How I Use My Simplified Planner

I’ve been using my Simplified Planner for almost a year now, and I LOVE it. It’s helped me sort out my thoughts and plans and lists and generally just kept me more sane than I was before I had it. (By the way, her 2017 planners just debuted, so check them out!) I’ve thought about writing this post several times, and now that I really do have a set way that I use the planner, I decided now is a good time — especially if there’s anyone reading who’s considering purchasing one for 2017 or even for the academic year!

My Planner

I have the Daily version in Happy Stripe. The Daily Simplified Planner has a full calendar spread on the first two pages of each month, and two days per opening throughout the month. There are time slots from 6am to 9pm down the left of each day page, an empty to-do list to the right, dinner for the night on the bottom left and a section for extra notes on the bottom right. Every planner has monthly tabs on the sides of the pages and a sturdy pocket in the front that I use for lists, receipts, coupons, etc. — you’ll see them poking out of the top of my planner throughout the post.

The beauty when I got it last December

I’ve smudged the gold foil over time 😦

How I Used It

How I use my planner isn’t complicated or drawn-out; I don’t even use stickers because they seem to defeat the purpose of simplicity and take up too much time to use for my liking.

There are two ways I’ve used my planner that have been successful throughout the year. When I first got my planner, I tried using a pencil (just in case I messed up), and then I was just getting eraser smudges all over it, and I don’t keep many pencils on hand. And let’s be real, I just don’t like pencils. So that just didn’t work well for me.

Second, I tried color coding with these amazing pens. I mainly used light blue, lavender, pink, fuchsia, orange, and occasionally red — all depending on the tasks I had to do that day. I loved this because I could easily separate the tasks from each other and visually prioritize them if they weren’t written in order of priority already. It worked well for me until I started losing pens or leaving them in my car so that I couldn’t get to the color I needed when I needed it, and like the stickers, it took up a little too much time — it looked pretty, though!

When I was using these pens, I was thoroughly planning my day by time (as in, if I needed to clean the bathroom, it was in the time slot at 11am or whenever I decided I needed to do it the next day). I was completely filling the planner pages, and that quickly became overwhelming. This may work for people who can stick to a timed schedule like that, but sometimes I prefer to change up when I do a task, so it didn’t quite cut it for me.


How I Use it Now

I really use my planner interactively; I use everything that’s printed in the planner to my advantage — which I’ve done since I first got the planner. For example, there are quotes at the top right of each page, and if I see that those quotes are going to be an encouragement or even a good mantra, I’ll bubble it or put a star next to it or highlight it (anything to draw attention to it). I also use the checklists next to “Sunday,” and the slot that says, “write a happy memory from this week.” They help me to live each week intentionally.


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I don’t know, I was just really excited about the taco salad that week. And I don’t think I stuck to those meals.

I’ve switched to using whatever black pen I deemed as my favorite at any point in time. 😉 Right now it’s a ballpoint click pen with a clip and a blue, white, and purple paisley pattern on it. I no longer color code, and I only write what’s necessary or what I think is important to make sure I remember throughout the day — sometimes I even write tasks that aren’t my favorite, but they feel more concrete in my planner (so that way I have to them, right?!) Although I don’t use stickers, I do occasionally put a sticky note wherever I need extra room to write, but don’t want to take up space in my planner in case something changes.

Usually on Saturdays or Sundays, I go through and write out tasks and meetings for the week, plus I meal plan in the dinner slot. I try to keep the time slots fairly open in case something comes up that I absolutely have to attend. There are usually one or two tasks in the morning, one around noon, and depending on the day, one or two in the evening. Then, I’ll fill in my to-do list section with whatever else I need to get done but don’t necessarily have a time constraint as long as they’re done that day.


My notes section is mainly used for birthdays, important dates, or something I don’t want to forget but isn’t a task. I’ve used it for phone numbers if I need to call someone that day or even something I don’t want to forget at the grocery store (which can also go in the dinner slot).

And that full-spread calendar at the front? I use it, too. I put birthdays, holidays, my husband’s off-work days, football games if it’s football season, and vacations there all where I can see it over the span of a month. I don’t use it as much as the daily pages, but when I need to visualize how much time I have left in the month or until a particular day, the calendar is so, so helpful.


I have fun with my planner! I used to get completely bent out of shape if I had to mark something out or rewrite it on the next page or misspelled something in the planner until I realized that that’s just life. I’ll have to scratch things out and make changes, and Emily Ley says it perfectly when she gives herself and anyone using the Simplified Planner “a standard of grace, not perfection.”

