7 Things I Hope to Do in 2012

There’s nothing quite like that “new year smell” when the air is cold and crisp and filled with possibility. I took down all of my holiday decorations and now it feels like I’m starting with a clean slate. I’m sitting in my sunroom, looking out at the first snow of the winter, and thinking about the 12 new months on the calendar waiting to be filled.

After giving things a good ponder, here are 7 things I hope to do in 2012…

1. Breathe More. I work way too much, which is one of the hazards of doing something you love for a living. I rarely take a full day off–there’s always email to answer, houses to research, and posts to write. I have to keep up with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and all that stuff, too.

But when I work too much, I get cranky and out of sorts, and my family doesn’t deserve that. I’ve got to put more boundaries on my work hours, and when I start getting stressed out, I need to take the time to just sit back, relax, and breathe.

2. Give the Blog a New Look. It’s been over 2 years since my blog got its last redesign, and it’s time for an update. I’ve been researching logo and blog designers I might want to work with, so if you have any suggestions, let me know!

3. Simplify My Blog Life. Despite the universally accepted blogging advice about diversifying your income with small ads, big ads, text links, affiliate programs, giveaway posts, and on and on, I’ve decided to do the opposite in an effort to simplify my life. I may reconsider this down the road, but for now:

  • I’m no longer accepting small ads from private sponsors. Haven Home Media will continue to handle all of the larger banner ads for me so I can focus on the things I love to do (and that doesn’t include sales, billing, and accounting).
  • I phased out the text links and affiliate ads last year and have no plans to bring them back.
  • I won’t be doing any giveaways. If free stuff is what you’re looking for, you can find it on just about every other blog out there. I’d rather write about houses.

I’m approached about publishing books, writing guest posts, speaking engagements, and a million other things all the time. I plan to say no to 99% of them this year. Some people blog in hopes of getting into magazines, getting a book deal, or getting on TV. That’s great for them, but I’m already doing what I love, and believe it or not, blogging is it! :-)

4. Cover More Cottages. When I removed the “Advertise Here” link in the nav bar at the top of my blog, it made space for a new page. It was easy to decide what to add in its place: my favorite cottages. I’ll continue adding to it throughout the year. I know I’m not the only one who loves looking at cozy little houses with lots of character. If you do, too, check it out!

5. Come Up with a Better System for Handling Email. It has become increasingly difficult to keep up with it all. Toward the end of 2011 I started taking a day off from posting each week just to catch up and will probably continue to do so.

Some of my blogger friends have hired Virtual Assistants to help them with theirs, but I just can’t imagine turning it over to someone else. I’d still want to see every email and would be telling them exactly how to respond to each one, so it wouldn’t save much time in the long run! I need to figure out what other tasks I could delegate, though, to give me more time to tackle my inbox.

6. Share More Snapshots of My Life (with Instagram). I just got an iPhone and was determined to figure out how to take those cool photos that other bloggers are always posting on Twitter and Facebook.

The photo I took from my sunroom at the top of this post was done with the Instagram app on my phone. This week I started posting snapshots on Facebook and having fun with it. I’m learning as I go!

7. Read More. I was an English major in college because I love to read. Now most of the reading I do tends to be online. I want to take the time to read more books from cover to cover this year–especially the kind I can learn from and be inspired by. I have a stack of them waiting for me!

I read the Steve Jobs biography over the holidays and it was fascinating. I love this quote of his (above) because it’s so true. For a lot of years I worked hard at things I didn’t love, and my life truly changed the day I began writing about the things I’m passionate about.

What are your hopes for the new year? Any resolutions or goals for 2012? I’d love to hear them!

Sunroom photo taken on my iPhone with Instagram–see more of my sunroom here. House with yellow door via Tiek Built Homes; yellow pitcher via Better Homes & Gardens; yellow foyer by Meg Braff Interiors.

I wrote hundreds of posts this year about all kinds of houses, from humble cottages to outlandish mansions. Here are the 20 that got the…
cupcake with four candles
Four years ago I started this blog on a whim. I had no idea what I was doing. And I did pretty much everything wrong…

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  1. rome says

    Best of luck, definitely a big fan of Cottages myself, but didn’t see any posts it, I’ll be on the lookout.

    • says

      You can click the link to them at the top of the page, on the right, underneath my logo. Now I have a place to list my favorite ones!

