Creating Healthier Money Perspectives

I didn’t realize it until the past few years, but I actually had some pretty unhealthy perspectives about money. Like anything else in life, it was worth looking into and the deeper I began to look, the more I realized that my own thoughts about money were holding me back. This is a pretty personal topic, and not one that is easy for me to talk about publicly. But today I am diving into it because some of these new perspectives really changed my life.

(Disclaimer: This is my advice based on my experience. If your experience is different, that does not mean I am disagreeing with you and I would love to hear your perspective in the comments. I’m only one person with one perspective and set of life experiences.)

Here are some things that were holding me back and how I changed my mind about them over time:

-Timelines 
A lot of people I know seem to freak out when they turn 30 and haven’t achieved financial goals they thought they would by that time. Or worse, turn 40 and realize they should have started a retirement account in their 20s. There is SO much pressure attached to money and so much shame. It took me a while to realize that I was tying money to my self esteem. I never thought of myself as a person who cared anything about money. But all the sudden, here I was in my 30s, starting to panic about how I needed to “catch up.”

The truth is, we’re not all going to be wealthy, or even comfortable, by the time we turn 30. Sometimes we don’t start our retirement account until WAY later than you’re supposed to. No matter how organized and devoted you are to your financial plan, there will always be a bigger goal that is just out of reach.

What I learned is to be gracious with myself. I learned to look forward and not back. And most importantly, I learned to adjust my expectations a little bit. I am not a “money person,” but I’ve learned to not use that as an excuse. For the past few years, I’ve been doing one financial goal at a time and it’s made a big difference, but it did take time. Most big money goals take years of consistency and you can’t fast track that.

My best advice is to worry about whether or not you are headed in the right direction, not when you will arrive at your ultimate goal.

If you wish you had a time machine to join your company retirement plan five or 10 years ago, I encourage you to forget about the time machine and join the plan this week! 

-Comparison 
Comparison can be so toxic, especially in a social media age where it’s all Gucci bags and marble kitchens and stuff, stuff, stuff, all day, every day. The truth is that comparison is an unhealthy mind space and so much of the time it isn’t even real.

I know everyone talks about not comparing, but it is still tough to actually not do it.

When you feel tempted to compare your life to someone on a screen, remember that you have no idea what their actual financial situation is. And you don’t need to know (it’s none of your business). Just because you see something pretty does not give you permission to put your own situation down. Comparison is so toxic. You deserve better.

Instead, you need to worry about is whether or not you are satisfied with how you use the money you earn. That’s all that matters!

-Frugality without a purpose 
Money guilt. I was raised without a lot of money. In my early 20s, I was so poor I could barely afford basic things like a small apartment and groceries. I read a ton of Dave Ramsey books, and at the time they helped me so much because I had some debt, I had no emergency fund and I was living paycheck to paycheck.

As the years went by, I began earning more money, and I increased my spending in some areas (hello eating at restaurants basically every night until we had kids—haha), but I kept the guilt in other areas. I felt that it was bad if I spent more on groceries, clothing and some other random areas. I felt guilty every time I spent money on certain things, but not others, and there was no real reason why.

More recently after I read I Will Teach You To Be Rich (of which I am now a superfan), I took the time to define my own “rich life” and reworked our family budget. It’s so funny, but my spending habits are basically opposite now of what they were for the 10 years prior. We spend unlimited on groceries because we love to cook at home and we rarely eat out. We go to Disney parks pretty often, but we don’t buy our kids toys when we go to Target. Big picture—we picked what matters to us and we spend our money on those things without guilt. It’s so freeing.

Now that we have defined our values for money I never feel guilty spending. It’s the best feeling. Now I understand that money is just there to help you live your life—not something to tie you down or make you feel bad. Money does not make you a good person or a bad person. It’s just money.

-Cliche advice 
This one is so huge for me! Some money advice will apply to you and some just will not. That is normal and it’s good to know what works for you and aligns with your values and then when it doesn’t you can just skip it!

There is so much money advice that I totally ignore now. For example, I always felt guilty my ENTIRE life for not having an intricate budget. But now we don’t have a budget because we don’t really need one. We have goals, we check in with each other before we make larger purchases and we know what we are saving up for and we spend relatively the same amount of money every month on daily life. NBD! I can finally stop feeling guilty for not having a spreadsheet of every single expense divided by category because, big picture, we know we are OK with the money we spend.

