The Great Balancing Act: Achieving Balance

Jenn Marie Maxwell

Striving for Good Enough


The modern woman today typically plays many roles in their lives. Many of us are educated professionals, wives, and mothers…And this is just the main and tip of the iceberg ones. There are so many more and so much more that we, as modern women handle on a daily basis.

I currently work full-time, attend Business school full-time, am a wife, step-mother of 2, and preparing to have my first baby in a matter of weeks. I literally have 8 calendars on my iPhone and 1 that I carry around for my personal appointments and homework. I’m busy and I know that. I also know that I cannot be perfect. In my quest for perfection a frizzy-haired, stressed out, exhausted me finally admitted that it’s not possible – as much as I would like it to be. I cannot be there for everyone all the time. I cannot maintain a meticulous home and cook gourmet meals every night…Heck, I can’t even fold all my clothes all of the time. So why was I trying so hard to be perfect? I’m a Christian. I should know better; I’m human – even as a wife and mother.

I remember the first time I made my mom cry. Gosh, I felt horrrriible. I had done it, made my mother cry. The woman who I thought was unaffected by the world or even having feelings. Moms have feelings? WHAT?! She cried and when I asked her what was wrong she said, “Jenny, you hurt my feelings. I am a human being and I have feelings. I’m not a superhero, I am just a mom trying to do her very best everyday.” Wow. Consider my 6-year old mind blown!

I stopped trying to be perfect because the only person it was hurting was me. There’s a great article that I read recently titled, 5 Reasons Moms Should Stop Trying to be Perfect. The one that struck me that hardest was that recognizing that perfection is a myth. It cannot be our standard of for success in any of our roles.

What I have done is work towards focusing on what is in front of me at the moment. If I’m at work, I’m going to concentrate on rocking work for the day. School, okay put that student hat on (so I can get that graduation cap), then at home I’m a wife and mom and that’s my focus. I can’t be all of them at once nor be perfect at them all the time. IT’S JUST NOT POSSIBLE. What is possible though, is being good enough. My husband will still love me if the laundry isn’t all folded. My boss will still value me if my make-up isn’t perfect for work. So let the make-up routine and laundry take a little hit – I’m going to enjoy my life the fullest everyday regardless of my “imperfection.” I’m just going to get through it all – step by step, day by day.

And let me say, once I stopped trying to be so darn perfect all the time – my happiness increased and my stress significantly decreased. Whew! I’m human. It’s okay!

There’s an amazing blog to read called, The New Perfect. I’m addicted to it because my new perfect is being good enough.

This is just another step towards achieving the balance that I seek.

Tell me about your moment of clarity when you realized striving for perfect is not worth it?

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Clear the Clutter.Clear your Mind – Part III


For the final part of this mini-series about organization, I would like to talk about one of the biggest and most effective keys to getting and staying organized. Teamwork. Yup, not fancy boxes or brand-new shelving but teamwork – working together to get through your action plan and keeping it up together.

Getting unorganized in a family home is not done purely by one person; it is done by the family (even though we might have some very messy little culprits) it is done by everyone. It took a village to get unorganized so what makes you think it will take less than that to get back on track and to maintain it?

You now know what organization means to you and have a plan of action, now it’s time to sit down with your family to work out the details together. Get the kids involved, teach them the value of donating items and of creating a space that works better for them. “Look how easy your toys are to find and to put away!” Jump into the plan as a family and you can achieve leaps and bounds more than doing it yourself.

Once everything is set-up the way you like you can maintain it by starting chore charts and offer rewards for helping around the house. Here’s an extra bonus, the more you work together the more free time you can have to cuddle with your sweetie! That’s the bonus that I look forward to!

In order to achieve ultimate balance, you must be in it together – the parents as a team including the kids to be a part of the entire mission. Clearing the clutter as a family and clearing everyone’s mind; especially yours! You will have less stress, more order, and definitely more time to do things together. I recently read this article about working together as a team and what it can do for your marriage. My marriage has grown exponentially by being on the same page regarding what needs to be done and when. I have the love and support of my husband and we share a vision of what organization and function within our home is. It doesn’t, and shouldn’t have to fall on one person’s shoulders, especially if you have a team ready and willing to jump in!

My step-kids are older and take a lot of pride in learning how to maintain a home and to be part of the daily tasks that need to be done. They do their chores and love logging them as complete. They take part in grocery shopping and meal preparation – Man, oh man does this help us out and it has shown me that they are fully capable of more than I had ever thought! We have some great, hard-working, and talented kids in our home! We are more bonded as a family because we work together to maintain a healthy and functional home – together.

