From Penelope Loves Lists Founder Meredith Monday Schwartz

I’m fascinated by people’s routines. I always have been. And even more so by the routines of highly efficient Penelopes. How do we set up our days for success? Is everyone different, or are there just a few ways to get this right? I wonder…

So, I’m introducing a series on the Morning Routines of Penelopes. These are women who know how to hustle their muscles in the morning and always get to work on time. I’ll let them tell you how they do it.

First up, Angela:Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 2.07.52 PM

  • Marital status: married
  • Occupation: regional sales for Here Comes The Guide
  • Number of children/ages: 1 daughter, 18 months old
  • Wake up time: 5:30am
  • Average hours of sleep: 7 hours
  • Wake-up inspiration: no alarm clock or anything! Natural morning person.
  • Keys to success: quiet time, teamwork, preparation

The rundown: My routine is all about quiet work and teamwork. My husband and I work together to get our day started off right.

5:30am: Each morning, I make coffee and bring it back to bed at 5:30 a.m. While I’m doing that, my husband feeds our English bulldog.

We then get 15 minutes to watch the morning news together. We don’t chat too much as we don’t have the necessary caffeine streaming through our systems yet but we can lean on each other. That’s a great way to start the day.

5:45am:  I prep breakfasts and lunches (we all eat at our places of work/daycare) and lay out Michaela’s clothes for the day. Meanwhile, my husband makes the bed.

6am: I start my work day and the man uses that time to work out. It’s a crucial hour for both of us, getting our heads right before things get too busy.

7am: Michaela, 18 months, is up and B gets her dressed in the clothes I’ve laid out for her while I throw myself together.

7:10am: I do the Montessori drop off shortly thereafter so B can get out the door.

7:20am: Back to work at my desk, ready for the day. I’ll get my workout in a bit later at a pre-set interval.

What one piece of my routine would de-rail my morning? Not getting my quiet time first thing. If Michaela doesn’t sleep/lay there and suck a thumb til 7am, my work day and prep time would be completely thrown off. I NEED prep time. And “me” time. And yes, that can be spent making lunches. As long as it’s quiet, I’m good.

It’s been really important that we sleep train Michaela, and stick to a regular routine, so she knows when wake up time really is! She does a great job and loves her own “me time”, often happily talking to herself for a few minutes before 7am. Because the routine never varies, she knows exactly what to expect.

I get up just as early on the weekends so that I can still have that alone time. It really is a requirement.

Our morning wake up call looks like this:


Out the door with Michaela’s lunch bag ready and waiting.



From Meredith:

Oh, Angela. Michaela’s sweet face always makes me smile. And your discipline to get up that early astounds me. And the fact that you do it without an alarm of any kind? Mind. Blown.

Now, Penelope: would YOU like to share your Morning Routine with the rest of the Penelope world? Nothing has to be earth-shatteringly original, just effective in getting your day started. And that day can include work at an office or home or the really hard work of staying at home with your kids. It all requires routines and strategies. And we all do it in our own way.

If you want to be featured, send me the details and a couple photos via email to penelopeloveslists AT gmail DOT com and let’s share our best practices with each other. Come ON… I’m so fascinated by this stuff. (And if you’re a blogger, I’ll be sure to share your blog’s details, too. Love to do that.)



1 nicely neat comment

You guys! I’m so excited! I have another fantastic new Penelope contributor to introduce you to today!

Jenna Miller is my friend, colleague and one of the nicest people you will ever meet. But, what a lot of people miss about Jenna is that her sweet exterior, while totally genuine, masks a fierce little beast inside.

This married mama of a 1-year-old son works full time (getting an astonishing amount done in an 8-hour day) and then takes care of her family AND helps manage a professional dance team. “Powerhouse” is the word that comes to mind for Jenna.

Jenna Miller :: Contributor for Penelope Loves Lists

I’m so glad that she’s joined our team here at PLL and is going to be bringing us tips on time management and real-world organization, like this one.

My name is Jenna…and I’m a Penelope. I firmly believe a cluttered desk leads to a cluttered mind. That being said, being a Penelope also means I have an overly full life with hardly any spare time to speak of.

I have a demanding full-time web marketing job, a husband, a one-year-old baby boy, a 130-pound Bullmastiff, and if that weren’t enough, I’m also Co-Director of a professional dance team. I’m actually writing this post on a Sunday morning while my baby’s napping.

Having such a whirlwind lifestyle means barely having enough time to shower each day, let alone having enough time to keep my entire household consistently clean and organized. So I did what any desperate Penelope would do when her household’s gotten out of control—take a paid vacation day to clean and organize! #thatshowweroll

You have no idea how happy I felt flitting around my house with Clorox wipes and microfiber dusting cloth in hand. With the nanny on baby-duty and a full pot of coffee at the ready, I had an uninterrupted 8 hours of pure organizational bliss. No room in my house was safe.

