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How to Simplify Your Home Office Setup

How to Simplify Your Office Setup

How to Simplify Your Home Office Setup

We recently moved into a new home. While searching for this home Chris and I agreed that we didn’t want so large a home office as we’ve had in the past but a few points were still of necessity to our family. Here are some small and large changes that made our decision for the current home office we have (pictured above) a great fit.

  • Have a favorite pen? Great! Buy 1 or 2 of them and get rid of the rest. You don’t need  10 pens, 4 hi-lighters, and 3 erasers. (I put our extras in the kids’ art supplies.)
  • Do establish an inbox/outbox process for your paperwork and mail.
  • Do you really use that stapler?
  • I prefer not to face a door or window to avoid distractions and focus better. This layout in our home works best so that we are able to keep an eye on what our children are viewing online.
  • Hide that laptop! When we’re not using the laptop, it can be stored in a drawer to keep the tabletop clear.
  • Bypass a desk phone.
  • Knick-knacks aren’t necessary. I have a fantastic piece of blown glass art Chris bought me and a few of my kids’ works of art that take center stage on our memo board and shelves, otherwise we keep the area free of the framed photos, wall hangings, and desktop toys that are common.
  • Invest in a comfortable chair.
  • Add lighting to the area that doesn’t cause your eyes to be strained as you write or use the computer.
  • Don’t go for big. The bigger the space, the more can be gathered into it.
  • Function counts. We own a printer/scanner but it’s tucked away under a cabinet since it’s not used often. It’s there if we need it but out of sight 99% of the time.

Which part of your home office makes it work well for you?

The Necessity of A Calm Bedroom

The Necessity of A Calm Bedroom

The Necessity of A Calm Bedroom

Here’s a strong opinion for you: Bedrooms are nothing if not calm.

Note: I didn’t say bedrooms are nothing if they don’t have expensive furniture. Nor did I say bedrooms are nothing if they are small.

No matter the color scheme, room size, furniture quality, or whether you share the room with anyone else…what counts is whether you take the time to make sure your bedroom gives you a sense of calm when you walk through its door.

Go ahead, walk into your bedroom. How do you feel? Overwhelmed by the pile of clothing on the bed? Frustrated that you didn’t make the bed this morning? Thrilled that things are in order and the room isn’t cluttered?

If your bedroom experience is less than calm, here are a few things I’ve done over the years to increase the peace which might work for you:

  • No laundry in the bedroom. All clothing (both clean and dirty) are in my closet either hanging, folded, or in the hamper.
  • Empty floors. Apart from the legs of a few pieces of furniture, clear the floors. You don’t need those decorative items that have to be vacuumed around or dusted, and they’re visually removing eyes from the main attractions of a welcoming bed or the view out your window.
  • Lighting matters. During the day use natural light if you have it and avoid harsh overhead lights in the evening. Bedside table lamps are preferable for reading.
  • Clutter-free bedside tables, please. Apart from the charging cable for my iPhone, I keep the rest (namely, my Kindle and a book or two) in a drawer in my bedside table. I used to have a dresser in my bedroom but it was a clutter magnet.

CHALLENGE: Remove decorative items and all those dusty framed photos from your bedroom today. Open the blinds and crack a window or two if the weather permits. Get the laundry out and give it a new home! Give yourself the gift of a calm bedroom.

#mintip photo – My Simple Workspace

via Instagram
Have I told you how much I love my work?  :)  Having a simple workspace makes it so easy to create each day. I can stand or sit to work, and there’s minimal distraction when I keep my desktop clear by putting things away following each task.
What’s your setup for keeping the creativity flowing all day long?

Clocking Out: Transitioning from Work to Home in the Evening


I like to put my feet up for a few minutes when I arrive at home in the evenings.

I like to put my feet up for a few minutes when I arrive at home in the evenings.

This is a post written for every parent who faces the evening transition.

I’ve been a mom for about 10 years now. I’ve worked from home, worked in offices, and worked full-time at home as a mommy. If you’re a parent, there comes a time in every day when you clock out and change hats, no matter where you happen to be working.

What’s a hat change or transition? Here’s a few examples:

  • Your spouse arrives home from work
  • Homeschooling is done for the day
  • The kids go to bed
  • You leave the office

TRANSITION HABIT – Start the process before the transition happens

The best advice I have to give you on this is to have a transition habit. Go for a short walk to the car from the office, pray, or revisit your evening schedule. Maybe you could listen to music as you prepare dinner. When my kids were toddlers, their TV time came late in the afternoon when I took a few minutes to regroup then began preparing dinner.