  2. says

    I really admire your attitude about doing what makes you happy and simplifying your life so that you can enjoy it more. So glad you mentioned the book, that would be a great one for the book club I just started.

    I hope you find great joy and peace in the new year and thank you for all the time and commitment you put into writing fun, interesting posts.

  3. says

    Sounds like you have given it all a lot of thought and come up with some great solutions – that’s inspiring to me! I think I will read the Steve jobs book – I love your blog and know all the changes you make will reap great results – Happy New Year!
    mary x

  4. Rick says

    Great column. Lots to think about. My wife and I have a few “top priorities” to do on our home and getting them done will help us relax. Win-win. We are planning to leave more open time this year and not pre-fill the days so that when something comes along that we really want to do we are available.

    I think I also told you about mom and dad in law getting their 8 week old Shih Tzu, Lilly. She has arrived. We took them to pick her up and they stopped at our house for dinner on the way home. Our 4 don’t quite know what to think of her yet. She looks like a little wolf. Just so cute, smallest of the litter and the reports of her activities in her new home are that she has settled in and taken over.
    She takes naps next to dad while he reads morning paper.
    Better stop but am so excited.

    • says

      Aw, that’s wonderful! Nothing like a new puppy for the new year. We celebrated Maizie’s one-year adoption birthday yesterday. She has brought so much joy to our lives. It’s hard to remember what we ever did without her!

  5. Julie says

    I think one of your links is hacked. It looks pornographic on my Android phone. It is the image below #2. Just wanted to let you know!

    • says

      The flowers? You’re seeing something different than yellow flowers on a mantel? What in the world?!

      Anyone else seeing that?

      • ShabbyChick says

        LOL…looks like yellow flowers to me! Maybe I need to get my eyes checked 😉

  6. Lisa says

    I wish you strength and happiness for your goals this new year. You are an inspiration to me. Since the first time I began reading blogs ( your’s was the first ), I wanted to blog. So after two years of proving and disproving excuses, I’m ready. That is my goal…..in 2012 I’m starting a blog. There, I said it!! I read the Steve Job’s quote and I thought, thats as simple as you get. I’m going to do what I love….write! I don’t know if it will turn into an income or not, but I’m not making any money thinking about either!
    I’m inspired to inpsire!
    Happy New Year, Julia!

    • says

      That’s great, Lisa! Go for it! That was my new year’s resolution in 2008 because I wanted to have fun writing again (I was NOT having fun at my old job, writing textbooks). You never know where it can lead.

      Best of luck to you, and send me the link when you get it going! :)

  7. says

    I’m loving all of these yellow-themed pictures! Especially the first one- is that your sunroom? It looks SO beautiful. I am glad to hear that you are still focused on “just” blogging. =) I love your blog, it’s definitely one of my favorite reads!

  8. says

    Can’t wait to see more cottages!! My mom has a 1910 bungalow and I’m always looking for inspiration for her house. Good luck with all your goals! I’m sure you’ll find balance in the new year :)

  9. says

    What a great idea to really sit down and think about these goals. Looking foward to 2012 w/ Hooked on Houses. xo

  10. says

    1-I need to do some meditating… maybe not the traditional sort of meditation, but spending some times reflecting on myself, delving back into my ‘One Day at a Time’ book and other inspirations and figure out where I want to go, who I want to be.

    2-I want to start riding again, most of the time. The rest of the time I think about riding and not seeing my horses red ears in front of me and I can not fathom having a partner that is not him. *sigh*

    3-I either gotta’ find a place/way to sell my furniture… or decide it’s not meant to be and walk away and get a ‘real’ job. It sucks but that is reality. I need money to accomplish #2, and there’s no money comin’ from the furniture lately.

    4-I do want to get out and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, or their ReStore- it seems like it would be a great thing for me… and a great thing to do as well.

    • says

      I like that you’re thinking of ways to give back and help others this year, too. Habitat for Humanity is a great cause. I wish they had a ReStore in my area!

  11. says

    Great Goal…and why I love your blog….more cottages/houses….all of it!! I want to be more present and in the moment. Focus on the task at hand, not “the list” or “yesterday”! Cheers!

  12. says

    WOW! I can’t believe you are thinking of revamping the blog already- I remember your last unveiling and it seems like yesterday…time flies when you are in the world of Real Estate/all-things-home-related!

    Love the S.J. quote- just cemented my need to read that book!

