#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.

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 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.


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 #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

#379: Clutter Free Basics: What is Space Boxing?

#379: Clutter Free Basics: What is Space Boxing?

If you get overwhelmed at the thought of decluttering an entire room, this week’s episode is just what you need! Kathi and Tonya Kubo, founder of the Clutter Free Academy Facebook Group, discuss the first of three Clutter Free basics: space boxing. This technique makes decluttering go faster, feel more doable and more satisfying.

In this episode, you’ll learn what space boxing is and hear real-life examples of how to use this tool in your home. You’ll also hear how space boxing:

  • Helps you to stay focused when decluttering
  • Empowers your kids to declutter their space
  • Leads to greater function and a sense of peace in your home.

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

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.

To learn more about MOMcon, click here.


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 #379

Read along with the podcast!

Clutter Free Academy Podcast # 379

What is Space Boxing?

<<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. Today, with me, is the founder of Clutter Free Academy on Facebook. You laugh every time I say that. Why is that?

Tonya – Because you’re the founder. You’re the one that called me and was like, “Hey, Tonya. I have this idea.” And I said, “Oh, okay.” And you just let me play. 

Kathi – Yeah, but you actually did it. So, I just pop in there, dust on some clutter magic. It’s Tonya Kubo. You all know this. Now, Tonya, can I share with you what I think the most depressing sentence in the entire world is? 

Tonya – Sure. I was in too good of a mood, anyway. Depress me.

Kathi – “I am going to declutter my kitchen today.” Or, “I’m going to gut my kitchen.” Or, “I’m going to organize my kitchen.” Any variation of that statement makes me want to curl up in a ball, rock back and forth and weep openly.

Tonya – Okay, so as the Clutter Free Queen, you have to explain that. I know our listeners. I love our listeners, but they all think that you wake up in the morning going, “I have nothing on the calendar. I am going to go declutter my entire first floor.”

Kathi – You know what people actually think? People think that I have no clutter. They think that Roger and I live in a sterile box. We never bring anything into our house. Let me dispel some myths. I spent the better part of a week gutting a closet. Back a few months ago, was our first time renting out our San Jose house on Airbnb. I feel like the house was really well organized, decluttered, beautiful. 

Tonya – I’ve been there. It was nice.

Kathi – Thank you. The last two days before we got out of Dodge, though, was a lot of throwing things into closets and locking the doors. Just the reality of the situation. Guys, I will never be that naturally clutter free person. I feel a little bit like the people who are in a twelve step program, like Alcoholics Anonymous, and I’m not equating clutter with that. I’m not. At first, clutter is like minute by minute battle. Then it’s an hour by hour battle. Then it’s a day by day battle. Then, the thought of bringing clutter into my house becomes naturally easier for me to resist. There’s always a resistance there. I went to MOMCon, the MOPS big convention, and I said, “I should go through all the stuff and throw out anything I don’t want.” Then I’m like, “Ugh. It’ll just be easier to do it when I get home.” It’s like, “NO. No it will not be easier.” Everything you bring into your house is a bigger decision at that point. It’s just too much. I want to talk, today, about Clutter Free Basic Principles. If you’re just getting started with Clutter Free, here are some basics that it would be so helpful for you to know. Tonya and I want to give you, not just the how, but the why. So, the first thing we’re going to talk about is Space Boxing, which sounds very futuristic and very cool.

Tonya – Or violent. Depending on how you go.

Kathi – That’s right. Aliens in a ring. Tonya, I’m going to ask you. Can you give us what the basics of Space Boxing are? 

Tonya – You pick a space and you don’t leave it during your clutter session. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying you don’t leave it for five days. Right? But you pick one designated area and you have everything you need with you to sort the stuff in that area, so that, you’re not like me and you’re not like, “Oh! This goes in this other room.” Then, when you’re in that other room, putting that thing away, suddenly, you’re like, “Oh, hey! I should declutter this right here.” 

Kathi – It’s the Give-a-Mouse-a-Cookie syndrome. It really is. It’s so easy to get distracted. You’re like, “Okay, I need to get this space done. I need to get this area done.” Then you’re off in another room and you’re like, “How did I get here? How did I even get here to do all the things?” 

Tonya – The worst of it is, you end up feeling like you spent all day and not seeing any results.

