Thursday, January 29

What I'm Throwing Out These Days

My natural tendency is to save things...too many things. 

What if I throw one of the girl's pictures away that they colored and the very next morning they ask me where it is?

What if I suddenly decide that that pink sleeveless top I haven't worn in over a year is the very thing I need to complete an outfit because it is suddenly the most awesome color in the world...despite the fact that it is an ill-fitting top? 

I certainly can't throw that bottle of lotion out that my grandmother gave me for Christmas last year. I mean, it was good lotion. What if the world suddenly stops producing smelly lotion, or I have an epiphany and actually start using it. I'll be so sad when I need that and realize its  gone. 

I can't throw these pieces to this plastic fishing game away, even though the game is completely unusable right now because Aubrey jammed something into the motor of it. What if I suddenly figure out how to fix it? What if I throw it away and the girls' childhoods are tainted because they LOVED the game, because their grandmother bought if for them, because it was the BEST toy EVER?! 

Yes, yes, these are the questions and thoughts that go through my head when I pick up random pieces of "stuff" around my house and deliberate the value of it. Should I keep it or get rid of it? If I get rid of the item should I donate it, or throw it away? If I keep it, is there a better place to store it? Do I need to organize it all in a different way?

Sometimes it's just easier to stuff something in a closet, or a drawer, or a folder to deal with later. There are too many questions to ask, too many options to consider! 

Until all of those sometimes start to add up to something big.  Until all of your "sometimes" start to becoming overwhelming because there are so many to deal with.

Before I started reading Kathi Lipp's new book Clutter Free, my tendency was to keep such things, mostly because it was the easier emotional response at the moment. If I didn't know what to do with something it was easier to stuff it into a bin, or a basket or a closet and not deal with it.

It basically amounts to procrastinating. Basically.

You are pushing off the responsibility of needing to do something or make choice about something until a later time. 

Except that time often never comes, and your storage places, that have become hiding places (or procrastination spaces) are no longer useful and functional and you start to feel like you need a bigger house, or more storage, instead of realizing what you just might need is less stuff.

Our house is an average size house. Its' around 1,950 square feet and has four bedrooms (they're not huge, but there are 4). It's a nice, functional house on a quiet dead end street. The backyard is a little small for my liking, the functional kitchen space is not ideal, and given that my husband works from home it would be nice to have a finished basement for him to work in (instead of a cluttered chaotic space).

With three girls we also cringe at the idea of having to share a bathroom upstairs with them as they all get older (we have one an half baths--one shower).

But, all those things aside, I grew up in a 1,300 square foot ranch with six people (my parents, myself and my three siblings) three bedrooms and no basement. Somehow we all made it out alive!

So, when I really start to think I need "more" (as in more house), I've been trying to remind myself that what I really may need (for now anyway), is "less" as in less stuff. 

After being encouraged by this book I'm throwing things out with confidence. I'm saving the important things and getting rid of the rest. I'm not letting undue guilt or fear prompt me to keep things that are not valuable or that we are not using anymore.

I've snapped a few more photos of my de-cluttering journey. My imperfect decluttering journey.

To be honest, the progress has been good, though not as fast as I would like it to be. It's kind of like wanting to lose weight and finding that the reality of the situation is that you often only lose a pound or two a week, not 10 pounds overnight.

I'm making slow progress over here. We're getting rid of a few things everyday. A lot of things somedays. 

Life marches on. The kids bring home more papers. Aubrey pulls every game out of the window seat and dumps it on the floor in the seven minutes that I had hoped to sneak away and unload the dishwasher. Immediate messes must be cleaned up on most days before I can even consider working on the "cluttered" hiding spaces.

But I'm being optimistic because I feel like my attitude and perspective on all of this has changed, and sometimes that is the most important part of the equation.

If you come to my house you might still see a lot of "stuff", but you should know that there was much more! And that in the few moments I have here and there I will empty out a drawer or a closet or a cabinet and just start flinging things into trash bags...and it feels really good!

Here are a few photos of some recent decluttering moments.

This is the bathroom closet after decluttering. I threw away a bag of stuff that weighed over 16 lbs! 

Here's that 16 lb. bag. It is FULL of unused bubble bath, soap and shampoo samples, perfume I haven't worn in 8 years, broken razors, and 1/2 used bottles of shampoo that no one really liked, but that I felt guilty throwing out because I spent good money on them! 

