear or anxiety. I want to rest knowing God's got it all under control, even when I can't see how it's all going to play out.

    I don't want to be negative, focusing on all the hurt and stress in and around me. I want to see the positive side, find the joy, and be able to share joy and encouragement with those around me.

    I don't want to rush ahead or lag behind, grasping at straws or fighting to hold onto things of the past. I want to make the most of the season I'm in right now and hold things with open hands, joyfully accepting whatever God chooses to give and take away.

    I don't want to feel pressured to make everything work out by my own strength (that's always the messier way to go). I want to let go and let God deal with the nitty gritty details of weaving together the tapestry of my life and His work in the world into something beautiful.


    joy + full FB group (2).png

    How do you want to live your life? Do you want it to be characterized by greater joy? I thought so. I've created a Facebook group called The Joy + Full Living Community for people like you looking to live full lives that are joyful, peaceful, and meaningful, and I'd love for you to join us!


    Later, lovely!Jessie (1).png















    Happiness vs Joy -

    Joy - VS - Happiness by Sandra L. Brown, Psychology Today

    How to Not Be a Productivity Addict

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    Hi, my name is Jessie, and I'm a productivity addict.

    I love to-do lists and planners. 

    I sometimes add things to my to-do list after I've done them just to get the satisfaction from checking them off.

    I'm task-oriented more than I am people-oriented.

    I'm not claiming that those things are good or the right way to live; I'm just admitting that's how I'm wired.

    It's hard for me to feel like things are worthwhile sometimes if they're not productive. If there is nothing to me to measure, no tangible results from my effort, did I really do anything at all?

    I read Emily P. Freeman's book A Million Little Ways a while ago, but this quote really stuck with me:

    "I am bound to my own usefulness, bigheaded with my own accomplishments, crushed by my shortcomings. I am capable of making beautiful art, but I am also capable of turning the art into something it was never meant to be. I miss the presence of Jesus in my current moments. I miss the soul breath. I miss the smallness, the doorway through which I must walk to find freedom from the ever-moving treadmill of life...I have forgotten my truest identity. I am a poem, but I live tethered to my programs." -Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live

    I know deep down that I'm more than just what I can accomplish, more than the metrics and status and numbers, but that knowledge flies in the face of our accomplishment and accolade-driven culture.

    I want to believe that I'm more than my job, my awards, my title, my net worth. But how can any of us do that in a world that places such high value on those things at the apparent expense of others?



    The thing that's helped me more than anything else has been choosing to change my perspective. Yes, it's nice to have a prestigious job (I assume), a large salary (probably), or some fancy award or popularity (maybe? I hear those come with unwanted strings), but they're not the only things that matter. And I'd like to think they're not even the things that matter most.

    So what does matter most? Our character. Our love. Our kindness. Our righteousness. Our relationships. Our art.

    To put it succinctly: our identity in Christ.

    In Him, we have everything we will ever need. We have security, love, grace, forgiveness, provision, protection, guidance, community, and a promise of eternity with Him in Heaven. What more do we need? (The answer is nothing.)

    And once we know who we are, we can come to understand what we were created to do.

    We were created as God's masterpieces, which is a truth I just can't get over. He created us as His workmanship, as art created to create art. We've been made in His image, endowed with gifts, which means we're artists, too, whether in conventional or unconventional ways. We've been given unique sets of skills and talents --unique expressions of our art-- to use to glorify Him and serve others.

    My worth isn't found in the number of things I accomplish on any given day or the title attached to my name. I have nothing to prove, and I am free to spend my resources-- my time, money, and energy-- investing in things that really matter, not just on the things that this world tries to tell me matter.



    At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if we've crossed off everything on our to-do lists if we haven't invested in relationships.

    Art and relationships don't function on a schedule or fit neatly into a to-do list. They're bigger and harder to confine than that. They run deep in our blood and our bones. They are what we were created to pour into, to give our lives to.

    If I cleaned my whole house, prepped food for the week, created all my marketing material, fit in a workout, and ran to the grocery store, I wouldn't be any more competent, successful, or loved than I am right now. And I wouldn't feel any more satisfied because when it comes down to it, those aren't the things that really matter.

    But if I take time to read my Bible, spend time praying for my friends, family, the world, and myself, and if I invest time and energy in relationships by sacrificing my to-do list for time with friends, then I feel like my time was truly well-spent. And if I choose to focus on encouraging others, living with joy, working hard to write uplifting words, and share the joy I've been given, although I may see no measurable results by way of more followers or monetary gain, those things matter because they're pouring out of the gifts and art inside me. 

    No, those things don't create any tangible results. No, there are no metrics to use to measure the worth of that time. But those aren't the most important things. Relationships are. Art is. People are.



