5 ways to reduce chaos and get more organized

Do you often feel like your finances, schedule and even your thoughts are out of control? Does the clutter and chaos in your home give you stress and anxiety when what you really want is joy, peace and rest? Do you feel like your family’s health and well-being are suffering due to a lack of organization?

I can totally relate. For many years, I tried without success to keep myself organized. I’d do well for awhile then “fall off the wagon.” Things would pile up and my schedule, home and life would spiral out of control again.

I had trouble keeping track of stuff, trouble getting projects done on time, and trouble keeping anything neat for very long. I’d vow to do better next time. I’d embark on one epic cleaning and organizing binge after another, and the cycle of struggling would continue.

It wasn’t until I was injured by the clutter in my own home – yes, I was physically injured by my own mess – that I was ready to do whatever it took to get organized for real.

I started to get serious about finding organizing solutions that really worked for chronically messy and busy moms like me.

I discovered that if I regularly practiced a few basic strategies in five key areas of organization, everything else in my life seemed to fall into relatively good order. I began to experience lasting joy and peace and I even started noticing that my home seemed more comfortable and my family was happier, too.

I shared my tips with friends and family members and they encouraged me to write a book about them. So in an effort to help others like me keep their crazy busy lives organized, I wrote the electronic book, “Organized for Real: How to Conquer Life’s Top 5 Chaos Hotspots.”


This super-affordable e-book is jam-packed with 76 pages of helpful (and practical) information about how to organize your mind, your schedule, your food, your finances and your home. And it is available for purchase now! I am so excited about this e-book because I truly believe it will be life-changing for many of you. The principles in this book have rocked my world!

To find out more details about the book, check out the brief video below:

To get your copy of my e-book, “Organized for Real: How to Conquer Life’s Top 5 Chaos Hotspots” and start creating the margin and beauty in your life that you crave, click the button below. Note: This e-book is currently on “early bird” discount at 50 percent off for a limited time! Be sure to snag your copy now.

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How to save money and still earn a degree

Debt-free living … It’s foundational to the topics I cover on Living Rich on Less. It’s also something I am deeply passionate about and committed to personally. Why? Because I have seen the light! I’ve experienced the peace, joy and limitless opportunities a debt-free life makes possible.

I’ve found that getting and staying out of debt is dependent on two major factors: spending less and earning more. Shocking, I know.

Spending less is perhaps the easier part of the equation because there are ways we can put this principle into practice right now. The “earning more” part can be a little trickier. However, it also has the potential for the most long-term impact on our budgets.

The main way my husband and I have increased our earnings potential over the years is by improving our level of education. We’ve both finished associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Completing a college degree inspires and motivates you, making you believe that anything is possible.

At the same time, I understand how freakin’ expensive it is to earn a college degree these days. That’s why I wanted to share three key strategies we’ve used to put ourselves through school, while keeping the student-loan debt way down (we ended up with a total of $35,000 for both of us and we completely paid it off within four years).

(Above, my husband and I soak in the joy on the day I earned my bachelor’s degree.)

1. Bag the room and board.

I’m convinced that many fresh-out-of-high school students choose a college simply for the social and dormitory experience. One tell-tale sign that your motives are out of whack is if you’re exploring schools exclusively because your friends (or significant other) plan to attend there.

Although I would never discount the value of social experience, the goal of attending college is to earn a degree that will land you a job in the field you want, right? You can do this without the wallet-busting expense of room and board.

I am a big fan of schools that offer online bachelor’s and master’s programs, like Western Governors University. They allow you to attend school from home – on your terms, your schedule and your current budget. You can hold a job while attending classes, paying out of pocket as you go, if possible. Plus you can still hang out with your friends at home and keep your focus where it needs to be – on your education.

If you take the time to do your research, you can find an online school that will accommodate your current lifestyle and future career goals. The flexibility of a college education has improved exponentially since I attended a few years ago. ;)

For example, Western Governors University has the same accreditation as state universities and private colleges, yet it costs half the amount of many other online schools. Student programs are individually paced. And courses incorporate real-world competencies developed with employer input, so students are ready and equipped to enter the job market with confidence.

2. Loans are a last resort.

If you’re serious about getting a college degree because it will help you land your dream job and live comfortably, you should be equally as serious about finding ways to get it paid for without loans, as much as possible. After all, nothing is quite as uncomfortable as the realization on graduation day that a mountain of hefty loan repayment bills are right around the corner.

The good news is that there are still a lot of attainable ways to get your schooling paid for. The first goal is to pick a school you can afford!

After choosing the right school, spend the time necessary to explore scholarship and grant opportunities. These gold mines of free money are grossly overlooked, perhaps because loans are so readily accessible or because potential applicants believe it’s a waste of time to apply.

Don’t write off the military as an option, either. One of the reasons my husband and I joined the military was to take advantage of the many educational benefits, including the college loan repayment, tuition assistance and GI bill programs. Without the military, our loan repayment would have been much more painful and our educational goals more difficult and lengthy to achieve. And yes, you can be in the military and attend school at the same time. Online schools like Western Governors University make this possible.