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This is inside the back cover.

Because not every page of our lives are going to be picture-perfect, neither are our planners. 🙂


Becoming a Podcast Listener (+ my favorite podcasts)

Let’s be real – I didn’t know what a podcast was until probably…last year. But I’ve found out that they’re really fun! I only have two favorite podcasts right now (because I really only listen to two podcasts right now), but I think they’re worth sharing. I mentioned in another post, that I had been listening to a podcast called Lore by Aaron Mahnke, who is also an author of supernatural thrillers. (Something about me – I love supernatural and crime TV shows, books, podcasts, everything, which is an uncharacteristic part of my personality, but I roll with it. They just make you think.) Well, my other favorite podcast is more along the lines of the interests I’ve actually posted about here and fit more around the theme of my blog.

When I was younger, I never really liked books-on-tape or recordings where there wasn’t also a visual I could look at or watch while I was hearing the story. I was easily distracted, and found myself rewinding the tape every so often because I didn’t have a clue what just happened in the plot. So I simply read books and watched movies and avoided all books-on-tape. This is the same concept I had of podcasts – I just didn’t go near them because I thought I would just be jumping into stories or recordings that I would never finish and probably not enjoy because I would be rewinding all the time. So I don’t claim to be a podcast fanatic or expert – just a listener of a couple podcasts that are enjoyable and helpful.

Because I was so used to watching TV shows, that’s what I’ve always done while I clean or cook or organize – anything. But I found myself still getting distracted because I have to look at the screen while the people are talking or still won’t know what’s going on! I just won’t. And I have to know what’s going on or I’ll be rewinding once again.But in this way, it’s a worse distraction, because I find it harder to actually get things done. One day I decided to find the podcast app on my phone (that was hard, since I didn’t know what it looked like) and find something I might like. Knowing my interest in supernatural and crime drama, I quickly looked for something under that genre, and something under the spiritual/inspiration genre. The first few that I found were crime podcasts, but they complete downers, totally depressing, and way too much to handle, so I kept looking. That’s when I found my first favorite podcast.

I’m excited about these because they’re real-life stories and information I can actually use in my life – that makes them easy to listen to.

#1 Lore


Lore (website here) consists of several different “true life scary stories.”

This comes directly from the “about” section on the website:

Lore is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed podcast about true life scary stories. Each episode examines a new dark tale from history, and presents it in a style that’s been compared to a campfire experience. And with over 2,700 5-star reviews and 1.6 million monthly listens, that’s clearly a good thing.

Our fears have roots. Lore exposes the darker side of history, exploring the creatures, people, and places of our wildest nightmares.

Because sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction.

A dear friend that I grew up with (hi, Tara) brought me into the world of scary stories. We loved watching scary movies, telling scary stories, basically anything thrilling and mysterious. So this was right up my alley. Right now there are 31 episodes, all of which Aaron Mahnke has recorded. Each story is based on a real event (usually something chilling, so if this scares you, don’t press play) and the theories that surround why it happened and who or what is thought to have done it. All of the stories have been passed down from generation to generation, the true definition of lore – and some of them are more recent than others. Most of them are similar to mysteries, but they aren’t always solved. It’s just something creepy and interesting to listen to if you like hearing lore.

#2 Simplify Everything

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This is a more recent find. The quote below comes directly from the blog/website.

I am passionate about simplifying life. So, I started a podcast about it. Each week on Simplify Everything, I share easy-to-implement strategies and ideas for people who want to simplify their lives. (For more about how this podcast got started, check out this post!)

Simplify Everything is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Lore. This podcast was recently launched by a blogger I’ve been following for several years, and it’s all about simplifying your life, which I’m very much into these days. Blair, the author of this podcast, posts and new episode every Friday. Today I listened to last Friday’s episode: “How to Simplify the Process of Decorating Your Home.” Each episode has either a step-by-step process of how to simplify a particular thing in your life or a group of ideas that could be helpful. So far she’s hit on several things I’ve needed ideas for, so I plan on keeping myself up-to-date each week. (Blair also posts on her blog every week day with similarly-themed posts, talking about anything from organizing to encouragement in your personal and spiritual life. We’re in similar seasons of life, so this has been extremely helpful and interesting to read the past few years) Check it out!

