Should

Should

 

I walked into our play room today (the disaster pictured above) for my 45,834th attempt to clean and organize. In the six months we’ve lived in this house, I haven’t completely decided how I want to arrange this space. So I’ve avoided it. So I’ve taken my time. While all three of my kids were in school today, I tackled the play room. I planned to write a blog post on the messy before and put-together after, but as I was wading through the maze of toys and stepping on Legos, I felt like it was more important to share the real.

I tend to spend quite a bit of time reflecting on what I should be doing, what I should have done, what I should do in the future. I think it’s healthy to find a happy place between regret and apathy. I found myself struggling with a lot of regret. A lot of SHOULD.

I should have never let it get this messy.
I should have donated these toys long ago.
I should have finished the KonMari book.
I should have my kids helping right now.
I should have a chore chart.
I should be working out right now.
I should make them clean this room every night.
I should go to Ikea right now and get different organizers.
I should be doing (insert list of everything else I have to do) right now.
I should have had this room done months ago.

The reality is that we are going to make ourselves miserable if we only live in the SHOULD. Let’s cut ourselves some slack. It’s not that we shouldn’t care, it’s not that we should let everything to to the wayside…it’s just we should all take a step back, and take a collective breath, and forgive ourselves for not doing everything we feel we should all of the time.

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Review of the 2015-2016 Erin Condren Life Planner (Horizontal Layout)

Another launch day (!!) has come and gone, and now comes the waiting for deliveries and, for some who are still considering purchases, mulling over final decisions about which planner to choose. Though I already posted a video overview here, I’ve now had the planner for a few days and wanted to put together a more comprehensive post with pictures to share all the details with you!
We were coming back from my kids’ swim lesson on Saturday morning and as we pulled around the corner, I saw THAT BOX. You know. The colorful, fun EC-patterned shipping box that everyone waits (not so) patiently for. I yelled STOPPPPP at my husband and literally jumped out of the car and came running to the front steps.

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Normal? If you’re an EC fan, of course it is.

In my package:

Erin Condren 2015-2016 Ready-to-Ship (RTS) 18-month Life Planner in the NEW horizontal layout

Assorted gift labels

2 sets of Keep it Together bands

Coil Clips

Keep it Together pen holder

Snap-In To-Do List

Designer Sticker Book

COVER

Let’s jump right in, shall we? The cover on the Ready-To-Ship (RTS) is deep purple with the quote “and so the adventure begins.” Indeed! If you choose a RTS, you’ll get a code to order a free cover which will snap onto the coil. All covers are interchangeable.

ECLP and so the adventure begins cover

VELLUM OVERLAY

When you open the cover, you see the nice, thick, vellum overlay which has a design pre-printed. Under the vellum layer is a page to mark down your contact information in case your planner is lost. I love that they moved that block onto the pages since the covers are interchangeable now, to keep you from having to write it over and over. Great and thoughtful update.

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MINI MONTHLY CALENDAR

The next big turn is to the mini-monthly calendar/year-at-a-glance. You’ll find July 2015-December 2016 in this spread, and of course you could use it just as reference, but plenty of people use this space actively to keep track of monthly goals or challenges, their menstrual cycle (especially for those who don’t want it on their weekly spread but like to track for health reasons), keeping track of vacation and sick days all at once…you really have a lot of flexibility in how you use this space and I always encourage people to use every inch of these great features.

ECLP Year at a Glance

GOAL PAGES

Next you’ll find a NEW section, a spread with 12 flagged boxes. You can use them for important dates, goals, lists, or keeping track of your measurements/weight (which is what I’ll be doing!).

ECLP goals

NOTES PAGE BEFORE EACH MONTH

MY FAVORITE PART IS NEXT. No secret that my favorite addition to this year’s version is the notes page before each and every month. This used to be a feature of Erin Condren Life Planners but they were removed the last few years. I will use these to keep track of monthly projects, gift lists, things I need to buy or make and sooo many other things I don’t need on my weekly layout and that are too big for the Goals section on the monthly layout.

ECLP Monthly Note Pages

MONTHLY LAYOUT

Speaking of the monthly layout, past EC users will feel right at home using this month-on-two-page layout. The Goals section is the same also, and a great place to put goals, bills, workout challenges or a favorite quote.

ECLP Monthly

HORIZONTAL WEEKLY LAYOUT

The horizontal weekly layout is next and it’s SO BEAUTIFUL. The colors are vibrant and soothing and I really love the jewel tones used in this option. It’s clean and crisp and gives you the choice of keeping it clean or taking a LOT of freedom with decorating for those who like to use stickers and washi tape (me!). You’ll notice that Monday-Thursday is on the left page, while Friday-Sunday is on the right, along with an equal-sized notes section. Thank you, Erin Condren, for making Saturday and Sunday full days in your planners. It is a huge plus to this planner. The day boxes are mostly lined with the exception of a box off to the right on each day.

