packing {and unpacking} boxes

The past few weeks, my life has smelled like cardboard and permanent marker. My ears have filled with the loud riiiiip of packing tape, the crinkle of bubble wrap and paper. My hands have gotten so practiced at unfolding and putting together boxes that I could sleepwalk and wake up in the middle of the living room, cardboard box before me, assembled and waiting to be filled.

I don’t think of myself as much of a consumer. I don’t really enjoy shopping, either in physical stores or online, and I hate waste. I try to use up what I have before I buy a replacement. For Christmas and birthdays, Allyn and I like to give each other experience gifts rather than material items.

And yet… as we were packing our entire life together into boxes, we kept looking at each other and asking the same question: How do we have so much stuff??

Our river of possessions seemed never-ending. Right after we signed the lease on our new place and had set our moving date, I began to pack. I was excited about our move and wanted to get a jump on things. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I severely underestimated how much work — how many boxes — it would take to get us out of our apartment and into our house. I began with the bookshelf and linen closet, packing up items we wouldn’t need for a few weeks. After a couple days, I was floored at the number of boxes that were already piled up around our living room. And I hadn’t even finished clearing out the entire bookshelf yet! It looked as if I had hardly packed anything.

When you are packing up to move, an amazing thing happens. You are forced to sort through the cobwebbed corners of your life — your junk drawer, the back of your closet, under your bed. You rediscover things you had completely forgotten about. You find things you thought you had lost. {My lonely sock now has a pair! My favorite strapless bra is back in rotation!} You need to go through every single item in your life and evaluate: is this something I need? Is this something I use? Is this something that, as Marie Kondo writes in her lovely book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, sparks joy?

Ordinarily, it might be easy to lie to yourself. To say, “Oh yes, I use that thing. Or I might use it. One day. Sometime. Maybe.” And to put it back inside the junk drawer, wedge it back under the bed, to wait for some indeterminate future that probably will never come. But when you are packing up to move, the stakes are higher. Each item takes up space in a box that you will lug out of this life and into the next. It is much easier to be honest with yourself. It is much easier to let things go.

Allyn and I try to make it a habit to let go of things in our normal routine. We keep a “to donate” bag in our closet and every other month or so, we fill it up and take it to Goodwill. If you had asked me before we began packing, I would have told you that I didn’t really have any items that I didn’t love and use on a regular basis.

And yet. Somehow, in the process of packing, I managed to fill up three paper grocery bags with clothing I realized I hadn’t worn in ages and likely would not wear again, plus a dozen kitchen items that we hardly ever use and will not miss. There were at least two-dozen books from our bookshelf that found themselves inside the library’s donation bin rather than inside our moving boxes. And even more stuff got recycled or thrown away — random bits and bobs that we couldn’t remember the purpose of, expired bottles in our medicine cabinet, papers that I’d saved for no reason I could now discern.

Packing up all of these boxes made me think of the metaphorical boxes in our lives, the ones that live inside ourselves. The ones we have been filling up, quietly and steadily, throughout our entire lives. Boxes of memories and ideas. Boxes of priorities and dreams. Boxes and boxes of beliefs — about ourselves and about others, about what we can and cannot do, about what we are capable of and what we are made of, about what we love and hate and need and fear.

How often do we sift through these boxes? How often do we examine all the things we have packed away inside ourselves? How often do we unwrap each thought or memory or belief, hold it up to the light, and ask ourselves if it is still serving us? If we want to pack it back up and carry it with us? Or if perhaps it might be time to let it go?

For many of us, I think the answer is never. Or rarely. Or perhaps once or twice, a long time ago.

I think far too often, we hold all of these heavy boxes inside ourselves without even thinking about them. We don’t even remember what is inside of them. And yet, their contents impact our lives so deeply. We feel tired or bored or frustrated or angry. We feel like we’re not good enough or worry that we’re never going to “measure up” or compare ourselves to the highlight reels of others and feel discouraged. We look to the outside for answers when really the answers have been inside of us all along, sealed in bubble-wrap, nestled against our hearts.