Kathi – That’s so true. That is such a key point. When people say that they just declutter and declutter and declutter, and it doesn’t look like it’s making any difference, it’s because it’s not concentrated decluttering. It’s decluttering what has happened today. The surfaces, or something like that. But that’s all going to come back, because you have families and kids. There’s a certain amount of clutter that is in everyday life. Let’s talk about the Boxing Principle. So, I really believe, if you’re just getting started, one of your best tools is a roll of blue painter’s tape. What I want you to do with the tape, and this is especially helpful for kids, if you go tell your child to go clean their room, that is the adult equivalent of saying, “I’m going to spend today cleaning my kitchen.” I feel like kids do not have brains to be able to clean a huge section, so I feel like blue painter’s tape is really good in a couple of situations. One, if you get distracted easily. I know that a lot of my clutter people get distracted very easily. The other thing is with children. To say, “I want you to declutter this area.” You mark off the area and you help them declutter. Or, you say, “I want you to declutter this book shelf, or this drawer.” So, what we’re doing is, we’re saying, “This is a finite space.” In the next couple of episodes, we’re going to talk about the other two tools in order to really declutter. So, we’ve got the Space Boxing, the Time Boxing, and the Three Bag System. But, for today, I want you to think about, as you go through your rooms, and in my new book, The Clutter Free Home, each day, you are assigned to a different room. It’s not that I want you to declutter that room on that day. I want you to pick a space in that room. So, Tonya, if today was your kitchen day, what space in your kitchen would you declutter. 

Tonya – I would declutter the cabinet underneath my hutch.

Kathi – Okay, fifteen minutes. How much do you think you can get done?

Tonya – I could finish the whole thing in fifteen minutes, because that’s where I keep my baking ware. So, you can imagine, when you’re putting away dishes quickly, that’s the spot that gets all out of control. All I have to do is go in there and really just nest everything. What I like to do when I’m doing that kind of decluttering is, just check your pans. If there’s a pan that has seen better days, it’s time to let that pan go.

Kathi – If you’d be embarrassed to lend it to somebody.

Tonya – Yeah, I have a couple of those. You know it’s bad if I can visualize them, right now. 

Kathi – Exactly. We just threw out a cookie sheet for that exact reason. So, for me, it would be my storage containers. What I have come to finally understand is you cannot organize, whether it’s your Tupperware, SnapWare, Pyrex, whatever it is. You can’t organize it in the cupboard. I have to pull everything out every couple of weeks and just go through it. For some reason, lids multiply in there. I’m not quite sure how that happens. What I’ve come to understand is, just throw it away. Throw it away. They are never going to get reunited. It’s just not going to happen. I’ll never forget wondering where all my silverware went, and then one day, looking in the garbage and there was a paper plate with a fork. Not a plastic fork, a real fork. What?! I think my kids just, every once in a while, lost their minds. Or, they just thought, “It’s just easier to throw it away than putting in the sink.” I hope that’s not it. They don’t still do that, so that’s really good. So, if you were going to do your living room today, Tonya. I want to give some examples. What would you do in your living room?

Tonya – My living room is easy. So, we have an ottoman. It’s a cube with a lid and you shove stuff in it.

Kathi – A storage ottoman.

Tonya – A storage ottoman. See? There is words. I would go through those, because I’m sure there are random Lego pieces in there, and all sorts of crazy stuff.

Kathi – Right. This is a really good point. One of the things I want you to do, after you declutter that area, or that ottoman. I have fallen in love with my label maker again. I am in a deep relationship with my label maker.

Tonya – Does Roger know?

Kathi – Roger does know and supports this little affair that I’m having. The reason that things get cluttered is because your space doesn’t have a purpose. To be able to say, “This is the drawer that we put the hot pads in.”, “This is the drawer we put the dishtowels in.” That means that the scissors don’t go in there. That means that the taco seasoning does not go in there. It gives it a purpose. Every space in your house is crying out for a purpose. So, once you declutter, you’ve marked it off. You’ve said, “I am going to do this one drawer, or this one ottoman, or this one shelf.” You’re doing to declutter it for fifteen minutes (and we’re going to talk about Time Boxing in our next thing) and then, once it’s down to its purpose, label it so that when somebody says, “Where do the dishtowels go?” Now, nobody has asked that question in the entire time I’ve lived here, because nobody’s put a dishtowel away except for me, but, “Where are the scissors?” They’re in the scissor drawer. Let me show you where the scissor drawer is, so when you’re done with them, you can put them back. Not to be pedantic, but to say, “When we put things away, we can actually find them again.” How has space boxing helped you to not be overwhelmed?

