How to Stop Arguing About Clutter

How to Stop Arguing About Clutter

Learn how to stop arguing about clutter and enjoy a stronger marriage. 

My grandmother’s Norman Rockwell figurine is permanently placed on top of the piano. My father-in-law’s collection of watches will always fill a corner of Rob’s dresser drawer, dead batteries and all. We both hold on to keepsakes the other doesn’t value or understand.

Over our 25 years of cleaning, organizing, and shuffling possessions from one address to another, we’ve had our share of conflict. We don’t always see eye to eye on what to keep or purge from our house.

As we face this inevitable conflict, it can be positive or negative. On the up side, we can choose to value each other over our stuff. We can practice problem-solving as a team. We can open the door to sharing ideas and knowing one another better. And we can be challenged to be our best selves—listening, working, and putting each other first.

Yet conflict can also bring out the worst in our nature, stirring up anger and driving us apart. We’re not just fighting about material things, we’re fighting for our identity and sense of “home.” Before we can solve any dispute about what to save or throw, we have to eliminate the “clutter” keeping us from coming together.

 

How to Stop Arguing About Clutter

Here are five tips to clear the way to agreement and unity.

 

Kill the bunny.

When we start to tackle conflict, it’s tempting for the discussion to rabbit-trail into other issues and complaints, but it’s important to keep the main thing the main thing. Focus on the one keep-or-throw question at hand instead of trying to reinvent your entire relationship dynamic or five-year financial plan.

 

Play nice.

You might think your husband’s grade-school clay sculpture is stupid, but he’s not stupid. Your wife’s affection for vintage salt shakers does not compete for her affection for you. Keep insults, sarcasm, and criticism out of your conversation. Avoid remarks you know will push your partner’s buttons. It’s impossible to resolve a thing when you’re too mad or hurt to see straight. Attack the problem instead of each other.

 

Face forward.

Keep the past in the past. Dragging old mistakes and tensions into the now will push you farther apart. It will feed discouragement, stealing hope for tomorrow. Declare confidence in your relationship by pressing on to work it out. Cast a vision for a peaceful space you both can enjoy together. Give yourselves the gift of change you can look forward to.

 

Clear the decks.

Dedicate time to talk through your differences. Give yourselves the benefits of privacy, quiet, and energy. Don’t fight about sex in bed after midnight, argue over parenting while your little darlings can hear you in the next room, or wrangle out your budget in front of the car dealer. Don’t start sorting and cleaning when your garage sale starts in two hours! If your conversation becomes heated, show respect by taking time to step away and cool off. Do what’s needed to finish the hard work of resolving your issue.

 

Count the cost.

Is it more valuable to win the debate or win your loved one’s heart? Let go of your need to have the last word. Be willing to listen, compromise, and honor each other’s perspective. If you walk away feeling one of you lost and the other won, you both lost.

 

One of the greatest benefits of resolved conflict is the intimacy it can bring. You can celebrate your tenacious marriage. You experience a fresh sense of unity. You hold hope for the future, knowing you’re strong enough to overcome any battle. Let God use your conflict to deepen your love and commitment today so you can stop arguing about clutter.

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” (Philippians 2:1-2 NLT)

 

Giveaway

Win one of these beautiful gifts from Growing Home Together!

To Enter to Win:

Leave a comment below telling us one of your “prized” possessions that you’ve had trouble decluttering.

 

Giveaway Rules 

-One entry per household. A comment on THIS post only constitutes an entry.

-Prize includes one of the three items pictured above from Growing Home Together..

-Contest ends July 26, 2018.

-3 winners will be randomly selected from the comments on THIS post using third party software and will be notified by email.

-Prizes will be shipped by Growing Home Together.

 

Thank you to Growing Home Together for sponsoring this giveaway. Please see our disclosure policy for any questions.

 


Joanna Teigen and her husband Rob have celebrated 25 years of marriage and are loving life with five awesome kids, plus a beautiful daughter-in-law. They share an addiction to coffee, bookstores, and Christmas music. They’re a neat-freak married to a mess, an explorer to a homebody, and an introvert to a ‘people person.’ But they do agree that their vows are for always, children are a gift, and prayer is powerful. Over the years Rob and Joanna have lived in five states as they made their way to West Michigan. They look forward to meeting you at www.growinghometogether.com, supporting your pursuit of God and the hearts of your loved ones. They can’t wait to grow together with you.

How to Declutter Your Mind (& Have Better Sex!)

How to Declutter Your Mind (& Have Better Sex!)

