KNOW THYSELF book review

“Know Thyself”: Because One-Size Organizing Doesn’t Fit All

Finally, an organizing book for the rest of us: the ones who look organized on the outside … until you open doors or drawers, and the ones whose stuff is all over the place. In Know Thyself: The Imperfectionist’s Guide to Sorting Your Stuff, Lisa Lawmaster Hess has created a do-able guide to embracing your unique combination of personal and organizing styles and working with them instead of against them.

know thyself-a

I’ve followed Lisa’s writing on organizing for years. Through it, I’ve learned that my personal style is “I need to see it.” We’ve talked together about my wish for an array of clipboards on my office wall, and last summer that wish became a reality. These clipboards, with a fluid arrangement that changes as the contents of the clipboards are switched out, help me keep on top of deadlines for my freelance work — and go a long way toward keeping piles of papers off my desktop.

Barb Szyszkiewicz clipboard wall organizing
My office “wall of clipboards.” Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Parents: Don’t miss the chapter on helping kids get organized for school. Lisa is a retired elementary-school counselor turned college psychology instructor, so she has plenty of experience with students of all ages. And I know that her advice works: When I was a long-term substitute teacher for second grade in 2014, one of my students just could not keep track of his pencils and eraser. He’d leave them on top of his desk, and they’d roll off. Or he’d put them inside the desk, where that little indentation was supposed to keep them handy, but they didn’t stay inside his desk either. The pencil case he’d been required to purchase? That was shoved into the back of the desk, because finding it, opening it, inserting or removing items, and putting it back were way too many steps.

Lisa’s suggestions to think about how we work led me to the dollar store, where a 2-pack of drawer organizers was easy to find. One morning I brought the little bins to school and quietly offered one to my student, telling him that this was a special place where he could keep his pencils and eraser, so they wouldn’t fall on the floor. It didn’t work perfectly, but it was much better, and he could spend more time doing his classwork and less time looking for his runaway supplies. It’s a small thing, but small things matter, and I’m glad I was able to help my student without embarrassing him.

Lisa’s positive “you CAN!” attitude toward organizing contrasts with prescriptive “you MUST do it THIS way” methods. In Know Thyself, you’ll find tools to help you think about how you use and store your stuff — so you can make a conclusion about what will work best for you. That’s the only way to make sustainable change; someone else’s method is never as good for you as it is for someone else.

KNOW THYSELF book review
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Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Heads Up: Printable Catholic Planner Sale

The Catholic Through The Year Planner by Martina Kreitzer of Catholic Sistas is on sale today for 50% off the usual price!

I’ve reviewed this planner before, and all the things I find super useful are still in it. There are four sections, and you can choose some or all of them: Calendar, Homeschool, Blogger and Household Management. To get the full package, choose the Whole Enchilada.

Being a Hybrid Girl when it comes to planning systems, I need to write things down–and rewrite them–and rearrange them–and I like things to look nice. So the ability to reprint a page after I’ve drawn circles and arrows and crossed things out is definitely a bonus.

This planner is made to be printed out and kept in a binder (or you could take it to an office-supply store and have it spiral bound). I don’t do that. I keep mine on my clipboards–one for family-related items and one for work stuff. I also have the two-page monthly spread printed smaller, on a single page (after I figured out how to do that) and I tacked the current month and the following month onto my office bulletin board.

A previous year's meal plan calendar on my trusty clipboard. Make this planner work for you!
A previous year’s meal plan calendar on my trusty clipboard. Make this planner work for you!

But that’s the cool thing about this planner. You can use it any way you like–whatever works for you. The 2-page weekly spread, for example, has 3 boxes per date, and a space for you to write in your own label. It can be “Home/Family/Work” or whatever you want it to be–and it can change from week to week. For example, I don’t homeschool, but the Lesson Plan pages from that bundle can be used in a ton of other ways. Be creative!

Even at the regular price, this downloadable planner is a steal at $18 for the Whole Enchilada ($7.50 for just the calendar and $5 per bundle) but today’s 50% off price can’t be beat! To get the discount, use the coupon code for each individual product – CALENDAR, HOUSEHOLD, HOMESCHOOL, BLOGGER, or ENCHILADA for all the files to get 50% off at the Catholic Sistas store.

I love the colorful touches on the planner this year–the page borders on some sections like the monthly menu planner look like they were done in watercolor. So pretty! (That reminds me, I need to make a planner note to purchase some color ink cartridges for my printer so I can have these pages in color. I had to use black and white for them right now, which is why I’m not showing you this year’s page in the photo above.)

Go ahead over to Catholic Sistas to see lots of photos of the planner pages and purchase your copy.

The cover, though–it’s a coloring page! How cool is that? Get out your markers or colored pencils and make your planner even prettier.

