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Christy Catherine Marshall

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May 17, 2007

This summer, I have high hopes of attacking some organizing projects that I just haven’t made time for this year.

For one, my kids’ school papers need to be pared down and filed away. I’m bad about wanting to keep everything — but really, we can’t! My plans are to let them do this themselves, saving only their best papers into a three-ring binder. I try to remember it’s the “process” not the “product” that matters, especially when we’re going through hundreds of fill-in-the-blank worksheets.

Artwork and creative writing are special reminders of this school year, though, and I do want to keep some of it. These years seem to be flying by when I take them as a whole.

An author of a new series of organizing books recently contacted me about her mini-books for parents who’d like to get more organized. Her name is Beverly Coggins, and she’s a professional organizer with a special desire to help artistic, creative people — who may also struggle with being naturally organized.

Check out her site if you need some organizing inspiration!

Another project I’d really like to get done is to organize my photos — both digital and print — and Tasra Dawson has some great ideas for that.

I’m also hoping to be more involved this year in our summer garden. This is a task I usually leave up to my husband because I didn’t grow up learning how to plant a vegetable garden.

Yet I’ve learned that nothing tastes quite as good as a warm, ripe tomato from your very own vine. It’s really the best way to get your kids to eat vegetables!

When we start harvesting our summer vegetables, I want to be more organized about what we do with the extra produce. This year, I’d like to at least try blanching and freezing our extra tomatoes to use for soups and sauces. I don’t know that I’m ready for canning — yet — but freezing seems simple enough, if I’ll take the time to do it!

How about you? Do you have any organizing goals for this summer?

March 2, 2007

[Edit: I’m adding some ice cream to this post because I had no idea how many people would be stopping in from the party. By the way, welcome! I’m Heather, and I love blogging about books! Care for some strawberry ice cream?]

You Are Strawberry Ice Cream

A bit shy and sensitive, you are sweet to the core.
You often find yourself on the outside looking in.
Insightful and pensive, you really understand how the world works.

You are most compatible with chocolate chip ice cream.

Ultimate Blog Party I’m BACK!

How was your week? I can’t believe I took a whole week off from blogging. Well, here’s a good excuse to come back — there’s a humongous Ultimate Blog Party going on over at Janice and Susan’s 5 Minutes for Mom blog.

Adorable — they even decorated their home for the party with balloons and streamers, made party food, and dressed up their kids.

Here’s what you do if you want to join in the fun and be eligible to win FREE PRIZES. (Don’t we all love free things?)

You just write a post on your blog with a link back to the party, then add your name to the “Mr. Linky” set up on their site. And voila! You’re a party guest! Grab a grilled cheese sandwich and rock on.

Do any of you have a decluttering success story this week? As promised in my last post, I want to give somebody this free book — Too Much Stuff, by Kathryn Porter. Thank you to all of you who bravely shared your decluttering goals — I feel like we have a support group!

Mary of Relevant Blog, who has moved across the Atlantic twice in the past few years, says she’s a “decluttering fanatic,” but would like to get rid of some extra cups. She even has a great article online with In Touch Ministries full of tips for us stubborn packrats.

Deb of Mountain Musings is working on clearing out a space by a window in her bedroom to move a recliner so she can relax and get some reading/craft projects done. Sounds lovely!

Tonya of Raising Eagles is working on decluttering her study/office, which also must serve as an attic and storage room. She says, “I am confident that the Lord will help me … as He always does.” How encouraging!

Elle of Fall on the Grace is also in a decluttering mode, trying to pare down the abundance of children’s toys, which have been overflowing since Christmas. (I can definitely relate!)

Heather of Cool Zebras says she has been inspired by watching “Mission Organization” at her parents’ house. YEA! My mom is always telling me about the latest extreme organization makeovers on this show. I need to watch it too!

Liza of Liza’s Eyeview says the main area she wants to start with is the garage. Me too! Thanks for the support — it is NO FUN cleaning out a garage. We don’t even park our cars in ours right now because there’s a tractor and kids’ bikes and toys filling up all the space — but we need to do something about this!

