Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Why I Stopped Blogging (and Stopped Reading "Mommy Blogs")

I totally realize the irony of what I'm about to say:

I can't read mommy blogs right now.

I know. I know. I am a "mommy blogger." But I'm not doing much of that these days either.

Can I just lay it all out here today?

My life is messy.

My house is a mess. My hair is a mess. My kids are sticky-messy. My car is a mess. My yard is a mess. Relationships are messy. Social media is messy. Parenting is messy. Marriage is messy. Holidays are uber messy.

And I'm not talking about the "beautiful chaos" or "heavenly mess" or "I'm-letting-Him-refine-me-in-the-process" kind of mess.

I'm not talking about the kind of mess that can be neatly wrapped up in a devotional-style thought at the end of 200 words or less.

I'm not talking about "you will look back on these days and [fill in the blank]...

... regret being so impatient."
... regret spending so much time cleaning instead of playing with your family."
... realize these are the best years of your life."
... miss those grubby little fingerprints."
... wish for one more day."

I'm talking about sticky kitchen floors.

I'm talking about kids with dirty fingernails. At church. On a Sunday morning.

I'm talking about lice.

I'm talking about old wounds.

I'm talking about new pain.

I'm talking about losing my cool because I stepped in another unidentifiable puddle in my house.

I'm talking about having absolutely no idea how to raise Godly, passionate, fully-alive children when I'm not doing any of those things well myself.

I'm talking about being mortified when someone unexpectedly shows up at my front door.

I'm talking about life. A messy, messy life.

And these blogs would have me believe that because life is messy, I'm allowing the enemy to "steal my motherhood" (whatever that means). Or, on the other hand, that my mess is "beautiful," that if I set lovely music and soft lighting to most moments of my day, it would actually be beautiful.

But neither of those are true.

Because motherhood is messy.

When my toddler finger-paints with ketchup on her baby brother, I'm not going to take a picture and call it artwork. I'm also not going to beat myself up for disciplining her. It's messy. And dealing with that mess was neither beautiful nor tragic.

And that's life. There are sweet, soft, powerful, beautiful moments. There are also gut-wrenching, crazy, painful moments. The majority of our moments fall somewhere in between those extremes.

But the trap is set when we start thinking in absolutes: Because we yelled at our children, we are ruining their lives, and the Enemy has won. Because our house is a disaster, we are failing as a wife and mother. Because we are fighting our own demons - depression, food, chronic illness, exhaustion, our past - we are weak.

And if those messes are not beautiful, they are evil.

Can we just stop?

Can we stop categorizing motherhood as either beautiful or failing? Can we just say what it is?

It's messy.

And it's okay to be messy.

Or it's not. I don't know. That's why it's messy. There are no clear lines. There are very broad boundaries, and no instruction manuals.

At the risk of wrapping this up in a devotional-style thought, here's the verse I have been clinging, grasping, clawing to hold onto these days:

Jesus stood up and spoke to her. 
“Woman, where are your accusers? Does no one condemn you?”
“No one, Master.”
“Then neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and sin no more."  
John 8:10 

What I know is this: He doesn't categorize me. He doesn't write me off as "good mom," "bad wife," "terrible housekeeper," or "weak woman."

He's too busy dealing with my mess to categorize anything. He just loves me. And my mess. And my kids' mess. And my house mess. And my relationship mess. And my social media mess. And my holiday mess.

And when those messes are all cleaned up, there will be more messes. Because life is messy. But He isn't scared of the mess. He's in the mess. That's what I know. I just thought you should know too...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

True Tales from the Homestead...

Four of our eight "baby" hens turned six months today. Happy half birthday to Lucille Ball, Ethel Mae, Agnes, and Mama! (Bitsy would have been six months today too, may she rest in peace.)

Last night, I went to bed a little sad. We have seen nary an egg from these ladies, and I expected to have at least a few by this point.

Then I dreamed that I woke up, went out to the coop, and found a nest full of lovely pink/brown eggs.

When I actually woke up, I told the PreacherMan my dream and said, "Psh. I wish!"

He was all: "Right?! They should be earning their keep by now!"

A couple hours later, I decided to muck out the coop as a Half-Birthday present for the girls. Since we're doing the lazy-homesteader's deep litter method, I simply needed to flip over the existing hay and add a fresh layer.

I flipped compost, and reached up to grab some fresh hay to lay down. LO AND BEHOLD, I found a nest of pink/brown eggs!

True story! I swear!

26 eggs total. We tested them for freshness. 24 eggs passed the test!


