I Have HUGE News!

I’ve been hiding away, I know. But I’ve been working on something I’ve been very excited to tell you about:

I’m launching a new site — a business, to be exact! It’s called The Monarch Company. I will still be blogging, of course, although, I’m a little sad to say, no longer here at Swell Easy Living. However, I am absolutely giddy about the new venture, and I invite you to come along for the ride! The new site is under construction, but feel free to poke around. I will let you know when the site is closer to complete.

Over the past several years, I’ve known that I wanted to help people, but I wasn’t sure how or what I had to offer. After reading copious amounts of books in the fields of neuroscience, psychology and self-help and doing some training, I made some realizations:

1. I was living the dream, checking off boxes as I went: college degree, high-paying media job, marriage, kids…what was next, retirement and death? I knew there was “something else” out there for me…I wasn’t in tune with my own inner-most desires, what would actually make me feel happy and satisfied in life.

2. After a lot of research and work, I learned how to shed a ton of limiting beliefs, how to squish my inner critic,and how discover and pursue my real dreams and a lifestyle that fires me up.

3. There are tons of people who were living the same way, never finding what the something else was. Now it’s my mission and duty to help others learn some of the tools that help me every day. The new business is centered around classes and events, both online and off. And of course, there will also be old-fashioned (free) articles.

I hope that you’d come check out the new site to sign up for the newsletter (right-hand side) so you can stay updated. Also, please follow me on my new Facebook page, and via my new Twitter handle.

Wishing you peace, love and fulfillment,

Katie Morton

Why Making Your Bed Every Day Can Be a Waste of Time

Don’t make that face or it will freeze that way. If you touch yourself, you’ll grow hair on your palms. That old tin can on the counter labeled “pineapple juice” actually contains the grease from the roast. (Sadly for me, it turns out the last one was true.)

When we’re kids, we’re told all sorts of things to keep us in line. When we become adults, we hang onto some of these mental artifacts and feel guilty or slightly “off” when we don’t do things our mother’s way. There are times when our mother’s way feels right, and there are times when we need to forge our own path, sans guilt.

How You Spend the Moments Is How You Spend Your Life

Let’s say it takes you one minute to make your bed every morning. That translates to more than 6 hours per year used on bed making. If you live until you’re 80 years old, that’s two or three weeks of your life spent on straightening and fluffing sheets and pillows.

I don’t know about you, but if I were on my deathbed and somebody handed me the gift of a sprightly three additional weeks to live (preferably in Hawaii), then I’d take it.

Sometimes Mom Is Right

When you live in a bedroom with all the size and charm of a meat locker in New York City, your bed equals your living space. An unmade bed is essentially your home, and that can feel yucky and chaotic. I was beyond thrilled to have a made bed when I lived that way, so my motivation was high to keep up the habit. There are times in your life that having a made bed enhances the quality of your experience, so that single minute each day is time well spent.

Some people just looooove themselves the sight of a neat and straightened bed. There have been times that I’ve gotten all googly-eyed over my pristine bedroom and I just want to sit and stare at the sexy serenity. This is all about swell easy living after all, and if a made bed feel so good – while a messy bed appears so dreadful – then do it! Make the bed! Drink in the view and feel superior to all the non-bed-makers out there. You deserve it.

Sometimes Mom Only Thinks She’s Right

If you find yourself, day after day, admonishing yourself for the unmade bed but you aren’t motivated to change it, then I absolve you. You have my permission to throw off the yoke of your guilt and skip happily through the tulips. Rest easy knowing that you’ll simply unmake your bed at the end of the day anyway, so you don’t need to bother. Feel superior to all those suckers out there wasting their lives feeling smug over their made beds. You deserve it.

Now that I don’t lay eyes on my bed until I’m tearing off the covers to climb in at night, I’ll save myself that one minute per day, thank-you-very-much. These days, with a one-year-old underfoot and career strides in sight, each minute is priceless and my priorities are a little different. And so I’ve chosen to bump bed-making off my list.