Want a sample? Download some free weekly pages here. Try it out! All you need to do in return is share information about the planner with a friend or via social media. Super easy!

Photo courtesy of Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Photo courtesy of Used with permission. All rights reserved.

The Fine Print I received a review copy of the “Whole Enchilada” version of the CTTY planner and no other compensation for this review. All opinions are my own.

Small Success: Double Time

Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

Yesterday I was messaging with a coworker on Slack, and I said this:

Yeah, I have an article to write, deadline ASAP, so I’m cleaning the freezer…

That’s pretty much how things are going around here.

My freezer is very clean after yesterday’s defrosting binge. And I don’t have to buy any more meat for the next 2 months, except for what I’ll need for TheKid’s graduation party next Saturday.

(I’m cooking! Want to come over and help us eat all the food?)

That defrosting binge was definitely stress organizing. I’m doubling up on work this month; in addition to my regular job at, I’m doing editorial support for Today’s Catholic Teacher during the month of June.

THAT was a total fluke. I answered a call for articles on Twitter and wound up building a spreadsheet of articles, authors and word counts. I’m writing an article too, but there’s not really a learning curve as far as that goes.

So as I juggle my regular part-time job and learn a new (temporary) one, I found something I could totally control–my freezer. It’s full, but it’s organized and I have a LIST of what’s in it.

As for the rest of it, I’ll muddle through. I’m learning a lot, and working with some amazing (and patient) people. Once I finally find my groove, though, the job will end. That’s the nature of temp work. I should be used to it, after all the substitute-teaching I’ve done.

But in the back of my head, I’ve got one more list: things I can spend an hour organizing when I need to clear my head and take complete control of something.

I hope nothing happened on Twitter yesterday. There was no time to tweet (and that’s not simply a leisure activity for me. It’s networking.) I was doing work for 2 jobs, outlining an article, making a batch of cold-brew coffee, washing 5 loads of laundry, defrosting and organizing the freezer, making chicken stock and then dinner, attending folk group practice that ran late, then freezing 21 cups of chicken stock and doing all the dinner dishes that the people who ate dinner late left for me. (We’re going to have to have a talk about THAT.)

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Small Success Thursday: Home Improvement

Small Success dark blue outline 800x800Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

I’ve been doing a little here-and-there organizing this week, and I’m pretty pleased with that. So I called this week “home improvement,” even though no hammers, screwdrivers or power tools were involved.

1. In my continuing battle against the wet-swimsuits-left-in-random-places issue that comes along every single summer, I took the laundry drying rack out of the basement and put it up on our enclosed back porch. I don’t think that a laundry drying rack looks very nice on the porch, but it sure beats crumpled, damp swimsuits, t-shirts and towels on every porch chair. That’s mildew waiting to happen, people!

2. I also tackled the laundry area of the basement, which has a large shelf unit that’s handy for holding detergent, “Pray ‘N’ Wash,” the old towels we keep around in case the utility sink overflows or for when we defrost the freezer, and cleaning supplies. The shelves are fairly deep, so things get pushed to the back and never seen again. One hour and one Hefty bag, later, I’d cleaned, sorted, and put things back neatly. I even used some old kids’ placemats to line the shelves in case of detergent spills. It’s much better, and the stuff I need most frequently is easy to reach. (Since I’m the only one who does the laundry here, this job was all for me, but I was happy to get it done.)

basement before and after

3. I started using the free Wunderlist app, which syncs across all my devices, to keep track of those little home-organization chores I want to get done. wunderlist logo(I use it already for other purposes, but having the list there means I don’t lose the piece of paper where I wrote down the tasks I want to complete for the basement or porch or family room.) And I just found out that this app allows for repeating tasks, making it even MORE useful.

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Small (Desk) Success

Small-Success-Thursday-400pxThursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!


I went to the mall with my daughter yesterday. Not only did not one leave angry, but I actually bought two garments, both of which were Stylish-Teenage-Daughter approved! What did I get? “Skinny jeans.” (Well, one pair is really “skinny khakis.”) I didn’t think I could wear these, or would like how they look, but I was pleasantly surprised on both counts. Icing on the cake? Middle Sister told me they looked good! Worth every penny, though I’m still not ready to post a photo of myself in said skinny jeans on the Internet.


Fitbit oneI had an excellent customer-service experience with Fitbit. Hubs had gotten me one for Christmas, but it was the kind that strapped around the wrist, and I had a skin reaction to whatever was in that strap. The awesome folks at Fitbit hooked me up with the kind of device that clips onto your pocket and has all the same features as my previous wrist-worn model.


desk BEFORE 030415I cleaned my (small) desk. It was getting out of hand. I have an organizer, but then I pile stuff next to the organizer and stack clipboards on top of each other and, well, it wasn’t working for me at all.