We need to be very careful about what we pack into those boxes. We need to be vigilant about what we hold in our most vulnerable places.

I’ve realized that this process isn’t just something to be done when I’m moving. Both for my material possessions, and for my inner thoughts and beliefs, this needs to be something I do routinely. Look around at my surroundings, study the items on my shelves and in my cabinets, and ask myself,

Is this something so valuable to me that I would pack up into one of my boxes and schlep it with me into the future?

If no, then I need to let it go. Not tomorrow, or next week, or sometime in the indeterminate future. But right now. There is no reason to carry that extra weight for any longer than necessary.

I’ve noticed a crazy thing when I ask this question in regards to my internal boxes. When my answer is no, and I let go of something that is limiting me, then I immediately feel lighter. Which makes sense. When I let go of something, my box is less heavy. So I feel lighter. Just like real-life boxes.

However, when I answer this question with a resounding YES — yes, this belief or memory or idea or thought-pattern is serving me, is nurturing me, is helping me show up in this life as my best self — and I pack it back up into my heart space, something miraculous happens. Yes, I am filling up my internal boxes, but I do not feel heavier at all. I feel lighter.


Your turn {if you want}:

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer and use the following questions as jumping-off points for some free-writing:

  • When was the last time you moved? Were you surprised about anything you found when you were packing?
  • Unpack your heart space a little. What thoughts, beliefs, ideas do you find? Which ones are serving you? Which ones are not?
  • Looking around at your physical space, is there anything that does not “spark joy”? What do you think would happen if you let it go?

why I love meal-planning

Hello, lovely people! It is currently Sunday afternoon and it is raining, for which I am very grateful. {Even though the rain sometimes causes ant invasions in our apartment… stay away, ants!} We can use all the rain we can get. Also, there is something that feels especially cozy to me about rainy weekend days. I just want to listen to Jack Johnson and maybe some old school Maroon 5… Sunday Morning, anyone?

I forgot to mention earlier that last Sunday, I went to a baby shower for my cousin Sharon, who is due with a baby boy in June. So exciting! It was actually the first baby shower I have ever attended, and I thought the hosts were so thoughtful and creative with the way they put the event together. We decorated burp cloths with fun designs, played a game where the goal was not to say the word baby {I totally failed, haha!} and showered Sharon with adorable baby gifts, including some of the cutest onesies I have ever seen. Congrats, Sharon & Matt!

Typically Sundays are when I plan out the week ahead; I like to get a handle on things so I feel like I begin the week with a bang! Allyn and I talk about our schedules for the week and if we have any special events coming up on the calendar. Something else I like to do on Sundays is to jot down a quick dinner menu plan for the week using this handy-dandy whiteboard magnet calendar I picked up in the dollar-bin area at Target.

meal whiteboard

I never used to really do meal-planning, but I am a full-fledged convert now. I have been surprised at 1) how little time it takes and 2) what a big difference it makes in how prepared and productive I feel. Spending fifteen or twenty minutes looking through recipes and planning out dinners for the week saves me a LOT of time and mental space, because then I don’t really need to think about dinner at all for the rest of the week… I just follow what’s on the whiteboard, and we’re good to go!

Here are some things that have been helpful for me when it comes to meal-planning:

  • I look in our cupboards and fridge and see if there is anything that needs to be used up. For example, when Allyn and I make pasta for just the two of us, we usually only use half a jar of sauce. So I usually like to make some sort of pasta dish two weeks in a row to use up the rest of the pasta sauce. Other examples could be veggies, greens, or little leftover bits from our Blue Apron meals like seasonings or half a head of garlic. For some reason, it makes me ridiculously happy to use up leftover ingredients. Embrace the little things!
  • Putting special dinners on our meal plan calendar, like going to a restaurant in the city with friends or celebrating someone’s birthday, lets us look forward to these events all week long and makes them even more special. As Gretchen Rubin writes about, according to her research on happiness, anticipation plays a huge factor in enjoyment. 
  • Meal-planning gets me to actually try out new recipes that I tear out from magazines or dog-ear in my cookbooks. If left to my own devices, figuring out what to have for dinner the day of, I tend to fall back on my same tried-and-true recipes: vegetable soup, pasta with tomato sauce, chili and corn muffins, enchiladas with black beans. I love all of these recipes, and they are great to have in my arsenal as staples, but it is so easy to fall into a “cooking rut.” I get tired of always eating the same thing, yet never know what else to make. But with meal-planning, I look through my recipe folder and specifically decide in advance what I am going to cook on which days. {I think the key for me is in advance!} Every week, I cook one or two new-to-us recipes. It helps that Allyn is pretty much game to eat whatever I put in front of him, so even my less-successful cooking attempts have been sweetly consumed in our house. 🙂
  • Planning our meals also makes grocery shopping much simpler and much less wasteful. Allyn and I use the app Wunderlist to add items to our shared grocery list whenever we run out of something. When deciding on recipes to make, I immediately add to Wunderlist all the ingredients needed to make everything on our meal plan for the week; this ensures that I don’t forget that one crucial ingredient like lime juice or tumeric that I may not have in the pantry already. I’ve learned that trying out new recipes means branching out of your comfort zone, and sometimes venturing into new aisles of the grocery store you don’t usually visit! Plus, nothing derails my cooking juju more than realizing I forgot to get something on the recipe’s list of ingredients, and need to run out to the store. #letsjustorderpizzainstead
  • Meal-planning helps us prevent food waste, which isn’t just good for our wallets — it’s good for the planet. I was staggered to learn that throwing away a pound of chicken wastes 519 gallons of water! Ruth Mathews of the Water Footprint Network explains that when you throw away food, you are not just throwing away that food item, you are also throwing away all of the resources that went into producing that food item. Furthermore, tossing food into the trash means it will end up in a landfill, producing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. If meal-planning helps you eat everything in your fridge before it goes bad, you could be saving thousands of gallons of water every week — not to mention saving extra dollars in your wallet, too!
  • Something else I do that has become a little joke between me and Allyn is that if I am going to be gone for whatever reason and there are leftovers in the fridge I want Allyn to eat up, I write him out a little menu as a reminder. I purposely try to make the leftovers sound as fancy, gourmet and appealing as possible. For the parents out there, this might be an easy way to make leftovers more fun for picky-eating children!

allyn menu

In short, meal-planning makes cooking much simpler, less stressful, and more enjoyable for me. Now… I’m off to plan this week’s meals! 🙂 Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Questions for the day:

  • Do you plan out your meals every week?
  • What helps you cut down on food waste?
  • Any fun recipes to share?

recap of my clutter-busting summer!

Happy Friday, friends!

This summer — inspired by the Clutter-Busting Challenge hosted this past May by Crystal at Money-Saving Mom, and the amazing Victoria at Snail-Paced Transformations who is continuing to give away, get rid of, or sell 3 things from her home every week this year — I have been on a mission.

My goal: get things out of my house that I no longer need or use, and get them into the hands of people who do need or could use them.

It’s amazing how much STUFF we accumulate, right?? I am not even the biggest shopper, and still I am just floored by the amount of THINGS I manage to bring into my life and into my space. Books, clothes, magazines, papers, flyers, do-dads, mementos, knick-knacks … where do they even come from??

In regards to clutter, this summer has been a perfect storm of sorts. I moved back home into my childhood bedroom, which was still crammed with stuff from high school and from the year I lived at home after graduating college. Plus, I brought home boxes of new stuff I’d accumulated while living in Indiana.

I was determined to slowly sort through everything through the course of the summer and get rid of as much as possible before moving up the Bay Area to begin my Steinbeck Fellowship. Also, as longtime blog readers know, I really don’t like to waste things, not even uber-ribe bananas. So if an item was useful, I didn’t want to just throw it away — my goal was to repurpose or donate as many items as possible!

clutter busting

Three months later, I’m happy to report my room is much cleaner and less cluttered, and I’m feeling more energized as a result! Here is a list of all the things I got rid of this summer, including how I repurposed some items:

  • 3 boxes of books: donated to the local library and the Boys & Girls Club
  • approx. 40 back issues of various magazines: donated to local senior centers and hospitals {just make sure to tear off the address label and any other personal info before donating!}
  • 2 large bags of clothing, including my heavy winter coat and a bunch of scarves: donated to Goodwill
  • 3 lovely little girls dresses, still in great condition, from when I was a little girl: also donated to Goodwill
  • 4 pairs of shoes I never wear: donated to Goodwill
  • 2 large fleece Snuggies that were not being used: repurposed into two handmade no-sew baby blankets for two friends of mine who each welcomed beautiful babies into their families recently
  • 2 outgrown T-shirts: transformed into diy pillows
  • 10 small hotel shampoos and soaps: donated to a local homeless shelter
  • 1 no-longer-used cellphone: donated to a soldier through Cell Phones for Soldiers.
  • 3 large trash bags full of old papers no longer needed: recycled

WOO-HOO! It feels so wonderful to de-clutter! Not only did I physically get rid of a ton of items, I feel like the act of clearing and sorting and donating was emotionally cleansing as well.

mur sleepy

This task was an amazing reminder of what a difference you can make little by little, day by day … I never imagined at the beginning of the summer that I would be able to get rid of so much unnecessary stuff, but slowly and surely I did!

What goals have you been working on this summer? Any fellow clutter-busters out there? I’d love to hear your tips for STAYING de-cluttered — my next task! 🙂

some related posts you might enjoy:

cleaning out my closet clutter
tips for selling things on craigslist
year of kindness challenge: donating clothes
year of kindness challenge: donating books
year of kindness challenge: donating toiletries

clutter-busting challenge


Crystal at Money-Saving Mom is hosting a Clutter-Busting Challenge in which she is getting rid of {throwing away, selling or donating} at least 7 items for every single day of May. She is inspiring loads of others to do the same, including me! 

I already did a lot of clutter-busting last month when graduated from Purdue and moved from Indiana to California … the move was the fire-under-my-butt motivation to sort through my various papers, knick-knacks, books, clothes, kitchen supplies, etc. and decide what was worth taking with me. I ended up donating and selling everything except for the clothes, blankets, books, and important papers that fit within five suitcases and a few big shipping boxes. 

When I arrived home, I had another opportunity to clutter-bust: my bedroom at home {which my parents have been sweet enough to leave as-is during my time away… it hasn’t been converted to a home office, at least not yet!} There were books and papers and random STUFF that had accumulated during winter breaks and summers at home and that I hadn’t gone through in years. 

After a few days of sorting, I am proud to share with you the big pile of stuff that I am getting rid of! 

clutter busting

I took the clothes/shoes/purses to Goodwill and donated the books to my local library. Not only does it feel good to purge your life of unnecessary items, I also love imagining the person who will enjoy each item in its next life! 

Are any of you doing spring/early summer cleaning and organizing? I’d love to hear your success stories and tips!

You can follow along the entire Clutter-Busting series at Money-Saving Mom here:

organizing your car’s glove box

Happy Friday, everyone! I have a quick and easy organizational project for you today!

ezzie glove box

Remember a few months ago, when I posted about making the most of long car rides? I mentioned how I like to bring small projects I can do in the car, like knitting or bill-paying or even cleaning up the clutter that’s accumulated in the car.

Well, during one car ride I brought a small accordian file folder {from the $1 section of Target — I’ve used similar folders to organize my stationary and take-out menus!} and I organized the glove box while I sat in the passenger seat. Now all the important auto-related documents are together and accessible in one easy-to-find place!

glove box organizer

All you need for this project is some sort of small file folder and a pen to label each section. I made sections for important documents like the car registration and insurance, instruction manual, receipts from maintenance, etc. I also included a map of the area and a notepad and pen.

When I was done fitting the documents inside, the file folder closed up and fit perfectly in my glove box. Hooray!

Now I feel better than ever hitting the road, knowing that I have all my car-related documents in one easy-to-find place! This is a great example of a simple, quick, inexpensive organization project that makes your life easier and less stressful.

Have a super weekend, everyone! And if you have a moment, send up a prayer for all of those in my hometown area who are being affected by a raging wildfire, including the heroic firefighters who are battling the blazes.