So in celebration of our freshly laid eggs, here are some pictures of the four six-month-old hens and their palace.


Our metal-shed-turned-chicken-coop. The flower pot under the window has some baby strawberry plants, just because. 

Even the hens are Georgia fans. Go Dawgs! We use the Sanford Stadium picture to store hay bails. We turned an old bookshelf on its side to create the nesting boxes (that our ladies don't use. Oh well.)
Our run started as an old dog lot. We used PVC to create a roof line, and draped bird netting over it to keep out the hawks.

The "nest" where we found our 26 eggs. It's on top of the bookshelf, in the corner.
We cut down a bunch of small trees in the run, and we used a few of them to build the roost. It's propped up in the corner, and all eight ladies use only the top two tiers. Go figure. 

We call this the "minicoop." Brandon's grandparents gave us this beauty along with two fully-grown Black Australorps. They are gentle girls who give us a few eggs a week, but they don't get along with the new gals. So they're separated in their own coop and run until they go to the great chicken farm in the sky (aka: my stewpot). Then this will become the duck house. 
This is Mama. She's the smallest in pounds, but she quietly and firmly rules the roost. The other hens move out of the way when she walks by, and she takes good care of them. We called her Mama because the day we got the chicks, she was the first to find water, and then used her wings (and her beak) to push the other chicks to find it also. She's mellow and shy and the most calm when we hold her. She's my favorite.
Another (blurry) picture of Mama. She loves to hide in the brush when she's free range. Sweet Mama. 

This is Agnes. She's fat and full-breasted and absolutely lovely. She's also a shy one, preferring the foliage and underbrush to the wide open yard.

Agnes's feathers through the foliage. So lovely. 

And those eyes, even in a blurry picture. *swoon*

This is Ethel Mae. She's the neighborhood busy body. She wants to be wherever the action is, and and she doesn't play favorites. She's the only hen who doesn't seem to have a "tribe," rather preferring to flit from one cluster to the next, spreading the day's gossip.

She also likes to show off her legs.

This is Lucille Ball. I'm pretty sure she thinks she a rooster. She's loud and bossy and always trying to push the other hens around.
Her beak is open in every. single. picture. because she never. stops. talking. The other hens TOTALLY ignore her (since they know Mama is the real boss). This annoys Lucille to no end and only serves to further encourage her clucks.

She's literally leaning over a cluster of hens clucking with all her might. They don't even notice she's there. Silly Lucille.

So happy Half Birthday, my little hens! Although I'm pretty sure not all of you are laying yet, I'm grateful for the eggs (and the entertainment) you've provided thus far. Thanks for not beating up on the little-er hens (or the dumb ducks), and thanks for joining our happy little family!

Happy Egg Day everyone!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Beauty of the Stretch

In a last-minute and strangely peaceful turn of events, both Miss Eight and Miss Six headed off to school this morning for their first day.

And here I sit, sipping coffee, watching a sleeping baby on the video monitor, listening to Miss Toddler hum while she colors in her highchair, and not homeschooling anybody. 

Isn't it funny, the little twists and turns that life takes?

Suddenly, I have an entire school year stretched out before me - just me and my two bambinos at home during the day. It feels easy. Peaceful. Slow.

And it reminds me of the stretch. That painful, difficult, uncomfortable, awkward place we find ourselves when we are expanding our capacity (or it is being expanded for us, whether we like it or not).

There was a period of stretch after my first baby was born. Sleepless nights. Spit-up in my hair. Changes to my body. I had no idea what I was doing. I was three months pregnant when my brother taught me how to change a diaper. Seriously. I didn't know how to bathe her. How to feed her. How to be alone in the house with her. It was all so hard.

Until it wasn't.

Suddenly I could change diapers in the dark. I could feed her without having to sequester myself in a bathroom stall for 30 minutes. I could care for her daily needs without really thinking about it.

And then another little blue line, another 9 months, another sweet baby girl. And I found myself once again in unfamiliar territory. Stretching beyond what I thought myself capable of doing. Balancing the feed-me cries of a baby with the hold-me whines of a toddler. Losing sleep at night and forgoing nap time during they day. Feeding myself was hard. Feeding a finicky toddler and a collicky baby felt impossible.

Until it wasn't.

We found our rhythm and our grace. I strapped the baby on my back, strapped the toddler in the high chair, and prepared our meals while singing to them both. Toddler brought me diapers and wipes for changing time. Baby entertained big sis while mom folded laundry. It became - doable.

Then baby three. Then baby four. Each time a stretch. Each time painful and difficult and uncomfortable and impossible.