    I find that it helps me to keep my goals and priorities in line when I remind myself of my real identity through some affirmations. I have some of them on my to-do list as a recurring item so I see them everyday.

    Some people write them on sticky notes or on their bathroom mirrors where they can see them everyday. I encourage you to take these or create your own affirmations and put them where you can see them everyday to remind you of the truth of who God is and who you are.


    I am a beloved daughter of the King of Kings.

    God is in control.

    God is my strength, my provision, my solid ground.

    I was made to encourage and love others.

    I always have a choice.

    I am pursuing joy in all things.

    I have nothing to prove.

    People matter more than things.

    Presence matters more than perfection.


    Today I hope that you are reminded, too, that people matter more than things, that productivity isn't the highest thing we're called to, and that you are more than what you accomplish or attain. 

    And if you're unsure what your gifts and talents are, what your art might look like, I'd love to chat with you about it!

    Later, lovely!Jessie.png









    Further reading:

    A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman

    [This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting Notes from Jessie!]


    Joy-Filled Living, Part 1: Defining Your Joy

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    So maybe you made a New Year's resolution back in January to have a better attitude, to snap less often at your kids, to exhibit less road rage, or to complain less.

    How are you doing on those?

    Now, none of those were specific resolutions of mine for the year because I picked one word to focus on like I always do. But that doesn't mean those aren't things most of us (myself included, except for the kids part) could stand to work on.

    But how do we do that?

    Well, friends, I'd like to suggest that those behavioral differences could come if we would first make some heart changes. Namely, if we focused on living more joyful lives. If we lived with greater joy, we wouldn't complain as much. We wouldn't be so quick to snap at others. We would have better attitudes.

    So are you with me? Are you willing to lean into joy in the hopes that both your heart and your behavior might experience a little change for the better?



    Let's start at square one. What is joy, anyway?

    Unlike happiness, joy is not based on circumstances. Happiness is more of an outward expression of feelings of elation or excitement, while joy is more of an inward feeling.

    Further, happiness is usually a temporary feeling based on outward experiences, while joy is a more stable, lasting feeling resulting from inward circumstances.

    Happiness is external. It's based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts. Happiness is connected to your hope for a relationship or your hope for a future with someone.
    ...Happiness is future oriented and it puts all its eggs in someone else's basket. It is dependent on outside situations, people, or events to align with your expectations so that the end result is your happiness.
    ...But happiness is not joy because joy is not external, it can't be bought and it is not conditional on someone else's behavior. In fact, joy is not contingent on anything in order to exist. - Sandra L. Brown

    Joy isn't ignorant optimism or just looking for the best in things. True joy acknowledges the bad, the difficult, the hurt, but knows that's not the whole story. 

    Living with joy means having an eyes-wide-open view of the world and our lives. It's not blind to what's going on -- either to us individually or in the world at large. Rather, it takes them in as pieces of a bigger puzzle, seeing that there is more to the story than we could ever know, and placing our state of mind and emotions separate from our circumstances.



    Like faith, joy comes from believing in what we cannot see. 

    Our joy is found in knowing that God's got it all under control, knowing He's with us, helping us. I, for one, find it incredibly comforting to know that I'm not alone and that I'm not responsible for working everything out! I can rest assured knowing my Heavenly Father is in control and I don't have to be (phew!).

    Joy also comes from knowing God loves you and has abundantly blessed you with good things, even if you've also been given challenges and hardship-- seeing both and choosing to believe you're blessed and taken care of, that you can give thanks even in the hard times.

    Starting a business is hard, and it comes with its fair share of obstacles and challenges. But it has also come with so much joy, and I wouldn't trade that for the world! When I start getting frustrated with the technical side or the trial-and-error approach to figuring out marketing tactics, I remember that I get to do what I love and I'm building a business to help other women live joyfully, simply, and intentionally, to live lives they love! 



    So what does joy mean to you? What does it look like in your life right now?

    Well, friend, I don't know your story, and I don't know where you're at right now. But I do know a few things about how joy could impact your life and mine.

    Gratitude. Simple gratitude. By adopting an attitude of gratitude, we're automatically choosing to focus on the good things that exist in the midst of the challenging things. Of course, it doesn't take away the challenges, but it reminds us that there is good in the world and good in our lives.

    Joy means choosing to focus on the good. I realized somewhat recently how often I complain about the difficult things in my life when my friends ask me how I'm doing. I thought I was just being honest, and I was actually proud I was willing to tell them more than the perfunctory "I'm fine." But I want to go beyond sharing just the negative, hard stuff. I don't want my times with them filled with only negative talk.

