10 Ways to Motivate Small Children to Clean Their Room

A black and white picture of a kid's bedroom with toys all over the floor and baskets on the table.           

As a mom of two littles (ages 3 and 5), getting my kids to clean their room after playtime is the bane of my existence; so I’ve come up with numerous ways to motivate my small children to clean their room. I feel that knowing how to clean up a room is an important life skill that everyone should learn (and trust me, it’s a learned skill, a habit, and not something that comes intuitively to everyone!). That being said, I also think that if my kids are old enough to make the mess, they’re probably old enough to help clean it up.

I have bad knees, so getting down on the hard floors to help them clean up their toys every day is extremely painful for me. My goal is to motivate them to clean their rooms as autonomously as possible. At this age, that’s nearly impossible, but I have gotten them to the point where all I really have to do is supervise.

I have lots of different methods that I’ve come up with and rotate through because not every tactic works every time. My kids are motivated by different things depending on their moods, so I have to switch it up frequently, and I’m always thinking about new things I can try (necessity is the mother of invention, right?).

I started using these types of tactics when Charlotte was 2, and now she’s 5 and has a 3-year-old little brother, Teddy. I can see that they’re being internalized, because on separate occasions, I’ve had each child come to me and say, “Mama, I just cleaned my room all by myself!” The other sibling had been in bed, and they just got up and started doing it! And no, this is not a joke. Teddy did it a couple of months ago when Charlotte was “needing a little space,” in her bed, and Charlotte did it just the other day while Teddy was napping.

So if you’re having trouble getting your littles to help clean up, check out this list, try a few of these out, and let me know which ones are your favorites!

Note Before We Begin

I just wanted to mention that we don’t actually keep all of the kids’ toys in their room. More than half of their toys live on a special shelf in the living room. When they want a toy from the living room shelf, they have to “trade in” a toy from their room. The reason for this is actually 2-fold: 1. It keeps them from dumping every single toy bucket out on their floor every day. Trust me, we’ve gone through that, and it was a nightmare to get the room cleaned every day. 2. It means that their toys are in a rotation. When they get kind of bored with something, they trade it in. The “new” toy may have been sitting on the shelf for a month or two, and suddenly feels new and fresh and exciting because they haven’t played with it in a while.

I do have a couple of rules regarding trading toys that I thought I would share, too. Their room MUST be clean before they can trade anything. Also, certain toys are traded in as “like for like.” For instance, they have 3 different kinds of blocks. They can only have 1 style of blocks in their room at a time (otherwise cleaning up time is overwhelming with how many are all over the place). Same goes for their animal figurines – they can only have 1 style out at a time (they have 4 styles, ocean creatures, land creatures, horses, and wooden animals).

1.      Pick ‘Em Up, Sort ‘Em Out (aka “The Bucket Game”)

This was actually one of the first things I did to get my kids to help with clean up time, and it worked REALLY well when they were 2 and didn’t fully understand the concept of sorting. When Charlotte was little, we assisted with the sort ‘em out stage, but when Teddy was 2, Charlotte was old enough to do the sorting if he did the picking up. Here’s how it worked for us at that stage:

We would put a big bucket or plastic tub in the middle of the room. We would line up all of the different little toys tubs and baskets in a row. Then, Teddy would run around the room scooping up toys and tossing them into the big bucket. Charlotte would take the toys out of the big bucket and sort them into their proper homes. We even made it a game to see if Charlotte could get the bucket empty before Teddy picked up all the toys (this was actually a pretty evenly matched game!).

2.      “The Minute Game”

The timer game was one of the very first motivational tactics I came up with to get my kids moving, and we have used it with other friends when they come to play, or when I babysit! I would set a timer for one minute at a time, and they would race to see how many toys they could put away in one minute.

It’s important to keep the time increment large enough that they can actually clean up a good number of toys, but small enough that they don’t lose focus. For this age, I found that 1-2 minutes is ideal.

You can have each child count their number separately and make it a mini-competition, or you can have them tally together for teamwork.

3.      “The Timer Game”

Another timer variation where you start a stop watch and see how quickly they can finish cleaning the room. They can compete against themselves from the previous day to see if they can do it quicker. If cleaning the whole room is too big of a goal, you can try having them clean something specific: “How quickly can you clean up the blocks? How about the stuffed animals?”

A picture of a little boy holding up two blocks, fitted into each other.