// Eventually, I’ll find more podcasts to listen to, but right now two is enough for me – keeping it simple. It’s just enough to keep my mind busy while I do laundry or clean or whatever else I do when I shouldn’t be watching TV at the same time. What about you? Do you have any podcast suggestions? I would love to see them in the comments below!

Please use this image for pinning, etc.:

Becoming a Podcast Listener

All cover photos were made by podcast owners or designers and were not made by me. 

How I Prepare For A Trip

Something that’s very important to me is leaving my home clean and orderly before I leave for an extended period of time. I like to know that I didn’t leave things to sit undone for days while I’m not there to do them. I love even more the feeling of coming home to a clean house and not feeling frantic right when I walk in the door because there’s so much to do right when I get back – especially if I’m going to be getting in late. As I mentioned in my last post, John Mark and I will be leaving for our hometowns today celebrate Thanksgiving with our families – apart from packing a suitcase, there a few things I’ll always do before I leave. They only take a little time and effort, and are so worth it in the end.

1. Make the bed

You all know by now how important making the bed is to me. It gives the whole room a fresher look, and I’m not tripping over throw pillows or staring at a wad of sheets and blankets the whole time I’m getting ready or doing other chores. I think what could be even better than this, though, is that when I come home after being away for a while, I like to crawl into nice, untangled sheets. I don’t like leaving the bed sheets tangled because, even though I have to turn down the bed before I get in it, I don’t have to crawl into a mess. It’s also comforting; it reminds me of when I was little. My mom would turn down and straighten up the bed for me after a long day because she knew I was exhausted, and when I came in from a 3.5 hour trip from school she had the bed all made up with clean sheets, ready to go. Now I’ve adapted that method, and I just don’t leave without making the bed.

2. Finish the laundry

This is something I do the day of or couple of days before leaving. Let’s face it; we all let laundry pile up too much sometimes. Depending on the load, it can take more time, but before I leave I like to make sure all of the laundry I can finish is finished before I leave – since laundry is never really “finished,” I just make sure to wash all of the clothes sitting in the hamper. I have a couple of reasons for this. 1) It’s much easier to pack when the clothes are clean, and I know where everything is. Not to mention, I don’t have to worry about a shirt or pants I’ll want to wear being dirty last minute. 2) I simply don’t like leaving old, dirty laundry in the hamper when I leave. I feel so much better having done the laundry so I’m not rushing to get it done when we get back in, in case there’s something in there one of us wants (or needs!) to wear the next day. My laundry rule takes a lot more planning and time than making the bed, but it’s totally worth the trouble to have clean clothes to take with me and come home to.

3. Clean the kitchen & bathroom

When I say “clean” I don’t mean “scrub down every surface and deep clean the floors, sinks, bathtub, and oven.” I simply mean this: I cannot stand to leave dirty dishes in the sink while I’m gone. If they sit for too long, they start to smell, and no one wants a smelly kitchen. So, if I need to, I empty the clean dishes and put them all away, then I load the dishwasher with all of the dirty dishes sitting around. If it happens to fill up the dishwasher, I’ll go ahead and hand-wash the rest, and put them all away. If the dishwasher is still running by the time we have to leave, I’ll just leave them as long as they’re clean and put them away when I get home. I try to make sure the sink is free of old food and scrubbed down. The last thing I’ll do is make sure all of the surface is wiped down with Thieves Cleaner. I wipe down all of the counters, the stove-top, and the hood over the stove if it needs it.

As for the bathroom, I try to keep it clean on a regular basis. But before I go on a trip, I like to make sure I’ve picked up any dirty clothes, washcloths or towels out of the floor and wipe down the counters. I also make sure that the toothpaste or face wash (or anything else for that matter) is in its proper place.

4. Tidy up the living room

I like to make sure that the living room space is as neat as I can make it in a short amount of time. I’ll collect stray coasters and stack them all on the coffee table, straighten the bookcase, John Mark’s desk, and the chairs. Our coffee table has a glass top, so if it has any marks on it (and if I remember) I’ll wipe that down with Thieves Cleaner as well. I throw all of the stray shoes we aren’t taking with us in the shoe bucket we have next to the front door. The next thing I do is just make sure the couch cover is tucked in well, fold all of the blankets and either stack them neatly in the basket or lay them over the couch – the ones I use the most stay on the furniture so I can grab them more easily. 🙂

5. Take out the trash

This is a MUST for me. Just like leaving smelly dishes, I absolutely will not leave trash in the cans. I make sure to pick up trash lying around the house first, then I’ll tie up the kitchen trash. If there’s room, I put the bathroom trash in the kitchen bag, as well, and then tie it up. If the kitchen trash is overflowing too much to include the bathroom trash, then I tie up the bathroom trash separately (it’s usually in a Wal-Mart bag in the tiny can). Then I set both of the bags next to the front door so we don’t forget to take it out on our way to the car.