    So I've committed to sharing the good things with them. Not in a fake way, and not to the exclusion of the hard things I need to talk about or process or request prayer for. But first and foremost, I want to be a light, a person of joy, a person who ushers in grace and truth and encouragement. And that means talking about the good things, reminding others that there are good things. Because it's only by talking about the good things, only by sharing our joy, that it's really complete. And it's only in sharing the joy that we get the opportunity to bring joy to others.


    What does joy mean to you? What does it look like in your current circumstances? I'd love to hear from you in the comments, or you can shoot me an email at!



    Later, lovely!Jessie.png



    Happiness vs Joy -

    Joy - VS - Happiness by Sandra L. Brown, Psychology Today


    How to Live a Great Life

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    It would be a travesty to have a life about collecting pretty things — instead of recollecting that we were made for greater things...You were meant for greatness — and greatness is about serving greatly. - Ann Voskamp

    We were made for great things! There is more in store for us than merely surviving, plowing through our work weeks to get to the weekend, prepping our meals, paying the bills, and going through the motions.

    We can do more. More importantly, we can be more.

    I think that most of us living in the West would agree that our lives, as a whole, are pretty good. We have been abundantly blessed, and we are privileged to have everything that has been given to us. But are our lives great?

    What even makes them great, anyway?

    Is it accumulating more stuff than our neighbors? Or getting the biggest houses and newest cars? Or climbing the corporate ladder and making six figures?

    I have none of that stuff, and I would like to think that my life can be great without them.

    In fact, I believe that all of our lives can be great without those things! 

    There's nothing wrong with material things or accomplishments, of course, but they're not the be-all, end-all of our lives.

    We need something more to sustain us. All of our wealth and possessions can be lost as easily as they were gained. They're all empty in the end. So what are we really living for?



    We were all created for a purpose. We're not accidents. There's a reason each and every one of us is here, on this earth, and in our specific circumstances.

    Mine is to encourage women to live joyfully, simply, and intentionally. That's not tied to any material gain or status. It's what drives me. It's what helps me stay focused on what really matters, keeping my eyes on the bigger picture.

    It's what reminds me to serve.

    We're all here to serve in some way. We've all been given different sets of skills and talents, and the purpose we're here to fulfill is to use those gifts and talents to serve others and give glory to God in doing so. That's what makes our lives great!

    So people who use their carpentry talents to build houses can have great lives.

    People using teaching talents to manage classrooms full of impressionable young minds can have great lives.

    People with nurturing talents who are humbly serving their own families and raising up the next generation can have great lives.

    It's not about what it looks like from the outside, but what's going on on the inside.



    So the challenge is to discover what it is we're gifted in and to find a way to use our gifts to meet the needs of others as our gift back to God.

    Our lives are made great when they're lived for His glory.

    We don't have to compete with the people around us for status and worth. We're already loved beyond all measure, and we have nothing to prove. But because of the great love God has for us, we're called to live a life of obedience to Him and service to others.

    Isn't it amazing that we're all created with different combinations of talents? How wonderfully God worked together all the pieces of His body so that we can complement each other. And when we work together to glorify Him and love one another, that's when our lives are truly the greatest. That's when we're doing what we were created for. That's the best there is!


    So what were you created for? What skills do you have? How can you use them to serve others and live a great life?

    Are you unsure? No problem! I'd love to hear from you! I have some coaching packages created for that very purpose! You can book a call to chat with me to see if we'd be a good fit for each other.

    Later, lovely!Jessie.png









    Further reading:

    Go Ahead: Why You Can Give Up on the Goal of a Beautiful Life by Ann Voskamp

    Steps to Simpler Living, Part 4: Sticking to Simple

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    So you've made the decision to pursue a life of greater simplicity. Good for you, friend!

    Maybe you've decluttered your whole house, said "no" to some extra commitments, and started meal planning every week.

    But now you're struggling to keep going. Where do you go from here? What's next?


    [This is the fourth and final post in a series of steps to living a simpler life. You can catch up on the first, second, and third posts in the series if you missed them!]



    When it seems hard to cling to our goals or changes we're trying to make, it's often because they haven't become our habits yet, fundamental parts of our lifestyles.

    I've found it incredibly helpful to adopt new rhythms that encourage greater simplicity in my life. Picking out my clothing for the week on Sundays. Packing lunch for the next day when I'm putting away dinner leftovers. Batch cooking breakfasts so I don't have to decide what to have every day.

    Your rhythms might not look like mine, but that's okay! It's not about imitating anyone else's application of simplicity; it's about figuring out what works best for you.

    What daily rhythms would make your life simpler? How could you eliminate some decisions, extra work, or extra time spent doing tasks you don't have to be doing over and over again?



