Good morning! A few weeks ago, I whined mentioned that my email was out of control and my computer was a messed up jumble of inefficient digital chaos. Sarah suggested that I needed a system. Specifically, she encouraged me to look at Paperless Home Organization. And there, I met Mystie Winckler. Now, I want you to meet her, too.
My guest this morning is Mystie Winckler. Mystie is the oldest of seven children, homeschooled from birth through high school, now married for twelve years with five children of her own – ages 10 years to 8 months – whom she homeschools.
She is the author of Simplified Dinner and Paperless Home Organization, two ingenious publications crammed with tips and systems we all could use. Here's my Saturday morning breakfast chat with Mystie. Please join us (there are some goodies for you at the end)!
What path led you to the work you do today? Tell us about The Great Simplification.
I consider homemaking, mothering, and homeschooling to be my work; my two eBooks are gussied-up versions of projects I did for myself for my own homemaking. I have been blogging as a hobby for about seven years, so writing & selling the eBooks has been an extension of my blogging hobby. By the time I had my third baby over 5 years ago, I'd already tried all sorts of homemaking and menu planning systems and failed at them, but I'd learned a lot-- not only about housekeeping but also about myself. I found that with baby #3 and, at the time, my husband traveling quite a bit, I had zero extra brain cells. It might not have been the best time to undertake a major system overhaul and recreate how I did all things food, but, honestly, I was scared that if I had so little energy and brain power for meals at that point, I would never be able to handle more children and more homeschooling (I was only teaching my oldest phonics at the time). So, I wrote down what I wanted in a menu planning system, and I threw away almost all my recipe card and food magazine collection. The end result, 3 years later, I was able to package up (over the course of another year) Simplified Pantry
as my eBook, but it was a 3 year, real-life process that I did for my own sanity. When I was happy with it, I thought I'd fix it up to give to my newly married sister and a few friends, and in the process, it turned into a pretty and highly practical eBook that has helped hundreds of moms make keeping the pantry full and dinner coming every day much less of a headache and energy drain.
How do you come up with new menu ideas?
Actually, I created Simplified Dinners
so that I didn't have to do that anymore. :) I sometimes get ideas from food blogs or Pinterest, but I only use new ideas if I feel inspired to do so, and I make myself stick to my basic master pantry list
and not buy any special ingredients unless it's for a holiday or birthday. Most days I pick a meal variant from Simplified Dinners
(I've been using it for a couple years now, so it's mostly in my head, though I reference my Evernote version
a couple times a week still based on what meat I want to use or what vegetables I need to use up. I do a lot of ad libbing as I cook and I never measure, so even though I make the same dinners, they are never quite the same, and making those on-the-fly variations based on what I have fulfills the creative urge and keeps cooking from becoming dull repetition.
Is your business a family endeavor? How do combine your work and your family life? Are your kids your taste testers?
Yes, my kids are my taste-testers because all my cooking has been done for them first. Recipes for the Simple Pantry Cooking Blog or Simplified Dinners were first real meals for my family on real days. I'm not a real food blogger. I don't have time for extra cooking beyond what I already do – which is a lot! My husband is a software programmer and web developer, so my blogs and webpages are designed by him. He made the covers for both eBooks and also proofread them. He would like to offer products and services online independently someday, so my endeavor is a little guinea pig to find out what it's like to sell intangible goods online in a low-risk way. It's been a fun little adventure!
The hardest part is the draw to always be at my laptop, especially since all my calendars and school plans are there, but I decided to not do social media at all for promotional or personal use, and that has helped curb the time-sucking nature of the internet. It's so easy to bury my head in the quicksand of link-clicking when I don't want to deal with my real life, so that is a temptation I have to always be aware of and fight against.
In your own life, were you always super-organized?
I have always been an administrative type, but not a neat or tidy type. When I was 10 or so, I remember spending long afternoons planning imaginary parties out on paper with lists that I knew would never happen. Over the years, I've tried to leverage my administrative tendencies to help make up for my messy tendencies and my distaste of housekeeping. I have improved a lot over the years in a sink-or-swim fashion rather than a carefully methodical way. I've finally realized that, unfortunately, "getting organized" is exactly the same as "cleaning the house": It's often a big project, and even when it's "done," it's never actually done - it has to be maintained. Moreover, it will soon have to be a project again.
How does organization enhance creativity?
Honestly, the most significant way organization enhances creativity is that you know where things are, so you don't spend time hunting for them or repurchasing items that were in your stash. Decluttering and working toward giving everything an intentional home is like turning off a constant white noise track in your mind: you won't realize how much tension and static was there until it's off. You might think the white noise helps, but once you experience silence instead, you'll never call white noise peaceful again.
What is the single most important piece of organizational advice you can offer to a mother?
Organization is being prepared, knowing where things belong, having clear working spaces, and knowing what needs to be done. It is not having color-coded, cutesy bins in all your closets. It is not necessarily pinterest-perfect. Organization means your stuff and your house is ready to use, not that it always looks ordered and impressive. Don't be discouraged if it gets used. Using the stuff and the house is the point, not keeping it constantly just-so.
Gosh, I like Mystie! The italics above are mine, because I think what she said is brilliant and I want it to stand out in my very visual brain.
Now, it's your turn. Leave a comment below and tell me your best organization tip or ask your most pressing organizational question. Comments enter you to win one of two copies of Simplified Dinner (there's a gluten free, dairy free version, too) or one of three copies of Paperless Home Organization. I promise to ponder your questions and Mystie will be back here early next week to chime in, too. And of course, if you can answer someone else's question, we're all the better for it, so please do!
Both eBooks at Mystie's site 30% off for readers here. Just use the code heartofmyhome.
The winner is Patty, who said,
If your children leave something out (food, dirty dish, the lid for the empty container they just threw away) make them come back and put it away even if it would be easier for you to do it. One day they will realize it will be easier for them to just do it now instead of have mom interrupt them later.