My (Dis)Organized Life

I have struggled for years, my whole life really, to get organized. I tried lists, apps, calendars of all kinds. Mostly, I just remembered

For a while, the iPhone seemed to be the answer. There are tons of apps out there, many of them truly wonderful, that help people organize their days. They give reminders, coordinate between multiple people, and let you tier out and prioritize to-do lists. It seems like all of these apps work great for me for a month or so, and then I begin to struggle.

I have discovered in the last couple of years that I just can’t process the information unless I write it out by hand. Because of this, I’ve made the switch back to a paper planner.

I've made the switch back to a paper planner and my life is so much better!

Now, I’ve tried and failed at the paper planner thing before. My mother always used a paper planner, and I tried a few times when I was younger, but each time fizzled after a couple of weeks. I had good luck in college with the New York Public Library’s student planner, but now that I’m juggling my work schedule, my home schedule, my husband’s schedule, and the schedules of my two kids, it just doesn’t meet my needs anymore.

For 2016, after months of feeling like a top spinning out of control, I decided to purchase a bigger, heftier planner. I had a number of requirements:

  • Sturdy coils and cover that wouldn’t get bent up in a backpack, purse, or brief case
  • A monthly spread at the beginning of each month (you’d be surprised how many don’t have this)
  • Plenty of space to write appointments and to-do lists
  • A dedicated space for meal planning
  • A way to differentiate between work and home (part time work is great, but it adds a layer of complication)

And it had to be pretty. I knew I was going to spend a year looking at it, and I didn’t want something that just looked completely utilitarian.

I searched high and low. I looked in book stores and online. I bought one that I thought I liked, but I didn’t. Then, I stumbled across the Erin Condren Life Planner (ECLP). Initially, I was worried. It wasn’t cheap, but I got $10 off (affiliate link) and I got it on sale, so I justified the cost. I am so glad I did. It has made my life so much easier.

Erin Condren Flat Lay 2

I started off with an elaborate color code scheme, plans for how I was going to use each of the three boxes the vertical layout gave me, and definite ideas on how I was going to list out everything and get it all done right now.

What I realized, though, was that I needed to give myself permission to be flexible. The ECLP gave me all of the space I needed–it met all of the requirements I listed–but with all the rules I had set for myself starting out, I quickly felt overwhelmed and anxious. What I had to come to terms with is that it’s okay for one week to be color coded and one week to not be. It’s okay to skip a day. It’s okay to change the system from one week–even one day–to the next.

I had to give myself permission to be imperfect. I realized a few weeks in that part of what has caused me to fail so many times before at organization was that I didn’t allow myself to be flexible. I didn’t allow myself to experiment and try different things to see what worked and what didn’t.

I've made the switch back to a paper planner and my life is so much better!

Once I allowed myself to try different things, I started having fun with it, and if I’m having fun with something, I don’t want to quit. I’m on month 3 of using my Erin Condren Life Planner, and so far, it’s been just what I need. Some weeks are busy with lots of notes, others are not. Each week, I try something a little new, keep what works, and ditch the rest.


If you’re like me and you struggle to get yourself organized, if you feel like you’re going a million different directions, none of which are the right way, give this planner a try. It’s been a life-changer for me. No more missed appointments, forgotten after school activities, or skipped chores. I’ve even developed a reputation at work for being super organized, which I’m sure will make my mother chuckle.

I've made the switch back to a paper planner and my life is so much better!

In a future post, I’ll share with you why I ditched the To-Do list and why you should to, so stay tuned!

I got my first Erin Condren Life Planner on sale, and if you want to get $10 off your first Erin Condren Life Planner, be sure to sign in and order through my affiliate link.


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Organization, Joy, and KonMari

A few days ago, the lady I work for, who is totally awesome, introduced me to the KonMari method of organizing. I’ve been trying my entire life to get organized, to purge all of the junk that I don’t need, and to keep the house tidy. This doesn’t come naturally to me. My inability to keep the house orderly causes friction between my husband and me. He is one of those people who was born organized. For him, keeping house is second nature. He’s a minimalist at heart, where I tend to accumulate stuff. So much stuff. Because maybe I might need it one day or I’ll get around to fixing it or sure it’s too small but what if I need it in a pinch? 