4.      Sting High-Fives

One of the best bribes for my kids have been “Sting High-Fives.” I give them a certain type of toy to clean up (stuffed animals, dress up clothes, blocks, etc) and when they finish cleaning that, they get to give me a “Sting High-Five” (they try to make the high-five as hard they can so it “stings” my hand). Being 3 and 5 years old, we’re just happy when they actually high-five my hand instead of missing and hitting the couch.

A black and white picture of two small kids putting wooden blocks away.

5.      Pick a Song

This is a great one for my kids, who LOVE music of all kinds. I instruct one kid to clean up one thing, and the other to clean up another. The first to finish cleaning their type of toy gets to pick a song for me to play on my phone for them to listen to. While they listen to the song, the “winner” helps the “loser” finish cleaning up the toys they didn’t finish. (Note: I NEVER use the terms “winner” and “loser” with my kids, and I’m only using them here for the sake of clarity.)

6.      What’s At Your Feet?

This one took a little work in the beginning because the concept seemed lost on my kids. Basically, whenever they put something in a bucket, they would find the next nearest toy and then put that away. This works well when you spread the tubs/buckets around the room.

To get them to understand, I would have them put something away and then yell, “Freeze! What’s at your feet?” They would look down, spot the nearest toy, and pick it up. If the nearest toy wasn’t directly at their feet, they turned it into a game where they would jump closer to it (“hop like a bunny”) before picking it up.

A black and white picture of a little boy holding an armful of stuffed animals. In the background his older sister is putting stuffed animals away in a drawer.

7.      Gummy Bears (aka “The Full-On Bribe”)

The other day we had a home inspection (our apartment complex is for sale), and I was absolutely desperate to get the kids to clean their room as quickly as possible while I worked on other areas of the house. Enter: the full-on bribe! I bought a small bag of organic bulk gummy bears from Sprouts the other day and it served as the PERFECT bribe to get the kiddos to clean! Every time they finished cleaning a type of toy, they got one gummy bear.

(Remember how I keep most of the toys in the living room so only a handful are in the bedroom? This is important, as each kid only ended up getting about 3-4 gummy bears! If all of the toys had been in the bedroom, they each would have ended up with about 10 gummy bears and it probably would have resulted in a major sugar rush during the inspection! Haha)

A black and white picture of a little boy putting on a cat hat. In the background is his older sister, also wearing a cat hat.

8.      Playing Pretend

Charlotte actually came up with this one the other day, but it worked so well that I’m including it here for you guys! While they were cleaning, she picked up one of their baskets and pretended she was picking peaches and putting them in baskets as she cleaned her room. It was absolutely adorable, and Teddy was more than happy to join her as a “peach picker.”

When they got bored playing peach picker, they found kitty cat hats and started playing kitten clean-up. They meowed and traveled around the room on hands and knees like kittens and pretended to pick toys up with their mouths (they did not ACTUALLY pick them up with their mouths, but held the toys next to their mouths as they carried them to their buckets).

A black and white picture of a little boy cleaning his room in a cat hat.

9.      Toy Toss

This one is Teddy’s favorite! We take the buckets and tubs and line them up, and he gets to toss the toys into them from 1-2 feet away (he’s 3, and his aim isn’t great). It’s pretty simple, and best played with toys that be tossed without getting damaged or damaging anything else (great for the squeaky blocks and the bean bags, not so great for the giant wood blocks!).

This motivational tactic is also great because it serves double duty in working on hand-eye coordination with your kiddo as they clean.

A black and white picture of a little boy hugging a stuffed owl.

10. Color, Number and Letter Sound Practice

Speaking of serving double duty – this one does, too! We homeschool, so incorporating learning into our normal daily activities is second-nature to me, and practically a requirement. This is a great one if you aren’t in a rush to get their room clean.

For Teddy, I’ll ask him to pick up all the red (or blue or yellow) toys he can find. Or I might ask him to find 7 trains, 4 stuffed animals, or 6 wooden blocks. He can work on his colors and counting while he cleans up.

For Charlotte, we have graduated to more complex ideas. I’ll ask her to find toys that start with the “B” sound (blocks, balls, bears) or toys that rhyme with “fall” (ball, doll). I’ve also labeled the tubs in their room with what toys go inside. It’s her job to read the labels and make sure they are putting the appropriate toys in each tub (Mr. Potato Head, Octonauts, Wooden Blocks).

I really hope you like my list of 10 ways to motivate small children to clean their room, and I hope some of these tactics work for you and your family! If you have any other ideas to get kids to clean their room, let me know! If I get enough new ideas, maybe I’ll make a round-up list of your guys’ ideas, too!!