One of two "random stuff" kitchen drawers. 

Random stuff kitchen drawer #2. I should have taken a before picture, but didn't. Just know that it was ugly. 

A box of books and DVD's that I've donated to a friend for her summer yard sale. She gets to keep any money made, I get the stuff out of my house! A total win-win! 

The kind of stuff that I'm getting rid of these days that I used to hang onto. Plastic rings, McDonalds toys, Barbies with missing clothing and frizzy hair that no one plays with, etc. 

And this stuff!! Random game pieces to toys that I keep intending to fix!! The truth is, I don't have time and they can't be fixed right now, so if the girls really love the game I'll buy a new one in the future. For now, so long game pieces!

Sorry Nanner! If you are reading this...yes, that is the fish game that you bought for the girls! They loved it until Aubrey jammed a plastic connect four piece into one of the fishing holes and now they whole thing is shot ):

So, there you have it. I hope my throwing away spree encourages you to throw some stuff away too! It really is very freeing and is beginning to help me feel like I am in control here and that the "stuff monster" really isn't going to come alive one night and swallow us all whole like it can sometimes feel is going to happen. 

Stop back next week! I have an extra copy of the book to give away!

I have benefitted from it so much that I bought an extra copy to pass along to one of you. I'm going to write one more post about all of this decluttering business with a few of my favorite quotes from the book and a few more photos of some slightly more organized spaces.

In the meantime, if you'd like to check out the book or order a copy for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here

Also, pop over to Kathi's website and sign up for her 21-Day Clutter challenge. There is a link to her site here. 

Friday, January 16

The Scariest Parts of My House...The Clutter Photos

I won't lie....there was part of me that said that under no circumstances should I post these photos online. 

I mean, it's like showing you my underwear drawer. 

Or the wart on my foot. 

Or the state of my refrigerator. 

They are just parts that I'd rather you didn't see. 

They might be parts that you'd rather not see (: 

Nonetheless, I am not hiding my clutter anymore...If you're going to be my friend it's going to have to be warts...ahem, clutter... and all. 

So, without further adieu, I openly share with you photos of our biggest clutter catching areas in the house. You know, the areas I don't let people see when they come over! 

These are the areas I will be addressing most aggressively in the next few weeks. We've already started a major basement overhaul and it has been a most scary sight, but I'm happy to report that we're making encouraging progress. 

Area #1: My desk. 

A couple of years ago we created a legitimate office for me right off of the front foyer entry. It was a lovely space-- windows that allowed lots of natural sunlight, hardwood floors and some cool white furniture we picked up from Ikea. 

That all lasted about six months until we realized that the space would better be used as a playroom and so my "office" turned into a playroom and I no longer had a room to call my own. 

This was our more recent attempt at creating a space for me. It's a small corner in what is technically our "dining" room, but most often used as a craft/catch all room. It's not very useful if you can't see the desk, huh?! I'd like to clear the clutter and call this a legitimate work space! 

Area #2: Front Hall Closet

This is the catchall for every craft supply, games, and extra school supply that does not fit elsewhere. It also houses coats, the vacuum,  and one of my very, very favorite items-- my home laminating machine (it's small- smaller than a printer- but it still takes up space!). Now that we have a window seat in the living room to house games and have created a "craft corner" in the basement for the girls, I'm hoping to reclaim this space for coats and just a few other odds and ends. 

I'm hoping to actually be able to use it to hang your coat if you stop by. 

Or, at the very least, allow for you or I not to be at risk of a game, or laminating machine falling on our heads when we open the door! 

Area #3: Bedroom

Our bedroom isn't too bad. It's INCREDIBLY small, especially with a king sized bed in it. There is no room for nightstands (which might be ok because I know how clutter catching those can be!), but all manner of laundry, kids stuff, and accessories do seem to sprawl their way across my dresser and clean and dirty laundry mixes in piles at the end of my bed like nothing I've ever seen. 

Every once in a while Scott and I will pull a random pen, or diaper, stuffed animal or plastic purse from beneath the comforter before we head off to sleep and hand it to the other person with a sarcastic grin..."Thought you might like to sleep with Elmo tonight?" 

