Before I dive into today’s organization freebie, I have to take a moment to thank you all for the tremendous outpouring of love and support in response to the news I shared last Thursday! That was one of the hardest posts I have ever written…and I was honestly SO nervous about publishing it. I spent a good hour lying in bed wide awake the morning it went live, too scared and nervous to look at my phone to see the reaction. The amount of genuine joy, love, and empathy for our little family was incredible and overwhelming…making this part of our journey even more special! Thank you for sharing in our joy and for taking the time to send along prayers and well wishes! We can’t wait to share this next chapter with you all!
Okay! As promised, I am checking in really quick with those household label cut files I promised last week. I pinky-swear promise I am not trying to milk this project and drag it out, but when I lumped everything into one post, it was way too long. So, this is just a quick little announcement that these files are now uploaded for you in The Organization Toolbox…and while I’m at it, I’ll share a quick tutorial on how to use them!
*affiliate links used
For those of you looking for a super easy, no-fancy-machine-required, “print and cut” option for these exact same labels, I refer you to this post HERE. All of the labels you see in this post are available in PDF format in 6 different colors. All you have to do is print them off your home computer/printer, cut them out and apply them wherever you need them!
However, if you are a bit like me and want to be able to cut these labels from paper or vinyl in any size and color you’d like, this is the tutorial for you! As you can see, instead of using the print-and-cut versions in my linen closet, I chose to cut the labels from gold vinyl and put them on chipboard rounds.
To save you the trouble and headache of designing similar labels yourself, I am sharing both the PNG and SVG versions of these 36 labels! For those of you with e-cutter machines and software, feel free to import the SVG files and get cutting right away (no image editing necessary)! If you prefer to work with PNG files (for e-cutter machines or even to edit and use them in other ways), I have those for you too! (Psssst – if you need help working with PNG files in Cricut Design Space, check out this step-by-step tutorial HERE!).
If you would like these Household Label Cut Files, I have them ALL available for FREE download over in The Organization Toolbox right now! Hop on over and grab your files, then come back to see how I used them!
If you need access to my Organization Toolbox, simply subscribe to THIHM Newsletter below and the Organization Toolbox Password will be delivered straight to your inbox (along with a free gift!)!
(Pssst – if you’re already a subscriber, the password was delivered in the June newsletter! If you just subscribed but didn’t receive the final password email, please check your Spam/Trash folders! The password is in a big blue box and is case sensitive…please use ALL CAPS!)
Already have access? Visit the Organization Toolbox HERE to access your free Household Labels Cut Files!
Once you have the files downloaded to your computer, import them to your e-cutter design software and clean up the files as necessary (if you are using Cricut Design Space, use THIS tutorial.) Once the cut files are uploaded and cleaned up, you can add them to a new project and customize them for your needs.
Start by sizing them according to your preference…
…then cut them from either vinyl or paper.
Next, weed out the images to prepare them for transfer using THESE tricks…
…and then transfer the vinyl labels to your final label surface using transfer paper.
The last step is to fasten your custom labels to whatever it is you’re labeling. In my case, I used brass paper fasteners to attach the chipboard rounds to my baskets!
When I first shared these labels in PDF format months ago, I realized there were limits to their usability since PDFs can’t be easily modified. For those of you that wanted to change their size, shape or color, you were kinda out of luck. I knew there would be some (including myself!) who would really love to have these in a more usable format (like PNGs or SVGs) to be able to truly customize them for your home and use them with e-cutter machines. With just a bit more work, I was able to transform these files into formats that allow them to be used in a variety of ways! I hope you find them helpful; and if you do use them for projects/labeling your own home, be sure to let me know how it turned out!!!
Later this week, I’m going to be closing out the month with a huge THIHM Around the Web round-up…sharing all sorts of posts and projects that have hit the web this summer. Then starting next week, I’m sharing the first glimpses of our new house with our stuff in it (eek) and revealing the first few projects we’ve tackled in this home! Thanks for bearing with me during this month of news and transition…see you back here Thursday!
It’s an interesting thing being a blogger. While we share about our homes or crafts or decor or fashion or recipes or fitness (or whatever!) publicly on a near-daily basis, we have lives and stories that weave their way in and around the posts we share and always serve as a foundation for all we do…even if we never mention them. Each blogger shares their personal lives differently…some not at all, while others in every post…I try to land somewhere in the middle. Whenever there is big news in our life to share, I often spend hours on my runs, lying in bed, or driving in the car brainstorming ways to share the news with you all that feel authentic and true to me and our family yet entertaining and appropriate for the blog. I started brainstorming how we’d share this kind of special news so long ago, never imagining it would be years before I’d finally get to do so. And while the journey was far longer and more painful than we’d ever imagined and this post looks nothing like I thought it would all those years ago, I am over the moon to (finally!) share with you all some happy, happy news: Our family is expanding!!!
And now as I sit here to write this post…the one I’ve waited forever to write and rehearsed in my head thousands of times with thousands of variations…I don’t know what to say next! So I’ll start with the fun and easy part. We are expecting a Baby Boy on January 1st, and we ALL couldn’t be more elated! We have waited and prayed for this baby for years, and I even believed in the depths of my heart it would never happen. So I sit here and share this news with you all in joy, disbelief, wonder, relief and overwhelming gratitude.