  13. says

    I applaud all your aspirations for 2012, especially the no “give-a-ways”. And I enjoyed your beach cottage blog and am happy to see a feature now on cottages.

    Enjoy your blog and have a great 2012.


  14. says

    Love that you are getting rid of the ads and paring things down. I look forward to that and thank you for sharing your list-I am not brave enough.

  15. says

    I love your plans!! When I started blogging it was mostly as a Journal of things I love to do. I’ve never gotten into the making money on the blog thing. I love to blog and actually have two going. But one day it may be too much, so I like that I have the option to stop if I want or need to. Keep writing about houses. We love reading about them and seeing everything out there. It is a small world after all :-)

  16. Cindy says

    Yay for more cottages! They are a favorite of mine, as well. I also say good for you – getting priorities in order and finding some balance will do wonders for your life…now, if I could just do the same, I’d be all set. 😉

    I love this blog! It’s a daily stop for me. I’m so glad you love doing it, because I love visiting.

    BTW – I don’t see anything inappropriate under #2 (or anywhere). It’s a pic of yellow flowers in white/yellow striped vase for me.

    • says

      Whew! I’m glad no one else seems to be seeing anything funny. Maybe something’s going on with her phone. So strange.

  17. Angela says

    I wish you all the best with your goals for 2012…. Love them all!!! I love reading your blog… I get inspired all time for my home.
    My goal is to simplify my life. Find happiness everyday!!!
    I will send you pics of my little bungalow once I finish painting. My kitchen is my favorite place to be. I love it!!! I call my home “My Little Jewel Box!”


  18. says

    Glad you shared your approach to blogging! You have been an inspiration on my blogging journey for sure! Not that I would ever pair down on advertisers…, I think they actually add to the “seascape” ambiance of my blog and I like that. More cottages is great…, since I’d love to live in one! And I’m sure there will be coastal cottages in the mix!

  19. says

    Sing it, sister. And happy new year! I so look forward to your posts and photos and inspirations. Cheers!

  20. Jodi from New Jersey says

    Hi Julia . I love you and your whole “owning yourself ” attitude. I don’t really need free stuff, I’d rather read your blog! But, if you change the format, please don’t complicate the comment part. Some blogs make it so hard for casual pc users to comment. Also, have you seen the blog “the old painted cottage ” ? She has a feature called cottage of the month, it’s regular people that send in photos of their cottagey homes . It’s fun to look at. Happy new year and — just breathe………………

    • says

      I hear ya on the comments. I can’t tell you how many blogs have made me jump through so many hoops to leave one that I’ve just given up and clicked away (I can never get those CAPTCHAs right the first time…grrr). I make it as easy as possible here. I even removed comment moderation for first-time commenters last year. When a spam comment pops up, I just delete it. Easy.

      Thanks, Jodi! Always great to hear from you. :-)

  21. Brenda says

    I find it inspiring that you have found something you love to do and are doing it. Ever notice how time flies when life is interesting? My wish is to find more time to read actual books…sigh…so many books, so little time. Keep up the good work.

  22. says

    Good luck in the New Year! Your list is quite inspiring! I’ve been following your blog for quite a while now and this is the first time I’ve ever commented! My favorite section of your blog is by far the movie house section. Whenever I see a house on tv or in a movie that I love, I rush over to your site to try and find out more!
    I usually don’t make resolutions but I decided this year felt appropriate. I’m a self published author and I’ve been trying to get over writers block for quite a long time. So I’ve made it my mission in 2012 to finally get one of my books published by a traditional publisher. We’ll see how it goes!
    Keep up the good work!

  23. says

    GOOD FOR YOU Julia! You just hit on something so brilliant, focusing on what’s important to YOU and not what everyone else is doing! I think that is the key to finding balance and I predict you will have it this year as you stick to your plan, bravo !!

  24. Julie says

    These are really great goals, Julia. Reasonable, well-thought out, and inspiring. I’m glad you won’t be doing any give-a-ways. I really don’t enjoy these on any blog I read, and generally skip over them. I don’t like reading guest posts either…(from the cheap seats in the back, so many opinions!) Will look forward to seeing more cottages, definitely. I’ve been a longtime lover of small spaces. Are you a reader of Anna, on Door Sixteen? She’s a book cover designer in her day job, but has designed/redesigned some websites and blogs in her spare time, and I love her style. She wants to limit how much she takes on lately, though. My best to you this year. Thanks again for one of my very favorite places to visit online!