Until it wasn't.

Because that's how the stretch works. It pulls and tugs and spreads us thin. It takes us just to the place where we almost snap. And in the meantime, all that new space gets filled in with strength, and grace, and ability, and even comfort. Until it's no longer a stretch. Until it's doable.

So where are you today? What area of your life feels painful, difficult, uncomfortable? Odds are, you're being stretched. And here are a few things you need to know...

1. Just because it's difficult doesn't mean it's not God. On the contrary, the Lord often uses these seasons to grow our spirit man. Where our weakness is obvious, His strength is magnified. Where we lack, His grace abounds. And in the meantime, we are forced to rely on on Him. As my Memphis pastor says, "We hate these seasons because it feels like everything in us is dying, but God loves these seasons, because everything in us is dying." Less of us. More of Him. Sigh.

2. You can't do it on your own. Ask for help...
... from God. Prayer and His Word will strengthen you and guide you in the unfamiliar, uncomfortable places.
... from those who have gone before you. Find a mom who has been where you are. Seek out someone who has done this job before. Look for the pioneers, the leaders, the forerunners who have blazed this trail you now walk. And if their are none, turn to someone who blazed another trail and ask them how they did it. Iron sharpens iron, my friend.
... from those who love you. Let your mom wash the dishes. Let your friends keep the babies while you nap. Let your husband take care of you. Let your friends see you vulnerable. It's all okay. It's all lovely. 

3. Grace. Grace. And more grace. No one gets it right the first time. We often see quips about how our character is revealed during difficult times. If that's true, my character sucks. But God's grace is bigger than that. God's grace says our character is developed in the hard places. It's where we grow. It's where our capacity expands. And it doesn't happen overnight. We must extend grace to ourselves (and to those around us effected by our sucky character). And when you're done, throw on a little more grace, just for good measure. 

4. Take a moment to look back. Remind yourself of all the things you do now which once felt impossible. Remember when you couldn't run a mile without stopping? Remember when getting out of bed in the morning felt like it would crush you? Remember when you needed just one more drink? Or one more smoke? Or one more bite? You have done hard things before, and you are capable of doing them again.

It's painful and difficult and uncomfortable and impossible.

Until it's not.

So today, I'll sip my coffee and blog and tidy my house and remember that this - this right here that I'm doing today - once felt impossible. And the things on my horizon that feel daunting and uncomfortable - they won't always feel that way. 

And that's the beauty of the stretch.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Redneck Mom at the Dollar General

I have a story to tell you readers. It's full of drama, adventure, criminal acts, violence, shock, forgiveness, and humor.

And it all takes place in a Dollar General in Gainesville, Georgia.

Scene: Mama and four kiddos (Miss Eight, Miss Six, Miss Toddler, and Mr. Baby) are heading down the road to camp meeting. Mama has wet hair and no makeup because she wants to finish getting ready at the campground so she'll look fresh for service. As she drives, she decides she's going to be prepared to entertain her little ones during the two-hour service; so she whips into the local Dollar General. Her intentions? To get all manner of coloring books, crayons, paper dolls, and small figurines for her kiddos to quietly enjoy while absolutely NOT disturbing the adults around them who are intently listening to the singing and preaching.

Mom pulls into the parking lot, grabs a $20 bill because surely that's enough for the handful of items they will need, unloads the children in a calm and orderly fashion, and files into the store.

Four feet inside the entrance stands a rack of Frozen book bags for $8. Miss Six promptly decides she needs one for school. Mom agrees it's a good price, and agrees to think about it. Miss Six waits exactly 30 seconds before asking if Mom has made up her mind.

As she holds Mom's hand through the very narrow and very packed aisles of the DG, Miss Toddler sees a hot pink bouncy ball that she must have, because Ball. Ball. That ball. All the balls. BAAAALLLLL! B-B-B-BAAAAAALLL!

Can I get the book bag, Mom? 

Ball is $.50. Mom agrees, like she's a rookie or something.

Items come flying off the shelves as Miss Toddler plays dodge ball with her sisters and her new pink ball.

Sisters take exactly 1,247,430 hours to pick out one coloring book. Meanwhile, Mr. Baby grabs the pack of crayons mom holds too closely to him. Crayon box empties all over the floor. (Seriously, it's like Mom has never held a 9 month old baby in her life.)

Mom, what about the book bag?

1,247,432 hours later, Mom (Mom! The book bag?) and four kiddos (It's only $8!) make it to the register. (The Frozen book bag. That one!) The ball only knocks 4 items off the shelf (It's Elsa AND Anna, Mom!) while they wait in line. Miss Toddler only melts down twice.