Once upon a time I thought I would share every last detail of our 3-year journey to this baby. It was too hard for me to share (and especially talk about!) in real time…even with a majority of my friends and family. But I always thought “once and if it’s ever over,” then I will share every heart-aching moment, false hope, agonizing procedure, and feeling of despair Greg and I shared and endured together day in and day out as we journeyed to this baby. Strangely though, now that the “trying to conceive” part of our journey is over, it doesn’t feel necessary or even healthy for me to re-live it all again. And although I’m suddenly feeling coy on the details I once thought I’d shout from the rooftops, I do want to say this…
Wanting a child and not being able to have one is the most painful, heart-wrenching experience I have ever been through. Infertility is a complicated and exhausting mess of hormones and hopes, shots and skepticism, faith and frustration, companionship and confusion, doctors and despair. To do this day, I’ll never understand why it happened to us the way it did, or why our journey came to a happy end when so many others don’t. But I do know I am forever changed by it. Creating new life is truly a gift…one I will never take for granted and one I will be endlessly thankful I get to experience again.
Okay…so let me we wipe away all my tears and fill you in on some of the funner things you all might be wondering about!
How Are You Feeling?
I am almost 22 weeks in, and I am feeling pretty good! Thankfully, I didn’t experience any severe symptoms or morning sickness in the first trimester…just some exhaustion and crazy blood sugar control issues. The bigger problem for me has been the complete and utter loss of motivation and creativity. As a generally busy person who is always working on a project or at the very least futzing around the house, this was a strange and uncomfortable feeling. It was made all the worse by moving into a new house…which until very recently, I’ve had very little motivation and energy to work on (hence why moving in and new house posts are taking a bit longer than I’d like!) Thankfully, I have felt my old creative self reemerging in the last week…so I am optimistic things will pick up around here! Other than that, baby is moving and my belly is growing…making me one giddy Mama!
How Did You Tell Henry?
Henry has been asking for a baby brother for quite some time. We were never open about our journey with him, yet his asking (and praying for a baby brother at bedtime each night) certainly didn’t help the emotional intensity of it all. After everything we had been through, we wanted to be very sure all was good before we told him he’d be a big brother. When we arrived in San Diego, he came with us to my 13 week appointment. During the ultrasound, we told the Dr that if everything looked okay, to go ahead and show and tell Henry. The doctor showed Henry that there was indeed a baby in Mommy’s belly, and I don’t think he has stopped talking about it since. Seriously. He is absolutely thrilled, and seeing his pure elation has made this experience all the more incredible.
How Do You Feel About Another Boy?
Thrilled! As you can probably guess, we would have been elated with either a boy or a girl…but we have always really loved the idea of Henry having a little brother. I had a very strong sense the baby was a boy because I felt pretty much exactly as I did with Henry all those years ago (from what I can remember, at least!), so I wasn’t at all shocked when we found out. Not only am I very content being a Boy Mom, but we didn’t get rid of a single thing from Henry! It sure is nice to finally bring all the baby boy stuff back into the house!
How Many Years Will They Be Apart?
The boys will be just shy of 6 years apart. That was certainly not our intention or our “plan.” Somewhere along the way though, I had to let go of worrying about the age gap. We just knew our family didn’t feel complete and we’d take another baby whenever it came. It will certainly be an adjustment to enter back into baby-hood all these years later, but it will be nice to have Henry as a true helper!
So…Ummm…What Finally Worked?
I know as Greg and I journeyed along the path of infertility, I drank up every single “success story,” I could find…trying to find others who had similar health profiles as mine and Greg’s and were ultimately successful. And while these stories gave me hope, I also distinctly remember the stinging pain we’d feel when new things didn’t work after clinging to them with such hope and optimism. It became very clear that conceiving is a tricky, complicated, and uncertain business…and even the best doctors don’t know why some things work while others don’t. I am reluctant to say “do this, ” or “try that,” because everyone’s situation is just so different.
That said…for inquiring minds…we don’t really know what finally worked. We reached a point where were emotionally and physically drained from years of various treatments and procedures so we walked away from it all. I had started acupuncture about 6 weeks earlier (the last thing we were going to try before giving up for good), and we decided that sticking with those sessions wouldn’t hurt (Ha! Punny!). 4 weeks later, we were pregnant. Did it finally work because of the acupuncture? Or because we walked away from intense treatments? Or because it was “our time” or “God’s plan”? Who knows. Like I said…it’s a complicated and uncertain business. What I do know is that you have to trust your gut and do what feels right for the moment/phase you’re in…no matter the science, the statistics, the success stories, or your beliefs.
What Does This Mean for the Blog?
Admittedly, when we found out we were moving to San Diego (where all of my professional connections are) and knowing that Henry was heading into Kindergarten, I was preparing to revert the blog back to a hobby blog and get a full-time job. When we found out a baby was really on the way, my return-to-work plans were (happily) put on hold. All that to say, the blog isn’t going anywhere!! It will continue to be my primary form of work and income for at least the next year or so. My transition into motherhood with Henry was a bit rocky, and the blog became an important creative, social and professional outlet for me in the early years. I know I will need the same outlet this time around, so I am excited to have the opportunity to continue to work at it and grow it with baby boy in tow!
