Happy New Year, friends! In this month’s behind-the-blog break, I’m revealing how our new gift-giving “scheme” worked out for Christmas, sharing my word of the year for 2024, and giving a (small) preview of what’s coming up this year! This one’s filled with all the new-year feels, so get comfy and let’s chat!

Megan from The Homes I Have Made sitting on a wooden dresser in front of a sky mural

Reporting Back

When I signed off for 2023 in my last Coffee Break post, I shared that we were trying a new gift giving “system” for Christmas this year. Essentially, we took the common “Want, Need, Wear, Read” concept and turned it into a gift exchange amongst our little family (you can read more about it HERE). As promised, I wanted to report back on how it went!

Family Gift Matrix

Let me start with a few cons.

Admittedly, our two little guys are still too young to shop for other people. And coming up with “needs” and “reads” for their recipients proved a bit challenging for all three of them. So as a result, I still did much of the brainstorming, selecting, ordering, and shopping on behalf of the kids. That said, this isn’t necessarily unique to this particular gift-giving concept since I would have done most of the shopping no matter what. I suspect/hope this will get easier as they get older.

Secondly, while the structure of this system does help focus the shopping, I also think it stymied us a bit too. The kids could come up with lots of things Dad would like, but many of them didn’t fit into their want, need, wear, or read assignment. As a result, we ended passing over some great gift ideas in favor of something that correctly fit the category. In some ways, this “robbed” us of the thrill of Christmas shopping when you stumble upon that absolutely “perfect’ gift.

All that said, all 5 of us agreed it was success and plan to do it again next year! Namely, we loved that everyone ended up with a really nice variety of items instead of toys, toys, and more toys (or for Greg and I…junk, junk, and more junk). Here’s what I mean…

Yes, there were lots of toys we could have bought our 4 year old that he would have loved. Instead, he got one of those toys, as well as a new winter coat (Spider-Man version!), a book set, and new markers to replace his dried-up ones. Our middle son also got the toy he asked for, as well as some super cool basketball shoes, a book set, and a new lunchbox he badly needed. Our oldest got the video game he asked for, as well as some pants that actually fit him (hello pre-teen!), some camping supplies he needs for scouts, and the latest installment in his favorite book series.

And as for me…well Greg surprised me big time with Taylor tickets, and I’ve never been more shocked and excited about a gift in my entire life. Let’s just say he’s covered my “want” for many years to come!

While the focused shopping “stymied” us a bit from buying all the awesome things, we realize that really was the point. Instead of buying gifts for gift’s sake, each person’s presents felt intentional and curated, thoughtful and appropriate. The four gift categories turned out to be fun, special, and even surprising; and everyone seemed much more content and less overwhelmed compared to past years.

Best of all? We didn’t have to completely re-organize our toys to make room for all the new stuff; everything seamlessly fitting into the systems we already have in place. Best Christmas present for Mom ever! (Well, after the Taylor tickets that is 😉 )

My 2024 Word of the Year

Back in October, I missed my son’s basketball sign-up deadline. And I’m still not over it. (If Greg’s reading this, I assure you he’s saying “Would you just get over the basketball deadline, already?”) But it’s been really bothering me because I don’t miss deadlines, I don’t drop balls…but I did.

You see, I’m a chronic “plate pile-er.” I convince myself I can make room for aaalll the things: work, family, exercise, volunteer commitments, medical appointments, social life, house projects, and more. I usually make room by getting up early, staying up late, and (quite literally) squeezing things into every possible margin of the day. And for a while, I can usually hang on.

But without fail, cracks in the plate eventually form; and things begin to slip through. Like the dermatology appointment I’m over a year late in making; the thank you notes that never got written; the prescription that didn’t get picked up on time and was re-stocked; the workout routine I worked so hard to establish; the house I can’t seem to get picked up; a few fun holiday projects I planned to share here…and the youth basketball deadline.

Right around Thanksgiving, family illnesses, child behavior problems, creator burnout, and some personal issues piled onto an already full “plate” and sure enough, it cracked right in half. And when this (inevitably) happens, I have no choice but to pull everything off, repair the crack, and start anew.

What I desperately wanted for December was to take some time away from the front side of the blog to plan, re-group, and get ahead. But I quickly realized there would be none of that. So I shut down my computer, put away my camera, and closed my office door. I instead spent the last month “glueing” my proverbial plate back together and letting it “cure,” in the form of lots of sleeping, lots of reading, and (lots and lots) of walking.

Megan sitting on the stairs

For the past few years, I’ve really loved honing in on a “word of the year” instead of a resolution. A “word of the year” serves more as a theme or guiding light for all the different hopes, dreams, and plans you want to see come to fruition in the coming year. And throughout all my walking, resting, and reading, there was a word that kept rising to the surface:

Space, or rather to make space.

Although I talk about space and spaces around here quite a bit, when I looked up the “official” definition, it couldn’t have resonated with me more deeply:

A continuous area or expanse which is free, available, or unoccupied

This definition has provided such powerful and peaceful imagery for me; and now just 5 days into the New Year, space has very much become my quiet mantra.

The idea of making space really does capture the various aspects of my life in need of some realignment:

  • Create more space in our home by significantly decluttering every single spot (I’m actually working on a fun plan for this, so stay tuned!)
  • Create more space for my husband and family by reducing my work hours. Trying to work up until dinner time and throughout the weekend is primarily why lots of life things fall through the cracks; my attention is quite simply split and scattered. I’ve decided that my work day now ends when the kids come home from school in order to make space for all that life stuff.
  • Create more space for myself by reprioritizing sleep, walking, and reading over work and social media.

Some years, I can’t settle on a word that accurately captures my state of mind, but this one feels spot on. I have a sneaking suspicion you will see this concept reverberate over and over again in my content this coming year!

What’s Coming in 2024?

The biggest thing coming in 2024 is another move. Yep, you read that right. Move #10 is already on the horizon. Yes, we know where we’re going next and when; and you better bet I have allllllll sorts of feelings about it. But I’m not quite ready to tell you everything…yet!

But what I can say is this move will be unlike any move we’ve tackled before, and some big changes are on the horizon for me, my family, you, and this little corner of the web. While I don’t have everything figured out just yet, I will be taking you along for the ride and I’m pretty sure you will enjoy it 😉

Megan near wall of state art prints

The other big change I feel compelled to tell you about relates to my posting schedule. For upwards of 10 years, I’ve prided myself on being incredibly disciplined to show up here on specific days. But sticking to that precise frequency has also led to some pretty severe creative burnout and lots of ball dropping (see basketball story above).

So in an effort to create the space I’m craving for the various priorities in my life, I’m pumping the breaks on my posting schedule. Don’t worry: I still have lots of our home to show you and even more stories and insights to share, but I’m finding it impossible lately to pin myself to a neat and tidy planner.

My gut is telling me to instead let the projects and stories be my guide. So that’s what I’m going to do. When a post is ready, I’ll hit publish. This might work out to one post per week…three posts, zero posts, I don’t know!

Yes, everything about this unpredictability is practically making me itch, but I’m fairly sure that breaking apart my carefully constructed publishing routine is one of the only ways to make some much needed space for my creativity and productivity (which have been practically dormant) to spark back to life.

(So how do you know when to check in here? I will always be here on the first Friday of the month with the monthly Coffee Break. Otherwise, make sure you are on my Sunday Short email list, where I round up all the new posts from the week!)

Megan sitting on a white couch with blue pillows

Ask Megan

You guys always ask the greatest questions, and I love answering them! If you have any topics or questions you’d love to see me cover, submit them via the (anonymous) form below.

Thanks for catching up with me this month!

See You Soon!