Organized Charm: March 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March Vignettes

Big things are happening around the Horton household! 
So, I have chosen the last Sunday of the month to keep y’all updated on all of the new changes…
all while providing a “month in review”-ish style post!

If this is your first time here, just stick with me while I get a little self-centered. 
I promise, I usually talk about organizing something! :)

In the month of March…

We spent Spring Break really staging our home

I cannot even begin to describe all of the work that goes into doing this! But you know what? I have discovered that I absolutely LOVE the staging process! It is just all about cleaning, clearing, decluttering, eliminating, and simplifying

We had a “snow week”.

Yes, you read that right. The week before Spring Break, we received, like, 2 inches of snow (maybe) and were out of school for almost a whole week (some of the more rural schools did get the whole week out). Please ignore the horribleness of these photos. They were my pathetic attempt to capture the snow outside. I have to say that I was pretty thrilled since snow in Memphis almost never “sticks”!

My students were precious (as usual)!

My sweet Kindergarteners are starting to write and have used their newly-acquired skill to write me notes on notes on notes! Here is one of my favorites (ignore the fact that I placed it on my kitchen counter and got it wet). 

And let me just preface this by saying that they are all obsessed with Despicable Me and the Minions. 
(I mean, who isn’t?)

“There was a minion. Her name was Mrs. Horton, The Minion. She was happy."

“I love you. From Paolo"

Obviously, I spent too much money on pretty office supplies at Target

No further explanation required. 


Which was my biggest goal for the beginning of the year! I was hoping it would happen in March… and it happened in March! The timing literally could not have been any better and we are just so thankful go God! This was a HUGE things for me to mark off of my to-do list!

 And here are some posts from March. 

In the comments of the Time Management System post, a reader requested that I write a post on procrastination and how to deal with it. Well, when I started researching the *causes* of procrastination… I found so much useful information that I just went ahead and wrote two posts! So, March kind of turned out to be an anti-procrastination month! 

I am always happy to write requested posts, so don’t be afraid to ask! 

We have also begun the official countdown to our moving day. 

The location is still top secret (mainly because there isn’t a specific location yet!). We are just so excited about this time in our lives and can’t wait to see where God opens up doors! Meanwhile, I am super excited about all of the new organization projects (and lists) that come along with moving!

As I do every year, I chose Memphis to win the National Championship. 

And as it does every year, my bracket has become irrelevant. Oh, well… maybe next year :)

So, that’s what happened in the oh-so-exciting life of Kirsten during March. 

Tell me about some of the things y’all did in March! 

Did you do an awesome job on your midterms? Have an awesome Spring Break? Or make some cool plans for the summer? 

I LOVE getting to know my readers, so let me know in the comments! :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Do One Thing at a Time

Have you noticed that people have really been putting an emphasis on “work smarter not harder” lately? You may or may not have researched what the heck that means, but this is one of the primary focuses of that statement: Doing one thing at a time. 

It seems like I’ve read research on this everywhere lately. Long gone are the days when we celebrate people who were on the phone, while writing a report, while watching the news. Because, as we now know, someone who is doing all of those things at once is not doing any of them well

And you may think, I don’t do that. But… what about your phone? It has become the new face of multi-tasking and we don’t even realize it! Twitter notifications, Facebook notifications, Snap Chat notifications, Texts, E-Mails… and of course, the good ole’ phone call. It’s a little much. It’s multi-tasking. And most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re doing it!

But we need our phones so how do we stop? 

Tony Schwartz of the Harvard Business Review suggests 3 simple solutions to multi-tasking that we can all implement in our daily lives: 

1. Maintain Discipline.
Set a timer for 45 minutes (not a full hour), put your phone on silent (or in a different room), and spend that 45 minutes COMPLETELY FOCUSED on your task! Then spend 15 minutes reviewing what you completed, do a quick check of phone notifications, grab some water, etc. When the 15 minutes is up, start all over again!

2. Stop Demanding or Expecting Instant Responses.
Just because you received an e-mail or a text doesn’t mean that you have to drop whatever you’re in the middle of and respond immediately. And you know what? I think people who expect to receive immediate responses come across as pretty self-absorbed. Everyone is busy. Everyone is stressed. Everyone has deadlines. Don’t let others kill your productivity! 

3. Renew.
Have you ever noticed that sitting at a desk and “studying” for hours is one of the worst feelings in the world? That’s because it is. Not only that, it’s also one of the least productive things in the world! Most of our brains can only completely focus for less than an hour. However, when you take breaks, it fills up your focus to 100% again. 