However…I will say that I don’t know what writing a blog with a newborn will be like (since I started the blog after Henry was born). Already, I’m finding a slow down in my production since I am pretty much useless after 8pm (which is when I used to do all my photo editing and writing). Having Henry in school all day, every day will certainly allow me to get ahead (hopefully!), but I appreciate your patience as we navigate this next chapter as a family!
Does This Mean We Get to Watch a Nursery Transformation?
Nurseries/kid rooms are among my favorite to work on, so you better bet I am excited to tackle another nursery (which will be the “spare bedroom” upstairs on our home tour!). I have a ton of lessons learned from Henry’s nursery and have already started to collect some ideas. I have no solid direction yet, but you better believe it will all be documented for you here!
It’s been an interesting dynamic to create, document and write about all sorts of pretty things here on the blog while we were struggling with this heavy and hard journey behind-the-scenes. I knew somehow, someday I’d address this part of our life here on the blog…but I genuinely believed I’d never get to write the “We’re Expecting a Baby” post I dreamed about all those years ago. I’m not sure any words I could type out would do our journey or current joy true justice, but I am thankful to have this outlet to at least try. I am thankful to you all for giving me the time and space to share this side of our lives and am excited to go through this next chapter with you all. For those few friends and family (you know who you are) who offered ears to listen, shoulders to cry on, and hope when I was truly hopeless, you will forever be a part of our journey and I’m beyond thankful for your companionship. And to any friends or readers who are yearning for a baby of your own, I know your pain and heartache well. You are on my heart and I will never stop praying for you.
While we get settled into our new house (which is painfully taking longer than normal!), I want to pick back up with my Using the Cricut Explore for Home Decor series by sharing a tutorial for one of my favorite Explore function and uses: importing your own images! (By the way, you can catch up on this series here: Intro | The Essentials | Working with Vinyl). Part of the reason I am “Team Cricut” is because I love their vast collection of images (including trademarked images) in the Design Space library. And even though I have a Design Space subscription (which I personally think is worth every penny and talk more about HERE), I still find there are times when I just can’t find the “right” image for my project. It’s instances like these that instead of settling for one of Cricut’s images, I import something I make myself or find via Google images…and in a few simple steps, it can be sized and cut however I want. This process is easier than you might think, and I’m going to walk you through it today!
*affiliate links used
As an example for this tutorial, I am going to use the linen closet labels I made for our previous linen closet. You all might remember that I made and offered linen closet labels as a free printable a while back. But when I was putting my own linen closet together, I didn’t want to use printed versions (mainly because my baskets were white). Instead, I imported the same images and words into my e-cutter software (Cricut’s Design Space) and cut them from gold vinyl. The results were simple, easy-to-read and descriptive labels for our linen closet!
Finding Images to Cut
So let’s say you want to cut something you create yourself (like your own hand lettering) or something that wouldn’t be commonly found in an image library (like school/work/team logos or an image you find online). If you have a JPEG (or a PNG is even better!), you can most likely turn it into a pretty clean cut file. I will preface this tutorial by saying that I have the most experience with and best luck importing and cutting relatively simple and clean images. I find these by searching Google Images using words such as “clipart,” “icon,” and “symbol” (for example, I would search “light bulb clipart” to find a simple light bulb image). I then look for images that already have a clear background (here is an example), are a single color, and have good resolution. Once I find a good contender, I save it to my desktop and then open it Cricut Design Space.
Importing and Cutting Images with a Transparent Background
When you are creating and/or looking for images to cut, it is easiest to use PNG images, which often already have a transparent background. How do you know the background is transparent? You will usually see little boxes or lines in the background indicating it doesn’t have a solid background color (here is an example). Once you have a PNG with transparent background downloaded to your computer, open up a New Project in Cricut Design Space. Over on the lefthand column, click the button that says “Upload Images.”
Once you click that button, you will be given the option to select Image or Pattern Fill. Select “Image.”
You will notice that you have the option to upload several file types: .jpg, .png, .gif, .bmp, .svg and .dxf. To upload your file, select “Browse.”
From there, find your downloaded file on your computer and select “Open.”
You will notice right away why importing PNG files is so easy…the background is already cleared away, leaving a pretty clear cut path. Once the image populates on the left-hand box, pick the right “type” of image it is. If you stick to single color images like I try to do, pick “Simple Image.”
From here, you can clean up the image. You can erase any parts of the image you don’t want cut or clean up any fuzzy details. You can use the “Preview” button on the bottom center of the screen to see how the file will be cut. Because this image already had a clear background and good resolution, I just hit “Continue.”
Here is the most important step if you are uploading an image TO BE CUT. Make sure you select the right-hand button that says “Save as a Cut Image.” Sometimes that box takes a second to show your file, but it will usually pop up eventually. I also suggest you label your uploaded images so they remain easy to find even after hundreds of uploads!
After you hit “Continue,” you will be taken back to the “Upload Image” screen, but this time you should see your newly-uploaded image in the Library below. Select your image and click the green “Insert Image” button.