    Our lives happen in seasons. It might not always seem like it, when a season drags on for too long or goes by too quickly, but there are definite periods of time that can be characterized by certain circumstances, moods, life stages, or struggles. No matter what season you find yourself in, there is a way to integrate simpler living into it. It just might look different than it did in the last season or different than it will look in the next one, and that's okay!

    All too often, I find myself wanting to hold onto old patterns just for the sake of, well, simplicity. And maybe safety, too, if I'm really being honest with myself. But some habits fit in one season and not in another. And if I hold to them too tightly, they end up not simplifying my life, but actually complicating it because I'm trying to force ill-fitting actions and habits into a season they weren't meant for.

    When I choose instead to embrace the fact that life happens in seasons and make the most of the season I'm currently in, I can better find rhythms, routines, and actions that will simplify my life and reduce my stress instead of adding to it.



    Each day, you can only get so much accomplished. There is a finite amount of time in each day, despite our wishes to the contrary. So it is paramount that we decide what things we're going to prioritize.

    One way I like to keep my priorities straight is to not overload my daily or weekly to-do lists. I have a planner (it's this one) that has space for monthly goals, weekly checklists, and notes for each day. I write big-picture goals on the monthly pages, which I break down for each week, focusing on the biggest things I want to accomplish that week. But then I take it a step further and assign time-sensitive tasks to specific days. I'm careful, though, to not overbook or overcommit myself by assigning too many tasks to any single day, for I know that's a surefire way to stress myself out.

    I heard of another writer listing out her top three things to focus on each day (and there are planners that have this function built in, if you're interested), and I follow that loosely. Until the top three things are taken care of, I don't add any more to the list. It keeps it manageable and far less stressful. It keeps it simpler. And isn't that what we're all looking for?



    No matter what, we are not perfect people. We are all fallible humans. We make mistakes. And often when it comes to other people making mistakes, we're quick to forgive. But we're typically less willing to forgive ourselves.

    On this journey of simpler living, as in all things, we're going to have to be willing to extend ourselves some grace. 

    Because this isn't a one-and-done kind of thing, we need to accept that there's a bit of a learning curve. And even when we feel like we've finally "got it," there's always going to be more to learn and more room for improvement. That's not a bad thing, either! We don't want to become complacent, right?

    In order to keep growing in our lives, we have to be continually challenging ourselves. But as long as we keep trying, keep getting back up, keep our eyes fixed on our bigger "why," we're doing it right. We don't have to reach some Pinterest-worthy end goal to feel proud of ourselves. Just committing to the work is a win!

    So let's remember that this life, this path of simpler living, is a step-by-step process, not a shortcut or get-rich-quick-scheme. It's a new perspective, a lens, an attitude, and a posture to adopt as we walk through our lives. And not a single one of us is going to do it perfectly. It's going to look different for everyone because it's customizable, and it's about making your life more focused on what matters to you. There's wiggle room, forgiveness, and heaps of second chances. So don't forget to give yourself some grace along the way.


    What helps you stick to simplicity? I'd love to hear from you in the comments or via email (! 


    Later, lovely!Jessie.png

    March 2018 Favorites

    I thought it would be fun if I took a moment each month to let you know what things are currently striking my fancy, so here goes the March installment! 

    [This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting Notes from Jessie!] 



    I've been reading Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, which reads surprisingly fast for such a long (959 pages, you guys!) book, and despite the pro-Confederacy perspective, it's been very intriguing and eye-opening to life in that region in that era.



    "By believing against all odds and loving against all odds, that is how we are to let Jesus show in the world and to transform the world." --Frederick Buechner

    Isn't that beautiful? We let Jesus show in the world-- and TRANSFORM the world-- when we just choose to believe and love against all odds! That kind of attitude flies directly in the face of our culture that's so saturated with news of hurt, anger, and disaster. It forces us to choose bravery instead of playing it safe. It requires that we take risks and give away pieces of ourselves without knowing how things are going to play out. But it also promises that all of those things will be used if we let them, and isn't that far better in the end?



    I've been catching up on The Good Doctor (it's really hard for me to actually keep up with shows that are currently on air), and I like the twist is presents to the stereotypical hospital drama.

    I also watched the most recent season of Once Upon a Time, which I love, but it seemed even more convoluted, which made it hard for me because I like to multitask, and it demanded a lot of my attention this time around. Still very good, though!

    I went to see I Can Only Imagine with my family, and it was pretty good, too! I wasn't familiar with the story, which is essentially the biography of MercyMe's vocalist, Bart Millard. It was at times funny, poignant, touching, sad, and beautiful. 



    I can't get Cory Asbury's song Reckless Love out of my head these days, you guys. It literally has been on a loop for the last couple weeks. We sang it in our community group one week, I heard it on the radio in my car, and we sang it at church, all in the span of a few days. And then I stumbled upon the acoustic version on YouTube. So good!