Some people have a higher tolerance and different definition of “messes” than I do, but these are all helpful things to keep in mind so that you don’t end up with chores piled up by the end of a relaxing trip. It just hits me too hard when I get back to real life and have jobs to do that could have been done earlier.

These things might take some planning, but even just a little bit of tidying up can go a long way – and it only takes a couple of minutes to take out the trash or wipe down counters! Lately I’ve been trying to do these more often so it takes even less time if I’m in a rush to pack and get on the road. Do you have any tips to make going on trips easier? Let me know in the comment box! 🙂





Pinteresting Explanations

Sometimes I have a lack of writing inspiration. Sometimes I have to search for things to blog about, and I use prompts. Sometimes I decide to write about my Pinterest boards.

One of those times would be today.

Pinterest has become one of my absolute favorite websites and apps. When I first signed up for Pinterest, I was a freshman in college, and I saw a girl in front of me in class pinning. At that point, I had no clue what Pinterest was but the format looked crisp and clean, and it looked like a fun way to spend my time (or waste my time if I’m not careful). This was back in the days of being sent an invite to sign up for Pinterest. I can’t remember who even invited me, but somehow I made it, and here we are. I love using it for recipes, organization tips, book lists, gift ideas, and so much more. It’s a very helpful tool if it’s used correctly.

If you’ve seen my Pinterest, you’ll notice that all of my public boards are lowercase, alphabetized, and very specific. I do have a reason for this: I like continuity. There are a couple of scattered shared boards with perfectly capitalized, creative names that I can’t do much about (this drives me crazy). I still like to put them in alphabetical order with the rest of my boards, but they just have to stay as they are – I don’t want to go changing up other people’s creativity.

I couldn’t tell you much about why the titles are lowercase except for that I think they look nice and it makes them flow nicely when you look at them together. Sometimes, when titles are written as sentences or “captions” with upper and lowercase letters, I feel like my eyes are constantly having to shift to get used to the changes (probably just a quirk about me). I used to try to make all of my boards special with cute names and sometimes exclamation points, but I’ve since changed my ways. I realized that I couldn’t remember what I put in each board without going back and looking at them. So, one day I just sat down and edited the whole page. There were big changes, people. This was honestly a very therapeutic process for me (you should try it sometime!), and it was satisfying to have organized boards that I could actually use for  real-life things other than “funny” and “cute animals” (even though I still have these type of boards). I think that was the purpose of Pinterest to begin with.

Alphabetization is a wonderful, wonderful thing. It helps with the visual aspect, and I can find my boards so easily! Since I now use Pinterest for tips, recipes, etc., it’s been nice to be able to just scroll and click to find a pin. This also helps me remember where my pins are. Because my boards are named with quotes or quirky titles anymore, I can more easily alphabetize them and visualize where I would have pinned certain pins without having to search endlessly. If your boards are named with cute titles, and that works for you, I’m glad! I just can’t do that myself.

Specificity: that’s a major player in my Pinterest game. Not only to I alphabetize the boards, I name them specifically, and I try to keep the titles down to one or two words. It’s a huge help when it comes to figuring out where to put my pins. I used to have to scroll back and forth and try to decided just what to pin under because it could honestly fit under two or three headings! That just stopped working for me. I decided I wanted to quit using it for fun (after I discovered the useful side of Pinterest), so I needed a better system. I may have 40 public boards, but I least I know where everything goes, right? So let’s get down to it. What about the actual boards? I’m going to go through them in alphabetical order (you know me) because that’s going to take much less time off of all of our hands, and I’ll only list boards I’ve made myself.

Oh, and I use the ampersand (&) to look fancy. 🙂


Here you’ll find accessories, animals, articles & printouts, bathrooms, bedrooms, bible study, blogging, books, babies, desserts, desserts – paleo, diy, dressings and dips – paleo, drinks, and drinks – paleo.