Once inserted into your project, you can re-size, color, edit out areas even more, and use it in conjunction with other images and files just as you would one of Cricut’s pre-made images!
And as you can see, the precision at which this imported image was cut is perfect!
Importing and Cutting Images with a Solid Background
Admittedly, sometimes finding the right images with a transparent background is near impossible. Thankfully, editing out a solid background to reveal a clean and perfect cut path is also pretty easy!
Just as before, navigate to the “Upload Image” tab on the left of your screen in Design Space, select “Upload Image,” “Browse” for your file and click open. This time, I chose a JPEG file that had a solid white background, but still had pretty good resolution, a single color, and really clean lines. As such, I selected “Simple Image.”
Unlike last time, notice this image doesn’t have the blue/white checkered background (indicating it’s transparent). If we were to preview this image, it would essentially cut the outside perimeter square and none of the first aid kit or words.
To clean up the image, play with the the three tools on the upper left toolbar. With the middle “wand” selected, work through your image clicking on any area that you would like to be transparent. Use the zoom buttons on the right if you need to get in close to clean up tiny details. And just like before, be sure to use the “Preview” button to make sure the image is fully cleaned up. This handy button will show you if you’ve forgotten to weed out the insides of letters of if you have a strange border that still needs cleaning up!
Cleaning up your image, depending on how complicated it is, can take a bit of time. But once you do, the process moving forward is exactly the same. Be sure to “Save as a Cut Image,” name your file, and then “Save” it to your library.
Once inserted into your project, you can size it, edit it, and color it specifically for your project!
With my images imported, I cut them all from vinyl and used THESE tips for transferring them over to my wooden rounds.
And with just those few easy steps, I had a slew of coordinated labels for our linen closet…all made from images I found via Google instead of paying for them through Cricut!
Cutting your own images is one of the BEST features of the Cricut Explore (at least in my opinion!). Being able to import any file you have or find and cut it with perfect precision truly allows you to make ANYTHING for your home, for gifts, and more! I still think having a Design Space subscription (which gives you access to thousands of images) is worth it, but also having the ability to import whatever you want keeps you from having to pay for even more cut files when what you want isn’t available!
Cricut Explore for Home Decor Series!
I realize there are so many great Cricut Explore tutorials and resources available on the web…many of which I use. But there are also some other tricks and tips I’ve picked up along the way that I can’t wait to share with you guys. If there is something you want me to cover, be sure to leave me a comment! Otherwise, be sure to check out all the posts in this series by clicking on the images below:
Part of the reason I was able to put my labels together so quickly is that I was able to save all of my label images (that I shared here) into high-res PNG files. After putting this post together, it occurred to me that you all might like to have those files too (since you can’t really upload the PDF files I already shared into Design Space), so look for these (and more!) cut files coming next week! Up next on Thursday though, I’m sharing a very special announcement you won’t want to miss! See you then!
I mentioned last week that I had a whole slew of personal posts coming your way this month, and we’re diving right in today with a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while. However I needed to wait for the dust to settle and my raw nerves to heal before doing so! Some of you may recall that about this time last year…right when we were moving into our Kansas home…I took an entire month off of the blog to work tirelessly behind the scenes to prepare for a new blog design. In fact, it was August 5th of last year that I officially made the transition from the (free and easy) Blogger platform to the (not free or easy) platform WordPress and launched the all-new, custom-designed The Homes I Have Made (the design you see on your screen now). In the year since I transitioned to WordPress and revealed the new design, the blog has experienced tremendous growth. In fact, I almost don’t believe the numbers! My traffic in the last 12 months is almost twice that of the previous 12, and I have gained thousands of new followers, subscribers and readers across a variety of platforms! But as many of you dedicated readers also know, the year was not without some SIGNIFICANT technical challenges and setbacks that cost me a lot of money, stress and sleepless nights. A year later, I can say without reservation that switching to WordPress was one of the best things I did for my blog…but I sure messed up A LOT along the way! Read on to find out what I did wrong, what I learned, and what I’d do differently if I could!
(Pssst – I realize not a lot of you are bloggers and potentially don’t care about the technical side of blogging. However, I really want to share my epic failures with other bloggers (and somewhat feel a responsibility to do so) who might be getting ready to start a blog and/or transition from Blogger themselves. Blogger or not, hopefully, you’ll find this peek behind-the-scenes interesting and maybe even a bit humorous! And if you do make it all the way to the end…gold star for you…this one is a long one!)
1. Do A Lot of Research…And Then Do Some More
I started my blog 5 years ago (whaaat??) on the free Blogger platform, intending it to be just a hobby blog. When I started blogging a little more “seriously,” I knew I would eventually switch to WordPress because of the significant boost in website capabilities. I’m not tech savvy at all…so in November of 2014, I started exploring various designers (via Etsy) who could not only help me re-brand (with a new logo(s) and color scheme) but also design a corresponding website and move my entire Blogger blog over to WordPress. The early stages are a bit fuzzy now, but I believe I searched “WordPress design” on Etsy and then spent hours pouring over the plethora of sample logos, fonts, and designs available. This was my only “research.” I was consumed with the look of my site, and didn’t really research about WordPress itself or how the transition from Blogger to WordPress would and should work. I didn’t educate myself on how WordPress is setup or learn about themes/child themes (how a website looks and is organized). I didn’t know other bloggers had put together entire step-by-step manuals on how to setup a pretty and unique WordPress site for far less than I paid for a custom design. When I thought I was researching “how to transition to WordPress,” I was really just gathering ideas for what I wanted my site to look like. But a good web design is about so much more than how it looks.