This year, after returning home from a lovely Christmas holiday with my parents, I walked into my closet and said, “This is enough.” I had a closet full of clothes that I haven’t worn in more than a year because I mostly just wear the same three outfits day in and day out. I had a pile of shoes that kept me from finding the ones I want. I had stacks of folded clothes that have been pawed through until they’re nothing more than piles. The closet felt like the manifestation of my feeling that I’d lost control of the house. I avoided it, only entering it when I had to, but on December 31st, I walked in and decided, “This is enough. I don’t have to live this way.”


I posted about this on facebook, and a few days ago, at work, while chatting with my boss about the new year, the subject of organization came up. We are facebook friends (no, it’s not as weird as you might think it is) and we have both seen each other organizing over the last couple of weeks, me in my closet, her in her bathroom cabinets. She mentioned this thing called KonMari, a Japanese tidying method created by a woman named Marie Kondo. I’d never heard of it, so my boss explained. When you organize, ask yourself:

  • Did this item bring me joy when I purchased it?
  • Does it bring me joy now?

Cue the lightbulb moment!

Do you ever keep things out of guilt? Do you ever look at something and say, “Ugh. I don’t use that anymore, but I can’t get rid of it because so-and-so gave it to me (or I spent good money on it or any other reason why you might keep something that is no longer useful). I guess I have to keep it.”

The KonMari method of tidying is based on the idea that instead of choosing what to get rid of, choose what you want to keep. Choose the things that spark joy and inspiration so that you surround yourself with that feeling of happiness. Here is a youtube video where Marie Kondo describes how her method works. It’s long, I know. But believe me, it’s worth it, and this is coming from someone who won’t watch a youtube video longer than 3 minutes!


There is a very specific way to go about doing this, so after watching the video, I snapped up a copy of her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Thus began The Great New Year’s Eve Closet Purge. I was ruthless. I asked myself:

  • Is it maternity? If yes, donate
  • Is it broken? If yes, can I repair it? If yes, realistically, will I have time to repair it? If no, toss.
  • Does it fit? If no, donate.
  • Does it match other items in my closet? If no, donate. (You’d be amazed how many things I have that I can’t wear because they match absolutely nothing in my closet)
  • Do I enjoy wearing it? If yes, keep. If no, donate.

When I finished, I had a massive pile of clothes to donate (and of course a few that just needed to be pitched), an orderly closet that makes me smile, and a sense of order and control over my clothes that is expanding in tangible ways to other parts of the house.

Sure, I’d already done my closet, but it’s not just my closet that needs to be tidied. It’s my entire house. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to teach my children that instead of buying a bunch of stuff that fills spaces to surround themselves with joy and let go of things that no longer bring happiness?

Have any of you tried the KonMari method? How has it worked for you?


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Pantry Organization: My Excuse for Not Blogging this Weekend

You might have noticed that I didn’t post yesterday.  There’s a really good reason for that!  You see, the spring bug came by my house and bit me.  I spent the weekend working like a maniac on spring cleaning.


I didn’t exactly clean the house.

But I did organize the pantry!  And that is a big job!

Part way through, I decided to take some pictures so that I could share the shame of my pantry with the public.  Because I’m wild and crazy like that.  So here goes!  Are you ready?

This is what my pantry looked like before I got started. (Wow, that is a blurry picture!)

Ignore the top shelf. I didn't start taking pictures until after I cleaned and organized it.
Ignore the top shelf. I didn’t start taking pictures until after I cleaned and organized it.

It’s blurry because I wanted to hide just how filthy it was.  Not because I am a horrible photographer.  Yeah.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

It doesn’t actually look so bad from here.  Let me assure you, though, that it is bad.  Behind the books (that fell out every time I opened the door) were piles of junk.  Stuff we never, ever used.  Ever.  The bottom shelf was a total junk shelf.  I don’t even know what that is piled up on the middle 3rd shelf from the bottom in this picture.  And the second shelf from the top?  That’s The Spice Shelf.