Here’s a great resource to pick age-appropriate tasks for your kids. For the adults, let each other’s strengths shine when contributing. For example, my husband is not as good at laundry as I am but I am absolutely horrible when it comes to washing and maintaining cars. He is great at vacuuming, I am better at dusting.

There are more benefits to working together as a team than just getting the organization steps done; it will improve the overall happiness of everyone in your newly organized and functional home!

So go on, have a family meeting and develop a plan that involves everyone in your household!

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Clear the Clutter.Clear your Mind – Part II


So now that we have talked about organizing resources and knowing what you really have, need, and want in your house we can move onto what’s really important  – Understanding what organizing means to each of us individually and developing a plan of action to get to that point…Your point of organizational bliss that only belongs to you.

What does organization mean to you?  Does it mean that things are put away and easy to find?  Maybe it means that everything is in organized piles? Or does it mean that you have routines that you can count on?  Whatever it is, define it for you and what your needs are.

Organization to me means having things put away and easy to find.  My organizational bliss is not having stuff lying around my house. I like a place for everything and need to be able to find things without digging or stressing out.

Once you figure out what organization means to you, it is time to develop a plan of action.  One of the biggest aspects to the plan is time.  How to find the time to organize and how long each task is going to take.  It doesn’t take much time all at once, unless you want to just knock all of it out in a day or two.  Start with the whole picture.  Make a list of all of the big items that you want to accomplish and then break those larger items into smaller tasks.

One of mine is to set-up and organize the baby’s room.  That’s the big part.  I don’t have much time to knock it all out in one session so I have broken the larger list item into smaller parts. One of the smaller parts of this is getting everything sorted and washed.  Here’s how I have been tackling this –

1.) Sort baby clothes into sizes and then type (outfits or sleepers). 2.) Do a load of baby clothes (by size/type) wash, fold, and put away.  3.) Wash baby blankets. 4.) Wash, fold, put away baby bath stuff (towels/washrags). 5. Wash, fold, and put away bedding sheets.

Just doing the sorting, washing, and putting away has taken me weeks but it gets done little by little and eventually I will get there and be able to move onto the next big item.

Start small and work common areas first.  Maybe it’s your drawers that have gotten out of hand.  Go through a drawer a night, or heck, even a drawer a week.  It has to work with your life or you won’t get it done.  Baby steps! That’s how I’m reaching my idea of organization.

If you are looking for some printables to help you organize your plan of action, here are two great blogs with awesome ones:

10 Great Organizing Printables

Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life: Mega Cleaning Action Plan.


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Clear the Clutter.Clear Your Mind – Part I

I don’t know about you but clutter literally messes with my mind.  It prevents me from thinking straight, and as my husband can attest…makes me not very much fun to be around.  I’m not a “neat freak”… not certified anyways… but a little order in the home keeps me balanced.

This is how clutter makes me feel….

Cluttered-HousePhoto Credit

For Part I of this series, let’s talk about resources and the first step to de-cluttering your home.


The biggest source currently (especially for me) is Pinterest.  It’s absolutely amazing.  Did I mention how amazing it is? So what is this new amazing tool? Their website says, “Pinterest is a tool for collecting and organizing the things that you love.” Basically you can create a board of something you love. One of mine is called, “Organization Makes Jenn Happy.” You can follow other people and their boards and then search for things to “Pin” to your boards. Usually, you can find something that is attached to someone’s blog – everything on Pinterest is driven by an image. When you log-in, you will see pins from the people you follow and can re-pin them to your own boards.

It’s a great tool that can lead you to some awesome blogs or other organizational resources. One of the best projects that I have done from Pinterest was changing the way I fold my clothes in my dresser drawers. Seriously, this is amazing! Here’s my pin and Here’s the blog it came from.  I would have NEVER thought of this without Pinterest!  I can actually see everything in my drawer and have tons more room.  I taught both my step-kids this trick too and they love it!  This is just one example of what a great organizational resource Pinterest is.

Don’t let clutter take over your home.  Use the awesome resources online to help you find a system that works for you.  I don’t go nuts with buckets and expensive organizing tools.  Here’s a great blog about getting organized in 40 days (without getting overwhelmed).  Note: I found this blog through pinning!

Here’s the first thing to do on your de-cluttering journey:

Step One: Know what you have.  Open all the drawers, closets, and look underneath all of the beds.  Years can go by without us really knowing what is piling up and then before we know it we are standing in a room scratching our heads and thinking, “where did all this crap come from?”  Well…It comes from not knowing what is actually in your home.  Go through everything and ask yourself the last time you looked at, wore, used, or even thought about the current item.  Often, I can’t even remember the last time I used or wore something and that is when I put it in a pile of donate/throw-away/give-away.  Doing this will leave you with only what you really want or need.  Let me know what interesting things you find & what you did with them.

…To be Continued in Part II


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When Life Gives You Lemons

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Make some Lemonade

 …and take a bubble bath

Normally, I would use grapes for wine but being 8.5 months pregnant I’m pretty obsessed with lemonade. Point is, we all need to take time out for ourselves and with living such busy lives we need to take the moments as they come.

How do you relax? When was the last time you took time out for yourself to recharge?

It’s all too easy to get into “go” mode with families, work, and maintaining relationships. What we also need to make sure we do is that we have a “me” mode.

Your “me” time has to be just as important as family, work, and relationship time. Remember the days when we had tons of time to think about our own hopes, dreams, and goals? Awwww….It seems like just yesterday – but what’s stopping you from it actually being yesterday? I’m a woman; not just a mom, wife, employee. I am me, and I can’t forget what makes me, ME. My husband didn’t fall in love with the roles that I take on.  He fell in love with my ideas, values, hopes, dreams, and goals. Don’t let yourself forget about who you are and what you are about.

Taking time out for yourself will make your life even more balanced than you could ever imagine. You won’t feel like something is missing and when the other roles become more demanding you won’t have a negative balance in your “me” time account.

Here’s a great blog about the importance of “me” time for moms. Spouse’s should be included in this too. There are times when my husband and I look at each other and we just know we are both frazzled and need some time to ourselves. And this is okay. Actually, this is great. Even if it’s him zoning out online or taking a drive – I want this for him and for me. It not only gives us something different to talk about but recharges our individuality to prepare us for the craziness that our life always seems to present. It makes us stronger and more prepared for life.

The better we feel about ourselves, the better we can serve in all of the roles that we take on.

Many of us take such high interest in our families overall health, but neglect to address our own health and wellness. The first thing that I always end up taking off my list is exercise. When I was single, I would hit the gym every single day regardless of how tired I was. I didn’t have to worry about when or what to cook for dinner and could take as much time as I needed. I NEVER took my cell phone on the elliptical with me and focused on what my body needed.
…Now, that’s a different story. I love to workout but for some reason that time always seems to get buried in the other details of my crazy life. This is something that I am working on addressing because when my body looks and feels good, I feel more prepared for the world.

Doesn’t this look like Heaven?

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This great blog covers 7 ways for a mom to take care of herself.
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So go ahead…Grab a glass of whatever you choose and spend some time with yourself. Take a long bath, read a book, journal, go for a jog – do whatever YOU need for YOU. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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To-Do: Be a List Maker

Todo List Blog

One of the best and most heart-warming blogs that I have had the pleasure to read is called To-Do List, written by Sasha Cagen; she also wrote a book called To-Do list and I will definitely be picking it up. Every Monday she posts someone’s to-do list and be ready…some will make you cry. They are truly inspiring.

I have to quote her here because her words are so elequent and beautiful when talking about lists, “To-Do List celebrates the world of the overlooked and mundane, letting our lists serve as unique windows into who we are. Because nothing is more revealing than someone’s to-do list.”

To-do lists don’t have to just be about the monotonous daily tasks that one wants to accomplish. They can be lists about life-long goals, traits you are looking for in a spouse, jobs you want to look for, or even a grocery list…Because we all hate forgetting things there!

The purpose of writing a list is to get one’s thoughts down and to focus on specific items that are on their minds. There’s great value in making a list. They can help us clear our heads, organize our thoughts, calm us down, or even remind us of our goals for the day.

I have totally written a list about all the things that I love in my life while feeling completely down about a situation. It helped – and I still have the list. When I was 12, I spent a summer listing everything that I love about life & the world around me. What a great list to look at when having a bad day!

Not a list-maker? Here is a great blog that tells you how to create an efficient list. Some of the best tips in this blog are to categorize your lists, limit the time needed for each task, and to reward yourself. The best list that I have ever seen had a cupcake reward at the end. It had a little checkbox that said, “EAT CUPCAKE.” I laughed so hard but hey, I would totally work towards a cupcake, who wouldn’t? One of the sweetest things my husband has ever done was when he saw my grocery list on the table he wrote in-between the lines, “Kiss your Husband.” I got to the grocery store and as I was going through my list I started to cry. Awwwww…Ya, I’m a blessed bride!

I’m personally a fan of the hand-written list but will admit they are too easy to misplace. I have a little notebook in my purse that I write items in but am quickly learning that my smartphone is a great source to store my lists. There’s lots of great apps out there. Here’s a list of some great ones. You can make a list in an iPhone & even have it remind you about something when you arrive at a certain destination. Love that!

Not a list-maker? Just give it a go and see what it can do for you…Let it inspire you or remind you of something. The main purpose is to create a list what works for you. Don’t forget that reward @ the end!

Even better, write a list in the comments below. I would love to see some of your thoughts!

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In The Know – Getting Your Family on a Shared Calendar

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One of the most effective ogranizational methods that my husband and I have begun doing is to have a shared Gmail calendar. We both have smartphones of which we can continually access the calendar from and stay on the same page regarding everyone’s schedules and events.

This has been an especially essential tool with having many prenatal appointments throughout my pregnancy. I can input the appointments that inform my husband what doctor we are seeing and where the office is. This is where the wife in me gets a little sneaky…I always put the appointment 15 minutes before it actually starts and always set a reminder for the day before. I guess he knows this now…Love you Husband!

However, I am still a little old-fashioned when it comes to my personal calendar. I still maintain my paper calendar book. I can’t help it…I’m attached to the darn thing and love it. I’m just not ready to let go of it yet. I keep it in my purse so I can jot down items to add to the shared calendar and also maintain all of my personal appointments and schedules. This is where I typically plan my school work in addition to my work schedule. All those roles come alive in this calendar!

It’s mind-boggling as to how many great tools there are for creating an organization hub for your family calendar. Here is an article with some great family organizing apps. The app that interests me the most is Cozi. I’m definitely going to try it out and let you all know how it works for my family.

Another great resource that I have recently stumbled upon is on the blog for Business Productivity titled, Effective Calendar Management. I have already implemented many of the tools discussed in this blog and they work great! As a busy mom, and as ridiculous as it sounds, I schedule my own “personal” time. Yes, it’s even color-coded purple and let me tell you – I’m always looking for the purple bubbles in my calendar! This is where I put my hair, nail, Target…(Yes Target – Why is it so relaxing to just walk around that store?) appointments.

The key to having an effective family calendar is to prioritize, plan ahead, and to communicate with your family. In doing so, it eliminates many stressful situations that arise by not being able to be on the same page regarding your family schedule.

I say, just give it a go. It doesn’t have to be professionally done or cost money. Just slap some appointments on something and share it with your family. All families are different and only you will truly know what will work for yours. There’s tons of information available online to research and find a system or combination of systems that might help you become more organized.

Also, if you have some great tips or ideas let me know by leaving a comment – my family calendar and system is ever-changing and it’s always fun to try new things!

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The Balance Beam

When I was younger my mom put me in gymnastics to help cure a terrible problem that I was having – severe clumsiness. At first, I hated it. All of the other girls could roll, tumble, and balance when my best act was the art of falling without breaking anything. I was getting really good at falling on my face and not being too embarrassed by it because it happened so often. The event that I hated the most was the balance beam. Standing on one leg, hopping around on a tiny beam in what seemed like miles above the ground was not my idea of fun. Through this experience the time, practice, and the valuable tools that I received from my coach taught me how to deal with the once dreaded balance beam. I had acquired the techniques to showcase my newfound grace and balance. I had conquered gymnastics and was walking straighter with a new sense of confidence. Had my mother let me quit when I begged, cried, and pleaded I might still be tripping over my feet – and would look absolutely silly in the high heeled shoes that I have grown to love.

Finding balance in our lives is the same approach that I had to take in gymnastics. In modern times, families are busier than ever. We all have many roles that we have to fill on a daily basis and most feel unbalanced and clumsy in maintaining and balancing it all. But finding balance in our lives is not much different than it was for me as a clumsy 9 year old in gymnastics. Not only do we have to be persistent in seeking the balance we desire but we have to take the time, find the necessary tools and skills we need, and to keep practicing – especially when we are stressed and want to quit.

To me, balance is everything. Huge sacrifices do not need to be made in order to find the type of balance to make our busy lives work. I have spent the last 10 years of my life in many roles that could have and probably should have broken me. I am a wife, step-mother, full-time student, young professional who works full-time, and am currently 8.5 months pregnant with my first child. I have recently moved and have been busy preparing for the new addition to our family. The to-do lists in my head are outrageous! But I can do this…I can have balance and so can you! It’s a journey that requires the right tools and practice but it is very possible. Don’t let it break you, let it make you! So I will start with this – What does balance mean to you? I know what it means to me and what I have done to achieve it so far in my life. I’m so excited to share my ideas, thoughts, and little tool kit with you all. Let’s get balanced!

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