Moooom, the book bag!?

Mom decides to get the book bag. She's losing ground by the minute.

Judgy cashier side-eyes the crazy lady with no makeup and wet hair and gives the total: $20.33.

Lord help us all.  Mom is $.33 short.

Miss Eight rushes out to the car to get another dollar.

Three more items fall off the shelf. 

Miss Eight can't find it, or gets distracted, or forgets why she's out there, or something. 

The line starts backing up behind Mom and kids. Four. Five. Six people. 

Mom can't leave the store with all kiddos in tow, and judgy cashier is waiting. Mom does the only thing she can think of at the time.

Mom goes to the door, and yells across the parking lot, "Miss Eight!!!! Let's go!!!"

Person #3 in line says, "Oh, Lord." Thank you for that valuable input, Person #3 in line.

Mom turns around to walk back into the store, all eyes on her. Only they're not on her. They're on Miss Toddler, who's running through the open door with an arm full of candy she knocked off the shelf with her pink ball. 

Mom, with no makeup, wet hair, baby on hip, yelling from the front door of the store, grabs Miss Toddler with one hand, drags her back into the store kicking and screaming, pries every. single. piece of candy from her little clammy hands, takes the $1 from Miss Eight, pays the judgy cashier, grabs the bless-ed aggravating Frozen book bag, the pink ball, the two coloring books, the random loose crayons, tells the judgy cashier to keep the change, drags Miss Toddler back out the door, and loads all four kids  into the car - but not without a few threats and disciplinary actions towards Miss Toddler, who refuses to get into her car seat without her new pink ball.

Person #2 and #3 in line have now checked out and are standing next to their cars watching the crazy lady load her poor kids into the minivan, no doubt taking a mental snapshot of her license plate should they be asked to testify later.

30 minutes later, Mom and kiddos walk into service. Mom has fresh makeup and clean hair. Kiddos are quiet and polite as they color in their coloring books during the two-hour service. The sweet white-haired ladies at the campground comment on how well mom handles her children and how sweet their little family is.

And the moral of this story?

Don't assume the redneck mama at the Dollar General is a terrible parent.
Don't assume the sweet mama with the perfect kids has her act together.

And for the love of all that is good and right, GIVE A MAMA $.33 WHEN SHE NEEDS IT. 

The end.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Rosemaries [and] Baby

Funny story.

At the beginning of my first pregnancy, someone gave me a cactus. The instructions were simple: Twice a month, I was to put an ice cube in the pot, on top of the soil. It would melt and provide all the water the little prickly plant needed.

Simple enough, right?

I killed it. Two weeks before Miss Eight was born.

Fast forward two weeks and three days, and I am home, by myself  with my newborn for the first time.  I'm holding this beautiful, perfect, sleeping baby girl, and all I could think about was that cactus.

Because I thought: I can't even keep a cactus alive! Whose idea was it to put me in charge of a human being?!

Luckily, babies prove to be a lot more hardy than cacti. Hashtag, PraiseTheLord.

But my brown thumb never really improved. I'm not even sure I have a brown thumb, because that would imply something earthy. I have, like, a neon blue polka-dot thumb.

Until today.

Do you know what I did, people? I successfully rooted TWO herb cuttings. 

What, what?!?!

This mint was part of my first ever homestead barter.

I traded some lambs ear and got a mint cutting, which I promptly forgot about and left in my car, sitting in a cup of water. Thankfully, my car acted like a green house, and the sturdy little plant rooted in just a few days. I stuck it in some dirt, and here it grows, almost six week later.

But this baby...

This one I'm REALLY proud of.

This was cut off a Rosemary bush that belongs to the PreacherMan's grandmother. The plant is strong and beautiful and just begging to be propagated. But there's one thing I know about Rosemary (or any green thing, really): if it can be killed, I will be the one to do it. 

So I babied these cuttings. The day I got them home, I shaved the "bark" and leaves off the bottom three inches, and I put them in a glass jar full of room temperature water. Then I stuck it in the kitchen window, which receives the best morning sun.

I have NO idea if any of that was right (except I did read somewhere to shave off the bark, I think).

I changed out the water every couple days, and wiped the stems of any "slime" that might have formed. 

A week went by.

Two weeks.

Three weeks.

When we left for the beach last Thursday, there was nary a root, and the leaves were starting to shed and feel brittle.

I knew I had killed it and was preparing myself to dry it for later use.

So imagine my surprise when we returned from the beach to find these beauties floating in the water!

Lovely, delicate, NEW roots!

