#386: Dealing with Clutter in the Hardest Time of Your Life

#386: Dealing with Clutter in the Hardest Time of Your Life

Have you ever made progress on your decluttering journey only to stop when something unexpected and unwelcome happens? Maybe you have a loved one going through hard times and you want to help, but don’t know where to begin. This week, Kathi chats with Niki Hardy, author of Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart, about what to do in difficult seasons.

In this episode, you’ll learn tons of practical wisdom about what you can do in hard times, whether you or someone you love is directly affected. You’ll hear about how to:

  • Ask for and accept help from others when you need it.
  • Offer help in a way that blesses those in hard times.
  • How taking care of your future self is crucial in tough seasons.

If you’re curious about the Enneagram after hearing Niki mention it, click here.

You can order your own copy of Niki’s book Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart on Amazon today.


As a bonus for two lucky listeners, we are giving away two copies of Niki’s book, Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart! Enter below by commenting and letting us know:

When you have been in a situation where you needed help, what is something that someone has done for you that offered practical, timely help in that situation?


We would love to stay connected.

To share your thoughts:

Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

Subscribe on iTunes or subscribe to our newsletter now.


Read along with the podcast!

Clutter Free Academy Podcast #386

Dealing with Clutter at in the Hardest Time of your Life

<<intro music>>

Kathi – Well hey, friends! Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, doable steps to live every day with less clutter and more life.  You know, one of the things I hear so much in Clutter Free Academy, our Facebook group, and from you, individually, or when I go speak is, “Decluttering was going so well until…” and whatever that ‘until’ is. Whether it was a physical illness, it was the death of somebody you cared deeply about, a change in your life that was unwelcome and unexpected. Things were going well until. Today on the podcast I want to talk about the ‘until’. Today, doing that, we have Nicki Hardy. She is the author of this beautiful book Breath Again: How to Live Well when Life Falls Apart. Niki, thank you so much for being on Clutter Free Academy.

Niki – Thank you for having me. It’s a joy to be here.

Kathi – I love that, even in just our brief time talking before we got onto the podcast, “Okay, this could be really heavy.” You are light and wonderful, so you are the perfect person to talk about this with. I know your book isn’t overtly about clutter, but can you tell us a little bit about what happened in your life? Then I’ve got some questions about the stuff in your life and some of the processes you had to reevaluate in your story.

Niki – Yes, of course. I love the way you say, “Everything was going right until…” I think for some of us, it’s one big moment and for others it’s a slow unravelling. I think I had three big ‘until’ moments. I lost my mom to cancer, and hers was aggressive; lung cancer. Then just six years later my sister had the same thing and unfortunately she passed away at just 43 after just 14 months. Then six weeks after losing Jo, I was diagnosed. It was three consecutive side-swipes by life. Mine wasn’t lung cancer like there’s. Mine was rectal cancer. I can only just say that out loud and on-air, ‘cause it’s not the sexiest of cancers. It doesn’t come with a pretty pink bow or a cuddly teddy bear.

Kathi – How many walks are there for rectal cancer?

Niki – There are more than you’d think. It’s the number 2 cancer killer in the country.

Kathi – It is? Okay, Niki, I had no idea. Zero idea. People don’t talk about it.

Niki – Yeah, people say you’re never too young. I don’t think people do. It’s silent because, if you’re like me, you have absolutely no symptoms. It comes out of the blue, and often when you do find out about it, it’s too late. So, I would say to anyone, “You’re never too young to love your bum.” Go and get that lovely colonoscopy.

Kathi – Most famously, at least that I know, Farrah Fawcett Majors was the one that had rectal cancer and sadly, passed away from it. So, you’re never too young to love your bum. You know what? There needs to be a bumper sticker. Okay, so, can I tell you, I’m one of those people who have put it off? After my last podcast today, I’ll be calling to make the appointment. Thank you for that.

Niki – I’m so glad.

Kathi – Thank you for that nudge. Thank you for that kick in the rear that I so desperately needed. Sorry, that’ll be the last rear joke of the podcast. How does one function? Okay, first of all, losing your mom. I’ve lost my dad and it was expected. It was known. It still took my breath away, and can I just say grief is the sneakiest emotion of them all? There’s that. You lost your mom. Then, not in the natural order of things, you lose your sister. So, two deaths of women who were too young to be gone. Then a diagnosis for you. What was the biggest impact of that diagnosis? How did that change your life that people would have noticed?

Niki – Well, noticeably, I’m a Brit with a stiff and perfectly waxed upper lip and I can keep calm and carry on with the best of them. So, on the one hand, I just kept going. I was determined to survive. My faith, my grit, and my stiff upper lip were going to get me through this. At the same time, I was falling apart. So, my friends who have read my book have said, “I had no idea you were feeling like this.” And I replied, “Nor did I until I wrote it down afterwards.” It had a huge impact on my faith. It had huge impact on our kids, who, as far as they were concerned, cancer meant you were going to die and die quickly.

Kathi – Yes.

Niki – How we told those; how we interacted with our church and how honest we were. All those kinds of things. On Clutter Free Academy, we talk about clutter, but it was as if my life had shattered, and I was surrounded by rubble, not clutter. I had medical paraphernalia everywhere, but I also had emotional/spiritual/physical rubble.

Kathi – There’s a dimension that is added to your life. It’s not just you don’t feel well. Like you said, the medical paperwork is another full time job. I have, fortunately, been very healthy throughout most of my life, but the couple of times we’ve encountered surgeries or something like that, it’s another job to be able to stay on top of that. Then, like you said, the medical paraphernalia; having to incorporate that into and already busy home? I can’t even imagine. So, I know you’re going to be on a lot of podcasts and a lot of places talking the deep, spiritual stuff about this, but here are my questions for you, as they relate to clutter. I think clutter is a physical manifestation of our overwhelm. When you see somebody’s house is out of control, or you see that their kids are showing up to school and they don’t look like they’re out of a Macy’s ad. When those things happen, I want to know what do you do as the person who is in the midst of it? I’d love a couple of practical steps. Then, I would also love to know, if you are my friend and you’ve got that stiff upper lip, how do I engage in order to help? Let’s start with you. I’m sure you did things wrong, but if you could go back and teach your sick self what to do, what would you tell her?

Niki – I think the first thing would be to accept help. That is so hard because it means accepting we need help. We’re in a culture that’s a ‘make it happen captain’ culture. We celebrate people who have made it on their own. So saying, “Help!” sounds like we’re uttering this four letter word. So, admitting we need help is, not only an emotional step, but it also requires us to allow people into our mess. Emotionally and practically as well. To allow somebody to come and fold your laundry requires they are going to handle your undies and see that your laundry room is a bomb site.  Even if they want to do the washing up or take the dog for a walk, they’re going to see that all that stuff is in a mess. So, it requires a level of letting people in, which requires letting our boundaries or our walls down a little bit. I kept mine up for far too long to keep it all together.

Kathi – Letting people in requires a certain amount of letting go of control. That’s very scary when you’re already in a situation where you’re not in control.

Niki – Exactly. I talk about, in the book, about choosing ‘brave’. I think, asking for help, asking for somebody to come and drive you somewhere, or take your kids to practice is a really brave choice. We think bravery is something that’s huge and comes with the genes we’re born with, or not born with, but it’s actually a choice. It doesn’t need to be big, but it does need to be intentional. It can mean getting out of bed when depression hits hard. That’s the kind of brave choice, and I think allowing people in is a brave choice.

Kathi – So, what kind of people do you let in? Because there are safe people and there are not so safe people. I have never been in the position you have, of being so physically compromised, so I want to know: What are the hallmarks of the people that you should let in, and the others who you say, “You know what? A gift card would be great.”?

Niki – I think that’s so true. There are safe people and there’s safe things you can tell more people. Like, I was quite happy sharing, for the most part, prayer requests. People would share when we needed meals or rides for kids. Those are very safe things to talk about. Letting people into the feeling that ‘when I got cancer, the whole world got cancer’ and every argument with my husband meant that our marriage was one the rocks, and every time my teenagers were snarky, it meant that they weren’t handling my cancer and they were doing drugs. Those require a certain closeness of people. I found that the people who were safest in that, were the people that were willing to not try and fix it. Who were willing to say, “Yes, this sucks. I am so sorry.”

Kathi – “This is so hard. I’m so sorry.” I love that. Okay, here’s what I would love. I would love for you to be able to tell me. Say, my friend has just been diagnosed and I’m scared. One, I don’t need her to fix my scared. I need to deal with that on my own, but what are the tangible things that I can do? The offers I can make? And how do I go about making those offers in a way that will be supportive to her? All I want to do is help, but I don’t want to overstep my bounds. I don’t want to be a downer. What are some physical, tangible things that I can do for her to help her out?

Niki – It’s a great question. I think it’s so important to talk about these, because being on the receiving end of it, I’ve had people do wonderful things and people say terrible things. I think that acknowledging that it’s really hard and you’re really sorry that they’re going through this. I think, asking, specifically, what you can do to help, but also acknowledging that they might not know.

Kathi – That’s my concern.

Niki – I think saying something like, “I really want to help. What specific things can I do? I’m thinking I could…x, y, or zed. Let me know if that would help.” Then saying something freeing, like, “No need to text me back today.” Or “How are you doing today?” Because it might be different to yesterday or five minutes ago. Then, I think one of the best things we can do is, when somebody is struggling, sit with them in the pain. When they’re doing well, do well with them. Not necessarily talk about the last surgery or the last chemo or whatever. When they’re doing well, celebrate with them.

Kathi – I love this. I love the offer of, okay, I’m just going to be British here for a second, “x, y, and zed”. That makes me so happy I can’t even stand it. It signals the level of your willingness to help. “Can I bring you a meal?” “Can I take your kids to soccer practice?” Or, “Can I go sit with you while you’re in chemotherapy?” “I have friends who have a vacation home, so when you’re past this, let me know when you have a weekend and we’ll get that settled.” Whatever it is, it signals. I know when I’ve been in hard situations, I haven’t wanted to ask for too big a favor. That says, “Hey! We are willing! My husband is willing to come and do the yard.” Or whatever your gifts are. Whatever your talents are, to be able to go in. I love that what you’re doing is signaling people. You said that your journey through all these griefs has changed how you viewed clutter and staying organized. Can you tell me a little bit about it? It doesn’t have to be radical, but I’d love to know how that changed for you.

Niki – I think that one of the key things is that when my surroundings are in a mess, it adds to the overwhelm. It adds to the emotional turmoil if there’s external turmoil. So, I’m very fortunate that I have a very organized, and a very tidy husband.

Kathi – God bless him.

Niki – God bless him. So, that was a huge help, but we had to do things like, I moved into a room we had downstairs so that he wouldn’t be disturbed. So, trying to keep medical paraphernalia out of the way so that it wasn’t top of mind the whole time. The way I view clutter now, is that it is an additional stress in my life that I don’t actually need. I’m a big fan of Greg McCowan who wrote Essentialism.