LESSON LEARNED: I’ll just put it right out there…I very much regret doing a custom web design when I switched from Blogger to WordPress. I’ve since learned that you can purchase very pretty blog/website design templates (from online shops and designers) and customize them for much cheaper than what I spent for a custom site. I also regret not researching “how to setup a WordPress blog,” because a lot of the other mistakes I’ll talk about in this post could have been avoided if I was following a step-by-step guide. If I could start again, I would buy THIS e-book by Abby from Just a Girl and Her Blog (which I discovered AFTER I had already switched and launched). She breaks down every step for starting a WordPress site, a lot of which I could do myself. Yes, I still would have needed help with customization and transferring my Blogger posts over, but I could have navigated the hosting, domain, and basic design stuff much easier than how I really stumbled through it all.
2. A Good Designer Does Not Equal a Good Website Builder
I am not about casting shade or calling someone out, so my original logo and site designer will remain anonymous. That said, a lot of my trouble in my transition from Blogger to WordPress was because I hired the wrong designer for the job. I found a designer who’s aesthetic I loved, and I (too) quickly signed a contract and handed over a whole bunch of money for a custom logo AND web design, including the Blogger transfer and a shop. The designer didn’t have a vast portfolio or a bunch of reviews…but because I was smitten with the logos in the online shop, I put aside my worries, stopped my “research” and went for it. We started with the branding process, which was honestly wonderful. Although I’ve gotten some negative feedback on them, I personally really love my logo, fonts, and color scheme the designer put together for me. I LOVE having several pre-made logos I can use on photos, printables, business cards and more…and since implementing consistent fonts and colors, I feel like I finally have a very recognizable brand.
The troubles really started when we moved into the website design phase of our contract. The designer was seemingly unable to translate my requests into a site design that looked and functioned the way I wanted. I now know it’s partially because it was designed using a different “theme” than most of the blogs I’m used to reading. But because I hadn’t researched enough, I didn’t have the vocabulary to ask for specific things. The whole design process came to a screeching halt when the designer was unable to complete the transfer of my old Blogger posts to my new WordPress site (despite having paid for it) and fix some final pre-launch issues. Out of desperation, I had to suddenly end our relationship and look for another designer to salvage my site and my launch.
LESSON LEARNED:At least in my experience, a good graphic designer does not necessarily translate to a good website builder. I LOVE my logos and branding and feel like they were worth every penny. But from the get go, it seemed my designer was not as comfortable or experienced designing and building the website. There are so many things about my site that I truly love, but if I were to do it again, I would have spent the money for custom branding (logo, colors, fonts) and used those elements to customize a basic WordPress theme. If you are going to hire a designer to do a custom website for you, do A LOT of research, ask to see sample sites, and trust your gut. Oh…and if the price seems to good to be true…it probably is 😉
3. Find Good Tech Support
When I was faced with putting off my blog launch (to sort out issues with my current designer) or jump ship in an effort to get back on track, I chose the latter. I went back to Etsy and searched “Blogger to WordPress transfer” and found Daniel of Trendy Themes. His prices and reviews were phenomenal, but having just been burned by lack of research, I was hesitant to hire someone else so quickly. My launch deadline was approaching however, so I trusted all the 5-star reviews and requested a custom order. Literally within a day, he had righted all that had gone wrong with my blog transfer/launch…and I practically became a customer for life! Messaging Daniel that “fate-full” day last August was seriously one of the best things I’ve done for my site. Not only is Daniel incredibly savvy and gotten me out of a whole heap of messes I made throughout the year, but he is consistently proficient, professional, reasonable, and just darn good at what he does. I have now gone back to him time and time again to fix things that break (more on that in a minute), and am quite certain that I will be using him for any site re-designs in the future.
LESSON LEARNED: For those of you thinking about transitioning/starting on WordPress, the rumors are true. WordPress can be hard to figure out; and when it “breaks,” it’s not the most intuitive thing to fix. If you are like me and lack any and all website/technical skill, then I can’t recommend finding a good and reliable tech/design support person enough. When things don’t look or function right on the site, it can be really, really unsettling, but I personally don’t have the time or interest to learn that tech side of blogging to be able to fix it myself. Having someone I can “call” to fix issues…big and small…has allowed me to get back to the funner and prettier parts of blogging!
