Tag: organization

Six simple things to do Sunday for a successful week

April 6
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The last few months I have started getting into a great Sunday habit that I feel has really led to better weeks. I am calling it one habit, but my Sunday habit really is a set of six goals that I try to have met each Sunday before I go to bed. Sundays are generally my day off to myself as my husband works them so it is a great time to me to knock out some important errands. Depending on your schedule, you may have another day you do these tasks. Do it when it is best for you. For most of us Sunday is the day before the start of our workweek.

Meal Plan

One of the first things I do Sundays is meal plan. For me, meal planning is picking out dinners for the week as well as ensuring my husband and I have leftovers or other meals for lunches. I like to be realistic so I plan easy meals for busy nights and more elaborate dinners for nights when I am off or actually have time. I also take my husband’s schedule into account so if I know he is working late Thursday night I may make that a leftovers night instead of trying to cook a full meal just for myself. You know you and your family. Make a plan that works for you, but also be flexible with it. Want to grab tacos on Tuesday? Go for it, just make Tuesday’s meal on Wednesday! 


After I have my meals I put together my grocery list. I add items for meals as well as check the staples in the pantry and fridge. I also text my husband and get any ideas from him. This is a great time to check the bathrooms and storage as well to ensure you are stocked up on toiletries and paper products. My goal is to have everything for the week purchased so I don’t have to make extra trips to the store during the week. After the list is made I do my shopping and put away my purchases.


Next I walk into my closet and plan my outfits for the week. When I tell people I plan my outfits they are usually a little shocked at first, but after I explain my process a little more they get it. Yes, I do plan my work outfits, but I am not super strict about it. I will hang them in an area of my closet in order Monday, Tuesday, ect, but I am very flexible on when I wear what. I also look at my planner to see if I have any important meetings I need to dress up for or any other plans that might affect my wardrobe choices. I also like to glance at the weather as well. This really makes getting ready in the dark in the morning easy. Just grab a set and go.

As I mentioned, these outfits are hung in order in the front of my closet. If camisoles are needed I grab them and put them on the hangers. Going through my drawers looking for the hot pink camisole at 6:30 am is not fun.

Generally my laundry is already done by this point, but if there is an item I need for the week now is the time I’d toss it in the wash and do a load.


Back to food again. I know it sounds silly, but having all the meals thought out really does set me up for a better week. I like to pick up my snacks for the week at this time. Granola bars, fruit, and hard-boiled eggs are my current favorites. Usually I eat a small snack in the afternoon at work to tie me over until dinner.  Now is the time I cook any rice, quinoa, or beans my husband or I need for lunches.

The Car

One my last to dos is to check my car. I clean out anything left from the week before and ensure it is gassed up for the next week. Getting gas Monday morning is just not fun.


The last thing I do is more of just a generally habit. I like to take a few minutes in the afternoon and just pick up anything around the house or the kitchen. It is great to go into the workweek with a clean house; it really helps me mentally prepare for the week.

I like to have all this done by dinnertime so I can make dinner and enjoy the evening before the workweek. Keep in mind, this system works well for me but please optimize it for your own use. Maybe you don’t pack a lunch or you wear a uniform. Skip those steps and feel free to add anything else you need. Also don’t feel like you need to spend an entire day getting ready for the week. You of course do need to grocery shop every once in a while, but the rest of this is easy stuff that does not take a lot of time. Enjoy your day and plan to have a great week!


Six Simple Things


Upright freezer organization

January 20

Organize your freezer with dollar tree baskets. DIY budget friendly deep upright freezer organization. Keep your freezer clutter free on the cheap. Perfect for couponers, buying in bulk, families, and anyone else.

I have to admit it, my upright freezer is one of my most prized possessions.  This is of the modern marvels that really makes my days easy.  I do a lot of couponing, so when I find a great deal I love to stock up.  This saves me money and time.  I love having a stockpile of items on hand to make whatever dishes I desire.  Because of my freezer, I can do this.



I keep items in my freezer organized in plastic bins from Dollar Tree.  Before you go out to buy your bins be sure to measure the size of your freezer to ensure that the bins you purchase will fit your shelves.  Also, check the width if you want two side by side.  I purchased these bins over the last year at my local Dollar Tree.  Check yours to see what they have but make sure they will fit.  Target, Walmart, and other discount stores will also have bins of varying sizes.  If you like, you can make labels for your bins.  I just keep them in the same spot so I don’t need them.

organize your freezer with dollar tree baskets (1)


I divide items in my freezer into five categories.