EC Horizontal Weekly Layout

TABS

The tabs are laminated and coordinate with the main color of each month.

Tabs

NOTES PAGES

Next up are notes pages in the back! You have six pages (two full front and back and one front and one back – so three spreads) of lined notes pages. Perfect to keep a list of favorite meals on-hand for easy meal planning, books you want to read, gifts you want to give or anything else you list out that you don’t need to be specific to a particular month. You have four graph pages (one full, one front and one back, so two spreads), perfect for room layouts or charting weight, finance goals or annual tasks. After the graph pages, you have 5 blank notes pages for doodling or taping in your own lists or pictures (two full, one half, so two and a half spreads).

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2017 CALENDAR

After the last notes page is a one-page 2017 calendar. You can use a sticky note or write off to the side any important 2017 dates (weddings, graduations, etc).

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BOUND-IN STICKERS

Next up are the stickers! Every planner comes with four bound-in sheets of stickers, two pages have text (birthdays, vacation…see picture for all text) and two blank pages (I’ve already used two to test a new idea!).

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FOLDER

After the stickers is the updated two pocket folder. You can also use packing tape to secure the bottom of the folder and slip even more things into the middle section! Thanks to @crafty_renee for that tip! This folder has really evolved over the years into a very strong, shiny finish folder. The back of the folder contains the perpetual calendar (coming next!).

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PERPETUAL CALENDAR

Each planner contains a perpetual calendar which you can use from year to year to keep track or birthdays, anniversaries or other special dates. I’ve seen these repurposed into daily gratitude journals, baby milestone logs and more! The people in the planner community are so creative. This year’s version also includes a contacts section, password log and list of annual holidays.

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ZIPPER POUCH

Next is the bound-in zipper pouch which has the party pops design this year! This pouch is great for keeping things secure (stamps, concert tickets, pictures or anything else valuable). Another HUGE upgrade this year is the contents of each zipper pouch! You’ll get one coil clip to try, a sampler sheet of the do-it-all-dots stickers, compliment cards and referral cards.

And that’s it for the planner itself!

EXTRA ACCESSORIES

I also got an awesome stash of extra accessories you can find in the accessories section of the Erin Condren site! There are elastic bands to keep your planner closed in two color options (three bands each), a pack of 12 coil clips to keep any extras in your planner or notebook (invitations, shopping lists, etc), a pen holder to attach to your planner, the new party pops markers (red, pink, orange, blue, green and charcoal, which do NOT bleed on your pages – see pictures below!) a snap-in laminated to-do list, and the BEAUTIFUL Designer Sticker Book! With 10 sheets of stickers and priced at $15, this is a GREAT value especially considering these stickers are adorable and many of them are foil-pressed!

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(On the left, check out the EC markers; on the right, you can see the back of the same sheet).

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I’m so excited to jump right into my planner! This is by far the most upgrades I’ve seen in a single year in the time I’ve been an Erin Condren customer and I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to review it! If you’re a new customer, be sure to use this link to create your account and you’ll get a $10 code e-mailed to you to use on your first order!

Thank you to the Erin Condren team for sending me these wonderful products to review and share. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments!

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2015-2016 Erin Condren LifePlanner Unboxing!

It’s here! The 2015-2016 Erin Condren LifePlanner! I’m very fortunate and thankful that the Erin Condren team shared a preview copy of the new horizontal LifePlanner with me so I could give you all a sneak peek! Here is my unboxing video – I’ll share a full review soon.

Included are my thoughts on the new horizontal layout, new EC markers, planner bands, dashboard and new EC sticker book. Plus, see the extras included in this year’s LifePlanner!

I can’t wait to share more in depth thoughts! If you’re buying your first ECLP this year, feel free to use my referral link here to save $10 (I get a $10 credit, too, which I often use for giveaways).

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Organization for home maintenance, manuals and warranties

When we moved into our new home a few months ago, I vowed to keep things organized and easy to find. There are a few documents we don’t need very often but when we do need them, it’s helpful to have on-hand without having to dig for them. They all fall into the categories of maintenance, manuals and warranties. Paperwork for garage instructions, water heater warranty information and so on can really come in handy if you need to quickly fix something!

In the past, I’d file them away. Despite our best attempts at keeping our filing cabinet organized, we’d let our “papers to file” pile add up…and up…and up. We still file old bills and statements, but I really needed a better system for these home documents. I searched Pinterest and combined a few of the ideas I saw pop up over and over.

Time Needed: 15 Minutes

Materials Needed:

  1. Large, durable 3-ring binder. I got a 3’ D-ring binder
  2. Page protectors
  3. Dividers

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Time to Assemble!

