The whole blogging craze has me feeling a little inadequate. Not a “go out and buy a Corvette” kind of inadequate. It’s the girl kind, you know the “she does it better” inadequate. I visit great blogs, like I Heart Organizing and see entire homes that are both stylish and organized. I don’t know about you, but when I finish one room it seems like another room has managed to come undone. How do other women find the time? Well, I decided to ask the lovely Jennifer Jones of I Heart Organizing.
Holly Bohn-Weiss: I wanted to interview you because I think you’ve done such a great job of combining style and organization, especially considering you are a busy mother and blogger. I love the transformations in your house. What’s your favorite room?
Jennifer Jones: My living room. It’s this vibrant green color that makes me smile whenever I walk in the room. We spend most of our time there. It’s the room I’m completely done with—one of the only rooms I can say that about.
HBW: Is your house always perfect?
JJ:I’m glad you asked that. I get asked that a lot. We are a family of 5 in a house that isn’t very big so a mess can look like a mess pretty quickly, but because we have so many systems in place we can also get it cleaned up quickly. It’s lived in for sure. I do show some pictures of it messy.
HBW: People ask me about my desk all the time. “Is this really what your desk looks like?” No, of course not! Trust me, people only think they want to see it messy. A photo should be pretty. On the subject of photography, who does your photography?
JJ: I do.
HBW: Are you professionally trained?
HBW: That’s amazing! You have great photography. I would never know. I’ve been at a lot of photo shoots with highly trained photographers and your photography can compare.
JJ: Thank you. I am taking a photography class. I just adjust my shutter speeds.
HBW: Did you grow up with organized parents?
JJ: They were pretty average. My mom and grandmother are collectors. They have a hard time letting go and purging and I see that when I visit. Growing up my stepdad would give me a garbage bag to clean out my room every couple months.
HBW: Were you always organized through the years?
JJ: I noticed it in high school when I would organize my backpack. Also I worked in life insurance and I managed a team so I had to be pretty organized. I worked 60 hours a week and commuted one hour each way between work and as a mother of three I had to be organized.
HBW: So that’s what you did preblog days?
JJ: Yeah, then it just got to be too much. When I first stayed at home I would watch other kids. That’s when I started blogging. Then blogging started taking up too much time and I had to stop doing the daycare.
HBW: I see that you use binders a lot. Do you use them for the business side of things as well?
JJ: I do. Binders work best for me. I can find exactly what I’m looking for without having to dig through a file. I only use files for archive items, like tax returns or for the kids’ school stuff. I mostly use binders or go paperless.
HBW: Does paperless make you nervous?
JJ: I like that I can easily retrieve things online. There is some risk that you have to manage. We keep extremely important documents off site in a safety deposit box.
HBW: Do you have a backup system for your computer?
JJ: We have an external backup and are researching online backup systems.
HBW: Once you put a system in place do you ever find the need to fine tune it or redo it?
JJ: Yes, My projects are always evolving as I’m learning or being inspired.
HBW: When are you most inspired? Walking the aisles of stores? Middle of the night? Reading magazines?
JJ: I find inspiration everywhere, magazines were one of the places I turned first, but now the blog world has changed all of that. There are so many amazing, creative and inspiring blogs. I also love Pinterest and walking through stores like IKEA.
HBW: How do you balance work and motherhood?
JJ: There are days that are hard to juggle. I’m growing faster than I anticipated—so managing all the emails, working with sponsors, giveaways and my Etsy shop is a lot. There have been moments when I’m overwhelmed. I have to chunk out my day and turn it all off when my family is home. I work when they are sleeping or at school.
HBW: When did you start officially?
JJ: September 2009
HBW: Wow, you’ve grown so quickly.
JJ: I was featured on Young House Love soon after I started blogging. The social networking, the Facebooking and a lot of other blog features contributed to my growth. I also get a lot of traffic from Pinterest.
HBW: From your Pinterest?
JJ: No, I don’t upload my own work. My readers pin from my blog and then it gets repined. It’s been amazing.
HBW: Do you teach your kids to be organized?
JJ: I work with all of them on being organized. We have chore charts that help. We also stay on top of them and have them pick up when they are done. The biggest thing I do is communicate that when we all work together or have a place for everything we have more time together as a family. My oldest son does have some organizing trouble. My husband crashed [décor blog lingo for a surprise visit] his desk at school and it was a total mess.
HBW: You better work on him he’s going to give you a bad rap.
JJ: [laugh] He just doesn’t have that organizing bug. They’re all so different.
HBW: How do you manage your time? Do you really turn it all off? Do you have a smart phone?
JJ: I do and it’s really tempting to go look when I hear the ding of a new email. I’m getting better about ignoring those sounds. There are so many things that make it easy to get sucked in, which is not fair to anyone. I’m reading emails, but not taking action. Then I read the same emails again later so no one ends up getting my undivided attention, my readers or my kids.
HBW: What do you do during family time?
JJ: We have a thousand games, we play games even at dinner. We’re never home during the summer, we’re traveling—going to parks, movies, relatives’ homes.
HBW: I always feel like such a bad mom so I’m going off track here with this family time stuff. I’m trying to figure out if I can redeem myself. What are all these games? This sounds like something I can do.
JJ: [laugh] Monopoly, a family dinner board game, a dice game.
HBW: I’m going straight to the store to load up my cart with games. The only hard part will be actually making the time to play them. Do you schedule family time?
JJ: I used to write it into my planner and now we just do it.
HBW: Do you schedule time for exercise? What things do you write in your planner?
JJ: I usually record appointments and things the kids need for school. I’m not good about personal time. The blog ends up being my personal time. Being a mom I’m not good about making time for myself.
HBW: Working moms sometimes get a rough deal because our family counts our work time as our free time. When I get home from a business trip my husband wants to hand the kids over. Speaking of husbands, do you schedule time with your husband?
JJ: Yes we do, his family is great for babysitting so we can go out. Our DIY projects are our time together or we play games after the kids go to bed. We spend a lot of time together with the blog.
HBW: Do you use a digital or written calendar?
JJ: I write it down. I tried to go digital and didn’t like it. I’m old school—I use a planner write everything down. I take it with me everywhere. I use an Erin Condren planner. Everything she makes is personalized.
HBW: Do you use a wall calendar for your kids?
JJ: We have something newer we are using. I’m getting schedules—I’ll be blogging about this in the future—every kid has their own schedule—I put their chores in there and their obligations for school, schedules, etc. They stay the same from week to week. I just put them in a frame. My husband and I look at them every week. They have their own calendar/chore chart. Combining it all into one place has helped simplify the process.
HBW: Do you often find yourself refining and redoing processes?
JJ: With every major life change my husband and I have rehashed what is working and not working and try to problem solve some of that stuff. Like when I started daycare or when I started blogging full-time. Every life change forces us to take a step back and reevaluate, but there are some things that evolve on their own.
HBW: It sounds like you guys communicate well.
JJ: I’m an over communicator. We talk about the schedule—who will do what. Do we need to schedule time away? We have a Sunday pow-wow. My husband is such a big help. I look at single moms and I don’t know how they do it.
HBW: This is all really great advice for families trying to balance life and work. I really struggle with balance in my life.
JJ: The time-management thing is something I struggle with as well. It’s something I don’t feel like I do well. I don’t take time for myself. I recently had to stop taking on clients. My goal in 2012 is to not be so burned out. This year I’m going to learn to say no.
HBW: That has to be really hard to turn away work?
JJ: I was a “yes” girl. I wouldn’t turn away work. It’s hard to go back to posting 4 days a week instead of 5. It’s hard to say I can’t make labels. My youngest is still home a half-day. The number of hours in a day just isn’t enough.
HBW: Switching gears again. What are some hot stylish organizing projects on your list?
JJ: We have a big wall in our kitchen that I want to take down to better use the space we have in our kitchen living room area. I think it could be a more functional space—easier to watch the kids—better storage—better flow. We’ve been putting some pennies away and hope this is the year it will happen.
HBW: Do you have magazine tears you save for inspiration?
JJ: I have Pinterest. I’ve pinned so many inspirational kitchens. I can pin pictures that have the traits I’m looking for. Then I show my husband the commonalities. If I show my husband pictures he gets it.
HBW: Do your kids have to make their beds in the morning?
JJ: No they don’t. I gave up. It’s a time-management issue and it just wasn’t worth it.
HBW: Oh finally I feel better.
JJ: [laugh] 80-90% of the population doesn’t make their beds in the morning. It’s all so much work.
HBW: Any SJW products on your wish list? [You can’t blame a girl for trying.]
JJ: I go to your website all the time. It’s so pretty and I love the bright colors, the stacking boxes.
HBW: Our new storage collection will be here soon. We will even have binders to match the See Jane Work Basics.
JJ: Everything I can put in a box I will put in a box.
HBW: That’s the perfect ending to this interview. A great organizing tip for any space—put it in a box!
Jennifer is in the process of creating a new home office in her basement. While I eagerly await pictures of that completed space, I’ll share her current “closet” home office to inspire you.
Click here to visit Jennifer’s blog I Heart Organizing.