Celebrating 2015 with Color, Organization, and Joy

I love the New Year. It’s no secret that I’m all about goals, and if you do it right, resolutions are just goals in disguise. I love the symbolism inherent in a fresh start; I love the reminder to look back and review – to look inward and take stock. I love the sense of energy that comes with a new calendar and the promise of blank pages.

Last year my Hub-a-dub was sick at New Year’s, so we stayed home. I was bummed we couldn’t go to a party we’d planned on, so to make staying home seem special instead of a let-down, we built a blanket fort in the living room. (Yes, we are young and energetic. No, you aren’t too old to build a blanket fort.) We went the whole nine yards, dragging our mattress out into the middle of the room, bringing out every sheet and blanket and pillow we owned, and even stringing up a strand of Christmas lights inside. We played games, ate a picnic, watched the ball drop on TV, and slept in the living room with the cats slowly collapsing our fort as the night drew on. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite New Year’s memories.


This year I was sick. We did the same, but better. (The kitties couldn’t take down Megafort if they tried.) We snuggled, watched stand-up comedy inside the fort, kissed at midnight, and went to sleep. Aside from being sick, I can’t think of a better way to ring in the year.

Now I’m on the mend, but not at 100%, so I’ve been spending the last week or so slow-working and relaxing, mostly reading and getting myself organized for 2015’s work year (which for me, starts today). For Christmas my mom got me this super awesome Erin Condren “life planner” which I’m just madly in love with:


It’s a personalized, designer planner for the hyper-organized (you rang?). I spent most of New Year’s Day doing two things. 1) Filling out this baby with birthdays, holidays, known appointments, recurring meetings, etc. 2) Filling out my 2014 work expenses for tax time. My hubby was sweet enough to set me up an Excel template to use, which I then filled out for 2014 and set up for 2015. I really enjoyed looking at all of my total expenses and earning for 2014, especially with an eye toward how 2015 might be different. What does it say about me that the happiest way for me to spend the holiday is organizing? (Don’t answer that.) To be fair, the pretty, pretty planner full of stickers and designs really does take it from chore to fun – at least now that it’s still a novelty.

But it wasn’t all neuroticism and spreadsheets. It’s also been goals, accomplishments, and colors. Yes, colors. You know how some people really, really love music? Not just in that human nature “Oh, I love music” way that everyone does, but in that “I would die without music” way. Well, that’s how I feel about color. If I had to choose between a life without music or a life without color, I’d sacrifice the music (and yes, I love music) in a heartbeat. I don’t know how to explain it, but colors mean so much to me. All kinds of vibrant, beautiful colors. They speak to me.

So yes, part of my sense of hope and excitement for what 2015 may bring is symbolized by colors. I added a tab to my new planner for goals:


And wrote my goals out with rainbow pens. I divided them up into “work,” “personal,” and “health” this year. I made them all achievable things that I have control over. And I made them pretty, dammit, so I can flip to this page anytime I want as a reminder. Instead of seeing a somber list of intimidating goals, I’ll see a happy list of things that will improve my life and myself.

Finally, one of my personal goals is to celebrate my successes. I’m pretty bad about achieving something and immediately setting the next goal without fully appreciating what I’ve accomplished first. That’s no way to be happy! So as part of that resolution to celebrate more, I’ve made joy jar. That’s what I’m calling it: my joy jar. Any time I have a wonderful day, achieve something I’ve worked hard for, or experience anything I want to stop and savor, I’ll write it on a sticky note (from the multi-colored stack, of course), and drop it into this jar:

celebrate jar

You might notice that I’m a fan of polka dots and orange (my favorite color). My new planner came with some matching stickers. I used one to personalize an empty Yankee Candle jar. (Tips on how to clean empty glass bottles here; skip to the comments for a shortcut.) My mother-in-law gave me this cute little rainbow button bracelet for Christmas, and I think it’s a perfect topper. I wrote in “Celebrate 2015” with my multi-colored Sharpies to make it look festive, and set it on my works-in-progress shelf. I can’t wait to see it fill up with colorful notes. When 2016 rolls around, I’ll go through the jar and read all I have to be happy about in 2015.

Here’s hoping it’s a lot. 🙂

I wish you all a joyful, colorful, organized (or messy!), spectacularly fresh and open 2015. What are you doing to celebrate?

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  • Regina Richards

    Great post Annie. I absolutely love the joy jar. What an awesome idea!

  • Melissa Crytzer Fry

    OMG – your enthusiasm is contagious and just what I needed to start MY new year (mine starts today as well). While I am not nearly as organized as you (my physical and computer desktops, and email inbox prove it), I can well understand the thrill of feeling organized — something I have to work hard at. In fact, just yesterday I figured out the proper storage containers for my color-coded WIP cards so that I can most effectively USE them to map out my story. And a few months ago, applying for a grant forced me to come up with a clear plan for completion of the WIP — while painful at first (because of so many moving parts), the exercise gave me a bit of a buzz, knowing I had a clear, organized path to completion instead of paralysis from overwhelm. So, yeah, I get it (though I do not share your love of pre-tax planning in ANY way). Here’s to great things and a jar filled with joy!

    • I’m so happy to hear that. 🙂 You DO get it; that’s the thrill! The more organized we are, the easier it is to do things. So once the habit of organization becomes ingrained (like it obviously is in me, in part because it feels ‘natural’ to me), everything becomes simpler. I don’t enjoy taxes though, just to clarify. Haha. I *do* enjoy knowing that next year it will be that much easier since this year I will be keeping track as I go instead of trying to gather everything at the end (and wondering if I’m missing things). That’s the rush, for me — knowing that I’m making myself more efficient. Congrats on your own progress. I would love to see a picture of the colored note card stuff if you’d like to share!

  • A. B. Davis

    Speaking of goals, I was sad to find that you had taken your WIP page down. I loved reading all of your great ideas (and I know a lot of people benefited from your genius format, including me!), I understand that it was probably a prudent choice, given that your published works page keeps growing and growing! That’s something to celebrate, Annie.

    As Melissa said, your enthusiasm is contagious. I need to buckle down and make a list of goals to eventually celebrate their accomplishing like you will with your awesome jar. I never do well with planners though (however, yours is pretty dang awesome looking; it looks like your mom knows you, hehe).

    Happy New Year, Friend! I have confidence that your celebration jar will overfloweth. Also, that expense excel template might be a lovely addition to your organize writer page, even if you charge for it. Just sayin’ 😉

    • Yes, I decided to take the WIP down for several reasons, one of which was that I just couldn’t keep it updated and it was getting unreasonably long, hehe. And thank you! I am proud of the fact that my published list is growing. 🙂

      Maybe you should try a joy jar too! You’re pretty crafty yourself; I bet you could come up with something neat. And a happy New Year to you too. We’re chugging along toward May!! 😀

      (That’s a great idea! I’ll add that to my Organized Writer list — thanks!)

  • Julia Munroe Martin

    Your organization is amazing, Annie! Over the weekend, I cleaned my office thoroughly, and now I’m ready to start the year with a clean slate. You’ve given me great ideas to add to my planning… like the joy jar, what a fabulous idea! I love polka dots, too, btw! Happy New Year!

    • Yay! And thank you. I hope you do a joy jar too. Wouldn’t that be a cool thing to catch on? If you make yours decorative, I’d love to see it. 🙂

  • Carie Juettner

    You and I are SO much alike in our hyper-organized, colored-pen-obsessed, list-making geekiness. You’re just more open about it. 😉 But since we’re being honest, I too *LOVE* setting up a new planner by adding in all the birthdays, holidays, and dental appointments in neat handwriting before all the in-the-moment messiness fouls it up. Most of my friends can’t fathom why I still use a paper planner, but I don’t care.

    • Haha, I’m out and proud, baby! =)~ I’ve embraced it and run with it, and I couldn’t be happier. I know I could theoretically do the same thing on a digital calendar, but it REALLY isn’t the same. Sometimes tactile is just better.

  • KelsNotChels

    I could definitely use a joy jar. I think that sounds like a REALLY great idea! And I’m so happy to see your EC planner! I swear, all of that color she uses is what hooks me! I just can’t quit! Love you! Miss you! Proud of youuuuuuu.

    • You’re crafty; you should make one!! Yes, I love my planner. Thanks for telling me about EC. I’m going to try not to go back to that website ever again, lol. Her stuff is cute but pretty pricey, so I don’t want to get hooked on the accessories and what not. It’s so hard to resist all the pretty colors and patterns. I love you too! *hugs*

  • Carie Juettner

    P.S. It’s funny that Ashley brought up your WIP page. I hadn’t realized it was missing, but I’ve been staring at mine daily for the past couple of weeks trying to figure out what to do with it due to similar issues. It’s about to either get a makeover or get booted too.

    • Ah, well, all I can tell you is that I don’t miss mine. =/ You can always set the page to “private” instead of deleting it; that way if you change your mind you don’t have to start all over!

      • Carie Juettner

        Good idea!

  • jclementwall

    I’m with you a thousand percent on setting goals. I write them out every year (after taking stock, another process I love), and I monitor my progress monthly and quarterly. I’m every bit as obsessive, but I don’t look as orderly doing it. Instead of a binder with tabs, I have a big project list on the wall with colorful post-it notes stuck everywhere. Instead of a planner, I have a spiral notebook with doodles in the margins. And instead of binders for my works in progress, I have meaningful stacks that I move out of my way to paint. ; )

    Still, I love the process every bit as much as you do, and I loved your post because I identified with your enthusiasm for this time of year.

    And how great is it that you and I started a good-things jar the same year! Woo-hoo, us! Also, I’m totally building a blanket fort this New Year’s Eve. With colored lights. You’re a super genius. I’m glad you’re feeling better, Annie. Here’s hoping both of us have our best year yet.