  1. Gather all of your maintenance records, manuals and warranty documents and put them aside.
  2. Assemble your binder inserts, dividers up front and all of the page protectors in the back. As you add documents to your binder over time, just pull a page protector our and move it to the appropriate section.
  3. Decide how you want to organize the documents within the binder. Some people like alphabetical, some people like by category, some like alphabetical by category, and some people like to just put everything in the order in which they add to the binder. I chose to just add them as I get them because it would drive me crazy to see the little divider tabs not line up if I switched them around.
  4. Write out your tabs for your dividers to correspond with what you’re putting into each page protector. I like to have a tab for each individual item rather than each category.
  5. Slip the paperwork into a page protector and pop it in behind the corresponding divider.
  6. As new paperwork comes in, just keep adding!

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Voila! I keep mine in my kitchen in a high cabinet. Always accessible but tucked away!

Do any of you have great storage solutions for your home paperwork? Share in the comments!

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Stocking the freezer

The cycle is pretty much the same two to three nights a week in our house. I have an ambitious plan to make a nice, home-cooked meal and have it on the table when my husband gets home from work. Four or five o’clock rolls around and it’s time to start prepping, but with three unpredictable small kiddos, I just can’t always step away to get started. One of two things happens; either I make nothing and we do a fend-for-yourself night, or I start cooking after he gets home and we eat super late. Both of those scenarios stress me out.

I’ve pinned a bunch of freezer meal ideas on Pinterest, but I’ve never tried them, and I’m always worried I’ll make something in bulk and then not like it. I decided to jump into the freezer meal world and just start easy and simple. The older I get, the less fancy I try to be (should it be the other way around? Oops). I decided to pick three meals we already make and like, and start there.

Stocking the Freezer

Here are the things you need to think about when you plan to cook in bulk for the freezer:

  1. Space available to store food
  2. Containers/food storage items
  3. Time available to prep and make food
  4. Cost

Once you’ve determined what you have to work with, pick a few meals you already cook and like. I have learned that starting small and easy makes new things less intimidating. I picked Beef Stew, Chicken Fried Rice and Chicken Pot Pie for my three meals. I think they freeze well and they also have a lot of crossover ingredients that make prep really easy (carrots, onions, etc). You save time and money when you can stretch ingredients over several meals.

First up, making a shopping list. Inventory what you already have and then create a list of what you need, including quantities.
I recommend prepping everything the day before you actually cook/assemble so that it doesn’t take up one big block of time. I cooked the chicken in the crock pot with chicken broth or water all day, then removed and shred for the chicken fried rice and chicken pot pie. I peeled and cut the carrots and onions, diced the celery and made rice in my rice cooker. I put everything in airtight containers in the fridge so that it was all ready to use the next day.
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Once it was time to make the meals, I started with the one that would take the longest – the beef stew. I always sear my stew meat before throwing it in the crock pot. It gives the meat more flavor and locks everything in. I might become more adventurous in the future (and feel free to use your own recipe!) but I just took a beef stew seasoning packet from the store, threw the beef, carrots, onions and potatoes in the crock pot, mixed the seasoning packet with 3-4 cups of beef broth and poured over the food. I cook 8-10 hours on low to make sure the meat breaks down properly.

Once it was done, I ladled into 32oz freezer containers, label with the expiration date and put them in the freezer. Easy! When it’s time to call on this freezer meal, just pull it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge the night before you want to eat it, then about half an hour before dinner time, throw it in a pot on the stove with about ½ cup of water and cook until heated through. If you want to cook directly from the freezer, just give yourself more time on the stove.
Chicken Fried Rice
Next up was the chicken fried rice. After years of watching hibachi chefs make this one, I just tried to replicate what they did. Cold rice, diced carrots and onions, a scrambled egg and some of that shredded chicken are all ready to go. I cook the vegetables on a hot griddle in a little butter first, then add the rice, chicken and egg right right in, mix everything together, sprinkle with garlic salt and a little pepper and then pour soy sauce over the mixture. Once it’s all done, I put them into those same 32oz containers and label with an expiration date. Done! Thaw in the fridge the day before and just heat up in a frying pan to kind of re-fry the rice.
Chicken pot pie is last. I use this recipe (link), pour them into disposable single serving foil bowls or mini meatloaf tins and cover with unbaked pie crust, cutting slits along the top for steam to escape. I cover them with foil and pop them into the freezer, again with the expiration date (for these, I also write “Bake for one hour at 400 degrees” so I don’t forget).

If you’re unsure how long food will last in the freezer, use this guide: http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html
I always label with expiration dates instead of “made on” dates because it’s easier for me to know how long I can use food.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with recipes you love or try new recipes! Ask friends and family if they have any recommendations, too. You’ll be happy you have a full freezer on nights you don’t have the time to cook but want a home-cooked meal. Bon appetit!