Tonya – So, like I said before, I was the queen of the Give-A-Mouse-A-Cookie syndrome. I remember my legs would hurt at the end of a decluttering session. It was all the walking back and forth. Just losing my place. I think the best part of Space Boxing is getting into a zone. Let’s take a drawer example, ’cause that’s where I started in my clutter free journey is just one kitchen drawer. I take out that drawer, and I’m like, “Okay!” I have my questions I ask. I start with, “What has to stay here?” because that’s what was just emotionally easier for me to know what I needed to get rid of. So, I start with “What has to stay here?” and I get that stuff aside. And then, as I’m going through, and making decisions of “Does this go in another room?”, “Does this go in the trash?” Every time I make a trash decision, it’s easier for me to make the next trash decision. I find that the emotional link is strongest the first few times I have to make that choice. If I have to leave that space and go somewhere else and come back, it’s like I’m starting over. Suddenly, I have a larger emotional drain on me, over this silly little drawer. So, if I can just stay put, I’m faster. I’m less exhausted, and, again, (this is something you taught me a million years ago) at the very least, my whole house can look like a hurricane just came through it, but I can open up that drawer and go, “Look at this! Look at my work!”

Kathi – The emotional pay off for having one space function how it should? When you have function, you have form. I want my drawer to function, but I also want it to be beautiful. That doesn’t mean I fold my towels into origami, it means that what is in there is supposed to be in there and there’s not a bunch of nonsense. So, when you have function, you have form. There is such a sense of peace when you go and open that drawer and it’s what it is supposed to be. Okay, so in the book The Clutter Free Home, what we ask you to do is spend 15 minutes in six different spaces, each week. Then you get a day off. Once a week, you deep declutter for an hour. So, for an hour, you’re going to need to pick more than one drawer, more than likely. It could be a closet or something like that. When you do that, make sure stick to that one area and you get it where it’s supposed to be. That’s when the payoff comes. Here’s the beautiful thing, Tonya, that I love. I have a drawer that’s scissors and rulers and things like that, so I know what goes in there, but once I’ve done that drawer, when I find scissors throughout the house, it’s so awesome to know, “I know where those go!” For some reason, we’ve had batteries, probably because we changed out so many things in our house when we remodeled, I’m finding batteries everywhere. But now, there is only one place for the batteries. It’s not the twelve different places. I think one of the things we do is, “Well, I was looking for the batteries to go with the fire alarm, so I’m going to put the batteries in a drawer nearest to the fire alarm.” That is a recipe for disaster. You need your batteries to all be in one place, so you know what batteries you have and you can find them. That is the beauty of space boxing. It makes me so happy I can’t even stand it.  Tonya, thanks so much for being on with me in Clutter Free Academy. 

Tonya – Thanks for having me.

Kathi – Tonya has so much wisdom by being in the group so much. She knows the struggles of the people there. That’s why I’m so grateful to have her on. Friends, I am grateful to have you. I learn as much from you as you ever do from me. I love that you are part of Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. I’ve been here with Tonya Kubo. 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

5 Reasons You Need the Christmas Project Planner

5 Reasons You Need the Christmas Project Planner

If you’ve ever found yourself wrapping presents on Christmas Eve at 1:00 a.m. or attending a cookie exchange you dread every year, then this blog post is for you.

Here I give you five reasons why the Christmas Project Planner is the book you need for a clutter-free Christmas.


The planner has 21 projects broken down day by day to help you accomplish everything you want to get done for the holidays. Everything from making your meal plan to getting your Christmas cards out. The good news? You get to decide which projects you want to do and which ones you are going to skip this year. (For instance, most years we don’t send out Christmas cards. But this year, we have a cute puppy, so there WILL be cards.)

Breaking down the projects not only keeps you from being overwhelmed, it keeps you focused on the kind of holiday you really want to celebrate.

