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How to Organize Your Life and Become More Productive

One of the most important quotes I’ve heard in 2017 is – “What gets scheduled gets done.”

My New Years Resolution in 2016 was to get more organized. Little did I know that the habits I created early in the year would come to really change the way I handled school, business, and life.

Being organized is important to productivity!

Have you ever tried to sit at your desk and you can’t even find your keyboard under all of your stuff? Have you ever looked in your closet for the outfit you planned in your head, and found that your shirt is in the hamper (or wadded up on the floor)? Or maybe you’ve been looking for that super important file that you know you put on a flashdrive at some point! Which flashdrive.. where did I put it… wait, when did I even do that?

You get what I’m saying.

If you invest a little bit of time into organization, your productivity levels will soar!

 

Ask yourself what is important this week.

Do you have a big deadline at school or work? Does your child have a party at school that you volunteered to bring food for? Do you have a big interview? An ongoing project? Meetings?

  • Plan your week around the MOST important task
    • If you have a big project coming up, be sure to plan time each day to complete the project in time.
  • Plan the rest of your tasks around that
  • Organize your week in your planner, and set small goals throughout the week (one per day)
    • For example, set a goal on Monday to respond to all of your unread emails.

 

Make sure your house/office is clean.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot function when my work environment is a mess.  I work from home, so I have to keep a cleaning routine to keep my house and office in order to maximize my efficiency.

  • Don’t waste a whole day cleaning. Separate each task into manageable chores each day.
    • I like to start my week with clean laundry! Sundays, I always do laundry.
    • Spend 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening picking up clutter.
  • Make sure your dishes are done before you go to sleep
    • Who wants to wake up to a sink full of dirty dishes?

 

Don’t let things overwhelm you

 You determine where things go. If you get easily frustrated when you can’t find your things amidst the clutter, make things go where you need them to go and where they make the most sense.

  • Desk: organize by utility
    • Container for writing utensils
    • Place for all envelopes
    • Container for chords, chargers, etc.
  • Clothes: organize by activity, not by category 
    • Casual
    • Workout
    • Dress
  • Car: keep it clean and stocked
    • Take in cups and trash every day
    • Keep extra money in your glove compartment just in case
    • Stash an extra pair of flats in your car for when your feet can’t handle your heels any longer

Your digital clutter may be slowing you down
Do you ever find yourself searching for a file that you could have sworn existed? Or looking for an email that you *starred from, like, 3 weeks ago?

  • Emails: Unstar emails and delete spam
    • If you have to star an email for the short-term, that’s totally fine! But be sure you unstar it when it is no longer relevant
    • I know you get spam. We all do. Unsubscribe from mailing lists any time something comes in and delete irrelevant spam from your inbox
  • Files and documents: just like in your home, everything has a place
    • Create folders for each task/job and keep all files related to the job IN its folder. And DON’T FORGET to back it up!!

How To Be Productive (& Still Have Fun): A Guide To Self-Care

Stress is inevitable.

The kids get sick, work gets tough, the essays are piled on, money gets tight…

Stress is an obstacle we face every day. Because it is inevitable, it’s not how much stress you experience, it’s how you handle it.

We buy planners, create lists, fill in our calendars, hide sticky-note memos around the house just to make sure we don’t forget that deadline, miss that meeting, show up late to that appointment, etc. Something many of us fail to do, however, is plan our free time. Amidst the dizzying chaos of everyday life, we forget the importance of having fun.

Doing something you enjoy releases endorphins which are natural stress relievers. What is life, anyway, without a little fun?

As a full-time student who works three part-time jobs, I quickly learned how draining life can be. Failing to set time aside for yourself is detrimental to your self-esteem, happiness, and overall, your productivity. Having fun (or as I prefer to call it: self-care) is completely possible (and pretty much necessary) if you do it the right way.

So, what is the right way?

There are two categories of self-care that I partake in: every day and occasional. There are things I do every day that benefit my productivity and health, and there are things that I do occasionally as a sort of reward.

Everyday

  • Plan it out.

    I often set daily goals for myself, such as completing a certain number of assignments (work or school), cleaning a certain area of the house, doing the laundry, etc. Once I have completed my daily goals, I stop working and use the rest of my time doing something I enjoy. Dispersing your work-load across multiple days can help buy you more time in the long run. Procrastinating truly is a productivity killer.

  • Get up and move.

    Every day, I find two hours to hit the gym. Working out, breaking a sweat, and burning some energy is one of the highlights of my day. Once I leave the gym, I often find myself more energized than I was before, and I direct that energy into getting more work done. (Movement and burning energy helps release endorphins, by the way). If you aren’t used to working out, I suggest taking a walk, strolling through a park, or anything that gets you moving for 30 minutes or more.

  • Don’t work yourself to sleep.

    As a student, it’s way too easy to be glued to my laptop screen or a textbook until I finally call it a night. Doing so, however, doesn’t allow my brain to calm down and prepare for sleep. If I stay up late stressing over an assignment or exam, my mind races when I turn off the lights. Taking some time to relax in the evenings while preparing for bed is a great way to improve your sleep health. Getting plenty of rest is key to having a productive day.

