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I'm Kayla. A millennial obsessed with makeup, planner decorating, and board games. Working towards a more organized, simplified life one post at a time. #catlady

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6.20.2019

How to Deal with Travel Anxiety

How to Deal with Travel Anxiety

Oh travel anxiety. I swear no matter how often I travel I still get anxious before flights. What's that about brain?! While I try to figure out a way to trick my brain out of anxiety, here are some things I do that could help you reduce travel apprehension. 

Do your research. A lot of my anxiety stems from a lack of control. I like having information, the more the better. So I always do my research about what's around the hotel I'm staying at so I know options for food and shopping if I happen to need something. I look into weather forecasts and the distance from the airport to the hotel. I print off schedules if I'm going to a conference. The more information I can find the more at ease I am.

Have a packing list that you can continually update after every travel adventure. For the longest time I kept forgetting my hairbrush. Nothing annoys a planner more than when things don't go according to plan. So now I stick firmly to a packing list on my laptop that I'll print out and use for every trip. 

Set a loose schedule of what you want to do at the destination. The key word is loose. I tend to have a problem of over planning which leads to expectations being crushed when we don't get to everything on my impossibly long schedule. I like to choose two to three main things I want to do every day and leave room for a little planned spontaneous (see what I did there) adventures in between.

Prepare where you can and try to let go of worrying about what you can't. This is a discussion Alex and I have constantly. I can't control if our plane is delayed or not, but I can control whether or not I have things to do if it is. Have things in place just in case some of those silly anxieties actually come true, but don't stress about things you can't control.

Now plan that next adventure and face that travel anxiety head on. Don't miss out on amazing memories.
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6.18.2019

5 Ways to Make Mental Health a Priority

5 Ways to Make Mental Health a Priority

It's so easy to ignore mental health as the calendar fills up and the days get busy. Yet when your mental health suffers, everything suffers. So here are five easy ways to make mental health a priority in your life.

Plan fun outings and events to have something to look forward to beyond work. A few weeks ago I went with my friend Taylor to a candle bar to make our own custom candles. We were only gone a few hours, but the adventure did WONDERS for my mental health. Plus it gave me something new to talk about besides work things! Something as simple as going to the movies and taking a break from reality can hugely improve your mental health.

Create a list of stress reduction activities that you can reference if you're feeling anxious or stressed. My list includes things like a long bath, a walk outside, and a hydrating face mask. Write down things that bring you joy and help you to get out of  your head.

Go to therapy. Whether it's every week or a few times a month, set aside time to talk to someone. Even if you don't think you necessary "need" therapy, schedule an appointment anyway. You'll be surprised at how much lighter you'll feel after an hour of judgement free conversation.

Unfollow and defriend accounts that bring you stress. Whether it's that second cousin who is constantly starting political fights on Facebook or that Instagrammer with the unrealistically perfect life, delete them from your social sphere. Don't think about it, just do it. The effect will be nearly instantaneous. You won't feel crappy after a quick scroll through Instagram but rather inspired by feeds that make you feel good rather than like shit.

Schedule time each week for mental health activities like yoga or meditation. Even if it's just ten minutes before bed to journal about the day, set aside time for YOU. 
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6.13.2019

Know Your Worth | How to Get Paid for Things People Want You to Do for Free

How to Get Paid for Things People Want You to Do for Free


Trust me, I'm still learning this one. When you have a creativity related job, it's easy for friends and family to assume you'll do work for them for free. "Oh, it's just a few photos" or "Can't you just whip up a logo really quick?" We are constantly getting bombarded with requests to do things for free and free doesn't pay the bills. So here's what you should do if people want you to do any sort of work for free.

Be up front about your costs. Especially if you work in a creative field designing websites or doing photography, make sure people know what you charge. Create a pricing sheet or have an email template you can send to anyone who asks you to do something for them. That way they know immediately that you aren't an intern and deserve proper compensation for your work.

Provide a friends and family discount if you feel so inclined. You definitely shouldn't feel like you have to offer special pricing for people you know, but it could be an easy way to appease people while still getting paid.

Try the barter system if someone just doesn't want to pay you. If you still want to work with them, try exchanging goods and services instead. Maybe they have a rental space you could use for free in exchange for some photography. Figure out a way that both parties are satisfied.