(This is actually a "good" bed day!)

Area #4: The basement stairs

Oh mercy. The basement stairs! They often end up becoming the junk drawer of the house! Done with that Birthday party? Throw it all on the stairs (until I get around to putting it in the basement!). Extra soup? Basement stairs! Dirty clothes? Throw them on the stairs! Shoes, batteries, books, school stuff, tools?! No time to walk it to the basement?! Throw it on the stairs! 

My hope is to be disciplined about cleaning this area up, but also as we purge and make space in other areas of the house where clutter has taken up space for far too long that we might be able to relocate some of the stuff to those other areas and therefore reduce the craziness here! 

The view from the top of the stairs (from our 1st floor hallway)

(A view of the landing)

(From the bottom of the basement up towards the landing)

Area #5: (One of the perpetually most cluttered) The basement!

Ahhh...the basement. What does one say about the love/hate relationship one can have with their basement? Collector of all things that must be "saved" or "stored", my husband's work space and music "center" (he has an affinity for collecting random amplifiers, sound boards, and guitars that all need their due places in the "man cave"!), the laundry room and wrapping room and now craft center for the kids all in one!

I'll tell you more about how we're rearranging and share photos down the road. But here are the "before" photos.

What you are looking at now is bins and baskets full of clothing that either a) is mine and needs to be donated or consigned, or b) is the girls out of season stuff and needs to be sorted into size appropriate bins to be saved for the next girl down, plus some miscellaneous baby gear we no longer need. That would be Scott's rock climbing training board in the back corner. Our basement fills an eclectic array of needs!

Same stuff, different angle...

Because we have limited kitchen storage and no storage pieces in our dining room ALL of our "entertaining" (if that's what you call it!) stuff has been on 5 shelves (2 to the left and the 3 facing out in the picture), mixed in with kid toys that the girls have outgrown, but I'm saving for Aubrey, and random sporting equipment. 

We recently moved all of those shelves, bought a big piece of inexpensive carpet from Home Depot and turned that entire corner into a craft station/play space for the girls...more on that in a later post (:

These shelves house all of the outgrown girls clothes that will either be handed down to Ella or Aubrey. I can be organized (when I have the time!) and am actually quite proud of myself for sorting everything into bins with size labels on the front (you can see the post-it notes). The bins basically function as large drawers that I pull out and drop stuff into as the big girls outgrow things.

Area #6 The Garage. 

Need I say more? We're working on it (: 


This is in the hallway leading down the the basement. It's a school "command center" or sorts where I post calendars, important dates and where I used to have a nice file system (in that black bin) for saving papers, and school directories. With two girls in school this year my system is a wee I need to revamp it a bit and reorganize. It's on "the list"! 

So there you have it friends. The scariest parts of my house in a nutshell! There are a few other areas that are major clutter catchers that I will be working on as well; kitchen drawers, the bathroom closets, and the girls closets. One step at a time! 

I will tell you that the very cool thing about this book Clutter Free is that I'm purging with gusto and throwing things out with confidence. Random crap that I used to hang onto, just in case, gone! And I must tell you it's starting to feel much better around here. I'm starting to breathe a little more freely and feel like some things that haven't made sense in a very long time are starting to make sense. 

It's good stuff. 

It's like losing that first seven pounds and noticing your pants are a little bit looser. It motivates you to keep going! 

More on this all as we progress. 

Hope it encourages you to start your own decluttering at home (: 

Thursday, January 15

The Clutter Free Experiment

Hi, my name is Lisa, and I have a clutter problem.

There. I said it.

Only, I would like to re-phrase that statement if ever so slightly.

We, as a family, have a clutter problem.

That's right. It's not all my stuff.

I confess, I have a lot of stuff. I keep books I don't need. I have boxes of notebooks in the basement from when I was teaching EIGHT YEARS ago! I buy t-shirts just because they're so stinkin' cheap and who doesn't need another cheap t-shirt?! (Especially when you have a toddler who wipes her breakfast, lunch and dinner on you!)  I hang onto things (like baskets my grandmother hands down to me to get the clutter out of her house, only to add it to mine!) that I should throw out or donate.