Elyse and Bryan’s Dreamy Wedding

The DJ picked up the microphone, bringing it to his lips, “Alright everyone, it’s time for the Anniversary Dance! If you’re married, get on out here and dance with your loved one with Elyse and Bryan! As the song plays, I’ll be calling out years of marriage, and if you haven’t made it to that milestone yet, you’re out! The last couple standing WINS!”

All of the married couples crowded the dance floor, surrounding Elyse and Bryan as the song began. Chris started calling out years of marriage, “One year… Three years… Five years…” Couples slowly started trickling back off the dance floor and to their seats.

“Ten years… Fifteen years… Twenty years…” Elyse and Bryan looked around and realized there were only 3 couples left on the dance floor – Elyse’s parents, Bryan’s dad and step-mom, and the pastor and his wife!

“Twenty-five years… Thirty years… Thirty-five years…” All three couples remained dancing, smiling at laughing as they all looked at each other, wondering which would hit their ceiling first.

“Forty years?” Chris asked, and still no one left the dance floor. “Forty-FIVE years?”

With a laugh and a sigh, both Elyse’s parents and Bryan’s dad and step-mom gave a nod to the pastor and his wife and exited the dance floor.

Chris came over and held his microphone out to the pastor, “And just how long have you been married to this beautiful woman?”

“Fifty-three wonderful years!” His wife smiled, blushed, and curtsied to the whole room, every person laughing, smiling, and clapping.

When you are surrounded by such a beautiful display of love that lasting, that amazing, that powerful, like Elyse and Bryan were on the dance floor of their wedding night, how could you NOT believe in happily ever afters and a dream come true?

Elyse and Bryan’s entire wedding day had that same dreamy feel to it, everything coming together so seamlessly and beautifully, celebrating their amazing love story (ten years in the making!).

Thank you so very much, Elyse and Bryan, for allowing us to be a part of such a truly magical day! Being a part of your day made Jeremy and me so appreciative and thankful for our own relationship, and helped make the dream of our wedding day (fast approaching!) seem so much more tangible. It was so special and humbling to watch how much everyone around you loves and cares for the two of you so deeply! Thank you for allowing us to be a part of capturing that love and those special memories for you to treasure as you make your own way towards winning that Anniversary Dance some day!

Detail photo of a letterboard that reads "Elyse & Bryan," a pair of bronze high heel shoes, and a soft white paper flower.  Detail photo of a bronze high heel shoe and a soft white paper flower.Three bridesmaids in pink floral robes cheers-ing the bride in a white floral robe. All seated on a white bedspread.   

A detail photo of a pair of crystal drop earrings on a cream colored ribbon with a white background.

A bride holding her bouquet against a white background.  A groom in a tie and waistcoat adjusting his cuff links against a white background.The back of a bride's dress. The dress has translucent straps with beaded edges, and the bride's hair is half-up and half-down, curled on the bottom, with a crystal hair clip.  The bride holding holding her bouquet, surrounded by her three bridesmaids in lavender dresses, fluffing her dress. 

  The look of surprise on a groom's face as he sees his bride for the first time in her wedding dress.   A bride covers her mouth in pleased surprise at seeing her groom in his wedding outfit for the first time.

 After the first look, a bride and groom give each other an emotional hug.   Three bridesmaids in lavender dress grouped casually around the bride. All are holding bouquets casually (either hanging at their sides or flung over their shoulders.

   A bridesmaid in a lavender dress. She is glancing down off camera and holding a bouquet.