I'm letting them grow a couple more days in the water, and then I plan on potting them. Again, I have NO idea if that's the right thing to do, but I'm hoping a lot of prayer and a little luck will yield me some vibrant, fragrant rosemary by the end of summer.

Happy planting, y'all! 

*Edited to Add: I recently found out that rosemary roots best when it's a smaller cutting (think: 3-5 inches). So if these babies survive the planting, you better believe I'll be trying again with smaller, greener cuttings. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Happy June 1, Everybody!

Well, it's June 1, and summer is in full swing. Miss Six was up bright and early, singing at the top of her lungs and waking up the neighborhood. Miss Eight stayed in her bed until 9am, reading and watching the chickens out her window. Miss Priss (who will soon be Miss Two) has torn the playroom apart. And Mr Little Man is having a blast watching all his sisters and chewing on his hands. And me? I'm reheating my first cup of coffee for the third time.

So let's catch up on life and get a glimpse of what's to come, shall we?

1. Miss Six and Miss Eight graduated Kindergarten and 2nd Grade, respectively. Homeschool decisions are still up in the air. What we know is this: Miss Eight will definitely homeschool. She thrives in the homeschool environments and is self-motivated enough that both she and I feel confident she'll do great! All is undecided about Miss Six. She is my extroverted child, and LOVES the socializing aspect of school. We will see how the summer goes and make decisions accordingly. But honestly... it's great to know we have the options. We love their school. And we love having them home. And that's a comforting thought.

2. The chicken coop and run are 95% complete. Updates coming soon! Yay!

3. As part of our journey to embrace the homesteading lifestyle, and return to all things natural, I've decided to become an essential oil Wellness Advocate. I LOVE learning about all the oils and how they can benefit our family. I'm thinking we might take one post a week just to talk about oily things and how awesome they are. What say ye?

4. We decided to focus on animals (aka chickens) this year and start the garden next year. But, as part of preparation for next year's garden, we will begin our "Lasagna Garden" within the next month. Don't know what a Lasagna Garden is? No worries! We will learn the process together! In the meantime, I sure am enjoying our morning strolls with the babies through my granddaddy's garden.

5. The wild blackberries are just starting to ripen. This makes me happy.

Miss Eight, cutting the weeds away from the wild blackberries so she can reach them better.

Here's to green, Georgia summer and sunshine and early, crazy mornings and nap time and lemon water and swinging on the swing set.

Happy June 1!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Clutter Buster Challenge: Day 20

Well, people, tomorrow is Day 20.  We made it!!! Way to go, my friends!!!

How did you do?

I'll say it like this: I'm not where I want to be, but I'm a lot better off than I was. Am I right?

So now we look to the future. What projects do you have left? Drawers that need sorting? Closets that need emptying? Items that need to be culled?

If you're like me, just the thought of all the little piles of hidden clutter make you break out into a cold sweat.

Never fear, my friends. The final challenge is just for us!

Thanks for tagging along with me in the Clutter Busting journey! 

Day 20 Challenge: Take 20 minutes to sit down with a pencil and a calendar, and whatever hot beverage makes you happy, and make a plan. You have spent a few minutes every day, for the last twenty days, clutter busting your home. Why stop now? Maybe daily clutter busting isn't possible. But how about weekly? Or even two or three times a week? Make a plan to bust up that clutter a little bite at a time! And remember: don't worry what you haven't done yet. Celebrate what you've already accomplished! Now get out there and clutter bust away!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Clutter Buster Challenge: Day 15

Hello, internetlings. 

So we are on day 15 of our Clutter Buster Challenge. No, you did not miss anything. We may or may not have skipped a couple days. 

So here's today's lesson: Sometimes we get thrown off our goals. Babies teeth. Kiddos get sick. Schedules fill up. And the housework has to stop for a bit. 

But you know what? When the dust settles, we can pick back up where we left off and get back to work! 

Today, I will dive into a large, messy, cluttered closet. My plan is to go through one box at a time, only pulling out what can be put back in about 20 minutes. 

Won't you join me? 

Today's Clutter Buster Challenge: We've done lots of little steps; now it's time for a big one! Let's tackle that big project you've been putting off. Start with a small bite. Pull out one box. Sort through one stack. Only pull out what you can sort in 20 minutes. After that 20 minutes is done, you can make the decision to stop and return tomorrow, or go another 20 minutes today. (Pro Tip: minimize, minimize, minimize! Don't just pull it out, move it around, and put it back! Ask yourself: Do I love it? Do I need? When was the last time I used it?) 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Clutter Buster Challenge: Day 9

Day 9 Challenge: Recruit the family! Grab the kids and clean out that toy box! Bat your eyelashes at the hubs and work on the master bathroom closet. "Many hands make light work" and all that. So ask for help and see how much you can accomplish together! 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Clutter Buster Challenge: Day 8

Okay, my people. It's Monday, and we're back at it!

