minimal maintenance journal layouts

In these dreary not-yet-spring days, I’ve been enjoying the simplified rhythm of a journal re-vamp I did last October. I’m so excited to share it with you now that I’m comfortable with it and have had time to tweak it here and there.

I love picking and choosing my favorite aspects of a few different disciplines (in this case Bullet Journal, Full Focus Planner, and a smidge of Level Ten Life) and weaving them together to form something new, beautiful, and ever so useful to me.

So here are my layouts!


This spread is the backbone and where I come back to again and again during the month. When I set about this refresh, I knew I wanted to scrap the daily and weekly spreads I used to do. While they were really fun and it felt like I was getting a lot accomplished, it wasn’t long before I was spending more time maintaining the layouts than I was using them. By paring down to just a monthly spread, I have one place with everything I need. Ten minutes of set-up, a whole month of organization.

I’m particularly in love with the limits that having two pages puts on me. My to-do list stays far more focused and I am continually encouraged by being able to see what I have already finished instead of constantly having to deal with and re-write what I have not done yet.

By listing the current month’s focus right front and center, I am also able to keep it in mind and tailor my to-do list accordingly.

*a note on the habits: I have really really loved limiting and then separating my habit trackers. As the month progresses, I can much more easily see how I am doing on each individual habit. That way, rather than having one habit make me feel like I’m failing at all of them because they’re all mixed up, I can instead get excited about how one of the habits has been going really well. It’s also proved really helpful as well because I can look for different “ideal patterns” for each habit. While I want my scripture and chore habits to be full every month, I don’t necessarily want my reach out habit to be full. That would mean that I spent every single day of the month with someone else which quickly leads to burn out. By separating them, these patterns are easy to see and I can adjust focus mid-month.


At the end of each month, before writing the next monthly spread, I write out a quick review of the past month. I note that month’s focus, write in successes and challenges, and then evaluate what I want to keep, start, and stop doing. From there I look back at my yearly goals (that spread is coming next) and think about what’s coming up in order to create a focus for the following month that will go right into the new monthly spread. At the bottom I write down moments to cherish to keep me from getting caught up in the do do do of planning and refocus on gratitude.


While I have used the basic elements of this spread for years, I have loved adding a little whimsy this time around. I use ten categories to separate out realms of life and then write in goals for each. Currently I am using friends and family, career, home, play, health, spirit, mindfulness, community, creativity, and finances. As soon as I start putting in goals, it’s very clear which areas I tend to skip over. As the year goes by, my goal list grows and changes. I also make sure to take extra time and thought to go back to the boxes that are empty or only have one goal in order to consider what I can add or work towards in that area. Again, the limitation of having only having four possible goals a year in each category keeps me focused on the big picture rather than getting lost in the nitty gritty. Nitty gritty is for my monthly to-do list.

The new dash of whimsy comes when I mark a goal as completed. As soon as it’s checked off, I get to draw a single branch onto that categories corresponding pot. As the year goes by, my little shelves of plants grow and expand across the page! It is ridiculously motivating for me.


At the turn of the calendar year, I also write out a reflection for the past year. To create it, I went out and looked at all of the end-of-year journal layouts I could find and snagged my favorite reflection questions. Each one became a box for me to fill with my response. I’m excited to see how it changes over time, though I really do love the questions I ended up with this year. My favorite are three words for the year, when i lost track of time, and money well spent. I also slipped in a timeline of events. I love seeing such a zoomed back view of how the year was woven together. The very bottom two boxes are grateful for and next year, which help launch me into writing my January focus!


Sometimes I want to focus in on a new habit or strengthen an old one. For this I use a habit layout heavily influenced by The Full Focus Planner. It provides structure and encouragement by forcing me to be explicit about my motivations and then constantly reminding me of them as I check in every day. It also shows an end point to the highly-focused season of developing a habit. Three months often feels like a long time to do anything every day and I always like being able to see that it will end. I also love that I have to be explicit about how I will reward myself when I accomplish the streak.

*a note on not completing a streak: I am usually intrinsically motivated by the journal itself to complete a streak because I don’t want to have to set the page up again (haha) but when I do fail (and I have…often) I’ve made it my practice to speak kindly to myself on the page before moving on. I beat myself up a lot when I fail at I’ve set out to do. I work at remembering to speak to myself as I would one of my elementary students. “Uh oh, try again” is my current go-to.


Very similar to my habits layout is the one I use for goals I am particularly focused on. The top box includes what I want to accomplish and, very importantly, when I want to accomplish it by. Then, just like the habits page, I have to write down why I want to do this thing which, again, I have to see every time I work towards reaching the goal. Goals often have several steps to keep track of so I leave a generous box to note them. It helps a great deal with forward momentum as you start. Then, again as before, the reward sits at the bottom, just waiting for you.