Lisa asks us to “please pray” for her as she gets rid of clutter. She has found true joy in leading a preschool faith-based workshop and wants to keep going with this. She says, “Good luck to all of you with overwhelming emotions that literally seem to stack up around you!” So true! — our emotions are stacked up around us. What does this mean if we can get a handle on our clutter? Will we have a better handle on our emotions? (Praying for ya, Lisa!)

Connie is hoping to restore some order to her computer shelves and clean out some boxes in the basement from eight years’ worth of school teaching. Sounds like a great place for an educational yard sale! I’m sure there are many families who would be thrilled with a teacher’s cleanout!

Ruth of “It’s True,” Sighed Roo is also working on her office area. She’s been busy road-tripping to the beach, building up some great memories for her family!

Cmommy of Singalullaby says her goal is to “let it go,” when figuring out what to do with paperwork. Yes! This is also a problem I have — I think I’d better hang on to things, just in case. I also need to let it go!

OK … Drumroll please!

I put all of your names in a basket, and the name I drew to win the FREE book is…


Congratulations, Connie! I’ll email you to get your snail mail address and get this book sent to you ASAP. And what a coincidence — we’ll both be down in our basements getting rid of clutter. YEA!

Well, I do not have a total success story from my decluttering goals this past week. I did clean out one kitchen cabinet — but I haven’t reorganized the craft supplies yet. I also spent several hours in the basement, and I took one trunkload of much-worn and beloved baby clothes to the Salvation Army. I was almost in tears when I handed the workers my boxes. It was like handing them a decade of my life!

But I felt better — FREE — as I drove away. I know I still have a long way to go, but in clearing out the past, I’m making room for the future (sounds corny, I know).

Here’s a quote from Kathryn Porter’s book, Too Much Stuff:

“With every piece of clutter that went out the door, I lost pounds of emotional weight. My soul felt lighter. Whatever feelings of comfort or happiness I derived from having too much stuff were multiplied by letting things go. I came to understand a new definition of the word freedom. My heart sensed God’s presence like never before. And I experienced a peace and clarity previously unknown to me” (from page 18).

Kathryn writes that her friends who came over to help her said this, “You can’t keep everything and keep a clean house.” This phrase became a mantra, something Kathryn repeated as she let go of the clutter that was robbing her of peace and joy.

You can’t keep everything and keep a clean house. (It has a nice rhythm, doesn’t it?)

Say this, as you give away your abundance to others. (And to the trash can!)

I know Connie will enjoy this book! I wish I could send one to all of you — it really is the best book I’ve read on this topic. So many books focus on the organizing itself — but this one goes to the heart of the matter, teaching you how to draw strength and power from God, through prayer.

Although I love FlyLady and her routines dearly, I think Kathryn’s book teaches us the spiritual principles we need to accomplish our goals — relying on PRAYER and God’s Word as the source of our emotional decluttering — which leads to freedom in the physical sense!

Well, I have a ton more things I need to catch up on since I’ve been “absent” for a week — but I’ll spread some linky love tomorrow (there’s been a ton going on in bloggityville that I’ve been wanting to tell you about).

Also! For a couple of days, I thought maybe I should quit blogging to make more time in my schedule for other things — but then I checked the mail one day, and I got a package from Taiwan full of treats for my family! From a blogging friend! I want to write a separate post about this — but let’s just say the timing could not have been more perfect because my kids thought this was the coolest thing ever.

One more thing happened relating to this — a Christian author wrote me yesterday wanting to know if I could help with some research for a book she was working on. Well, the book topic is not something I’m too familiar with, but I wrote her back and said one of you bloggee people has a total passion for this topic! So this author contacted the blogger I mentioned — and GUESS WHAT? They’re a perfect match. She wrote back and said in all-caps, “You ROCK!”

So I can’t quit. Because it’s fun to feel used by God to connect women to resources they need. Anyway! Thus the name, “Mom 2 Mom,” although I certainly don’t want to limit this to only moms.

I hope you have a great weekend — and don’t forget to head on over to the Ultimate Blog Party!

February 23, 2007

I have a book on my desk that I’d love to give away to one of you:

TOO MUCH STUFF, by Kathryn Porter.

Kathryn was a guest on Mom 2 Mom a few weeks ago, and she has totally inspired me to do some major decluttering.

In her book, she shares her personal struggle (and victory!) over this area in her life, and now I feel like I have my very own organizing coach, cheering me on.