 

Occasional

  • Grab coffee with a friend.

    To me, sitting down to have coffee with a friend is one of the most relaxing ways to get away from everyday stress. It’s a great break that leaves me feeling energized and happy, unlike a nap. In everyday chaos, we often lose touch with our friends and family, but spending time with those you love is key to maintaining a happy life.

  • Take a night off.

    Every once and awhile, you must just step away from it all and spend a few hours in the company of good friends, going to see a movie, grabbing dinner, etc. It’s important to remember that we are humans, not machines.

  • Pampering

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I take some time off to do things that make me feel good about my appearance, such as getting a haircut, using a face mask, plucking those eyebrows. Looking good is a confidence booster, so don’t be afraid to pamper yourself.

 

And finally, there is Sunday Funday: the most important day of the week. I say this, because every Sunday is the same for me. If I don’t use Sundays as a day to relax and prepare for the upcoming week, I feel four steps behind when Monday morning comes around.

  • Sunday Funday.

    Sundays are the one day of the week I make sure to enjoy myself. I take a break from the gym and opt out for a yoga class (or if the weather is permitting, go on a hike.) Because health and fitness are such a big part of my life, I also use this time to buy groceries and prepare healthy meals for my week (it helps if you learn to enjoy cooking!), or complete chores for the dreaded Monday morning. A lazy, relaxing day around the house never hurt anyone.

 

Since everyone is different, we will all experience fun in different ways. Work-life balance, however, is critical to everyone.

Being productive DOES NOT mean forfeiting what you love. The truth is, you can do both! Whatever it is that boosts your mood: do it. Life is much more enjoyable when you’re having fun.

Meal Prep Template

If you aren’t already meal prepping, you really ought to be.

Imagine this:

You wake up and hit the snooze button a few times.. you have meetings all day, and don’t have any time to stop for your usual breakfast sandwich (which is heavy on your stomach and laden with extra calories and fat). So you get ready and head into the office on an empty stomach. Hours go by, and now you are STARVING. You go out for lunch and eat 3 portions of chips and salsa and go on to finish your entire entree. Fast forward one hour, and it’s hard for you to focus on your work because of the little food baby inside of you.

DOES THIS SOUND PRODUCTIVE??

Instead:

You wake up and hit the snooze button (it’s okay, we all do it). You get up, get ready, and grab your pre-made parfait and top it with granola. Or your cute little mason jar of overnight oats. Maybe you even have time to make some eggs. You’re full and productive until lunch. Then at lunch, you eat the prepared leftovers from your killer dinner last night, which is a perfect balance of protein, carbs, and fat. Just what you need to get you through the afternoon. You are productive from morning to evening, and you even have time to go for a walk at lunch!

I’ve prepared a meal prep template for you to try out. Seriously, just humor me. If you try this for one week and it doesn’t save you MONEY, save you TIME, and make you more PRODUCTIVE, then ditch it.

Here is my plan from last week, including my grocery list (which only cost me $70 at Aldi). You can download your own blank template HERE!

meal-prep

4 Ways to Automate Your Life (So You Can Think Less)

I get asked all the time..

“How do you do it?”

How do I keep up with it all? How do I work 15 hours a week at my church, manage a small business, juggle clients and deadlines, keep track of the money coming in and out of my account, make sure a hot dinner is on the table when my husband gets home, and STILL have time to make sure my clothes match?

Easy. I don’t think that much.

Thinking takes too much time. Seriously. How can you possibly juggle school, work, kids, housework, commuting, hobbies, workouts, friends, AND make every day decisions like, “What’s for dinner?” This week, I’m going to help you focus on ways to automate your life. No, there is no “effortless” way to make your life effortless. BUT by implementing these four things, I promise your life will feel so much simpler. A little bit of prep and planning can translate to a LOT more free time and headspace.

 

1. Plan your meals, buy your groceries, and cook your food at the beginning of the week.

Let’s be real. How much time do you spend each day either planning, cooking, or frantically running through the drive-thru? I’m willing to bet that skipping meals is a common occurrence due lack of planning and a busy schedule.

According to a study done by the Harvard Business Review in 2015, “Participants reported their food consumption, mood, and behaviors over a period of 13 days. Afterwards, researchers examined the way people’s food choices influenced their daily experiences. Here was their conclusion: The more fruits and vegetables people consumed (up to 7 portions), the happier, more engaged, and more creative they tended to be.”

I understand. Getting hungry and needing to eat can be annoying. BUT how healthy and often you eat directly affects your productivity!

Here is what my typical week looks like. You can adjust your menu based on how many people you feed and any dietary preferences or restrictions. I typically try to keep each grocery run between $50-$75 (‘cause ya girl is broke). This includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner plus some snacks throughout the day.

I spend 2 hours on Sunday prepping all of my breakfasts and lunches, and then my husband and I spend time together cooking dinner each night.

Having “grab and go” meals is so important for me because I don’t spend extra money eating out and I don’t even have to think about my next meal. Just reach in the fridge, heat, and eat!