We all have them. Hiding there, out of site. The all consuming junk drawer.


I actually have one in every room.

And you know what? I am totally okay with that. I love my junk drawers. They are the perfect "holding place" for items that don't have homes yet. Better they fill up a random drawer than clutter up my tables and counter tops (and floors, and beds, and minivan....)

But there's one problem with using them - they fill up. And right now, I can't open mine at all. It's too stuffed with, well, junk.

So I spent my 20 minutes re-homing all the items that have been temporarily stored in my primary junk drawer in the kitchen.

I dumped it out on the kitchen table, replaced some of the items (like matches and rubber bands), threw out or donated a few things, found new homes for everything else.

A place for everything, and everything in its place. And all that jazz.

I will probably never get rid of my junk drawers completely. I love them and use them too much. But I will add them to the regular cleaning schedule to be organized and maintained more frequently. 

Day 8 Challenge: Clean out your junk drawer! In the kitchen, the bedside table, the coffee table. Wherever it is, re-home its contents! Easy peasy mac 'n' cheesy!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mothers Day

Tonight I crawled into bed, shoulders sore, feet aching, heart full. I reached up to take my hair down and realized it was actually up in a clip - the clip I use to pull my hair up while doing my makeup... Before I fix my hair in the mornings. 

I had walked around all day with unkempt hair in a 1980's style clip. 

And all I could do was laugh. Because, as Mother's Day comes to a close, I can't think of a more appropriate representation of this phase in life. 

Sore shoulders. 

Aching feet. 

Hair that hasn't been brushed since yesterday morning. 

Full heart. 

So Happy Mother's Day to all you mamas. To you with the whiny toddler who sat in your lap while you ate your Mother's Day lunch. To you with the crying baby who wouldn't let you sit through a whole church service. To you with the teenager who is growing up too fast. To you who will someday hold your baby in Heaven. To you who mother children not your own. To you who long for children to fill your heart and home. To you who miss the children no longer  under your roof. 

To all the mamas and the mamas' hearts: Happy Mothers Day. May your shoulders be massaged, your feet propped up, your hair forgotten, and your heart overflowing. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Clutter Buster Challenge: Day 7

Sometimes life gets really busy, and I don't know about you, but when that happens, my housework is the first thing to fall by the wayside. 

Such was my day yesterday. 

So what do you do when it's Friday night at 11pm, and you realize you haven't completed your clutter buster challenge? And you haven't blogged about it either? 

You remember all the things you did right that day, give yourself a little grace, and make plans to clutter bust tomorrow. 

So I'm up and at it a little earlier this morning, with big plans for the weekend. 

And you know what will get a lot of use this weekend? My swagger wagon. The minivan. Her name is Dot.

But poor Dot has been neglected of late. He is full of wrappers, and toys, and books, and crumbs, and sippy cups, and something sticky in the very back cup holder. 

So my 20 minutes this morning will be devoted to her. Twenty minutes won't make her perfect by any stretch. But it's enough to get the "stuff" cleaned out so we can vacuum and wash her another day. 

Day 7 Challenge: Clutter bust an area your family uses frequently. Maybe it's your car? Maybe it's the basket of bathtub toys? The shoe holder by the back door? Take 20 minutes to clean it out and organize it. Your weekend will thank you. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Clutter Buster Challenge: Day 6

This mama has a cold and a migraine. 

This mama has two babies with ear infections. 

This mama doesn't feel like busting anything except a nap on the couch! 

Nevertheless, the clutter busting must go on. 

So today I sat on the couch and cleaned out my many bags - my wallet, my purse, my diaper bag. Just call me the bag lady.

At least now they're organized bags. 

Day 6 Challenge: Clean out your bags! Pull up your Netflix, grab a cup of warm lemon tea, complain to your husband about how crappy you feel, and spend the next 20 minutes organizing your wallet, purse, and/or diaper bag. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Clutter Buster Challenge: Day 5

Getting organized is fairly easy. It's about rearranging our "stuff" in a way that it's easily accessible (and pleasant to the eyes). Refold the sheets, and stack them neatly. Line up the spices in alphabetical order. Put pencils in one box, crayons in another, markers in a third.

Easy peasy, mac 'n' cheesy.