    I've been going through leftovers a lot this month, trying to use up what I have instead of just making new things all the time, so I haven't been too creative in the kitchen lately. But I did make a delicious shrimp biryani dish that my friends and I loved!



    This month, I spent even more time with friends and family, celebrating various birthdays. It was so much fun to see everyone and get to enjoy one another's company. The best was my sister's 25th golden birthday, which I got to help a lot with. We went all out with the black and gold decor and lots of treats for all the guests. It was a great time!

    I also started working on my coaching business full-time, which has me excited for all the opportunities to help women live more joyfully, simply, and intentionally!



    I'm looking forward to a girls' night with my college roommates, a potential reunion with another college friend, and getting to help my cousins move once their new house is finished!

    I'm also going to be launching a new course (read: labor of love, passion project) I've been working on! I'm putting together a course to help women live joyfully, simply, and intentionally by clearing out the clutter, figuring out their finances, managing their time, and living lives guided by their unique purpose and priorities. You can learn more here.


    What were some of your favorite things this month? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

    Steps to Simpler Living, Part 3: How to Start Simplifying

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    Imagine you're standing in front of a giant mountain of stuff you're expected to take care of-- deadlines, bills, toys, dirty socks, unwashed dishes, unread emails, social invitations, family obligations, social pressures, and a ticking clock to top it all off.

    Or maybe you don't have to imagine. Maybe that's an accurate picture of your life right now.

    You want to tackle it. You need to tackle it.

    You want to cut some things out and streamline others. You crave a life where this mountain no longer exists, where all the little pieces are in their places.

    You know simplifying is the answer, but how do you go about doing it?

    Last week I talked about determining what simplicity means to you, and creating a mantra or a manifesto to be clear about what a simplified life would look like specifically for you. But you still have to act on it in order for it to make a real difference. So that's the focus today.

    [This is part three of a series about simpler living. To catch up on the first two posts in the series, go here and here.]



    Before you get too far, you have to take stock of where you're already at. You can't move forward if you don't know where you're currently standing.

    What stage of life are you in? Are you just responsible for yourself, or do you have other people who rely on you to take care of them? Do you have freedom and autonomy, or are you part of an interdependent family? Is this season of your life better characterized by youthful independence or adult responsibility?

    What does your current family situation look like? Are you single? Married? Married with little kids? Big kids? An empty nester?

    How about your living situation-- what's that like? Is it a calm and quiet place for just you, or do you have a bunch of little kids running around, making messes, adding to the chaos and the clutter? Are you surrounded by stuff that's just yours, or does some of it belong to someone else? 

    What kind of time and energy do you have to put toward your goals right now? If you have a lot of family commitments and other people to take care of, this is an opportunity for you to acknowledge that not as a burden but as a piece of the puzzle for this time in your life. 

    I started my journey to simpler living when I was fresh out of college, living with friends, completely independent, and only responsible for myself. It made it easy to begin, but I wasn't accountable to anyone until I sat down and wrote my manifesto with a friend. There are benefits and challenges with each stage of life and specific situation; you just have to know where you're at so you can make the most of your own circumstances!



    In this season of your life, I want you to take an inventory of how things are really going. Take a moment to be really honest and consider where there might be room for growth and change.

    What's working? What isn't working?

    I've asked myself that in the past when I felt dissatisfied with how things were going in my life-- namely, when the ache of losing the community I had in college got to be too painful to ignore. I realized living without solid support and without people to live life with wasn't working for me, and I had to do something about it. But if I'd ignored that ache, or not taken the time to figure out what was causing it, I would have gone on feeling like something was missing but not done anything to change it.

    What's causing you the most stress right now?

    I know there are probably multiple stressors in your life, but what seems to be the most pressing one? Is it financial strain? Time constraints? Too many irons in the fire? An inability to keep your home clean or find any number of lost items amid the chaos? A health struggle?

    Shortly after graduating, I felt overwhelmed with my student loan debt. I mean crazy stressed out about paying it back, not just mildly concerned about the length of time it would take. I was thinking about it constantly, worrying about whether I would even be able to pay them off. I knew at that point that I had to make some changes so I could pay it off and get that burden off my shoulders.

    Based on the mantra or manifesto that guides your life and decision-making, what needs to change so that your home and life are better aligned with your values and goals?

    How can you shift things and make small, incremental changes so that the things you're focusing on and pouring your time, energy, and money into reflect your priorities and values? What do you need to focus more on? What do you need to focus less on? Is there anything that you need to let go of altogether?

    These are now your goals, the things you can focus on as you begin to lead a life of greater simplicity.



    When it comes to starting anything, the hardest part is often taking the first step.