Veggies (these take up 2 bins)
Fruit and veggies for smoothies
Dairy (shredded cheese and butter freeze wonderfully)
Meals (frozen meatballs, ravioli, turkey burgers, ect.)

I keep the bottom shelf in my freezer bin free.  This is where I keep our frozen lunches.  When I cook a dish I freeze several servings in individual containers.  My husband and I then use these for lunches at work. I like to keep anywhere from 2-12 servings of meals on that shelf and on the door.  We also keep other random homemade frozen items on the shelf such as our meat and bean taco mix and our salsa. I also keep bulk meat purchases on this shelf.  As you can see, I recently ran into a sale on ground turkey.  I have rain checks to pick up more when I get more space.

I chose a chilly winter day to organize my freezer because I live in Florida and the food will start to melt any other day.  Anyways, go through your freezer and toss out anything you deep down you will never use or is just too old to be any good.  I recommend thoroughly going through your freezer every 6 months to toss anything that is too old or you no longer need. Also, this is a good time to check if it needs to be defrosted.  My freezer is a frost free model, but they all still should be unpacked and looked at.

Untitled design (1)

My last piece of advice for your freezer is to invest in a refrigerator/freezer thermometer.  I keep mine hanging right in front.  This way, you can open your freezer and feel safe knowing it is working properly.  If you ever see that mercury (or whatever they use these days) rise, then you know you might have a problem on your hands.  I keep my deep freezer at below 0 degrees fahrenheit as is recommended by the FDA.  As you can see my thermometer has a nice bold line to remind me of the temperature to keep. It really helps!


You may also want to consider investing in a freezer alarm to alert you if the temperature drops.


How I plan my day

January 11
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How I plan my day using my home and work planners. Two planner system using A daily and weekly planner. Blogger uses a Happy Planer and a Day Designer. (Emily ley simplified planner, Erin Condren, Carpe Diem planner, Heidi Swapp and others are good too.)


With the start of the new year I am determined now, more than ever to get things done. To assist me in this mission I am using the two planners I have been using since July; The Happy Planner by Me and My Big Ideas and the Day Designer by Whitney English.  (My Day Designer is from there Target line with Blue Sky.)  With the help of thees two planners I am able to set up my week both at home and at work to ensure that I do what needs to be done as well as don’t let anything slip through the cracks.


I run my week as Monday – Sunday and generally sit down on Saturday or Sunday to plan out the week ahead. Some weeks I decorate my Happy Planner with stickers or washi tape, but lately I have been skipping this step to conserve space and time. If you want to add some decorations, now would be the time to do that, before you fill out your week.


I start with reviewing the prior week in my Happy Planner and looking for any tasks that were not completed or any notes I left for the next week.  Anything that needs to be added to the next week can be jotted down.

Next, I divide my week into the three categories I like.  To Dos, Home, and Blog.  I use the top box each day in my planner for to dos.  Here I list any little things I want to get done like Laundry, mopping, errands, and the like.  Often times this is filled out only a day or so before as many of these come up at the last minute.

My second boxes are used for general information about the day.  My husband’s work schedule, our planned dinner, appointments, meetings and other noteworthy items go here.  When I sit down to plan the week I write down my husband’s schedule and our dinners for the entire week.  I also fill out the events and appointments that we know about.  If I have something important going on at work that day I may write it down as well, particularly if it requires a specific  wardrobe choice.

I use my last section for information pertaining to my blog.  Here I write down the posts for the week from my master calendar as well as when I will actually have time to put them together.  I also put in reminders for anything else I need to remember about my web presence for the week.

For the new year I made a cute habits tracker sticker that I am adding to the corner of my planner.  This is where I will track days that I am successful in my goals for the new year. You could also add a water tracker, book tracker or other stickers here too.


Once this information is filled out my planner for the week is pretty much good to go.  As I think up new tasks or events get added to the schedule I will add them to the pages.  This planner lives on the desk in my office which is what used to be the formal dinning room.  I love using that room as an office as it is next to the main parts of our home and easily accessible.  Also, because it does not have a door I am required to keep it clean.