In my current situation, I have about a 2 minute walk from my office in the evening to get my kids. That’s my transition time. Then we’re off for a 25 minute drive home. Which is never quiet. It’s often full of multiple interruptions and there’s a good chance for an argument or two between the kids. One wants music, the other doesn’t. You get the picture. I think my blood pressure is rising just typing about my commute with the kids. I struggle with focusing on driving with the noise and distraction. It’s stressful for me, meaning I have to do all I can to arrive home calm and not bring the anxiety with me. So what do I do? I use my transition habit to prepare for the drive home and my arrival at the house.

This habit is to stop at the restroom on the way between my office and where I pick up my kids. I may not even actually use the bathroom. It feels silly to write it out, but it’s this act of pushing the pause button – to look in the mirror, wash my hands, consider our dinner plans, glance at the calendar on my phone, and take a deep breath – that helps me regroup a little by saying goodbye to my workday and stepping into the hours I have in the evening at home with my family. I’ve done this for almost a year now, and it seems I step into the ladies room after work without even thinking about it now.


How do you switch hats well once you’re in full swing of the change? Sometimes we need to do something to snap out of the mode we’re in and engage in time with our families. Try these suggestions to keep it simple.

  1. Use the phone bowl
  2. Turn the TV off to discuss your day.
  3. Take a little time alone to regroup if needed (book or bath, perhaps? I like to put my feet up.)
  4. Engage in eye to eye conversations (family dinner, on the couch with your spouse)
  5. Hug someone (The longer the hug, the more you’ll relax.)

How do YOU smooth out the road you travel (literally or figuratively) while transitioning from work to home in the evening?

An open letter to my kids: Guatemala follow-up

Our kids in Guatemala this week

Our kids in Guatemala this week

Gosh, BC and Mac, it can’t be easy being our kids. Your dad and I can’t explain why both of us are so passionate about collaborating with people in other countries around the purpose of advancing the gospel. There’s no easy answer to why we are so pro-adoption. It can’t be fully understood why adventure is often part of our lives. Except that God created us this way, united us, and now He’s multiplied our joy to have you two along on our journey of faith and obedience. Every international friend we have is also an ally to both of you. Each time we invest time or money in a cause near to our hearts we do it for God’s glory and to see if we can’t pencil out a path for each of you to explore. God is using our family’s story to develop you. You are already gifted leaders and your education and development are a key focus of ours.

Today it’s only a little visible, but I believe God is at work revealing to us tiny pieces of the grand puzzles that are your lives’ purposes. This week in Guatemala you saw pain and poverty like most adults never see in their entire lives. You asked questions, offered prayer, and accepted the confusion that these circumstances bring. You gave hugs, offered smiles, and courageously trusted us to lead you each day despite the smells, sights, and sounds you were confronted with. I loved seeing you introduce yourselves to new people using broken Spanish. You watched teachers wash blood out of the road in front of a school following a crime and never asked to go home. You took a leap of faith by joining Dad and me on this trip and wound up being sad about leaving after such a great experience. Blake and Mackenzie – you are not complainers; you are are grateful…and watching you this week makes my heart swell with joy.

Who knows? One of you could be an artist, the other an activist. Perhaps one of you will invest your gifts in the local church or a global mission? It might come to pass that you’re entrepreneurs. We won’t dare make the plans for you, but we aim to expose you to all God offers us. Over time we will see the light within you both growing ever brighter until you’re engaged in living out your passions just like Daddy and I do.

My sweeties – if you are so blessed as to raise children someday, please take them along with you on the journey. Watching them follow you into God-sized dreams with trust will bless you immeasureably, just as your willingness to pursue our dreams together as a family has blessed your Daddy and me.

I love you like crazy cakes,

Prayer Needs: The 2013 Lemonade International Bloggers’ Trip

Our sweet Mackenzie represents only a small portion of how wonderful Guatemala and its people are.

Our sweet Mackenzie represents only a small portion of how wonderful Guatemala and its people are.

Our family leaves for Guatemala Saturday, and we would appreciate your prayers. To put it simply, this trip is among my “what matters most” for 2013.