   A casual shot of the bridesmaids. One is holding her bouquet, and another has her shoes flung over her shoulder.A detail shot of the side of a white gazebo, dripping with pink and white flowers. A white gazebo with a white-draped table in it. The gazebo is dripping with white and pink flowers, and is surrounded by white rose bushes and pink flowers.   A close up detail shot of a potted lavender plant. A detail shot of a succulent, lavender, and soft pink bouquet, a gray card box, and a bronze lantern.  A bride during her wedding ceremony - the wind has lifted her veil and fanned it back and away from her in a beautiful arc. She is smiling and looking off camera.A bridesmaid smiling at the bride (unseen) during the wedding ceremony. She is wearing a lavender dress and holding a bouquet.A groom smiling at his bride as they exchange their wedding vows.A bridesmaid looking down and over her shoulder (at an unseen flower girl) during the wedding ceremony. She is wearing a lavender spaghetti strap dress.The bride and groom kissing after saying their wedding vows. The bride and groom snuggling close together. The bride has her bouquet draped around the groom's shoulder, and the edge of her veil can be seen in the foreground.     A white 2-layer wedding cake with white swirls, a purple ribbon, and a crystal sparkle ribbon. The cake topper is light colored wood and reads "Mr. and Mrs. Budrow." A detail shot of wedding favors - tiny bars of lavender soap on a purple, pink, and white tray, surrounded by sprigs of rosemary. The soaps are wrapped in brown paper that reads "Elyse and Bryan [heart] 5-11-19" A close up photo of the bride and groom champagne glasses in front of a centerpiece of white hydrangeas and purple iris.A bride and groom holding their champagne glasses up to toast. They are seated at a white-draped table with a centerpiece of purple iris. Also on the table is the bride's succulent, lavender, and soft pink bouquet.A side view of a white wedding cake with purple and sparkle ribbons around the two tiers. In the background, out of focus, you can see the bride and groom holding up their champagne glasses to toast. A groom in a black suit with a lavender boutonniere, laughing off camera with cake smeared on his cheek.,    The Jr. Groomsman and the Ring Bearer dancing. A man with a drink in his hand dancing at a wedding. He is surrounded by other wedding guests. A photo of wedding guests dancing. They are all raising their hands and clapping. A bridesmaid in a lavender wedding dress dancing with a red drink in her hand. She is looking at the camera and smiling. The mother and father of the bride dancing together. They are smiling at the camera. The bride and groom slow dancing on the dance floor. A man in a black suit dancing with a woman in a blue jumpsuit and an orange shrug. The bride in the center of the dance floor. She is holding a purple drink and pointing at someone. Everyone around her is dancing. A lady in a blue jumpsuit with an orange shrug leading a conga line that contains several bridesmaids and groomsmen, among other people. The bride and her mom (wearing a maroon lace dress) dancing together. A man in a black suit and a woman in a blue jumpsuit with an orange shrug dancing. You can see the DJ in the background. <<– The winners of the Anniversay Game, y’all!


And finally, a big thank you to all of the vendors that put so much time and energy into making Elyse and Bryan’s day absolutely perfect!

Venue: El Camino Country Club

Day-of Coordinator: Natalie Dane (of El Camino Country Club)

Florist: Silvia of HS Floral Design

Baker: Eccentric International Chefs

DJ: Chris Bland of Solid Gold Professional Entertainment

Makeup: Michelle Gilmore

Hair: Bri Sandoval

Officiant: John Dahlem

Elyse and Bryan’s Adventurous Canyon Engagement Session

When Elyse shared with me how they had gotten engaged while hiking on a camping trip, I just knew we had to plan an awesomely-adventurous engagement session. When they requested somewhere nearer to their home in San Diego, I knew just the spot! Annie’s Canyon Trail in Solana Beach! We got together Saturday evening for an adventurous canyon engagement session, followed by a romantic walk back along the lagoon, and everything about it was sheer perfection!

Annie’s Canyon Trail starts with a half-mile walk, followed by a single-file canyon climb to reach a gorgeous lookout point, then down the switchbacks on the far side, and then another half-mile walk back to the start of the trail. It is strikingly beautiful, and worth every step of the canyon climb!

When Bryan popped the question, the first words out of Elyse’s mouth were “Are you fucking joking me?!” (quickly followed by an enthusiastic yes, of course!). Our session had all of the same energy and fun, and we all left with our cheeks aching because we’d been smiling and laughing so much!

Elyse and Bryan, thank you so much for inviting us to be a part of your special day! We can’t wait to help celebrate your love for each other, and have just as much fun on your wedding day! Watching you two interact with each other is like watching the sun rise: you light up around each other, and that light spreads to everything and everyone else around. I couldn’t help catching you staring at one another when the other wasn’t looking – with these looks of amazement and disbelief that this other amazing human being loved you as much as you love them. It was so beautiful and special to watch you together, and an absolute honor to be able to take photos celebrating this magical time in your lives. Thank you, thank you, thank you for allowing us to be a (small) part of your love story!








2019 Wedding Trend Predictions

Even though we’re only halfway through August, we are already turning our eyes to the 2019 wedding season, and giving you our predictions for what’s going to be coming into style, staying in style, and what’s on its way out!

What’s Out for 2019 Weddings:

Wedding Favors:

You just threw a huge bash for all of your closest family and friends – trust us: they won’t be missing the jordan almonds or the tiny succulent plant that they can’t bring on the plane home with them anyway! Save the money from favors and use it in another part of your wedding budget where it can make a bigger impact!