This may mean something different for you, but you don’t have to use money advice if it doesn’t serve you.

-Trying to make money “fun” 
This one is big for my enneagram 7 personality. For years, I resisted doing boring investments and that’s why we have several bnb properties and I thought we could just keep doing and doing and doing them … until we couldn’t anymore. Recently, I realized we don’t have capacity (AT ALL) to keep doing bnb properties on that pace (there is a lot of behind the scenes you don’t see that is WAY more boring than room makeovers).

Recently, I realized that with two little kids and a job I love with all my heart, all I really have time for in the next few years is boring investments. And guess what—THAT IS OK. Money does not have to be fun. This was such a big turning point for me. I’m so glad I could remove some pressure for now.

Boring money stuff like saving, retirement accounts, investing in stocks and bonds, paying down a mortgage … these things matter too! They are not fun and exciting, but they can really pay off for your future quality of life.

I hope this has been helpful for someone! Money isn’t the easiest subject to talk about, but I’m so glad I took some time to rework my thinking to make it a more positive and empowering subject in my life. 🙂 xx- Elsie

Episode #23: Things To Do At Home

Hi everyone. Wow, WHAT AN INSANE FEW WEEKS … wow wow. This is our first episode since we’ve been self-quarantining, so we decided to spend this episode talking about things to do at home. We’ll chat about what’s on our to-do lists, how different our experiences are (with and without kiddos at home) and share some stuff that sparks joy during this challenging time.

You can stream the episode here on the blog or on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayTuneInPocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.

Show Notes:
-We mention Episode #22 (our Airbnb biz episode), which is pretty ironic since our business is one of the many businesses that is hit pretty hard by the quarantine (we’re not complaining, just acknowledging how WEIRD the timing of that episode may have seemed).

10 Things to do while we stay home: 

Elsie: Catch up on those half-finished books and projects. Watch any Oscar movies you never got around to watching.

Emma: Deep clean or organize something. Maybe something fun and something less fun?

Idea- If you clean out craft supplies, leave some on the porch of one of your friends with kiddos. 🙂

Elsie: Work on a personal goal you’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Em and I are each trying to write a book right now, so maybe this is our big chance???

Emma: Go on walks and work out at home. Or dance with your kids if they won’t leave you alone (cough, cough).

Elsie: Make a list of memories you want to do as a family or in your home. Date night at home, baking cookies, picnic on the porch … etc.!

Emma: Make routines and rituals daily to help your health. Call friends, call your grandma, take your vitamins, do a face mask. These small things help.

Elsie: Eat your meals in a “fun spot.” This is more a tip for people with kiddos, but it’s something that has helped us to feel the special feelings, even in the midst of a big move.

-Here’s a link to my gathre mat that we love for picnics (and art). They are wipeable and really last.

Emma: Cook or bake something for fun!

Emma’s favorite no-bake cookie recipe. Also, these four-ingredient cookies are really good!

Elsie: Make a list of creative projects you want to do. I LOVE THIS SHIT. It really helps me. Watercoloring is so fun. And I’m still enjoying working on my curated closet workbook.

Emma mentions her love of Clover Robin’s collage art and also her book.

Emma: Limit your time consuming news and social media.

Listener question: We chat about ways to reduce the number of harmful ingredients in your home. Here are a few helpful links:

Elsie’s green mattress
-For “cleaner” cleaning products we love Seventh Generation.
-Diffusing essential oils 95% of the time, and only using candles on occasion.
-Opening our windows every day.
-If you only want to do one simple thing, spray your perfume on your clothing NEVER on your skin. 🙂
-Here are a few links to green posts: 25 Clean Living Posts, Why Clean Beauty Matters, Elsie’s Clean Cosmetics Favorites … more posts here.

Thanks so much for listening!!! Please leave us a review if you listen via Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.

Big news: We decided to launch MINI EPISODES this week. Starting today, there will be a full-length episode (this one!) and also a mini episode, which is under 20 minutes! We hope it brightens your week! XX- Elsie + Emma

25 Things To Do With Kiddos When Stuck At Home

These are weird times, my friends. Believe me, I feel it too. I know a lot of you have also had to scramble and rearrange your lives to have your kids at home more than usual this past week (or are potentially facing that prospect in the near future) and I’m in that same boat as well, as we’ve had our daughter at home with us for the past two weeks instead of in daycare. We’ve definitely had to be more creative and pull out a few tricks (and make a few desperate online orders!) to help fill the time, so I wanted to share some of our favorite things we’ve done so far (and a few that are on my to-do list) in case they could be helpful to any of you as well!