 

2. Plan your outfits according to your schedule and the weather

You can call me a lot of things, but you could NEVER call me a morning person. This is where the meal prep comes in handy, but let’s be honest. Choosing an outfit, getting ready for the day, AND waking up is just too much. A huge time saver for me is planning my outfits for the week all at once. If I know I have a project presentation to give on Thursday, I’ll plan a nice business casual outfit to present myself well to my clients. If I have a day where I’m working from home, I totally wear yoga pants and a sweatshirt. The most important thing is making sure my clothes are clean and I know exactly where to find them when I need them. For me, that means organizing them in my closet from Monday to Friday. That means when I wake up, all I have to do is put on my outfit, do my hair and make up, and then grab my overnight oats from the fridge. (READ: MORE SLEEP FOR ME)

 

3. Set your alarms for the week and make sure you get enough sleep

Does anyone else check their alarm like 8 million times before going to sleep? Yeah, that was me too. Until I figured out that I could set a “bedtime” and “wake up time” on my iPhone! I like to make sure I get at least 8 hours of sleep each night (I’m cranky and unproductive if I don’t), so I set my bedtime for 10:30 and wake up time for 7. The alarm on this feature starts out slow and soft and gradually gets louder, so it’s not as harsh of a wake up call as the standard alarm feature!

This will not only ease your mind about your alarm going off in the morning, but it also helps to remind you to get your sleep. A good night’s rest is sooooo important when it comes to productivity. It’s impossible to focus on your work when you are too focused on keeping your eyes open.

 

4. Fill your tank on Sunday (gas and otherwise)

How many times have you been running late to a Monday morning meeting or appointment and realized your gas light came on 10 miles ago? Seriously, we don’t have time for that. It’s also not an acceptable excuse to be late. Eliminate this problem on Sunday so you don’t even have to think about getting gas for another week (at least)!

Not only is it embarrassing when you show up late to a meeting because you ran out of gas on the way.. but it’s also super embarrassing when you show up to a meeting and you’re really frazzled, unprepared, and your clothes are all wrinkled. Take time on Sunday to “fill your tank.”

That means different things to different people. If that means catching up on sleep all day – do it. Spending an extra hour in the gym? Go ahead. Whatever you need to do to get yourself together before the week starts.. today is the day to get it done.

 

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Stay tuned this week for downloadable templates and tips to help you stay organized and automated. Remember.. think LESS this week!

 

Comparison

comparison

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Theodore Roosevelt.

Let me say that again; “comparison is the thief of joy.” Even though I know this, it’s incredible how often I forget. Or “forget.” I know that comparing myself to others isn’t a productive thing to do, but it is almost instinctive, and that’s disruptive: disruptive to my mental well-being, spiritual well-being, and my creative life. I struggle with this so often, and lately in particular, and I have noticed that all of these areas are suffering because of it.

 

Comparing myself to others does me no good. Especially because in this day and age, the way we (or a least I do) compare ourselves to one another is through social media. But social media is just the tip of the iceberg of someone’s life. Most people put their best self on their profile, which is good. However, it makes it difficult for others to look at that and think how their life isn’t as great. And the truth is, it probably is. I didn’t post on Facebook when I gained 15 pounds, but I sure did when I decided to run a half-marathon. So while we see that people are doing wonderful things with their lives, we don’t see the mundane, run-of-the-mill, boring things that they (and we all) have to do.

 

We must remember that Jesus said in Mark 12:31 to love our neighbors as ourselves. While most people remember the first part of this, they don’t realize that it also involves loving ourselves. So beating up on yourself because your life doesn’t look as great on social media is stealing your joy and going against what Jesus called us to do as his disciples. We often say and think things to ourselves that we would never say to anyone else. Why do we do this? Why shouldn’t we love ourselves as much as we love others? My prayer for you is that this will become easier by the day.

 

Knowing that I do this is the first step of this long journey for myself, but as I recognized that this comparison is something I do, I have already felt myself be better. I have felt myself feel lighter, particularly in writing this blog. Writing this blog is kind of a break to my creative slump. I can already feel that as I recognize when I’m comparing, I can (at least try) to focus on something else and tell myself that I am good enough, whether I feel it or not. And honestly, this has been a freeing thing that has opened my mind to new ways and ideas to create about.

 

Love your neighbors. Love yourself. Be kind to all.

 

Thanks for stopping by.
Blessings and love,

Aubrey DeLammermore

5 Ways to Stay Creative (Post-Grad)

 

Creativity is a funny thing. You can’t plan the time to be creative, but you can help set yourself up for creative moments. There are moments when I am gushing with creative ideas and other times where I feel unexplainably stagnant.

Obviously, no one wants to feel stagnant. As a young adult I want to constantly feel like I am moving and growing and becoming better- but at the same time being content in that season of growth.

In college, I was lucky enough to be in a lot of classes that were outside of my biology degree. In those classes I had the opportunity to read SO MANY (seriously, like 100) books, stare at incredible works of art, and I even got to take a two week Study Abroad trip to Spain. Because these were things that I was not used to studying I felt like I had grown in my ideas and self-awareness. After graduating with my Bachelor’s degree I realized that I was no longer being stretched like I was during college, and I knew that needed to change.