Listen to Your Mother (Sometimes)

I promise you won’t grow hair on your palms. Your face might actually freeze that way, in which case I hear Botox is an option. There is one thing I know for sure: you shouldn’t snatch that tin can off the kitchen counter because you want pineapple juice when your mother warned you not to drink the fat.

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How Ditching Technology Helped Me Get Things Done

I’m now blogging for TLC’s Parentables! I will blog the post introductions here at swell easy living so you can keep updated on new content as it becomes available. Just click through to read the full post on parentables.

When I had my baby and went on maternity leave, my new existence initially felt off-kilter, like I was missing a limb. For my whole adult life, I’d sat at a desk with a keyboard and a monitor for a minimum of five days a week in the fluorescent-lit offices of large, brand name global corporations. I struck big deals with slick negotiations, I managed global technical and editorial teams and I orchestrated some fairly complicated operations in my day. I was like, kind of a big deal, I thought.

I felt lucky to be employed in such a comfortable way, and I didn’t understand how anyone could be satisfied differently. Oddly, the one thing of my old life I’d missed while on maternity leave was the familiar stance of sitting in front of a computer all day.

I anticipated my return to work as if it would solve everything and life would return to normal. The house would be neat and I would be well-rested and everything and everyone would be back on schedule, tucked neatly within the realm of calendars and obligations.

It would just have to work out that way for me, because women work and they have babies, and they have to function in an orderly manner, right? Isn’t that the way working moms exist, comfortably on schedule, well-organized, methodical and tidy and relaxed and happy?

Ha ha ha. I know. That whole charade. I’d like to know who started that rumor. It’s something, isn’t it?

And then, less than a month after I returned to work from maternity leave, I was laid off.

Life Is Messy :: keep reading …

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4 Steps to an Organized Closet

This week Project Simplify became more like Project Complicate, from where I’m standing. It’s close to impossible to get anything done when you’ve got a baby with a severe cold and cough on your hands. Sleep was scant this week for everybody. Plus Alex wants to be held during the day, and I couldn’t blame her.

So here we are a few days late, but I persevered and got the closet done. Luckily, I worked hard to declutter and organize my closet when I was pregnant, so I didn’t have much to get rid of. I’m still in a limbo state, as I’m nursing and a tad chub-ified, so a lot of what I own doesn’t fit yet.

Without further ado:

4 Steps to an Organized Closet

After you’ve envisioned your perfect closet, and after you’ve decluttered the clothes you don’t want, follow these steps to organize your closet:

  1. Try on all the rest of your clothes — no cheating. I really mean all of them.
  2. Choose clothes to donate or toss. Set aside anything that doesn’t fit well, that isn’t the right color on you, or that’s seen better days. Even if you’ve already decluttered, trying on all your remaining clothes will alert you to the need for some further closet editing. Reread this post for tips on how to let go of your mediocre clothes: Make Closet Organization Easy: Declutter Your Closet First.
  3. Hang, fold, and put away the clothes you know you’re keeping. Order them the way you choose your outfits, whether that’s by color, item or season. In my after photos, you might notice that I have fall / winter clothes on the right, spring / summer clothes on the left.  Then I organize by type: tops, dresses, jackets, etc.
  4. Tackle your shoes, jewelry, and other accessories.

I got quite a few things out of this exercise, especially by adhering to the “try everything on” rule:

  • Organizing my closet at the start of the spring & summer season alerted me to all the cute outfits I already have, which will curb unnecessary shopping. I’m actually super excited to wear my warm weather clothing, when before I simply assumed I was too fat for everything. That brings me to my next point…
  • There were a number of items that surprised me in that they fit and flattered me. I had figured that because I am slightly porky that “nothing fits” but I was very wrong about that.
  • There were other items that I assumed did fit, but actually looked tight and ill-fitting. So the rule to try everything on was a useful task. It was also an emotional roller coaster ride. In the spirit of the rule, I gleefully pulled a size 0 dress over my head, only to have my heart leap at the resulting vision of getting stuck in the dress with my arms over my head. The panic caused me to reverse operation and yank the dress off in a hurry. Good times.
  • I found that only taking a few items out of the closet at a time was a great way to work. That way when the baby needed me, I could abandon ship and not stress that I was leaving a massive mess behind.

