Saturday, July 18, 2015

What's next?

You know how normally life just gets into a routine and whole days and weeks—maybe even months—can pass by without you really noticing?

Today was not one of those routine days. In fact, none of the past few days have been routine.

So far in the past week I have:

1. Quit my job.
2. Accepted a new job.
3. Told my landlord I'm moving.
4. Found a new place to live.
5. Sold my car.
6. Had a few major freakouts, but on the whole I'm doing okay.

I'm sure some of you will want more detailed explanations of the above numbers, but if you're not one of those people, you're fine to just stop reading now. No worries. I still love you for making it this far.

Except wait, before you go, I want to show you this clip from The West Wing. It's my all-time favorite show and it's the reason I titled this post the way I did. This particular clip is nothing special, but "What's next?" is a running thing in the show and in times of stress I tend to fall back on the familiar—in this case Josh and Toby and Sam and Donna and Charlie and C.J. and Leo and President Bartlett.

Okay, the not-as-interested people can stop now.

For the rest of you, I realize that I might not be the (fictional) president, but I think I'm ready to move on to other things in my life. Sad as that makes me. I need to keep moving or I'll fall behind. The fact is, I've only got one life and probably about six different lifetimes' worth of dreams and goals and ambitions.

So, that brings us back to . . .

1. I quit my job.

I have LOVED working at Cedar Fort. I started there as an intern when I was in my last year of college. It was 2008. (I'm so old!) Then a few months later as I was graduating, they hired me to be a book editor. I had so much fun editing books. Those were the good old days. But eventually I felt the need to move on. So in 2011, I quit and went to live in California, but I still worked for Cedar Fort for another six months as a copywriter. That was fun too. I love writing cover blurbs and ad copy. In 2014, I came back to be the production manager, and honestly, I think this has been my favorite job there. I've learned a TON and I've had a blast helping to keep us all on schedule and figure out the logistics. It's been great to feel like I'm contributing. Plus I have an awesome team that reports to me. I'm really, really, really going to miss them. But yes, I quit. My last day will be July 31st.

Because . . . 

2. I accepted a new job.

Beginning August 3rd, I'll be working as an assessment editor at Western Governor's University in Salt Lake City. I'm really excited about this! When she heard about it, one of my current coworkers told me I was moving up in the world. Which is literally true. Instead of working on the second floor of an office building, I'll now be working on the ninth floor. :) 

Seriously though, I am excited. I need a new challenge and I know that this position will be both a natural extension of what I've been doing and a chance to flex my skills in a whole new way. Plus I'm planning to take advantage of their employee discount on tuition to go back to school. This is something I've been considering for years, but the timing never seemed right. It's so cool how Heavenly Father arranges things in my life for the best. I need to trust Him more. (Mental note: remember this the next time you start freaking out about something. So, like, in about twenty minutes.)

3.  Told my landlord I'm moving.

I'm so, so sad about leaving the Hidey Hole. It's been a great little first apartment for me and I feel like I've grown up a ton in the year that I've lived here. In case you haven't been following along on the blog, since moving in here I have: 
- gone through the entire tidying process
- become a lot better at running
- lost some weight, gained some back, but overall come out of it healthier than I was
- written 2.75 books (Tiny Talks vol. 15; 1, 2, 3 with Nephi and Me!; and the second Jane Journals book which is currently untitled but only about 8,000 words away from being completely done. Hallelujah.)
- published 3 books (Tiny Talks vol. 15; Liam Darcy, I Loathe You; and 1, 2, 3 with Nephi and Me!)
- attempted Tiny Living (by confining myself to less than 500 square feet.
- made some awesome friends in my family ward whom I'm really going to miss.

4. Found a new place to live.

This was the easiest one. I'm moving in with my grandparents temporarily, and I couldn't be more excited. Being an adult is super hard sometimes. Especially when you start making big decisions and stuff. All of it just makes me want to crawl under my covers and ignore the big, bad world outside. Which is why I'm so glad to be going to a safe place where I can have a little time to breathe and figure out my next living situation. My grandparents live up above Foothill in Salt Lake City, and their house has been the one constant place in my life for as long as I can remember.

I put a lot of importance on places. I always have. My immediate family has moved from house to house and state to state, but my grandparents have never moved. Their house looks exactly the same as it did when I was eight or four or eighteen months old. My earliest memory is of sleeping in the bottom bunk of a bunk bed at their house. I know I was younger than two at the time. The bunk bed is gone now, but their house hasn't changed. Like I said, I tend to fall back on the familiar during stressful times, and I'm so glad to have the option to stay there, surrounded by a lifetime of familiarity.

This actually isn't me. It's my little sister Jenny. But it was taken in my grandparents' front yard. I think this was the last time I lived there, right before we moved to Seattle when I was five.

