How I’m Making Over My Life in 2017


Some of you may have noticed that I largely disappeared from sight for the last couple of years, and the answer is a simple reason: life is crazy. There’s probably not a person out there that can’t relate to that statement. It seems that demands on time and energy grow every year, without any margin to rest and recharge. For two years, I reduced my activities to the minimum so I could deal with family issues and my own health: no travel, no blogging, minimal social media. For a while, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to return to traditional publishing. I’d been planning on going indie just to get some breathing space. That is, until I got connected with the wonderful folks at Tyndale House Publishers and decided I could have no better partner if I were going to keep writing fiction.

But that brings me to a 2017 that is even more jam-packed than the ones that came before. One book to edit, two to write…a platform to rebuild, a street-team to grow, publicity to plan. Not to mention a husband who works full time, teaches martial arts four nights a week, and is starting a business… plus two boys who have school (30 minutes from our house—that’s two hours a day in the car for me), therapy appointments, tutoring, and separate activities. Oh, did I mention that we have multiple health conditions and food allergies, all which require a slightly different diet?

I figured out years ago that I can keep exactly three things in my mind at any given time, and do two of them well. And those things are constantly rotating. It requires meticulous note-planning and note-taking, the tools for which always feel less than ideal. So this year I’ve decided to focus on three things:

Devising a planning system that works for me

I’ve tried everything: Blue Sky, Erin Condren, The Spark Notebook, legal pads, the Bullet Journal. None of them quite worked for me the way that I wanted them too. The problem is, I’m both structured and freeform— I absolutely must have a traditional visual calendar to figure out where I need to be at any given time, along with the space to take notes and jot down reminders. Normally, my desk ends up littered in sticky notes, which is probably the least efficient way to plan.

What I really need is a combination of the two: traditional monthly calendar and freeform notebook, with a clean, minimalist feel. I adore beautifully decorated and designed pages, but the thought of doing it myself gives me a panic attack. I facetiously told my friend that I’m going to invent the Mullet Journal: business in the front and party in the back. After she stopped laughing, she said, “That’s a great idea. You should make it…and blog about it too.” And since this person is part-friend and part-life coach most days, I’m gonna do it.

Meal planning — for real this time

Guys, if you know me, you know I love to cook. But I am a terrible meal planner. My idea of meal planning is wandering through the produce section to get inspired by the pretty, locally-grown vegetables. Really not the most sensible way to use my time or structure my week. I’m also just started a low-histamine diet, which introduces a whole new level of restrictions and difficulties, especially since I can’t precook anything and hold it in the fridge for use later in the week. But I have to have a plan, and because of both my requirements and my kids’ food allergies, picking dinner up at Chick-Fil-A is not longer an option.

So I need a relatively-affordable, mostly-organic menu, flavors that my children will actually eat (they’re not as enamored with ethnic food as my husband and I am), and things that can be quickly cooked from fresh ingredients or prepared, frozen, and then quickly reheated in a reasonable amount of time. Oh, and don’t forget that I’m crazy picky about my food and most of the “umami bombs” I rely on for big flavors are now verboten. Let’s just call it Meal Planning Impossible, shall we? Feel free to come along for the ride…or just lay bets on how long it takes for me to lose my mind. I’m thinking they’re even odds.

Paring down — big time

I’ve been running behind the minimalism train since I read two books in late 2014: The Power of Less by Leo Babuta and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. We have a fairly modest house, but we are people who like stuff. I tend to be a collector unless I keep those impulses in check. But all my things were suffocating me. The time it takes to maintain, organize, and work around all the stuff is time I’m no longer willing to spare.

So I’ve decided to board that train for real and get serious about some major paring down. Did you know that you actually don’t need thirty colors of Post-It Notes in your desk drawer? I know that’s a humorous example—after all, Post-It Notes just take a little bit of space—but multiply that mentality towards everything you own and it can become a serious problem. I’ve already cut my kitchen gear by two-thirds and I’ve gone to a year-round capsule wardrobe to simplify my closet. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. The final goal is to have the minimum that I need to live plus the things that I absolutely love and put a smile on my face every day. Life’s too short and time’s too precious to be sucked into the black hole of consumerism. This year, I’m opting out.

These are some big goals and big changes, but I’m willing to bet most of you are feeling the same need for a fresh start for 2017. If you want to play along with the big New Year Makeover, I’d love to have you. Leave a comment below about your 2017 goals and we’ll do this together!


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  1. Phyllis Bartram says:

    Boy! Can I identify! I love to be organized so why am I so very disorganized!? Nearly every day I look at my closet and tell myself I need to discard! Goodwill will benefit! So why do I keep adding instead of taking away? And how did you decide which kitchen items you could do without? I think I must have an emotional connection to every little item in my cupboards and drawers. Ridiculous!!
    Thank you for your inspiration.