1. Sticker books: Elsie talked so much about these books that I had to get one for Lola a few months back and they are really fun! They also have animal versions which are really cute and we love these reusable sticker ones as well that I usually bring out for car trips (they have some large scale versions too).

2. Do kids yoga together: We usually take Lola to a free yoga class at the library on Mondays, but now that that’s out I found this fun series of kids yoga videos and she loves them! So far, the farm and jungle ones geared towards smaller kids are her favorite and we can either do them with her or they’ve also been helpful when I’ve had to make dinner to help keep her engaged for a bit.

3. Scavenger hunt walk: Get outside in some nature if you can! While playgrounds are out for now, being outside in general isn’t off limits. Whether you are in your yard or going for a walk around the block (with appropriate distancing if you pass someone), take a printable list with you and check off all the items you can find! Rainy day? Don’t worry, there are indoor versions too!

4. Make pet rocks: On your walk, keep an eye out for some good rocks and bring them back to paint, add some google eyes, or glue some yarn hair onto and keep as a pet (maybe come up with a food they like to eat and have them feed it every day and eat the snack when they aren’t looking). If you can’t get out for that walk or are short on supplies, you can also get a kit for this idea too!

5. On-demand coloring pages: Lola loves to color, so I find free coloring pages online and print them for her to color. If it’s one I know she’ll want to do multiple times, I print off two of them and give one to her to color and keep the other one as my “original” so I can quickly copy it on our printer (it has a “copy” function) without having to go and find it again online. There are a million free coloring pages sites, but this one is a good place to start with and you can do a general search online for specific characters as well.

6. Craft kit for their particular interest: There are so many craft kits online for specific things, so it can be fun to order a few to stash away for when you’ve run out of ideas and really need something new. I got Lola this robot kit and she’s going to love it! The nice thing about kits is that they come in all age ranges, so you can get things for older and younger kids to fit their development level. Jewelry kit? Dinosaur kit? So many to choose from!

7. Make cards for friends/people they miss: Lola asks several times a day about her friends from daycare that she misses, so we made them a card to send them and I think it was helpful for her to do something to let her know she was thinking of them (if you’re concerned about potentially mailing germs you can always text them a photo of your kiddo with the card).

8. Get dirty and have a popsicle bath! If you can get outside and dig in the dirt or run in the rain and get a little messy (and get those wiggles out), come back in for a popsicle bath! We definitely have a lot less complaints about bath time and hair washing when a popsicle is involved … or a lollipop … or whatever!

9. Start a music jar: Elsie started a music jar last year and it’s kind of been a “thing” that’s spread out to a lot of other families (ours included!). Todd is in charge of our jar and he’s usually the one that decides when to add in a new artist (the Queen week was my favorite so far), but you could do this daily with kids and maybe have older kids look up the artist and find out a fun fact about them as well.

10. Puzzles: Lola has gotten really into puzzles so I ordered a few inexpensive puzzle packs so I could bring a new one out every so often and she gets so excited to try a new one. Puzzles are also great because it’s another thing you can get in different skill levels and keep harder ones for younger kids to do as they get older. And for extra fun, two words—floor puzzle!

11. Sensory bins: I’ve shared it all in this post, but that table set up in the photo above is so fun and a great indoor activity that you can customize in different ways. If you don’t want to go the full table route, you can just buy some dried rice and beans (or make some rainbow rice!) and put them into bins or large bowls, throw in a few spoons, sand shovels, scoops, little cars or animal figures and have fun! You can modify this fitted bedsheet hack to contain the mess as well.

12. Make nature/food stamps: Find rocks, flowers, sticks, etc., and dip them into paint to see what shape they make when you use them as a stamp! Same goes for things like celery, potatoes, and other hard veggies (am I the only one who made potato stamps as a kid?).

13. Have a dance party: This is a HUGE one for toddlers especially who need to get those wiggles out at some point or, well, things just don’t go well. When I can tell she’s getting a little crazy with energy, we have a dance party to her favorite upbeat songs and it’s a great way to expend some energy if you can’t get outside! Right now, Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” is her jam.