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Organizing kids’ artwork

I can’t bear to let go of the things my children create at school. They come home every day with projects and art, and I knew I needed to find a way to keep it all organized so it wouldn’t take over the house.
My first thought was to create a binder for each of my kids and add their work to it as it comes home. I realized quickly that their things are oddly shaped or too big for that option, so I moved along to something bigger. I bought these bins on Amazon and a pack of hanging file folders.

Kids' Artwork Bins

I labeled each hanging file with a year and gave each child a bin. I used my silhouette cameo to create labels for each bin.
Labels for Kids' Artwork
I keep them easily accessible so projects don’t take over my kitchen counter!
At the end of each year, I sort through the bins and keep the things that are most special to me (usually anything involving hand or footprints!) and take pictures of the rest. I upload them into shutterfly albums (by child and age) so that I can make photo books of their artwork later on.
How do you organize your child’s art?

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(Im)patiently awaiting the new Erin Condren Life Planner

This week, erincondren.com released peeks of the newest versions (!!!!) of the Life Planner which will be available for purchase on June 9, 2015! After a survey earlier in the year, the planning community anticipated a few of the changes that we’re seeing in the previews; two layouts (vertical and horizontal), a change incolor schemes, and more versatile sections within the weekly layout.
I was going to talk about the history and evolution of the planners but I’m way too excited and want to jump right in – so I’ll save that for another post.
Erin Condren 2015 ECLP

First, in arguably the biggest change in the last five years, there will be a horizontal layout option! This is HUGE for people who either want a change or whose brains work better in a horizontal format. As much as I LOVE my vertical layout (which is one of the reasons I switched to EC), I’m so excited for the change that I want to try something new. I will report back on which I prefer after I live in the new one for a while!
I’m MOST excited about the notes page being added back after each month! If you’ve been an EC user for at least three years, you remember a time when there were notes pages after each month. A few years ago, they removed them and it was a sad day. (Could you hear me crying?) I used them for SO many things and I’m beyond excited that they’re reappearing this year. I’ll share how I plan to use them in a review post!
Other new features I’m looking forward to: That “Flag your Future” spread where you can use 12 small sections to keep track of goals, future events or monthly focus ideas, the new layout for the year-at-a-glance (which I intend to use this time around), graph paper in the back of the planner (room layouts, weight loss graphs, monthly checklists…) and new colorful stickers! For the vertical layout users, I’m SO glad to see the text all over the week removed so that people can customize their subsections. So many people stray from morning/day/night that this change will benefit somany people without taking away from people who use them as they currently exist. I also LOVE the printed flag on the sidebar of the new vertical layout.
To see the most up-to-date details, visit the Erin Condren Look Book by clicking here.
If you’re a new customer, you can save $10 off your first order by signing up for an account using this link.
I’ll be filming an unboxing and plan with me video as soon as my new planner arrives, so if you’d like a notification, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel here and follow me on Instagram here! 

See you soon!

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Welcome to JenPlans

Thank you so much for joining me!

I’m Jen, and I’m a stay-at-home-mom to three little ones, the wife of almost 10 years to a busy entrepreneur and I just moved our family across the country to chase some dreams. I’m so glad you’ve stopped by!

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Over the years, I’ve had many people ask how I manage to stay so organized and get so many things done. In the spirit of keeping my thoughts organized, and after a lot of encouragement, I felt like the time was right to start blogging about my projects, habits and thoughts. I hope you’ll find this to be a helpful, inspiring place!

To start off on the right foot, I want to share my goal for this blog. We are all human and no one is perfect. I strive to be smart and efficient with my time and resources and to try my best. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I succeed. I learn from my mistakes. I keep learning new things. I keep trying new things if old things don’t work. I’m a firm believer in choices dictating outcome. I strive to be disciplined and diligent. Most of all (and ironically), most of my focus IS NOT on the planning . . . it’s on the DOING.

Planning is a great tool, but it can also be a way to procrastinate. My focus will be on how to efficiently plan in order to accomplish your goals. That should always be the objective of planning. Getting too caught up in how to organize or the best supplies to use or how every system has to be perfect hinders us all from getting things done. I’m going to try to share how I plan with the end goal of accomplishment. I’m not a particularly creative person, but I’ve learned how to take ideas and inspiration from others and tweak them to fit what works best for my family. I will share my process for finding ideas and making them work for me so that you can have more ideas of how do the same in your own life.

We’ll dive into many topics – daily planning and home management, personal finance and budgeting, health, family + marriage, and much more! If there’s something you’d like to see, please let me know and I’ll happily share!

In the FAQ tab, you’ll find the answers to some of the questions I’m asked most. In the links tab, you’ll see resources I find helpful and inspiring organized by topic.

Thank you again for joining me on this journey!

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