In my last post I introduced you to my sweet town of Water Valley, Mississippi, and how we love raising our son Tom Otis here, but I didn’t tell you much about what I do. So, while I am a mom, I’m also a business woman, a shop owner, a writer, a photographer, and a designer.
I opened my shop Amelia in 2009, in Oxford, on the Square. At only 187 square feet, it was the perfect spot to work on curating what goods were sold, making it a new experience for the customer, every time they entered.
As I ran the shop, I was also hard at work writing my first book, How To Make It, which is the story of 25 makers and how they made it as working creatives. I was also still doing freelance photography, which is what I went to graduate school for. I had my son in 2012, and was trying to savor my time with him as well. So much juggling of family and work, leaving no time for myself.
Last January, a store front opened up on Main Street in Water Valley. My son was going to be starting kindergarten in August of 2017 and I knew it was time to expand a little and move the whole operation just two blocks from my home, rather than my 25 minute commute. It was important to me to be in the same town as my son during school days. I snagged it and had two shops while I closed down the Oxford location. In May of 2017, I packed up all 187 square feet and moved just a little south west of Oxford to the charming Water Valley Main Street. My son was able to now join me in the shop after school, I taught art classes, cooking classes, and finally had an office. I added an art gallery into my space as well, showing the work of artists from around the country, Canada, and the UK. I loved my decision to move the business. It was perfect at the time.
Little did I know what the next few months would bring…. They always say that when one door closes, another one opens. In my case it became, when one door opens, another one closes.
Through the fall, I kept getting more and more emails asking me to do this project, do that project. Not wanting to miss any more time than I already do with my son and husband, I knew I needed to make a decision. “If I sell my next book, I’ll find an exit plan for the brick and mortar,” I told myself. Mid-December rolled around and we had a deal. The book sold and I got to work on my closing letter. While writing that letter, before publishing it, I had four more requests for work on the SAME DAY. The same day… I couldn’t believe it. The universe was pulling me in a direction and I couldn’t not see the signs. Here we are in February of 2018 and I’m currently a regular contributor to four different blogs and one magazine each month. I have monthly freelance jobs as well, for various publications, regular photography clients, and I am doing some interior design work too. All of this to say, I’m juggling a very new part of my life. A life I have worked to have for many, many years. Rather than closing up all together, I’m moving the shop to online only, starting in March. That alone will be a big change. I haven’t had a free Saturday, without finding someone to cover my shift, in almost nine years.
I started out this post, intending to just talk about juggling motherhood with work, and how to stay organized, but I realize that my back story has to be shared to have you understand what it is exactly that I’m juggling.
When I first had Tom Otis, I wasn’t nearly as busy. It was the shop and that was mostly it. I was home three days a week, savoring the time I got to spend with him, and then worked four days a week in the shop. I would answer emails when he napped, or after he went to bed. When he started pre-school, I began getting busier, with photography and writing on the side. Since 2014, I have been juggling three full time jobs (writer, photographer, shop owner), with only myself to answer to really. That’s a lot of keeping yourself in check. The tips below are my number seven top ways for making it all work. You don’t have to be a parent to use these tips, as they apply to anyone that is working for themselves.
Seven tips for staying organized:
- Write it down. I don’t use my phone to keep track of my calendar, other than to schedule social media posts. I write it in my planner, on my weekly to do list, and on the family calendar. I’ve always been one to write things down, but even if you aren’t, it’s not too late.
- Get on a schedule. If you work from home, stick to your routines. This way you can make time to exercise, have down time, etc…My son has gone to bed and woken up at the same time since he was 6 weeks old. When he still napped, he went down at the same time every day. This is how I manage to know what I can get done and at what time of day. I know a routine isn’t for everyone, but with a child, it helps them so much to know what is coming next. Transitions are less scary for a scheduled child, making the day smoother for everyone. Children crave structure. Now that Tom is in school, we leave for school drop off at the same time each day and I pick up at the same time. I know exactly how much time I have to do what I need to get done, for that day.
- Write out a daily to-do list the night before. Once I learned this, I stopped waking up in the middle of the night, trying to remember all that I needed to do the next day. I don’t over extend myself either this way, because I know exactly how much time I have to my work each day. I prioritize everything, so that nothing sneaks up on me either. This also means I pack my bag for the next day, depending what’s on the to do list. Camera equipment isn’t forgotten about, fabric swatches aren’t misplaced, etc… It’s all there because I take five minutes each night to do this.
- Make time for yourself. My friend Kate works from home and she used to set a timer to go for a walk each day, mid-day, just to clear her mind. I always thought this was a great idea and one I plan to implement once my shop is closed in March. Even just a walk around the block is a great idea. I’m new to this concept of making time for yourself… so far, it’s been great though. I’ve started working out four times a week.
- Make emails unread right away. This applies to emails that you need to make sure to not miss. I have a habit of reading emails from my phone, then forget to look back over and answer them on my desktop. Once I started marking each as unread, I feel less like I am forgetting something. It also helped to visit unroll.com. It’s a service that will unsubscribe from unwanted email lists for you. Genius.
- Everything in your home should have a place. This helps to keep your home straight and you spend less time cleaning, when you could just be spending time with your family. A few examples: I file paper work for taxes right away. I recycle junk mail right away. I have a bin for toys to save or give away, always ready to add to. I give Tom’s clothes away as soon as they don’t fit. I stash all-purpose spray behind the toilet to clean the bathroom daily. We do laundry sorted by person, so folding makes it so easy, with no sorting needed. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you are working from home, but with these little tips, I don’t think about housework while I’m writing or editing my photoshoots.
- Create a menu each week. I love to cook! I mean, its truly one of my favorite things to do. I cook six to seven nights a week. I plan a menu out though, so I know exactly what I need to prep each morning. I shop based on the menu too, so that we aren’t over spending and I’m not spending more time than needed at the store.
All these little things, make me more efficient in my work. What are your top ways of staying organized? I’d love to hear your tips, to add to my list.