14. Have a new “friend” come to visit: This is actually my favorite thing we’ve done so far. If your kid is still in the stuffed animal phase, try ordering a new stuffed animal (or get one down from the attic that you had as a kid and you’ve been saving to give to them) and have it come to visit/live with you guys! You can totally hype up this event for days or weeks and receive calls and letters from the new friend coming to visit until they show up at your door (extra points if they bring a little suitcase with them with their belongings). You can even host a little party when they arrive with decorations and snacks! We did this for Lola and it made her SO happy!

15. Make a racecourse: Grab some cardboard boxes or large sheets of paper and draw roads to make your own racecourse for cars or anything with wheels! You can make bridges and ramps with the cardboard and things like paper mailing tubes from your recycling pile make the perfect tunnel as well.

16. Bake a treat: I think we are probably all eating our feelings a little bit right now, so let’s make it an activity with the little ones to bake some cookies, make some gummy bears, or some sticky buns. Cooking is a great activity for kids to learn as it teaches them patience and how to be a helper—we use these kid’s knives with Lola and she gets so excited to help with cooking.

17. Have a family movie night: Popcorn, snacks, and their favorite film … grab a cozy blanket and just relaaaaax for an hour or two. Snuggle those little bodies and take a few breaths. You earned it.

18. Paint! I know it can be a bit messy, but let’s face it—kids of all ages love to paint! I just got this easel for Lola that’s similar to what they use at her daycare (and it’s something I’ve wanted to have for her at some point at home) and I like that she can paint/draw with the paper roll attachment as well as have a chalkboard and whiteboard side. You can use paint dot markers or paint daubers, acrylic paints, or watercolors (these are Elsie’s favorites for her kids) and a waterproof smock like we have helps cleanup be a lot simpler as well. Throw in a mat for the floor as well if you have flooring you’re concerned about.

19. Make an animal craft: Pretending to be animals is a great imaginative play option and you can make it more fun (and fill up more time) by making a mask or costume to actually be the animal. There are lots of free animal masks online you can just print and cut or you can download patterns to sew masks as well (Lola and I have been working on this fox mask and I can’t wait to see her wear it!).

20. Outdoor chalk and bubbles: If outside is an option and the weather is nice enough, a driveway/sidewalk with some sidewalk chalk and bubbles is basically a pop-up party to a toddler! Here’s a DIY bubble recipe with wand ideas …

21. Play “library” and read books: Especially when kids reach the play acting age, it can be really fun to pretend you are a library with all their books (especially if they are sad their library is closed like we are). You can set up your library station in front of their bookcase and have their stuffed animals or other family members come through and pick out books to check out. Give them a stamp (and some ink if you want) and let them stamp the inside cover of a book when it’s checked out and make some library cards with the name of each borrower. When all their checking-out duties are done, sit down and read for a bit!

22. Video chat with loved ones and friends: Probably one of the best things about this happening in 2020 is that we have the video chat capabilities, so use it to your advantage! Do some Skype playdates to say hello to their friends, call their grandparents or cousins—let them feel connected to people they miss. It may help you feel not so alone and stir crazy to talk to other people too.

23. Learn a new skill: Is there a new skill milestone that you’ve been planning to do with your kid soon? Maybe now’s the time! Being inside a lot may make it a good time to potty train if they are ready, learn to ride a bike in your driveway, start some online music lessons … anything that will fill up some time and check a new skill off the list is a double win! We’ve been night potty training Lola and transitioning her to a big kid bed the past two weeks, so that’s been a nice distraction and something she’s been excited to learn. Now, just a note here that it should be something you are excited to do (even if it takes some effort and planning) and not something that will totally stress you out more!

24. Make your own playdough: While you can just buy it already made, why not make it an event and make your own? It’s really fun to make it yourself, kids love to help, and you can choose whatever colors you want to make as well.

25. Dress up party: Whether you already have some items in your dress up box or you just let them wear some of your clothes, choose a theme and have a dress up party! It could be a fancy tea party, you could get out swimsuits and pretend you are at the beach, or just have a silly category and try to look as mismatched as you can! My mom always had a big trunk full of thrift store prom dresses and whatnot that we loved to play with, so I have some pretty good memories from dress up play. Things like this mask kit can also be fun for dressing up and it’s a craft too, so it’s a double win.