I reference my planner in the morning before work as well as when I get home.  This way I am always on top of what needs to get done. If you are concerned about actually keeping up and using your planner place it in a more open part of your home like the kitchen counter.  This way when you go to make coffee in the morning you will see your list and get started on the tasks for the day.



The planner that I use for work is a daily planner. Due to the nature of my job I have many tasks that must be completed each day.  Some of these are reoccurring, while others are one time things I need to remember.  Depending on your job this may work well for you or it may not.  This large planner might work well for stay at home mothers as well because there is lots of space to write down all events and activities of the family.


The planner that I use has three columns for each day:  schedule, to dos, and notes.  Before I leave work in the evening I try to fill out the schedule portion of the page so that I know what will happen and when the following day.  Often times my lunch time is dependent on the staff or events so I can bring snacks if needed or a small quick lunch if I know its going to be a busy day.  I put the schedules of my staff, lunch times, programs, and meetings on my daily schedule.

When I get into work in the morning I open up my planner and look at the daily schedule.  I then look over the to dos portion of the page.  Often times if I know I have things that will need to be done in a few days I will write it down ahead of time so I remember that day.  Also, when I need to follow up with someone I will mark that down on the specified day ahead of time so when that day comes I know I need to contact that person. I then list out any other to dos I can think of for the day.

This is when I finally start to look through my email.  I then transfer any meeting information or tasks to my planer so that I am prepared for these events in the future.  As soon as anything is agreed upon I write it down.

After I have reviewed my email and added any tasks I pick my top three for the day.  These are the three priorities that need to get done. My top three are things that I actively need to ensure happen.  Events like programs and meeting do not count because they have to happen on their own, however putting together a presentation or picking out books for an event could be priorities.

Now it is time to start the day.  Because I work best in the morning I often start with a top three task to get it out of the way.  I then proceed through my to dos one at a time.  If I start a task and its just not working instead of wasting time I skip it and go to something else and return to it later in the day.

Throughout the day if ideas come to me I will jot them down in the notes column of the page.  Also, I use this area to record information from a phone call, meeting or emails.  This is nice because then I know the date I spoke to the person.  I also write down their contact info there so that I can think back to around the day I talked to them to find their phone number.   If I tell them I will call them back next week I write that down as a to do on the day I have decided to call them on. This works really well in keeping up with communication and looking super professional, especially when you can say the date you previously spoke to them and a synopsis of the conversation.

I like to add a little sticky note to the corner of the page to write down personal tasks.  Just like everyone else my mind likes to wander to my personal business while I am at work and I often remember things  I need to grab at the store or friends I need to call.  I write these down and then pull out that sticky when I get home.  This removes the stress of remembering those items.

By the end of the day  should have completed most if not all of my tasks.  My planner has a checkbox to check off completed tasks however I prefer to cross them out at this makes it easier to see what needs to be done.  I then fill out the schedule and then toss this planner in my bag to come home. This planner comes home with me every night so that if I think of something in the evening I can add it in instead of worrying about remembering it until the morning.

And thats it!  With this system I always know what needs to be done, when it needs to be done and I cover my rear end when it comes to deadlines and due dates.

Do you use a planner or two?  What works best for you?  Share below or tag me in a post on Twitter or Instagram #amberdownsplanner.


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Picking the Perfect Planner Style

September 17
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Picking your planner style



Daily, weekly,  or monthly?  For many who are new to planing, figuring  out what type of planner to get can be one of the biggest challenges.  Finding out what exactly you need can be difficult and finding out how to best manage your time with a planner can be even more difficult  Today, I want to go over a few common planner types to give you some ideas about what could work for you.  Please keep in mind everyone is different and these are just suggestions from my personal experience.

Daily 1


Daily planners are great for people with busy days full of appointments, tasks, and other needs.  These planners work great for super busy students,  employees, managers, and entrepreneurs.  Moms also like these planners as well.  I love using a daily planner at work. I use the  2015-2016 Day Designer for Blue Sky.  (similar)  Due to the nature of my job, I have many tasks that I may be working on in a given day.  I also have other tasks to plan to work on later and I also must prioritize my day to ensure I get the most important things finished before they are due.  Because of this, I find that this planner is a great option for the “work me.”  Daily planners usually have an appointments column and/or tasks and notes. My daily planner also has a monthly calendar that I use to record staff leave time and events at a glance. The daily appointments area is very popular with people who attend many meetings or have appointments regularly with their job.  Although I don’t have too many meetings, (I am lucky!)  I do have many regularly scheduled programs each week.  I mark these here so I can see when in my day they occur and I also records stats for these programs in this area as well.    Although I love this planner for work,  I feel that it would not suit me for home or personal needs and definitely does not work for all types of jobs.