5. Sold my car.

Technically this one hasn't quite happened yet. I'm supposed to be meeting the guy in an hour or two. I won't bore you with all the details of my car saga, but just know that I'm glad to be selling it and excited to start looking for a new vehicle. And in the meantime, for the next few days, I'll be back on my bike or on foot. That will be good for me.

6. Freaked out a bit, but settled down enough to be okay.

I know that these changes are going to work out great for me. I'm really grateful for the new opportunities I've been given and I'm excited to get to work. But I won't lie, this has been a roller coaster week. If I start thinking about all of the people I'm going to miss or how happy I've been here, I get a bit weepy. So mostly I try not to think about it. I'll be all right. In fact, I'll be way better than all right. It'll be a little tough at first, but I'll make it.

Things to be grateful for in all this:
- that I tidied. Moving is going to be a breeze.
- that I'll still get to be a Cedar Fort author and stay in touch with all my friends that way.
- that I've learned so much.
- that I'm the kind of person who can connect with people in meaningful ways, enough that we all feel sad when it's time to part ways.
- that the timing has worked out really well, all things considered.
- that I've discovered (again) that Heavenly Father has a plan for me, that He cares about my life, and that He wants to help me achieve all of my goals—so long as they line up with His goals for me.

I've really felt His hand in all of this, which is the real reason I'm doing it. I know it's the right move. I'm just surprised about how quickly it's all happening.

I was kind of enjoying those routine days. Never thought the day would come when I'd wish for more mundanity. Maybe I really am an adult. ;)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Do you have any tips for tidying?

Why, yes. I do. In fact, I have ten tips for tidying. How's that for alliteration?

But first, in author-y news, remember that book I told you was coming out next month? Well, it arrived at work today and it looks SO GOOD! I really can't say thank you enough to Emily the illustrator, Emily the editor, Kevin the other editor, Jessica the other other editor, Kelly the marketer, and Shawnda the designer, who all made this book happen. They are my heroes.

And while I'm on the subject, I might as well put in a little shameless plug for the book itself. It's way cute, guys. If I could buy you all a copy, I would, but that seems a little counterintuitive. Maybe I'll just have to do some giveaways on my blog or something instead. In any case, it's not that expensive, so if it sparks joy for you or you think it might spark joy for some small child in your life, you can preorder it here, and since it's actually in our warehouse now, it'll probably arrive way before the earlier date I told you (August 12).

Ahem. Back to tidying . . . and speaking of sparking joy . . .

(See how smoothly I made that transition? I'm a writer—I know my transitions.)

Here are my tidying tips of the day:

1. Start big.

If you're following the KonMari method, you'll want to start with your clothes. I've realized after the fact that there are several good reasons to start here. Clothes are bulky. If you think about it, all your outfits are as big as you are. Plus clothes tend to get strewn all over the place. At least mine used to. Now they don't last long on the floor before my inner tidier just sort of automatically puts them back where they go.

Anyway, clothes are a great thing to start tidying with because you will naturally create some instant breathing room. You'll see right away how much more space you could have once you eliminate all the clothes you no longer like, never really loved, or have loved to death. So start with your clothes. Don't get discouraged when the dust bunnies attack your sinuses. Just power through and then sit back and enjoy how much your life has already improved.

2. Assign everything a specific spot.

This tip works with every category. Remember that as you're sorting through your things, you shouldn't put anything away until you've finished that whole category (or subcategory). But when you do start putting things away, be very deliberate about where things go. Do it in a way that makes sense to you, but don't just stick a random assortment of makeup into a drawer. Put your mascara in one spot, your eyeliner in another, and your foundation in another. If you assign even the littlest things their own specific spot, you'll know exactly where to look for them later and exactly where to put them when you're doing your routine "auto-pilot" tidying later.

With clothes, this specificity comes into play when you hang your clothes from longest to shortest in a left to right way. I know exactly which hanging item goes where. In fact I can tell you without looking that right now my closet lineup goes like this: white dress, black dress, dark blue dress, wrap dress, light blue dress, yellow dress, black and white striped dress, maxi skirt, black skirt, white skirt, purple skirt, pink skirt, pink blouse, turquoise blouse, dark blue top, yellow top.

And now that I've listed those, I'll check to see if I'm right. Ha! I knew I was forgetting something. There's another black skirt right before the pink skirt and a polka-dot blouse right after the pink skirt.

Anyway, the point is not to memorize the contents of your closet. The real point is that if your brain knows exactly where something belongs without you even really having to think about it, then tidying up will be so much easier later on. You won't have to constantly be figuring out where to put things or setting them down haphazardly only to lose them later.