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: organizing recipes


With so many great recipes out there — magazines, blogs, and don’t even get me started on Pinterest! — my recipe folder was getting a little out of control. Let’s be honest, it was pretty much a disorganized pile of recipes I’d printed or  torn out of magazines, shoved into a two-pocket folder, and then forgot about because sifting through the pile was too intimidating.

No longer! I finally got my recipes organized. There are many different systems that people use successfully, but mine was inspired by this pretty box:

recipe box

It originally held greeting cards, but I glued on a new label and ta da! Now it holds recipes!

It is a mini version of a file box. All I had to do was determine how I wanted to divide up my recipes, and then make labels accordingly. Here are the labels I ended up with:

  • Meal planning
  • Breakfast
  • Appetizers
  • Salads
  • Soup & chili
  • Side dishes
  • Pizza
  • Mexican recipes
  • Asian recipes
  • Italian recipes
  • Seafood
  • Meat & poultry
  • Cookies
  • Other desserts
  • Gift ideas {for food-related gift recipes}

I wrote the labels out on small pieces of paper and then paper-clipped them to the dividing tabs … I think the paper clips add a nice pop of color, and I also like that I can easily swap out the labels if I want to, allowing this organization system to grow and change along with me and my recipe stash!

recipe labels

I feel so much more excited to cook and try out all these new recipes! And my organization system is easy to add to with any new dishes I come across. This system is pairing well with my meal-planning whiteboard. My next goal: Sunday food prep! {Inspired by Lindsay @The Lean Green Bean.}

Here are a few other great posts about meal planning and recipe organization:

How do you organize and keep up with your recipes?

simple coupon storage solution

I’ve been trying for a while to find an effective way to deal with my coupons. I love using coupons because I love feeling like I’m getting a good deal, but I also don’t want to spend much time or energy combing through the internet and newspaper/magazine ads to find coupons. Maybe someday when I have more mouths to feed and more groceries to buy I’ll become a coupon queen, but right now at this point in my life I am more of a haphazard catch-the-coupons-that-come-my-way type of gal.

There are a lot of great blogs with wonderful ideas for organizing coupons — binders, folders, accordian files, you name it. I tried to organize my coupons in a little accordian file from Target for a while {you know the kind — my fave $1 file folder I’ve also used to organize my stationary, take-out menus, and important car papers!} but the accordian file was a little too bulky to keep in my purse or backpack all the time, and I found myself forgetting what coupons I had and consequently forgetting to use them before they expired.

Here is a solution that works for me: a simple coupon envelope! If you’re someone like me who doesn’t have too many coupons to keep track of, this might be a simple fix that works for you, too.

This was a super-easy organization project. You know how sometimes stationary sets come with an extra envelope? {For example, a set of 10 cards and 11 envelopes?} I found an extra red envelope in my stationary folder and decorated the outside with a quick handmade label. All I used was some left-over scratch paper and crayola markers, and I attached the label to the front of the envelope with clear tape.

Then, I gathered up my coupons from their various pockets and corners and scattered places around my apartment and slipped them into the envelope. I organized them by expiration date {closest to expire at the front; furthest at the back.} That way, before I go to the store, I can flip through the coupons at the front and make sure I don’t miss any upcoming expiration dates.

I’m really loving the envelope because I can easily slip it into my purse or bag right beside my wallet. And the bright red color catches my attention as I’m grabbing my reusable grocery bags so I will never again forget to bring my coupons along with me!

I’ve had this system in place for a couple weeks now and it’s really working for me & Mike. Maybe it will work for you, too!

Do you use coupons? How do you organize and keep track of them? I’d love to hear any tips or strategies that work for you!

Happy Wednesday,


– Cost: $0
– Time spent: 10 minutes

marvelous monday: making the most of long car rides

Hi everyone! Hope you had a nice weekend! As I mentioned on Saturday, Mike and I spent the weekend visiting his family, who live in the Chicago suburbs, about a 2.5 hour drive away from us. I miss my family — it is difficult living so far away from them! — but Mike’s family is warm and welcoming and I always love seeing them.

