6 Ways to Plan a More Productive, Intentional New Year


I love the beginning of a new year. It is like a clean slate, a new box of crayons, or a brand new notebook.  Clean. New. The failures of the past year are behind me, and I can make plans to spend this year to be more productive and to make improvements on the past.

For the past few years, my hubby and I have scheduled intentional time, twice a year, to plan. This has been so helpful as we look to the new stages in our lives,  new stages of development in our children, and new growing seasons at our farm. Life is so busy at home, that we need this time to think, reflect and recharge.  Below are some ways we have found to make the year more productive.


1. Schedule time to get away from the daily grind to plan. For us, it is two days away in a hotel room with good food nearby. We also use the time away to celebrate our mutual birthdays or anniversary:). I know that is not possible for everyone, but even an afternoon at the library or quiet coffee shop can also give you time to think and plan.

2. Think through your personal goals for the year. What do you hope to accomplish this year? Planning is very individualized but ideas for goals can include personal health, finances, spiritual, business growth, friendships, marriage, new skills or education.

3. If you are a parent, plan goals for your children and family. What are the strengths you would to encourage in them? What are their weaknesses you would like to help them with? Can you help them learn to be more diligent cheerful workers, or more patient with their siblings?What will we do to promote family relationships?

4. Plan household organization and chores. Every year is different and sometimes we need to re-think the way we do things. or who does those things, in order to stay on top of life’s craziness.

5. Rethink weekly activities and involvements. Are your activities and commitments helping you reach your goals? Is your involvement in these things hindering your goals? I was recently asked to be a part of two different committees. I asked if they would wait for an answer until after this planning weekend. I want to make sure that the commitments I make to others are for the good of our family and our goals, and the best use of the time and talents God has given me. There are many great activities out there, but are they right for you? Think and pray through these things before you say, “Yes.”

6. Plan your calendar. Go ahead and decide vacations, long weekends, garden planting, celebrations, family workdays, and your next planning session now.  You can get better deals on hotels etc. in advance and important dates will be less likely to sneak up on you and cause stress. We even think through this years’ Christmas plans NOW.

That saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, is true. It’s also true that we don’t always reach all our goals perfectly, but we are much better off than if we had done no planning at all.

How are you planning to be more productive and intentional this year?



Decluttering Month Finale

I am a month behind with this post! With the approach of the Christmas Season my best laid plans went out the window. I did, however, complete my decluttering challenge.  I will spare you the rest of the pictures of the items I decluttered, but will show you the after picture of my bonus room.  It still has boxes along the walls, but they are full of books — accumulated from 27 years of marriage to another book lover, 22 years of homeschooling, and many avid book-reading children. I also spent two afternoons going through my desk and files and rid my home of many pounds of paper. I still have some areas to declutter, but I am feeling much better about my home organization. It is less aggravating to find things things now.


You can actually see the floor of the bonus room now!!!

Have you made any progress with your decluttering?

Days 11-14: November Declutter Challenge

FullSizeRenderHere is my pile of 20 items for 4 days.  These toys and games are going to consignment. Maybe I can make a little extra moolah for Christmas! I also just took about 15 pieces of clothing to consignment last week and about 30 pounds of my decluttered stuff to Goodwill.  I hope to get this house so light it could fly with balloons like the house in the movie UP.

How is your decluttering going? 

Days 6 & 7: November Decluttering Challenge

Confession Time– I’m behind. Both in blogging and decluttering. I culled 10 items on day 6 because I knew day 7 would be crazy busy. What I didn’t count on was how busy the following 2 days would be. We had a barn dance for my daughter’s high school on Friday night and harvest and farmer’s market on top of that. So tomorrow I will be decluttering for 3 days.

My picture below is from 3 days ago. But I’m not giving up — I’ll will catch up!!

Decluttering/Organization tip #3: Keep a bag or box in your garage or behind your closet door and add things to it throughout the year.

 When I notice a piece of clothing has become too small halfway through the season for one of the children, it goes in this bag. When I notice a toy no longer being played with, it goes in this bag. This is an easy way to keep the clutter down without much effort. When the bag is full, it is dropped off at Goodwill or Salvation Army.

Old shoes, puzzles, toiletry bags, a basket go into the Goodwill box

Old shoes, puzzles, toiletry bags, a basket go into      the Goodwill box

Day 5: Decluttering Challenge

Decluttering/Organization Tip #2: If you are overwhelmed because you have a whole room to declutter, start with a wall, corner, shelf or drawer and work clockwise around the room. 

If you tackle a room without a plan and you clean a little here and a little there, it is difficult to see any progress. If you complete one section at a time, it is easier to see improvement right away. An uncluttered shelf or a straightened, neater drawer will inspire you to keep working! If you move in one direction, you won’t miss any areas and you won’t get distracted by something across the room.

Happy Decluttering!!

These are the belongings marching out my door today. As you can see I cleaned out some drawers in our bathroom.  The medicine was expired and the lip products were almost empty.


Day 4: Decluttering Challenge

I’ve had some comments and pictures from friends and family about the decluttering challenge. I think for many people it can just seem too overwhelming and they don’t know where to begin. I happen to love decluttering and organization (although that may seem unbelievable to you since you have seen the picture of my bonus room). I’ll try to share some of my favorite tips with you as we face this challenge together.

Decluttering/Organization Tip #1: Choose 5 items per day and find a home for them.