Oh, let me tell you about The Spice Shelf.

Back in my youthful and carefree days, I used to cook Indian food.  It’s so delicious.  It requires so many spices.  My spice shelf is incredibly well-stocked.  Trouble is, I can’t find any of my darn spices.  This means, I end up thinking I’m out of oregano and I purchase another bottle only to find that I’ve already got an open bottle plus another new bottle waiting in the wings!  It’s a problem!  Plus, a lot of my spices are 9 years old.  You stick your nose down in them and you can’t smell what they are.  Stale spices do not a flavorful meal make.  Here’s another problem.  That area over on the right?  That’s where my oils and vinegars live.  Those guys sometimes drip.

Here’s a shot of the shelf once I emptied it out.

Oh, my. Would you look at that grunge?

I guess it doesn’t seem so bad from here.  I mean, that could just be where cans and bottles scraped the shelf right?


Oh.  Oh, no.

Oh, no. Oh, nonononono.  I mean... Why?  It's just... No.
Oh, no. Oh, nonononono. I mean… Why? It’s just… No.

Yes, folks.  That is what the inside of my pantry was like.  Gross.

I cleaned it with vinegar, followed with a grease cleaner, and finished again with water and some more vinegar.

In the meantime, this is what my kitchen looked like.

As my mom says, "Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better."
As my mom says, “Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.”

My poor, organized husband seemed very concerned that the kitchen would stay like this for the rest of the week.  I tend to get sidetracked, you see.

But I managed it.  I got my shelves emptied and cleaned.  Items that were previously in floppy, sloppy bags, I decanted (that’s a great word) into tidy mason jars.

Ignore the top shelf. I didn't start taking pictures until after I finished it.
Ignore the top shelf. I didn’t start taking pictures until after I finished it.


I have restored the shelves to their former cleanliness.  I tossed the old, stale spices.  I placed a plastic place mat underneath my oils, vinegars, and sauces to catch drips.  I have added a variety of items that we don’t use at all to the donation box.  I freed up enough space to put the baking pans, muffin tins, and cookie sheets into the pantry where they will be easy to reach.  The snacks are down where the Grasshopper can actually get to them if she’s hungry.  I made space in my other cabinets so that things don’t fall out when I open those drawers.

It looks good!  It feels good!

It may not look that different from the outside, but if you stick your head inside, it's like a whole other world!
It may not look that different from the outside, but if you stick your head inside, it’s like a whole other world!

So that is why I didn’t post this weekend.  Legitimate excuse?  You be the judge.  I’m just glad I can find the oregano now.

Letting go of the Stress with Cozi

As you all know, I’ve been stressed lately.  I’ve felt like things are spinning completely out of control and that I just can’t get my arms around everything I need to do.  Too many things to do, too many things to get, not enough time.  AAAAAAGH!

Enter one of my local radio DJs.  One of our local radio stations runs a segment on Must Have apps for your smartphones, and on Friday, they talked about this thing called Cozi.  Some kind of family calendar software or something with shared calendars and whatnot.  Hmmmm….

So I downloaded it, and asked my Facebook friends for tips and hints, which landed me an awesome link to a blog post about it!  This is the kind of info I’m looking for!  A basic overview to give me an idea of how a family has made it work for them.  Fantastic!

So I started playing with it a little more seriously, and here’s what I discovered:

I really like Cozi because it works across multiple platforms.  My husband has an iPod touch and I’ve got an Android phone.  We both use Outlook at the office.  There’s not a lot of “talking” that goes on between these systems.  But after I downloaded Cozi onto  my phone and his iPod, I was able to connect both effortlessly.  We don’t have to worry about it being Apple/Android-specific.  It works cross-functionally.  Apparently you can also sync Outlook with Cozi, but I haven’t tried it.  I don’t want all of our daytime meetings showing up on the family calendar.

Because the thing lives on a 3rd party website (unlike our outlook calendars), we can access it anywhere we’ve got an internet connection.  If I make a doctor’s appointment for the Grasshopper at the office, I don’t have to wait till I’m home to put it on the home calendar. I can pop open the website from my browser and enter it right then and there.  It’s then ready to view on my husband’s iPod, internet browser, or whichever device he happens to use.