4. Good Hosting Is Everything
Because I was not following a step-by-step guide and didn’t have a good designer to walk me through the process, I stumbled through a lot of the initial WordPress setup (i.e., domain name, hosting). Years ago, I bought my domain name (www.thehomesihavemade.com) through a partnership Blogger had (has??) with GoDaddy. Because I thought GoDaddy already owned my domain name, I figured it was where I HAD to setup my hosting too. It turns out that when you buy your domain through Blogger, GoDaddy treats them a bit differently. So I still had to “release” my domain from Blogger/GoDaddy and regular GoDaddy had to pick it up. This is an insignificant detail, but had I known that I wasn’t already tied to GoDaddy, I would have “shopped around” a bit more for domain and hosting support. Anyway, with my domain at GoDaddy, I figured I had to have my hosting through GoDaddy too (which actually isn’t true!) and signed up for a Managed WordPress hosting package, not really knowing what it was or that I had other options.
Life was good and the site transfer was going swimmingly until I made my biggest mistake of all (#5 below). To fix that mistake (which I go into detail below), I had to change my Managed WordPress hosting to Shared WordPress hosting…which in itself was a huge blunder. I wish there were big red signs and flashing lights somewhere that said ” Danger Ahead! Danger Ahead!” Because Shared hosting is exactly as it sounds…you share a server with other sites…it’s not the most suitable option for blogs with a decent amount of traffic (especially ones as picture heavy as DIY blogs). For 4 months, I (and you!) suffered through site crash after site crash, slow loading, “site not available,” and new posts not showing. It was exhausting and exasperating, and I can’t even tell you how many nights of sleep I lost fretting over my darn hosting.
In March, I finally had enough and committed myself to spending the time, money and hassle of switching BACK to a Managed WordPress platform (where you don’t share a server and a lot of the maintenance issues are handled for you). Instead of sticking with GoDaddy, this time I did REAL research and switched to Synthesis hosting. Not only is my site faster and no longer has any weird cacheing issues, but it has only gone down once in the 4+ months I’ve been with them. It was a very costly and time-consuming mistake but after MONTHS of agonizing daily over my hosting, I honestly haven’t thought or worried about it since (which is how it should be!)
LESSON LEARNED: If you have a picture-heavy site, a decent amount of traffic, and/or ads, a Managed WordPress platform is worth the extra money. Period.
5. HTTP AND HTTPS Are NOT the Same Thing
Oh friends. Just typing those words makes my face red hot and my fingers start to shake. A majority of my troubles over the last year are attributed to this, and I feel like I could write an entire cautionary tale on this one. But I’ll try to keep it brief. The short version of the story goes like this. When I originally setup my (Managed WordPress) hosting through GoDaddy (and before my new site went live), it came with an SSL (a secure certificate). I simply got an email that said “Setup Your Secure Certificate Now.” Not know what it was exactly (because I hadn’t done my research), I went ahead and set it up. I quickly learned that it’s the “thing” that makes a website httpS rather than just http….and that’s a big difference. Essentially, it’s an entirely different url..and unless you do some fancy coding, all of your old http links will go dead. Because I was having a shop on my site, I figured having an SSL was probably a good idea, so I kept it. I had my tech guy re-route all my traffic that was previously http (from Pinterest and other web features) to my new httpS site. I launched, and all was good with the world. I had a fast new site, I had an SSL, and my traffic was all re-routing properly.
After a few months of swimming along, I decided to put ads back on my site. Love them or hate them, ads are a valuable way bloggers make money, and I was missing out on a real and important revenue stream. Well, after LOTS of rejected applications, I learned that no ad agency will put ads on sites with an SSL. Whomp. I agonized for weeks on what to do, but ultimately decided to remove the SSL (so I could have ads on my site) and re-route all my now HTTPS traffic back to my HTTP site. Well friends…you can easily route HTTP to HTTPS, but for some reason that I still don’t quite understand, you can’t route it the other way without some very fancy and complicated coding. For 2 weeks, my site was dark, no one could find me, pins weren’t routing, and I was sad. So so sad. So…I switched my site to Shared Hosting (see above) and my tech guy did the fancy re-routing required to get all my traffic going to the right places. And for a time, all was again right with the world. You guys could get to my site, pins were re-routing correctly, I could have ads on my site, and I could breath. Until my site started crashing over and over and over…because of the shared hosting. Are you exhausted yet?? Because the whole thing was beyond exhausting then!
When I switched back to a new Managed WordPress platform because my site speed and stability were so bad, I had the option to keep the fancy httpS re-routing but decided to say goodbye to the SSL once and for all. No fancy configurations, no more re-routing. Just a plain old http site on really good hosting. For a few weeks, I had a lot of pins on Pinterest and around the web that led to dead links, which certainly isn’t ideal. Over time, the pins have mostly “washed out,” and after having a few rough traffic months, things are finally starting to come around. All in all, I’m relieved to have the saga over, but man did I pay in a lot of ways for a dumb, dumb mistake!
LESSON LEARNED: Stay away from the SSL! Okay…kidding…but just a bit. There ARE times when an SSL is very appropriate (like with a shop). My shop, however, only accepts PayPal, which has and uses its own SSL, so I never really needed one to begin with. Long story short? If you want to be able to have ad revenue, do NOT install an SSL!