Here’s what her website, Clutterwise, says on the home page:

We love stuff.

Clothes. Shoes. Make-up. Jewelry. Books. Pictures. Movies. CDs. Letters. Recipes. Magazines. STUFF! Our consumer-driven society is constantly enticing us to want more, and before we know it—it’s just too much!

What begins as an innocent collection of odds and ends soon grows into heaping mounds of clutter and chaos. Before we realize it, clutter seeps in and sucks away our time, peace of mind, and our freedom. Clutter mentally and physically sucks the life out of us and traps us in a life we were never meant to have.

As we head into March next week, do you have an area of your home that you’d like to attack and declutter? It may be something small, like a junk drawer in your kitchen. Or maybe it’s bigger, like a closet … or even a room.

Leave a comment here about what project you’d like to attack, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win TOO MUCH STUFF. Let’s form our own DECLUTTERING support group. The chore is not such a pain when we know we’re not alone.

I’ll be taking off next week from this blog to do some major spring flinging around here. I’ll randomly pick out a winner from the comments next Friday, March 2 — just in time for the Ultimate Blog Party at 5 Minutes for Mom. Sounds like great motivation to lose a few pounds (of clutter)!

The areas I most need to attack:

1) My file cabinet — purge and reorganize.
2) The basement — clean it out and set up a permanent gymnastics area for the girls (who started a new gym class last week and need to practice at home).
3) Set up a craft “station” in one of my kitchen cabinets — so that we have no crayons or markers outside of the kitchen (irresistible to busy toddlers).

How about you?

By: Heather Ivester in: Organization | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12)

January 16, 2007

Do you spend the month of January looking around your house asking, “What can I do with all this stuff?”

After all the Christmas packages have been unwrapped and put away, the ornaments nestled safely back in the attic, and the tree stored or sent off to the chipper — many of us feel overwhelmed at the task of organizing. RE-ORGANIZING.

This is the year for you (and me!) to make some big changes. Instead of heading to the store to buy more storage boxes, why not pare down our stuff and simplify?

I was thrilled to be contacted by author Kathryn Porter, who is offering some advice for us overwhelmed moms. A former clutterbug, she’s now a professional organizer and popular speaker who shares her faith-based message on how to keep a clean house. You can read more about her at her website, Clutterwise.

Kathryn, can you tell us how you define clutter?

Clutter is anything that does not enhance our homes or enrich our lives. Sometimes we think when something is expensive that it’s enriching, but that’s not always the case.

What do you suggest we do first if we’re feeling completely overwhelmed by our clutter and don’t know where to start?

When you don’t know where to start, start with the easy stuff:

• Is there trash around the house that missed the garbage pail?
• Are there clothes with holes, stains, or in otherwise disrepair?
• Is there junk mail, expired coupons, or old newspapers laying around?

How can we stop clutter from coming into our homes?

I’m glad you asked this question. This is an essential component to maintaining a presentable home. Anyone can de-clutter a room, but how do we keep the clutter from coming back?

It requires a lifestyle change that starts with establishing boundaries. Learning to say no is probably the number one boundary issue when it comes to clutter. It’s hard to say no to sales at department stores, unwanted gifts, and helping a friend by storing their extra couch.

Even too much stuff on our calendars can end up cluttering our homes. We have less time to clean, while at the same time we’re accumulating more stuff from all the activities we’re involved in. I talk about this in my book, but here are some examples of how to set boundaries in order to keep the clutter at bay:

Boundaries with books:
How many books do you own? Do you have boxes stacked on your closet floors without a home? Limit the number of books you own to what comfortably fits into your bookcase.

Boundaries with people:
Are you storing other people’s stuff? Stop opening your home as a storage facility for friends and family. Let them deal with their own clutter so you can effectively deal with yours. Also, be careful about borrowing other people’s stuff, particularly if you have a tendency to forget to return things.

Boundaries with giving:
Do you go overboard for birthdays, Christmas, and other special occasions? Simplify your giving habits. Instead of buying Christmas gifts in January that you have to store all year long, wait until October for purchasing holiday presents. Consider giving gifts that don’t cause clutter such as treating someone to dinner, a movie, or play.

