Chapter 11: Go Outside

Chapter 11: Go Outside

Welcome to The Mom Project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be launching my book The Mom Project by hosting several mom friends who have tried it out for themselves. They read the book, completed a project from the book with their kids, and wrote all about it. And these are real moms. Busy moms. Unsure-of-themselves moms. Single moms. Special needs moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. They do the hard working of mommyhood every day, and have found fun ways to connect with their kids in the simple activities found in The Mom Project. Read on to hear their experience:

The Project

Go outside. That’s the depth, height, and difficulty level of my activity for The Mom Project. And those two simple words are precisely why I love The Mom Project so much. Why? Because the simple task of spending intentional time with my children – of being present with them – works. It actually works! No extra time, fancy equipment, or expensive outings required. And that really appeals to a busy, budget-aware mom like me.

The Plan

The plan was to go to the local park and do a scavenger hunt. As I drew scavenger hunt maps and started grabbing an extra this and a bonus that to make the experience extra-completely-perfect, I felt my shoulders tightening up. The kids were getting antsy for their lunch and dangerously close to naptime, so I knew I was about to miss my one-and-only window. And as a work-from-home mom, naptime is essential.

I suddenly remembered that the instructions for spending time with my kids were simply: “Go outside.” Go outside. So simple, and yet, as usual, I was trying to over complicate things to the point of discouragement. So we grabbed our less-than-perfect stuff and headed out the door.


We arrived at the small local park armed with our scavenger hunt maps. Once there, we met another family who was eager to join in on the fun. Together, the kids raced around, buckets in hand, searching for various nature items on the list: something purple, something soft, something lovely, etc. After all the items were collected, we huddled in a circle to examine our finds. As I held up each of the spring-fresh discoveries, ranging from flowers to sticks to pinecones, I interjected a few statements about God’s beautiful creation: “Did you know that we can see evidence of God everywhere we look? When we find something LOVELY, it points to its Maker, God.”

It was a fun time. We finished things off by making nature bracelets. I wrapped a strand of packing tape (sticky side out) around each little wrist, and set them off to attach bits of nature to their bracelets. After the excitement of the scavenger hunt, the kids were eager to set back off on the trail in search of more loot. The results were beautiful.

What I Learned

So what did I learn? Turns out, I’m the holdup. I get in my own way. Remember earlier in the day, when I was racing back and forth, packing the perfect items, trying to make the perfect day? Did you catch it? That problem word? Yep, that’s the word… “perfect.” By doing this simple project, I learned that my perfectionistic tendencies trip me up, discourage me, overwhelm me. Friends, I almost canceled the whole trip to the park! I was stressing myself to the max, when all I needed to do was “Go outside.”

My kids just want to spend time with me. The scavenger hunt didn’t need to be sketched in multi-colored markers with 3D relishes. I wasn’t required to do a scavenger hunt AND a treasure hunt AND a nature bracelet AND make a scrapbook of the experience the same day. Through this project, I learned to let less-than-perfect be enough.

This applies to all of life, too. Sometimes it seems as if I live my life waiting for the perfect moment…when all along, the moments are happening right in front of me. I just have to engage.

Extra Tips

If you’re doing this activity with littles, think simple. It doesn’t have to be a Pinterest production. It really can just be a blanket on the ground outside for lunch instead of at the table. After all, who would’ve thought my kids could have fun in the same environment, with the same things they see on a daily basis? (They did.)

Apparently, The Mom Project is all about tweaking my everyday routine, just a tad. It’s about incorporating this purpose, this focus, this worshipful moment into what we’re already doing anyway. It’s about making the everyday mundane special. It really doesn’t take a major schedule overhaul – just focused effort on what’s already going on.

In my perfectionist tendencies, I’d always thought I needed to wait until I could “Martha Stewart” a project with my kids. Turns out, they don’t care what it is or how pretty it is. They just want me to show up. To be there. And to love them well.

It calls to mind our mandate for telling our children about God: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:6-9, NIV) When should I be speaking about the saving, transforming power of Christ’s love in my life? When I have time? Nope. I never really will have that “perfect” time. It happens as we go: in the van, when I lay them down for nap, in the drive-thru, in the carline. Not when I finally have time to do it perfectly.

Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. *Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.


Kelli Pavlovec draws from her experience as a work from home mom to help smart moms get unstuck and find their best self at For a free worksheet on 7 Ways to Pursue Your Life Dreams, Even While You’re a Mom, click here.