I’ve been getting a lot of encouragement and food for thought via a series of blog posts on organizational styles and tools at Lisa Lawmaster Hess’s blog, The Porch Swing Chronicles. (In fact, she’s just started up a new blog just for this ongoing series! I’m definitely going to be following that.) What I’d really like to do is hang a bunch of clipboards on a wall, assigning each clipboard a category, and have a big hanging tickler file. As you can see from my photo, however, I only have a wall space that’s 24 inches wide behind the desk and 18 inches wide next to it. All the rest is open to below, which is nice when you’re supervising Street Urchins but not so nice when you need to see stuff you’re working on.

desk AFTERAt the same time, I wanted to add a computer riser so I could have a standing desk. I removed the basket of stuff from the top of the organizer (mostly cords for various electronic gadgets) and found homes for that stuff in other spots (mostly inside my desk). I’m down to just my planner and ONE clipboard on the desktop, and I can remove that riser if I decide I’ve had enough standing for one day. I’m not thrilled with the look of the riser, but it does the job.

desk organizer 030415Then I emptied out my entire organizer thingamabob and found new homes for anything I don’t use frequently. I have decided that if I don’t use something on a weekly basis (or more often) then it doesn’t deserve space on my desktop. There’s just not that much real estate to go around, so I’m going to be stingy with it.

We’ll see how this works for me going forward, but I do love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I organize something that’s staring me in the face every day!

Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

© 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Small Success: Getting Things Done Edition

Small-Success-Thursday-400pxThursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!


I’ve been inspired by my friend Lisa Lawmaster Hess and working on getting things a LITTLE more organized around here. It’s a slow process. I did figure out that the set of small rocking chairs behind my desk, while cute, were too much of a temptation for me. They’re toddler rockers–one for each of my kids–and 2 are so small that no one but a small child can sit in them. So…they became tables for my Desk Overflow.

too much stuff on couch

I took All The Stuff out of those chairs (and out from behind those chairs) and it pretty much covered the whole sofa.

So I moved an upholstered chair into the space where the rockers had been, because I know I won’t pile stuff onto that chair. Then I put away All The Stuff.

And my living room looks a lot nicer now.


It’s time to get ready for Lent, and I’ve been working hard over at Cook and Count to load up all the meatless recipes I can find. You can find all of them right here:  Meatless Recipes at Cook and Count.

Grilled Veggie Burrito:  recipe coming soon to Cook and Count!
Grilled Veggie Burrito: recipe coming soon to Cook and Count!

There are more to come, and as I post them, you can access them through this same link.

(AND I learned how to add a copyright line to my photos!)


If you’re reading this through a link at, that’s because I successfully installed the link tool in the CatholicMom post. I’m in training right now to be the Substitute Blogmother during Sarah Reinhard’s upcoming maternity leave. (And she is super patient while she gets me up to speed on All The Things.) This was my very first linky-thing, and it worked! It worked!


In other related news (AKA more shameless self-promotion), I have two posts about Lent that you might want to visit. Click on over!

Book review of 40 Days, 40 Ways

Tech Talk:  Lenten Inspiration from CRS Rice Bowl

Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

© 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Small Success Thursday: Sticking to the Plan


Small-Success-Thursday-400pxThursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

Around here, it’s been a busy week, what with a playground injury Friday that kept Little Brother away from soccer for a week (and included a trip for an x-ray that showed no permanent damage to his foot), an appointment with Little Brother’s new endocrinologist, and TheDad’s 2-year cancer checkup (so far so good!)

So…a lot of running around happened. And I managed not to let it ruin my plan.

Either that, or I’ve learned to make the plan flexible enough so that it won’t be ruined when my kid gets kicked in the back of the ankle while playing soccer at recess.

IMG_0237-0What’s worked this week?

  • I stuck to the meal plan (how do you like my spiffy Catholic Sistas meal-planning calendar? I’ve even remembered to write down necessary ingredients when planning way ahead.) And yes, I definitely use pencil to plan. It’s easier to shuffle things around this way when life gets in the way of the calendar.
  • We tried a new recipe! And I wrote it up! I’ve got a new recipe on the calendar for next week too.
  • In a nonfood success, I found a great sale on golf shirts for TheDad (he wears them to work) and a few things Little Brother needed, and spent a total of $125 (thank you, coupon code and free shipping) on over $300 worth of clothing. Bargains for the win!
  • And I’m starting to put my calendar to work for me, little by little cleaning out my overflowing email inbox and saving items to my calendar rather than keeping them in the inbox where they get forgotten.

2014-09-11 18.23.01Speaking of meal planning, I’m all about Mary Ellen Barrett’s upcoming linkup, so I’ve got to get next week all figured out! I used to post my menu plans, but I got away from that. It’ll be fun to pick that up again.

Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!