    If you spend all your time worrying about where to begin tackling the obstacle in front of you, concerned about doing it wrong or messing it up or making mistakes, you'll never make any progress. At some point, you just have to do it!

    Just start somewhere! It doesn't matter too much where you choose to begin; it just matters that you make a decision and actually start instead of spending all your time worrying about where to jump in.

    You can tackle the biggest obstacle first if you're brave and want a challenge, or you can tackle a smaller obstacle or stressor and through that gain momentum for more. It's up to you!

    When I'm facing a lengthy to-do list, I go back and forth in my approach. Some days, I'll tackle the biggest, hardest task first so the rest of the day doesn't loom in front of me like a scary giant. Other days I start with something easy to work my way up to the hard stuff. All that matters is that I start somewhere and choose to keep going.



    Once you've thought about where to begin, it can be easy to go full steam ahead, but I want to encourage you to pace yourself a bit. I don't want you running out of steam after a few days or a week; simplicity is a journey, a lifestyle, and I want you to be able to keep going long-term.

    So consider what you will be able to adopt as a part of a lifestyle, not some passing fad. What will you be able to do without going crazy? If you're simplifying your clutter, you might not be able to devote hours to it every day without losing your mind. But perhaps you could devote half an hour or fifteen minutes to it every day and find that more sustainable.

    What do you need to do right now, and what can wait? It's tempting to jump into the deep end and do all the things you can think of right away, but that's not a sustainable solution. Choose what you'll tackle now and what you'll save for later. This is especially helpful when considering what you can afford-- if you're buying staple items for a capsule wardrobe, switching out conventional products with natural ones, or replacing household furniture for better-quality pieces, you might not be able to afford to do it all at once. So choose where to begin, take a step or two, and continue to pace yourself, knowing you don't have to tackle everything at once!

    And finally, what routines can you develop to keep yourself going on your journey to a simpler lifestyle? Simplicity is something you have to keep choosing over and over again, so how can you integrate it into your everyday life? How can you simplify your current routines and make your life easier? 

    I like to simplify my to-do list by breaking it down into just a few things for each day so I don't get overwhelmed and so I have a much higher chance of accomplishing my tasks. I have created a routine of getting up and working out so I can live a healthy life without even having to consciously make the choice everyday-- it's just a normal part of my routine now. I also like to pick out my clothes for the week on Sunday so I don't have to waste valuable time and brain power each morning when I'm still half asleep and just wanting breakfast.

    Are there routines you can adopt to make your life simpler and your journey toward simplicity more sustainable? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

    And if you're looking for some inspiration, encouragement, and help in living a simpler life, I'd love to help you with that! You can learn more here.


    Later, lovely!Jessie.png

    7 Ways to Know if You're Prioritizing the Right Things

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    Do you ever wonder if you're putting first things first? If you're making time for the most important things?

    I second-guess my priorities from time to time (usually when I find myself wanting to stay in with a bowl of popcorn and the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy instead of going to some social function).



    Let's start by identifying what your priorities are.

    How do you spend most of your time?

    What do you spend most of your money on?

    What takes up most of your energy?

    Now that you've taken a bit of a priority inventory, let me ask you one more question:

    How do you want to be investing your time, money, and energy?

    You get to choose, friend. But if you don't choose for yourself, other people are going to try to do it for you. Bosses and coworkers are going to ask you to take on extra projects that they see as important, friends are going to invite you to do all kinds of things they think you'd enjoy, family members are going to ask you all kinds of favors and expect you to go to every activity and get-together, old friends are going to ask you to go to coffee to reconnect, strangers on social media are going to try to get you to buy their products and services, and our culture as a whole is going to try to get you to buy into the lie that you aren't enough, that you need the next bright and shiny thing to make you happy.

    If you identify your own priorities for this season, this stage of life, then you wield the power. You then get to make decisions based on what's most important for you and your family, instead of giving the decision-making power to someone else.



    If your priorities get out of line, it will be evident in your life in one way or another (or perhaps multiple if the first signs weren't too obvious). I know that when I've misplaced my priorities, I start to see little changes that will add up to some significant issues if I'm not careful.



    If you're trying to keep all of your plates spinning for too long without taking any time for rest, you'll wear yourself out. 

    We weren't made to be running, running, running without any breaks to rest and recover. If we live our lives at an unsustainable pace, we're going to burn out.

    If you're overtired and exhausted, it might be a sign that you've been trying to do too many things, going a mile wide and an inch deep, not accomplishing much of anything but still managing to wear yourself out in the process.



    If you've overcommitted or been trying to juggle too many things, shoulder too many burdens, or solve too many problems, you're probably feeling some significant stress. 

    When we let stress get too overwhelming, it can be incapacitating. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from causing ulcers to preventing sleep to actually increasing our risk for weight gain and illnesses.