But the stuff in this house is not all mine. It's just that as the mom I feel like I'm trying to manage it all; the toys, the craft supplies, the seasonal clothing, the clothing that doesn't fit one child and needs to be passed down. The books, the papers, the craft projects, receipts, mail, DVD's, shoes, outdoor toys, indoor toys, bath toys, puzzles, games, etc.

Quite frankly, a lot of the clutter belongs to my kids and while I think some of that is normal at this stage  I also think I've perpetuated the problem by keeping things I shouldn't, buying things I shouldn't and letting the kids keep and have things they don't really need.

My husband also has his own share of stuff...garage stuff, basement stuff, music stuff, work stuff. Some of it needed and some of it not.

This is not a post to lay blame to whose clutter in the house is causing the biggest problem-- it's to say that as a collective whole our house is feeling cluttered and it's time to do something to bring things back to some semblance of order and peace.

The physical clutter makes my mind feel cluttered. It overwhelms me daily, it distracts me from connecting with the kids. I keeps me from doing other things that are important to me. It's become a lot to manage and it has made me tired.

I've begun to accept it as 'normal' with children, "It's just part of life with kids. Someday I will have time to organize and clean all of this. I've tried and it doesn't seem to matter, so I'm giving up," I say to myself.

And just about the time that I was about to throw in the proverbial towel (if I could even find a clean one under the piles!) on trying to solve the clutter problem  a book came into my life via a Facebook post.

The book, Clutter Free: Quick and Easy Steps to Simplifying Your Space by Kathi Lipp was just released and I somehow caught a post that they were looking for folks to review it.

Cool beans, I thought.

While I have reviewed books on my blog in the past I have not done so in a while simply because life has felt so full, and quite frankly, overwhelming. But when I saw this book I knew I had to read it and I'm so thankful I agreed. I knew it would be a book that might just make life, even if it was just one area (the house), feel a little less overwhelming rather than more.

Over the next couple of weeks I will share some photos (Ack!) of some of our clutter problem areas. I will share a few fantastic quotes from the book and I will, hopefully, be able to share some "after" photos once we get a handle on things.

There are SO many statements, and ideas that I have underlined in this book that I could not possibly share it all with you, so basically you should order a copy of the book for yourself today if any of this resonates with you! It will be the best $10 you've spent this year (:

Truly, so far, this has been one of those books that has changed my thinking. I'd like to say it's life-changing, and I think that it will be, but I am very much still at the beginning of all of this and de-cluttering with children around is a very slow process (much slower that my impatient self would like it to be!) so it's hard to "see" big changes at this point, though I can confidently say that lots of small changes have started to take place.

I'm going to leave you with a short excerpt from Chapter 3 of the book. The Chapter is called "The Spiritual Side of Clutter" and I think it really gets to the heart of the matter in my home, and maybe yours as well.

Tomorrow I will post some photos of our "experiment" under way!

(Excerpted from Clutter Free, by Kathi Lipp)

     I think our spirit and our stuff are linked in a multitude of ways. 

      There are a couple of types of clutter. There's the everyday clutter that comes with living life, raising kids, and getting things done. This clutter usually gets handled every couple of days, and your house gets back to normal. We all have that clutter, and it's just a part of life.
     But for some of us, clutter can go much deeper. It's the piles of bills that aren't dealt with, the stacks of unopened mail, the bags of purchases that need to be returned and won't be. It's the laundry that's ignored and the piled up dishes. It's regularly not being able to find your checkbook or your child's schoolbooks.
      And yes, there is a spiritual side to that.
      Because what I'm describing right there? That's a lack of peace.
      My husband has often said that he wants our house to be clean enough to feel safe but cluttered enough to feel loved. I think the best way to determine the right balance is to figure out when your house becomes a blessing or a burden.
      When My house is so messy and cluttered that I don't want to do the things I believe God has called me to (loving my family, working, preparing meals, spending time with him), then there's a problem. One the other hand, when I'm spending so much of my time making sure my home is perfect that I don't have time for those things God has called me to, that's a problem as well.
       There is a spiritual sweet spot to our stuff. 
       This is not going to look the same for everyone. Each of us has to determined that for herself. But I want you to experience peace.
       I want you to make a meal without feeling like you need to gut the kitchen first.
       I want you to sit down and read your Bible to get spiritually fed without being distracted by all the piles screaming at you for attention the entire time.
       I want you to play a game with your kids without first having to tell them, "We'll do it after I clean the house."
       I want you to be able to focus on what really matters instead of focusing on, well, what doesn't. 
       And I want you to have the peace-- spiritually and emotionally-- to be the person God created you to be."