Staying organized - now that's a horse of a different color.

That's not even a horse.

It's a unicorn. 

It's magical, and elegant, and peaceful, and always elusive. No one really knows if it exists. (At least, no one who lives with other horses human beings.)

I myself have only experienced the "staying organized" unicorn once in my life. It was when we were living in South Korea. That entire year - even with a toddler and a newborn running things - our home stayed tidy and organized.


Because everything we owned could fit in 6-8 suitcases. 

We had one outfit for "church" that we wore every Sunday. Two pairs of pants and six or seven shirts for the other days of the week.  Toys fit in one small box in Miss C's room. A couple pairs of shoes each. Minimal kitchen gadgets and appliances. (I didn't even have a coffee pot - what?!)

So what's my point?  You and I can rearrange our "stuff" all day long, and it could look tidy for a minute. But if we really want to live an organized life, we have to cull. Cut. Reduce. Minimize. Get rid of that junk.

My Goodwill pile is growing by the day. How about yours?

Day 5 Challenge: Find 10-20 items in your house that you can sell or donate. Then go put them in the trunk of your car. Don't create a pile in your home; you will be too tempted to put some of the items back. Put them in the trunk of your car, and swing by your nearest donation place the next time you're out and about. Be sure to comment and let us know what you're getting rid of today! Maybe it will be something we haven't thought of, and we can join you!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Clutter-Buster Challenge: Day 4

My favorite cleaning tool in the world is a simple egg timer. 

What's that you say? An egg timer isn't a cleaning tool? 

I beg to differ, my dear. 

I am convinced that an egg timer and a good apron are all that's required to keep a semi-clean house. (And semi-clean is about as good as it gets 'round these parts.) 
 Here's why: 

1. An egg timer helps me tackle big projects with small steps. I determine how much time I have, or how much time I'm willing to give. Then I set the timer and get to work. It helps me overcome Perfection Paralysis which tells me that if I can't do it all right now, then I shouldn't even start. It also defeats my procrastination when I just don't feel like spending three hours cleaning something. I tell myself, "I'm going to clean for 20 minutes."  I can do anything for 20 minutes. When the timer runs out, I stop working, whether I'm done or not.

2.  An egg timer keeps me focused. Studies have shown that multi-tasking doesn't actually help us get more accomplished. On the contrary, dividing our time and energy among too many things can hinder our momentum and wear us out more quickly. So my kiddos and husband know: if the timer is set, leave mom alone (unless they want to get recruited for work). I can get more done in 20 minutes (with a timer), than in an hour full of "multi-tasking."

3. An egg timer shows me that housework doesn't take as long as I think it does. Today I woke up knowing I had to mop my kitchen floor. Ugh. I really hate that job. It feels detailed and time consuming, and I just wasn't in the mood. So I pulled out the handy dandy egg timer and set it for 20 minutes. By the time the bell dinged, I had swept my entire kitchen, moved the kitchen chairs out of the way, and mopped 3/4 of my floors. It took me an additional 4 minutes to finish the job (which I did). Who knew that sweeping/mopping my floors only took 24 minutes?!

If you don't have an egg timer, you can use a microwave or oven timer - or even your phone! I like the egg timer because the "tick tick tick" reminds me to stay on task,and it has a very satisfying "ding!" at the end. So grab your timer today, turn on some upbeat music, let your family know what's going on, and get to work! 

Day 4 Challenge: Pick one area that you have been putting off. Maybe, like me, it's mopping your kitchen floors. Maybe it's wiping down cabinets or cleaning behind your toilet. Maybe it's an overflowing closet. Set your timer for 20 minutes and get after it! When the timer goes off, you're done! Comment below and let us know how it went! Did you finish in the 20 minutes? Did you realize it would only take a few more minutes to finish and kept going? Did you make a dent in an otherwise daunting task? We want to celebrate with you; so let us know!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Clutter-Buster Challenge: Day 3

 A few days ago, two large shelves in our laundry room fell.

Off the wall.

And spilled a can of paint.


We were within an hour of having our entire youth group (and families) descend onto our property for a bonfire and had no time to deal with any of it.

We laid down some paper bags over the paint so we could have access to the items we needed for that night. We stacked the remaining paint cans in the corner. And we made plans to come back later and clean it up.

Only, later, the paint had dried and caused the paper bags to stick to the laundry room floor. We peeled up what we could and re-stacked the paint cans a little further out of the way. But the whole room has become an impractical storage area that needs a few hours of concentrated work.

Eight days later, it still sits like that. The only evidence of our presence is the increase in the trashcan lint from cleaning out the lint trap.