6. Things Really Do Go Wonky
Okay…so I certainly had the perfect storm of design problems, hosting issues, and re-routing complications that most bloggers don’t regularly have to deal with (I hope!). BUT…the reality is that WordPress sites do “break” or go wonky seemingly inexplicably. After months of quiet on the backside of things (after a very rocky first 6 months), I logged on just the other day to discover my side bar was missing. Gone. I hadn’t done anything (wasn’t even logged on!) to make it disappear. Galleries have stopped working for me, my header has reformatted on its own, and more. I’m assuming they are due to updates or weird theme glitches, and boy they used to really, really rattle me. With everything I’ve been through with my hosting and link re-routing though, these small nuisance issues have become just that…nuisances. I typically wait until I have a bunch of them and then hire my tech guy to fix them all at once.
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Yes, it can be frustrating to wake up one day and have a page or side bar missing or a link not working right. But if your site is up, running, and you can publish a new post, all is good. Figure out a way to deal with the technical glitches or hire someone to do it for you…but all in all…just know they ARE going to happen!
7. Being on WordPress Can Be Expensive
If you can’t already tell, I’ve forked over a good bit of money in the last few years just to get my blog up and running. From the custom design work to tech support, hosting fees and various plugins and services (like my mailing list platform), it certainly adds up. The blog does make money, so I am comfortable investing some of it back into its design and function; but when compared to the FREE Blogger platform, it can defiantly take some time getting used to. Thankfully, hosting and domain fees are an annual (or even bi-annual) cost and the design fees were a one-time investment (until I decide to change designs again!). All the tech support fees have been worth every penny for peace of mind and knowing things were done correctly. However, they are something I have to factor into my blog budget since I am pretty much incapable of fixing the technical problems myself.
LESSON LEARNED: On one hand, I want to say “It takes money to make money,” but I also know there are many, many successful bloggers running their businesses through Blogger and other free platforms. I don’t necessarily regret having to spend money to keep my blog up and running, but I do admit I could have penny pinched more along the way (like customizing a generic theme rather than getting a custom-designed site). Like everything these days (or so it seams), the online/blog world is a big ol’ business, and you can end up paying for pretty much every product and service out there. Instead of throwing caution to the wind, I recommend paying for a few select things that really matter to you (and only you know what those are!), and trying to DIY or find work arounds for the rest!
8. Find a Community
I could technically lump this one into “Do More Research,” but I thought it was valuable to point out how invaluable fellow bloggers are when it comes to de-bugging issues, finding the best plugins and tutorials, implementing the latest strategies and more. For my first few months on WordPress, I was marching along alone and very afraid to do or try anything that might “break” my blog. If I needed something done, I would reach out for professional help only to realize that (some) of the fixes were relatively easy (and even sometimes achieved via a plugin!). When I bought Abby’s Building a Framework e-book (for a whole host of reasons!), it was the exclusive Facebook community that I found the most helpful for WordPress-specific troubles. When I needed a new pop-up plugin, a simple post to the group quickly yielded dozens of options and opinions. When I finally decided to sort out my hosting saga, fellow bloggers were the ones I ultimately trusted to point me toward the best companies and packages. When my site is doing something crazy weird and I don’t know if I should freak out or not, I can quickly find out if other bloggers have experienced the same thing!
LESSON LEARNED: Google searches are great, but when it comes to finding the best advice for your blog, check with other bloggers (even better if they are in your niche). They know the platform, the requirements, and the common problems better than anyone and can usually offer a fix that is easier than you imagined!
9. You Can Easily Do So Much More!
I’ve gone on and on and on about how much more work, stress, and cost having a WordPress site has been, so you might be asking yourself “Then why even bother?” The simple answer is because WordPress really is a much more sophisticated platform; and because of that, you can easily do so much more (at least compared to Blogger). Uploading, naming and tagging photos is SO much easier. Linking back to old posts/projects is SO much easier. Writing specific SEO descriptions (so that Google can find you!) is SO much easier. Pre-populating picture descriptions for Pinterest and Facebook so they load automatically is SO much easier. Adding in “no-follow” and affiliate links is SO much easier. Sharing downloadable files (like printables) is SO much easier because you can actually upload PDFs right to WordPress (which is impossible on Blogger). Creating galleries and menus and forms is SO much easier. Yes, the big headaches of hosting and costs and broken links can sure be stressful and exhausting when they come up, which is infrequent. Rather, it’s the efficiency and simplicity of the smaller and much more frequent tasks you do in every single blog post that make the biggest difference and make it SO worth it to be on WordPress!
10. It’s Easily The Best Thing I Did for My Blog!
If this post tells you anything, it’s that I’ve been through the ringer my first year on WordPress. I made so many stupid and costly mistakes, and lost way too much sleep and wasted too many dinner conversations trying to fix them. It has been a steep learning curve and a heck of a lot of trial-and-error, but I will say this: I’d do it all again (well, maybe not the SSL part because that really was so painful to sort out). I love the professionalism of my site, the increased functionality, and the ease at which I am now able to do basic post functions (such as SEO, linking and more!). I can’t say that the increase in traffic and followers over the last year is directly influenced by my site design (because I have been busting my but on projects too), but I have to think it’s been part of the picture!