Planning Pages

 There are tons of pages for you to be able to plan out everything you want to get done this year, including:

  • Your Holiday Mission Statement
  • Christmas Card Checklist
  • Gift Ideas
  • Budgeting Sheets
  • Mailable Gifts
  • Elf Supplies
  • Wrapping Hints
  • Fun and Simple Recipes
  • How to Have a Clutter Free Christmas
  • Prep Your Kitchen Checklist
  • Christmas Eve Meals
  • Christmas Day Meals
  • 40 stocking stuffer ideas
  • Ideas to Refresh Yourself During the Holidays
  • The Best Places to Shop Online
  • Create a December Meal Plan
  • Food Planning and Shopping List

Post-it Notes

This? Is my favorite thing about the planner. You don’t have to write in the book! If you want to, you can copy the pages. (Yes, if you own the book and use the copies for your own personal use, it is totally fine to make copies of the book.) Or you can use Post-its throughout the book!

Perpetual Calendar

 On Project #5: Even Santa has a Strategy, I ask you to sit down and really think through your schedule for the holiday season. I want you to put in the important dates and events early, so you have enough time to do everything you need to do, but more importantly, everything you want to do.

I want you to take all the calendars in your family into consideration (including both you and your husband’s work schedules, your kid’s school calendar, your church’s calendar, etc.) and put major events onto your holiday calendar. And then, I want you to block off space for the things you really want to do: maybe you love to cut down the tree as a family, or bake a certain kind of cookie with your sister. All of that needs to go onto your calendar so you can make room for the things that matter.


 A planner? With pockets? This is everything my heart loves. As I’m running around town, checking things off of my Christmas to-do list, and want to bring list, save receipts and make notes to myself, I can just put everything into the planner to save for later. Everything in one place. Oh my heart. It is bursting with organized love!

Join us!

If you’ve found yourself nodding along and thinking, “I’ve got to tell my friends and family about this planner!” then I have the Facebook group for you.

Click here to join the Christmas Project Planner VIP Launch Team and help us spread the Christmas love!

Kathi Lipp is the author of 17 books including Overwhelmed, Clutter Free, The Get Yourself Organized Project, The Husband Project, Happy Habits for Every Couple, and I Need Some Help Here – Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan. She is the host of the Clutter Free Academy Podcast with Michele Cushatt and speaks at conferences across the US.

She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not dating her husband or hanging out with new puppy, Moose, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.


#378: Clutter and Money with Ron Deal of FamilyLife

#378: Clutter and Money with Ron Deal of FamilyLife

Have you ever noticed that money is a tender spot in a lot of relationships? Maybe it even causes tension for you. In this week’s podcast, Kathi chats with very special guest Ron Deal of FamilyLife about ways to successfully resolve some of the conflicts related to spending and have a stronger, more unified family.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Some key questions to ask when strong emotions come up related to money
  • Contributing factors that make merging finances particularly difficult for blended families
  • How a togetherness agreement can help you build a strong foundation financially and relationally

If you would like more information about how to merge finances well, check out Ron’s book, The Smart Stepfamily Guide to Financial Planning. You can order it on AMAZON now.

In case you missed the verse reference, Ron quoted Hebrews 13:5: “Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have for He has said ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'”


As a special treat we are giving away some copies of Ron’s book, The Smart Stepfamily Guide to Financial Planning: Money Management Before and After You Blend a Family! Enter below by commenting and letting us know:

What would it look like to start spending money with intention instead of emotion in your family? What impact would that have on your relationships?



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 for Clutter Free Academy #378

Read along with the podcast!

Clutter Free Academy Podcast # 378

Clutter and Money with Ron Deal of Family Life

<<intro music>>

Kathi – Well, hey friends! Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where goal is to help you take small, do-able steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. You know, around here, we talk a lot about the devastation of clutter, and the emotional impact. We talk about that almost on a weekly basis. We spend a lot less time on the financial consequences to us and our family. I’ve done something about that. I’ve got us an expert in here. I want to introduce you guys to the director of FamilyLife Blended and the author of the new book The Smart Step-Family Guide to Financial Planning: Money Management Before and After You Blend a Family.  Ron Deal, welcome to Clutter Free Academy.

Ron – Thank you, Kathi. It’s so good to be with you.