These are all great ideas! Kathryn, do you think it’s possible to live clutter-free?

I don’t think it’s possible to live completely clutter free because we constantly create more everyday. If it’s not of our own doing, then it comes in our mailbox or as a well-intentioned gift. The goal is to create a home that’s both functional and attractive, while minimizing the clutter.

Do you have any suggestions for mothers who are constantly dealing with the in-flow of papers — from kids’ schoolwork, teachers’ notes, birthday party invitations, newspapers, magazines, thank-you notes, grocery lists, notes-to-self. HELP! I speak from experience, unfortunately.

I could talk about paper for an hour and still have more to say so I’ll try to keep it simple. When it comes to a house drowning in paper, here are a few things you can do to plug the holes that let the paper in, while controlling what’s already there:

1) Take your name off mailing lists. If you don’t see the sales ads, you won’t be as tempted to buy more stuff.

2) Cancel unnecessary magazine and newspaper subscriptions. You won’t feel obligated to read them if they’re not coming through your door, nor will they create extra trash for you to toss.

3) Consolidate bank accounts. The simpler your money management routines, the less paper it will require.

4) Cancel credit cards. We tend to buy more using plastic because hard-earned cash in hand hurts us a little more when we spend it.

5) Use electronic bill paying. Be careful when giving out account information and be sure to track the debits, but this is a popular option to make life easier.

6) Implement a calendar system to track appointments. Limit memos and sticky notes by having a central location in which to record activities.

7) Create guidelines for keeping children’s schoolwork and stick to them. Create standards such as keeping only the best work or assignments that require creativity such as writing or artwork.

Can you tell us about your book? Who would most benefit from reading it?

Anyone who feels overwhelmed by clutter would benefit from my book. I write from the trenches.

It’s not just about another method to get organized. The focus really is on helping people determine what’s meaningful and what’s clutter, but there’s lots of organizing tips too.

I’ve also heard from readers who are self-described neat freaks telling me they appreciate my book because it’s helped them understand friends and family with messy tendencies. I even had one woman come up to me after a speaking engagement who said that she never considered herself a packrat until she heard my story. I’m learning that a lot of people think the way I used to think: “It’s not clutter! It’s just my stuff and my stuff needs a home!”

Do you have any closing bits of advice for the woman who feels like she’ll never emerge from her chaotic home in one piece?

Never give up. De-cluttering is a process, so enjoy the journey. There may be times when setbacks occur, but they won’t undo the amazing strides forward.

I also want to encourage people to embrace de-cluttering as a fun and positive activity. It’s a beautiful thing when we let go of the possessions that steal our hearts so we can focus on the people who matter to us and become more aware of God’s blessings in our lives.

Kathryn Porter is an expert at teaching parents how to get their kids to help around the house. Check out her article here at Focus on Your Child. If you’re in need of some more encouragement, you can learn about workshops and resources availabe by visiting Clutterwise.

January 7, 2007

A couple of years ago, I read a great tip in Lisa Whelchel’s online journal. She said she gives each of her children a new box of stationery for Christmas. These are for writing thank-you notes.

Here’s something she says about it in a Focus on the Family article, “Holidays and Kids — Maintain Control,” by Jesse Florea:

“We have a tradition of putting new stationery in our kids’ stockings at Christmas,” Lisa says. “It’s more fun to write thank-you notes if you’re writing on new stationery.”

She has her kids write a thank-you note before they play with the gift.

“It teaches a nice principle of thinking of other people,” Lisa says. “If someone took the time to buy you a gift, then you need to take the time to write and thank them right away.”

I was so glad to read that! I’ve struggled with getting my kids to write thank-you notes (probably because I struggle with it too). I’ve been remiss the past couple of years — and felt guilty about it.

I’m curious. Do you think adults need to write thank-you notes to each other if a gift is received in person? It’s certainly a thoughtful gesture, going the extra mile. But if I don’t write them, am I breaking rules of etiquette? Does anyone know? These days, I think a phone call or email work fine too. Of course, if you didn’t receive the gift in person, you should in SOME way let the person know you received it and thank them for it.

I do think it builds gratitude in children when they sit down and write out a thank-you note. After all, in the rush of ripping through paper, sometimes it’s hard to even remember who gave them their gift. Even if all the note says is, “Dear Grandma, thank you for the new Bionicle. It’s cool. Love, __.”