Animals: Animals are adorable and cuddly, and I love them. It’s mostly a board filled with puppies, but there are other animals thrown in there, too. It’s embarrassing, but I don’t care. 🙂

Articles & Printouts: This board consists of helpful or inspiring articles and printouts I either have used or think would be helpful to use in my everyday life.

Bathrooms: One of my very specific room boards. It’s an inspiration board for having a cozy, clean bathroom.

Bedrooms: See above explanation, but add “bedroom” instead.

Bible study: This one is filled with refreshing new ways to study my Bible and information graphics about the content in the Bible. It’s very helpful, and I’ve used several of the methods pinned.

Blogging: I started this recently when I decided to grow my blog. It’s got lots of handy tips.

Books: I pin either books I love or want to read here. I used to have “and movies” at the end, but I decided I didn’t need a board for movies.

Babies: Baby fever. Oops. 🙂

I’ll explain the food boards all together for you.

Most of the time I try to stick closely to the Paleo diet. I do this because of a decision I made, with a doctor’s advice, to help lessen my anxiety and other stress related symptoms (you’ll probably read a lot about this).

Now, I don’t claim to stick to this 24/7 because I have my weak points, which is why I’ve kept the regular food and drink boards. I also know that if I want to make something for someone else (like my husband) who doesn’t like the taste of most Paleo dishes, then I can look in my other boards. Those boards were already made before I went Paleo, so why delete them? I spend a lot of time organizing those things.


Right now I don’t have any “E” boards, so we’ll start at “F.” There is favorites, furniture & decorations, funny, gift ideas, grumpy cat for life, hair & nails, and holidays.

Favorites: this is a board filled with pictures of my favorite actors, actresses, and musicians. I tried to come up with another name for it, but this was the simplest name I could come up with that I would understand. I don’t use this board much anymore unless I just see an inspiring picture of one of them.

Furniture & decorations: I don’t have this one listed for specific rooms because I just wanted it to be an inspirational catch-all for decor. Instead of just naming it “decor,” I tacked on “furniture” to make sure I knew that’s where I put furniture (unless it’s an idea I plan to use or play off of for a specific room).

Funny: Pins I find funny live here. I thought about deleting this once, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Sometimes I use this board to send funny things to my friends (or on my tweets 🙂 )

Gift ideas: I like to put ideas here for any time of the year, be it birthdays, Christmas, something to take a sick friend, or just a for-fun gift. I have mostly jar gifts pinned here. Jar gifts are made up of items all within the same theme arranged in a jar (usually with a bow tied around the top). They’re usually practical, but fun.

Grumpy cat for life: This one is embarrassing, and who knows why I still have it?? I went through a Grumpy Cat phase when I thought everything Grumpy Cat was hilarious, and I wanted to send pictures to all of my friends. Naturally, I saved it here. It may be gone by the time you read this, and it may not. We’ll find out!

Hair & nails: When I made this I felt like hair and nails went better together than hair and makeup. I guess because they both grow, and I wanted makeup to have a board all to itself. I used to use this one a lot (mainly for hair because I don’t do my nails very often), so it has mostly cute hairstyles that I’d like to try.

Holidays: I’ll be honest, this is mostly Christmas! But it’s also got other holidays mixed in. This board is a mixture of decorations I like and pretty pictures.


You’ll see anything here from kitchens, to food, to makeup.

Kitchen: Self explanatory – this is my kitchen board. It’s a mixture of both expensive-looking dream kitchens and practical ones. I mostly use it now as an inspiration board for the kitchen in my future house.

Let’s go: This is a travel board. I got creative this time and didn’t just name it “travel.” 😉 It’s filled with pictures of places I would love to go – whether they’re realistic travel places for me or not. Sometimes I just click the “travel” choice on Pinterest and pin my little heart out.


Makeup: I used this one a lot at the beginning of college when I was still experimenting with makeup a lot and trying to hone in on my makeup style. Every once in a while I’ll pin a makeup tip I’d like to try for a special occasion or if I’m feeling it, but for the most part this board has been pushed to the side.

Meals & snacks/meals & snacks – paleo: Most of my food gets put here (especially the paleo board). I can always find recipes quickly.

Miscellaneous: Sometimes I just don’t know where to pin something I find! Since I made this, I’ve refined things a bit, so I may go back and move pins around, but for now it’s one of those “random” boards that’s not called “random.”

I have quite a few “O” boards. I didn’t know I used so many words that start with the letter “O,” but I guess I do. There also quite a range of pins here.