Do something to refresh your brain! Stand outside, grab some water, do some yoga poses, lay down in the floor, draw a picture, do whatever will relax your body and brain for a few minutes! It may feel unproductive, but it’s actually one of the most productive things you could possibly do!

So this weekend, as you find yourself spending extra time writing lesson plans, finishing up school projects, or even hanging out with your friends (this is the one I’m the most guilty of), be ALL THERE. In that one thing. And just do it really well! :) 

Do you agree with this or has multi-tasking worked for you in the past? Also, I love to hear about study strategies, so let me know if you have a system that works well for you! 


Monday, March 24, 2014

15 Best Home Staging Tips from Professionals

Living in a "staged" house is probably one of the most exhausting things I've ever experienced. Do you know about this? Oh, it's basically making a house look like some super freaky Stepford family (that never has dirty laundry or dishes) lives in it. And if you are ever living in a house that's for sale, you better get used to Stepford living real quick! 

I have literally been researching "staging" houses for over a year. From HGTV's website to various realtor and professional stagers’ websites... and I have found some really incredible information that made a huge difference! And guess what?! All of that research and hard work totally paid off because...


(well, as long as the buyer's loan goes through, we will have sold it!)

And not only did we sell our house (after it had been on the market for what felt like forever) but we sold it at our FULL ASKING PRICE! That’s right! The buyers didn’t even want to negotiate!

So today, I thought I'd share some of my favorite staging tips that I've learned along the way. I truly believe that, if I had known *these* things from the beginning, we would have sold it a LONG time ago)! And best of all? Your house doesn’t have to be "for sale" to try them!

 In fact (despite the stress of worrying about someone opening the dishwasher and actually finding dirty dishes) we have thoroughly enjoyed our house SO much more since it’s been “staged"!

So here are 15 professional secrets to making your home look and feel a little more like a model home! 

1. Mix 1/2 bleach 1/2 water into a spray bottle and spray in bathtubs/showers!
I started spraying this after every shower. After a couple of days, it completely got rid of that dark stuff around the corners. Also, start leaving the shower door open after you get out allows it to dry out more quickly... keeping that black stuff from coming back!

2. Pack a "weekender" bag of everyday toiletries and keep it under your sink.
Having items already put away makes it SO simple to stage the bathroom quickly... Just throw the whole bag in a closet or your car before the showing!
{ok, I made this one up... But don't worry, I'll add a bonus pro tip at the end}

3. These 6 scents make people want to buy: basil, cedar, green tea, pine, lemon, vanilla. 
Buy room must or candles in these scents and burn them all day (or as long as you can) before showings!
{Proud Home Staging}

4. Open windows, turn on ceiling fans and vents for at LEAST 10 minutes before showings! 
You know when you walk into someone else's house and it just smells like... Someone else's house? You don't want that to happen to your potential buyers! You want your house to smell as airy and fresh as possible! Do as much as you can to make your house seem fresh and clean: On showing days, burn candles, Febreeze, open windows, turn on fans and vents, wash sheets...
{Home Staging Brisbane}

5. Include these items in every room: Candles, lamps, mirrors, and soft textures. 
{every single staging website, ever}

6. Spray appliances and surfaces with Windex. 
To make your appliances, counters, and sinks look super shiny after you clean them, go back and spray them again with Windex. This is actually a “secret” cleaning tip that luxury hotels use!
{Right at Home}

7. Take the screens out of your windows to make them look more clear and beautiful! 
{The Nester}

8. Remove some furniture. 
Only have 3 pieces of furniture in smaller rooms. Only have 6 pieces of furniture in larger rooms. In addition to that, float furniture away from walls and group it together. A room feels bigger when buyers can see all corners and walls of it.

9. Only leave 20% of stuff in closets. 
Yes, you read that right, get rid of 80% of the stuff in them! At first, this seemed impossible but here is how I eventually did it: I focused on one closet at a time. I took everything out of the closet. For everything I put back into it, I got rid of 4 things. It sounds tragic, I know. But it worked. Closets are the deepest, darkest, secretest part of our homes. They are the holders of all kinds of useless junk and when you take everything out, you see how much of it you can really do without!
{Dream Works Realty}

10. Depersonalize 
Hide your personal photographs, your mail, your kids’ names, your friends’ wedding announcements, memorabilia with your favorite team on it, things that reflect your career, your faith, etc. Everything that might remind the buyer that someone they might like (or not like) lives there now. Don’t leave out anything that could distract potential buyers!
{every staging website, ever}

11. “You’re not selling your house; you’re selling your kitchen. That’s how important it is”.