This afternoon, I was so proud of my six-year-old daughter who got out her new “fairy” stationery and penned notes to her aunts, uncles, and grandparents. She sealed them all — so I’m sure they’re full of creative spelling and lots of love. That got her siblings moving — and now the notes are all written! I didn’t do anything this year except give each child a list of who gave them what (which I jotted down a couple of days after Christmas).

From one mom to another. Thanks, Lisa!

December 7, 2006

I mentioned a couple of days ago I was tangled in Christmas lights. Well, I was still tangled in those things this afternoon. But I couldn’t put it off any longer. I needed to get the half-dozen boxes of ornaments out of the den. Tomorrow is our 9-year-old’s slumber party here.

Yet every time I unwound the lights from last year’s cardboard thing, only half of them worked. What do you do with half a string of lights? I had 20 minutes before I had to leave to go pick up the older kids at school; the two little ones were napping/playing upstairs.

I was so frustrated, I just threw the lights away and decided I’d buy new ones. Ever done that?

We stopped at a drug store on the way home, and I picked up two new strings of lights. The guy at the counter must have been in a good mood (maybe he felt sorry for me), but he said he’d give me $10 off my bill. So the new Christmas lights were free!

I got home and made a strong pot of coffee. My mood lifted. What is it about a 4 pm caffeine fix? I couldn’t live without it. The new lights went up easily, and my daughter turned on some Christmas music, so we were all listening to the Hallelujah chorus, decorating the tree together.

And I had to think of Busymom’s slogan: Better Parenting Through Coffee. Got me through the day, and our tree is up at last.

The best part of the day was receiving a Christmas card from the Philippines. YEA! (Sara, if you’re reading this, congratulations!!

December 6, 2006

Where has Zep been all my life? I’m actually enjoying cleaning windows. In fact, I have no time to blog because I’m too busy swishing dirt and fingerprints off my windows with my new best friend: Zep Commercial Glass Cleaner.

I didn’t intend to bring Zep home. I was at Home Depot looking for a satin nickel doorknob when voila! I saw this cleaner with “guaranteed professional results.” So I bought it, with new visions of streak-free windows (at least for five minutes before little hands touch them). I also bought these nifty cleaning cloths that were for sale right next to Zep.

This is the best stuff! It doesn’t smell as strong as Windex, and the cloth wipers don’t leave little linty things on your windows like paper towels or coffee filters do. So I had to tell you about it. If you’re in desperate need of some window cleaning in your home, grab a bottle of this the next time you’re at the store.

(Too bad you have to clean windows on both sides. It’s cold outside!) 🙁

By: Heather Ivester in: Organization | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

November 30, 2006

Today is Lucy Maud Montogomery’s birthday, and I’ve been wanting to sit down and blog about her all day — but I’m just too tired!

She was born in Clifton (now New London), Prince Edward Island on November 30, 1874. She published her first novel, Anne of Green Gables, in 1908 — so I guess that means she was 34 years old (we better get moving). Altogether, she published 20 novels in a little over 30 years.

I enjoyed reading about her life here at Wikipedia, especially since I’ve journeyed to Cavendish where she lived. It’s interesting to note how her life seems to parallel Anne’s in many ways.

I hope I can write more tomorrow. Right now, every muscle in my body is aching. I feel like I know how manual laborers feel when they come home at night. If I were a man, I’d want to sit in a big, fat Lazy Boy chair and hog the remote, shutting out the world.

I’ve spent the better part of my week either down in the basement totally reorganizing and hauling clutter off to Goodwill — or I’ve been upstairs repainting a bedroom and a bathroom. Who knew painting gives you sore muscles?

Why, oh why, did I ever let our house painter talk us into matte (flat) paint three years ago? I can hear him right now, “Well, m’am, I’d highly recommend the matte paint on these new walls here. I’ve done this for years, and I wouldn’t go with a satin. No sirree.”

Grrrr. Ever tried to wipe crayon or fingerprints off buttery yellow flat paint? It leaves a mark, even if you use those Mr. Clean eraser things.