So why am I doing things like de-cluttering a corner of my kitchen cabinet when I've got that mess going on?

Two reasons: 

One: I don't have hours to dedicate to a big project. I have minutes. And our temptation when we have minutes, and not hours, is to do nothing. Because, really, what can we do in minutes when there are so many hours of work to be done? But minutes make hours, my friends. Two days ago I spent 20 minutes organizing my cleaning closet. Yesterday, I spent 20 minutes de-cluttering some counter space. Today, I spent 20 minutes on a drawer under my stove.  And you know what? In the last three days, I have spent a total of one hour de-cluttering my home. Over 20 days, that's a minimum of 400 minutes. A little more than 6.5 hours. 

So let's suppose I do suddenly have a free Saturday, where I can dedicate hours to a project. Instead of splitting those hours clutter-busting my house, I am free to dedicate them to the big project of cleaning out the laundry room. See how that works?

And Two: Willpower is a muscle. We often think it's something we "do have" or "don't have." But the truth is that it is something we build. So maybe I don't have the willpower today to tackle a huge task like reorganizing the laundry room. But I do have the willpower to clutter-bust for 20 minutes. And maybe tomorrow it will be 30 minutes? Or even an hour! Soon, tackling that mammoth project will feel normal, maybe even easy? (I'll be sure to let you know when/if that happens.) Regardless, we don't have job-specific willpower. Building that muscle affects other areas too: eating, exercising, daily quiet times, patience with our children (and spouses). So let's flex those muscles, people! You can do anything for 20 minutes!

Day 3 Challenge: Do something just for you! Clutter bust an area that no guest will ever see, but you know needs work. For me? It's the pots and pans drawer under my stove. It seems to be a magnet for crumbs and food; so I emptied it, washed it out, and reorganized it. For you? Maybe it's a jewelry box or "unmentionables" drawer. Maybe a linen closet or the bottom of your clothes closet. Do something that will make you smile to look at, even if it's never seen by anyone else! Be sure to jump in the comments and let us know what you're tackling today!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Clutter-Buster Challenge: Day 2

*My computer is having issues loading new pictures. Hopefully I'll get the issue resolved and be up and running tomorrow! 

Today is a busy day for our family. So I literally have only 15-20 minutes to focus on a clutter-buster project.

I decided my kitchen is a great place to start because it's the room where I spend most of my "mom" time. It's where we do homework. Where we do arts and crafts. Where I cook. Where we eat. Where the kids' get dressed. (Yep, the kids' dresser is in the kitchen, where it doubles as a coffee bar for moi.)

So I looked around the room and tried to find one spot that bugs me. One spot that seems like things are not quite in the right place.

For me, it's in a corner of my counter top between the sink and the stove:

*See, this would be a perfect spot for me to insert a picture
 of said corner, complete with piled up dishes and baby bottles.

This spot is supposed to be the "dish drain" area. I have a Boon Lawn Drying Rack where, in theory, my bottles and accessories dry before being put away. I also have a cheap-o plastic dish drying rack that usually contains our juicer parts and a couple large cookie sheets that won't fit in our dishwasher.

*Insert second picture. Stupid computer. 

This corner is always cluttered and impractical. My dish rack isn't the right shape for the items I usually dry (cookie sheets and large pots), and since I nurse 99.9% of the time, the Boon Lawn has become a catch-all for any small plastic item that doesn't have a permanent home.

I set my timer for 20 minutes and got to work.

First things first, I have too many bottles for one mostly-breastfed baby boy. So all but 2 bottles went into the Goodwill bag, as did my beloved Boon Lawn. Farewell thee well, faithful companion.

Moving on, the dish dryer isn't working for what I need. It too landed in the goodwill bag after a good washing.

Then I had to decide what would work for that space.

For now? A dishtowel.

*Insert picture of newly organized corner, complete with 
clean towel for drying future clean dishes. It would've been inspirational, trust me.  

It absorbs the moisture, is easily replaced if it gets dirty or soured, and has the space for the items I need to drain in that corner.

Total time: 23 minutes.

It's not life-changing, but it is a peaceful place for the eyes to land. And it will make washing dishes and cooking that much more enjoyable. And mainly? It feels good to check it off my list.

Day 2 Challenge:  Clutter bust an area that you see everyday. You know what I mean. That corner of "stuff" you meant to put away after your last camping trip. Or the mound of mismatched socks sitting on the loveseat. Some small pile of clutter that you can bust in twenty minutes or less. Turn on some music, set your timer, and have fun!