    When we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, we're not in a position to do anyone any good. We are not solely responsible for holding everything together, and when we mistakenly think we are, we need to begin reevaluating our priorities and our goals.



    I know that when I'm stressed, tired, and overworked, my patience grows thin. I become far more irritable and short-tempered.

    I'm learning to see these as a warning sign that things aren't right in my world.

    If I'm lashing out in anger and frustration, especially about relatively small or insignificant things, then I need to change something within myself. 

    In order to gain greater peace, patience, and kindness, I need to reorient my thinking and remember what's really important-- people, grace, love, kindness, joy. I need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and get some greater perspective.



    When we try to do too many things all at once, we automatically feel like we don't have enough time or energy to do them-- we fall into a scarcity mindset.

    And because we believe these resources (our time and energy) are scarce, we hustle and hurry from one thing to another. We have full schedules, and instead of cutting things out to create room for rest, we dip out of one thing early or arrive at one thing late, constantly rushing, getting impatient in traffic because we're always in a hurry.

    If we have no buffer between activities, if we're always busy, always moving at a running pace, perhaps we have to take a moment to slow down and see where our priorities could use some work.



    Stress, fatigue, and constantly running around from one thing to another can actually run our bodies down to the point where we get sick. Colds, flu, aches and pains, and more can be caused or exacerbated by our lifestyle, especially when it comes to our stress and a lack of sleep and proper self-care.

    If we haven't been prioritizing rest, self-care, fun, and time with friends and family, we just might be putting ourselves on a path toward making ourselves sick. And that's never a good place to be. 



    When I'm stressed and stretched too thin, I start coming up with poor excuses. I say, "I don't have time to rest," "I'll catch up with them next month," or "I can handle getting only six hours of sleep; I'll be fine." 

    I know those things aren't true, and I know deep down that if I keep living my life that way, I'll hit a place where I have nothing left to give, a place where I crash and burn because I've been running too hard and too fast for too long.



    The last and most obvious way to notice when I've misplaced my priorities is when other people comment on it. It often starts out flippant or joking, but can progress to genuine concern when I've gone too far.

    If we start hearing people preface their statements with things like, "I know you're really busy, but..." we might want to take a step back and examine how busy we are, and how we convey our priorities to those around us. If our people think we're too busy for them, we're doing something wrong.





    The beauty of establishing your own priorities is that you always have the freedom to change them!

    If your priorities have gotten a little out of alignment like mine are known to do, you can choose to alter them. You can set new goals. You can create new plans.

    Don't beat yourself up about it; just decide to change and move forward.

    So what do you want your priorities to be? How do you want to be spending most of your time, energy, and money? What do you want your life to be characterized by?



    It's easy to forget what our priorities are when we're faced with mountains of to-dos. Something that helps me is shortening my priorities into something more memorable than a list.

    I like to create mantras, overarching statements that I can repeat over and over, things that remind me of the bigger picture, of the way I want to show up in the world.

    For instance, my tagline for my business (which really is an outflow of my worldview and goals for myself) is to "encourage you to live joyfully, simply, and intentionally."

    Do you see what I did there? I chose words-- joyful, simple, intentional-- to represent how I want my business to show up, to present itself, to come across to others. Those are the very things I'm prioritizing. And having that simple tagline allows me to say "yes" and "no" more easily because I can see more clearly which choices align with my values-- my priorities, my mantra-- and which don't.



    If you want to take it a step further (and I suggest you do!), you can create a manifesto. You can start with your mantra and expand upon it.

    I created a manifesto several years ago and updated it more recently to reflect my current stage of life.

    I find manifestos helpful for a few reasons:

    • they're identity-driven-- more of a "this is who I am" statement than a set of strict rules
    • they're deeply personal-- they're not given to you by someone else trying to control you; you get to create your own!
    • they allow you to dictate how you want to show up in every area of life-- while mantras are great, they're not as specific or detailed as manifestos
    • they ground you-- they keep you anchored in your beliefs, ideals, and priorities, providing you with something to come back to when things get crazy



    Now that you've gotten the opportunity to identify any existing red flags that indicate your priorities might have gotten a little mixed up and gotten the chance to adjust them, it's time to put them into action! Come up with a mantra and/or manifesto for yourself so you can continually come back to your priorities and stay focused on what really matters. And don't forget to check back for more tips and tricks to help you live the joyful, simple, intentional life you're aiming for.


    Later, lovely!Jessie.png

    Steps to Simpler Living, Part 2: What Simplicity Means to You

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    Much like motivations to live more simply can differ, definitions of simplicity cover a wide range.

    Now that you've chosen to pursue a simpler way of life, it's time to define what simplicity looks like for you!