We can also keep personal stuff off of our office calendars. Our Outlook calendars are viewable company-wide.  The last thing people need to know is that I’ve got an Midwife appointment at 2 pm on Thursday.  Blocked time?  Fine.  Details?  Not fine.  Plus, it’s difficult for Mr. Grasshopper because, while he may need to know that something is going on at a certain time for carpool planning purposes (like a 6 pm La Leche League Meeting or a 3 pm Dentist appointment for me), he doesn’t need to have that time showing as blocked/busy on his work calendar.  This way, we can coordinate the carpool without blocking time or inviting embarrassing questions.

Sounds pretty good in theory, right?  How about in execution?  How does it work?

So far, it seems to be working well.

Our Calendar

We’re able to enter all of our family activities here so we can plan our carpool and schedule appointments without having to guess at what is going on with the other person.  We tag the family members involved to make it clear which appointment belongs to which person.  We’re also able to schedule reminders for events if we wish.  Since my phone receives text messages, I set a reminder for Cozi to text reminders straight to my phone.  Mr. Grasshopper doesn’t have texting on his phone, so it will email him.  Convenient!

cozi calendar


The things I’m really liking about Cozi, though, are the lists.

There are To Do lists and Shopping lists, and within those lists, you can separate out individual lists.

Our Shopping Lists

For example, I’m able to maintain both a grocery shopping list for Mr. Grasshopper to have when he goes to the store, and a separate list for things that we get at other places, like Target.  We’re even able to create custom lists so I can keep track of the little odds and ends that we still need to get before the baby is born.

cozi shopping list


Our To Do Lists

Just like the shopping lists, you can create your own custom lists.  In this case, I created a Baby-Related To Do list (of course).  You can tag the To Do lists for a specific family member or make it a shared list for all family members to see.  In this case, I tagged the Baby list as shared.  As you complete items, you just check them off.  Simple.  If you want to get fancy, you can group items by headers like I did here in the Baby-Related To Do list:



All of these screen shots are from the Cozi website that I’m accessing from my PC.  Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a way to take screenshots from my phone so I can’t show you what the Android app looks like.  I will tell you, though, that it’s pretty spiffy.

Accessing Everything

My phone lets me install widgets to my screens.  This is more than just a little icon.  Instead, I can see an updated version of my calendar right there on my screen!  I’ve got widgets showing the calendar, the baby shopping list, and the baby to do list.  All right there in front of me.  I can simply touch to start adding or making changes.  No need to let the app load. It’s running right there on top and updating live.

I also took the… ahem… liberty of installing the app onto Mr. Grasshopper’s iPod.  So he’s got it, too, although, I don’t think Apple lets you do widgets quite like Android does.

Has it Helped?

Mr. Grasshopper was a little concerned that this list-making was stressing me out.  Really, though, I’m finding the opposite to be the case.  I’m able to write things down as they pop into my head and then set them aside.  Part of my stress came from intense worry that I would forget something vital.  Trying to keep track of all of this coordination in my head was making me feel a little unhinged.  I feel like I’ve been given a dose of sanity.

There are more features than what I list here.  I can’t really see myself using the journal feature very much.  That’s what my blog is for.  I’m also not too sure about the photo collage thing.  I’ve got Picassa for that and it works just fine.  There does seem to be a whole lot more to this program than meets the eye, so I’m sure there is a lot more for me to explore.

How Can You Get It?

For those of you curious about Cozi, you can access the computer version from  We got our mobile device apps from the Android app marketplace and the Ipod app store just by going through our mobile devices.

Want to know the best part?

It’s Free!

Yeah, you read that right!  It’s free!  I’m all about free stuff!  There does appear to be an upgrade option that offers more advanced scheduling options, but for us, I think the free version is perfectly sufficient.

So talk to me!  Who out there uses this?  How do you use it?  What do you find the most useful about it?  Do you have any tips or tricks for new users like me?