12. Buyers make up their minds within the first 15 seconds on your property.
FIFTEEN SECONDS! Practice walking up to the front door and into your property and make everything seen within those first seconds look absolutely irresistible!
{Ed Benning}

13. Get more familiar with Feng Shui.
Whether you believe in “energy flow” or not, Feng Shui is still a great way to balance out the colors/textures inside the house. Think about how you feel when you go to a spa or yoga studio. You get the feeling that it’s a calm, clean, peaceful, relaxing place, right? Knowing a little about the practice of Feng Shui will make your house feel that way, too!
{HG Front Door}

14. Paint everything neutral. 
Professional stagers/realtors call this painting everything “contract khaki”. And while it’s not an actual color, it means to paint the walls colors that don’t steal the show: beige, light blue, light green, subtle tan, and white are all examples. We went with Allen + Roth's Bubbly, Morning Jog, and Sunday Times. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a light color so that the natural sunlight can bounce off the walls!
{every staging website, ever}

15. Organize the pantry.
We bought the OXO system at Williams-Sonoma for $100 (Bed, Bath, & Beyond and Target had it for the same price). I think it came with 10 containers and they look absolutely amazing! No more distracting, randomly-sized, randomly-colored boxes in our pantry! Plus, keeping all of the containers well-stocked is good Feng Shui!

If you want more uniformity in your pantry but don’t want to spend that much on new containers, Target also sells mason jars with lids in its kitchenware area for about $20-30 (depending on the size). It would give the same organized feel but cost a lot less!
{Home Staging Expert}

The one thing that we did differently the day that we sold it was go get a twin air mattress, sheet, comforter, and pillows from Wal-Mart and create a faux-bed in a bed-less bedroom. We put it up on some storage bins and covered them with a bedskirt. I am 99% sure this is what finally made the difference.
{Realtor Mag}

"Do we really need to do all these things to prove that our house is great?"
(because they won’t)

Do you have a house for sale? Or did you recently buy/sell one? What kind of advice could you add to this (there is still a ton!)? Don’t you think some of these tricks are just great for your own home? I know we’ll certainly use some of them forever!

Staging is a topic that has endless information! If you are looking for cleaning systems, curb appeal inspiration, furniture arrangements, or paint color ideas, check out my Staging Pinterest board

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Trending: 3 Things to Try This Weekend

I don’t know about you, but I am so completely excited about this lovely first weekend of spring! We have had our windows open non-stop for the past few days and it feels INCREDIBLE! Whether you’re spending time at the dog park, on a weekend getaway, or taking on a huge organizing project at home, here are some quick little things to try over the weekend! 

A must-do for anyone who runs a website! Peek is a website where you can request a {free} user review of your website in video form. Then you are e-mailed a 5ish-minute video of a random stranger navigating your site and making suggestions about its usability. Constructive criticism at its best!

Doesn’t this look amazing? I pinned it last summer from Hello Paper Moon and completely forgot to try it (and yes, it’s even simple enough for me to make). It seems like it will go perfectly with all of this lovely warm weather we’ve been having lately! 

The most important thing to try this weekend is to stop complaining! “But I love to complain," you say. I know. Me, too. Which is why I’m trying (hard) to use more positive language in my life lately. Also, are you following a-thousand-words on tumblr.? Because it’s filled with non-stop encouragement! 

Let me know if you tried any of it. I hope y’all all have a wonderful weekend! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

8 Anti-Procrastination Strategies

I previously shared a post on WHY we procrastinate but while I was researching that, I also gathered like a million little strategies for how to stop it! Okay, maybe it was just 8… but still, 8 strategies are better than none! 

I don’t have a ton of time to introduce this post but obviously, we are all well-aware (probably a little too aware) of procrastination and all of its dangers!

So, here are some ways to avoid it!
8 anti-procrastination strategies for your first week back from break!

1. Prioritize!
When you make your to-do list, be sure to put the most important things at the top! Inevitably, you will lose momentum so make sure the less-important things are the ones being out off! Also, be sure to keep this list short (like 5 things or less) so it doesn't look overwhelming!

2. Make a to-do list of ONLY the things you’re avoiding!
If there is a task (or several) that keep getting transferred from week to week, make a separate, high-priority list of ONLY those thigs! Each day, pledge to spend a certain amount of time on that list. Even 15-20 minutes a day will make a bigger impact than you think!