How To Stop Hanging On To All Your Kid’s Stuff and Still Be a Great Mom at the Same Time

How To Stop Hanging On To All Your Kid’s Stuff and Still Be a Great Mom at the Same Time

Behold, the boxes of guilt…

These are the boxes of drawings, ticket stubs, participation certificates and sportsmanship trophies that have taken over your garage and basement. They are the boxes that have layers of regret as thick as the layers of dust covering the Lucite tops.

Because, you see, these are the boxes a “good mom” would have turned into loving scrapbooks with pictures of your kid’s idyllic childhood and quippy sayings accompanying each photo mounted on acid-free paper for future generations to bask in and enjoy.

But instead, you have mounds of stuff no one has looked at in years, except for the occasional glimpse accompanied by that twinge of guilt.

Now, you just want to pass the boxes along and get them out of the garage, but how do you do that without overloading your kids with clutter?

 Pre-Sort Before Your Kids Get Involved.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to dump a thousand photos, stuffed animals, certificates and miscellany on our kids and say, “Here.” As parents, we have some responsibility to guide our kids through the process.

  1. Not every memory is worth keeping. I’ve kept exactly one picture of me and my first husband. It was when we were in high school on a church youth trip and we were just getting to know each other. I had a huge crush on him and everything at that time was fun and possibilities. I kept that photo because when I see it, it makes me smile. The rest of the photos of just the two of us – gone. And here’s the good news: I don’t miss them at all. This move was not out of anger; those memories are just not happy ones and I moved on a long time ago. I’ve kept a few pictures of us as a family for our kids.

Your kids also don’t need pictures of relatives they met one time when they were three, cousins they don’t know, or family vacations before they were born. You can pre-sort anything you know they don’t care about.

Same goes for picture with people whose names I (and my kids) don’t remember, or pictures that are associated with not great memories.

  1. Now that you’ve had the chance to evaluate the memories, it’s time to choose the best of the best. Do you really need/want 32 pictures of your daughter’s fourth birthday, or would three pictures be enough? Do you need to keep the third-place trophy of your daughter’s homeschool bowling league, or would a picture of the trophy suffice?

Choose the best of the best, and get rid of the rest. We only need one photo to spark a good memory. Let it be the best photo in the bunch.

Schedule a Time With Your Kids to Sort Through The Rest.

Once you’ve presorted, then it’s time to get your kids in on the process. It’s a lot easier to make group decisions after you’ve culled everything you know nobody wants.

  1. Decide. Ask your kids if they want input to the evaluation process. Some kids will want to be sure to have their input, and some could not care less. Either answer is fine, but they need to know that if they don’t participate, they don’t get to complain later on.

And be sure to let your kids know that they will not hurt your feelings if they don’t keep everything. Remember, not every memory has earned the right to be preserved.

Here are some things you’ll want to discuss during the sorting process:

a.) Who is keeping these treasures?

b.) How much space do I want to dedicate to storing photos and memorabilia?

c.) What should happen to certain items if the person keeping them no longer wants                                     them? (For example, maybe Mom would keep the artwork Suzy painted in high                                         school if she eventually decides to get rid of it.)

2. Display. If you’ve been a part of the Clutter Free Academy, you know I have three criteria for                 whether you keep something:

a.) I love it.

b.) I use it.

c.) I would buy it again.

This is great criteria for you and also for guiding your kids when deciding what to keep.

  1. Digitalize. For pics of my pics without the glare, I use PhotoScan by Google. This way, I have a digital record of what I need.
  2. Distribute. Make sure your kids have access to whatever photos they want, whether it’s the actual photos or the folder where the digital copies are.

I want memorabilia guilt to be a thing of your past —not part of your kid’s future. Decluttering before you pass those items down, and then helping them decide what to keep and what to toss ensures they’ll have all of the memories and none of the guilt.

Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. *Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.





The Mom Project, Chapter 4: Home, A Safe Place to Land

The Mom Project, Chapter 4: Home, A Safe Place to Land

Welcome to The Mom Project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be launching my book The Mom Project by hosting several mom friends who have tried it out for themselves. They read the book, completed a project from the book with their kids, and wrote all about it. And these are real moms. Busy moms. Unsure-of-themselves moms. Single moms. Special needs moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. They do the hard working of mommyhood every day, and have found fun ways to connect with their kids in the simple activities found in The Mom Project. Read on to hear their experience:

The Project

“I have an idea.” This is one of my favorite lines that my family hears me say right before I introduce a new plan. I’m sure over the years those words have evoked concern to some and excitement to others since my ideas tend to be outside the box and usually require some work. Like the time I said, “Hey Brian, I have an idea. I want to be a surrogate and carry other people’s babies.” That story is for another time, but more recently, about 3 years ago I had the idea to downsize and become a part of the “Tiny Home Movement.” My family was quickly on board. We decided we wanted to have a tiny home so we could have more time for our family (instead of maintenance on our things), to keep our current house as an investment/rental and most importantly to make financial changes so I could work towards being a part time WAHM (Work At Home Mom) so I could have more time and energy for our family. Despite the close quarters with 2 teen girls and the love-hate relationship with a tiny home that has brought, we have loved the “easy-ness” of simplifying our lives and being able to have more time to make memories as a family. As a part of this season of life, I’ve been reading The Mom Project and have loved all the fun and simple ways it gives to connect and make family memories. So now I have an idea! I’m going to share with you how I did one of the projects from the book with our girls. Welcome to our world.

The Plan

Since our girls are both in the phase of wanting to re-decorate their rooms, the project “Add a Few Creature Comforts” is perfect. They both literally have printed out inspirational photos from Pinterest in their rooms of how they want their rooms to look. If only we would be chosen for Fixer Upper, we would all be in heaven! (We only live a couple hours from Chip and Joanna Gaines, so if any of you have a connection, hook me up!) For the project, I am going to take the girls to the store to have them pick something special that will help make their tiny space more of their own and more enjoyable for them. To start off I had to choose the time and the place. Since we live outside of town and the girls go to a charter school, I get to drive into town and pick them up every day from school, so I chose a day that we didn’t have anything scheduled after school. I also chose Hobby Lobby since it is located in between school and our home, has lots of home decor and styles to choose from and I had a gift card! That’s a triple win in my book. I also let the girls know ahead of time what we would be doing since they are at the age that they tend to make plans in their head for their own lives and time and always appreciate a heads up.


I picked the girls up from school and reminded them we were going to the store so they could pick out something for their rooms. They had forgotten, so they both were excited for this after school fun shopping trip. After some time wandering around the store checking out all the options, they both fairly quickly made great decisions. Trinity chose a black storage box and a white wooden organizer. Selah chose a metal organizer and two storage boxes (probably for all her homemade slimes).

What I Learned

I was surprised that both girls chose storage and organizational items! I thought they would choose more “fun” decor pieces like a mirror, wall hanging, pillow or candle. I loved that they chose pretty, yet practical pieces that would help them stay organized and keep their rooms and stuff under control. When given the option to make decisions for themselves, our girls often surprise me with mature decisions. Sometimes we as parents, just don’t give our kids enough opportunities to choose for themselves or we don’t allow them to have the natural consequences of their choices, good or bad.

Extra Tips

To add to the fun and challenge, I gave both of our girls a $15 limit. This meant they had to do the math to figure out the cost of what they wanted (since a lot of decor items were 50% off) and they had to stay within budget. These are everyday life skills that we all need and that I like to throw into the girls lives as much as I can. Also, don’t forget to take pictures when you are making memories. Don’t overdo it though. Make sure you find the balance of being in the moment and taking pictures to help keep that moment forever. Enjoy our pics!

Hope you loved this peek into our tiny world. For more ideas on connecting with your kids, check out “The Mom Project.”

“Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. *Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.”


 Bio: Written by Tiffany Jo Baker, a mom who has birthed 7 children, but only 2 of them were her own. This 3x Surrogate, now Couples Life and Fertility Support Coach, continues to help couples birth their dreams and thrive thru infertility. Are you “Thriving Thru Infertility?” Free Quiz Here.


50 Tiny Tips to Get Clutter Free When You Have to Wait

50 Tiny Tips to Get Clutter Free When You Have to Wait

One of the things that has changed my house and my mind about clutter more than any other thing is what I’m calling “microsorting.”

In my previous life (like five years ago), when I was waiting in a drive through at Starbucks, or waiting for my oatmeal in the microwave to finish heating, I would jump on my phone and check Facebook. Now, I microsort.

Microsorts are not our typical 15 minute Clutter Free sessions. These aren’t even five minutes. These are the seconds where I’m waiting for something to heat up, power up, and finish up.

As an example, when I’m waiting for my coffee to brew in the morning (I set it the night before, but I’m almost always up before my alarm) I straighten up the coffee area, or refill the ground coffee container, replace coffee flavoring container that is running low (I love sugar-free coconut).

What I love about microsorts is that these are little patches of time that come up all day long. In those tiny pockets of time, you can accomplish so much. The other thing I love? This helps you prepare for the next day, or the next time you are cooking, or the next time you’ll be in that area. Tomorrow, when I get my coffee, the ground coffee container will be full, I’ll have my flavorings, and the area will be clean and tidy and greet me well in the morning. It is my best way to be kind to my future self.

So here are 50 ways to microsort throughout your day:

Waiting in the Kitchen

Whether you’re waiting to take something out of the oven or for those last 30 seconds on the microwave, or maybe it’s waiting for your slowpoke kids to finally finish eating, there are tons of things to do with that extra 30 seconds:

  1. Unload part of the dishwasher
  2. Sort your silverware drawer
  3. Look at dates of food on a shelf in the fridge
  4. Look at dates of food on a shelf in the pantry
  5. Sort through your utensil drawer
  6. Take out the trash
  7. Take out the recycling
  8. Wipe off a counter
  9. Scrub out your sink
  10. Wipe down an appliance
  11. Put water in the coffee pot for tomorrow
  12. Refill a canister (with flour, sugar, etc.)
  13. Start a shopping list for the next time you go to the store
  14. Restock dog/cat food

Waiting in the Living Room

Maybe you’re watching real, live TV with (gasp) commercials. Here is what you can do in the living room while you wait:

  1. Fold blankets or quilts in that room
  2. Sort through remotes
  3. Fluff pillows on the couch
  4. Sort mail
  5. Get rid of 5 magazines
  6. Declutter a shelf on a book case – donate five books
  7. Sort DVDs – donate five that your family never watches
  8. Hang up any coats that have been discarded in this room
  9. Get rid of any cords that you don’t use anymore

Waiting for People

I seemed to spend much of my kids’ elementary school years standing by the front door yelling, “Come on!!! Let’s GOOOOOO…” Why not multitask with the yelling and get some things done?

  1. Clean off your entry table
  2. Clean off some apps on your phone you never use
  3. Sweep your front porch
  4. Restock dog bags (for cleanups during walks)

Waiting in Your Car

We seem to wait in our cars for all kinds of reasons:

For the kids to get out of practice
For the tank to get filled up
For Starbucks to finish your order
For Walmart to bring out your groceries (that you so cleverly ordered ahead…):

  1. Clean out trash in your front seat
  2. Create a bag for things that need to be taken into the house
  3. Go through receipts in your wallet and pitch what you don’t need
  4. Buy a six pack of water and keep it in your trunk for emergencies
  5. Sort through your glove box
  6. Throw away five things in your trunk

Waiting in Your Bathroom

Kids taking a bath. (Obviously, depending on the age of the little ones and their ability to sit upright) or waiting for the shower to warm up:

  1. Get rid of five empty bottles
  2. Sort through part of a drawer
  3. Check expired meds
  4. Inventory shampoos and conditioners
  5. Get rid of five products you don’t use anymore

Waiting in Your Bedroom

Waiting for your spouse to come to bed or waiting for him to get ready to go:

  1. Sort your bedside table
  2. Sort your underwear drawer – pitch anything you wouldn’t want to be seen at the doctor’s in
  3. Get rid of one pair of PJs that don’t make you feel awesome
  4. Pull 5 things from your closet that you don’t wear to donate to charity

Waiting in Your Laundry Area

I hate ironing, so I spend a lot of time waiting for the dryer to beep so that I can grab the shirts like a ninja so that I don’t have to set up the ironing board:

  1. Match two pairs of socks
  2. Wipe down the top of the washer and dryer
  3. Inventory what you need to replenish in that area

Waiting in Your Office

Waiting for a friend to type out a huge Facebook message, waiting for a video to download or even just an app:

  1. File or recycle five pieces of paper
  2. Test out five pens to see if they have ink – pitch the ones that don’t
  3. Return one email
  4. Update your to-do list
  5. Inventory office supplies

Those little bits of time can add up – make them add up to a clutter free home.

What are some of the ways that you use pockets of time?

Want to get Clutter Free? Join us in our Facebook Group Clutter Free Academy

The Clutter Free Kitchen: 9 Ways to Stop Wasting Food

The Clutter Free Kitchen: 9 Ways to Stop Wasting Food

1. The Use-it-Up Shelf

In my fridge I have a small shelf that has cheese that has been opened, butter sticks that are cut in half, salami that’s about to expire and salad toppings (shredded carrots, chopped celery, sliced cucumbers) that need to be eaten first. I have put a piece of tape on it that screams “Eat me first!”

The “Use It Up” shelf is a reminder that these things need to be eaten first so that we are not wasting food and money. Why eat cheese that will expire in three months when you have some that will expire in three weeks?

 2. Tag Your Pantry

Use blue painter’s tape to mark anything that is going to expire in the next month. Make sure those boxes and cans are towards the front, so you can see what needs to be used up when you’re thinking about what to make for dinner.

3. Meal Plan

And speaking of what to make for dinner, deciding early in the week what you’re going to cook for the rest of the week is one of the best ways to make sure you use all the fresh ingredients you have in your fridge.

4. Store Smart

  1. Don’t store bananas and apples together (apples quicken the ripening of bananas).
  2. Store fresh herbs in a jar of water in the fridge.
  3. Trim asparagus ends and keep them in the fridge in a glass of water (just like you would with a bouquet of flowers) to help them last longer.
  4. Keep citrus good longer by putting it in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to three weeks.

5. Prep Food as Soon as You Get Home

It’s easy to be optimistic in the store; “Of course we will use all of these vegetables. I will lovingly make salads and veggie soup every night for my family.” But when the dinner crunch is looming, it’s so much easier to grab a frozen pizza and vow to make the salad tomorrow night – until tomorrow night comes….

One of the best decisions we’ve made is to prep our shop. When we get home from the store (or that evening) I will go through and wash and spin salad, grate carrots, slice veggies, hard boil some eggs, and generally prep as much food as I can for the coming days. We are about six times as likely to eat fresh food when it is prepped.

6. You have permission to eat all the veggies/fruit in a day.

My friend, Jenn, told me that her kids didn’t want to eat the fruits and veggies that she bought because they were afraid she was saving them for special recipes. Then there would be soft carrots and limp celery and all that money went to waste. Now Jenn tells her kids “Eat all of the fruits and vegetables in a day, it’s fine!” That way she makes sure they are not going to waste.

We now get some of our fruits and veggies from (Use this link to get $10 off your first order! Our orders turn out to be about $15 every other week.) We love the freshness of all the produce we’ve received. (The reason they are imperfect is usually an unusual shape or size or too large of a crop.) We find ourselves eating up the fresh produce because we get to pick what’s in the box and know that we will use and love all of it.

7. Shop Your Pantry Before You Shop Your Store

We’ve all done it—arrived at the store and then thought to ourselves, “Do we have milk? I can’t remember. I’ll pick some up just in case…” And that “just in case” jug of milk is now the fifth gallon of milk in your fridge.

Before you go to the store, do a double take of what you actually have at your house so you’re not spending your valuable grocery dollars on stuff that you already have.

8. Use Your Freezer

I freeze just about everything except for salad. I am a freezer ninja! But here are a couple of ways I use my freezer that might not have occurred to you:

Soup Bag: I have a freezer bag that I use for any veggies that might be on this side of ripe: leftover salad fixings (sliced mushrooms, onions, celery, carrots, etc.) and then when the bag is full, I sauté everything in there and use it for the base of a veggie soup. It comes out different every time, but it is consistently delicious.

Berry Bag: I love fresh berries and eat a lot of them (on my morning oatmeal, whenever we have company over and I make Instant Pot Cheesecake,) but sometimes even I can’t go through the several types I can buy in a week (strawberry, blueberry, blackberry). So when they are starting to get ripe I’ll throw them into a bag in the freezer and use them to make smoothies or defrost them and make Warm Berry Compote . Both super easy and a great way to not waste a single, beautiful berry.

9. Fall in Love with Cooking Again

As I was writing this article early Saturday morning and thinking through the “Use it Up” principle, I started to feel the guilt of the apples sitting in our fruit bowl that needed to be used up. Since Saturday morning is the only time during the week I cook an actual breakfast (the rest of the week is YOYO – You’re On Your Own) I decided it was now or never. I found a great recipe for Sautéed Apples and put those on top of wheat pancakes for our breakfast. It was a major win.

There is really no better feeling in the world than to cook something from ingredients you already have (and would go to waste if you didn’t use them.)

It’s easy to get into a rut of making excuses for not cooking, but if cooking is something you once enjoyed, it’s time to fall in love with cooking again. Here are some ways to do just that:

  1. Read great books about people who love to cook. I’m currently listening to Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook by Alice Waters but have enjoyed so many other books by people who love to cook (professionally and for the ones they love). Here is a list of books I’ve loved to listen to while I cook:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver and Camille Kingsolver

The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love Paperback by Kristin Kimball

My Life in France Paperback by Julia Child? and Alex Prud’homme

  1. Watch real cooking shows. Yes- it’s fun to see people make life-sized gingerbread houses with fully animatronic witches made out of 4,000 gumdrops. But if you want to get inspired to get into the kitchen, watch real people making real food. I love America’s Test Kitchen (PBS) and always want to run into the kitchen and create after seeing any of their chefs doing their thing.

3. Cook with people you love. This is my best tip. Make an event out of it and get in the kitchen with good food and lovely people.

I would love to hear you ideas about how you’ve reduced food waste in your home.