Naked Cakes:

Cake is just a frosting delivery system, amiright? We think naked cakes are going to see a decline in favor of frosting! Naked cakes match the shabby chic, rustic theme great, but as those themes start to fall out of fashion, we think the naked cakes are going to go with them.

Large Bridal Parties:

Couples are seeking a wedding experience that feels more intimate (even if they have a large guest list), and one way to accomplish that is to have a smaller bridal party! A good portion of your wedding day is spent with your bridal party before your other guests even show up, and having just a couple close friends and siblings there can set an intimate tone for the whole day.

Photo Booths:

While they have been quite the rage lately, we think they are going to be on the decline. Brides are wanting to give their guests an EXPERIENCE, rather than just the expected first dance, cut the cake, toss the bouquet routine we’ve all come to expect. We think our brides will be branching out and incorporating more unique experience-based things into their wedding day for their guests.

A bride and a groom in a wooded area. The groom is twirling the bride.

What’s Staying in 2019 Weddings:

DIY Food Bars:

Whether it’s a taco bar or a dessert bar, brides are loving being able to give their guests exactly what they want, and how they want it. We don’t think this trend is going anywhere anytime soon.

Unplugged Ceremonies:

We are seeing more and more brides posting signs or asking their officiants to make an announcement before the ceremony begins asking guests to please keep their phones put away until after the ceremony. Our brides want to see their guests faces and reactions as they walk down the aisle – not the backs of their phones!

First Looks:

We personally love first looks, and are looking forward to seeing this stay in vogue. Aside from affording the bride and groom a personal, intimate first meeting, it also allows for more photos to be taken before the ceremony starts – leaving you, your bridal party, and your guests more freedom to have fun and enjoy yourselves after!


We’ve seen a lot of gold, rose gold, and copper the last couple years, and we don’t think they’re going anywhere. However, we also think silver and gunmetal are gunna join in the fun this year!


Our brides are loving the feeling of bringing nature inside, with greenery galore! We think that will stay the same, but with more bright and soft florals to being some contrast and color!

A bride and groom in a wooded area in front of a lake. The bride is holding a bouquet, and they are about to kiss.

What’s In for 2019 Weddings:

Unique Altars and Ceremony Arches:

We’ve been noticing a lot more unique altars and ceremony arches in styled shoots the last few months, and we think our brides are going to LOVE THEM! (I mean, WE love them, so you probably will too!) From circular hoops dripping with flowers and greenery to arrow shaped arches and floral walls, there is something for every bride’s style in this trend!

Mis-matched Groomsmen:

We’ve seen bridesmaids wearing the same color but different styles, the same style but different shades, and different cuts and shades altogether. But now we think the guys are going to get in on the action! With a cohesive color palette, but allowing the gentlemen to mix and match some stylistic elements (bow ties, traditional dies, suspenders, and waistcoats), we think our brides are going to have a whole lot of fun with this trend!

Deeper, Richer Colors:

As we transition out of 2018 and into 2019, I think we’ll be seeing a lot of deeper, richer color palettes. The neutral with blush color palette that’s been in the last couple years is going to gain some pops of color in the form of jewel tones like emerald, plum, and ruby reds.

Mix and Match Place Settings and Centerpieces:

What started with bridesmaids dresses is carrying over to the reception hall. Mixing and matching both place settings and centerpieces can help thrifty brides keep costs down, while letting them break free from the copy and paste style of traditional wedding reception decor. I think we’ll see this trend expressed in multiple place setting options, centerpiece options, and even linen options throughout the reception hall.

How to Make Time for Self-Care

Whether you’re in the throes of planning a wedding, or in the throes of motherhood, one thing I’ve learned as an adult is that self-care is non-optional! As we navigate parenting a toddler and a preschooler, as well as begin making plans for our own wedding (on top of working 2 jobs!), this is something I have to remind myself of on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

When I don’t take time to do things that I enjoy, things that fill my cup, and things that make me feel good, I can’t perform well in the arenas of my life. As we are constantly quoting to Charlotte “If you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you won’t be at your best” (A line from a great kids’ book that we love: “Toothbrush, Jammies, Man in the Moon… Why Is Bedtime So Soon?” by Nicole Tocco).

I want to be the best mom, the best partner, the best photographer, the best friend that I can be. In order to fulfill all of the obligations (to spouse, family, job, and friends), I have to make time for me, too.

What is Self-Care

Self-care is anything you do that fills your cup. This can look wildly different from person to person, and there are probably hundreds (if not thousands) of things you could do that would qualify as self-care. They can cost money (like a pedicure, getting a massage, or going on vacation), or they can be absolutely free (like having a picnic in the park, sunbathing, or taking a long bath). They can be planned out in advance (like going to a concert or a sporting event), or spontaneous (like grabbing ice cream at the store on your way home). Self-care comes in all shapes and sizes, and not all self-care fills us in the same manner. I recommend mixing up the different kinds of self-care so your cup gets filled with all kinds of goodness.

How to Incorporate Self-Care into Your Life

For me, the hardest part of self-care is actually MAKING THE TIME for self-care. When I’m going, going, going, it’s sometimes very hard for me to recognize when I’m about to burn out (and once I’ve burned out, it’s hard to fill my cup quickly enough to keep going!). Incorporating self-care into different parts of your life in different ways means that when things get crazy, you’re more likely to continue taking care of yourself rather than diving head-first into the craziness and burning out!

Self-Care Tips:

  • Make self-care part of your routine. Having self-care built directly into your routine is the best way to make sure you get a little boost every day. Whether it’s a glass of wine with dinner, sitting down to read for 20 minutes, or taking the dog for a walk, routines are a great place to add a little self-care to your day.
  • Pair an act of self-care with another activity. Elizabeth Craft (a Hollywood writer and producer) says on the Happier podcast that she pairs watching the Real Housewives with walking on her treadmill. She wouldn’t like walking on her treadmill without doing something else, and so she chose to pair it with something that she truly enjoys doing. This turns her treadmill walk (which would have been dreaded before) into an act of self-care. She’s taking care of herself and her body while also treating herself. Other ways to pair might be listening to a podcast in the car on the way to work or while walking the dog, or keeping a book in the bathroom to read only when you’re in there.
  • Put it on the schedule. I know for me, especially, if it’s not on the schedule, it probably isn’t getting done! When I hear about something coming up that I want to do, and that would be an act of self-care, I make sure to put it on the schedule so I don’t forget about it. As an introvert, I’m also less likely to bail out at the last minute if I have a calendar square staring me in the face, reminding me that I originally wanted to go enough to write it down in the first place! Yoga and wine tasting night? Sounds good! Boysenberry festival? Going on the schedule!
  • Don’t be afraid of spontaneity. Personally, I am not at all afraid of some spontaneity, but Jeremy does much better when he knows exactly what to expect before it happens. But when it comes to acts of self-care, sometimes we just have to grab it when the opportunity arises. Tonight Jeremy and I went on an impromptu walk (just the two of us!) while his mom played with the kids. A few weeks ago, I took the opportunity to go to the library BY MYSELF while Jeremy was at home napping with the kids. Little things like that can make a big difference.
  • Have a self-care buddy. Acts of self-care do not have to be solitary pursuits. You can totally do things with friends and still fill your cup (and if you’re a mom, this is probably doubly true – especially if the only people you’ve come into contact with this week have been tiny humans and your spouse!).

Some of My Favorite Acts of Self-Care:

Everyone always seems to think taking a bath with Epsom salts and essential oils is the epitome of self-care, but I can’t honestly say I’ve EVER done that. While I’ve included a lot of examples of self-care all through this article, I thought I would end with a list of some of MY favorite acts of self-care. Who knows? Maybe you’ll like a few things on this list, too!

  • Arts and crafts (Any of them. All of them. I’m not really picky!)
  • Making popcorn on the stove and watching a movie snuggled up with my kids.
  • Walking through Target, IKEA, Joann’s/Michael’s, or Home Goods with no intent to buy anything – just to look at all the pretty things.
  • Going for a walk around the park (and maybe playing Pokemon Go at the same time…)
  • Doing a puzzle
  • Diffusing essential oils
  • Using a pen that glides really nicely (my favorites are the G2 pens and gel pens!)
  • A bouquet of flowers on the kitchen table
  • Walking barefoot in the grass or on the beach
  • I keep a sweet mint plant on the counter in my kitchen, even though I don’t actually cook with mint. I just like to sniff it sometimes.
  • Falling asleep on the couch. Don’t ask me why, but I actually really like falling asleep on the couch way better than falling asleep in my bed…
  • Taking pictures of my family (I spend so much time taking pictures of other people, I love spending a little time just photographing my kids being themselves!)
  • Keeping a gratitude list or a happy list. A gratitude list is a list of things you’re grateful for. A happy list is a list of things that make you happy or make you smile. Very similar, and I have done both over the years (honestly, I prefer the happiness list, but you might like the gratitude list better).