For a final word, just remember that it’s OK to feel that this is a hard season—it is! It’s not the same as having your kids home under more normal circumstances, so don’t beat yourself up for doing things like more bribes or treats or screen time than you normally would like to just to make it through. We are all doing the best that we can and we are all in this together. Hope some of these ideas will not only help fill your time but also help make some happy memories along the way! xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

How I Organized My Fridge In One Afternoon!

I have a confession to make—it has been a long, loooong time since I have properly cleaned out my fridge. Like, embarrassingly long. The last time I cleaned it I was pregnant and I know that being launched into parenthood would probably mean it would be a while before it would be cleaned again (and boy was I right!). My daughter is turning 3 soon, so I’ll let you do the math on that one. It has been a goal for me to do a full clean/purge/organization of our fridge, so I finally ordered the supplies I needed, picked a day, and got it all done in one afternoon—YES! I basically did a similar approach when I organized my hall closet in one afternoon and I just love tackling one space at a time in my home as the opportunity arises. Feels so much more doable than trying to do it all at once! OK, here’s how I tackled the fridge beast and won!

1.) Pull out all food and group by category. First, I pulled everything out of my fridge and set it on the counter/floor so I could see it all. There were some things I wasn’t that worried about leaving out for an hour (like ketchup or veggies), but I kept things like meat in their spot until right before I cleaned that area so they wouldn’t be out of the fridge long. You could also add some ice to a cooler and keep them in there while you clean as well.

2.) Deep clean that empty fridge! I then wiped down and cleaned every surface of the fridge and took out all the drawers to wash them as well. Make sure to check and see how your shelves and drawers come out as you should be able to get all of those taken apart so you can clean each element separately. I wasted a lot of time thinking my shelves didn’t come out until I realized on accident that they do and it made cleaning those areas so much easier since I wasn’t trying to clean crevasses with a toothpick (maybe check your user guide or search your fridge model online to see how yours come out). I realized there had been two huge separate soy sauce spills in the main area and the condiment shelves at some point and as gross as it was, it felt amazing to clean all that syrupy gunk out. Blech! Make sure to check and wipe any bottles/jars that have sticky bottoms from fridge spills so you are putting clean items back in the fridge. I just made a quick cleaner in a glass spray bottle with some water, Sal’s Suds, and a few drops of lemon and sweet orange essential oils.

3.) Get rid of old/unused food! Once your fridge is clean, you can start to look over your food and toss out anything that’s past its expiration date or a food you know you just aren’t going to eat (maybe you found out about a food sensitivity recently or bought two of something but didn’t like the first jar, etc.). This is also when you will find any leftovers that you forgot about that have about 1″ of mold, so it feels super nice to get rid of any of those items too! Put any good giveaway food in a pile to see if a friend or neighbor can use it and then put the other containers in a pile to throw out or rinse and recycle. It really is amazing the amount of stuff in a fridge that you can get rid of once you know it’s there! I also got rid of anything that had ingredients I avoid buying now (like a few things with high-fructose corn syrup) and added them to my shopping list to find a better version at the health food store. I also realized that once I got rid of a ton of old/unused items I had way more room in my fridge door shelves, which has been great. I definitely had items stacked two (or three!) deep on those shelves, so it was always an avalanche waiting to happen and now everything has a spot.

4.) ORGANIZE! For food storage, we are constantly running out of containers for leftovers and packing lunches, so I got this set of stainless steel containers (also great for getting raw meat in if you are trying to do less waste when shopping), a set of glass containers with lids (they are oven-safe too which is nice), and these smaller round glass containers. I’ve used whatever mason jars we’ve had around the house for food storage for a while, but they kept disappearing (I swear they are like socks—I don’t know where they go!) and I’m glad I switched to something that’s a little more stacking friendly in the fridge than the jars are.

These organizers were perfect for putting jars of similar food together and the handles make it easy to pull out a drawer, take what you need, and slide it back in. I also added two of the small ones to the pull out drawer to separate sweet things like cookie dough and chocolate bars (I like my chocolate bars chilled) from lunch meat/bacon items. That set comes with eight drawers, so you should have some leftover to get a jump on organizing your freezer as well.