So it was a glorious occasion yesterday when I covered the boys’ bathroom walls in a rich, deep SATIN taupe that dried a little bit shiny. I’m so happy I could kiss the walls. And another bedroom with light pink flat paint is now a happy apple green — satin of course.

I still have one more coat to paint tomorrow — then I have to haul all the furniture back in. Thankfully, most of the toys now have homes in our semi-organized (though still unfinished) basement.

When I’m not so tired, I want to tell you more about what inspired me to TACKLE my basement. And yes, it does have something to do with Lucy Maud Montgomery. I’ve had a creative burst of some sort.

Tonight I’m flat, worn out. Not flat — satin! There’s a new phrase — satin worn out. Sounds better, doesn’t it?

August 22, 2006

Where I live, there are so many major construction projects going on. Down the street, two new subdivisions are being built, the fancy kind with stacked rock signs and humongous houses. If you go another direction, they’re putting in a new shopping center and a “smart community,” which will include houses and shops all within walking distance.

And then another quarter mile down the road, they’ve completely torn down an old McDonald’s and are building a new one. It seems like everywhere I look there are big yellow earth machines moving dirt around, then patting everything out smooth.

The new McDonald’s looks completely different than the old one — dare I say, it’s even got some class. It’s brick, instead of whatever cheap material it used to be. On the sign out front, it says, “Closed for Rebuild.”

Every day when I pass by that sign, I read those three words: Closed for Rebuild. Yesterday, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could close for rebuild every now and then?” Like now. I’d like to close for some spiritual rebuilding, please, as God works His Word through me and helps me become more like Him. Beth Moore will help with that, when our Bible Study starts back soon.

Physical rebuilding is in process — as I’m trying to change my diet, exercise more, and keep going with increasing my energy levels. Whenever I feel stressed, I slink right back to my old habits; they’re lurking, just waiting for me.

Emotionally and mentally, I’m reading books, listening to sermons, talking to people … I’m in a growth spurt of some sort. I’ve even signed up to take a course through Barnes & Noble University, which is a first for me. (I’ll blog about that soon, in case you want to join us.)

Since losing some weight, I went shopping for myself, something I rarely do. I bought a few things, then came home and cleaned out my closet, like FlyLady says to do (when you bring something new in, you have to get rid of something old, to keep clutter in check). Well, I gave my old clothes the evil eye — most of my clothes are made for pregnancy/ postpartum/ nursing. I’ve been wearing the same things for years — because why bother to shop when I’m always in limbo.

I realized most of my clothes have become emotional clutter for me. They remind me of certain events or people. But I heard on the radio that women wear 10% of their clothes 90% of the time. That’s true for me. So I heard FlyLady’s voice ask, “Does that bring you joy or peace? No? Then bless someone else with it.” Well, I started piling things up in a box, and putting the hangers in another box. When all was said and done, I’d piled up 87 things to give away. Aah. What a relief. My closet is sparse now, but everything fits the new me, who is NOT nursing a baby.

Over the past few days, I’ve been rearranging our furniture and hauling stuff OUT the door, blessing lots of people with the clothes and toys our kids have outgrown. My husband was surprised I carried an upholstered rocking chair up the stairs yesterday to put in the room our two youngest kids share. I decided to box up all the plastic junk that clutters their room and make a “reading nook” instead, where I’ll enjoy reading to them. I like books and puppets — they use the imagination and don’t take up space.

I guess you could call this fall cleaning. Who knows? Hope springs eternal.

June 4, 2006

It’s Sunday afternoon, and all is quiet on our homefront. Guess what daunting task I’m attempting on this day of rest? I’m decluttering and filing all of my emails. I thought I’d better dash over and post in my blog just for a little moral support.

If you KNEW how many emails I’ve let pile up, you’d fall out of your chair — it’s well into the thousands. (yikes!) But filing is actually kind of fun. I’m deleting a ton — but I’ve also got files set up for family, friends, newsletters and articles I want to save for research, quotes I pick up, groups I’m involved in, and a host of other categories.

Mostly, I’m realizing I’ve got a lot of clutter to get rid of. FlyLady has inspired me. Less is more.

Back to work now. 😉

[Edit: It’s done. My in-box is sorted and cleaned out! Now … on to those paper files.]

By: Heather Ivester in: Organization | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)