  • Safe travel for all of the bloggers
  • Unified group (I have a hunch we’ll be making some great friends in the short amount of time we’ll be gone.)
  • That we would honor the La Limonada community by the time we spend together and the blog posts you will see come out of our shared experiences.
  • For all of the La Limonada children to be sponsored next week (see their precious faces by clicking on the banner to the right.)
  • For health for us all (no food allergy reactions, migraines, or digestive issues)
  • That God’s favor and protection would surround our team
  • For each of us to become more like Jesus, changed by our time spent in the La Limonada community

This journey began in 1995, when I first knew I wanted to adopt a child. It continues as Chris and I seek opportunities to expand our kids’ global perspectives and dive into the awkwardness of spiritual and financial poverty with them. I truly pray the blog posts from this trip compel action resulting in all of the La Limonada children being sponsored, but I know even more can happen. I hope my desire for each of the La Limonada children to live in safety, have meals every day, receive an education, find employment, and live in a healthy community is something that grows even more deeply in my heart and is transplanted into the hearts of my children.

Oh, poo. Am I supposed to be happy crying about this trip before we even board the plane?

Simple Packing for International Travel

Packing for International Travel
Packing for International Travel

This week our family is packing for our first international travel as a family in 3 years. (We used to live in Europe and have been to South Africa and Latin America, too.) This weekend we leave for 8 days in Guatemala, spending about 4 days visiting Lemonade International’s amazing programs in the La Limonada area of Guatemala City and the rest of the time will be spent in the capital and in Antigua meeting with people we’ve connected to through various ministries. The most personal part of this journey will be introducing our daughter Mackenzie to her gorgeous birthplace and its people, from which she was adopted over 6 years ago.

Here’s what I am packing to keep it simple on our trip.


Short sleeve shirts – 5 *
Long pants – 2 **
Shorts x2
Closed-toe shoes


Earrings (no expensive jewelry)
My laptop and power cord (to blog about the trip)
Pajamas – 3 pairs
Anti-diarrheal medication
Gluten-Free snacks
A little cash
Passports (and copies of passports)
Reusable water bottle to fill with filtered water each day

* I have a few unnecessary t-shirts and plan to leave some of them behind to keep my minimalist closet in check.

**I hope to have the opportunity to wash our clothing and hang it to dry in the hotel on day 6 of our trip. 

WANT MORE? I have some other posts on packing and travel if you’d like additional help.

Minimalist Packing for Women (Travel) 

Low-Stress Travel

Dana ByersAbout the Blogger: Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold nearly all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally. She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and lives in Oklahoma as the Community Pastor for Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

Q&A: Guatemala Bloggers’ Trip with Lemonade International

Lemonade International Bloggers Trip 2013

Is this a short-term missions trip?
No. We are not going to Guatemala City to provide a service or money and walk away. We are going to bring awareness to a group of people (Lemonade International) who live in the city, have ongoing relationships with the residents of La Limonada, and are devoting their lives to the economic development of the community.

Is this a event?
No. While I am on staff at, this trip is not related to the ministry I’m part of there. Our family has a love for Guatemala and its people due to it being our daughter’s home country, and this trip was planned based out of this personal interest in our lives.

What are your thoughts on missions work in general?
When our family moved overseas to help churches launch online ministries, we learned first-hand a very important lesson: it’s always a mistake to go anywhere thinking you have all the answers. That’s why we operated our non-profit organization with the goal of training and empowering indigenous leaders who know the culture, are passionate about their country, and are committed to meeting the needs of their community in a unique way.

Some missions organizations or trips have good intentions but perpetuate dependence on others when they could provide opportunities instead. I can’t wait to show you on the blog next week how Lemonade International is providing opportunities for the people of the La Limonada community to improve their lives. (To learn more about this missions approach, go to

Gifts are for Using

Gifts Are for Using

Gifts Are for Using

I think most of you would agree that life is meant to be used up. Every last ounce can be spent somewhere on purpose. Can the same be said for gifts?

We tend to think that gifts should have permanence. Maybe you want to give an expensive trinket to a loved one for them to think of you each time they see it. (It’s more likely they’ll think of you each time they have to dust it off.)

If you’ve been on my blog more than a few times, chances are high you’ve already downloaded your free copy of Minimalist Gift Ideas. If you haven’t please do so! I love hearing back from friends that this little list has given them the jump start needed to creative gift giving that won’t break the bank or lead one to need a storage shed.