It was a fun weekend! Home cooking, lots of laughter and long conversation, and a visit to the pumpkin patch! Yesterday was a beautiful autumn day in Illinois and we took advantage of it!

If there is one thing I dislike about visiting Mike’s family, it is the long car ride there and back … I am not the biggest car person and five hours in two days feels long to me! I get carsick easily and can’t read or write in the car. I am someone who hates feeling unproductive and I get antsy sitting still in a confined space for so long. But it is obviously worth the drive to get to see Mike’s family, and also I’ve found that by shifting my mindset and implementing some easy car-ride strategies, it has actually become time I look forward to and enjoy! Here are some tips that work for me that I’m hoping might make your next long car ride or even your daily commute more enjoyable:

  • If you have company, savor it! Take the opportunity to have some nice uninterrupted conversations. I love the long, wandering conversations Mike and I have during our car trips together — serious, silly, deep, insightful. It’s quality time we get to spend together, just the two of us, talking. It reminds me of when we first started dating and spent so much time talking-talking-talking, soaking up each other’s stories.
  • Driving solo? Why not take the time to call up a friend or family member for a catch-up chat? {Of course, make sure to use a hands-free headset and drive safe!}
  • Listen to a comedy album. My current fave: the insanely witty Demetri Martin! {You can check out his new album here.} The drive goes by so fast when you are cracking up the whole way there!
  • Listen to an audiobook. I got this idea from my dad, who often runs to audiobooks. {He’s made his way through quite some impressive tomes this way, such as East of Eden and Huckleberry Finn!} is a great resource for downloading audiobooks. Or go the free route and check out CDs from the library! When I drove cross-country with my mom to move from California to Indiana for grad school, this is what we did. The CDs are admittedly a little clunkier than your iPod, but they still do the trick.
  • Scan the radio for new-to-you stations. Mike and I found a station that plays Irish-inspired music, which we both love. It felt like a special treat to listen to songs we’d never heard before, and I was scribbling artists’ names down in my notebook to look up later.
  • If you’re not the one driving, spend a little time being productive: pick up any trash that’s found its way onto the floor or between the seats, write checks to pay some bills, etc. One car trip, I organized Mike’s glove box. {Which I will share in a later post!}
  • Do something crafty. I have found long car rides to be an ideal time to knit! I am halfway through a new scarf for Mike right now, thanks to car-ride knitting time.
  • Gaze out the window and daydream. Sometimes we all need some time to reflect and let our minds wander. Tap into your imagination and see where your thoughts take you!

Anyone else have any tips to share? How do you make the most of long car rides or daily commute time?

Have a marvelous week!
-Dallas 🙂

school paper organization

Happy Wednesday! Hope you’re having a great week! It’s been sunny and gorgeous here. I have been eating lunch outside whenever possible. There’s a grassy quad outside of Heavilon Hall, the main academic building for the English department where I spend most of my time, and it’s so nice to sit under the trees, soaking up the warm sunshine. Hard to believe it will all be covered in snow in a few months! As a California transplant, that is one thing I still can’t get used to — the extreme change in seasons. When it’s summer, I can’t imagine it ever getting cold. When it’s winter, it seems like summer will never come again!

{Or maybe I just need to stop being so dramatic…} 😉

At the beginning of a new school year, I always start off with such great organization intentions. I’ll buy a new binder or notebook. I’ll print out my schedule of where I need to be and when. I’ll redouble my efforts to keep a daily planner. {Something I tend to be good at for a while, and then forget to write things down for a few weeks and get off-routine. Does that happen to any of you guys?}

Organization is certainly important to being a successful student, and it has become extra-important for me since I’ve started teaching. I want to model good organization habits for my students. In previous years I’ve never been supremely disorganized — in fact, from the outside, it probably looks like I have everything together pretty well. {At least, I hope my students think so!} But it’s been something I’ve wanted to get an even better handle on. I hate carting around old papers I no longer need. I hate having to rifle through papers to find a handout for a student who was absent. I hate that sinking-stomach feeling when I realized I didn’t make copies of an assignment sheet I’d been planning to go over in class that day. Etc, etc, etc …

In previous semesters teaching, I tried to use a 3-ring binder to organize everything. It worked pretty well, but was a little bulky and cumbersome to carry around, and the cover started to fall off after about a year. It could also be a little tedious to have to 3-hole punch all my papers, and as the semester progressed I would always accumulate a pile of papers hanging out in the front pocket that I hadn’t gotten around to 3-hole punching and organizing into the proper divider.