Oils: I use essential oils. The oily life can get confusing if you don’t know what you’re doing, so any time I see a helpful chart or graphic, I pin it here for later use. I’ve used it a lot more that past few weeks with cold and flu season coming up, and as a way to introduce myself to new oil combinations.

Office space: OK, I know I live in an apartment, but I can dream, right? I only made this board a few days ago to pin office inspirations. It consists mostly of dream offices that are completely organized (and mostly white – it just looks so clean!).

Organization: I love to organize, and I love to be organized. That’s all I have to say about that.

Outdoors: This board is for those random times I get an outdoorsy vibe, and want to spend time outside. I haven’t pinned to it in a while. I’m not really an outdoorsy person, but I try.

The plains: Auburn, Alabama = the Plains. I made this board (I think) my freshman year of college. It used to be called “I Believe in Auburn and Love It.” But now it just sits there. I hate to delete some of those pretty pictures of my favorite town.


I’ll go ahead and explain the rest of the alphabet here because there are only four more boards. Aren’t you relieved?!

Stationery: This is another one I made recently. I love notebooks and pretty paper and writing cards. I thought I might pin some of my favorite, dream stationery here, so that I might remember to either put it on my wishlist or buy it myself.

Style: Basically my “dream closet” board. I try to emulate some of these styles or buy the articles of clothing I pin – if I can. It’s the way I’d like to dress.

Words: This is my quotes board. It’s mostly religious quotes or Bible verses. I like this board because it serves as an encouragement to me, and I hope that when my pins show up on someone else’s feed, it will encourage them too.

Yoga: Ah, yoga. 🙂 I love yoga; it’s relaxing and strengthening at the same time. I used to make more time for it, hence the reason this board began. I pinned poses I wanted to try – or could already do – and saved them for later. Most of the time I really used this board! But lately, it’s been forgotten (still pinned on, nevertheless forgotten).


You’ve reached the end of my Pinterest! Thanks for hanging in there with my terribly specific, detailed boards. You’re a champ.






Tiny Kitchen Organization

My kitchen is approximately the size of a shoebox.

Exhibit A:

Excuse the harsh lighting and cluttered grocery lists on the fridge; still a work in progress.

While I’m glad the rest of my apartment isn’t also the size of a shoe box, having a tiny kitchen makes it hard to organize everything you need in a kitchen. Picture the cabinets you see on the top right (across from those are very similar ones) crammed with cans, boxes, and bags of food, plus several spices and other cooking or baking items. It’s filled so much that you can’t find what you need without something toppling onto your head – or to avoid that happening having to climb onto the counters to scrounge through to the back of the cabinets only to find that it was right in front of you all along. That’s the situation I had going on.

Small-But-Mighty Storage

Before I got overwhelmed and first started to tackle the kitchen, I saw some small holes where nails had been along the bottoms of the cabinets over the sink. I realized that I could put nails there myself and hang things on them to keep the counters free from clutter and the items easily attainable. I tried this with some cute measuring spoons, pot holders, and a dish towel (John Mark also hung a mug there). This has worked wonders for me; the towel is easy to grab when I’m washing and drying dishes, and I can always get to my measuring spoons without digging in a drawer. I may even add some more nails where I need them.


The Dreaded Food Cabinets

I usually think I’m pretty good at organizing – I can at least figure out how to do it, even if I don’t go buy the things necessary to carry the task through. I had spent a lot of time on my step-stool, getting down to business with these cabinets, thinking I had finally figured it all out. I was determined that we had plenty of space to store everything without using all of my energy finding and getting it back out to use it! There aren’t many organizing situations in which I’m completely burnt out and at a loss for ideas, but these cabinets held me hostage. As many of you can imagine, this was a disaster for me. So, naturally, I spent countless hours pinning my dream kitchen and organizing hacks in an effort to spark some kind of inspiration fitting to my shoe box kitchen (no pun intended). But, honestly, nothing beats finally texting your mom with that “will you please come help me organize my kitchen cabinets??” text.

I knew she would figure it out.

My parents just so happened to be passing through on their way to see my brother last weekend, so they stopped at our apartment for a while. My mom had told me that when she came, she’d help me with the cabinets. John Mark and I ate breakfast with them and visited for a while…then I just let her go and do her thing with those cabinets. I walked in the kitchen every few minutes to check on her – by “in” I mean “right outside of” because we wouldn’t both fit with such a big mess in there. At one point I walked in and the counters looked like this:

A lot of random stuff, right? It always gets worse before it gets better.
A lot of random stuff, right? It always gets worse before it gets better.