Kathi – You and I just recently had a little chat about some of the principles about step-family and clutter. It’s so interesting, because so many of the clutter principles are true for step-families and original families. Also, there are some big differences, and I think it’s the same thing with money, as well. Everybody is stressed about money. Here’s my first question: When it comes to blended families, what is most stressful? Is it the exes? Is it discipline of kids? Or is it money? I want to know your opinion. I have an opinion on this, but I would love to hear what you think.

Ron – Okay, well, first of all, yes. You were on my podcast recently, FamilyLife Blended, is the podcast that we do specifically around blended families. Thank you for doing that. I think the answer to your question is: YES. There are things above the surface and things below the surface in our lives, right? You say so eloquently, above the surface is clutter, but below the surface is, “Why are you keeping it? What’s your fear? What’s your pain? What’s the concern? What’s the guilt?” The same thing happens to blended families around money; around relationships. Is it just about the former spouse, or is it about the pain that connects you to that former spouse? Is it about the pain you continue to see in your children’s eyes as a result of a broken relationship? Is it about the heartache, difficulty, or the guilt that you feel over you ending the previous relationship? All of those things below the surface are really, at the end of the day, driving what’s above the surface.

Kathi – It’s so interesting, isn’t it, how entangled all those different things are? I remember the first year we were doing Christmas as a blended family. My husband’s ex called and said, “Well, I need to know what you’re getting the kids for Christmas, so we can avoid getting them the same thing.” It wasn’t until years later, to figure out, “Oh, no no no, that’s a form of control. Why am I resisting this so much? Because I don’t like to be controlled.” It was money issues. It was control issues. It was kid and entitlement issues. All of that. So much of that is the common thread of money. I know that in an intact family, you’re dealing with some of those things, but it just feels like it gets folded out into a million different directions when it’s a blended family. 

Ron – Exactly. I’m thinking of a couple, for example, that I had a conversation with one day, and they were trying to figure out how many pots of money to have in their marriage. He had his kids and his money before they got married and she had hers. There’s a one-pot system, “We all put it in one pot.” There’s a two-pot system, “Yours and mine.” Three-pot, “Yours, mine, ours, but what about our investments?” Well, the conversation went like this. “Ron. We’re married now. We should all have one pot, but my wife is unwilling to put her money into one pot with me. I don’t like that.” So, we start chasing what’s underneath that. What’s that about? And the message to him was, “I must not be very important. She doesn’t value our us-ness; our one-ness the way I want her to; the way I do. So, I’m feeling fragile. I’m feeling vulnerable in this relationship.” Well, to some, that’s never good, but to someone like him, who had already been vulnerable in a previous relationship? He knows what can happen when it all falls apart. Now he has a super-high sensitivity to what this means for his family. It’s not just about money. It is about money, but it is also about everything underneath the money.

Kathi – Money brings out an anxiety and an insecurity. It’s all around that. When I think about clutter, I think, “What you’re buying is clutter. What I’m buying is necessary.” That’s how many people view it. I think that many of us, whether we’re in a marriage, or divorced, or single, or whatever, we’ve seen those past mistakes. We have evidence of those past mistakes all around us. So, here’s my question: When you begin to combine families, and you start to see all the stuff… It’s shocking when you start to bring those families together, and you’re like, “Oh my goodness. I didn’t know we had eight potato mashers.” You start to see some of the patterns. How do we start to have healthy conversations about recovering from those past clutter and financial mistakes?

Ron – One of the things to ask yourself is, when you notice, in yourself, or in your partner, “Wow! Whenever this subject comes up, so does anger, so does heavy emotions, so does a sense of desperation in me.” You’ve got to pause at that moment in time and ask yourself, “What’s going on with me? What is underneath all this?” It’s no longer about stuff. It’s about what it means to me and the implications it has to our family-ness, on our relationships, on our blending process. So, pausing at that point in time and going inside yourself and saying, “Lord, help me. Give me some insight into what this is about.” Throughout scripture, whenever God speaks to us about money, He always attaches a “for I am with you” because of that insecurity thing you were talking about a little while ago. Really, we think that money is what’s going to bring us stability in life, and it’s the calming piece of life, but God’s always saying, “No no no. That’s my job. I am with you. I am the one that provides. You’re going to be okay because of My presence in your life.” It we don’t go inside and ask ourselves, “What’s going on with me?” then we’ll just keep getting angry, and not have any reason or understanding why. 