Hopefully this gave you some ideas to get you started on your self-care journey (or to help give your current self-care journey a little boost of new ideas). Just remember: everyone’s self-care journey is different. Every self-care journey looks different at different points in time. Your journey will not remain static; it will grow and change as you do. Don’t get frustrated if you aren’t taking care of yourself as well as you should. Just take a deep breath, do a half hour of yoga or ten minutes of meditation, and try again tomorrow. Keep going! You can do it!

If you’d like to leave me a comment below, and tell me some of YOUR favorite acts of self-care, I would LOVE to hear all about them! <3

Romantic Woodsy Engagement Session

“Oh my gosh, he’s so cute! I’m gunna keep him!” Janine giggled to me during their romantic woodsy engagement session as she pulled Derek in for a kiss. They were so cute, and so clearly in love! Every pose I coached them into ended with Derek giving her the sweetest little kisses and snuggles because they just couldn’t keep their hands off each other. When you hear about puppy love, or the honeymoon phase, you always think about people in their first year or so together – not 8 years down the road! But these guys? 8 years, true ups and downs that would stress any relationship, and still they show up giggling and cuddly and adorably cute together, just insanely happy to be spending an evening together at the park!

Janine and I have known each other since high school, and it was so great getting to catch up with her and getting to meet Derek! She was so excited to tell me all about the wedding details they have planned (And I loved hearing all about them! I LOVE weddings, haha!). A girl after my own heart, she is doing a bunch of the details herself, including building geometric centerpieces and doing all of her own calligraphy and signage for their wedding!

I’m a total craft nut myself, and hearing her get so excited about the different projects she had planned made me itch to start working on something myself, so of course I had to start something too! I decided to keep working on my Pokemon cross stitch hoops (my kids are REALLY into Pokemon right now, so they got super excited when I pulled all of my finished ones out of storage to hang on the wall this week, and have been bugging me every day to see the progress I’ve made on new ones, haha). Thanks, Janine for inspiring me to get crafting again! It’s been WAY too long since I’ve done anything, and this was just the kick in the pants I needed!

Janine and Derek, thank you so much for inviting me to help document your love story! It was such a pleasure getting together with you guys for a great couple of hours taking photos, reminiscing, and watching baby skunks explore the park as the sun went down! Seeing you two together gives me hope for the future – together for 8 years and still in that crazy puppy love, honeymoon phase like it’s your first month! It is truly great to see, and I really hope you continue to remember how crazy you are about each other!



Pretty Hiking Engagement Session

30 minutes from the nearest grocery store, 15 minutes from the nearest gas station, and about three quarters of a mile down a dirt road in unincorporated Snohomish, Washington lies a modest house on 19 acres named Camp Awesome. The first week of July, most of my mom’s side of the family descended on Camp Awesome for a week of fun, games, and, yes, photos!

There was badminton, archery, shooting, corn hole, water skiing, tubing, karaoke, relay races (ok, just ONE relay race, and I almost died!), and of course fireworks for the 4th of July! In between barbeque dinners and rounds of croquet, I managed to squeeze in two mini photo shoots with my aunts and uncles.

This was such a special trip for us, because we don’t get to see that side of the family much since we live on the other side of California from most of them, and two whole states away from my parents. So as soon as we booked the trip, I knew I had to bring our camera gear with us!

Lisa and Jeremy have been together for years now, but they recently got ENGAGED, and this was such a great way to help them celebrate their engagement (especially since we haven’t seen them since Jeremy popped the question!). We all took a walk together on the hiking trails that loop around Camp Awesome, and took pictures while picking salmonberries and listening to the two Jeremys repeat their “Excuse me, Jeremy” – “Oh no, pardon me, Jeremy” bit for the thousandth time. (Ok, it actually was kind of funny, if I’m being honest!)

Lisa and Jeremy, thank you so much for letting us help you celebrate your engagement, and for so many fun memories on our trip! Watching you two with each other, it’s clear to see how well you compliment each other in the best ways. And even more incredible is watching how you both care for each other’s child as much as you do your own! Jordan and Brooke are so incredibly lucky to have you – and that you found each other! Lisa, you’re smart, strong, and so selfless. Jeremy, you are sweet, thoughtful, and loving. We hope that your love and the family you are building together just grows stronger and stronger with each passing year! Congratulations, you guys! We are so happy for you!