    • It doesn’t surprise me at all that you love taking stock and setting goals as much as I do. And your wild system seems to work for you just as much as my tame one does for me, so you know I’m all for it. Some people find energy in chaos and some in order, and I kind of love that. I also love that we started jars at the same time! I hope I hear more about how that goes for you. And best of luck with your blanket fort. I hope it’s as gloriously fun and silly for you as it was for us. 🙂 Cheers!

  • Russell Linton

    Could you please write a story about a hyper-organized serial killer who loves polka dots and blanket forts? I’ve been managing expenses for one business or another for several years now and I agree that looking over the numbers is the best way to put your accomplishments in perspective and to plan for the coming year. Great ideas, adorably creepy (when you’re familiar with your writing), and I’m not sure I can fit my puppet in a jar, but I’ll try.

    • I feel like I could manage that. Who knows? Maybe it will turn out to be my masterpiece. *rubs hands together* (Even as I’m typing this somewhat sarcastic reply I’m getting an actual story idea. I think there’s something wrong with me.)

      Yeah, this is the first year I’ve seen my expenses/earnings broken down by category. It really gives me a fresh perspective about where my time and energy are best spent!

  • Cynthia Robertson

    Here’s the thing: the building the fort doesn’t make me feel
    too old, but, that you can do it when sick, DOES! Lol (I love that you guys did

    I’m a paper planner person too. Don’t know if I’d remember half
    of my appointments if I didn’t have one open on the desk to glance at several
    times each day, Annie. It’s great that you have taxes to do from your writing (never thought I’d say something nice about taxes).You’re a success! 🙂

    • Haha, fair enough. =)~ I’m the same way; seeing an appointment written down all week is way better than getting a phone reminder. And the taxes might sound fancier than they are. At this point my expenses still outweigh my profits, but hey, I’m getting there.

  • TrudieMarie

    I hope it’s a lot, too!

  • You and your husband are adorable with your living-room forts! What a great way to stay warm and snuggly when you’re sick. I love your planner, colored pens, and the jar idea, too. I made it through NY okay and then got really sick. I’m recovering although CPs aren’t getting reviews or new chapters this week…

    • Thanks, Lexa! I’m sorry you’re sick; it seems like everyone gets something this time of year. =( Take it easy, rest up, and feel better soon!

  • Love your jar!! Me and Daniel made something similar: http://www.buzzfeed.com/alannaokun/im-so-im-so-proud-of-you#.hqzpR2Mn3 We are going to read them on next year’s eve to see what we’ve accpmplished!

    • Thanks! Wow, that must be a trend this year! Awesome that y’all are doing it too. 🙂 Happy New Year!

  • Peggy

    Delightful post, Annie – your energy & enthusiasm are contagious! You’ve inspired me to start a joy jar, too. I love that you are going to celebrate your successes. I saw one online a long time ago and said I was going to do it but then forgot about it:( This is the year for the joy jar! I’m trying to think of a way to incorporate confetti, which has a personal significance for me.
    I just love the way you try and make the details of your everyday life fun & pretty, because it celebrates the now and fosters appreciation/gratitude. I think those are fundamentals of happiness.

    • Thank you so much! I love that everyone’s starting a joy jar. 🙂 You could always just toss a little confetti in the jar, or maybe keep a hole punch next to it and punch one hole from each note, so by the end of the year you have notes and confetti? Just a thought. Happy New Year!

  • lemead

    I love this! Your colors and your disciplined approach to goal-setting both inspire me (as does your blanket fort)! xoxox

  • that’s a great goal– to celebrate. You had so many in 2014 so you can totally celebrate those just a little late, right? Great idea with the jar. And I seriously covet that planner.

    • Thanks, Nina! Yes, I spent some time looking back at 2014 and smiling. 🙂 The planners really are drool-worthy. If you’re in the market for one, definitely check Erin Condren out; she has all kinds of color stories and patterns!

  • Katy

    Colored pens! Squee! 🙂 I love the idea of a joy jar. (Might have to make one tomorrow.) I’m messily organized – it seems like a total mess at first, but I know exactly where everything is. But I get stuff done! (Sometimes. As long as it’s not Algebra.) 🙂

    • Squee indeed! 🙂 I hope you do make a joy jar; it seems to be spreading. (Best virus ever!) I know other messily organized people. If it works for you, it works! Have a great 2015, Katy.

  • Evangeline Sloane

    Just found you today, and we are kindred spirits! See? https://twitter.com/evsloane/status/549752508772782082 Looking forward to following your progress through 2015!

    • We sure are!! Those are beautiful office supplies. Thanks so much for finding me here! It’s lovely to ‘meet’ you, Evangeline. 🙂

  • For some reason I can’t manage to get to your new post’s comments, so I’m leaving one here. Congrats on the “Ask Annie” column for Writer Unboxed! That awesome graphic definitely engenders a “smitten kitten” feeling! 🙂

    • Oh! Sorry about that; I always forget to mention it when I’m closing comments on a post. But thank you! 🙂

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