Create a site or portfolio of your work to boost credibility. A lot of the time people don't really understand what my husband and I do for a living. The ignorance leads them to assuming graphic design or photography is just a hobby, rather than our way of feeding ourselves. Having a website or portfolio of your work will not only show moochers the quality you produce (and not for free), but is also a great way to get more clients.

Make very few exceptions to the rules. It's super important that you don't do a favor for someone "just this one time" because that could start becoming the precedent. You don't want word spreading that you did Jack's logo for free because Susan is going to expect the same deal.

Friends and family don't perform their jobs for free, so neither should you. Just because you may have a non-traditional job in a creative field does not mean you have to be a starving artist.

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6.11.2019

Erin Condren Summer 2019 Seasonal Surprise Box Review

Erin Condren Summer 2019 Seasonal Surprise Box Review

If it's tropical thing you can basically assume I'm going to love it. It's been a while since I've received an Erin Condren Seasonal Surprise Box* so I could not wait to rip this box open. I've generally really enjoyed past surprise boxes because there's just something about exclusive items you can't get on the site. Exclusivity is basically death to my bank account.

Erin Condren Summer 2019 Seasonal Surprise Box Review

If you're new to the surprise box, they're released every quarter for $35 (plus tax) and contain over $65 in exclusive and sneak peek products. The themes usually stay pretty close to whatever season the box is for. I've reviewed a few other boxes in the past if you want to check out those posts.

Erin Condren Summer 2019 Seasonal Surprise Box Review

My favorite items from this box are the wristlet, palm paper clips, chase the sun cover, and asterisk pen. I've already used the wristlet as a pouch for my carry-on liquids since it's see-through and can go through security. 

The pocket sized traveler's notebook insert is interesting, but I'm more curious to see if they come out with a line of smaller traveler's notebooks since this particular insert is exclusive to the box. Otherwise this little guy is basically pointless. The larger insert is a summer petite planner where you can write down summer plans and document memories. I have my own style of documenting memories that I'm a fan of more, so this will likely be passed along to a friend.

Erin Condren Summer 2019 Seasonal Surprise Box Review

Overall I think this box is worth the $35 price tag since a lot of the exclusive items I really enjoy. It's when the exclusive items are meh that it doesn't really seem worth it since you'll be able to get the sneak peek items from the box on the website in a few weeks. I love seeing the company branch out into new types of products like the paperclips and pens. Who knows what they'll come up with next...

What do you think of this seasonal surprise box? Did you snag one? What past box is your favorite?

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6.06.2019

The Best Planning Related Affiliate Programs to Join

The Best Planning Related Affiliate Programs to Join

If you're living that online life of posting videos/writing blog posts, affiliate programs are a great way to organically talk about products you actually use while getting some money on the side. It's something talked about a lot in the beauty and lifestyle industry, but relatively unheard of in the planning community. There are so many amazing options out there for affiliate programs to increase your online revenue just by simply changing what links you're using.

What's even better is that all of my favorite planner affiliate programs use ShareASale as their platform. That way it's super easy to keep everything in one place and you'll get one paycheck rather than having to keep up with a ton of different accounts.

You'll be able to view the programs descriptions and apply to join once you sign up for ShareASale (it's free).

 10% of every sale

10% of every sale

15% of every sale

5% of every sale

Once you're a part of the program I highly recommend using the custom links option to take whatever product you're talking about and make an affiliate link for it. That way you can direct your audience to exactly what you're talking about. You'll also receive emails about once a month for each program to give you updates on upcoming sales, discounts, and collaboration opportunities. The Erin Condren program specifically offers a lot of chances to "bid" on projects where they supply you with items to talk about during specific campaigns.

There are a ton of other planner affiliate programs out there, but these are my particular favorites and the ones I find myself linking to most often. If you have any questions about getting started with affiliate links, drop them in the comments and I can help you figure it all out!
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6.04.2019

Getting the Most Out of Your Planner Note Pages

Getting the Most Out of Your Planner Note Pages

For the longest time I just left the notes pages in the back of my planner empty. I'm definitely not an artist and didn't want to mess them up with my crappy attempts at bullet journal-like spreads. I'm ashamed at just how long it took me to realize I could just make stickers...oh Kayla...