    • Carla says:

      I recommend starting with the closet first. The funny thing was, once I pared down to ONLY things that I loved and made me feel great, I realized how little I’d actually needed the other stuff and that gave me the motivation to pare down in other areas too.

      The kitchen is way harder, though, isn’t it? I started by eliminating duplicates– spatulas, spoons, etc. Someone bought me an InstantPot for Christmas two years ago, so why was I holding onto yogurt maker, a crockpot, and a rice cooker? It does all that. That’s three appliances gone. Anything that doesn’t have multiple uses, out… except for my cherry pitter, which might be the one single-application tool I still own. I focused on improving my knife skills, and now it’s far faster to just dice by hand than use a food processor, by the time you consider the time it takes to disassemble and wash. These seem like small things, but it adds up. (However, lest you think I went full minimalist, I have open two shelves full of dishes and bowls. I personally love having the right plate or bowl for the right dish.) But to me that’s what minimalism is about…making room for the things that you really love and use and want and getting rid of what you don’t.

      Good luck on your own journey and don’t be too impatient with yourself. It’s taken me two years to let go of some of these things and I’ve still got a looong way to go.

  2. Sparksofember says:

    I can identify, too, though after reading what you’re up against I’m thinking I’ve got nothing to complain about. 😉 I’ve actually decided to try using a planner for the 1st time this year. I looked into Erin Condren and Plum Paper and finally stumbled on an inexpensive option at Michael’s. (I hesitate to invest too much into something that may not stick. lol)

    Can’t help with the diet though have you heard of the Hallelujah diet? My mom took their course and still uses many of their recipes – it doesn’t get much fresher than raw, I guess. I’m planning to try the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating this year. I’ve read the book and dabbled but it’s time to get serious.

    Anyway I hope things settle down and get easier for you!

    • Carla says:

      I’ve never heard of the Hallelujah diet. I’ll look at it. I’m not a raw foodist, per se, especially since many items actually increase their nutritional value when cooked, but I’m all about minimally processed. I’m going to be posting about planners and food later in the month, so I hope you come back and share your progress with THM and also show us a photo of your planner! I looove that stuff.

  3. Melony Teague says:

    I am totally there with you, more in the organization and minimalism part than the food, but totally frustrated by my work space right now

  4. Preslaysa Williams says:

    I read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” last September and I got rid of so much clutter afterwards. Bags and bags of clutter. But it’s an ongoing process. I already see more stuff to lose.

    • Carla says:

      Preslaysa, it’s astounding. We are gradually cleaning out our crawl space storage and our basement. I’ve already done FIVE truckloads to Salvation Army. I’m actually a little ashamed of myself. It made me vow “never again!”

  5. Serena Chase says:

    Inspiring goals–all good ideas! Go, you! <3

  6. Mollie Rushmeyer says:

    Hi, Carla! I’m inspired to make some changes too for the new year. Maybe partially because of posts like yours, and I did just get a new planner 😉 ! I’m like you, I have to have a visual reminder of what needs to be done and appts and such. My main goal (if that’s the right word) is to work on getting a literary agent in 2017. But now I feel like I need to figure out what the action steps are to get there. Like you, I’ve had a crazy year and done very limited social media/ platform building in that time. My other goal is to spend more time on the things that bring joy into my life, like time with my family. These two things seem to be at odds with one another! Don’t they? I guess I need to figure out a system for me to carve out time to work on both. Blessings to you 🙂 . And prayers for your endeavors.

    • Carla says:

      Good luck on your agent search, Mollie! I don’t think that goal and the goal of spending more time with your family is in conflict at all. After all, the agent search is a long process, so it’s not something that has to be done all at once… just keep plugging and keep working on your craft in the meantime. And try not to be too discouraged if you get turned down. I’ve gotten rejected many times even after being published, and it took me three tries to land my agent. 🙂

  7. Glenis Yoakum says:

    I understand the food allergies, I have several, starting with red meat. I have been fighting severe health issues the last five or so years. So this year my goal is improved health and less clutter in my life.
    In 2013, I married the love of my life, my childhood/high school sweetheart. Of coarse it was 40+ years later. He insisted we marry because he was afraid I would die without marrying him. Anyway we merged two households. We have too much stuff. I have two large bags and a box ready to go to salvation army. It is a slow process with everyday living. My hat is off to you.
    One last note Five Days in Skye is amazing.

    • Carla says:

      Congratulations on your marriage, Glenis. That’s an amazing story! The food allergies…not so much fun… I can’t do red meat right now because it’s all aged and there’s too much histamine in aged meat. I don’t know if it’s temporary or long term, but at least it’s something I can do without.

      I guess we’ll all just keep plugging along on the decluttering… eventually we’ll get there, especially if we don’t bring anything else in. And thanks for the compliment. 🙂

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