This bottle organizer is perfect for holding wine/sparkling water, and I like that I can put it on a lower shelf since they are horizontal and it doesn’t have to go up top where it always seems to get crowded with taller items that have to be there. Maybe it’s weird but I’ve always wanted one of these dispensers to keep your cans organized, and I chose that one as it has a lid on the top (some of them are open) so I can still set smaller containers on top of it—gotta keep that space usage in mind!

I love love storing/packing food in these Stasher bags (the snack size is super handy as well) and I made sure to get a container that would fit the width of the bags I have so I could stack them upright in the fridge—pretty and useful!

Look at that before and after! While there is still a lot of food in the fridge, it feels clearly defined what goes where, and there’s room for all the items we use. I love it!! Another nice perk of having more designated areas for foods is that it’s easier to find where things are after someone else in the house puts them away—berries go here, meat goes here, olives are here, etc. So far, living with a clean and organized fridge has made me feel like I have a house cleaner that came in and did it for me, but I know it was me so I’ll take all the credit!! Now I know if MTV Cribs stops by unannounced I won’t be ashamed to show them my fridge … come on by! xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

My Wellness Rituals for Morning and Night

Over the past few years, I have fallen HARD for a wellness lifestyle. It started small, but over time I’ve worked on so many of my “bad” habits that my daily life and routines are almost unrecognizable compared to just a few years back. It’s so inspiring to me how much these small changes really add up over time. In this post, I want to share some of my favorite morning and night rituals.

A.M. Rituals:
Waking up early. To be fair, this was not by choice—at first. After we became parents, we pretty much never slept in again, but I love being a morning person now! We wake up at 6:15 every morning and are typically out the door to take the kids to school between 7 and 7:30. I love that I am able to have breakfast with my family every morning and still be working by 8 a.m. I think waking up later SOUNDS nice, but in practice it never made me happy. Waking up to lots of texts or feeling rushed was never good for me. Now I always feel like I am ahead of the day!

Morning coffee. I typically have one or two cups of coffee each morning, and I no longer keep drinking it throughout the day. This has been a good change for me so I can really enjoy and savor it every morning, but not overdo it to the point that I feel dehydrated.

Drink lots of water. After my coffee, I switch to herbal tea, water and sparkling essence waters for the rest of the day. I try to drink a LOT of liquids earlier in the day. It’s made such a big difference in my overall health and mood!

Morning skincare. Each morning, I rinse my face with water, use toner and moisturize with SPF. I don’t wear makeup every day, so those steps keep my skin feeling fresh even when I’m not.

Reading blogs. People are always telling me they don’t “have time” to read blogs anymore, which I think is such a shame. In my opinion, blogs are so much better than social media because they go so much more in depth. Every morning, the first thing I do in my office is open all my favorite blogs (I use Bloglovin as my reader, so I just see the new posts each morning) and read all the posts I am interested in. It takes 10-15 minutes and puts me in a great mood! This is one of the only “me time” activities that I can rely on doing every single day.

P.M. Rituals:
-Early to bed. I am in bed by 10 almost every night lately and it makes me SO happy. I go even earlier if I am tired. When I was younger, I would have laughed at this, but I’ve learned to truly value a good night of sleep—parenting will teach you that! I LOVE SLEEP.

Night skincare routine. I remove all my makeup every night and I swap between different favorite products. You can see the full list of what I’ve been using here. I love going to bed with my shiny “glazed donut” face … that’s my good life!

Essential oils. I like to sleep with essential oils diffusing beside my bed. My favorites are Lavender, Frankincense and Fir Needle.

Drinking less. I used to drink alcohol quite a bit. Now I save it only for special occasions. This was a difficult transition for me at first because wine was the main thing I looked forward to after a long day. I did several 100-day challenges to help get me where I am now, but I finally don’t miss it.

Reading actual books. I mean, duh. This took me long enough. I listened only to audiobooks for a long time, but recently I started reading physical books before bed (and also on airplanes … I still prefer audiobooks the rest of the time). There is something powerful about reading a chapter before bed and getting away from screens. I try to put my phone on airplane mode as soon as I walk into the bedroom.

Thinking a happy thought. This sounds cheesy, I know, but hear me out. I used to have a super bad habit of going to bed spiraling while thinking about all the things I didn’t get done or need to do the next day. I went to bed overwhelmed OFTEN. To change this habit I now have a rule that morning is the time I’m “allowed” to stress—not night. So I delay worrying about the next day until I’m in a position to do something and it has helped immensely. Before bed, I spend my last few waking minutes thinking about something happy like designing my daughter’s bedroom, what kind of vacation we should plan next year … anything that’s just a “fun” happy thought.