    Simplicity is just as much about what you do as it is about what you don't do, and it's different for everyone!

    Some people simplify by living in tiny homes. Some people simplify by limiting the number of activities their family engages in. Some people simplify by having meal delivery services take care of grocery shopping and meal prep for them. Some people simplify by using capsule wardrobes.

    Those definitions of simplicity are not all-encompassing or obligatory. You get to choose what simplicity means to you and how it works best for you and your family. After all, pursuing simplicity isn't meant to be another burden or thing on your to-do list. It's a way of life that can help you make decisions more easily, develop routines to save time and energy, eliminate the excess, and focus on what really matters.



    What things in your life need to be simplified?

    Let's put it this way: what areas of your life are too overwhelming or chaotic right now?

    Where could you use some peace? Some structure? Some order?

    Do you need to simplify your finances? Your calendar? Your shopping habits? Your errands? Your clutter? Your decor? Your hobbies? Your digital clutter? Your mindset and mental clutter?

    Take a moment to consider what areas of your life are causing you the most stress. What's working? What isn't?

    Chances are, there is more than one area in your life that could use a little simplicity (I know that's true for me!). But don't lose heart, friend! There's nothing wrong with you.

    I've been on this simplicity journey for a while, and I still have room to grow. I still want to simplify my paper clutter and my social media engagement.

    There's no shame in identifying areas for improvement. Don't be too hard on yourself; after all, you've opened your eyes to see them, and you have everything it takes to address them!



    Identify what your priorities are. What area are you going to work on first?

    Sometimes it's tempting to work on the most outward areas first-- we think that if we make strides in areas that are most visible to others, it will make the greatest impact.

    But that's not always the case.

    Sure, we could focus on simplifying our calendars so we have time to spend with friends and family. It would make them happier, and it would make us happier, too.

    But what if what we really need to do is to focus on simplifying our finances first so we can make more time for our people? Or what if we need to simplify your mental clutter before we can tackle anything more tangible?

    Don't be ashamed of your current stage, where you need to start, or what you need to prioritize. This is about whole-life health, and it's a process. It's okay to start small if you have to.

    Start with whatever's going to make the biggest difference for you. Don't worry about what others are doing. This is your life. Keep your eyes on your own race, and don't let yourself get distracted or discouraged by what others are doing as they run theirs.



    Now that you know what your priorities are, it's time to set new goals for yourself. What specifically do you want to accomplish?

    Let's move beyond saying we want to get healthier, get more organized, or save more money. Those vague goals aren't doing us any good.

    If you don't get specific, you're not going to reach your goals because you won't have a well-developed plan to get there or any metrics to tell you how you're doing or when you've arrived. So get specific!

    What's your end goal in simplifying your finances? Do you want to go on a big trip next year that you have to save for? Then what total amount do you need? How much do you need to be saving every month? How are you going to save that extra money? When are you going to check in to see how you're doing?

    If your goal is to simplify your home and declutter, what specifically does that mean to you? Do you want to downsize? Do you want more white space and room to breathe? Do you just want to have a place for everything and everything in its place? What do you need to do to make that happen? Do you need help? Do you need supplies? What area of your home are you going to tackle first? What obstacles do you expect to encounter?

    I encourage you to get as specific as possible when deciding what your goals are. It makes them more real, more tangible, and more attainable. It also gives you a clearer picture of what life will look like when you reach your goals, which is a far better motivator than some vague idea of what it might look or feel like to accomplish your goal.



    I don't know about you, but I'm liable to forget anything that I haven't written down. I recently went back to using a paper planner (similar to this one) for that very reason. 

    It's even worse when I'm setting goals and trying to keep my priorities straight. If I don't take the time to identify them and write them down, it's all too easy to get lost in the regular demands of my day and be busy without being productive.

    There are too many demands put upon our time and energy for us to stay focused unless we're incredibly intentional about how we're spending our precious time and energy.

    If we're not careful, that poorly-timed email will take precedence over time with our family, that last-minute request will turn into an hour spent doing work that could've waited until tomorrow, that trivial worry will steal our sleep, and someone else's problem will become ours.

    Of course things will come up. Of course you will have to switch gears at times. Of course you should lend a helping hand when you can.

    But setting boundaries, establishing priorities, and taking the time to write down your biggest goals will help keep you grounded. It will help smaller problems to roll off your back as you keep your eyes set on what really matters. It will give you greater perspective. It will help you make decisions about what's most important, what can wait, and what can be delegated to others or abandoned altogether without guilt. In short, it will help you simplify your life and stay sane!

    So what does simplicity mean to you? What are your priorities and goals? I'd love to chat with you and even help you develop a plan to achieve your goals and simplify every area of your life!

    Later, lovely!Jessie.png









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