The first several months after graduation were rough. I felt sad and depressed, in a lot of different areas of my life. In my job, my physical and mental health (hello weight gain and anxiety), my marriage, my spiritual life, even my food felt sad.

Fast forward one year after graduation and the skies are much sunnier. There are a lot of things that have changed in the last year.  I am so much happier now. My job is going great, my physical and mental health are better than ever, my marriage is incredible, I’m growing spiritually, and you guessed it, my food taste great! I have new found creativity that has helped mend these different aspects of my life.

Here are 5 things that I have incorporated into my post-college life to help with creativity:

1. Believe you can literally achieve anything.

This is easier to say than to do. I struggled with this concept so long because I was constantly living in self-doubt. I never thought I was good enough, did not think I had the skills to achieve my goals. My self-doubt kept me from pursuing my dreams. I wish I could tell you when I flipped the switch. I don’t think it was microwave change, but more of a crockpot change. Luckily, from a young age my mom always made me believe that she believed I could do anything. I lost that a little bit as I got older, but that feeling slowly started to return and when I started trying all these new things that I was not qualified to do- it was exhilarating.  If you have unwavering faith in yourself then most likely the outcome will be better than what you could have initially produced. Even if you do fail, you are still getting further than what you would have done living in self-doubt.

 

2. Fail a little.

I used to hate failure, the art of failing, whatever you want to call it. I hated that feeling and did everything in my power to avoid it. After graduating the failure stopped -peace out biology degree classes and honors program- and at first I loved it. But, I soon realized that the feeling of not failing was harder than the failure feeling. I had become stagnant, and it left an icky taste in my mouth.  If you are not failing then most likely you are not putting yourself, your ideas, etc. on the line. So go fail. Make a bad recipe, mess up that painting, experience that bad workout routine- do it all, because at least you are doing something.  One thing worth mentioning, don’t tie the feeling of failing to your personal identity. Do something new, fail at it, learn from it, and move on. I can’t even begin to name the times that I have failed trying to get healthier. I tried so many different things and just couldn’t find what worked for me. I could have given up, but I kept moving forward and now after losing 40 pounds I’ve realized all my failures are what led me to success.

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3. Sharpen yourself

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17.

I have heard this phrase my entire life. Circle yourself with other positive and creative people. They will inspire you to do more and try more. They will make you better. It’s true though, I love getting together with my friends Zoe, Katie, and Aubrey- they make me better and make me want to try more things.  Katie has inspired my painting and piano hobbies, Zoe has ignited my photography with the help of a blog, challenges me to become a better person, and helps me get outside of my own head, and Aubrey makes me think harder on social issues and always has the best book recommendations. I love these girls and their friendship. They got me through college and have done more for me post-graduation than they might realize.

 

4. Never stop trying new things

Get a new hobby, and don’t ever stop getting new hobbies. Since graduating I have found that I have A LOT of free time. At first I wasted the majority of time binge watching shows on Netflix when I would get home from work. At first that was a blast. I caught up on everything and then I was stuck. What is life?! Is there anything outside of being caught up on Grey’s Anatomy? Que all my new hobbies: painting, modern calligraphy, learning to play the piano, baking, working out, and most recently photography (see below).  It is so neat getting to learn these new skills and just having fun with them.

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5. Go somewhere new

My first big adventure was getting to travel throughout Spain for two weeks on a Study Abroad trip with several classmates and two of our professors. This trip changed me a lot, especially my outlook on life. I will never forget that experience and how it made me feel. Now when I say go somewhere new, I don’t mean that you have to go out of the country to become inspired (but if you have the opportunity take it), I mainly mean, get out of your comfort zone. Go somewhere you haven’t gone before, whether that is trying out a new restaurant with your friends or a new weekend hangout spot with your spouse. Go somewhere, relax, get inspired, and let your passion be reignited.

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I hope I, in some way, helped you see some new possibilities when it comes to your creativity. If you are a recent graduate or feel that you are just stuck, leave a comment and I would love to connect with you so that we can encourage and uplift each other.
Until next time,
Kate.

*Check Kaitlyn’s blog out at http://www.waterandblossoms.wordpress.com*

5 Ways to Stay Creative: Adulting

This week in our creativity series, our very own copywriter, Aubrey DeLammermore is gracing us with her presence and sharing her tips on how she and her husband (Craig) maintain creativity in their lives.


Being a creative person in the adult world can sometimes be a little frustrating. The last thing I want to do is dishes, laundry, pay bills, or mop the floors. But, alas, it must be done. Because as much as I dislike those things, I dislike a messy house and life more. However, while I dislike these tasks, there are ways to brighten up the household and adult tasks I have to do that makes the other tasks seem worth it. Here are some of the ways that Craig and I are creative in our “adult” world.

1. Gardening
I refer to gardening as my “adult” reason to play in the dirt. Gardening is a great way to be creative. For me, I love being able to both grow beautiful things and see the fruition of our labors. We grow flowers, herbs, fruits, and veggies. Being able to eat our fruits and veggies (if the birds leave them alone) is a wonderful way to be able to see the literal fruits of our labors! We are currently growing two trees from seeds (Black Cherry and Golden Plum). Watching them grow from little seeds into tall trees is amazing! We also enjoy having plants because we have birds that nest in them. We have two Boston Ferns and each one has a nest. Waking up and hearing the baby birds chirping is a wonderful way to wake up! Also, our cat, Philip, loves watching out of the window (and sometimes darting out of the door) to watch them, which Craig and I greatly enjoy. So far, gardening is one of my favorite ways to spruce up homeownerships. It’s a great way to make a space our own. God’s creation is truly stunning.

2. Drawing and Writing
Another thing I love to do is draw and write poems, whether good or bad. Honestly, sometimes the bad drawings and poems teach me more than the goods ones do. Also, the bad ones help me get out ideas and make way for (hopefully) better ones. I enjoy drawing and writing so much that for both of my capstones at RSU I combined them. I would explain more of what I did… But I would honestly probably just bore you. Suffice it to say in one I explored the formation of identity in Neil Gaiman’s characters in four of his works, and in the other I explored the formation of myself in the same way. For both of these I painted an accompanying self-portrait, shown below. For both of these I went through so many edits and new paintings, which showed me how important bad ideas are.

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3.  Building Furniture for Our Home
Another thing I love doing, and something that has helped me take ownership of the space in our home, is making furniture and decorations. So far I have made wire baskets, which you can read about here, and Craig and I are working on making a sofa table and an entryway table, which we’re modeling after Katie’s coffee table she wrote about in her blog here. So far, everything is going well! And I love the way the wire baskets have helped me to organize our coffee bar. One holds my tea (which there is a lot of) and the other holds all of our miscellaneous coffee stuff (Stuff is a technical term, if you didn’t know).  They’re also super easy to make.

4. Taking Adventures
This is something that Craig and I enjoy. We look around us, far and near, to see where we can go on an adventure. Sometimes that adventure is in our own backyard (making tables together) and sometimes it is in a different country (we’ve gone to Mexico and Canada together, and we are trying to plan a trip to Scotland). Whatever it is, we try to make the most of it. Most recently, we spent our anniversary exploring our own Downtown Tulsa. Recently, we realized how many places we hadn’t actually been too in Downtown Tulsa, so we spent this time trying to explore as much of that as possible. We went to Hodges Bend, El Guapo, Decopolis, Made, Dilly Diner, Yokozuna, 46, The Mercury Lounge, and walked around and looked at Guthrie Green. It was amazing how much we’ve missed, and we go to Downtown Tulsa quite a bit!

5. Music
Craig and I both love music, and because of this we love going to concerts together. Another thing we really enjoy is finding new bands together. This is something that has helped us grow together a lot, but particularly spiritually. Finding worship bands that we’ve never heard of and listening to them together has been something we’ve started doing more lately, and it’s amazing how much it’s helped us grow as Christians both separately and together.

If you’re like me and enjoying trying new things and being intentional with the life you live, (which isn’t always easy) let me know in the comments the things you enjoy doing! There are a million different things that God has placed in this world for us to do, and exploring them is one of the great joys of life!

 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Blessings and love,

 

Aubrey DeLammermore

Hello lovelies!

I hope you’re having a great day so far!

I’ve recently been trying to make more of the decorations around my house. One of the things I’ve been focusing on is making things both functional and pretty. Some things are merely functional or pretty, but for me, if my house can be a balance of both, it is easier to be organized. If there’s one thing I hate it’s clutter.

Hence why today’s DIY is about wire baskets. They serve a purpose (organization), and I really like how they look. However, I don’t like the price tag that comes with them. So I decided to make them! And guess what? They’re easy. My first one took me about 30 minutes, and my second one took me about 20 minutes. So, let’s get down to business!

Here’s what you’ll need:
• Chicken wire
• Wire Cutters
• Pliers

So, once you have your supplies, the rest is fairly simple. The hardest part is trying to stay away from sharp edges. So make sure you pay  attention to them!

1. Cut the chicken wire

For me, I knew how tall and wide I wanted the basket to be. I measured that on the chicken wire, and for ease of measuring (since you have to cut multiple times) I just counted how many boxes the cut was. (NOTE: when you make your cuts, make sure you cut where there will be a tail coming off. You will need this later)

2. Begin bending

So now you start bending your basket into shape. This is where the tails I mentioned before will come in. Fold two adjacent sides up, and interlock the tails. Once you’ve done this, you can bend the tails around the remaining boxes, and this should be enough support to keep the basket together

3. Here’s the fun part!

Now that your basket is done, there’s a lot you can do with it. You can put leather handles on it, spray paint it, or just leave it as is. I chose to leave mine as is, since the tea I put in it is so colorful. But, at this point, the world is your oyster!

If you try this DIY, let us know! We’d love to hear your feedback. I hope you enjoyed it! And now when people rave over your decorations, you can say you made them! It feels pretty good.

 

I hope you enjoyed reading!

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Blessings and love,
Aubrey DeLammermore

Industrial Chic Table DIY

This whole industrial thing is so in right now. I don’t know what it is about exposed brick, raw wood, and metal piping that is so attractive, but I absolutely can’t get enough of it. I’m moving into a new house soon and I am like.. a serious cheapskate. My fiancé is currently living in our home with little furniture and absolutely zero wall décor. I’m working on that.

For the last month or so, I have been meeting up with him at our house to cook dinner together (which is one of our favorite things to do with each other). Once we are ready to eat, we have no where to sit! Therefore, our one and only rug in the house has become our “dinner table.” It’s definitely going to be one of those things we look back on and laugh about in 20 years, but it is mildly annoying right now.

I finally decided to buy some furniture for our house, but holy heck, furniture is SO stinking expensive! That’s when I decided to try my hand at making my own.

Luckily, my mother is kind of a handyman, and she agreed to help. My mom has made several furniture items in the last few months that I have fallen in love with, so she has figured out some tricks of the trade, and now I’m going to share them with you!

First of all, be prepared to spend an afternoon or two on this table. Not that it’s a hard process, it’s just kind of long. But TOTALLY worth it!

 

What you’ll need:

  • Board
  • Piping
  • Couplings
  • Flanges
  • Caps
  • Screws
  • Screwdriver
  • Wood stain

 

1. Measure the space you’re wanting your table.

I wanted to build two tables—one end table and one coffee table. My living room is part of an open concept floor plan, so I wanted to make sure that my tables would HELP with my living room flow, not make it seem more crowded.

2. Choose your table top material.

This doesn’t have to be expensive, but it can get that way if you don’t know what you are doing. I took a little extra time to find one board that would serve my purpose of building two tables. I wanted a 2 ft x 2 ft end table, and a 2 ft x 4 ft coffee table, so I looked for a board that was 2 ft x 6 ft and asked an associate to cut the board for me. I’m sooo happy I had them cut it because I actually have no idea what I’m doing.

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3. Decide how tall you want your table.

After some research, I learned that the ideal coffee table is between 0 and 2 inches shorter than your couch. If you are making a desk or dining room table, measure your chairs or another table height that you like. This is 100% custom, so make sure you get the exact dimensions that you want!

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4. Choose your hardware.

Here comes the fun part. I’m going to share with you some secrets to save a little bit of money. You could find all metal parts for your table—that’s fine and it will look great. It will also cost you more than twice as much.

Normal PVC pip doesn’t thread into metal flanges or couplings, but after spending a few hours in Lowes, I found a different kind of PVC that DOES! Check it out here. The only drawback to using this instead of the metal is that you will definitely need to spray paint the whole leg of the table, so if you were hoping for the true silver legs, you may need to shell out the cash for the metal pipes. My PVC pipe is about $3 per unit, while the metal pipe is about $10 per unit.

Oddly enough, the metal flanges, couplings, and caps were cheaper than the PVC! I chose to mismatch and spray paint mine, saving me about $80.

5. Stain your wood

I chose to go with “natural” and “Ipswich Pine,” which preserves the natural pine look I was going for. I’ve seen some great grey stain which looks beautiful with the black piping.

6. Assemble the table

This is the easiest part! Screw the flanges into the bottom of the table, then just thread the legs together and screw them into the flanges. You can level the table by tightening and loosening the threads on each leg.

My project came out to $80 to make BOTH tables! They match each other perfectly and work together as a set. Same height, same color, same hardware. I am so happy with my decision to DIY, and I can’t wait to see what you guys do!

5 Ways to Stay Creative

By: Zoe Miller, The Miller Manor

I’m not going to lie when I was asked to guest blog about 5 ways to stay creative I was a little intimidated. This was mainly because I wouldn’t classify myself as “creative.” But having the prompt really made me look at my life and all the things I do and I realized I actually have a few creative bones in me after all.

It is easy to be creative for a project in school or for a millisecond on the Internet but how can we stay creative? How can we make creativity a part of our daily lives? Not just in school projects but at work, in our friendships, our marriages, and our hobbies. It’s not easy. Especially when we live in a world where creativity isn’t always number one. So I have compiled a list of five ways that I stay creative in my life. These are in no particular order. So here we go.

1. Go beyond what is being asked.

This is especially relevant in the work place. I work as a secretary for a local Methodist Church. The secretary before me had worked for the church for 11 years, woah. For 11 years (I am assuming) she did things relatively the same. I am sure she changed the bulletins and website format every now and then, but for the most part she kept it the same. When I started, it would have been so easy to just continue with what she had been doing, just change the weekly announcements and sermon title. However, I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to be creative and find my own style to create the bulletins and website in. No one asked me to change things. No one told me the change the layout or pick different fonts, but I did it anyways. And let me tell you, people really enjoyed the changes. Not only that but I got to be creative in my work place. It was so much fun to change the website layout and to pick different fonts for the bulletins. I still continue to try new styles and formats with all the things I do for work.

2. Find Inspiration

This one goes for one of my favorite hobbies (though I consider more than a hobby). For nearly 8 months I have been participating in Bible Journaling. If you want to know more about it check out my blog post here. In the beginning I found it really difficult to be creative. I had zero idea what to put within the pages of my bible and it made me reluctant to continue. That is until I started to follow some amazing bible journalers. They were all so inspiring with their beautiful pages. It was from them that I realized I was over thinking the process. In my mind my art needed to be an exact representation of the words on the page, but that is not true. I found inspiration in them to draw and color what God was laying on my heart. It didn’t matter if that was a dinosaur or the house from Up! Once I realized this from these amazing women, my creative juices began to flow. I can read a scripture now and see exactly what it is I want to draw on my page. Sometimes I think people believe that to be creative you have to find it alone, but finding inspiration can be one of the best jumpstarts to your own creativity.

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3. Sketch Book or Notebook

Now this one might seem silly, but hear me out okay? I think I have mentioned that I’m not a particularly creative person. But I have found it so useful to carry around a notebook (actually I carry around 3) with me at all times. Why? I like to have something to capture all of my thoughts, ideas, or drawings in. It is also a place where I can practice my art before placing it in my bible or to expand on a certain blog idea. I even like to jot down gift ideas for people. It is a way for me to stay creative in all settings. Generally I keep the notebooks in my purse so that if I am waiting to get my oil changed, taking a break at work, waiting on my lunch order, or just bored I can whip it out and work on my creativity. You never know when inspiration will hit you, so always carrying it insures that you won’t forget!

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4. Spontaneity

Now how can spontaneity keep me creative? For me, this is important in my marriage. Often times we get into a routine (which I love our routine), but it is good to branch out from that. For example, our town hosts a Renaissance Fair every year. I haven’t been since I was little, but I always enjoyed my time there. One Sunday my husband was craving a turkey leg, which are real big at the fair. So off we went to the fair. Totally random and totally worth it. It is important to implement impulsive and creative ways to spend time together. This can really get those creative thoughts flowing, because planning out a date night every week can become stagnant. But by being spontaneous you are forced think outside the box and be creative with what is around you. You can also be spontaneous in all aspects of your life to stay creative. Go into that art gallery on lunch one day, comment on a post by someone you are inspired by (they might respond!!), plan a weekend away to a nearby place you have never been, or take a hike with a friend. The ideas are endless AND the amount of creativity that can come from those ideas is even more endless!

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5. Don’t be afraid to be who you are

This one is so important. With the Internet it is easy to see everyone else’s work and feel discouraged. I know I have felt that way before. I think we begin to judge our own work against the work of others and that stunts our creativity. Creativity is a process and my process might not be the same as your process. Therefore, our work cannot be comparable. We are all made differently. So while getting inspiration can be important to starting some creativity, it is not meant to degrade your own creations.

 

Some are naturally gifted to thrive in the world of creativity and others (like myself) trudge through the world at a much slower pace. While I have creative outlets, I still struggle to keep my creativity alive. By implementing these 5 things into my life, I am better able to stay creative. I hope these 5 ways can help you in the journey to stay creative. Thanks for reading,

Zoe

4 Great Small Business and Non-Profit Websites

Spyhouse Coffee

Why is it that small business gets a bad wrap for bad design? Probably because most small businesses can’t afford good marketing and try to do it themselves. Here is some life experience I would like to share with you–

One time, I thought that if I bought all of the supplies to build a table, I would save so much money and I could customize my table to look just how I wanted it to look. I had the plans all ready, I bought the perfect stain for the wood, and beautiful galvanized pipes (I was going for the “industrial chic” look). Once I purchased everything I needed, I had already spent about $80. Okay, so maybe I wasn’t going to save a ton of money, but at least my table would look exactly how I wanted it to look.
Once I stained the wood the perfect color, I tried attaching the pipes. Okay, so apparently you need these extra parts called “flanges” to make this part work. Not only did I not have the flanges, but I also didn’t have the screws or screwdriver. My custom money-saving table was actually just a piece of stained wood that couldn’t stand up right.

The lesson? I AM NOT A FURNITURE BUILDER.

If I really wanted a piece of custom furniture, I should have hired somebody to build it for me. Honestly, it probably would have cost me about the same amount of money and saved me a lot of headache. Plus I would actually have a nice table that I could use instead of all of the parts sitting in my garage.

I’ve applied this lesson to other parts of my life, including my business. This is why we are Columba Collaborative. Even though I consider myself a “creative,” my strong suit is design. I’m not great at writing copy, photography, web hosting, developing, etc.

If you own a business, chances are you are really good at something. If you are really good at making cupcakes, the world needs to know how good you are at making cupcakes. Right now, the world lives on the internet, so take advantage of the massive exposure you will receive when you market yourself online!

Check out these beautifully designed small business websites for some inspiration.

Spyhouse Coffee, MN

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Spyhouse Coffee is a coffee shop and roastery in the Twin Cities. Their website features a beautiful slider on the landing page, and a photo feed from their instagram. This website is photographically driven, which really piques a user’s interest. Not only does this website utilize photography, but they utilize GOOD photography. Each photo is planned, staged, and edited. Notice how they don’t just snap an iPhone photo and call it good. Also notice how this website uses the whitespace so tastefully. The whitespace on their page helps direct the eye to what is important on the page, and everything always comes back to their product.

Restore Austin, TX

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First off, let’s talk about the logo. Legible? Yes. Interesting? Yes. Unique? No doubt.
You absolutely want your brand to stick out in all of the marketing muck out there. This logo does that. As for the website, it is simple and easy to navigate, which is super important (espically for a non-profit). When you scroll down the home page, you see a professionally produced video that clearly shows what this non-profit is about. Past that, you will see a band at the bottom of the page with banners that link to each of their pages. SO SIMPLE. Think about the older generations visiting this website (trust me, they are out there). There is no confusion, only a few pages with good content, and they have integrated their social media into their site. Take notes about the navigation on this site, this is good stuff.

design by 5Nineteen Design

 

Heirloom Bakery, OK

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I know I’ve been talking mostly about design, but above all, a website has to be functional. When great function meets great form, that is good design. Heirloom Bakery in Tulsa has a great design. This seems intuitive, but why do you visit a website for a restaurant? To see the menu. How frustrating is it when you pull up a website that has just linked a PDF to their website for their menu and it isn’t optimized for a phone? Or the menu shows the food, but not prices? Or the menu doesn’t specify gluten free and vegetarian options? Heirloom has made their menu SO easy to access and so beautiful to look at. Remember what I was saying about the tasteful white space? This website has it. Not to mention their beautiful photos.

 

Power Life Yoga, IA

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How perfect is this script font? The bright colors and the hand written font bring a sort of playfulness to the site that is perfect for the subject matter. The logo is professional, but the website design pairs nicely to bring some more personality to the brand. Have you noticed that most of the sites that I am showing you have this simple format with large images and easy navigation? That’s because it just works. Not only does this website tell you about the classes offered, but it also helps the user connect with the local community and learn about what one might experience in a yoga class. This is a very successful website design because yogis and non-yogis alike can find exactly what they are looking for.

design by Happy Medium

 

 

I love discovering new and beautiful websites, so comment below if you have any recommendations!

 

 

How To Launch Your Freelance Career

If you are not a creative, an entrepreneur, or a business owner, you will probably not benefit from this post whatsoever. Sorry.

However, if you fall into any (or all) of these categories, read on.

First of all, if you are anything like I was when I first started freelancing, it is time to get it together. I’m going to share with you the lessons I have learned in my first year of business ownership, and teach you how to maximize your freelancing profit (because who doesn’t need money?).

If you are an artist, writer, designer, illustrator, photographer, editor, videographer, calligrapher, printer, wood worker, or anything else that requires creative thought and execution, you have a valuable skill.  If you just started out, PRACTICE! Cultivate these skills and be the best (insert craft here) that you can be. Once you feel confident in your skills, it is time to start profiting.

1. Create a business

Yeah, I know that seems like a broad “#1,” but I mean this in the most literal sense. You’ll need to invest a little bit of money (around $350-$400) to create an LLC or corporation, but trust me, it is necessary. To do this, hire a CPA. Most towns have dozens, so you can probably find one in your price range. Once you hire a CPA, stick with them! Your CPA is a valuable asset when it comes to filing your taxes, and you do not want to get in trouble with the IRS.

2. Figure out how to bank

This is almost as important as #1. You should NEVER mix your personal bank account with your business bank account. Again with the IRS thing.. You don’t want to deal with that. Setting up a business account is free and easy. Just make sure you have enough money to put in the account upfront to activate it.

3. Create

This is what you do best. If you are a visual creator, the logo and design will be the easy part, but you should look into hiring a writer to help with your content. The same is true the other way. If you are writer or editor, you may need some help with the visuals, but you can totally handle the content. Here is a list of essentials to brand your new company:

  • Logo
  • Color Scheme
  • Website
  • Bio
  • Mission Statement
  • Portfolio
  • Social Media Content

4. Market yourself to the right audience

Why would a copywriter market to authors? You need to establish your niche (logo design, social media marketing, editing, etc.) and market your skills to others who don’t have your skillset. This seems like a no-brainer, but I have seen so many people make this mistake, and it is killing their profitability. It’s always a good idea to have a strong internet presence. This is the age we live in. If you design book covers, make sure you advertise and reach out to publishers. If you are a calligrapher, you will probably want to market to brides. The list could go on, but you MUST identify your ideal client and make sure that they know exactly who you are and what you do.

5. Do great work

Obvious? Yes. Easy? Not always. Sometimes it is so easy to go with your first attempt at something. For example, if you are designing a logo for a western wear boutique, what are the first things that come to mind? Cowboy boots, cowboy hats, rope, etc. Yeah, you could do that. But what will make it different? Your client hired you to make them stand out from the crowd, and trust me, it’s a big crowd. What are you going to do to make your client go, “How on earth did you think of that??”
THIS is how you get referrals. Referrals almost always turn into revenue.

6. Be true to you

Clients will notice if you are passionate about your work. You can’t be the stuffy corporate worker that is only in it for the money. Throw in an “extra service,” go the extra mile, and always be available when your client needs you. Those things will not go unnoticed, and will make you rise above the competition. Your client is not a money machine, they are people that likely have a similar mindset to you. They are growing their business, and you are growing yours. Being genuinely invested in your client’s business will go a long way.

 

Though there are several actions that need to be taken before you can really launch a freelance business, you need to know one thing.

There is a secret ingredient.

If you really want to be successful (it won’t be overnight), you need to believe in yourself and believe in what you do. It is your job to sell yourself, and if you are confident in your product, others will follow suit.