I’d love to hear your wellness routines if you’ve implemented anything that has helped you! I definitely think my 30s are my self-care decade because I’m always feeling motivated to make some sort of change or improvement. Especially small things that are simple to try! xx- Elsie

P.S. Here’s a link to my pajama top and bottoms (and they’re on sale!).

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

5 Easy Ways To Declutter Your Countertop (This Time For Good!)

I am one of those people who is both organized and messy depending on the day of the week and how much is going on. Working from home adds another challenge since the dining room table is basically my office Monday-Friday, so usually my house is a mess during the week and then I do a tornado of tidying up—and it looks pretty dang good for the weekend. Repeat. Repeat. However, the spot that probably bothers me the most (and the hardest to keep clean all week) is our kitchen countertop. Maybe if we had a mudroom or entryway area that would divert some of the potential clutter to those zones, but we don’t, so it all seems to pile up on our countertop instead. We’ve tried to have “rules” about how long things can stay on the countertop, but they’ve never worked more than a few days. So I decided we needed to try something different and this time it’s been amazing how well it’s working for us! I’ll show you what I did:

Use a breadbox (or large tin) for storage: One of the favorite things I’ve done was get a cute breadbox to keep on the counter that I put all our supplement and daily vitamin type things in. Especially in the winter when we have a lot of extra supplements around to head off colds, etc., they all pile up on the counter and just make things look messy. I realized a breadbox would be the perfect thing to hide all those types of items but still keep them within easy reach when needed. Of course, you can use the breadbox or decorative tin to hide whatever you like, but it made a huge difference once I stashed them all in there.

Use cute bowls/planters/vases for small item storage: Instead of banning items like keys or sunglasses (or loose change—whatever!) from the counter, just give them their own spot! I got a planter—just the right size to hold a few pairs of sunglasses and it helps keep them handy for when I run out the door, but they are also contained (and almost invisible) in the whole overall countertop look. I definitely feel like a big part of the problem with messy areas is that things don’t have designated places, and once they do, it really helps minimize potential messes. You can also do a long tray like this and have smaller bowls lined up in it for things like coins, hair ties, or other super small items.

Choose colors that blend into the background for counter appliances: Even if it’s not cluttered, countertops that are stuffed with appliances can feel messy and overloaded. So I like to choose white appliances when I can and just keep the essential ones on the counter so they blend into the background and feel more integrated into the space (and that little white retro-inspired toaster is just so cute!). Of course, depending on your kitchen, different colors will do that better or worse depending on your color scheme, so take that into account when deciding what color to try. And for the record, I am never against a cute set of colored appliances (I was definitely torn between buying the white and the pink toaster!), but if your main concern is space and the counter feeling as open as possible, I would opt for the ones that blend in rather than stand out.

Have a designated place for papers and mail: This is a huge one for me. I have to have places for papers to go or the countertop ends up looking like an overworked lawyer’s desk a week before a huge case (or at least what I imagine that looks like from the movies—I’m not a lawyer!). Something like this or this is great because it gives you several slots so you can divide between checks to cash, bills to pay, important papers you may need to reference soon, tax documents—whatever (I also love Rachel’s DIY version as well)! Just make sure you get one with segments of some kind as it makes documents a lot easier to find if they aren’t all in one clump. You can also use something like this for your fridge if you are short on counter space (I still use mine)!

Add some shelves for more free counter space: I originally added those shelves in the kitchen to make room for some of the vintage glassware I have, but it’s also been great to keep things off the counter as well! Whether you are storing your favorite coffee mug you use every day, a Chemex, or some of your smaller containers I mentioned before that hold sunglasses or keys, shelves are an ideal way to keep things up and out of the way. And if those items also match the look and colors of the rest of your counter items, well then they really blend in and become part of the decor rather than random scattered items on a shelf.

I have to say I am thrilled so far with how it’s been going since I made these changes. It’s not that no other item is allowed to touch the countertop at any point, but it’s super easy to see where things don’t belong and then put them where they do belong at the end of the day, or when I have a few minutes to tidy up while I wait for tea to brew, etc. If you have one spot that is the hub in your home as well, I hope some of these tips will help keep your counters clear as well! xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.