Kathi – Yes!

Niki – I’m a seven on the enneagram and I’m just go go go, fun fun fun. So, I often don’t finish tasks and put things away at the time. That has changed, because I think I will want that away. The future me will need that to be away. So, that has really helped.

Kathi – I love that. We have a concept around here about taking care of your future self. We always assume our future self is going to have more energy, more time, more desire. When you have gone through something like you have Niki, that fantasy is dispelled. There isn’t, necessarily, a block of time where you’re just going to say, “You know what? I really feel like organizing all my office supplies today.” There isn’t going to be extra money, necessarily. There’s not going to be, necessarily, extra energy. So, if I can do it now. I’m not doing it because I want to be the Martha Stewart of homes. I’m doing this because I want to take care of my future self who has a cold; who has a friend who needs me to watch their kids. I want to take care of that future self so she can do what God has called her to do.

Niki – Exactly. I’ve learned that if I do it now, it takes half the time it would if I did it in the future. It’s a way of loving myself. One thing I’m terrible at is resting and sitting and reading a book when it’s not five minutes before I turn the light out. Those are the things I’m trying to incorporate so that I can live well when life falls apart, and when it’s good.

Kathi – When you say it’s half the effort to do it now as it is to do it later, it’s so true. We add the shame to it of “Why did I leave this out?” There’s an emotional component. When you put something down, your whole family says, “Oh, good. This is where we put things down now.” We don’t need any of that.  Niki, I know your book is filled with wisdom and emotional health, but thank you for getting practical with us. I really appreciate the tactical ways to support yourself through a crisis and to support others. Thank you so much for that.

Niki – Oh, you’re welcome. One of the reasons I wrote the book was because there were so many books out there that were motivating and inspiring and encouraging, but I would read them and go, “But how do I do this? How do I just trust God when life has fallen apart? What do I do with my anger? How do I practice gratitude? What does that look like when you’re just angry?” So, the book is deeply practical because we need to be able to touch it and feel it and see it in action.

Kathi – And make it happen. This is so good. Guys, we have a couple copies of this to give away, so here’s what I’d love in the podcast notes. I would love to comment for me and tell me, when you have been in a situation where you’ve needed help, what is something that someone has done for you that has offered practical, timely help in that situation? Niki, I so appreciate your time and your willingness to come on Clutter Free Academy. Thanks for being here.

Niki – It’s been a joy. Thank you for having me.

Kathi – And friends, thanks for joining us. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live.





*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items

Meet Our Guest

Niki Hardy

Niki Hardy

Niki Hardy is a Brit in the USA, a rectal (yes, rectal) cancer survivor, pastor’s wife, tea drinker and teller of terrible jokes. As a speaker and the author of Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart, she’s all about meeting you when life’s not fair and helping you embrace the reality that with God, life doesn’t have to be pain-free to be full, then go live it.

Learn more at nikihardy.com

#385: How to Love Being Home

#385: How to Love Being Home

Do you long for a cozy home that feels like your happy place? This week, Kathi chats with Liz Marie Galvan, designer and author of the best-selling book, Cozy White Cottage: 100 Ways to Love the Feeling of Being Home. Kathi and Liz discuss how to begin creating the cozy, beautiful home you’ve always wanted.

In this episode, you’ll learn the connection between decluttering and creating a home you love. You’ll also hear how:

  • Decluttering allows the “cute” and “cozy” to shine in your home
  • You can appreciate decor ideas, yet leave them at the store
  • To get a better sense of your personal style

If you want to learn more about cultivating a home you love, you can order a copy of Liz’s book Cozy White Cottage on Amazon.


Two lucky listeners will have the chance to win a copy of Liz’s book, Cozy White Cottage: 100 Ways to Love the Feeling of Being Home!

Let us know in the comments what is one thing in your home that you love, use, and would buy again because it is totally “you”? Bonus points for including a picture!

Kathi’s purple chair

We would love to stay connected.

To share your thoughts:

Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

Subscribe on iTunes or subscribe to our newsletter now.


Read along with the podcast!

Clutter Free Academy Podcast #385

<<intro music>>

Kathi – Hey, friends! Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is help you take small, doable steps to help you live every day with less clutter and more life. Today we are landing squarely in the More Life category. I know you. You want to have a beautiful house. Clutter can get in the way, but you know what? Even when you’re in the midst of decluttering, you can start leaning in to the house you want to have. Today we have got the guest who is going to help you do this. This is Liz Marie Galvan and she is a brand new friend. She is the author of a number one bestseller in interior design. Congratulations Liz! This is awesome. Cozy White Cottage: 100 ways to Love the Feeling of Being Home. Liz, welcome to Clutter Free Academy. I should ask, is it Liz? Or Liz Marie?

Liz – It’s either one. I always know if someone knows me from the blog, they call me Liz Marie, but we’re friends now, so you can call me Liz.

Kathi – Liz! I love it. Welcome to Clutter Free Academy. I’m so excited for this interview with you, because I look at the cover of your book, and I think, “I could be friends with her.” It has everything I love. It’s amazing.

Liz – Thank you!

Kathi – So, you and I talked a little bit before we got on, and I know my audience. They want to have that cozy feeling. They long for that in their heart. So, they’ll buy the things, they’ll do the things, but often times people who deal with clutter don’t love the feeling of being at home.  I love that that is what your goal is in this book: The feeling of being home. Why is that so important to you?

Liz – Honestly, we have been through a lot, my husband and I. We have gone through deployments. He was in the military. We’ve gone through a really long infertility journey. We’ve lost nine babies. 

Kathi – Oh, Liz!

Liz – Yeah, we’ve been through a lot of things, and through that, I realized that having a cozy home, somewhere to come at the end of the day, or when we’re going through something hard, or something good, is so important to your mental health.  Just to have that security around you. Going through all that I learned that, and that’s why I wanted to write the book and share that. 

Kathi – One key thing you said there, you’ve been through a lot of tough things, but you also said, “And when life is going well.” This summer, I had so many good things happen in my life. So, it was time to finally take a break and I didn’t want to leave my house. I’m like, “Why am I so strung out?” There were so many good things that happened in a row, I didn’t take any time to rest. I had to double down at home. 

Liz – Yes. I think for us, too. We have a son now, Copeland, and just knowing we have a home that, hopefully, he longs to come to at the end of the day, and that he’s comfortable in, wants to come home and share about his day. It’s just really important, even in the good times.

Kathi – I would love a couple of inside tips right now. I want to know a couple of easy ways. I know, with being from a past of clutter, it was so easy to get overwhelmed so quickly, so I want to know what are your easiest and favorite ways to improve your home and the feelings you have when you come in there. I need simple. Just boss me around. Go for it, Liz.

Liz – I love that. A big chapter in our book is about decluttering. I love being on this podcast and I love your passion for that as well. Honestly, the first step to making any space cozy is the decluttering, which in the book we talk about reusing items, but a major part of it is reducing items. Getting rid of things that we don’t love or find useful. I talk about, maybe we don’t have a huge budget to redo our homes right now, but reducing some of our items can add to our budget. By selling on Facebook Marketplace and getting rid of them to family and friends and things like that.  When we’re starting with a blank slate, it’s so much easier to make your space cozy, rather than try to make it cozy around all the clutter. So we hit on that a lot in the book.

Kathi – The word ‘cute’ is contained in the word ‘clutter’. You can find all those letters and it’s so true. I think what happens is, we’re at the store, we find something we love, we bring it home, but instead of showcasing it, it just adds to the pile. So the ‘cute’ gets absorbed into the ‘clutter’. One of the things I’ve discovered is, when I scale back, I often don’t want to put a lot back into the room. I love the blank walls. I love the space that it has. I love that you hit on two of our principles. If you love it, and you use it, it gets to stay. The third one is, would you buy it again? I love that you hit on two out of three there. Here’s my question: How do you use the things you already have? How do you develop and eye to know what to keep and what to get rid of? 

Liz – In our home, it took me a long time to develop that. I feel like I was keeping things around because I thought they were cute. I really had to assess. If I was shoving it in a cupboard or a closet, or if I wasn’t getting joy from it or actually using it in a room, or if I found myself moving the items from room to room, but it never felt right? I was just, “It’s time to get rid of this.” That’s become a really good habit for me now. I find myself going into stores where I used to think I needed to get all the cute things, because if I left it there, I wouldn’t have the cute thing.Now it’s like, “Where am I going to put that?”, “How am I going to use that?” and really just fine tuning those skills over time. It takes time but it does come natural once you start doing that.

Kathi – I think there’s something really interesting that I’ve never thought about until you were just talking about it. You used to go into store and want to buy all the things. People don’t know, we’re on video right now, and you have corn husks behind you in this cute galvanized bucket. It’s adorable. Here’s the thing. I love that, but I also know that doesn’t fit with my life. So, can I just appreciate it in Liz’s house and not have to bring all the things home?

Liz – Yes. You fine tune that skill as well. I think, in this world of social media, where we’re scrolling and people are saying, “Swipe up! Swipe up to buy these items.” I think we need to fine tune these skills even more. Things are more in our face now. I completely agree with you on that.

Kathi – The thing that makes me crazy are these surprise boxes. They just send you a bunch of random stuff. They have them for homes now, and it’s like, “Now you have to incorporate this rando stuff.” No no no! That’s letting somebody else decide what your tastes should be. You should be able to walk into a house and say, “Oh, I know this is Liz’s house.” Or “I know this is Tonya’s house.” I love that. Okay, how do we start to develop and understand our own style? I think that’s a big question for a lot of people. Because we love all the things, but we have to understand what our style is.

Liz – Yes. I think it’s because I’m in this world of home décor every day, so I appreciate all different styles. I think, really digging deep into yourself and asking yourself what you love in your home. I love color in people’s homes. I love that. But in our own home, I just found myself, shoving those items away that were brightly colored. I like my eyes and my mind to be at ease with neutrals when we’re home. Both my husband and I enjoy that, so I really had to dig deep and realize what was bringing me joy. It wasn’t the bright green pillow, though I loved it in Tonya’s house, I didn’t need to enjoy it in our home. I think that just really being honest with yourself. I think that’s something that’s really hard to do sometimes. We love it, but why do we love that? Asking yourself these, not hard questions, but being honest with yourself can be hard. 

Kathi – I think they can be hard questions for a lot of us, especially for those of us who tend towards clutter, because we look for our identity in items sometimes. I think that’s a good and a bad thing. A home is an expression of who we are and when we know ourselves better, we can say, “No, I appreciate that in Liz’s home, and I can look at it there.” I’m guessing you wouldn’t have my fabulous purple chair in your home.

Liz – I wouldn’t, but I love it in your home. I was just thinking that.

Kathi – I’m looking at your grey pumpkin and I’m like, “That is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” That is so much of it, is to not want it, but still be able to appreciate it. It’s a curated sense of style. We talk about curation all the time here.  Liz, I love this. I’m in love with your book. What’s your dog’s name? The cover model? 