Here are my favorites:

Day Designer by Whitney English

The Simplified Planner (I LOVE Emily Ley, she is adorable.)

Franklin Covey (a big kickstarter of the planner movement in business)



Weekly planners are most the most common type of personal planner for a very good reason.  They are simple, functional, and give you a view of the entire week.  Weekly planners give you a great view of what you have to do, what you have done, and where you can fit other tasks.  Also, because they are so popular there are many formats to choose from to find what works for you.  Erin Condren planners have popularized the vertical planner layout where you see each day as a column.  Horizontal planners are also popular, giving you a rectangular box for each day.  Also, there are weekly appointment planners that are great for those who have those meetings, appointments and events to schedule.

I use a Happy Planner as my weekly planner to keep track of everything unrelated to my job.  This is where I write my husband’s schedule, menu plans, personal events and appointments, daily to-dos and my blogging schedule.  My planner divides the day into Morning, Afternoon and Evening, but I change that to Life, Tasks, and Blog.  Because I see the entire week at a glance, this planner really helps me plan my week and put my brain at ease.  I also keep shopping lists, and other tasks in it on sticky notes to ensure all important notes are in one place.

When shopping for a weekly planner decide the view that you want, (Vertical or horizontal) as well as if you need the week to start on a certain day. (You would be surprised how annoying a Monday- Sunday week view is for someone who uses a Sunday- Saturday scheduling system at work.)  These planners often come in several sizes depending on your needs.

Here are my favorites:

The Happy Planner by Me and My Big Ideas

Day Designer for Blue Sky

Erin Condren Life Planner (Check out their personalized items!)


Not sure about needing that much information in your planner but you need something?  Try a daily planner.  These are essentially a small calendar to record only a few things per day.  We use a large monthly calendar at make and record everyone’s schedule.  Checkbook sized monthly calendars are a great start and can be found anywhere, even dollar stores.


DIY Daily

Other planner types:

To-dos:  Whitney English recently introduced a to-do planner that has undated pages with to-dos and appointments that you can fill out as needed.  This means you don’t need to dedicate pages to days you don’t need to plan.   Of course, if you just wanted a place for to-do lists you could also pick up a inexpensive journal.

DIY:  Many, myself included, have made their own planners from journals, binders, and old planners.  Want to try a daily planner?   Pick up a Moleskine notebook or journal at target and date your own pages.  Once you figure out what you like you can stick with the notebook or pick up a dated planner in the style of your preference.



Still don’t know what you need?  Try some of these printable planner templates to get a feel for what works best for you.

Emily Ley free printables

Day Designer free printables

(Both of these sites have great planner printables and tons of extras. )




Please note:  These are just a small sampling of popular planners. I know I have skipped filofax and many other popular binder planners.  Still not sure whats best for you?  Leave a comment and see if anybody has any suggestions!



My Planning System

September 13

The Happy PlannerReview



If you haven’t noticed, planning, planners, and all things paper and stationery are big right now.  Personally I think this is awesome as I’ve always been a paper and planner lover.  However, I have found that its pretty easy to get caught up in what I call “pretty planning,”  where the stickers and accessories get more spotlight than the actual planning process which I consider very useful.


My planners


I am more of a functional planner in that I use my planner to ensure that projects get completed, time is used wisely, and to have a place to go to find a task if I have spare time.  My planner is also where I keep my husband and I’s work schedules, dinner menus, grocery lists and of course events and appointments.

I personally use two planners right now.  The first is a large daily planner that I use for work. My work day schedule itself is fairly simple, most of my appointments have a weekly standing time so I don’t have to worry too much about that, however I do work on several projects each day and it’s easy to forget about one or place it on a back burner.  Because of this I just my daily planner to keep track mostly of to-dos and currently working ons.  It also gives me a place to give myself reminders to contact someone on a specific date in the future or to begin planning for an upcoming event.  I also use my work planner to keep track of phone communication so I can keep track of who I have spoken to, when, and what was decided.  I generally do not write down my email correspondence as that is searchable within my email client.