This pile eventually dwindled down to nothing, and everything had a home – more on this in few minutes. Now, I had two main cabinets I was worried about: the one above the counter that holds our un-refrigerated food, and the one above the stove that holds baking-related items (it used to be a store-all kind of thing).

I had already bought a couple of storage containers at Bed Bath & Beyond that are wonderful (one of the ones I bought is a two-tiered shelf system), but I didn’t think any more would fit without still having some trouble getting in and out of the cabinets. So, while my mom was working in my tiny kitchen, she figured out a way to organize these containers and the surrounding food items still left over in a way that wouldn’t be a hassle. Before we go any further, you need to know that my cabinets are a little warped. They hold things just fine, but the bottoms of some of them are slightly concave, so if you need to store something a little top-heavy, it won’t stand up correctly. So, we needed to find a solution for this next – I hadn’t even realized there would be a solution to this.

John Mark and I received a lot of cutting boards as wedding gifts. I only use a few of them, so she found a couple that would fit the width of the cabinets and leveled out the bottoms so I could put boxes, cans, or bottles on top of them. Here’s what it ended up looking like (I know you’re dying to find out):

On the top left is a bin with boxes of baking soda, cocoa, etc., and the right is the stackable shelves with small spices.
On the top left is a bin with boxes of baking soda, cocoa, etc., and the right is the stackable shelves with small spices.
Below the bottles, you see a magical, leveling cutting board.
Below the bottles, you see a magical, leveling cutting board.

She modified it even more after this. We used to keep bread on top of the refrigerator because there was just no place for it to go in the cabinets. I went back to the kitchen another time, after it was under control quite a bit more, and found her looking for another small cutting-board-leveler. When I found her one, this is what she did with it:

The peanut butter and jelly aren't knocking each other over now!
The bread fits, and the peanut butter and jelly aren’t knocking each other over!

Plastic Bag Solutions

I had absolutely no clue what to do with the three kinds of plastic bags I own plus the aluminum foil and Crock Pot liners. I had read about attaching them to the insides of cabinet doors, but couldn’t figure out a practical way to do it. The only thing I didn’t think of was tape! 🙂 We decided to tape the flaps of the boxes to the insides of the bottom cabinets where we store pots and pans (which is still a work in progress).

It originally looked like this. A horrible place for them, can't you tell?
It originally looked like this. A horrible place for them, can’t you tell?
Surprise! So much easier.
Surprise! So much easier.

The aluminum foil is now standing by itself, and the Crock Pot liners are inside the Crock Pot. This was a pretty easy fix, and it took hardly any time. We used packaging tape because it holds better than regular tape and is more attractive than duct tape.

Refrigerator Makeover

Like I said before, we used to keep bread on on top of the refrigerator. I also stashed John Mark’s Clif Bars, all of our baking and sweet potatoes (in a Veggie Sack), and anything else we couldn’t find a home for on top of the fridge, as well. This has changed…mostly. There are still things on the refrigerator that shouldn’t go in the cabinets, but they’re so much more attractive now.


Since the fridge is really one of the first things you see when you look into the kitchen, this two-tiered basket really helps to make the room look less cluttered (it’s from Target). We put the Clif Bars in a medium-sized Pyrex bowl – I had plenty of Pyrex to spare, and the Enjoy Life Chocolate chips I use for baking and fruit dips in a jar that we already had – they won’t melt on top of the fridge!

Final Touches

The last couple of things that needed a home were my aprons. My grandmother and a friend both bought me aprons, and we just hated to have them crammed in a drawer somewhere where I couldn’t get to them if I needed them. We bought a two-pack of Command fancy-looking bath hooks to hang those on (similar to these, with a brushed nickel look). They also added some much-needed color to the room that I thought would never be there.


Tiny Kitchens Have Hope

There has been some serious progress happening in my kitchen. I feel like I can cook and breathe at the same time now! Even the smallest and bare-est of kitchens can be dealt with and made warmer – mine is proof, although I still consider it a work in progress. What else can you really do to a rental, you know? If you’re struggling with organization, it really pays to brainstorm and use simple things you already have in your home. We only ended up buying two items for organization purposes that day and still accomplished so much! It’s a relief to have an organized, simplified kitchen.