This can take less than 15 minutes per day. I have challenged you to get rid of 5 items per day, but maybe you just need to sort 5 items each day. Maybe you don’t have the excess that I seem to have. Instead, it might be more helpful to take 5 items per day and find a home for them. That place might be in a closet or drawer, in a bag to take to Goodwill or in a box for a future yard sale. HANDLE 5 OF THE BELONGINGS THAT MAKE UP YOUR CLUTTER AND MAKE A DECISION ABOUT THEM! Before long that pile of clutter will get smaller. After 4 days I have already been able to get rid of one emptied box in my bonus room!


Here are the items I purged today: some games that none of the children are interested in, an old graduation banner, small kid sunglasses, cross stitch magazines and book ([I haven’t done cross stitch since BK (before kids)], and some used wall hooks.


Days 2 and 3: November Decluttering Challenge

My Mom called yesterday to say she is joining me in my decluttering challenge. Yeah!! We discussed how mental clutter and physical clutter go hand in hand. If your mind is too cluttered with life it is hard to make decisions about your stuff and if you have too much stuff, there is always that burden on you mind of the tasks to take care of your stuff, find a place for your stuff, or look at it days without end and know that you need to do something about that stuff lying around or crowding out your closets and drawers.

Yesterday, I had to weed out 10 of my possessions to cover Sunday and Monday. I went up to the boxes in my bonus room and found 10 items in about 10 minutes. They included an old phone charger and an old router. Why did I keep these things??? I also found some items that I was keeping because I might use them someday. Ugh! Your house can fill up fast with these kinds of items.

Here is what I got rid of:

What I weekend out of my junk yesterday

What I weeded out of my junk yesterday


What are your thoughts on clutter in your house and clutter in your mind? Do you experience the same Brain Freeze when it comes to dealing with your clutter?

November Decluttering Challenge

My bonus room 5 months after our move

My bonus room 5 months after our move

HOW EMBARRASSING! I know! We moved to our new house at the end of May and this is my bonus room 5 months later. Next confession: I’ve had a yard sale after weeding out junk while packing for the move. And I still have this much stuff that hasn’t found a home yet. Lots of the boxes are books and school books. Hubby and I love books and we homeschool. Hopefully this winter my hubby will have time to build some bookcases like he did in our old house and they will have a place. But the rest of the stuff? Obviously, if I haven’t needed it for 5 months, I just don’t need it!

So, I’d like to invite you to join me in a challenge. My goal is to get rid of 5 things for every day of November. That will be 150 items removed from my home by the end of the month. And what better time to do it? My house will be cleaner for holiday guests and there will be more room for the gifts we receive at Christmas. Maybe people will even be blessed by receiving the things in good condition that I no longer need.

Anybody else on board with me? I will post a picture each day of what I am getting rid of.  Feel free to post a picture each day in comments if you would like. Let’s get rid of our junk!

IMG_2417Here are the 5 items I got rid of on November 1st. A decorative tube, a book and movie, an unused cell phone case and a kitchen doodad. Today I’ll have to find 10 items to count for yesterday and today.


4 Strategies to Encourage Your Children to Eat Healthy

Many families are becoming convinced that eating clean, organic vegetables and fruits and removing processed foods from their diets is essential. The switch to this kind of eating can be difficult for adults – but what about the kids?



As I look back on the days that my children were toddlers, I now feel guilty for the endless cups of juice they drank and the constant use of snacks, such as cheerios and goldfish, to keep them occupied — church, Target, the park, the doctor’s office–you get the picture. No wonder they weren’t that interested in the food at meals! I had filled them up on snacks that lacked any nutrition but kept their little bellies full. There is nothing wrong with a snack between meals, but keep it nutritious.


We began growing most of our food about 4 years ago. We had always had a garden with tomatoes and squash, but now we eat from our garden year round. The children have a vested interest in this food. They plant it, weed it, water it and harvest it. It’s difficult not to want to eat something that you’ve been exposed to at this level. They take pride in their the results of their labor.  If you are unable to grow your own food, then take your children grocery shopping with you. Allow them to pick out a vegetable or two. It is good for them to see food in its raw state, understand where it comes from (especially if you buy from local farmers at the farmer’s market), and have a choice in what they eat.


Even if it’s just stirring the pot, children love to help in the kitchen. My rough and tumble 5-year olds consistently grab a step stool so they can watch, or measure or stir. My 9 year-old loves to make omelets by himself that his own hens have layed. Even after naming the roosters that eventually end up in the oven, the children love to know that the food they are cooking comes from the fruit of our farm. My teenage daughters keep the cookie jar full and often prepare the dinners if I have a crazy day or get stuck at the farm. And you can bet that if they help prepare it, they will eat it.


When I was growing up, my mom had a “no thank-you helping” rule.  IF you didn’t want a particular food at the table you still had to take a “no thank-you” helping. I am sure that there are many foods that I still wouldn’t like today if my mother had not made me try them over and over again. Research has shown that when children are repeatedly exposed to food they don’t like, they will eventually learn to eat it.  It doesn’t have to be their favorite food, but they do need to be able to eat it. We have employed this technique with our children and have found they will eat anything put on their plate. Enjoying a variety of food assures that your child is receiving a good balance of nutrients. It also makes you and your children much better guests when invited to a friend’s house.  Your hostess will not need to fret, because you can assure her that your family will enjoy any food she wishes to prepare.