Phew! What started as a quick and simple listicle-style post turned into one of my longest ever. Sorry about that. Told you I’ve been storing up to write this post for a while! Beyond just sharing what I’ve gone through this past year, this post also serves as a good reminder for me on how far I’ve come. Making mistakes (especially costly ones) is not fun for anyone. And while there is still so much I don’t know about blogging and WordPress, it’s times like these when I can step back and see (and appreciate!) how much I do know! This whole blogging journey has really been one big DIY for me…figuring it out as I go, learning what I like and don’t like, and even making some great things happen along the way! Thanks for indulging me with your time on this one, and hope you found something here interesting and/or helpful!
P.S. None of the links used in this post were sponsored, I’m just sharing my favorite and most helpful finds with you! Oh – and the gorgeous photos are by Kellyn Wilson Photography!
Well here we are! After months of traveling, moving, packing, unpacking, and enjoying an entire summer of late nights, slow mornings and non-scheduled days, it’s finally time for our little family to pull itself together and get back into a daily routine. My little Henry starts Kindergarten today (how is that even possible?!?) and although I don’t feel ready for this big day on so many levels, we are all very much in a place where some routine, time management, and systems would do us some good. When the lovely folks over at JORD reached out to me about a possible collaboration, I wasn’t sure the partnership was a great fit. But then I realized this was an awesome opportunity for me to share a beautiful product with all of you while hopefully jump starting my new year in our new home with a return to some tried-and-true habits! Today, I want to introduce you to this beautiful line of women’s watches and share with you all some of the ways I am easing myself out of the slow and easy days of summer and back into more productive and structured routine!
Sometime during the last few years, I got out of the habit of wearing a watch and instead have been relying on my phone to keep me tuned into the time and my schedule. In recent months however, a simple check of the time has turned into a huge time drain. Please tell me I’m not alone on this one! It often goes something like this: I turn on my phone to simply check the time. Then I see a Facebook notification I want to check out or a news update that peaks my interest. Then once my phone is fully unlocked and I’m in, I’m suddenly doing a quick scroll through Instagram and checking my email…and before I know it, I’ve lost 15+ minutes on my phone. All because I just wanted to check the time…and this, of course, happens several times a day, resulting in hours (hours!!!) of wasted time.
Over the last few months, I have been feeling especially tapped out by my phone because of this exact scenario. I wish I could say I was disciplined enough to my keep phone time at bay, but grabbing my phone and checking this, that or the other has become too quick, easy and habitual. In the weeks since this beautiful Koa wood and rose gold watch arrived on my doorstep however, I’ve been more than happy to rely on it to tell me the time rather than my phone. Thanks to its simple yet chic design, amazing details, and comfort, it is one of the first accessories I put on in the morning. In turn, I’m finding less reason to reach for my phone and yielding more minutes I can put toward projects, posts, and quality time with my family.
Getting myself off my phone is just one way I am slowly getting myself back into a productive groove. Can I tell you a secret? Until a few days ago, I hadn’t cracked open my planner the entire summer. Not only was our summer so busy and crazy and fluid that holding myself to a planned schedule was practically impossible, but I also desperately needed a break from to-do lists, meal planning and all of the systems I rely on to stay sane. The break has been good for me; but in recent weeks, the effects of our lack of structure have been showing in Henry’s behavior, my disposition, and the overall function of our household. So this past weekend, I pulled out my planner and pretty pens and returned to the systems that work well for our family. It’s time, and we need it.
I printed out an entire stack of my Weekly Organizing printable to get back on track with meal planning and our weekly commitments, and used the same form to hash out our new morning and night routines for the school year. We’ve been turning off the Olympics earlier and earlier each night in an effort to get Henry back to a normal bedtime (and instead watching the coverage over breakfast!). I have been filling in my planner with due dates and commitments, goals and plans, and lots of pretty stickers; and I am getting myself back into the habit of time-blocking my day. I focus better and accomplish more when I take a few minutes each morning to determine what, when and how things are going to get done, and this printable still comes in handy for times when my productivity needs a big ol’ boost. By taking just a bit of time this past weekend to re-familiarize myself with these systems, I am (mostly!) ready to start making the most of these long child-free days that are now upon me!
This summer has been a long and hard one for our family; so to ease the stress of everything going on, we pulled back on the schedules and the forms and the calendars and the plans. And even though it feels like the last of the moving boxes were just hauled away and we’re not quite ready for structure…the calendar tells a different story. School is starting, and it’s time like these I have tried-and-true methods for reigning in the chaos and restoring order to our household!
Thank you so much to JORD for gifting me this beautiful watch and providing me with the motivation I needed to pull out of my summer haze and get ready to take on the school and work year head on! And to all my wonderful readers, JORD is offering one lucky reader a $75 e-voucher that can be applied to any watch on their website. Simply enter at the link below. Contest ends at midnight on August 23rd.
Last but not least, I’d love to hear what you all have been doing to ease yourself back toward the more structured days of fall as summer comes to a close. Are you struggling to restore order like I am or running willingly toward full planners and set schedules? If you have any tried-and-true tips for this time of year, please share in the comments!
Luxury Wooden Watch
I did not receive compensation for this blog post; however JORD did provide theCora watch for me to have and review. Please remember that I only work with brands and products I fully support and that make sense for my home, my family, and this blog. All opinions are 100% my own!