Sweet Washington Maternity/Anniversary Session

No family reunion is complete without a photographer capturing special moments, and our family reunion in Washington last week was no exception! Before we all arrived, I sent out a message to everyone asking if they wanted family photos while we were all there, and both my Uncle Erik and Aunt Lisa took us up on the offer! Since we photographed them first, we decided to start with Erik and Katie (sorry Lisa and Jeremy, you’ll be next, I promise!!).

We were doing the math on our trip, and I was horrified to realize that we hadn’t seen each other since their wedding, and they had never even met Charlotte and Teddy!! Living in opposite ends of the state means we don’t see each other much, but TEN YEARS?!?!

Speaking of ten years, they celebrated their ten year wedding anniversary a couple days before the trip, which is just so cool!! On top of THAT, they’re having a BABY!! For me, this was SUCH a special time to capture for them, with so many beautiful, wonderful things going on in their lives. I’m so glad I got to be a part of it, and to reconnect with them after not seeing them for such a long time.

Erik and Katie, watching you guys interact with our children on our trip was just magical to watch! Your little baby is so lucky to have you guys there to love, care, and play with it. If you are even one tenth as engaged as you were with my kids this weekend, you’re going to be amazing parents! Charlotte and Teddy have been talking about you guys all week, asking when they can play with Uncle Erik again! We can’t wait to welcome your new little one earthside, and help you celebrate this amazing time in your lives as it unfolds. Congratulations on your ten year anniversary! We love you guys so much, and we can NOT let ten more years go by without seeing each other!


Adorable Backyard Family Photoshoot

I first met Britt and her son last year when we were living in Washington, and we’ve been friends on facebook ever since, keeping in touch with all of the big milestones, since our boys are so close in age. Even though we knew each other before, my first time going to her house was actually for this adorable backyard family photoshoot for them while we were visiting Washington last week!

Not only do they have the cutest son, they also have a super loving, cuddly pup, who remembered me from before, and basically spent about half of the photoshoot following me around and begging for pets! Plus, see the red-leafed tree in a bunch of the photos? That’s their LOVE TREE! Which is seriously the cutest thing I’ve ever heard of, and now I want one!!

It was seriously so much fun getting together with them for a morning of fun in their backyard as V. started off the session by getting covered in mud (and had to go be changed before we could start taking pictures, haha), snuggling with their pup, picking berries (they have like 5 different kinds growing in their backyard – Blackberries, Elderberries, Service Berries, Thimble Berries, and Salmon Berries, if I remember correctly), and photographing them enjoying the love they all have for each other.

Thank you so much, Britt and Blaine, for inviting me to come to your home and photograph you guys interacting and loving each other in a space that is so special and intimate for you guys! It means a lot to me that you wanted to share that with me! Blaine, it was so great watching you play and talk with V. You are so engaged with him, and seeing how happy he was picking berries and feeding them to you shows just how much he loves you! Britt, it was amazing seeing you again! I’m so sad we live so far apart, but so glad that getting together feels like no time has passed at all! We talked like we’d just seen each other last week, and it’s so great having friendships that feel like that! Photographing your family was so special, and I loved seeing how close you all are (and puppy snuggles were awesome, too!).




Sweet Woodland Newborn Family Session

When Elizabeth first contacted me, I knew right away I was going to just love her! I mean, come on! We share the same first name (yup, Elle is short for Elizabeth!), and she’s an assistant principle for an elementary school! My college degree is in Early Childhood Education, because originally I was planning on being an elementary or preschool teacher!

Saturday we were finally met for the first time for their sweet woodland newborn family session, featuring little O. who was just 9 days old! Ugh! My heart just swells when I see squishy little newborns, and I couldn’t stop squealing (… literally …) every time I was photographing him. Add in her two older children, who were absolutely AMAZING to work with, and guys, this was seriously just a dream session for me!

L. and A. were so spunky and adorable, and I loved that they were eager to go with the flow and follow any posing suggestions, which isn’t always a given when they’re 6 and 4. But these guys seriously rocked it, and I am so freaking excited to share these photos with you all!

Elizabeth and Jason, I can’t even tell you how much of a pleasure it was to meet and photograph your family! Your kids are so incredibly sweet, and I can’t get over how kind and loving they were towards each other the entire session! You guys are clearly raising them in a kind, loving, and encouraging household, and it shows through in how they act and treat others and each other. Thank you SO MUCH for inviting me to come and share a little piece of your family for a couple of hours! Being around families like yours fill my cup and make my heart swell with love. Little O. is so lucky to have such amazing, loving parents and sweet and caring older siblings!