3. Find yourself first.

Nothing makes me cringe more than hearing of a young student heading onto campus and into years of school loan commitments despite that fact that he or she has absolutely no clue which career to pursue.

I realize it can be challenging to pick that one degree program that will perfectly match your talents, skills and desires. Life doesn’t often reveal these things by age 18. Fortunately, you can often spend the first year or so of college knocking out the general education classes required by most degree programs before declaring a major.

However, there are methods that will save you time and money by helping steer you in the right direction toward a degree program that fits you best.

In Chapter 3 of my free e-book, “The Heart Improvement Project: 5 Steps to Overcoming Obstacles and Building the Life You Crave,” I share tips for how to evaluate your life, exploring clues that could uncover a potential career path.

Consider spending a few minutes answering the following questions. The answers could help you choose a potential degree track/career.

  1. What have I accomplished that has made me feel significant?
  2. What projects/moments have brought me joy and satisfaction?
  3. What have I been praised for and what do I seem to be good at doing?
  4. How would I like to make a difference in the world?
  5. When was I asked for advice on a topic?
  6. What could I do for a long time without paying attention to the clock?

I would also encourage you to take advantage of career assessment tests, tools and quizzes. These tests ask a series of questions that help match your personality with a career that’s right for you.

Education is a force multiplier. It improves your income potential, boosts your confidence, opens doors of opportunity, helps you connect with career and life-improving people, and sets a positive example for your family members.

(Above, my sisters and I pause for a shot on my graduation day in 2001. My baby sister (left) is now working toward her master’s degree from the same university and my middle sister (right) is pursuing a business degree.)

If you’re ready to hit the books, here’s a code that will waive your application fee to Western Governors University: WGU App Fee Waiver Code

If you’re thinking about going to school (or going back to school), what dream would this degree make possible?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Western Governors University. The opinions and text are all mine.

Rust-Oleum Blogger Innovation Summit highlights

Last week I had the amazing privilege of flying to the Midwest to spend three days attending the Rust-Oleum® Blogger Innovation Summit. Before I left for the trip, I candidly shared my feelings about the invitation and the reasons why I won’t quit my daydream here.

Eighteen bloggers joined the folks at Rust-Oleum from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 for an in-depth look at the brand’s products and processes. Along the way, we were treated like royalty and enjoyed some of the best sights in and around Chicago, such as this breathtaking view of the Chicago skyline.


Upon arrival at the Chicago airport, this sweet Serbian gentleman was waiting to drive me to the hotel:


I’m sure he thought I was a little weird for taking his photo, but this stuff doesn’t happen to me every day. ;) We chatted on the way to the hotel and he told me his story of coming to the United States to start a business and build a better life for his family. I was inspired after those few minutes talking with such a courageous, hardworking entrepreneur.

The Westin Hotel in Wheeling, Ill., was gorgeous. The shower was a frazzled mom’s dream.


After we got settled into our hotel room, our blogger group headed to the Rust-Oleum plant in Wisconsin. There we got to see exactly how the products are created, mixed, packaged and shipped. What a huge operation!

We even got our very own lab coats. Now I can look more official when I’m spray-painting in the front yard. ;)


On the second day of the trip, we traveled to the Rust-Oleum headquarters for a tour and to learn about the company’s history.


In front, from left to right are Mandi, Jamie and Dusty.

We were able to snag a group photo while at the headquarters building.


 (Photo courtesy of Rust-Oleum)

After that, we headed to the Rust-Oleum Studio for a sneak peek at some secret squirrel products that are coming out soon. (Spoiler alert: You are gonna love them!) We also got the chance to get our hands dirty with some fun DIY projects.

Of course, the sweet folks at Rust-Oleum thought of every detail to make us feel welcome.



I have to admit, as a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants DIYer, a lot of times I’ve just rushed to the store to pick up whatever can of spray paint had the lid color I needed. I never really paid attention to brand. At the studio, we practiced spraying several different brands of paint and it was a real eye-opening experience for me. If you want to see a surprising example of how widely spray paint performance can vary, check out this Instagram photo from Jamie at the C.R.A.F.T. blog.

Here’s Ann from Rust-Oleum demonstrating some Varathane® wood stains.


I got to try a handful of them out on this project.

Rust-Oleum stain

I love the richness, intensity and coverage of the Varathane stains.

We also got to check out some other cool products such as NeverWet®, which should transform my half-hour throw pillows into outdoor pillows; and a floor coating I am dying to use on my garage floor.



In between all the DIYing, we spent time mingling, eating and taking in the sights.


I always love spending time blog-talking with amazing ladies, like the super sweet Jen (left) from iHeartOrganizing and Becky from Organizing Made Fun.

On the last day of the trip, we took an architectural tour of the Chicago River. It was so much fun.



During the river tour, I took a picture with Christy from 11 Magnolia Lane. She’s smart and talented and I am glad I got to meet her on this trip.

In fact, I feel so blessed by all the people I met, activities I did, and sights I saw while at the summit. The only bummer was that, on my way home, I had to stay an extra night in Detroit after I missed my connecting flight, due to the Chicago air traffic control situation. It was a small price to pay, though, for an amazing trip with amazing people.

Thank you, Rust-Oleum!