This year, I decided to try a slightly new tactic and use an accordian file folder instead of a binder to organize my teaching papers:

I found this one in the $1 section of Target. Look familiar? Yep, it’s the same style I used to organize my stationary stash, only this one is clear instead of blue. I like that it’s made of a durable-feeling plastic, has an easy-to-use elastic clasp, and folds up pretty narrowly to easily slide into my bookbag.

I am teaching two classes this semester, Freshman Composition and Professional Writing. Most of the assignments and grading for Professional Writing are done online through a course website, so I only needed to use one section of the accordian folder for that course. I put that section in the back since I teach Professional Writing directly after I teach Freshman Composition. The rest of the file folder I used for my Freshman Composition course. I organized my papers as follows:

– First section: Attendance sheet, class calendar, and handouts for the day.

– Second section: Copies for the upcoming week.

– Third section: Papers to pass back.

– Fourth section: Papers to grade.

– Fifth section: Professional Writing.

This new system is working really well for me so far! It’s forced me to purge all my unnecessary & old papers, stay organized week-by-week, and keep everything in one place. And it’s easy to carry around with me, allowing me to get a lot of grading and responding to student work done in small snippets of time throughout the day. I find it a lot less overwhelming to grade in little-by-little chunks instead of in one big block of time on the weekend.

How are you getting organized this school year? What helps you stick with an organization system? I’d love to hear your tips for organizing the tons of papers that inevitably pile up during the school year!



-Time spent: 15 minutes
-Cost: $1

meal planning whiteboard

Happy Friday, everyone! I must admit I am really feeling the TGIF vibe today. I love teaching, but the first week back at school always seems so loooong … I think because everything is new, I’m learning all my students’ names, figuring out my new schedule, etc. I’m looking forward to a weekend of recharging my batteries and getting ahead for the upcoming week!

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten really into reading different organization and recipe blogs {you can find links some of my favorites here.} Something I’ve seen recommended again and again is using meal-planning to get organized, save time, and save money. For as much as I like to cook, I’ve never been a weekly meal-planner. I’m the type of person who decides what to make for dinner that morning, at lunch, or even sometimes when staring into my half-empty fridge, stomach rumbling, trying to figure out what I can throw together quickly for a meal.

And you know what? It can be stressful! One of my least favorite things is heading home after a long day with no idea of what to do for dinner. Those are the days I will end up grabbing food out somewhere. I do enjoy eating out in restaurants, but I like it best when it’s something planned in advance, something I can look forward to all day — it feels more special that way.

Which all goes to say, I’ve been thinking about implementing a meal-planning schedule into our routine for a while. This week, with the beginning of a busy new school year, I finally did something about it!

I went to Target yesterday and in the back-to-school aisle I found this adorable whiteboard with a blue frame and attached pen — plus, it had a magnet on the back. Just what I needed! Best part of all: I snagged it for only $3.00.

All I had to do was take it out of the packaging, slap it up on the fridge, and write out my planned menu for the week. On Tuesday Mike and I are planning to go to Outback Steakhouse for dinner to use a gift certificate we have, and on Friday I’m getting together with my friends Xun and Hai for dinner.

I chose to place the whiteboard on the side of the fridge where I’ll see it every time I walk into the kitchen. I hung it right above a monthly calendar/newsletter I get from the apartment complex. It’s my new “information station”!

It makes me feel so great to have the week sketched out like this — no more stress wondering what to have for dinner! And I think planning out the week this way will help save money {and last-minute grocery trips to get that one ingredient I don’t have…}

Do you use weekly meal-planning? I’d love to hear any of your tips!


Time spent: 5 minutes
Cost: $3.00