My home planner is where I log everything personal as well as where I keep track of all those little things mentioned above.  (work, dinners, shopping lists and appointments.)  I really like the weekly view as it gives me a way to see my whole week and it makes it much easier to decide when to schedule myself for tasks as well as when I have time to relax.

Back to the current trend of planner decorating.  As you can see, I do decorate my planner a little bit.  I enjoy adding color and some helpful or inspiring stickers.  I add these embellishments, but always keep in mind that my overall goal is functionality.  I also have created a few custom stickers that I just to help me track habits I want to form.  These stickers were made with Canva.  Although these embellishments are fun, I can still go about my entire week without them and they are not the central element of the planner.




For my work planer I like to take time at the beginning of the week and map out my days.  I add any important events that would cut into my regular work time and add all programs and any due dates that I may have.  After that, I sometimes add a little washi tape for color or write something with a cute pen.  I don’t really do much more as this is an at work task and I want to maximize my at work time.


Just like i enjoy looking at the week in full at work, I also like to sit down and plan the week with my home planner.  This is where I add my washi and stickers and also begin adding menu choices, my husband’s schedule, and other events to the week.  If I see that there is a day where I will not be doing many or any home tasks this is where I have the opportunity to use this space for other stickers.


When scheduling events and tasks that at several weeks out I like to use the monthly calendar in my home planner.  This calendar is a great place to write down trips, appointment and parties so that you can add them into your weekly layout later when you know how /where you want to put the information.


I hope that this information about my planner style is helpful to you as a guide for enjoying your planner but also getting the most out of it.


Interested in free printable planner stickers and inserts?  Click here.

Interested in purchasing a planner?  Click here



Amber Downs




My review of the MAMBI Happy Planner (Create 365)

August 24
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Planners are in right now.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock you already know this.  Planners are a big business and planning is not what it used to be.   Planners are cute, fun, involve stickers, and motivation.  I got back into using a planner two years ago after taking a productivity class through my employer.  After going through a few different DIY and target planners (I refused to spend $50 on a notebook), I ran across the Happy Planner online and fell in love.

So what is the Happy Planner?


Inside the front cover of “My Life” planner

The Happy Planner (HP) is a product by Me & My Big Ideas (MAMBI) and is under their “Create 365 brand.”  At first glance the Happy Planner reminds most of an Erin Condren Life Planner.  It is a bound  weekly vertical layout with thick pages and a creative use of color.  The planner has monthly tabs and includes a monthly spread at the beginning of each month along with a monthly planning page.  What makes the Happy Planner different than the Erin Condren is that it is bound with an ARC system.  This means that pages can be added or removed by the user at any time.  Because of this the planner is sold “bare bones,” with no additional planning or note pages are we see in other planners.  MAMBI sells many inserts to be used with the planner.  These include home planning, blank pages, graphing paper, sticky notes, inspirational cards, dividers, extra covers and note pad bookmarks.

I own two Happy Planners, “Every day is a Gift” and “My Life.”  MAMBI made five different planner covers and the pages inside also differ slightly.  Both of my planners have the same monthly planning page but others differ as well.

Monthly layout in “Every Day is a Gift”


Weekly spread in "Every Day is a Gift."

Weekly spread in “Every Day is a Gift.”

As you can see, the planner is divided into morning, afternoon and evening.  I found that these sections did not work for me and after some playing I found that I like to use “To Dos,”  “Home,” and “Blog” as my sections.  I use thin washi tape as well as homemade stickers cut with my silhouette to change the sections.  I also made other stickers to help me keep my habits, track reading, and other events unique to me.  More on planner decorating and stickers in another post.

A week in my Happy Planner

I originally intended to use the Happy Planner for work and home use but soon found that the setup did not work for me.  For my job I need daily notes space in my planner and the Happy planner did not offer this.  I do however love using it for home use.

Monthly planning page from both “My Life” and “Every Day is a Gift”

The Happy Planner retails for $24.99 and can be purchased at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and on the MAMBI website.  I purchased mine at Michael’s and was able to use a 40% off coupon making it only $14.99.