With all the travel I've been doing lately across the United States I really wanted to create a travel tracker and wish list of places I'd like to visit. I just add a little red dot on the map to indicate places I've been rather than coloring in the whole state. My hope is that over time I'll have a chicken pox map full of amazing travel adventures!

Getting the Most Out of Your Planner Note Pages

When the new Erin Condren Life Planner (review here) dropped I completely hated the new monthly productivity page. I never have that many birthdays to track and I wasn't a fan of the other header options. Plus I always love a good habit tracker. The ECLP monthly productivity page habit tracker and headers was born! If I want to mix up what headers I use each month I have six different options to choose from. Gotta love stickers that can make a planner perfect!

Getting the Most Out of Your Planner Note Pages

Another one of my favorite ways to spice up my notes section is with the build your own bookshelf book tracker. There's just something about wanting to fill in all those book spines that gets a gal reading again. 

Getting the Most Out of Your Planner Note Pages

I wanted a section for all my wish list items, but I like to divide them based on categories. Presto. Wish list notes page. That way I can add a header to the little sticky note looking sticker based on wish list topics. 


Here's a video of my notes section before I created the USA map and wish list sticker sheets! I also use these popcorn stickers and television stickers to track shows and movies I'd like to watch and you can see how I set that up in the video.

How do you use your note pages?


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5.30.2019

June Oh, Hello Box | Adventure Awaits

June Oh, Hello Box

With more solo travel in the planner this year, it seemed like the perfect time for a travel Oh, Hello Box. Gotta have travel supplies, right? I wanted this box to have a ton of really useful travel related products. Whether you're travelling international or taking a road trip, this box can help make your next adventure even better.


June Oh, Hello Box

One of my favorite products in this month's box is definitely this travel pencil case. It enlarges and zips closed to keep all of your writing supplies safe. When you want to use it, just push the top section down and presto, pens at the ready. The front little pocket is a great place to store sticky notes too.

June Oh, Hello Box

I'm always losing my travel earbuds so this case should help me keep track of them better (and not tangled)! Sure I love my larger headphones, but sometimes I just need something small to throw in my carry on. I've used this three zipper pouch for a few trips already and it's amazing at keeping my jewelry separate and untangled. The compartments are great at organizing things will still keeping everything in one place.

June Oh, Hello Box

The Novel Coffee collaborated with us for this month's box! Just look at those adorable kawaii travel stickers. I love all of the collaborations we've been doing lately and there are definitely more in the works for future boxes. 


Be sure to check out the video to see everything in the June Oh, Hello Box available Saturday, June 1st!

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5.28.2019

Homemade Cat & Dog Treats ft. Our Family

Homemade Cat & Dog Treats

Let's get into the recipes first because no one likes to scroll through a mountain of text trying to find the recipe...I'll see you on the other side...

Homemade Three Ingredient Cat Treats

Ingredients

10 oz canned salmon or tuna undrained
1 egg beaten
2 cups whole wheat flour

Directions
  • Heat oven to 350°. Pulse 10 oz canned meat (undrained) in a food processor and chop as finely as possible. If you don't have a food processor, use the back of a fork to break the meat into small pieces.
  • Combine meat, 1 egg (beaten) and 2 cups flour in a bowl until dough forms. If dough is too dry, add up to 1/3 cup water. If dough is too wet or sticky, add a bit more flour. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.
  • Roll out dough on a floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick. Use a 3/4-inch cookie cutter in the shape of your choice to create your treats. I used a silicone mold to make cat paw shaped treats!
  • Place treats on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350° for about 20 minutes. When they're slightly browned and crunchy, they're done.

Homemade Cat & Dog Treats

Homemade Four Ingredient Dog Treats

Ingredients

2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 large eggs
3 cups whole wheat flour, or more, as needed

Directions
  • Heat oven to 350°. 
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat pumpkin puree, peanut butter and eggs until well combined. Gradually add 2 1/2 cups flour at low speed, beating just until incorporated. Add an additional 1/4 cup flour at a time just until the dough is no longer sticky.
  • Working on a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until it comes together. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes and place onto the baking sheet. I used a silicone dog bone mold.
  • Place into oven and bake until the edges are golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

Homemade Cat & Dog Treats

I've worked with Our Family* in the past on another baking post so I jumped at the opportunity to try some recipes for the furry guys in my life. Our cats seriously go nuts for treats, so I'm glad I now have a recipe that I know exactly what's in it.  You can pick up Our Family brand baking products at Family Fare or D&W if you're in the Grand Rapids area. They're affordable, high-quality, and are what I usually reach for when I'm grocery shopping.

Plus the Our Family peanut butter doesn't contain any ingredients that are harmful to dogs. Just make sure to not feed any to cats as it'll upset their stomachs.

Homemade Cat & Dog Treats

After all of these treat filled photo shoots I'm definitely the favorite in this household. That's for sure!

*This is not a sponsored post. I'm not being paid for this post and all opinions are my own. Our Family kindly sent over the products shown in the first photo to include in this post.
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5.23.2019

How I Decide What Goes into the Oh, Hello Box Every Month


The Oh, Hello Box is six months old! Putting together the box every month is one of my favorite things about my job. Sure there are a few boring parts like budgets to deal with, but it's mostly just a whole lot of fun.

When planning what goes into each of the boxes, I first look at current trends and any particular seasonal factors for each month. The summer is usually filled with grilling, travel, and lots of sun, so it makes sense to create boxes around those ideas rather than cuddling up with a nice book. I keep a running list of theme ideas in a notebook whenever something pops up in my head. So I look through that and decide on a theme before doing anything else.

Next is deciding on the budget and number of boxes for that month. We have a set budget for each box to guarantee we're making good enough margins for the box to be sustainable. Plus we want to make sure we have enough boxes for growing demand.

Now comes the fun part. Once I have the box theme in mind (say...travel) I get to run with it. I'll flip through countless promotional item catalogs my husband Alex keeps for his business. Of course there are a ton of items that would fall under the travel category, but I like thinking out of the box and seeing if I can incorporate items that don't necessarily fall into the category on their own. That's where designing comes in. I'm always on the lookout for practical items people will actually use rather than having stuff that'll just take up space. The great thing about the box is how shareable it is. If there happens to be something you just aren't crazy about, you can easily pass it along to a friend or wrap it up for a gift.

After my list of products has been roughly outlined, I start figuring out what I want on them. This is the point where the box really starts to take shape. A "meh" item can be turned into the most popular thing in the box if it has a really awesome quote or great design on it. I need to know what the items are before I start designing to make sure the designs make sense with each item and can work cohesively to the theme.

Honestly having a husband in the promotional products business makes assembling the box every month a complete breeze. I'm fortunate to have someone who is constantly up on the most popular items and coolest gadgets that we can share with all of you.

If you have any questions about what it's like to put a subscription box together every month, drop them in the comments!
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5.21.2019

My Journey to Depression Medication


Let's be honest. I never thought I'd have the ovaries to write a post like this. Here I am just airing out all my personal laundry for the world to see. But you know what? It's important. It's so important to me that I allow myself to be vulnerable and share these usually kept secret things. Because we are all going through something in some shape or form. And we all could use a post saying that we aren't alone. My hope is that when I truly need it, I'll find a post like this one to help me through a tough time. So I hope this post can do that for you too.

I've talked a bit about my anxiety journey in videos before, but I haven't really unpacked the baggage that is my depression. Mostly because it took me a while to realize that's what I was. Depressed. I thought I couldn't possibly be. There's nothing "wrong" in my life. I'm in a happy marriage, have family and friends who love me, and have a rewarding job. And yet despite all the surface things, I still felt like shit. I slept a lot. I stopped caring about work. I didn't have the drive or interest to hang out with people. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and just...NOT. Yet despite all the signs, I couldn't possibly believe that I, Kayla Benda, was in fact, depressed.

I chalked most of my feelings up as symptoms of my anxiety. And sure some of them might have been, but most of them weren't. During this time I started taking medication for my anxiety when I started to feel a panic attack coming on. Still in denial about my depression, I went to a doctor's appointment to discuss how the anxiety medication and I were getting on. As I waited for the doctor, a nurse handed me a survey to fill out. On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being most days, how often do you feel hopeless? How frequently do you have trouble staying focused? How often do you feel worry that things will never get better?