  25. says

    Julia-this is a wonderful post. It’s so refreshing to hear someone’s truth. I love that you love blogging…and that you have the wisdom to know that’s what’s making you happy. So many of us try to be everything, and we end up running ragged and losing our identities. It’s so important to set our own boundaries so we can really focus on what we love and what we do best. I’ve been working on this, too, over the last couple of years and it brings so much freedom and clarity. Thanks for your honesty and authenticity. You are a true inspiration!

  26. says

    Julia, you are more of a friend to me then a random blog I read. I love that you listen to your heart regarding your work, that’s what sets you far above the rest. I have been aproached to have give-aways from different companies, but I turn them down. There’s nothing wrong with them, but they are not for me.
    I don’t have blogging goals except to try to keep it real and somewhat consistant! My personal goal this year is to be more accepting of others and show more grace.

  27. says

    Love all the pops of yellow in this post — makes me think about spring, my favorite season. Good luck with all the reading. Mindy Kaling’s book is hilarious.

  28. Janelle says

    Julia, I love that you handle your own email. You don’t have a tiny obscure blog anymore, and when I get a response in my inbox from you to a comment I left or an email I sent, it always tickles me a little to know that you took the time to do it yourself. Your responses are often short, but personal and thoughtful. As one of your readers, I appreciate that it’s important to you to hold onto that. Here’s to a great 2012!

  29. says

    I’m so excited to have more cottage posts to look forward to. It must be a challenge for publications to find enough cottages to include in some of the better magazines, i.e. Veranda, Traditional Home and House Beautiful. I want to see well-designed, smaller spaces, not just cutesy space filled to over flowing with nick-knacks (no offense to those that like that look). I’ll be eager to see what you find since I love almost all of the houses you show us.
    Good luck with your goals…sounds challenging but doable, right? :-)

  30. Kim says

    I love your goals and how they aren’t too far out of reach. I wish you lots of luck and I will be supporting you.

    I thank you for taking the time to read and respond to all of your emails. I really appreciate and enjoy getting a response from you. It wouldn’t be the same if you let someone else take over.

    I also want to thank you for the hard work you put towards this blog. I love knowing there’s people who love houses as much as I do.

  31. says

    Awesome goals, Miss Julia!! :) I would totally buy a book if you wrote one, but I can understand your need for cutting back on work. 😉 I got an iPhone at the beginning of December–aren’t they fun?? I didn’t know you are on Instagram…I’ll have to see if I can find you. :)

  32. Destiny says

    Although we are only “friends in my head,” I liked you before this post.

    Now I admire you. Your take on where you are going and why makes me think that you are a woman genuinely content with her life and you can’t put a pricetag on that!

  33. says

    Hi Julia – Happy New Year. How refreshing to hear that you blog, simply for the sake of blogging and not because you want to become the next big thing (you’re already there in my eyes). Anyhoo, I can’t wait to see more cottage pictures. I was only swooning over a cottage the other day and thought… oohh, should I send this one to Julia? Take care. Lx

  34. says

    I, too, have been thinking a lot about what I want to focus on this year in my business, and very importantly what I DON’T . Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and goals with all of us, since working for yourself is a wonderful but at times isolating and difficult path.

    Oddly enough, I just wrote about one of my favorite cottages! I hope you will stop by and check it out! : http://www.revealingredesign.com/blog/2012/01/black-white-just-right/

    All the best to you for 2012!

  35. Deb from Oz says

    Happy New Year Julia! I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years now and religiously check in each day….sometimes twice or more if I have the time. I wish you the best for 2012 and hope you accomplish each and every goal. I love a person who knows what they want! I would love to be a blogger, but just don’t have the time to devote to it at the moment. I, like you though, definitely need to take the time to stop and breathe now and then. Here’s to another year of being hooked on houses!

    • Susan says

      Thank you for staying true to yourself. My favorite blog by far.

  36. Julie says

    Very exciting!

    My favorite one is MORE COTTAGES! because I looooove cottages and other tiny houses.

  37. says

    I spend a lot of time blogging and don’t get paid for it. I’ve never made the jump over to advertisements. Just can’t pull that trigger for some reason. I love coming here. It’s where I get my house fix. So glad that all your focus is blogging. It really is fun.

  38. says

    Wonderful goals! I like how you aren’t afraid to simplify things. You are right, you don’t need to do giveaways, ads, etc. I am also looking forward to the cottages!