Here's to being Clutter Free in 2015!

Saturday, January 10

The Morality of Big TV's and Other New Year's Ramblings

Hi Friends!

How are you all?!

It's been exactly one month since I last wrote a blog post...a post about being present and slowing down throughout the month of December in an effort to focus on the things that really matter rather than running around willy nilly trying to check everything off of our Christmas to-do lists.

Did I succeed at following my own advice?

Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn't. I'm guessing that's right on par with many of your experiences as well, yes?

Some of it feels like a blur, but if I really sit and try to mentally recapture some of the highlights this is what comes to mind:

Highlight 1: Aubrey, who is an absolute non-stop mover and shaker was a hilarious addition to Christmas morning. She quickly picked up on the girls cues and began grabbing wrapped gifts from beneath the tree and saying, "Open" and in many cases would start to tear into things that were not hers to tear into.  Let's just say there was a little bit of damage control on mommy and daddy's part (:

The girls picked out a massive stuffed dog for her (she LOVES dogs) and it was sitting on our newly built (and still unfinished) window seat when the girls came downstairs. She calls him Dog-ooo and we're still trying to figure out where he can "live" in the house on a permanent basis. So far he travels between her bedroom and the living room (:

Highlight 2: It's fun to see the girls' individual interests developing as they get a little bit older and more particular about what they like (and don't like!) to do. Ella LOVES to color, draw, and paint so "Santa" brought her an easel.  Ava is currently our little gymnast and "Santa" was extra generous in bringing her a piece of equipment called a kip bar. A kip bar is like the smaller of the two uneven bars in a gym and allows her to practice hip circles and other such skills right in our basement (actually in the middle of our living room for a few days, but now in the basement!).

She was super pumped and we're excited to see her be able to practice, with the added benefit of physical activity in the confines of our basement during these bitter cold winter months. And Ella loves to draw till her heart's content on her easel.

Highlight 3: We managed to follow through on our plan to make cookies and deliver them to our neighbors with Christmas cards. It was a warm night by the time we got to delivering and the girls and I had a delightful walk down our street, in the glow of street lamps and Christmas lights as they enthusiastically ran up to doors, rang doorbells and delivered their handmade treats and were greeted by warm smiles and "thank you's."

Highlight 4: I'm not so sure that Christmas Eve service with an 18 month old qualifies as a "highlight", but it certainly was memorable and laughable. Someone else please tell me that they attempted to take all of their children to church (along with the next door neighbor girl), and wound up chasing a toddler around the foyer for 45 minutes. A toddler who completely trashed her brand new white tights by trying to climb up and down every conceivable chair in and out of the sanctuary and then trashed my nylons (shocker that I was even wearing a dress!) in her attempts to climb up and down everything in and out of the sanctuary. I mean we're talking quarter sized holes in hers and enough snags and almost holes in mine to qualify them for a Halloween costume.

You can dress us up, but you can't take us out.

Not right now anyway (; I went to church feeling put together and came out looking like one of the orphans in Annie (disheveled hair, sweaty armpits, ripped tights--it was a sight to behold!).

Highlight 5:
Watching Tinker Bell on a 60 inch television. wouldn't have picked up on this, but there was a wee bit of sarcasm in that last sentence.

My husband got the online deal of the century on a television right after Thanksgiving. He told me it was a "little bit bigger" than our current television, which I was quite content with (a 40 inch flat screen that fit nicely in our living room and on top of the current piece of media furniture we have).

I should have picked up on the fact that it was more than a "little bit bigger" when I saw the box sitting in our garage taking up the space of a small semi truck, but in the haziness of our comings and goings it didn't even register.

Until he pulled the thing out of the box the week before Christmas and tried to balance it on our current television stand.

Friends, this was a sight to behold.

"Are you serious?" is what eeked out of my mouth.

"Um, yeah. It's a little bit bigger than I thought."

"Are you serious?"  Um. Yeah. Nothing else nice was coming to mind.

" don't like it?"

"Wow. Um. Babe. I'm not even sure what to say."