You may not know this, but I’m a former collector of things. I used to believe that value came in owning more of nearly anything. But all that changed when our family sold nearly everything we owned to pursue something that matters more to use than stuff. It’s been a journey to say the least, and just recently I’ve had a few special gifting experiences that I’d like to share in an effort to keep this notion of minimalist gift ideas rolling in your mind.

  1. My husband knows my favorite scent is called Volcano. While walking past a store a few weeks back he saw that the scent is available in a room spray and brought it home for me. Years ago, I’d have cherished his thoughtfulness but kept the room spray on a shelf to use only on occasion. Not so, today! I spray it before stepping into a hot shower to steam up the house with this fragrance. I spray it in our living room on a quiet night by the fire while I read a book. This room spray is nearly gone already but it’s serving the purpose Chris intended…to be used up.
  2. While on a date with my daughter a few Sundays back, we sat at a table and asked each other silly questions. (It’s one of my kids’ and my  favorite things to do…“Mom, if TV stopped existing, which show would you miss most?” You get the idea.) I kept noticing a grouping of bright fuchsia gladiolus behind my daughter’s giggling face. After we finished our date, Mackenzie and I bought the flowers. For about $1 a day we enjoyed their brightness in our home during the first week of Spring. I placed them in the middle of our home where we could see them nearly everywhere we walked. I moved them to the room I was reading in in the evening. I put them on the table when we ate a meal together. They were lovely, and they were used up until nearly the last bud fell off.
  3. Just today I asked my friend Erik (who recently had a birthday) what the best gift he received is. His reply? Very telling. “…The time my wife put in to my steak & cake dinner. Flourless (GLUTEN FREE!) cake. Tastes like dark chocolate cheesecake.” You know what? Eric used up his favorite gift. He savored each bite, appreciate the time his wife put into creating the meal for him, and digested every last ounce of it. His best birthday gift is nowhere to be seen.

Which gifts do you place value on? How will you use them up?

The Right Size Matters

The Right Size Matters

The Right Size Matters

If you don’t believe that size matters, let me ask you this: Have you ever worn a pair of shoes that was too small? Or pants that were a few sizes too large? I’m often asked how I know when enough is enough of anything in my life, and I have to say much of our approach to simple living has to do with assessing whether or not things are right-sized in our life.

I was introduced to the term “right-sizing” while serving as a volunteer in my church about 8 years ago. Right-sizing is the idea of keeping the correct tension of not too many or to few of anything. I was fascinated by the term and believe it applies in all areas of life. While right-sizing is not necessarily the act of keeping things in balance (I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s possible), it can dramatically improve processes and experiences.

Here are a few examples:

  • Family sizes – I have friends who say they’re certain their family isn’t finished yet and they’re pursuing having more kids. Chris and I are content with our family size but would welcome the opportunity to adopt if it came along. Because we don’t like to make big decisions on the “just in case” principle (such as home or vehicle size) we’re making decisions on what seems likely and will accept a happy surprise should it come along and make adjustments to our plan accordingly.
  • Home sizes – The work load of maintaining a home and lawn depends on your family size & lifestyle. I’m unwilling to spend more time or money on space or features we don’t need. When we lived in London, we only had 700 square feet of living space and no garage. That’s because we were car-free and owned very little. Back in America, we’re on the path to cutting back our home size by 40% in the next few months. Experiencing too big (our current rental home) and too little for this point in our lives (the London flat) helped us go into our decision with more clarity than picking a size and hoping it works out.
  • Toy Collections – Most of you reading this post are grown ups. But we all have toys. Maybe it’s your DVD collection, shoes, or the kids’ artwork displayed all over your home. We collect what we like, but it can become overwhelming in the blink of an eye. Do you have more books than you need? Could you actually use a few more key tools in your kitchen to make it right-sized?
  • Work Teams – Every organization experiences a diminished return in hiring at some point. Your army should match the true demand, not the potential demand. Think of it this way: each time the team is busy you could add a member or keep it lean. Adding a person unnecessarily means having too many people, and passion and ownership among the team can wane. Everyone assumes someone else will take care of what needs to be done. But if you keep the team lean and at the right size, with just enough people working interdependently, you’ll see great results.
In which area of your life are you under or over size? Consider making an adjustment to create a custom fit.
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