  39. says

    Julia I totally love your blog, yours was one of the first I “found”. I always thought I was the only one “hooked on houses” :))) Happy New Year!!

  40. says

    Sounds like you’ll have a great year! I can’t believe that first photo is an instagram… I so want an iPhone! I’m not making any resolutions exactly but i do what to learn to use full Photoshop and try yoga. Happy New Year… I love reading your blog :)

  41. says

    Your post made me smile…at 1:43 in the morning. One of my goals is to definitely start sitting down to “relax,” before midnight. Oy. I’m extremely inspired to get organized this year, so rather then spending all of my time doing that very thing…I can be working on projects, with the items needed in hand, when I am actually inspired to do them. I love that your passion is houses. Mine too. I’m also the sort who loves to be invited to a party…but would (usually) rather stay home. Your desire for your blog reminded me of that.

    Happy New Year, Julia!!

    : )

    Julie M.

  42. kristina says

    I like your list. I’m so glad that you aren’t doing give-aways!

  43. kelly in georgia says

    Brilliant and thoughtful post! Love it! And it was a great read for a blogger to be. Hopped over to your cottages page and am going to love that too! I have been looking at designers and templates since last spring, and for some reason keep ending up liking folks who work with photographers….not sure why that is. The prophoto4 stuff looks good (for themes). Also, you might want to check out the design work from Ribbons of Red, Swoone, Bethany Hway, and Tiffany Kelly. I STILL can’t decide what to do…so many choices (and so little money – ha!)
    Best wishes for a peaceful and creative 2012!

  44. Derek says

    I love your blog! I can’t wait to see what you’ll be doing in 2012! My goals are: I want to get pre-approved for a mortgage and buy my very first house (a historic fixer upper of course!), get a personal trainer, and see family more.

  45. Denise says

    Love the Cottages tab, especially since our old farmhouse is more cottage size than huge & rambling. Julia, thank you for responding to me about the sectional in your sunroom. We purchased it with beige slipcovers and it’s working out really well in our TV/reading room. In fact, my husband is curled up on it now with a good book. Wishing you and your family a lovely new year and success with your hopes for 2012!

  46. ShabbyChick says

    Here is my to-do list for 2012:
    ~Get black shutters for front of house
    ~Paint some rooms (I’m loving Greige/Paris Gray/Taupe)
    ~Paint a chest (again, Paris Gray)
    ~A few outdoor projects (gardening, landscaping, etc.)
    ~Get my oldest daughter ready for graduation in 2013
    ~Stay connected with friends and family (many of whom are 1,200 miles away)
    ~Go to the park and beach more (we live on the gulf coast so we can go year round!)
    ~Pray more
    ~Be a great mom and wife!

  47. says

    Totally inspiring words. I’m a new blogger but also a part-time marketing director and full-time mom to two young kids. The “how to grow your blog” information overwhelms so it’s nice to hear from someone who is content with doing just what she is. And, funny, I too made the resolution to read more–a book a month. :)

  48. cbean says

    Dear Julia, one of the nicest things you’ve always done is respond to our posts. You have a wonderful blog and I’m glad that you plan to continue. May all your 2012 goals become realities.

    Thanks much.

    cbean (and I wish I could start over with another name…ick! )

  49. judy fink says

    one could put the words To Do on the top of a sheet of paper. write nothing on it and go do whatever……… the more we talk about simplifying our lives, the more we do. just an observation.

  50. says

    I agree with everything you are doing! You are smart to pull back the layers of tedious things and get back to your passions and priorities! I’m so glad you are continuing to blog, I love all of your posts.

  51. Susan S says

    Good for you, Julia! Your blog should reflect the “real” Julia.

  52. nanne says


    i’m probably echoing a lot of your readers in saying that i so very much respect the way you run your blog. you manage to stay true your intent–to post pics & articles about all kinds of houses. at the same time, hooked on houses always feels very friendly, fun, personal and personable. we readers don’t know you, but you make us feel as we do.

    there are very few bloggers who are as successful as you who take the time to not only read all of the comments on their blogs, but to respond to them. you mentioned the amount of time that it takes for you to read/respond to you email–that is so appreciated. i know from the couple of times that i have sent you email that you really do read it & respond in a timely & thoughtful manner.

    kudos to you for being successful and accessible…very rare in the current blog world.

    wish you would write a tutorial on blogging.