I’m not going to bore you with a room-by-room account of my obsessive cleaning day, but I did want to share one space in particular that was in need of not only some extreme organization, but a total style redesign: My home office.

I spend 40 hours/week in this little nook of my house. It’s a small space, simply consisting of a wrap-around desk and some shelving, but it’s the number one space where order and function are vital. I need my home office to support the work I do each day—to be arranged in such a way that it contributes to my mental clarity and productivity. I also wanted it to be pretty {obviously}, but didn’t have the time nor the extra cash to buy anything new.

As a result, everything involved in this easy makeover were things I already owned.

Here are a couple “Before” shots (sorry for the iPhone photography – I was moving faaaaast and had to snap photos in real time, couldn’t wait for the perfect light):


I know, I know. Yikes.

Not only was my office a complete and total mess with piles of papers strewn everywhere, but it was making it difficult to be effective at my job each day. Remember the whole cluttered desk = cluttered mind adage? It really rings true for me. I felt flustered on a daily basis and wasn’t excited about my work space. It just wasn’t as pretty or stylish as it once was due to all the disorganized chaos.

How did I tackle my no-budget home office redesign?

Step 1: Remove clutter section-by-section

I feel like getting started on an organizational project is the hardest part. Where do you even begin?? For me, I needed to proceed section-by-section to break this project up into manageable chunks. I started with my work desk—the “L” portion of the desk which holds my computer. This was a small but incredibly important space, so I was able to start there and work my way around in terms of cleaning, styling and organizing—from the lower desk, to the middle shelves, all the way up to the cabinets.

Step 2: Get rid of any unnecessary items or junk mail

To truly unclutter your space, you need to get rid of anything you don’t use on a regular basis—including shredding that pile of junk documents! I had several piles of mail going. One that needed to be opened, one that needed to be shredded, another that needed to be flipped through again because I’d totally forgotten what was in there. I actually took the time to sort through all of these paper piles: taking action on or filing away important documents, throwing away the junk.

Step 3: Redesign your space

It’s easy to get stuck putting items in the same old space they’ve always been in. During this “makeover,” I wanted to move things around to create a totally new, stylish design. Totally clearing out sections (a la Step 1) helped me start from scratch, and allowed me to re-imagine what the styled space could look like.

Step 4: Bring in reinforcements

Scour the rest of your house for pretty, decorative items or storage solutions. I found a couple silver bowls in my living room that worked perfectly as book ends, some picture frames, a vase, and some nice white cardboard boxes that doubled as clean and simple storage.

Ready for the final result?



Let’s all breathe a collective “Ahhhhhhhh.” MUCH better.


Now I’m excited to come down to my home office each day to sit in such a pretty, effective workspace. The best part? The only cost involved was an investment of my time—about 90 minutes.

When I have a bit of money to play with, I’d like to get an adorable rug to tie in the pink, white and blue color scheme, but for right now? My inner Penelope is doing somersaults.

5 nicely neat comments

by Penelope Loves Lists Contributor Denise Martinez

As Penelopes we wear so many hats, some of our own choosing, some that others have given us (we’re people pleasers, remember). You might not even realize your assortment of hats but if you close your eyes and visualize each role as an actual hat I bet you would need a Carrie Bradshaw-like closet to hold them.

Denise and boys :: Penelope Loves Lists

We’re moms, sisters, daughters, wives, friends, bosses, project managers, housekeepers, event planners, mentors, accountants and the list goes on and on and on. Taking on all of these roles, wearing all of these hats, usually means one hat is left in its box on the top shelf of the closet.

The Martinez Family

One important person isn’t getting your time, attention and care…….YOU!

I’m so guilty of this and it’s gotten to the point where the lack of focus on myself has negatively affected my wellbeing.

I recently had my second child, my family moved to a new town where I don’t know anyone and I took over a new position at work. All of these new changes and roles have left me feeling extremely overwhelmed.

When I’m feeling this way I start to lose my Penelope personality and another side of me comes out, for the sake of this post let’s call her Pandora. When I’m Penelope I’m strong, focused, confident, goal-oriented and no one can tell me I can’t accomplish something. Penelope gets shit done – #beastmode!

But Pandora is a different kind of beast, she’s stressed out all the time, anxious, negative, she gets in her own way, she second guesses herself, she lacks confidence and she easily shuts off the world. Pandora leaves me feeling like I’ve let myself down, I’ve let people the most important to me down. Pandora’s been with me for as long as I can remember and I’ve come to recognize that she rears her ugly, self-sabotaging head when I’m feeling unbalanced.

Sing, Work, Live, Reach :: Penelope Loves Lists

I’ve been in Pandora mode for the past 6 months. It sucks and I can’t take it anymore.  It’s time to kick this bitch to the curb!

Usually at the beginning of each year, I will set myself up with a list of goals both professional and personal. This year I’m going to try something different. This year I’m only giving myself one goal, one focus – BALANCE! I owe it to myself and to the people around me.