Kathi – This is so good, Ron. I had never made the correlation between the verses about money, and God being with you. I feel like, except for if someone attacks my parenting, questioning how I spend money is my quickest line between peace and anxiety. Zero to sixty so much faster than anything else in my life. God knew, from the beginning of time, that we were going to struggle with money and stuff. The verses about “What are we investing in? What are we putting our time in? What are we putting our money in?” are just throughout the entire Word. So, to see the correlation, to say, “God knew this was going to be anxiety-producing. God knew that this was going to be a soft spot. Not just in marriages, but in parent-child relationships, in ex relationships, in all of those things.” This gives me such a different approach, Ron. I’m thinking in my own life. Roger and I have something we’ve set up. We call it “Money & Munchies Mondays”. We have to trick ourselves into doing finances. We have to give ourselves a reward. So, we order food in, we sit down, but I’m going to be honest, I had not thought about praying before talking about finances. When God says, “I am with you!” I need to invite him into that conversation. 

Ron – Absolutely. Hebrews 13:5 says it really well. “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” In other words, the reason we clutter our lives with stuff; the reason we use our money to buy other things; the reason we rely on money for security is kind of the same thing. The clutter, and the buying, and the purchasing, and the reason we work so hard in Blended Families, for example, to make our relationship work, is at the end of the day, we’re feeling like, “I can provide all of this for myself. I can be self-sufficient. The money empowers me to have what I want and it gets rid of my anxiety. It gets rid of my concern, or my fear, or my pain.” No, it really doesn’t. It’s a quick fix. It lasts as long as a Snickers. You’re going to get hungry again. What really lasts is leaning into God’s presence in our lives. I’m not saying we don’t have legitimate concerns about money. There’s good questions to ask, and wise decisions to make, absolutely. All of that above-the-surface stuff has to happen, too. But if we don’t go below the surface, and ask ourselves, “Why am I leaning in to this so much? What if I leaned in to God and His presence in my life a little more? How can I change my heart and my attitude about my money; about what I spend; about our relationship?

Kathi – Here’s what I think happened with me and Roger. Both of us will admit, we are not financial geniuses. We’re very fortunate. Roger has a Silicon Valley income, but we also have a Silicon Valley mortgage.

Ron – They cancel each other out.

Kathi – I think part of us were like, “We are spending so much time, and energy, and resources just keeping this family from killing each other. Money was just another stress that we could avoid for a while. So, how do we build in wisdom when it comes to money? There is going to be stuff coming into your house. There are purchases that need to be made. As a couple, we probably have a history of coming to those decisions in different ways. How do we build together, as a couple, in wisdom, so maybe money isn’t something we’re really excited about, but it’s not tearing a hole in our marriage every time we sit down to talk about it?

Ron – It starts with values. We’ve already moved in that direction. What I want to add there, is: “What does that thing mean? This purchase; this object; this decision, what does it mean to us in terms of our over-all life?” If I can be honest, a lot of times I buy things because it’s going to make me feel good. Or, I buy something because I think it’ll make me look good to others. What I’m really chasing here is other people’s approval of me. “Wow. So, maybe I don’t need that dress; that outfit; that suit; that whatever just to win other people’s approval. That seems like I’m worshiping the approval of men, not so much God’s approval.” So, my values need a course correction.

Kathi – Let me ask you: Do you think blended families work harder to look okay to the rest of the world? I feel like that’s what we did for a while.

Ron – I do think there is a pressure there, especially within the church community. That’s where we do so much of our work. Helping churches understand how they can be helpful. They don’t realize how much pressure they put on blended families to be like everyone else. It’s not intentional, but it happens. I do think there’s another dynamic in blended families around money, and that’s “I feel guilty around what’s happened in my kids’ lives; what I can’t change; what I can’t make right and somehow this is the quick fix that helps them feel better, and that helps me feel better.” 

Kathi – Here’s the other thing: When I married Roger, I went from two kids to four. That, financially, was a hard thing. The world is not built for families of six. When you want to go rent a car; when you go get a hotel room. It’s not just college times four, it’s shoes times four. It’s soccer times four. It’s all of those things.

Ron – And parents are diluting their money, too. You have another household you have to spend money on, child-support. Sometimes it’s coming in. Sometimes it’s going out. There are a number of factors that do add pressures to blended families that first families don’t experience. 