*a note on rewards: make sure it’s something you really do want…something a little bit extravagant that you wouldn’t usually do or get. Also, tie it into the goal. The one below is not very well written for me. Thankfully, the goal itself is VERY motivating so it isn’t a matter of not accomplishing it. Rather, the reward isn’t as powerful because it isn’t tied into the goal. A better reward could be “buy a ship’s bell for the front door.”


As needed, I include various types of lists. The ones below are a Christmas gift tracker, notes on a book I read, my want vs. need list (so so helpful to keep perspective before purchasing something), and a page to consolidate all of the random mini-lists I might want to make. These are the only pages that I put into my table of contents. Because everything else is date-marked, these are the only layouts that can get lost in the shuffle.


I use this particular layout for a great number of things from lecture notes to personal reflection. The simplicity of the flag at the top followed by whatever happens to be on my mind is flexible enough to adapt to anything and simple enough to be incorporated on-the-go.

A couple other things I’ve changed in my journal practice is a limited color pallet (four colors focusing on only two of them) and using markers instead of paint. While I still adore the look of watercolor details and the depth of categorizing one can reach when you have ten colors to work with, the paint and water and focus it takes to do that is no longer where I want to spend my energy. I still chose colors I think are gorgeous (a must) and every time I work on it I enjoy not having to make any decisions.

So there you have it! A journal chock full of structure and yet pared down so that it needs next to no maintenance leaving me the time to focus on reflection and action instead.

Do you use a journal? What have you been loving about the process lately?

herbs and spices

We have organized our spices in several ways over the years…from a pull-out bin of plastic zip bags and jars under the counter, to just jars lined up along the top of the counter, to the same jars laid out next to one another filling an entire drawer. This solution though? This solution will stay. I love it more every time I use it.


It’s extremely easy to set up. Just order the number of jars you want (I use the 2oz size) and make sure they include metal lids (we chose white ones to blend in with the fridge). Then get two magnets for each jar, pop them on the inside of the lid, fill it with spices, write the name on the bottom with an oil paint pen, and pop it on the fridge! The hard part is figuring out how you want to organize them…color? Texture? Country of origin? We’ve landed on a general grouping of flavor profile…salty together, herbal together, spicy together, sweet together, and on.


In our kitchen, having them on the fridge means they are right next to the stove where we use them most. While spice purists would likely tell you to store them away from such a large heat source (or any heat source), we find that with the 2oz jars, we tend to go through the herbs and spices quickly enough that we don’t have to worry about their flavors fading. Especially because they’re so close to where we cook and we can see all of them at a glance and so use them a lot more than if they were tucked away in a drawer or cabinet.

Then, when they run out as they happily do often, I just take the jar with me to our local bulk store and fill them up again. Just as much as we need, no more, no less. Easy as could be.

imperfect produce

We're always looking for ways to eat locally, sustainable, and affordably all at the same time. The newest trick up our sleeve? Imperfect Produce.

It essentially works like a CSA but rather than gathering produce from a single farm or co-op, they purchase and distribute produce that can't pass the stringent aesthetic requirements of grocery stores. And let me tell you...besides a few dings here and a couple smaller pieces there (and far larger ones too!), it's actually turned out to be far better produce than what I can find at our local grocery stores. Not to mention that it's at about half or a third of the price and gets delivered right to my apartment building. Local, sustainable, simple. Three of my favorite things.


I could gush for a very long time but it would never convey how excited I am. It's been two years now since I've gotten to work regularly in a farmer's market and my heart has missed the excitement of trading for whatever's left at the end of the day and finding new recipes for the spoils.

I didn't really know how much I'd missed it until our first box arrived and filled the gaps in our fridge, pantry, and counter with luscious greens and boxes of berries for jamming.

I sense our weekly stone soup dinners will return with a vengeance in the fall as the temperature dips and we find ourselves with an abundance of vegetables begging to be turned into hot meals for everyone.


Have you ever gotten a CSA or tried Imperfect Produce? What are your tips and tricks? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

This post is fueled by my love of abundant produce and sustainable living. All opinions are my own. I have not received any compensation in any form for writing this blog post.

decorating with memories

In a small apartment, deliberate decorating is a vital joy.

The chart reader from Portsmouth, a bigger-than-life chunk of my childhood book adventures and even more magical as a living, breathing town. The pin commemorating that time the car broke down in the middle of New York CIty after a two day drive from Georgia.

decorating with memories | seekthewelfare

The mug that brought months of solace in a terrible job. The mug that a dear college roommate created with her own hands. A card collection filled with color stories from our travels.

The drum from Uzbekistan, brought back in a suitcase, intact and fascinating. The concrete pot I carried twelve blocks from the little shop two neighborhoods over.

decorating with memories | seekthewelfare

Decorating with what I already have has always been my favorite. Why fill this intimate space with items that don't call to me? That will be forgotten tomorrow? That don't have a story to tell?