3. Don't listen to music.

At first this will be really weird. You might think you'll get bored to death without music to entertain you. But trust me when I tell you that while music is perfect for hard manual labor like washing the car or working in the yard or even doing dishes, it is really not helpful when you're trying to tidy. If you absolutely must listen to something, choose calming instrumental music. Something you might listen to on a quiet Sunday morning. You want that feeling of peace as you're tidying. You want to be able to hear yourself think. It's much easier to sense your emotional reactions to the stuff you're sorting through without some peppy pop song playing in the background.

4. Get it gone.

This process took me a month. In that time, I made three separate trips to DI, filled up my big garbage can at least four times, and hauled an entire carload of books to Pioneer book. Could I have consolidated all that stuff and saved myself some trips? Sure.

But I think it would've been harder for me to do it that way. I really, really, really encourage you all to completely finish one category before moving on to the next. Don't just pile all the garbage in one corner, all the donations in another, and all the stuff you want to sell in yet another pile. If you do, all you'll see are more piles. That's hardly encouraging when you're trying to become tidier. Instead, take the garbage out one small bag at a time. Make weekly trips to your favorite secondhand store. And definitely sell your books as soon as you know which ones you no longer love. The sooner you can start seeing all the empty space you're making, the better off you'll be.

5. Resist the urge to regift.

If you don't want that colander, chances are your sister won't either. Save her from your stuff. Thank the colander for all its help in the past, and then donate it so that someone who really needs a colander can use it. Or if it's rusty or worn out, just throw it away. But still say thank you. That colander did a lot for you. Even if you own things that never worked or clothes you never wore or books you never read, you should still tell them thank you. They fulfilled their purpose by pointing you in the direction of what you really wanted.

6. Use the money you find, make, and earn to reward your efforts.

I'm pretty sure that I came out of this whole tidying thing with something like $200. And all I had to do was touch every single thing I own. With all my loose change, old cell phones, an iPad I don't use anymore, and those books I mentioned, I made quite a bit. But instead of just adding that money to my bank account, I kept it as cash and I'm using it to buy fun stuff: lunches out with friends, inexpensive picture frames for a couple of photos I found, a few new clothing items to replace the ones that didn't fit anymore, a night at the movies, a new book, and even a trip home in two weeks! It's fun to feel like I have some wiggle room in my normally tight budget for extras. And all because I tidied.

7. Donate.

I probably could've made even more money than I did if I'd had some sort of garage sale, but I'm not really into that. It's too time consuming and I don't actually have a garage—just a carport. Plus I really enjoy donating my things. Sometimes I feel like I don't have much to offer others. I'm so busy with work and writing and everything else that I forget to give. And my budget doesn't allow me to be as generous as I'd like. But we all have things we can give away. Things that don't fit our lives anymore. Nice things that someone else will love and appreciate.

8. Trust your memory to be kind to you.

Now that I got rid of the program from that evening, I no longer have physical evidence that I sang in Carmina Burana in 2013. Guess what. I still remember doing it. Same thing with my Star Wars movie ticket stub from Episode I. And that was in 1999. Ditto sacrament meeting programs, and notes from high school, and even letters from friends. Just because you get rid of the physical stuff, that doesn't erase the memories. In fact, my brain is really good at remembering the good stuff and it kindly softens the bad moments as time goes on. For me, keeping things from my past only magnified those bad moments long past when I should've let them go. Goals I never attained. Relationships that didn't work out. Those things don't need to haunt me forever.

My rule of thumb: don't hold onto anything that makes you feel guilty, anxious, regretful, or angry. Let it go. Let it go. And rise like the break of dawn, friends. Elsa will love you for it.

9. Take your time.

Don't feel like you have to do this all at once. Take days off. This is especially important toward the end of the process when you're dealing with your sentimental stuff. I found that I couldn't handle more than about twenty minutes of sentimental tidying at a time. It's really hard to face a lifetime of things that are precious to you. If you're not in the right frame of mind going into it, you could make decisions you'll regret. For example, hypothetically speaking, if you start crying as you're holding your cherished stuffed animals from childhood, that's probably a pretty good indicator that now is not the time to tidy. That's okay. Just wipe away the tears, set down the teddy bear, and come back to it another day. Not that I would know what that's like from personal experience or anything.

Speaking of my childhood, I found this photo while I was tidying and I love it so much that I framed it. Talk about a golden age in my life. Eight was definitely one of my best years so far.

10. It's okay to feel emotional about all this.

I realized that a lot of the items I'd been keeping were triggers for me. I expected them to act like portkeys and magically take me back to a time in my life when things were different. But the truth is, your stuff is just stuff. It can't take you back in time. It can't change your past. But getting rid of the bad stuff can make your future better. Yes, your things will trigger emotions and memories. That's the reason you kept them so long. And it's okay to feel emotional as you go through this process. Just remember that objects only have meaning if we assign them meaning. The feelings and emotions come from you, not your stuff.