Here are a few things that I’ve started to implement into my daily routine to help me work toward this goal.

1. I started keeping a journal

Did you know that keeping a journal can benefit your general wellbeing? It’s helped me clarify my thoughts and I’ve gotten to know myself a little bit better. It’s the safest place you can be. It’s 100% just for you so you can be as brutally honest with yourself as you need to be. PLUS, I got to buy a new notebook and that makes me giddy.

Denise Journal :: Penelope Loves Lists

2. I got back to working out everyday

I’ve been an athlete all my life and I’m at my best when I get a good workout in. It’s seriously better than any medicine a doctor could give me. My drug of choice is running, it’s my yoga. It clears my head and leaves me feeling calm and refreshed.

Denise Workout :: Penelope Loves Lists

3. I started meditating

I love a good challenge so I’m going to tackle this one. I have the hardest time quieting my brain. I can’t sit in complete silence so I had to find something that was going to help guide me through my sessions. There’s an app called Simply Being and I’ve worked up to 15 minutes sessions. I’ve been doing this at the end of my workday. It helps me clear my head from everything I did at work that day so I can put my Mom+Wife hats on and be fully present for my family. (By the way, Meredith talked about another app she’s using for meditation here.)

Denise Meditation Spot :: Penelope Loves Lists

4. I started eating clean

I’ve been a healthy eater all my life but never at the level I’m eating now. One of my besties (Head Penelope, Meredith) turned me on to this eating plan and I’ve never felt better. The fog has lifted from my brain and I have so much more energy.

5. I started using the Happify App.

I did some research on ways to banish negativity and I came across this app. It’s got science-based happiness games and activities that help you lead a more fulfilling life. It’s helped me see how my brain can latch onto negative thoughts and how easy it can be to switch from that mode of thinking to one that focuses on the positive.

6. I started scheduling more time with my girlfriends

Did you know that women who maintain meaningful connections with their BFFs on a regular basis have an overall sense of happiness? Yeah, it’s totally true! I’m a social butterfly on a seriously crazy level and taking some time to connect with my friends always leaves me feeling refreshed.

Denise and Jenna :: Penelope Loves Lists

7. I’ve implemented the “log off” rule

My name is Denise and I’m a workaholic. I will log on after hours and on weekends because I never feel like I’ve gotten enough done. The truth is, I will never be able to get enough done, there will always be work to do. After 5:30pm I’m going to turn my email off on my phone and put my laptop away. I need to spend quality time with my boys and I need to give my brain a rest. I’m also going to take this one step further and implement “off the grid” Sundays. I’m going to give myself one whole day a week where I don’t log on to anything – that means work and social media.

8. I started seeing a therapist

It took me a long time to get to this point. I’m a perfectionist, how can you be perfect if you’re in therapy? BUT I decided that if I’m going to lead the life I want and not hold myself back from anything, I need to tackle some issues. I know it’s going to be a journey but it will be worth it. Sometimes you just need an outside perspective to get out of your own way and grow.

2015 is going to be a good year. It’s going to be a year of a lot of hard, personal work but I’m up for the challenge. I’m a Penelope after all. :)

 So, ‘fess up: what do you do to take care of yourself?

Or, do you find it as challenging as I do? Please share your thoughts in the comments. It makes us all feel so much better to know we’re not alone in this.

8 nicely neat comments

On Penelope’s Love List This Week – 3/17/2015

March 17, 2015

by Penelope Loves Lists Founder Meredith Monday Schwartz Here are a few things we are loving this week… The Girl on the Train This is the best book I’ve read in a long time. Total page turner. If you liked “Gone Girl”, you’ll love this one. A Beautiful Mess non-dairy chocolate “pudding” So good, I […]

[ read more ]

Help! I’m drowning in Legos :: a Penelope Primer on Lego Organization

March 12, 2015

by Penelope Loves Lists Contributor Jennifer Ahearn When we were growing up, my sister and I shared a set of Legos which had 413 red, yellow, white, and blue pieces which all fit perfectly into their own color bins, plus 2 green bases that fit over the bins. I know because my sister still has […]

[ read more ]

16 Signs You’re Type A :: A Penelope Takes the Quiz, See How She Measures Up

March 9, 2015

Hey guys, I’m excited about today! I get to bring to you the first post from new Penelope Loves Lists Contributor Angela Mullan. Angela’s a powerhouse, people. She works full-time, and also manages to be an amazing wife, mom of a gorgeous almost-2-year-old girl and a woman who embodies being a great friend to so […]

[ read more ]

Why You Won’t Find Any Piles of Mail in My House

March 5, 2015

This is not going to surprise any of you, but piles of paper make me nuts. And the quickest way for me to CrazyTown (well, one of the quickest, there are several) is to see a pile of mail sitting on the counter. I can’t take it. I can hear things going unpaid. I can […]

[ read more ]