Before I knew what was happening, I was in tears. This form literally described me to a tee and the flood gates opened. My doctor consoled me and suggested depression medication to see if that could curb some of these feelings. I left with a prescription I didn't expect to receive that day.

I started taking depression medication back in October and kept it between my husband and myself for months, not comfortable sharing with even my close knit family out of embarrassment. I felt like a failure for needing help to "feel better." But as the medication began to really kick in over the next few months and regulate the chemical levels in my brain, it became incredibly obvious how much I truly needed some help. 

So here I am almost eight months later and feeling like myself again. Now I know the medication route is not for everyone, but it's definitely for me. I'm hopefully that one day I may be able to ween off of the prescription, but in the meantime, I'm completely happy with the assistance. I'm also more than aware that you can't be "cured" of depression. It's something I'm sure I'll be living with and navigating my entire life. But there's comfort in knowing that there is a way to feel better. Whether it's therapy, medication, or a nice long hiatus to Sweden, there are things out there to help. 
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5.16.2019

Why I'm Doing More Solo Travel This Year


Although 2018 felt packed with travel and conferences, 2019 is already shaping up to blow last year away. Before my trip to Las Vegas for Go Wild a few weeks ago, I hadn't traveled alone in years. The itch to push myself out of my comfort zone is real these days as I actively work towards challenging my anxiety and depression. It just seems like the next step to tackling apprehensions and looking fear in the face and saying, "Watch me do it anyway."

 My profession has opened up a bunch of opportunities to travel and teach workshops at planner events. It's definitely an unexpected side effect of my business, but I've completely embraced it with thankful and open arms. Who knew this introvert could get so much joy out of teaching workshops, but you don't know until you give it a go, right? Usually my husband Alex tags along with me, but his promotional business has been really taking off and giving him a lot of travel opportunities as well. So we're doing what any two-business couple has to, divide and conquer.

The Vegas trip although brief, showed me a lot about myself. I transferred flights, took my first Uber ride alone, and navigated hotel registration all on my own. I've always just relied on Alex's extroverted personality to handle things for me. But I did them. And you know what? I barely even broke a nervous sweat in the process.

So I want to do even more solo travel this year. Why? Just because I want to see if I can do it. It's so easy to fall into a routine of taking the easy way out and letting Alex do all the social interactions, but if Vegas taught me anything it's that I'm more than capable to do it on my own. And that's a pretty empowering feeling.

So if you're unsure about travelling alone, try to really figure out what you're so nervous about. Is it finding your gate at the airport? Is it navigating a ride from the airport to the hotel? Once you figure out what exactly you're worried about, then you can actively work to put things in place so you won't be anymore. Ask the front desk which gate you're supposed to be at. Schedule an Uber ride ahead of time or take a taxi from the taxi line. And don't let the fear of solo travel keep you from doing it. You'll be surprised at how smoothly it'll go.
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5.14.2019

The Shift in the Sticker Shop Industry | My Predictions


Back in 2014, the planner sticker industry felt like the wild west. Shops were few and far between and every idea worked. I'm ashamed at some of the low quality items I sold thinking they were gems. Here we are five years later and it's definitely a different world. New shops pop up every day and there's been a noticeable shift in the sticker shop world that will continue to change in the next few years.

I predict that by the time 2020 rolls around, a lot of shops will start closing. Whether they just lost interest or aren't making the income they expected, a lot of shops are going to turn the metaphorical closed sign for good. The sticker world isn't an easy one. Competition is stiff and margins thin to the point that a good amount of people will likely throw in the towel rather than hang on. The competition will only get worse as box stores continue to try and get their share of the planner cash cow.

We've already started to see more established shops going after bigger fish like Michael's. The gap between smaller, start up shops and larger shops will continue to grow wider as time goes on. Even Oh, Hello has its eyes on bigger things than just making stickers. 

But amidst all the competition and closed shops, creativity is really going to shine. You can't stick with the norm and expect things to sell anymore. I cannot wait to see the amazing, creative products my fellow business owners come up with in the coming years. 

So yeah. The sticker world isn't what it used to be...but you know, what? Good. Planner addicts deserve amazing products to help make their lives more organized and colorful and tough competition will lead to just that. Oh, Hello doesn't plan on going anywhere anytime soon either.
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