You'll still be the same person you were, even if you no longer own all the same things. Only the space around you will change. And trust me, it will change for the better.

Happy tidying!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Have you finished tidying?

Reader, I have.

In case you missed it, I began this whole tidying thing about a month ago with this post:

And since I blogged about the before, I feel like I should blog about the after, even though I'm still sort of in shock that I went through with it and that I've actually finished.

Maybe I'll start with some photos. Here's what the Hidey Hole looks like now . . .

We'll pick up where we left off, with my clothes. This is what my closet looks like.

After I finished my clothes, I followed the Konmari Method and sorted through all my books.

I didn't take a "before" picture, but this shelf used to be completely full. And I had more books scattered all over the house. But this is it now. I also got rid of more than half of my CDs and DVDs.

Then I did papers. That was a tough one. I had a LOT of papers. And I dreaded them all. But I touched each one and most of them sparked little to no joy. I tossed at least an entire garbage can full. That's why there are no "after" photos of my papers. The only ones left are in the little pink paper organizer on the top shelf of my closet in the picture above and then a few others that went into the sentimental category and are now packed in two small boxes in the back of the closet.

Then I did toiletries and makeup and bathroom stuff.

I'm particularly proud of these cupboards. They're so organized, it's awesome.

After the bathroom stuff, you do the kitchen. Which is also super organized now, even inside the cupboards.

The weird part is that I didn't stage these photos at all. This is how my house actually looks all the time. And it's not hard to keep it this way. Anytime something's out of place, I put it right back where it goes. And when new stuff comes in, it either gets put away or thrown away within minutes. It's weird. I have never been this organized in my life. I don't even have to think about it. I'm just on autopilot.

And my home is full of all the stuff I love and none of the stuff I don't.

Plus I have SO MUCH extra space. Like miles and miles of carpet on which to do yoga or have dance parties or whatever I feel like.

There have been a few hard parts of this process, like when I went through all my notebooks and papers from high school and college. If you remember from this post, I used to totally hoard those.

And now they're all gone. Weird. But the weirdest part is that I don't mind. I don't miss my stuff. In fact, the emotional weight that's off my shoulders now has been such a relief that I don't miss any of it.

It's amazing how freeing this whole process has been. I no longer feel tied down by my possessions. I could move into a tiny house and fit just fine. In fact, I could probably get rid of even more.

And it's great to know that this is how I'm going to live for the rest of my life. I don't feel compelled to buy more. I don't feel guilty throwing things out or donating them when they're no longer useful or beautiful to me.

Also, I've realized how much time I used to spend on the care and keeping of my stuff. When you have fewer things, you have fewer things to keep clean, to keep organized, and to keep in good repair. It's great! I actually feel like I can maintain all of my things now without getting overwhelmed.

So yeah, the moral of the story is that this can be a really good thing. I now feel like I have so much more control over my little house and my whole life. And without all the detritus in the way, I can focus on the things I really love. Today has been my first completely clutter-free day and I'm already completely in love with my new minimalist life.

This process hasn't been totally easy, but it's been a lot easier than I expected and it has been totally worth it. Anyway, that's my little testimony of tidying.

Good luck with your own tidying journeys, if you're on them. (I hope you are. They're great.) Just remember, I believe in you! Happy Sunday!

Friday, July 3, 2015

When does your next book come out?

Before anyone gets too excited about the wrong thing, I should just tell you all that I'm not talking about Book 2 of The Jane Journals. That one can't come out yet because I haven't actually finished writing it. Blerg.

I'm getting close, though! And that's encouraging.

But anyway, the book I'm talking about today is this one:

1, 2, 3 with Nephi and Me!

It's a Book of Mormon counting board book. So, 1 Liahona, 2 thousand warriors, etc. I would tell you more, but I don't want to ruin the ending.

But even if you don't like the words on the page, I think you'll still love the illustrations. They are AWESOME! I was so impressed by Emily Konopasek's skills. You can check out her portfolio here if you're interested in seeing more.

Is she crazy talented or what? In fact, if you scroll down far enough, you'll get to see a sneak preview of all the illustrations for my book (without the text).

I hope you guys love this book as much as I loved writing it. I can't wait to read it to my niece and nephew. Or at least let them chew on the pages.

Oh. And to actually answer the original question, its official release date is August 11. But it's already available for pre-order on and Barnes&

If you're interested in reviewing this book during its blog tour, you can sign up here:

Hope you all have a great 4th of July tomorrow! I'm celebrating early by staying in my pajamas all day and finishing up my tidying, but I'll probably write more about that once I'm officially finished.