Kathi – Most of the people who are listening, we would love to have been those people who sat down before we got married and said, “Let’s have an honest conversation about money,” but 95% of us didn’t do that. We thought that once we got married and we love each other, everything will work out. I admit to being that couple. I love that we’ve outlined some of these things that we feel. It’s a lot like clutter, the fear, guilt, and shame. Fear, “What if I’m not doing a good job parenting?” Guilt for past mistakes we’ve made. Shame about not being that ideal family that many in the church still judge as a second-tier family. I love your idea of getting on the same page with your goals and what are your values. Do you suggest physically sitting down and writing those out? How’s the way to communicate those inside of a family?

Ron – So, the book actually guides people in creating what we call a Togetherness Agreement. The Smart Step-Family Guide to Financial Planning is, you start by sitting down and creating this Togetherness Agreement. Totally the opposite of what a pre-nup is all about. A pre-nup is all about “What happens if it all comes apart?” The Togetherness Agreement is all about “How are we going to bring it together? Not only our money issues, or matters, but our relationships.” So, it’s all tied together. We try to walk people through this process of looking at the different elements, the different pieces. How do you plan for the now? How do you plan for the future? Children? How do you care for one another? I got to tell you, I’m not a financial planner (I teamed up with two guys that do this kind of thing on a regular basis) I’m a marriage and family educator and therapist. So, I’m always looking at the relational components, but I learned a ton` doing the research for this book, around the different financial tools that are available out there, that I didn’t know anything about, that I think the average blended family couple knows nothing about as well. There are tools to help you plan your estate, to care for your kids, to care for your step-children, care for your spouse. What if you die and your spouse marries again? If you don’t provide, in writing, some of your assets can end up going, not just going with your former spouse, but their new spouse’s kids. 

Kathi – I’ve seen that happen.

Ron – You can prevent all that. That’s the beautiful thing. It does take some time. It takes some effort. Sometimes people will go beyond the book and decide to consult with a financial planner who can actually make something legal; who can put it in official document form. All of that is really helpful, because at the end of the day, you have more confidence in how you love one another. You have more stability, in the sense of, “Yes, we have taken steps to provide, should the worst thing happen. The kids are provided for. We don’t have to live with this sense of, ‘oh, this will all work out’.” The laws in America, because of how they’re written around parent-child relationships, tend to work against step-families, in court. If you ever have a state-thing go to court, it tends to work against what you really want to have happen. But, if you put it in writing, it’s all cared for. Confidence goes up. Stability comes together.

Kathi – If feels like everybody is on the same page. 

Ron – Which is the relational confidence peace you want.

Kathi – Ron, I love this so much. I think that, for any of us that have complicated family situations, the tools that are provided in this book are excellent. I’m really going to encourage you, whether you’re a blended family, or you know a blended family. Trust me. If you’re not sure whether this is an issue in your friend’s blended family? I promise you, it is. To give somebody the resources is so amazing. We’ve got a couple of books to give away. I’m really excited. So guys, here’s what I want to hear from you. I want to hear from you, in the comments on the podcast page, what would it look like to start spending money with intention, instead of emotion, in your family? What impact would that have on your relationships? Okay, you guys, I’m so excited about this book. The Smart Step-Family Guide to Financial Planning: Money Management Before and After You Blend A Family.  Ron, thank you so much for being on Clutter Free Academy.

Ron – Thanks, Kathi. It’s an honor to be with you.

Kathi – And friends, thank you for joining us. You make this my favorite part of our ministry, being able to talk with you on Clutter Free Academy.  Please join us next week. 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

Ron Deal

Ron Deal

Ron Deal is husband to Nan (since 1986) and proud father of Braden, Connor, and Brennan. Everything else is just details.

Ron L. Deal is a bestselling author, licensed marriage & family therapist, podcaster, and popular conference speaker who conducts “laugh and learn” marriage and family seminars and professional training around the country. He specializes in both marriage enrichment and stepfamily education. Frequently featured in the national media, Ron is a leading national expert and the most widely read and viewed author on blended families in the country. He serves as President of Smart Stepfamilies™ and Director of FamilyLife Blended®, a division of FamilyLife®.

Learn more at www.familylife.com.