<<dog barks>>

Liz – Well, she actually just said her name. That is hilarious. That’s so funny. That’s Miss Winnifred, aka Winnie. 

Kathi – She was born to be a star, wasn’t she?

Liz – She really was, yes. Born for it.

Kathi – You guys, the book is Cozy White Cottage: 100 Ways to Love the Feeling of Being Home. Liz, we are giving away two copies of this book on the podcast, and two copies on Facebook. Here is the question I want our listeners to answer. Here’s the thing, I’m going to give you two ways to enter. If you put a picture of this: What is the thing in your home that most defines you; that you love; that you use; that you would buy again, because it’s totally you? I’m going to put up a picture of my purple chair with the turquoise pillow, because that is about as Kathi as a piece of furniture could get. I’m going to ask you this, Liz. What is the thing in your home that makes you feel like the most you? If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love for you to send us a picture of it. 

Liz – Yes, totally. When you said your chairs, I’m thinking of the most ‘me’ thing in our home, is that all our furniture is slip covered in drop-cloths, which is so funny. I think a big, cozy, slip-covered chair with a big, over-sized pillow on it is probably the most me.

Kathi – That’s what screams, “Liz!”  I love it. I love it even more, because as you have your son and he grows up and does the things that sons do, you can just take that puppy off, bleach it and put it back on. It’s a beautiful thing. 

Liz – Yes, I was just in our front living room, sitting on our slip-covered sofa with a friend, and it’s just kind of gross today. It’s muddy here. There are puppy prints all over it, but it doesn’t stress me out because I can clean it.  That’s why I love it.

Kathi – It doesn’t just fit your style, it fits your life. Which is a beautiful thing.

Liz – Yes. We live on a very muddy farm, so it definitely fits our life.

Kathi – I love it. Liz, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Cozy White Cottage: 100 Ways to Love the Feeling of Being Home. Thank you so much for being on Clutter Free Academy. 

Liz – Of course. Thank you for having me.

Kathi – And friends, thank you for listening. You’re the most important part of this podcast, and I’m so grateful you joined us today. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live. 


*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items

Meet Our Guest

Liz Marie Galvan

Liz Marie Galvan

Liz Marie Galvan is a blogger, interior designer, former military wife, and co-owner of the vintage home décor boutique The Found Cottage. She is passionate about sharing her life, interests, and interior design ideas on her blog, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest pages daily. Liz and her veteran husband, Jose, live on an 1800s farmhouse in Michigan with their son, Copeland Beau, as well as dogs, cats, sheep, and rams. 

Find design inspiration and DIY ideas at LizMarieBlog.com.

#384: Can Less Clutter Lead to Less Family Grumbling?

#384: Can Less Clutter Lead to Less Family Grumbling?

This week, Kathi chats with special guest and prolific author Tricia Goyer about Tricia’s new book, The Grumble-Free Year. We’ll learn how her family’s year-long experiment giving up grumbling had an impact on the whole family and the way they interacted with one another.

In this episode, you’ll also discover how our physical space can have an impact on our emotions. Clutter free really can work, even for a family of 11! You’ll find tips to help you:

  • reduce your tendency to grumble, even when times are hard
  • set a grumble-free tone for your whole family and get your kids on board with less grumbling
  • cultivate a greater sense of peace in your home

Click here to download Chapter One of Tricia’s book The Grumble-Free Year. If you like what you read, you can order your copy of The Grumble-Free Year on Amazon.

If you’re inspired to write a book of your own, check out Tricia’s Write That Book group for tips and coaching to make your dream a reality.


As a bonus for two lucky listeners, we are giving away two copies of Tricia’s book, The Grumble-Free Year! Enter below by commenting and letting us know:

What area causes you to grumble the most? What is one tip you’re going to use to try and combat that?




We would love to stay connected.

To share your thoughts:

Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

Subscribe on iTunes or subscribe to our newsletter now.


Read along with the podcast!

Clutter Free Academy Podcast #384

Can Less Clutter Lead to Less Family Grumbling?

Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small do-able steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. Today we are really not on the ‘less’ part of it. We’re on the ‘super-sized’ part of life. I am here with my friend Tricia Goyer. How many books, Tricia?

Tricia: Seventy five? I think seventy five.

Kathi – People always are like, “I can’t believe how many books you’ve written, Kathi.” And I’m like, “Have you met my friend Tricia?” I am still in pre-school when it comes to that. You’re unusual in that you have succeeded in fiction, non-fiction. You’ve been all over the place. You’re one of the few people who have done it and done it well. I have been especially excited about your latest book, “The Grumble Free Year”. Tricia, welcome to Clutter Free Academy.

Tricia – Thank you so much. I always love chatting with you.

Kathi – We have so much fun. I get to be a part of what you’re doing in Write That Book. Give us two sentences about what Write That Book is. I’ll put that link in there, ‘cause we have lots of people who love to write who listen to this podcast.

Tricia – I get asked all the time by people, to mentor them on how to write a book; how to get started; how to talk to agents and I love helping people, but I cannot help people individually, so I started this subscription group and I have 3-5 experts a week come in for an hour and teach on a subject. How to Write a Book Proposal, How to Prepare for a Conference. It’s $29/month and I just feel like I want to give them a ton of help. They can ask question that we will answer in there. So, it’s great.

Kathi – It is! It’s so much fun to be in there. I love seeing everybody growing and doing. Today, ‘though, I want to talk about The Grumble Free Year. As we are approaching the holidays and we’re in the thick of it, it’s the time that we always talk about being the most grateful, but also I feel like it’s also the time where it’s the easiest to become dissatisfied. This was an experiment, not just for you, it was for your entire family. Can you just give us a snapshot of your family?

Tricia – Yeah! So, I’ve been married to John for twenty nine years. Before I met and married him, I was a teen mom. So, I had my son Cory, and I met and married John and we had two more kids, so that brings it up to three. Then we adopted seven kids, and my grandma, who’s 90, lives with us, too.


Kathi – Holy cow.


Tricia – So, some of the kids are out of the house. We have three out of the house. We have seven kids, and grandma and me and my husband and two dogs and a rabbit and hermit crabs still at our house.

Kathi – It’s so funny. People are like, “Well, the Clutter Free stuff won’t work for me because, Kathi, you don’t understand, I have three kids.” And I’m like, “Okay, first of all, let’s be clear, I had four kids, so I’m not a stranger to a large family.” But eleven people! I know they’re not all in house right now.

Tricia – When we wrote the book, there was eleven people in the house. My son actually has his own apartment, so there are only ten people in the house.

Kathi – Only ten.

Tricia – Only ten. But eleven of us decided to do the challenge without grumbling for a year.

Kathi – Okay, so here’s what I want to know. Tell me, how do you get eleven people to not grumble for a year? You said you’ve made some real changes in your life because of decluttering and stuff, so I want to hear about that, but how do you approach not grumbling for a year?

Tricia – Well, John and I knew that grumbling was a problem. Every time we’d tell someone to do their chores, to clean their room, anything. It was just grumbling, grumbling. With eleven people, that’s a lot of grumbling. So, we knew it would take a while, ‘cause it’s hard issues, it’s habits, it’s stuff we can’t just do in a week. And we knew there would have to be some kind of reward. So we told the kids, “We’ll go on a family trip. We’ll go on a cruise, or something fun, but everyone has to work on it.” So, that got them to buy in that we were going to do this. I started with a list of things to do; scripture verses to read; different activities to do to learn your grumbling styles; talk about heart issues. We read about the Israelites and the wilderness. We did a lot of stuff, but really, God brought surprising stuff, too. My grandma broke her back during that year and just seeing her praise God and not grumble in the middle of having a back brace and can’t get out of bed without help. We’re like, “Okay, this is so much more. This is not just memorizing verses.” God was like, “This is evidence, right here, of someone who was praising God in the middle of a very hard thing.” So, through the year, I recorded every month what we were doing. Some months it was, “Nothing is working.” Then the next month, I’m like, “Wow! I really see changes.” After the year, I can completely see changes in my family; how we talk to each other; how we communicate. Not that we never grumble, but I would say it’s about 80% less than it was before we started.

Kathi – Yes! There will always be grumbling, but there is also catching yourself and saying, “Okay.” And let’s just be clear. It was not just a year of you guys sitting around and singing Kumbaya to each other. I didn’t know about your grandmother. I just started the book, but what I did know, is that the ultimate test was thrown at you towards the end of this. The ultimate Build-a-Bear test. Tricia, tell us what happened with Build-a-Bear. I have to tell you, I was watching on social media, and I basically stopped my day to watch this unfold. Tell my listeners what was going on.

Tricia – Well, I thought it would be a really great idea to take eight kids to get a Build-a-Bear, because it was “Pay Your Age” day.

Kathi – You just didn’t take them on any day. You took them on the craziest day of the year.

Tricia – Yeah. I had no idea that many people would show up. $30 bears, my 6 year old could get it for $6. Everyone was there wanting a bear. So, at first, the line’s long, but I’m like, “This won’t take but a couple hours.” But we kept waiting and waiting and we’d move up kind of quickly, because I think a lot of people were leaving, but after five or six hours, I’m telling the kids, like, “I will go and buy you any bear you want at Wal-Mart. Let’s just leave.” No! They were in it. They wanted the Build-a-Bear. So, finally, nine hours later, we have bought all the mall food, they have eaten junk food all day. They’re filthy from sitting on the floor of the mall. We finally get to the threshold of being let in. They were only letting in fifteen people at a time. People are so excited. I see everyone talking to each other on walkie talkies, like the security guards, and I was like, “Oh no.”

Kathi – It’s like the president is there and all the security is like, “We’ve got an issue.”

Tricia – I could just tell. I was like, “Are we going to be able to get a bear?” The manager comes out and says, “Ma’am, there are still tons of people in line and the mall has to close. We have to close it.” I’m like, “Oh no. Oh no.”  We were the next ones in. He said, “Everyone is going to be able to come in. They can purchase a bear, but we can’t stuff them. You’re going to have to come back another time to get your bear stuffed.” And immediately, my kids are like, “What? Just let us in!” The next people are trying to compromise and the little one is like, “We’re not going to get a bear?!?” And at that moment, it popped in my mind, The Grumble Free Year. Of course! I said, “Guys! This is what we’ve been preparing for. We are tired. Things are not going as we expected. We are not getting our way. Remember not grumbling? How can we have gratitude?” So, I’m like, “We’re the first ones to get flat bears! We’ll show everyone our flat bears!” They pulled it together. They were like, “This is the best day ever!” I was like, “We got junk food. We got to spend the whole day together. We got to do Facebook Live.” Then I told them we’d go get a hamburger at MacDonald’s, ‘cause by this time, we’d already eaten two meals, but they’re starving. “We’re going to get to go to MacDonald’s!” So, by the time they go their bears, we did a video in the car, and they were like, “Best day ever!” They were showing off their bears, and it was like, “Wow. If we hadn’t been talking about it, and preparing all year long, it would have been a total meltdown.”

Kathi – A total meltdown! So, I’m going to extrapolate a couple things from this. First of all, the fact that your kids could be so excited over bear carcasses just makes me so happy I can’t stand it. Two things: One, I’ve always told Roger, I told him before we got married, “Don’t let me get too tired, too hot, or too hungry, and if all three happen at the same time, may God have mercy on your soul.” So, part of it, to keep from grumbling, is to taking good care of yourself, but also, it was your leadership that reframed it for your kids. That is huge. You kept them fed. I’m sure those $6 bears cost you $45 each, by the time you were done.

Tricia – I think I added up that I spent $150 in food that day.

Kathi – I have no problem believing that. Our family is looking to us to say, “How do I react to this?” and you were able to stand up and say, “Let me show you how we’re going to react to this.” You were able to reframe it, which I love. Let me ask you this: Because, you’ve said that, in your home, (and with eleven people, holy cow) decluttering has made a big impact on you and your family; even in connection to not grumbling. I want to hear about that. We have so many moms who are listening and desperate for peace in their home, through the stuff and through the attitude. I want to hear more about that.

Tricia – Absolutely. Well one thing that I realized with grumbling, is that the same negative thoughts keep going over and over. So, you have you have the same trouble spots. Like, “I really need to clean this out.” Or “This is really piling up.” Or “I hate all the schoolbooks.” My schoolbooks are in the hallway, so there are just piles of books, they don’t even fit on the shelf. I was actually talking to you, Kathi, and you were all “You don’t need to keep everything. If you’ve used it, get rid of it now.” I have a lot of author friends, and you said, “You can still love your friend and not keep their book.” And I was, like, “Oh my goodness, she’s so right!”

Kathi – Right? I’m sure you get more books than I do, and I probably get five books a week. I would have to build a wing to my house to store all the books from friends and random people I’ve never met. I think the best gift you can do is to get that book into the hands of somebody that will appreciate it.

Tricia – Yes. That helped me, too. It’s just sitting on my shelf, but someone could be out there. So, I took a ton to my teen moms support group, there are some girls who loved to read. Homeschool books? I had friends, and I’m like, “Do you need a whole year’s curriculum that I’ve used but don’t have that age anymore? Here is, for free, a whole year.” They were like, “Oh my goodness, thank you so much!” But I had thought, “Well, I spent money, and we might need it later.” I don’t know. You keep those things, but it was so freeing. I got rid of eleven boxes of books, just from my bedroom. Just from my bedroom. My husband was loving it, too.

Kathi – That’s the most important room to do it in. Whether you’re single or married, to have a clean space where your brain can go and relax at night. We won’t even talk about the intimacy part. Just a safe space for your brain to go and relax. You have people talking at you all day long. Even if you’re not the matriarch in the house of eleven, we’ve got voices coming at us all the time that we need to be able to manage. To be able to have a safe space in your house is amazing. I love that. Okay, so, I’ve got a mom at home. She’s got three kids and they are just killing her right now, Tricia. They are killing her. The whining? She doesn’t drink, but she may take it up as a hobby. So, what do you say? I would say, get all the mayhem out of your life. Get the clutter out of your life. I really do believe that. I know, the science says it raises your stress level. What, as a family, would you encourage that mom to do, right away?

Tricia – One thing that really made a huge difference, first of all, memorizing scripture verses. “Do everything without grumbling and complaining.” That really helps, but instead of just picking on them about grumbling, because that doesn’t work, start praising them when they make a good choice. So, if I say, “Go do this.” And they don’t grumble. Even if they don’t say anything, say, “Great job for not grumbling. I really appreciate your maturity.” All of a sudden, they were, like, “Wow!”

Kathi – “I’m mature!” Is there anything better that you can call one of your kids, than ‘mature’? They love it.

Tricia – I know. They love it. So, I would always get on my kids, because their chores were never like I wanted them to do. First of all, who wants to do chores, then your mom is going to just grumble at you the whole time, saying you’re not doing a good job? So, I’m like, “I really need to start praising them!” So, one of my daughters, the one that grumbled the most about doing her chores, was wiping up the counter. I was like, “You are doing a great job on that counter.” The rest of the kitchen is a total mess still, but I was like, “It is amazing how clean you’re getting the counter.” Then, all of a sudden, she was cleaning the other part of the counter and wiping down the stove. I kept saying, “I am so proud of you. You are really showing that you are maturing and you’re doing a good job cleaning.” She probably spent an hour cleaning the kitchen, and it just started with me praising her on the counter, instead of grumbling, saying “You left stuff over here. You didn’t do this.” Because they don’t want to hear my grumbles. Now, that child is the best at her kitchen chore. The kids rotate. I think, so many times, we’re grumbling at their grumbling and no one is happy. If we start catching and praising them, it makes a huge difference. Kids want that. We want that. We love when people say, “Great job!”

Kathi – What you’re describing now is the training program we’re going through with our puppy. You basically ignore all the bad behaving, because they’re puppies! They’re kids! Their brains are mush for the most part. But when you catch them doing something good? They really do have a desire, most kids and all puppies, to please the person they’re looking up to. For me, what I noticed when my kids got older, I would say things like, “You know what? When you live on your own, you are going to be so capable of taking care of yourself, because look at this kitchen. This is something that a lot of adults can’t do. I’m seeing into your future and it’s going to be great, because you’re learning skills now.” The pride that they have. I’ve seen you do this on Facebook Lives. I’ve seen you do this with your words to your kids. I love it, Tricia. This has been amazing. So, where did your family go on their trip?

Tricia – We went to Mexico on a little five day cruise. They had a blast. We did some water stuff, going through caves and this water thing. It was so fun. Really, we were crammed in. There were five people to our room. We had no space. We got the cheapest cruise ever, but it was so worth it. Everyone worked really hard that year and we saw a difference and I think we need to be rewarded when we’re doing things and really making a difference in our lives.

Kathi – Stretching to grow into great human beings? It’s worth going on a cheap Mexican cruise. Here’s the other thing, friends. You could just have that family trip planned and just say, “Here’s what we’re working for.” I love that. I’ll say this as well; I’ve mentioned this here on the podcast. When we had our best grumble free vacation is when we had the kids contribute to the vacation. We said, “Hey! You’ve invested a lot in this. Let’s all make it great together.” So, I see your kids are investing in each other and investing in what you’re doing. Tricia, it’s just so great. You guys, we have so much. First of all, we have a free download of the first chapter of The Grumble Free Year, so if you want to get started off in the right direction while you’re waiting for the book to come to your house (and of course, we’ll have a link so you can purchase the book) but if you want to start reading it right away, go get that first chapter. Then, we also are giving away a couple of copies of The Grumble Free Year. This is what I’d love for you guys to do on the podcast notes. I’d love for you to go in there and just tell me what area causes you to grumble the most. I would love to hear that. Bonus points if you can give us one little tip about how you’re going to combat that. Tricia, thank you so much or writing this book and thank you for sharing it here on Clutter Free Academy.

Tricia – Thank you, Kathi. Thank you for inspiring me. My husband thanks you, too, for me cleaning out the house.

Kathi – If I could have any small impact, if the Clutter Free community could have any small impact on a mom with eleven humans in her house? My work here is done. I feel that’s amazing. Tricia, thank you so much. Friends, thank you for being here. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live.


*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items

Meet Our Guest

Tricia Goyer

Tricia Goyer

Tricia Goyer is a busy mom of ten, doting grandma, and wife to John. A USA Today bestselling author, Tricia has published seventy books and is a two-time Carol Award winner, as well as a Christy and ECPA Award Finalist. She won the Retailer Best Award in 2015 and has received starred reviews from Romantic Times and Publishers Weekly. She is also on the blogging team at TheBetterMom.com and other homeschooling and Christian sites. Tricia is the founder of Hope Pregnancy Ministries and currently leads a teen MOPS Group in Little Rock, Arkansas.

#383: Hot Mess to Totally Blessed with Comedian Kerri Pomarolli

#383: Hot Mess to Totally Blessed with Comedian Kerri Pomarolli

If you are overwhelmed trying to make life Pinterest-perfect, you are in good company! This week, Kathi chats with comedian and self-proclaimed Hot Mess for Jesus, Kerri Pomarolli. Kathi and Kerri discuss what it means to find grace right where you are today, in the midst of a messy, busy life.

In this episode, you’ll laugh along with Kathi and Kerri as you learn:

  • What it means to be a Proverbs 32 woman, AKA a Hot Mess for Jesus.
  • How to figure out what level of decluttering works for you
  • Who are the people you need to have around you in your life

For Kathi’s family stuffing recipe, click here.

To hear Sebastian Maniscalco’s bit about company coming over, click here (warning: some language is inappropriate for children).

Order your copy of Kerri’s book, Confessions of a Proverbs 32 Woman: How I Went From Messed Up to Blessed Up Without Changing a Single Thing from Amazon today.



As a special treat, Harvest House has generously offered our readers the chance to win five copies of Kerri’s new book, Confessions of a Proverbs 32 Woman: How I Went from Messed Up to Blessed Up Without Changing a Single Thing.

One grand-prize winner will also win:
Kerri’s devotional book, She Rises Late and Her Kids Make Her Breakfast
Assorted Tea
Nutella 2pack
Snack Box

Click here to enter today!


We would love to stay connected.

To share your thoughts:

Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

Subscribe on iTunes or subscribe to our newsletter now.

Meet Our Guest

Kerri Pomarolli

Kerri Pomarolli

Comedian Kerri Pomarolli discovered her call to stand-up after trading in her pursuit of a star on the Walk of Fame for faith. From movies and television to stand-up comedy, she tours extensively and is one of the most sought-after comedians in both Christian and secular venues. An accomplished writer and author, she is known as “Hollywood’s Favorite God Girl.” She lives with her daughters in Los Angeles.

You can learn more at Proverbs32woman.com

How Our Cluttered Thinking Prevents Us from Getting Rid of Physical Clutter

How Our Cluttered Thinking Prevents Us from Getting Rid of Physical Clutter

For years, I had a “put together” living room. It was the room I kept immaculate no matter what, in case someone popped over. Because my hand-me-down couch was 70’s-era brown and orange floral, I spent several minutes each day tucking in and straightening a velour couch cover. I had the matching pillows, a beautiful entertainment center, and the shiny wood piano my husband played. There wasn’t a stray book, paper, or dish to be found.

But the other rooms were a different story. My desk looked like an avalanche of papers and books. My kitchen drawers were crammed with various cooking tools, some of which I hadn’t used since I bought them. My closet was a mishmash of wardrobes consisting of several sizes. Homeschool books and other materials covered every flat surface.

I spent too much time looking for things and trying to organize way too much stuff. I was the master of the dash and stash. Everyone thought I was a well-organized and capable housekeeper, but my messy Marvin tendencies were a problem.

Here’s the irony — because I wasted so much time trying to look like I had it all together, I never actually had it all together. My thinking was as cluttered as the hidden parts of my home.

As long as my thinking was cluttered, my home would be too.

I’ve learned that there are three ways our cluttered thinking prevents us from getting clutter out of our homes:

Comparing Ourselves to Others

Our journey isn’t going to look like another person’s. We all have different reasons we’re overwhelmed with clutter, so our solutions can’t all be exactly the same.

We’ve all seen photos of perfectly decorated rooms on Facebook or Pinterest without a single speck of dust, let alone clutter. But what we can’t see outside the angle of the camera lens is the piles of stuff the photographer doesn’t want you to see.

Rather than giving up and deciding that you’ll just hide it, consider your reasons for wanting to declutter.

Often our motives for doing something indicate whether we’ll be successful. Our big wins come with the right motivations.

Do you want to impress others and look good? Or do you want to declutter so that you can be free to do what you’re created to do?

All or Nothing Mentality

Sometimes we look at our twenty years’ worth of clutter and decide that it isn’t going away anytime soon, so we might as well not even try.

At first, 15 minutes a day doesn’t seem like it would be effective, but after several days in a row, I saw victory in one section of my house. Then I wanted to take back another section, so I kept going.

After awhile, I noticed that I spent less time looking for missing books and cooking utensils. I also spent less time “tidying up” when we expected company. The realization that I will never be “done” decluttering gives me the peace and sanity I need to continue with a faithful decluttering routine that frees me up to do better things.

Rather than feeling lousy about how much decluttering we have left to do, we become more productive when we achieve small gains that add up to big victories over time.

One and Done (Wishful) Thinking

If we look at decluttering projects as a big monster project to tackle, we’ll become discouraged when we realize that the same space just gets cluttery all over again. That’s because we haven’t resolved the real issue: decluttering is like brushing your teeth—it’s much more effective if you stay on top of it and do it regularly, rather than expecting your twice-per-year dental visits to maintain dental health.

Kerri Pomarolli, comedienne and author, writes, “Aren’t most of us constantly feeling as though we are in a race but we have no idea where the finish line is?”

That’s how I’ve come to think about clutter. No finish line. But we can have success with an established regular routine.

Enter the Drawing!

Harvest House has generously offered our readers the chance to win five copies of Kerri’s new book, Confessions of a Proverbs 32 Woman: How I Went from Messed Up to Blessed Up Without Changing a Single Thing.

One grand-prize winner will also win:

Kerri’s devotional book, She Rises Late and Her Kids Make Her Breakfast

Assorted Tea

Nutella 2pack

Snack Box


To enter, leave us a comment.

What is one way you plan to change your thinking to unblock your clutter-free efforts?

#382: How to Hold Onto Hope – For My Friends Who Are Suffering

#382: How to Hold Onto Hope – For My Friends Who Are Suffering

When you hear the word “relentless,” does it have a positive or negative connotation for you? Some of us hear it and think of persevering, continuing no matter what is in our way. Others of us think of wave after wave of challenges in our lives.

In this week’s episode, Kathi sits down with Michele Cushatt, one of her besties and author of Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves, to discuss how to hold onto hope when life feels relentless in its difficulties.

Kathi and Michele give real-life examples of ways life can feel relentless and how we try to cope with that chaos. In this episode, you’ll also hear:

  • Two unhelpful extremes that we try to “fix” chaos in our lives and two helpful ways to cope.
  • How we can find an anchor outside ourselves and our circumstances to keep us from being tossed about.
  • How relentless challenges and God’s relentless presence can coexist.

If you want to go deeper in learning about how to hold on to hope, check out Michele Cushatt’s book Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves, available on Amazon.


As a special treat we are giving away a copy of Michele’s book, Relentless, to two lucky listeners. If you’d like to enter to win a copy, comment below and let us know:

What situation are you going through where you need to be reminded of God’s unshakeable presence?


We would love to stay connected.

To share your thoughts:

Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

Subscribe on iTunes or subscribe to our newsletter now.

Transcript of Clutter Free Academy Podcast #382

Read along with the podcast!

Clutter Free Academy Podcast #382

Holding On to Hope

<<intro music>>

Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our heart is to help you become clutter free in every area of your life. Today I have one of my best friends, and the author of the new book, Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves. Michele, welcome back to Clutter Free Academy.

Michele – Thank you! I love that I get to be with your Clutter Free peeps! I also love, and I’m going to sound like a junior high girl, that I’m one of your best friends.

Kathi – You are! I’m sorry if I’ve never said that.

Michele – I know! A girl likes to hear that.

Kathi – You know what? it is nice to be confirmed. You’re like, “I like them. Do they like me?” 

Michele – Maybe it’s because I have a twelve and thirteen year old girl right now, so I get to hear stories like, “She’s my best friend. Well, she’s not my best friend anymore. She used to be my best friend, but she’s not now.” 

Kathi – There’s not a million dollars you could give me to go back to that nonsense.

Michele – Oh my Gosh! This is my everyday reality, and I’m like, “Oh, for the love!” So, when you said best friend, I’m like, “Hah! I can go to my girls tonight and say, ‘I have a best friend!’”

Kathi – I love it. It makes me super-happy. I know! We’ll get BFF bracelets. 

Michele – Maybe a necklace, you know? ‘Cause that’s not cheesy at all. 

Kathi – No. Not cheesy at all.

Michele – You have half of it and I have the other half.

Kathi – There we go. There will be interlocking hearts. There we go.

Michele – Maybe we can put our photo on the back, just to take it up a notch.

Kathi – There we go. And we’ll sign each other’s yearbooks first. I’ll give you a whole page.

Michele – A whole page? I’ll use permanent ink.

Kathi – Permanent puffy ink. Okay, so I want to talk to you about your title, Relentless. I think, for a lot of people, Relentless has a great connotation. If you’re a runner, you’re that kind of person, Relentless. You’re persistent. Constant. Continual. Those are some great words. Can I tell you what Relentless means to me?  It’s like the relentless tide of stuff coming into my house. The relentless whine of my children. The relentless pounding of noise in my life. So, I think it’s really interesting. This is one of those words, depending on who’s saying it and what their intention is, can be such a compliment or a curse.

Michele – Exactly, and that was intentional. It was intentional to be a play on words. The whole heart behind it is, many times, it feels like our circumstances are relentless. It’s just one thing after another. You wake up optimistic, and before nine AM rolls around, fifty things have gone wrong, and you’re like, “Oh my Gosh!” It’s like the buzzing mosquito in your ear that’s relentless. You can just never seem to get ahead of the vehicle.

Kathi – You and I were taking of-air, ‘cause we haven’t talked in a while, which is crazy for best friends.

Michele – Good thing I have the necklace.

Kathi – That’s right. And the puffy paint! The thing is, I was telling you, I’ve had a really good year, but there has been one thing after another. Nothing has been catastrophic, but it gets to a point, and it’s too much. 

Michele – It’s too much.

Kathi – Just recently, I’ve really come to this place of understanding. Overwhelm is a couple of things. It’s loneliness. It’s feeling like you’re alone in this situation. Clutter, often times, we don’t feel like we can rely on other people, so it’s all up to us. It’s that feeling of loneliness. This relentlessness of it comes every day. There’s no place to take a breath. So, when you talk about a relentless God, I know what you mean by that, but I want to talk more about when you feel like life is relentless. How do you get through the day? I happen to know for a fact that clutter is not your thing. It’s not your issue. But God’s given you enough other issues.

Michele – I was going to say: I have plenty of other issues. Clutter just happens to not be one of them. 

Kathi – Which is okay, ‘cause we can still like her, friends, because she has a lot of compassion and mercy for those of us who struggle. 

Michele – I have kids that are hoarders, so I do have that aspect of constantly fighting it in my kids’ bedrooms. 

Kathi – You guys think she’s being cute when she says that her kids are hoarders.

Michele – No, they really are.

Kathi – They’re little magpies. They like little versions of me. There’s something shiny and they have to own it, even if it’s a gum wrapper.

Michele – A gum wrapper, restaurant menus, napkins with a picture on it. That comes from their history of early childhood trauma and abuse. When I say they’re hoarders, they really are. We have to go in and clean things out, because it’s bad.

Kathi – I feel like when life is relentless, humans tend to go to one of two extremes. They either give up, because they just feel like the chaos is so out of control, why even bother? Or, they go to the other extreme, where they try to control everything and get frustrated when life doesn’t go according to plan. So, which one are you?

Michele – Oh, hands down, the control. I would love to say that I’m one that concedes, gives up and lets the chaos take over my life, but I try to convince myself that if I just exert a little bit more control, everything will come under my dominion.

Kathi – How’s that working for you?

Michele – It’s not working so well. I’m pretty exhausted.

Kathi – So, I’m more of the “Hey, I’m just going to let go and let God.” I’ll say ridiculous things like that.

Michele – Is that how it’s done?

Kathi – I’ll say ridiculousness like that. But even in my abdication, I still want to have control. I still want to know that things are going to go according to plan. So, when we’re in that space, where life is just coming at us, and I’m not just talking about clutter, I’m talking about all the things. Those family dynamics. You talk a lot about that in Relentless, where you don’t get to have a lot of control over how the other people in your home, in your life, behave. So, what do you do in those situations, Michele?

Michele – Are you asking me on a good day, or a bad day?

Kathi – I want to hear both. Let’s talk about the bad day first. 

Michele – Yeah, the bad day, because it’s so spiritual and mature. On the bad day, when this happens, I just lose it. When I’m just trying so hard to keep all the balls spinning, and keep everything in order, and then the people in my life, it feels like, they’re working to oppose it. They’re doing the exact opposite. For example, I follow behind my son, and have him pick up his stuff, and all he does is pick it up and drop it at another place in the house, right? You do this a hundred times before you eventually lose your cool and yell, “Oh my Gosh! Just put it away!” So, that’s on the bad days. I just keep upping my game, right? I just get louder, and more controlling, and more obnoxious and more of a bull in a china shop, trying to exert that control. On the good days, I realize that I have to find an anchor within the chaos. In terms of a boat on a lake in a storm. It’s going to be rocked everywhere. You can try with all your might to row your way through it, but you really have no control over the waves. The key to a boat in the storm is, you have to have an anchor. You have to have a dock to tie yourself to. It has to be external to yourself. 

Kathi – Okay, so talk about that. It has to be external to yourself. So, it’s not just grit your teeth and bear it.

Michele – That doesn’t work. It works for a time, I should say. I’m a very determined, persistent, persevering person, so gritting your teeth does work for a time, but sooner or later, and this is what I talk about in Relentless, your circumstance, your reality, is going to be beyond your ability to bootstrap through.

Kathi – When you’re dealing with pain, which you’ve dealt with a lot of physical pain over the past several years, when you’re dealing with relational pain, the gritting your teeth and bearing it, just trying to ride it out. You can do that for a time. It doesn’t matter what the pain is. The pain of a house in chaos. The pain of a relationship. You can do it for a certain amount of time and then you’re going to have to find something outside of yourself. So, if we’re the people who are used to bootstrapping it, what is our first step? Whether it’s clutter, ‘cause I know so many of you, as we’ve always talked about, is a physical manifestation for what’s going on inside of your heart. Some people work on the heart first. Some people work on the clutter first. There’s no right way. Both of them need to happen. But for that person who’s like, “I’m just overwhelmed and I just can’t do it anymore.” What is that first step in finding that outside anchor?

Michele – The first step is to simply acknowledge the emotion. What is going on? Too many times we act very reactively to what’s happening, but we never really stop to check in ourselves and say, “What is it, exactly, that I’m feeling right now?” Whether I’m buying a bunch of stuff, or controlling my environment, both of those are ways to numb the emotion that’s happening. So, what we need to do is check in with ourselves and say, “Why did I just go buy fifty Rubbermaid tubs? What’s the reason for that?” Or, for me, “Why did you just spend hours cleaning and picking up, and doing these obsessive compulsive kinds of activities?” I’m trying to distract myself from something. I’m trying to numb, so that first step is simply to stop and check in with yourself and say, “What’s the dominant emotion here? What am I feeling that’s causing me to do this desperate kind of behavior?”

Kathi – I love it. So, I love the acknowledging part. I think, for so many of us, we feel like, “This is just my reality. I can’t change it.” What I love in your book, is you talk about believing that God is present, even when there’s pain. I don’t want to minimalize the pain that so many of our listeners are going through. The pain of feeling out of control and disorganized. But you went through such tremendous physical pain, how did you anchor yourself to believe that God was there?

Michele – Well, it’s been a long journey. That’s part of the book. I really doubted it. I really doubted God’s nearness. When you feel pain, when you’re living in chaos, whether it’s clutter of physical suffering, whatever it may be, we equate the reality of our pain and chaos with the absence of God. “Since I’m experiencing pain and difficulties and trials, God must have abandoned me.” Or worse, “He’s not real at all.” They can’t co-exist. That’s a pretty natural human response to any kind of challenge or difficulty. So, you have to acknowledge it, but then you have to remind yourself of truth. This again, truth has to be external to our emotions. When everything’s chaos, it’s pretty loud. Chaos is a very loud thing, whether it’s physical chaos, or emotional chaos, or spiritual chaos, it screams pretty loud. So, somehow we have to come up with truth that can pierce that noise. So, for me, eventually, I had to sit down, and write some clarity of what God says is true about His presence. So, I could butt that truth up against the lies I was believing, that God must have abandoned me. So, it’s as simple, for me, as writing some of those verses down on a notecard, and carrying them around with me. Some of those notecards, I’ve been carrying for about seven years. 

Kathi – Wow. Guys, first of all, I want you to get this book. I really do. I don’t normally say that just so directly. Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves. I’m going to have it in the notes. There’s probably a friend, too, that needs to go through this with you, with a gentle guide. We’re going to be giving a couple of copies away. I would love for my listeners to get vulnerable and put in the comments, just what is the situation you’re going through. You can just say, “It’s personal.” That’s fine. Maybe it’s the overwhelm of stuff in your house. Maybe it’s overwhelming circumstances.  Maybe it’s overwhelming relationships. If you are looking for a way to be reminded that there is a God who doesn’t leave; who doesn’t abandon, even when you feel alone. I’m going to really encourage you to pick up Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves. Michele, thanks so much for being on Clutter Free Academy.

Michele – Thank you, my friend. I love your peeps, so thanks for having me here.

Kathi – My peeps are pretty awesome. They really are. And friends, you awesome people, thanks for listening. You’ve been here at Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live.


*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items


Meet Our Guest

Michele Cushatt

Michele Cushatt

As an experienced communicator, Michele Cushatt speaks internationally to a wide variety of audiences including Women of Faith, Life Today TV, Compassion International, Ziglar Family, Family Life Blended, and Focus on the Family.

A three-time head and neck cancer survivor and parent of “children from hard places,” Michele is a (reluctant) expert of trauma, pain and the deep human need for authentic connection. She and her husband, Troy, share a blended family of six children, including biological children, stepchildren, and foster-adopt children. They live in Denver, Colorado.

Learn more at michelecushatt.com/

#381: Clutter Free Basics: 3 Totes and 2 Bags

#381: Clutter Free Basics: 3 Totes and 2 Bags

This week, Kathi finishes her three-part series of Clutter Free Basics with Tonya Kubo, fearless leader of Clutter Free Academy Facebook Group. Kathi and Tonya discuss the three totes and two bags system. When combined with space boxing and time boxing, this system leads to a sustainable clutter free home.

In this episode, you’ll learn how:

  • each technique discussed in Clutter Free Basics harmonizes to help you get and stay clutter free.
  • the three totes and two bags system makes decluttering easy and fun for the whole family.
  • you have what you need at your home to get moving towards a clutter free home today.

If you’re ready to use what you’re learning in this Clutter Free Basics podcast series, be sure to head over to the Clutter Free Academy Facebook Group. There, you’ll find more tips and a community of friends to encourage you on your journey. Join us today!

We would love to stay connected.

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Transcript for Clutter Free Academy Podcast Episode #381

Read along with the podcast!

Clutter Free Academy Podcast #381

Clutter Free Basics: Three Totes & Two Bags

<<intro music>>

Kathi – Well, hey, friends. Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, do-able steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. We are back with part three of our series of Clutter Free Basics. If you’re just joining Clutter Free, or you need a refresher, these are the basics that you need to know in order to have a clutter free home; to sustain your clutter free life. With me today, back explaining all the good things, is Tonya Kubo. Hey, Tonya!

Tonya – Hey Kathi.

Kathi – Well, you are in there, day to day, with our Clutter Free Academy people over on Facebook. If you’re not part of that, we’re going to put a link in the show notes so you can do that. We’ve talked about Time Boxing and Space Boxing. So, Tonya, can you just give us a little recap. What is Space Boxing?

Tonya: So, Space Boxing is when you choose one very small space, (like a drawer or a cabinet) that you are going to focus on during your decluttering session.

Kathi – It’s basically the opposite of the Magical Art of Tidying up. I’m so sorry, if that works for people, God bless you. Go for it. That’s basically gut your room, put it all in the middle of the room, sort it out, and put it back. I’m just like, “No. No. Oh, my goodness, no.” Anyway, it works for a lot of people. If you’re actually a clutter-y person? I don’t actually watch the show, because I don’t want to feel like I’m stealing from her, but from what I heard, she’s actually going in to people’s homes who are already pretty tidy, and she’s bringing them up to the level of obsessive compulsive. People love that. People want to live in a house where everything in perfect and tidy. For us, with a clutter-y brain? That would be the most overwhelming thing in the entire world.

Tonya – Well, let’s be honest. Those of us with clutter-y brains, we’re not letting TV cameras in our houses.

Kathi – This is true. We will not do that. Here’s the other thing I know. I have read the accounts of people who have had other people come in and declutter. Unless you declutter yourself, the only that’s going to happen? You’re going to fill up that space again. If seen it happen over and over and over again. You cannot have someone else declutter for you, ‘cause you have to be the one making the hard decisions. So, you described Space Boxing, can you recap Time Boxing for us?

Tonya – Space Boxing focuses your energy on one specific location. Time Boxing focuses your energy on a very short period of time. In Clutter Free Academy, we’re always advocating for 15 minutes, because if you spend 15 minutes on your decluttering, you can give yourself an extra five minutes to put things back where they belong.

Kathi – Yes! Or get them out of your house. That’s the other thing. 100%.  So today, what we’re talking about, is The Three Bag System. It really should be called The Five Bag System. In Clutter Free I originally called it The Three Box, Two Bag System. Let’s just be clear: Three Totes and then garbage and recycling bags. For my garbage bag, I use a white garbage bag and for recycling, I use a brown grocery bag. What do you use, Tonya?

Tonya – I use a garbage bag, because I am a terrible human.

Kathi – Ah! See? I live in San Jose, California, which was the first town to recycle. By the way, throwing garbage away here is crazy expensive. So, when we go to the dump in Placerville, which is where our Red House is, we can load up our car; we can look like the Clampetts from Beverly Hillbillies, (that shows you how old my thinking is) and it’s eight dollars for the entire carload. If you have more than a few bags when you go to the San Jose Dump, it’s $40. It is five times as expensive. It blows my mind. It almost makes me want to take my garbage from San Jose to Placerville. Recycling is just part of who I am, because it’s been happening since I was 18 years old. So, now let’s talk about the three totes. I love to color coordinate, but I think there’s a purpose behind this as well. If you have kids, it’ll help you with sorting through the stuff if they’re helping to declutter. I have an orange bag: that’s for other rooms. I have a purple bag: that’s for put-back. I have a green bag: that’s for give-away. I now line that green bag. This is what I suggest, especially for moms with littles. I line mine with a white bag, so I can just cinch it up and take it straight to Goodwill, or wherever I’m going to donate it. For you, Tonya, I think you need to line your green give-away tote with a black garbage bag. Do you know why I think that?

Tonya – Because kids think everything is a treasure.

Kathi – Yes. Exactly. So they’ll go through it. You just need to grab that, put a knot in it and take it to your car when you’re done. What I want you to do with your Space Boxing, I want you to plant your feet with those five bags around you and I want your feet to not move this whole experience. You go into that drawer or that shelf or that cupboard and everything that doesn’t belong in there goes into one of those five bags. If it’s put-back, it means it goes into that room, but it’s just in the wrong place in that room. Other rooms, that’s pretty self-explanatory. Give-away, anything that has to be given away. Garbage and recycling. So, if you have old ointments, things like that, then that needs to be put in the garbage. If you’re decluttering a medicine cabinet, just have a special bag for medicines that need to be dropped off, to be donated, whatever you need to do with those. At the end of your fifteen minutes, say you’ve put a few things in other rooms. You’ve put a few things in the put-back bag. You’ve got things in the garbage and recycling. Garbage goes straight into the garbage can. Recycling goes wherever you do recycling. I know some communities still don’t do recycling. Green give-away: You take that inner bag and you take it directly to your car to put in the trunk where no kids will see it. Other rooms, you just take those things to the other room. You don’t even have to put them away. You just have to put them into the room that they belong in. Put-Back, you put back in that room that you’re doing. That is The Five Bag System. Now, do your kids help with The Five Bag System, or are you on your own?

Tonya – No, my girls love to help. Abby’s five now, and I realize that five is that peak “I want to help my mom” stuff. It’s great. Sorting is a lot of fun for little kids.

Kathi – Yes. I love that. I love having those as tote bags. The reason is: when you’re done, you can fold them all up and put them away, which is a beautiful, beautiful thing. I used to have boxes, and that’s what I said in Clutter Free, but then you have to have a place for the boxes to go.

Tonya – Right, and when I started with Clutter Free, I had boxes. I remember, there was a part in the book where you said, “Don’t go and buy anything special.” Because I was so in that phase of life, right? Where I was like, “Oh, if I buy the perfect thing, then my house will be clutter free.” So, initially we used three boxes that we got from Amazon, or whatever, until those got torn up. Then I went to laundry baskets. The problem is, you have to make sure the laundry baskets don’t have laundry in them.

Kathi – Right? When does that happen?

Tonya – So, totes are so much better.

Kathi – Yeah. Then I just put them in a closet and I’m done until the next time I go to declutter. It makes me feel so great to fold those up and put them away. As you do your daily decluttering, say you’re Monday in the kitchen, I want you to get your timer. It’s so funny. Whenever I talk about this, I turn a dial to represent ‘timer’ and my daughter is like, “Mom. You’re a thousand years old. Everybody just has a timer on their phone.” I’m like, “You’re absolutely right.”

Tonya – Can I tell you something funny about that, though? So, in Clutter Free Academy, ages ago, talking about setting a timer, talk about Time Boxing. We had one member that would ask all these questions and we were like, “Well, you just set your timer.” And finally, after a couple of months, she was like, “I know that you’re just going to tell me to set a timer, but I don’t own a timer and it seems to go against the principles for me to just go out and buy a timer to do this.” And I said, “Well, do you not have a microwave or a phone?” ‘Cause some people don’t have microwaves and some people don’t have smart phones. She was just, “Oh my gosh! It never occurred to me that there was a timer on my phone.” We get so tunnel focused. So, I just had to share that. I’m not making fun at her expense, but with her, she was so focused on a turn-dial timer. That’s what it meant to her. It didn’t occur to her that a microwave, or any device that keeps time, would work.

Kathi – Okay, so this is a perfect example. Roger showed me a .gif yesterday from one of his friends. It was a cat in a cat carrier, but the cat carrier had no lid, but the gate was closed on it. It had no lid. The gate was closed. It said, “When you’re so focused on the problem, you can’t see the solution.” Yes! That’s how clutter-y people, and I count myself among them, think. If I don’t have the perfect timer, then I can’t do any of this stuff. Or, if I don’t have Kathi’s book, Clutter Free, I can’t do any of this stuff. Really? ‘Cause I think we just laid it all out for you.

Tonya – If I don’t have an orange bag, I can’t put things in another room.

Kathi – Right! Exactly! Think about it this way: If you really want to use the color coding system, find an orange piece of paper and staple it to it. Make it work for you. You do not need to go out. 90% of cases, you have what you need at home. There are a couple of tools that I think are really important to have the right thing. One of them for me is a labeler. A labeler is a good thing. I think it’s a great tool. It’s helped me tremendously. For the most part? This stuff doesn’t need to be specific. Right now, we are trying to gear up the house again for the next round of AirBnB. My old, clutter-y way of thinking would be, “Hey! Let’s go buy all the right sized totes and things for this.” You know what? I have enough totes. It might not be the perfect size for the perfect thing, but I’m not taking pictures of my totes to show to people. I don’t need to do that. I just need a safe place to store the things. That’s what I’m going to do. So, Tonya, would you mind recapping our three principles. The Space Boxing, the Time Boxing, and the Three Totes, Two Bags?

Tonya – Yep. So, Space Boxing is very simple. Plant your feet in a designated location and don’t move while you’re Time Boxing, which is a set amount of time. Fifteen minutes, I think is perfect. Then you can just set your timer for another five minutes to put things away using your Three Bag System. So, it makes real-life so much easier if you’re just standing in that one spot and you’re saying, “Okay, so this goes in another room.” Throw it in that bag. “Oh, this is going to need to be put away behind me.” Put it in that bag. “Oh this is going to do this other thing.” Put it in that bag. Then, just put it all away.

Kathi – Okay! So, let me tell you a couple of things, why this works. I want to explain why it works. The Space Boxing is so you don’t get distracted. The Time Boxing is to help you make decisions. We can make decisions for fifteen minutes without getting worn out. After about fifteen minutes, at the most, an hour, you are not going to make good decisions any more. This is really all about decisions. Then, the Three Totes, Two Bags? What we’re doing is we’re limiting. You only have five ways to make decisions. You either give it away, put it back in that room, put it in other rooms, garbage or recycling. You only have five decisions. If you don’t have those bags and totes right there, then your decisions are times infinity. What we want to do is limit the number of decisions you have to make, so that you can make great decisions. Tonya, this has been a great series. I know we’re going to add to it in the future; other clutter free basics, but I think this is the best place to start.

Tonya – I agree.  You combine this, so that, incrementally, you end up with a clutter free home.

Kathi – It’s true. You know, nobody is going to become 100% clutter free, because we still have the humans living there. Whether that human is you, or other people, clutter is a part of life. I want you to be able to manage the clutter of life and not overwhelmed by it. Tonya, thanks so much for being here today.

Tonya – Thank you for having me.

Kathi – Friends, thank you for being here. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live.


*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items

Meet Our Guest

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo is the illustrious, fearless leader of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Academy Facebook group. A speaker and writer, Tonya makes her home in the heart of California with her husband, Brian, their two spirited daughters and one very tolerant cat. Visit her at www.tonyakubo.com or  www.GreatMoms.org

Planning the Clutter Free Christmas of your Dreams!

Planning the Clutter Free Christmas of your Dreams!

When Christmas bells start jingling are you standing in the aisle of Hobby Lobby wearing your favorite snowman sweater?

Or are you at your local grocery store making a quick trip to stock up on milk, bread and bottled water so you can hide out until December 26th?

Whether you’re Buddy the Elf or feel a deeper kinship with the Grinch… Christmas is coming. And I want to encourage you! Despite what you might think you CAN have the Christmas of your dreams. It’s not Christmas itself that has you in a tizzy; it’s the expectations surrounding Christmas.

Watch this video as I explain more about how you can have the Clutter Free Christmas of your dreams.



Join us on Facebook as we go page-by-page through The Christmas Project Planner November 4th-November 27th.

If you don’t have the book already, order can order it here.

Just imagine sitting down to Thanksgiving Dinner with Christmas already in the bag!

The Secret Sauce to a Sane and Merry Christmas

The Secret Sauce to a Sane and Merry Christmas

Can I talk to you for a second?” My husband peeked into my sewing room. Fifteen projects in various stages of production covered every flat surface.

I looked up from the ironing board for a second. “Hey! Yeah, sure.”

A pause. “On the couch?”

“No, no…we have to talk in here. I have to keep working or I won’t get this done in time. It’s only fifteen days until Christmas.”

He looked at me like I’d sprouted elf ears. Clearly, he didn’t understand what a magical Christmas genie I was. All I needed was time to focus.

“Please. Just for a few minutes.”

I sighed. Maybe I could do with a break.

In the living room, my husband spent the better part of twenty minutes trying to talk me out of my crazy idea.

I sat listening, glancing at the sewing room door every three seconds. Nodded and smiled. Bounced my knee.

Meanwhile, time was wasting.

He cleared his throat, a sure sign that I needed to focus back on what he was saying. “I just don’t want you to spend three days in bed after Christmas is over.”

I popped up from the couch. “Don’t worry, I won’t. Back to work.” I gave him a quick peck on the cheek and scurried back into the sewing room. I thought I heard him mumble something about “manic,” but I didn’t have time to ask him to repeat himself.

I could get this done. Would get this done. And it would be an epic Christmas.

I wish I could say I took my husband’s wise advice that December 10. But I didn’t.

After raising a family, I felt like I’d pulled off enough Christmases to know what I was doing. I didn’t need help! Certainly not in the form of my husband’s counsel. Besides, isn’t everyone crazy-busy around Christmas?

True to form, I exhausted myself so much that I was sick in bed from December 26 until January 2. All for one day of celebration.

Skip forward to last year, when I discovered Kathi’s Christmas Project Planner. Not only was I able to have a joyful Christmas without driving my husband crazy, but I could record notes and thoughts about my Christmas plan for this year. (I already know I don’t need to buy wrapping paper and that I’m going to feature the blue and silver decorations I bought on clearance last December 27. It was fun to go shopping instead of recovering in bed!)

Each day, I tackled that day’s project without worrying about missing something or over stressing the details. My December went from frantic to peaceful and pleasant.

One of the most impactful pieces of advice Kathi gives is to find out what Christmas traditions and foods are most important to those you’ll be celebrating with. I was able to plan for the things my family thinks are important (homemade pumpkin pie with real whipped cream) and leave out what isn’t. Who knew that once they became adults, Christmas eve pajamas wouldn’t be cool anymore?

Through the process, I learned that the Christmas season is more than one day. Life can be joyful throughout the month of December with a little planning and setting of expectations.

The other positive change was scheduling everything I needed or wanted to do. That way I could have a realistic view of when things would get done and how much I could reasonably do. (My husband was very grateful that I didn’t take on a massive December sewing project last year.) We saved a ton of money on shipping alone. Instead of last-minute priority mail, we could send packages media mail with confidence they’d get there in plenty of time for Christmas.

This year, I’m already excited to plan for Christmas. I just received this year’s planner in the mail and it’s beautiful! I love that it has a place to write lists, menus, and notes inside. That way, when we’re shopping for gifts we don’t have to try to remember if we got our daughter a toaster already — it’s written down in the book. There are even pockets designed to tuck away recipes and receipts.

Since two of our kids are flying from the West coast to visit over Christmas, we’re delighted to have a houseful. But that will take some planning and preparation. We’ve already started having conversations about what traditions, activities, and food are the most important. Like last year, everything we expect to do will be on the calendar.

I’m glad I took notes about decorations, menus, and gifts last year because I wouldn’t have remembered any of those details. That saves me work.

Speaking of memories, I’m smiling as I begin this year’s Christmas planning. This morning it dawned on me that, for the first time, all of my planning and preparations last year freed me up to focus on what’s important. I don’t remember a hectic season of frantic work, or all of the details it took to pull off a wonderful Christmas.

The memories I do have are special family times and a sacred worship service.  It turns out that it would be our last candlelight communion led by a well-loved young pastor. He passed away from cancer a couple months later, leaving a wife and three beautiful daughters. I wouldn’t trade that precious time for anything, and I’m glad I wasn’t distracted by a chaotic schedule and Christmas stress.

Want to get in on the fun and join a book study for the Christmas Project Planner? There’s a group on Facebook and we’d love to have you.

Click here to join!

Lyneta Smith is a writer and editor who lives near Nashville, TN with her husband and an opinionated tortoiseshell cat. They enjoy holidays and family nights with their adult daughters more than ever. Lyneta is the author of Curtain Call: A Memoir, and has been published in numerous national magazines and newspapers.


#380: Clutter Free Basics: What is Time Boxing?

#380: Clutter Free Basics: What is Time Boxing?

Have you ever noticed how time-consuming decluttering can be? Perhaps you’re caught in an endless cycle of decision fatigue and shame about clutter. You need time boxing!

This week, Kathi and Tonya Kubo, fearless leader of Clutter Free Academy on Facebook, continue their series on Clutter Free basics. In this episode, they discuss time boxing, a technique that leads to a decluttered home over time in just 15 minutes a day.

Using time boxing will help you live a sustainable, clutter free life. No more long days of decluttering and exhaustion, no kidding. You’ll also learn how time boxing helps you:

  • Avoid distractions that derail you
  • Involve your whole family in decluttering
  • Stay motivated and moving forward in your clutter free journey.

If you want to hear part 1 of Clutter Free Basics, click here.

Don’t miss next week’s third and final episode of Clutter Free Basics! Subscribe to have Kathi’s podcasts delivered to you every week.

If you want more support on your clutter free journey, check out Clutter Free for Life.

Kathi’s book, Clutter Free Home: Making Room for Your Life will be released next February. You can learn more and pre-order your copy on Amazon today.


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Read along with the podcast!

Clutter Free Academy Podcast #380

Clutter Free Basics: What is Time Boxing?

<<intro music>>

Kathi – Well, hey friends! Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small doable steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. This is program number two of Clutter Free Basics, and I am here with the Queen of Clutter Free. I know you call me the queen. I call you the queen. What is that called? 

Tonya – It’s the Mutual Admiration Society.

Kathi – That’s right. We’re a matriarchy, ‘cause we’re both women. I love it. Okay, it’s Tonya Kubo, who is our fearless leader over at Clutter Free Academy on Facebook. If you’re not a part of that over there, make sure you do that. If you want to live a clutter free life, if you want to be on the journey that Tonya and I have been on, where we’ve changed our lives through decluttering. We so want to have you there. It was interesting, the other day Tonya, I know you saw this. I was praying one morning and God kept bringing the people of Clutter Free to my brain. I just needed to remind people. You are doing holy work here. Most people stumble blindly through their lives, just buying stuff at Dollar Tree. Can I tell you what makes me crazy right now? 

Tonya – What makes you crazy?

Kathi – These surprise boxes. Okay, now I kind of understand the clothing one. If you need to dress up for work and you want to look great and shopping makes you crazy, and you actually return the things that you don’t love, won’t use and wouldn’t buy, excellent. But these things like: You get a hair straightener! And a bottle of this kind of lotion! It makes me crazy that people are that unintentional. It’s almost like people need presents and surprises. Do you understand the psychology behind this, ‘cause I don’t.

Tonya – Well, I think part of it is, we have this society (and you know, social media is my thing) that watches hours of YouTube channels of people unboxing things that they have bought. So, I think it’s a way to get that feeling of, “Oh, I just get to undo all this stuff!” But then there’s this other idea, aside from “Oh, I got this amazing thing in the mail and I can look at it all.” There’s this other idea that, “This is carefully curated so when I go to the store, I don’t have to make any choices.” 

Kathi – Okay, that I can see where people would be falsely lulled into that idea.

Tonya – Well, and I want to say, for you, there’s clothing ones. There’s one for athletic clothes, and one for kids’ clothes and you know what? If I don’t have to drag my kids to the mall? You can pretty much sell me anything. Some of these beauty ones are interesting, because do you really need 4 different cheek colors? That is so subjective, that it would be very hard to get a box where everything would be useful. I’m going to confess, because I believe in full disclosure, but we just subscribed to one of these boxes. Lily, my nine-year-old…

Kathi – Oh, it’s for your kids!

Tonya – Well, it’s Japanese snack food. It’s edible, is my argument. I can buy into this. It’s not like it’s a bunch of toys or something she saw on YouTube. It’s called Tokyo Treats. 

Kathi – This makes a lot of sense for you, because your family, they are Japan-o-philes. 

Tonya – Yes. My husband is half Japanese and daughters so desperately want to look way more Asian than they do.

Kathi – But your kids love to try new foods, so this part I understand. It’s the sending me a bunch of random…let’s say “stuff” (the word that actually comes to mind is very different). That’s not what the subject of today is about at all, but here’s the thing: I imagine that’s the stuff you’re going to be decluttering in eighteen months. You did not pick it. It is not meant for you. What it is, is somebody else’s overstocks that they’re trying to get rid of. I have a hard time with it. Now, I would love to hear from listeners if they’re saying, “Kathi, here’s the part that you don’t understand.” I’m sure there are parts I don’t understand. I remember somebody sent me one of these as a gift, and it was just a bunch of cheap junk. It was out of my house in just a couple of days. I appreciated the thought, but I didn’t appreciate the stuff. Don’t think I’m a horrible person. All of this comes down to time for me. Time and money, but today, I want to talk about time. Time is such an important aspect of decluttering. One of the things that we talked about: What’s the worst sentence in the world? “I’m going to declutter my kitchen today.” There’s not stop and start to it. It’s all day. To me, that sounds like, “From nine in the morning to five at night, my job is to declutter this kitchen.” Now, if you’re getting paid to do that at somebody else’s house? Good on you. I’m talking about myself. So, unless you’re moving, or remodeling, that kind of situation, I’m want to warn you off of that kind of sentence.  You wanted to say something, I can tell, Tonya.

Tonya – I did. I think that it’s very evolved of you to say, “Nine AM to five PM.” We get new members in Clutter Free Academy, and my heart breaks for them, because they will publicly declare, because we Clutter-y people love to self-declare and self-shame. Whatever we can do to punish ourselves, we seem to be gravitating towards that. But they’ll come in and they’re just like, “I got up at 5 am, and I’m going to go tackle my kitchen. I’m not going to bed until it’s done.” And I know, because I used to live that life, that they are talking about 5 am to 2 am. They’re lucky if they give themselves a bathroom break.

Kathi – Right! So, here’s the thing: There’s the fallacy of believing, “If I do that, then I don’t have to worry about my kitchen for weeks, or months, or years. If I can just get it perfect, it would stay perfect.” The problem is, humans live in your house. That’s the problem. 

Tonya – Yes! I think this is on our topic. Would I tell people? I try not to have a new member come in and I’m like, “No! You’re doing it wrong!” Even though, I would say that, but mean it from a place of, “Let me save you from yourself.” I encourage gentleness. Please be kind to yourself. That sounds incredibly ambitious. If you have the energy for that, that’s awesome, but I suggest Time Boxing, which I know we’re going to explain in a second, because, my personal experience is, those marathon sessions require weeks to recover from. I had to recover at such a level, that I couldn’t be bothered to put a napkin in the trash. So, after three weeks, the house looked worse than it did before I began.

Kathi – Yes! Don’t you think that in our “before and after” culture, that people want the Instagram photo. This is what it looked like, and this is what it looks like now. I do those photos, don’t get me wrong, because I feel like they’re inspirational, but when I’m going to share in one of our next newsletters, my downstairs closet, the before and after from that, people need to understand, that was over a week. That wasn’t in one day, and that’s just a closet! I’m not talking about a whole room.

Tonya – We see this in our Clutter Free for Life Membership program, where people think that it’s supposed to be a weekend job. A lot of people will join Clutter Free for Life membership once they realize that, in Clutter Free Academy, that they just need a little bit more. They need a little more support. They need a little more accountability, whatever that is. When people hear my talk about when I discovered Clutter Free, Abby was six months old and she just turned five. I’ve been on the journey for a while. I’ve moved a lot, and every time I move, I lose my mind again. Nothing fits to where I think it would, right? So, it does take time and it’s incremental change. I think that one of the beauties of having the podcast; having the blog, is that people can learn to appreciate that incremental change. 

Kathi – Exactly, and in my book, The Clutter Free Home, which releases February 2020, we talk about how each day, (except for one day a week, I want you to have one day when you don’t have to even think about stuff) but every day, I want you to do two things. Fifteen minutes of decluttering and then five minutes of dealing with the stuff. That’s the important part, because here’s what I used to do: I’d declutter, and everything I’d decluttered would be on the kitchen table. My kids would go through it and they would find all the treasures, and nothing left my house. We’re going to talk about the system for decluttering in our next episode, but here’s what I want you to do. We talked about Space Boxing last time. Space boxing is picking one cupboard; one drawer; one bookshelf; one area of your carpet. If you need to mark it off with blue painter’s tape, you can do that. You only declutter that one area. I had somebody ask me, “What if you’re done decluttering before your fifteen minutes?” and I’m like, “Huzzah!” You can start on the next thing, or you can be done. Those are your beautiful, beautiful options. I love them. So, how has Time Boxing helped you, Tonya, to stay on top of things?

Tonya – I believe that work expands to fill the amount of time that you allot to it.

Kathi – Is that The Peter Principle? I can’t remember what it’s called, but I think it’s The Peter Principle. 

Tonya – It’s probably some kind of principle. Somebody said it once, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, that is the motto of my life.” So, by setting a timer, I am much more focused. I don’t let anything interrupt me. If I get a text, or a Facebook notification, my email dings? I’m not stopping that. That can wait for fifteen minutes. The other thing that it has done for me, is that it really does enroll my family. We’ll all do a fifteen minute sprint. The kids get excited and the bell goes off and we do big cheer. We do crazy cheers at my house for the silliest things. It works. 

Kathi – Cheering is beautiful, and by the way, The Peter Principle is rising to the level of your incompetence. I’m sure there’s something very Freudian about what I just did there. It’s so true. You can do anything for fifteen minutes, but if you’ve tried to declutter all day long, or you’ve tried to declutter for a couple of hours, what you’ll notice, is you’ll start to make less decisions the more tired you get. So, for fifteen minutes, you can make big, good decisions. You can even do it for up to an hour. But, after an hour, you are going to have decision fatigue. You’re going to be done making all those decisions and you’re going to start hanging on to things for later. You’re going to start wanting to do things for later. That’s not what I want for you. I want you to have small wins every single day, so this becomes part of your life. That’s so important to us over at Clutter Free Academy, that you experience the wins so you want to keep going.

Tonya – I googled it! It’s The Parkinson’s Law.

Kathi – Thank you! I feel so much better.

Tonya – You were close.

Kathi – I got the ‘p’ right. There we go. So, here’s what I want you to do: Fifteen minutes of focused decluttering. Five minutes of dealing with the things you’ve decluttered, whether that’s trash, or give aways. We’re going to talk about that in our next episode. How do you deal with all the things? So, we’re going to give you some great insight into that. Tonya, thank you so much for helping me shed the light and show the greatness of Space Boxing and Time Boxing. 

Tonya – Thanks for letting me.

Kathi – Absolutely. Friends, thank you for being here. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go life the clutter free life you were always designed to live.


*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items

Meet Our Guest

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo is the illustrious, fearless leader of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Academy Facebook group. A speaker and writer, Tonya makes her home in the heart of California with her husband, Brian, their two spirited daughters and one very tolerant cat. Visit her at www.tonyakubo.com or  www.GreatMoms.org