3. Break it down!
One of my charming readers {thanks, Megan!} recently shared with me that she literally writes EVERYTHING on her to-do list (example: "write name at top of page"). I think this is just a totally brilliant plan! Imagine how motivated you would feel if you got to mark 5 things off your list from the very beginning!

4. Eliminate distractions!
For me, this means going to a quiet place, turning off my phone/notifications, and finding some non-dis reacting music to listen to. Maybe you need to move your desk away from a window or simply close your bedroom door. Find out what your biggest distractions are and then do your best to eliminate them!

5. Focus on the light at the end of the tunnel!
Did you know that the halfway point is the least motivational place to be? There is so much behind you, but still sk much ahead. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged when you realize you’re only halfway to your finishing point. Write down everything you've accomplished so far (it really is more than you thing) then *really* focus on what you will gain by completing your tasks!

6. Post your goals where you can see them!
This one is super important because it's super motivational! Remembering the "big picture" (and how what you're doing today influences it) is a great way to keep yourself disciplined. 

7. Celebrate your accomplishments!
Obviously. After you reach little (or big) checkpoints/goals, you need to celebrate your awesomeness! Everyone loves looking forward to something!

8. Ask for help when you need it!
Finally, if you are putting something because you don't know how/what to do, don't be afraid to ask for help! If it's a work thing, ask a more experienced coworker or find some blogs online written by professionals in your field. If it's something for school, your classmates, professors, and tutoring center are all great resources. If it's a parenting thing, YouTube some Super Nanny videos, check out some parenting websites or ask a question in a discussion forum.

If you try these things and they still don’t work, FOCUS may be your real problem. There are tons of apps out there that will block you from distracting websites, etc. during your work time! Most of them cost money but if focus is a huge struggle for you, it may be worth it! :)

What strategies work for you? 
Have you tried any apps that help with focus? 
Did you think they were worth it? 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Motivation

This is one of my favorite quotes lately (and yes, it's from the "coach" of Friday Night Lights)! 
So often, we kind of get stuck waiting for the "right" opportunity to change something in our lives. 
The reality, though, is that we make our own opportunities!

So this week, let's work on being more aggressive and going after what we want instead of waiting for it to come to us :)

Happy Monday (and St. Patrick's Day), y'all! 

{This post was featured on A Life in Balance}

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Why We Procrastinate & How to Stop

Situation: Let's just say that this *ahem* hypothetical girl has a paper due next week. Let's just pretend it's a take-home midterm and that she's on spring break. 

Now, this anonymous figment of my imagination of a girl received her assignment last week. School is out. She could have done it any day at any time this week. Yet... Something in her brain has a complete disinterest in doing it. So much so that she has resorted to reorganizing her imaginary Pinterest boards on her imaginary Pinterest account instead of just doing the assignment!

So, as we think about this girl and all of the many, many issues she obviously has... We wonder, “What causes her brain to want to do anything but the thing she's supposed to be doing? She could have done that assignment 49 times by now!"

Well, you know what? This girl may not be as special as she thinks. Because 65% of college students consider themselves chronic procrastinators. 65%! 

Let's find out how she can get over herself and just finish (aka start) her assignment. 

Oh, btw, she's me.

There are 3 major types of procrastinators.

If you…

Love the rush of turning something in “just in time”
Don’t mind a little extra drama in daily life
“Work better under pressure”

…you are The Thrill Seeker. 

If you…

Unintentionally attach your self-worth to your work
Worry about what others think
Fear failure

…you are The Avoider

If you…

Research potential decisions to death before choosing
Strive to make the “perfect” decision
Fear making AN error

…you are The Indecision Maker 

Realizing what KIND of procrastinator you are also allows you to see where you are getting stuck on projects and other big moves you should be making. I am that 3rd one. I am not even kidding about this: sometimes I do the project twice and choose the one that turned out better. BUT when you know what your weakness is, you can take steps to stop yourself before you’ve gone too far! After all, the first step is admitting you have a problem, right? 

But we all procrastinate for the same reason.

Taking action will cost us something. 

Whether it’s energy, money, or time, we are basically dreading what taking action will cause us to lose. What will I lose by doing my midterm? Gosh, maybe 20 minutes of my life. Yet I've allowed it to loom over my head for 6 days now! So, think about what you will lose by doing the thing you're putting off.
Now think about what you’re doing with that energy/money/time right now (reading a blog about how to stop procrastinating, of course). Is it as important as finishing your work? Probably not (but just keep reading anyway... I was able to put off my midterm a couple of extra hours by writing it). 