What was coming to mind was a moral discussion about whether or not we are a family who has  a 60 inch television in our living room (who even knew that was fodder for a moral discussion!)! I kind of pride myself on the fact that I like quiet evenings, don't watch a ton of television and try to encourage reading, and creative play over watching television or playing video games as often as possible.

Does that kind of nerdy, 'likes to read' family own a 60 inch television?

I think not.

Or at least I thought not.

Because now we are that family. With a massively large television in our living room.

Dad loves it. The girls love it. I am completely outnumbered!

Friends, I took this picture. Tinkerbell's head is significantly larger than my daughter's! When the fairies become larger than your children, that's a big TV.

"Babe, are we those kind of people?" I asked.

"What kind of people?!" he asks, confused.

Honestly, I'm not even sure. Really. Prior to this massive piece of electronic equipment teetering precariously on what now looks like a very small television stand I never really thought about what sort of message one was sending by owning a 60 inch television. I certainly don't judge you if you have one.

However, if you were stranded on a desert island and needed to send a message I swear this thing could shoot NASA sized flares into the air for you. And if it failed in doing that you could at least be comforted by the life sized fairies and other creatures displayed on its screen.

In the words of my mother, a woman who has been married for 37 years and knows a thing or two about keeping the peace (or biting your tongue!) when the occasion calls for it,  "Oh, you'll get used to it."

And another friend said, "It's not that big."

I guess there are worse things than really big TV's.

And we did end up buying a new entertainment cabinet this week, which makes everything a wee bit better.

I gave up when Scott turned the television on this morning, turned to me with a sad, sweet, pouty face and said, "I'd be really sad to see the T.V. go."

Ahhhhhh...ok, honey. I love you more than my wall space and ideals about large televisions...the TV can stay.

So, anyhew...

That's our story...ahem, our new t.v. ...and we're stickin' to it.

So, if you want to watch a movie or football game with larger than life action,  c'mon over!

In other news, we still have our Christmas tree up and many of the decorations are still out. The plan is to start to slowly put them away this weekend. I'm not in a super big hurry. I'm kind of enjoying them now that all of the busyness is over and figure we should enjoy the tree for a few more days after all of that hard work that went into setting it up!

I had lofty goals of writing in our Christmas journal right after Christmas, but alas the pages still remain blank and needing to be filled in. I'm hoping to get to it this week (:

I also had intentions of of writing down some thoughts/goals for the year to come, being that it is January and  that's what people are supposed to do, right? In all honesty, I spent most of the week picking up the house and then the girls had another snow day on Friday. those goals...well, at this season of life they really often amount this... 'Get through the day with joy and peace. Hug your children a lot in the middle of it all...especially when you're feeling crabby and like you'd be much saner with a little more order than what is with little ones!''

So here's my thoughts about it all...January is a good time to revisit some things and set some intentions/loose goals for the the coming year, but I can't beat myself up if they're not etched into a stone tablet before January 1st.

I will be journaling, thinking and praying over the next couple of weeks about my hopes for the year and would be happy to share them with you by the end of the month.

I am reminded of Proverbs 16:9..."A [woman's] heart plans [her] way: but the Lord directs [her] steps.

I am working through two really awesome books right now.

I was super pumped to be offered the chance to review this first one, Clutter Free by Kathi Lipp.

Kathy's books are always super encouraging and very practical and this book is both so far. I will share more about how our own decluttering is going in my next post and offer a book review when I'm done. But, the book has already received awesome traffic and she currently has more than 5,000 women signed up through her website for the 21 Day Clutter Free challenge (worth signing up for just to get the encouraging emails...though my own de-cluttering with busy little ones at home is going to take a LOT longer than 21 days!).

The second book is one that our church chose to use for our Mom to Mom groups this year. It's a Bible study called "Restless" and though I'm only at the beginning, I can tell it's going to be really heart-changing on many levels. More about that in an upcoming post too (:

Well, the snow is falling here, I'm going to take the girls to see Annie later today and it's time to wrap this up because I can hear all manner of chaos ensuing in the kitchen right below where I'm usually takes the cadence of, "No Aubrey. No! No, Aubrey. No. NO AUBREY NOOOOOOOO!!!!"

At which point I know my helping hands are very needed again (: