I’ve suddenly become painfully aware: I’ve missed a lot of life because of my stuff.

Snow days are for snow angels. And mismatched snow outfits, at least at our house.

This week has been one of snow days for my family. My teacher husband, Matt, and my school-aged girls have all been home, and it has been wonderful. I’ve caught up on laundry for the first time in literally years and the sink is empty, too, a phenomenon I don’t remember experiencing in a while (if ever). And today, we delved into organizing and purging toys and other household items.


I told Matt I couldn’t deal with the toy situation any longer because I’m suffering from decision fatigue (which I had to convince him was a real thing). He started sorting and quickly filled two large totes with items to discard, then decided he’d had enough.

This is not my house, but the look is basically what I’m going for! I follow several accounts on Instagram featuring perfect home spaces, not so I can realize how I don’t measure up, but so I can remember my goals. Photo courtesy of pixabay.com.

And the basement, where all things go that I don’t want to deal with in our living and sleeping spots, is still overflowing with stuff.

This feels unbelievable sometimes, because this summer, I hosted or took part in three garage sales and sold boxes and boxes of items. I’ve sold a few dozen items on ebay recently and have donated even more. When my sister moved internationally this fall, I helped her sell her items and also delivered tons of my own to local buyers. So where did all the stuff I don’t even want come from?

Sometimes I’m really not sure, but I do know this: I like clean lines, neat and bright spaces, no clutter. I don’t like piles of magazines, laundry, dishes, toys, or paperwork. I particularly don’t like the management of items taking over my days.

And moreover, this week, while full of accomplishments, was not a relaxing play time with my kids or hanging out with my husband that it could have been thanks to the snow. No, I’ve mostly been frantically sorting all the things and trying to figure out what stays, where it goes, and what leaves.

I plan to update here on the status of my efforts. This purging and organizing what’s left is my biggest goal within my three 90-day goals for a reason: I’m trying to cultivate a more purposeful, simple life. I would like to control my stuff instead of it controlling me.

Leave me a comment and let me know how you manage all the stuff in your home!



2018 Plots and Plans and Things

Last year, I shared my goals for 2017 here on the blog.

As I mentioned then, I like to ease into change as a new year begins, and so I’m just now gathering my thoughts for 2018. I like to read what others have planned and draw inspiration there, too. But I had an extensive list last year that I’d planned to accomplish, and I was pleased to check many items off the list, including these:

  • I successfully cut my soda addiction, replacing it with a hot tea obsession instead (English Breakfast with a splash of milk). I still go for an occasional Dr. Pepper, but I don’t keep soda in the house and I don’t crave it.
  • We went above and beyond on our outdoor living area we had planned to create, thanks to the vision and hard work of my husband.
  • I’ve rid of a ton of unwanted items in my home thanks to three garage sales, online sales, eBay, and donations (and I finally got rid of most of the baby gear)!
  • We took a last-minute summer beach trip (booking the night before we were to leave!) due to an incredible deal we couldn’t pass up.
Beach time is our favorite time.

There were also many failures on the list.  I tried to take on too much and was quickly overwhelmed.  But in the fall, I took a course that I spoke of previously here, and it helped me set actionable 90-day goals. I’ve been aiming to organize and declutter my home for a year now, and with as much progress as I’ve seen, there is much to be done, so it remains at the top of my list.

So here’s what I plan to be up to in 2018.

90-Day Goals

I have three 90-day goals (and I will only ever have a max of three, because that’s all I can handle at once):

  • Clear all the clutter in the basement and have a designated office space and play area.
  • Put in the work to launch (amateur) photography business.
  • Update my blog three times per week.
Admiring his newest creation.

When I read over last year’s list, I noted several smaller items I want to keep: making Chex Mix, continuing the tradition of “Cinnamon Roll Saturday,” fully emptying the garage, establishing more date nights with the husband and game nights with the kids, gathering with friends more often, saving more money and giving more money. I would like to finally organize my photos, spend more time reading, and embark on Operation Inbox Zero (I just removed tabs in gmail and suddenly realize how much email I get; no wonder it’s always full).

But for now, my main focus will be on my three goals from now until the end of March, and then I’ll reassess to see what’s most important. It’s easy to see my progress this way and I don’t lose sight of the finish line.

What do you have planned for 2018? What will keep you on track in your pursuit?

Like Your Life: A Review

I’ve been a fan of The Art of Simple, a website created by one of my favorite authors, Tsh Oxenreider, for many years. I had taken one of her courses previously, “The Essentials,”  which helped me begin to find order in my chaos. Last fall, she opened a new course called “Like Your Life.” It was billed as a class to help the user create a personalized blueprint for living their just-right, simplified life, with Tsh acting as a life coach.

I think I’ve known who I am since I was in high school, but not necessarily how I’ve wanted to spend my days. As my best friend’s favorite author Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days, is, of course, how we spend our lives.” And when I thought about it, I wasn’t sure I was spending my life as I had always intended.

So I looked into the course, and decided immediately that in my broke girl state, I could not afford it. But as I continued to receive emails about the course, I felt a nagging feeling I really should sign up. I went for it, even adding the coordinating Facebook group.

I did not regret it.

I had my journaling workbook printed and bound (but in black and white because I’m cheap), and I will keep that thing forever. It is my blueprint on how I want to live, and I don’t want to forget.


The course work is in the form of self-paced modules, with five total parts and several small sections in each part. The Facebook group featured weekly office hours with the author herself in which we dialogued with fellow class participants and asked Tsh questions.

In part one, we began assessing what was important to us by writing about what our best day might look like and what we found beautiful, for example, culminating in crafting a personal statement. We then assessed our individual purposes, discussed living holistically, and learned how to say no to the wrong things and yes to the right things in our lives. One of my favorite sections is very pertinent for this time of year: setting good goals. (Look for an upcoming post soon with more about my upcoming goals, and about what I’ve accomplished goal-wise since Like Your Life). The questions in each section were thought-provoking, challenging, and immensely helpful in our journey.

My favorite part was actually the weekly office hours, which I did not expect. Tsh acted as a life coach, and as she spoke, I scribbled down pages of notes. My biggest lightbulb moment came when she spoke about the philosophy of living with less, something in which she is an expert, and she said, “I didn’t want to be a stuff manager.”

I don’t either, and yet, here I am. THAT is how I’ve been spending my days, going to bed exhausted but feeling I’ve only been spinning my wheels. Not spending quality time with my children, despite often being home with them, and schlepping their stuff around instead.

When I completed the course, I had a plan set in motion for how I wanted to tackle the problem areas currently holding me back (starting with eliminating the stuff). I felt as though I had been reminded of parts of me that I had let vanish when I took on the role of motherhood, parts I had missed but hadn’t really realized. I decided to embark on a new career path as soon as I accomplish my other goals, and perhaps most importantly, I realized how my self-doubt has derailed so many other projects I have attempted.

Another huge perk is the Facebook group I joined remained open, so I could continue conversations with my classmates as we went about our own journeys. The course also has lifetime access, so I have returned to some of the lectures for inspiration.

I also should note, the course isn’t cheesy. Although I feel a bit as though I embrace cheese more the older I grow (I’m thinking of that line from “The Holiday,” where Kate Winslet says, “I’m looking for corny in my life,”) I get that not a lot of people have my tolerance level. Fear not; you don’t have to tell anyone you’re good enough or smart enough or well-liked.

In short, I couldn’t recommend it more. If you’d like to sign up, check out my link here: https://heckyes.me/ref/ringojster/

But hurry! The deadline to sign up is coming fast: January 8th is you final chance.

Affiliate links have been used in this post, at no cost to the reader.

The Best Guy

I first remember getting in trouble with him at our baby sitter’s house when we were five. One of the other kids had been drawing pictures of butts, and since the entire group of kids of course giggled about it, we were all punished for the crime.

I knew I liked him in first grade but by fifth the feeling was mutual. We wrote letters back and forth, shared a few long, mostly silent phone calls, and avoided one another at school. When my best friend asked if I wanted to wear his jacket – which I think was a pretty sweet faux leather Jordan number – I asked, “Why? I already have a coat.” He moved on in the sixth grade, but I never really did.

We spent the next four years as friends, until he asked me to Winter Ball our sophomore year of high school. That was almost 18 years ago, and we’ve been inseparable since.

All that history considered, I’m a bit of an expert on my husband, Matt. Since today is his birthday, I thought I’d wax poetic for a moment.

Matt is witty and clever and fun. He likes to quietly observe but is adept at adding the well-timed smart comment. He has the best laugh and uses it often on reruns of The Office or his oldest daughter’s sassy remarks that sound much like his own.

During one of the hardest times we’ve endured together, we made 8-hour round-trips to a specialist several days per week while we both held full-time jobs and other responsibilities. It was exhausting and often hope-crushing, but that’s not really what I remember about that time. I remember Matt making me laugh until I cried, and then he would do the same. I remember him singing loudly to country songs, rapping horribly and belting out power ballads in his little pickup on the road trips. I remember that after we received bad news, we would drive to the all-you-can-eat Italian place and drown our sorrows in pounds of pasta and three lava cakes each.

We were on our first anniversary trip when he took a call from his former coach, who asked him to join the coaching staff at his alma mater. He did so, and officially launched a career in which he’s impacted numerous lives for the better. I can’t tell you how often I’m stopped by former students and asked to pass along news to him. I was in the post office last week when a friend told me he had heard through the grapevine how much the kids love Matt at his current school. A note received from a student on how he inspired her in her future career path brought me to tears (and I’m not a crier, except a laugh crier or an anger crier, thank you very much). He may be your stereotypical teacher/coach in a small, rural school, but that’s where the typecasting stops. He takes his job seriously and is excellent at what he does.

Each year, I live for the holiday season, and a huge part is because Matt will be home and he will take over cooking. He can re-create any fantastic meal we’ve ever had, his homemade noodles and fish dishes being among my favorite. He even built his own homemade grill and smoker over the summer. We are a perfect team in the kitchen: he cooks, I bake. No one wants the dishes. 

Every night he doesn’t have a game, he plays with the kids after dinner, administers medicines, fetches snacks, helps them bathe and dress, brushes teeth, and reads stories to them before they fall asleep. Then he does whatever needs done in the house, preps for work, and hangs out with me. Sometimes I wonder what I’m even doing around here, because I certainly don’t have the laundry caught up.

Following the birth of our firstborn, I was in bad shape and taken into surgery. Matt scooped up our daughter, not certain I would be returning, and forged a bond with her. He gives equal attention to our two youngest as well, and makes it a point to plan special outings with the kids. He is patient and kind, unless you wake him at 4 in the morning. Just don’t do that.

His obsession with the Patriots is perhaps over-the-top (I mean, when our oldest came down with the flu this year on game day and we couldn’t go anywhere, I know he felt bad for her, but he wasn’t disappointed otherwise). He has followed Tom Brady’s career since he was a quarterback at Michigan. This kind of loyalty to what he loves is evident in every facet of his life.

Matt is athletic and also so competitive, and not just in sports. We keep records of who wins Ticket to Ride in the game box, and he likes to brag about his overall record.

In short, he’s the best guy, and I’m lucky I realized it 30 years ago and that he’s agreed to do life with me for the past 14. Happy birthday, husband. I’ll cue up the Frasier episode and have chocolate cake for you when you get home from your game.