And we use 4 major excuses to justify it. 

1. "I’m just waiting for the right…" {time / place / inspiration} 

Not gonna happen. There is never going to be a day that’s gloomy and boring enough that I’m like, “hey, doing my midterm would totally brighten up my day”! We just have to make today the day we've been waiting for!

2. "I’m about to start that, first I just need to…” {clean / e-mail / shop}

I've been doing this all week. I could keep doing it all next week. In fact, I could literally keep doing it forever. The list of things that we have to do will never end…. like, ever. We’re not going to wake up one morning and say, “woo! Nothing on the agenda today! Now I’ll write that paper”! Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize. 

3. "I’m still trying to decide on the right…" {day / outfit / topic}

Luckily, the assignment I'm putting off right now doesn't require me to choose a topic (which would obviously be accompanied by its own panic attack). But whether its starting a new workout routine, choosing a formal dress, or committing to a research topic, mulling over decisions literally halts our productivity. Do not allow yourself to get hung up on indecision! Choose something and move on! Besides, if you put your best effort into it, whatever you choose will turn out fabulously anyway! 

4. "I work better under pressure."

No. You don’t. And by the way, I’m speaking to myself here because this is me. I say this all the time. I think this all the time. And while it may make an assignment more exciting, it’s also completely untrue! In fact, we are more likely to make grammatical errors, have incoherent thoughts, or poorly researched topics if we rush through projects. Do NOT let your brain trick you into believing this! 

The truth of the matter is that, when we procrastinate, we are putting off some sort of discomfort. What we don’t realize is that, by doing so, we are just causing ourselves to feel MORE discomfort. Not only that, but the work we do complete (when we finally get around to it) is way inferior to what we could have done if we gave ourselves more time!

So, let's just stop with the excuses and get it done now! 

(after you check out my Pinterest boards, of course, because they really are looking totally organized)


So, what about you? 
Which kind of procrastinator are you? 
Do you have any tips/tricks to help kick this nasty habit? 

Unstuck: How to Stop Procrastinating 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Time Management System

I've really been working on my schedule lately. I feel like I just have all these things floating around in my head all the time that I need to work on… and I can just never find the time. The unfortunate part is that I spend so much time thinking about what to do and when to do it and how long to do it for that, a lot of times, I never get around to actually doing it!

I’m pretty sure this is the struggle of all slightly obsessive people, like myself.
(or just pretend like it is so I’ll feel better, k?)

Here are some steps to create a more efficient time management system:

STEP 1: Write down everything you need to do each week
These are recurring tasks {studying, volunteering, internship days, etc.} that have to be accomplished.

STEP 2: Break down the time you have 
This is only the time you have control over; leave the time you spend at work or school out. This is just a super-visual way to compare how much free time you have with the tasks you need to complete.


*Side Note: 
I chose to break my time down into minutes because I’m bad at math they are just easier for me to divide across the days. Here are the amounts of time I used for this step:

360 minutes OR 6 hours
180 minutes OR 3 hours
90 minutes OR 1 1/2 hours


STEP 3: Prioritize tasks by importance 
So, the things that are the most important to you will, obviously, go at the top. Those are the things you want to spend the most time doing because you actually care about them. 

STEP 4: Rearrange tasks until your schedule just “fits"
Having the ability to shuffle the cards around was SUPER helpful! It was so interesting to see how much I over/underestimated the amount of time that things took.

STEP 5: Write out your new plan on paper
Once you decide how much time to spend on each task per week, write it out on a piece of paper. This will help you see if it is actually a realistic plan for your week. USE A PENCIL because you will need to erase (more than once).


*Side Note: 

I am a total perfectionist-freak who uses a timer for EVERYTHING (or else I would never stop). So, I actually found out how many minutes I would spend doing each task per day. 

For example, whether I choose to clean my house 12 minutes a day for 7 days a week or 45 minutes for 2 days a week, I’ll meet my goal either way. 


Doing this helped me realize which things needed to become part of my daily schedule and which things could just go on a to-do list. Another thing that was helpful was to think of the time in minutes rather than hours. It made it a lot easier for me to find a way to divide it up across several days.

By the way, see where it says whenever right there in the middle?

That’s me being spontaneous.


Do you have a system that works for organizing your time? 
Are you feeling overwhelmed by all of your “to-do’s”? 
How do you deal with it? 

{Shared on A Life in Balance}
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