And now for the before and after photos! Click on each image for an enlarged view.

The left hand side is before:                                                      The right hand side is after:

(That’s my husband’s jersey on my side of the closet.)

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What’s Happening at Chez Morton; Plus, Project Simplify

Let’s see, what’s new here…

  • We’re getting more sleep. Mostly.
  • Alex is eating some solid foods. Sort of.
  • I will soon begin mommy blogging for TLC, so more details to come there when the site launches.
  • I’m going full throttle on the job hunt. Does anyone require the services of a digital media maven? I’m for rent.
  • Tying a balloon to a baby’s ankle is good fun.

What else… ah yes, Project Simplify. The time is now. Let’s do this, people! This week, we’re working on our closets! Each Monday for five weeks, Simple Mom will post a hot spot, and then we all (that means you) get cracking towards decluttering and organizing the spot, all with delicious before-and-after photo-ey goodness.

My plan is to post my shots this Friday. I know that the before shots of my closet are going to be worth seeing, because my closet is currently totally atrocious, so if you’re looking to feel better about yourself, come on by to see my ‘before’ train wreck, and hopefully I will redeem myself with some beauteous after photos.

How to Avoid Getting Fat and Wasting Money With Weekly Dinner Menu Planning

This Sunday before I went grocery shopping, I peeked into the fridge to see what I needed to add to my shopping list. Much to my annoyance, I wound up throwing away a rotting five-pound bag of lettuce and last week’s splurge of some pricey stuffed pork chops from the butcher. I also had to freeze chicken breasts that I was convinced would next see the light of day once they were good and frostbitten and on their way to the trash.

Dinner Blundering: A Big Fat Waste of Money
So what the heck did we eat instead last week? Impulsive choices of pizza and pasta on nights we simply didn’t feel like cooking, or didn’t feel like eating something healthier. These reckless decisions weren’t the greatest for my waistline or my rear, and I’d rather not head into the holiday season facing a losing battle on the diet front.

We had selective memory when it came to our dinner plans, even though I had the best intentions when I grocery shopped. Aside from the fact that this scenario is fattening, it’s not an option for us financially to toss food in the trash while we spend money on takeout.

I hate to admit it, but while this week’s dinner blundering is an extreme example, it’s not the first time something like this has happened. And I’ve spun my wheels when it comes to solving the problem.

The Solution Search
Time and again, I’ve researched different meal planning tools that are already out there.  Unclutterer has a nice, clean chart you can download.

In fact, if you search Google Images for meal planner, you will see a glorious sea of creative ways of laying out your meals for the week.

But for all my searching and fiddling, I’ve never been able to settle on a solution that would actually work for us. Without x-ray vision into the depths of the meat drawer combined with photographic memory, I’ve been at a loss.

My Own Dinner Planning Chart: Download the dinner planner as an Excel spreadsheet template
So today I decided to create my own dinner menu planner that I can display in plain view so we’ll never again have to wonder, “What’s for dinner?”

Now, I don’t know if this sort of thing is widely useful. However, for the first time in my color-coded chart-making history, my husband didn’t imply that this chart was my wacky OCD shining through, and in fact, he said it seems like it’s going to help us with easy planning and follow through.

I put the menu planner in a plastic sheet protector that I can write on with a dry-erase marker. If I don’t need to print out a new planner each week, I’m way more likely to use it to write down our menu and follow it.

Let’s take a tour, shall we?

Theme Nights
I broke the days of the week into themes. Beneath each day and corresponding theme, I put a list of dinner ideas so that when we’re choosing meals in the planning stages, we don’t have to think too hard to come up with something.

This planner serves as guidance, but we’re allowed to veer from the themes. You can see that this week I put “fajitas” on Tuesday, which will usually be our Asian-themed night. The key is following what I write in the blanks, since that’s what came home from the grocery store.

The themes are as follows:

Sunday: Big Batch or Traditional. We’re talking meals like stews or roasts, since those tend to take more time than we’re willing to spare on a weeknight.

Monday: Leftovers from Sunday night’s big batch, or if there are no leftovers, then we’ll wing it. Winging it basically means we’ll forage in the pantry or freezer. This can mean eggs and waffles, chicken patties, grilled cheese and tomato soup – whatever sounds good.

The themes for the other nights of the week are ethnic in nature for variety.

Tuesday: Asian. This means quick, few-ingredient dishes like chicken stir fries with veggies.

Wednesday: Mexican. Again we’re looking at fast and easy fare such as tacos or quesadillas.

Thursday: Italian. Thursday is one of the toughest nights of the week to hold the course on planned meals, since we’re getting tired from the work week by then. Seeing as pizza and pasta are our weaknesses, I might as well purposely designate that day for it. We have a delicious pizza recipe we rely on now that saves us both calories and money.

Friday: Comfort Food. I’m thinking hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, BBQ and the like.

Saturday: Fish or a New Recipe. If I hit the store Saturday we’ll be eating fresh fresh. Or we can try a new recipe that night, since I’ll have the time and energy to create something new.

Keep it Simple
If I make a dinner planner full of elaborate weeknight meals, then the task of making dinner would either consume me or I’m likely to abandon the planner altogether. So instead I made this planner with the attitude that I’m still a working mom.

I’ve made the planning such that I won’t have to change course once I do get a job, and so that currently I’m still free to pursue job leads, blog and take good care of Alex.

In Plain Sight
I placed the planner in a prominent place on the wall next to my desk so that I can always see what’s for dinner that day. Just now, I took that chicken out of the freezer for tomorrow’s fajitas! You have no idea what a victory that is. The effort of using my planner is already paying off.

Download the dinner planner as an Excel spreadsheet template

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Make Closet Organization Easy: Declutter Your Closet First

Remember how I was going to organize my closet because we have a painter coming? [And also a baby is coming in 6 weeks, and it's about darn time I started nesting!] Well, we got bumped ahead on the painter’s schedule, and so this week I had to jump to it and get on the job in earnest.

I had been on the fence about organizing my closet little by little, or by yanking everything out at once. In my delicate condition, it was easier for me to do it both ways:

  • The first step for me is to shop the rack and cull items I want to get rid of, without yanking everything out. That’s what this post is about.
  • The next step (for the next post) is to pull out what’s left so I can organize it by season and by item.

Use a Time Limit on the Declutter Job
I took a timer and set it for 15 minutes so that I could complete the declutter part of the job in increments. It only took me two 15-minute sessions on different days to edit my closet, which was totally doable, even though I’m tired, slow and easily distracted these days.

Using a timer will help you move a little faster, and it will prevent the job from becoming huge and highly unpleasant. You will be surprised at how many items you’ll be able to survey and dump or keep in 15 minutes. And if you’re having fun after the 15 minutes is up, then keep going.

Getting Started: Closet Editing Basics
If you weed everything out of the closet that no longer belongs there, then there are simply fewer items to contend with when we hit the organizing phase.

Have a box, bag or laundry basket on hand you can toss items into. When your vessel is full, put the clothes in your car so that you get them out of the house and one step closer to the donation box.

Your first step to organizing your closet is to declutter.
The more rigorous you are with your closet editing, the easier it will be to get dressed in the mornings. Having fewer choices in our closet is an underrated blessing. Owning just a few outfits that are flattering and comfortable will beat a whole closet full of grimace-inducing options every day of the week.

Pull out the items that:
a) don’t fit or are uncomfortable.

b) are out of style, stained, worn out, ratty, or need repairs.

c) you fondle yet cringe instead of wearing, no matter what the reason. If that’s the dress you wore when Jimmy dumped you, I don’t care how fabulous it makes you look. If seeing it makes you feel bad, then get it out of the house.

d) don’t represent the person you want to showcase to the world.

Don’t Keep Stuff That Makes You Feel Bad
A note about letter ‘c’ – if a piece of stuff makes you feel bad in any way, then it doesn’t deserve room in your home.

Sometimes we have negative associations with an item. Maybe we wore it to a funeral, it’s what we had on when we got mugged or received a piece of very bad news, or we were wearing it when we got into a nasty fight with a loved one. If you see that item and it triggers a bad memory, then please get it out of your house.

Or maybe it’s not that obvious. A piece or pieces could represent a not-so-great time in your life for any reason. You may not have a particular memory associated with a garment, but you might look at it and feel a wave of guilt, loneliness or sadness.

Perhaps an item was a gift, and you feel guilty that you don’t appreciate and wear it. Remember that it’s only stuff, and that you appreciate the sentiment that the gift represents. I’m sure the giver didn’t mean to torture you with it, so stop torturing yourself, and let it go!

Life is too short to keep material belongings that don’t make us feel good. What will make you feel good is freeing up those items to go to a good home where they will be loved, used and appreciated.

Only Keep Things That Make You Feel Good
On that note, let’s talk about letter ‘d’. If you feel less-than-great and you don’t feel as if you’re putting your best foot forward in that garment, then ditch it. It doesn’t matter what the occasion – there are t-shirts you might wear to the grocery store or the gym; some t-shirts make you feel cute and fabulous, and some make you run down the soup aisle in hopes you don’t see anyone you know. If you don’t want to be seen it, then why the heck do you wear it?

The funny thing is that sometimes the outfits that make us look the best are the ones that we wear the least. Maybe we’re saving them for a special occasion or we think wearing a certain flashy piece calls attention to ourselves. Give yourself that gift. If you look great in it, wear it!

Hiding or saving a special outfit robs you of enjoyment. Are you afraid people will notice you wear it too much? They won’t. It’s okay to have a small, but fabulous wardrobe. Why bother keeping acres of clothes when just a handful of well-made pieces that make you feel beautiful will do.  So wear those fabulous pieces out now and get a lot of use out of them.

Otherwise, it’s the equivalent of keeping a museum-like “sitting room” so that only company can use it. Take the proverbial plastic off your sofa, and use the nice items while you’re alive to enjoy them.

This isn’t your last chance to look good – there will be other outfits that make you feel great after you wear this one to death. So stop saving it, and wear it. And get rid of all those second-rate items that you’re wearing instead of the ones you should be wearing.

Ditch the Mediocre
This is probably the hardest category to weed out, because it could go either way. There’s no breeze blowing your meter towards keep or dump. So how do you know when a mediocre item needs to go? When you know you need to make room, you know you have too many clothes, and you look at a piece that makes you shrug when you see it and go, “Eh.”

When you’ve got too much stuff, then your reaction to an item doesn’t need to be a dramatic “love” or “hate” when choosing to keep it or dump it. Something is mediocre if you feel vaguely shlubby or just okay when you wear that item, but you keep it around because you can’t find anything particularly wrong with it.

Get rid of anything that makes your boobs look saggy or your butt look big or that doesn’t flatter your thighs or your middle. Maybe the color is better suited for The Grinch or the bedazzling makes you feel like a Florida grandma at the dog races. (Apologies to dog-race attending Florida grandmas.) If you don’t feel good in it, for the love, toss it or give it away.

Don’t be mean to yourself, and don’t over think it. If you don’t feel great in it, or you do feel at all unappetizing when you wear it, then kiss it good bye. If you’re not sure, get rid of it. Someone else will appreciate having it once you donate it.

Onwards and Upwards
Once you get rid of the mediocre stuff, the stuff that makes you feel bad, and the stuff that doesn’t make you feel great, then you give yourself the time, space and the room to wear and appreciate those items that you really do love. Stop saving the good stuff for a rainy day and start wearing it!

Next we’ll talk about organizing what’s left in our closets, and I will have some groovy “after” photos to show off: Four Steps to an Organized Closet: Before and After Photos