It's about embracing all the parts of you - who you are, what you love and what you do, to create the life that you dream of.
Too often we only focus on the to-do list, those things for work that have to get done, while the things that we want to get done, to become the person that we want to be, fall silently along the wayside.
It's time to intentionally define your own sense of happy and design a life where you do your very best to live that happiness every single day.
Your definition of happy is whatever you say it is. It can be whatever you decide it to be, a balance of all the things that matter to you. And if you’re a parent, it’s about finding the balance between your kids’ happy, your family happy, and your very own happy.
For me, defining a happy life is about no longer splitting my life into compartments which are neatly bundled away (with some of them hidden completely). Artist here, designer there, parent here, wife there, friend here, and somewhere way way over there is me, just me.
No longer is too much work an excuse for not remembering to breathe. No longer is focusing on the family a reason to forget who you are. I'm redefining my own definitions of balance when it comes to work, family and creativity, for both myself and my family.
In short, I’m ridiculously excited to be designing a happy life, I hope you’ll join me.
because you're including the things that matter to you in your life. It's incredibly simple, but so easy to overlook.
We're not called Designing a Perfect Life, because that would be ridiculous. Perfection is an impossible goal which tends to stop people from appreciating what they have right in front of them. But the glorious thing about the notion of "happy" is that you get to define exactly what that means to you. Happy, for you, is simply what makes you happy.
I design planners for people who want and need to make time for the things which matter to them, beautifully. As a parent and entrepreneur I recognize that life is often (always) completely crazy and overwhelming, and that some days all you can do is get through the day and hope that tomorrow will be better.
When you have so many things competing for your attention, it's easy to forget to take care of your own needs - or the plants - or something else that falls through the cracks. We tend to prioritize one set of goals (usually work...) and the others are left to fit in somewhere, maybe. We can't do everything, but we have to make sure that we don't overlook the things that matter. Nobody wants to wake up one day and realize that they no longer have a single hobby, or they can't remember when they last laughed till they cried.
Life is more than a never-ending to-do list.
I don't believe that once you have the perfect planning system you will transform instantly into a productivity superstar, no matter how much we all wish for that to be true. But, having a system which helps you structure your time and thinking, can give you a sense (or a semblance) of order within the chaos - and that is truly a good thing. If you didn't get something done today, there's always tomorrow. Aim high, but be gentle on yourself.
I have spent my entire life searching for the perfect planner - in book version, app version, and wall chart version. I am always seeking the perfect blend of functionality, great design, and quality materials. If one of those aspects is missing, I keep on looking.
When I was a kid, like a really small kid of 4 or 5, back in Britain, I used to make my mum cry when she tried to take me clothes shopping. Not because I was mean- I was the third child, all I wanted was to be loooooooved- but because I was so incredibly picky. Apparently, I could find something to critique about pretty much everything. The fabric, the fit, the scratch, the itch, the color, the style… nothing was ever good enough. (As the parent of three girls, I have nothing but apologies for my mum now, I bet they were fun times.)
The point being, that it turned out visual pickiness and perfectionism is pretty much my thing. It’s my curse and my super power. Unsurprisingly, it took me to art school where I got an MA (Honours) Fine Art degree from the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland. That epic adventure was a five year joint degree in history of art and studio art. I followed that with another couple of years at the art college getting my MFA in Sculpture, because I firmly believe you can never have too much education, especially when you’re thinking and talking and making stuff all day every day.
But the logic and does-it-work-perfectly gene is strong in our family. I have never been the kind of artist who throws paint around to see what happens (full disclosure, I kind of hate getting my hands dirty), it's always been a process of think about it, plan it, then make it. So making beautiful planners feel, for me, like a natural extension of this approach to life.
The Designing a Happy* Life range of wall planners combines minimalist design with gorgeous print on thick, archival museum-quality paper. Every detail is considered, so that you don't have to think about how you could make a better planner if only you had more time...
The planners give you a bigger picture view of your time, and your life. Each month (or week, or day) you get to choose what to focus on, what to prioritize, but you're also reminded not to neglect the other things that matter to you.
As of right now, Designing a Happy* Life makes wall planners. I'm working on creating two books - a day planner and a project planner. The vision for this company is not just that we will make paper goods (although I really, really do love gorgeous paper goods), it's bigger than that. The Designing a Happy* Life subscription box is waiting in the wings and will come out to play later this year.
The mister and I met while we were both in art college in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was there from Copenhagen, Denmark, and I was there from 100 miles or so south, from northern England. We were both doing our MFA’s in Sculpture, we went out for many a drink, and Bob’s Your Uncle, we started making artwork together, in more ways than one, if you know what I’m saying.
A year or so after graduating, he got a teaching job in rural Wisconsin, so we packed up our lives and moved half way round the world. I think “culture shock” would be a fair way to talk about it, “the dark years” is how I often think about it.
When we moved to the States, we both thought Wisconsin would be a stepping stone to one of the coasts, either Seattle or Boston. (Who knew that academic jobs would be so hard to come by?) Instead, we moved into the Twin Cities, first St Paul, then later Minneapolis, and he commuted to work for the next 9 years.
Meanwhile, I was teaching art part time and running a wall art business when we had daughter #1, then almost exactly two years later, along came daughter #2. Then five years later, daughter #3 was due. And because having babies just isn’t challenging enough by itself, the mister got a job in Auckland, New Zealand… We moved when I was 34 1/2 weeks pregnant…
On the plus side, I didn’t have the baby on the plane, or in a hotel room, so there’s that. Within not too long, we knew that living in New Zealand forever, whilst a beautiful country, was not for us.
We began to explore our options. Our options were… limited.
Having given up our house, pets, lives, and jobs in the States, we knew if we came back we’d have to start all over again. From zero. But if we stayed in New Zealand, even with The Job and The House, we knew we’d get more and more miserable.
In January, 2014, we got on a plane back to the US without any real idea of what lay ahead for us. Our mantra became one foot in front of the other / one day at a time / baby steps. Fittingly, our youngest, took her first independent steps in the airport back on American soil.
We moved, sight-unseen, to Portland, Maine, because a gazillion articles on Facebook about the best places to raise kids can’t all be wrong. We arrived in the dark, in the snow, on a cold January night, with one sentence in our heads, we have to make this work.
It's been a journey of epic proportions but we're getting there, we're designing our version of a happy life. It's not always easy, and it's not always smooth sailing and there are certainly some omfg what are we doing moments... but it's our journey and I wouldn't trade it for the world.