Learn simple steps to declutter your mind so you can have better sex.

declutter your mind for better sex

Have you ever had this happen?
You’re in bed with your hubby, and things are heating up. He starts kissing you, and you’re thinking, “Oh, yeah, baby.” Then all of a sudden you push him away and out comes:

“I just don’t know what to do about Katelyn. Every time I try to get her to practice piano it’s a big fight. She’s so gifted, but she has no discipline. I know you think we should just let her quit, but what’s that really teaching her? Of course, if we did let her quit I’d have my Tuesdays back. And I wouldn’t have to bicker with her everyday after school. It would be really nice to have Tuesdays. I never have time to do groceries on Mondays, and there just isn’t time when she’s at lessons …”

And your husband’s lying there with a perplexed look on his face, thinking, “Piano? Katelyn? Groceries? HELLO!?!?”

Where did you go?

 

I have to admit that story isn’t all that fictional. I don’t have a Katelyn, but I do have a Katie, and she refused to practice piano, and it was a source of great consternation to me. And often, just when things were heating up with my husband, my brain would go on overload and I’d start spewing everything that was on my mind.

Part of that is because I’m an external processor. But it’s not only that.

It’s because of one simple fact: For women, our biggest sexual organ is our brain. If our brain is not engaged, our body won’t follow. In general, we have to be able to concentrate for sex to feel good. Women are far more distractible than men, largely because when something else pops into our head, all thoughts of sex can disappear until we can adequately deal with it, dismiss it, and get back to the topic — or person — at hand.

When I used to push my husband away and start spouting everything that was on my mind, it wasn’t so much a rejection of my husband as it was an effort to stop these things from popping up and distracting me! It’s like our brains are big pinball machines, with all of these things bouncing around and clanging off of walls, and all of that makes sex difficult.
And that, my friends, is why clutter is a marriage issue.

Yep. Clutter. Whether it’s physical clutter in your bedroom, or unending to-do lists, or relationship issues you haven’t dealt with, when there is stuff lying around, either physically or metaphorically, it’s hard to feel at peace. And if you can’t feel at peace, then feeling in the mood tends to be so much harder! You need to declutter your mind for better sex.

Keith and I have both figured out now how I work. And we have instituted our own “pinball machine” strategy that helps get rid of all those pesky pinballs and lets you feel frisky again!

(Now, if it’s your husband who never wants to make love, you’re not alone, and I’ve got a series on that, too! But for many of us, if our brains are getting in the way, read on!)

How to Declutter Your Mind (& Have Better Sex!)

 

Go for walks and get rid of your emotional pinballs.

For us, the best way to get rid of my pinballs is to talk them through. So now, every evening after dinner, my husband asks, “have any pinballs?” And we go for a walk and I tell him what’s on my mind, and we make plans to deal with what we can, pray about those we don’t have a solution for, and just commiserate over other things. Talking them through helps them stop rattling around.

If you’re not an external processor, taking time in the evening to journal through the things that are bothering you, and praying through the issues that pop up, can also help silence them later.

 

Plan tomorrow’s day.

Some people hate to do lists, because they never seem to get “to-done”. Lists are just one big guilt trip!

I know I’ll never get everything on my to do list done, but I still love my lists, and here’s why: When you put something on a list, you give yourself permission to forget about it. Need to buy your mother-in-law a birthday card? Put it on a list! Need to schedule an appointment for your air conditioner to be cleaned? Put it on a list! If you don’t, you’ll be lying there in bed, frantically trying to remember all the things you need to do tomorrow, and give yourself little hints, like, “when I see that ugly china cat on the mantlepiece that Mom gave us, it’ll remind me to buy a card.” That’s too stressful. Put it on a list and let it go!

My husband and I make it a habit now to go over our lists in the early evening and again in the morning. Then we can rest easy knowing that nothing is going to be forgotten. And I can free up my brain for more positive pursuits!

 

Keep your bedroom peaceful.

The bedroom is the most important room in the house. It’s where you keep your relationship with your husband alive, and it’s that relationship that is the foundation for everything else that happens. But it’s also where we often let junk and laundry pile up, because let’s face it: no one ever sees your bedroom.

Stop it! There’s nothing unsexier than starting to “get it on” and looking up and seeing cobwebs on the ceiling fan. Or, even worse, bills piled up on the dresser.

We’re already distractible enough without a million small things in our bedrooms making us feel guilty (“Wow, you haven’t cleaned in ages. What’s wrong with you? You really should have paid those bills! Wonder what will happen now….) Clean it up. When clutter isn’t crying out, “do something with me!”, it’s much easier to laugh and jump in as your husband says the same thing.

 

Would sex be easier if we weren’t so distractible? Perhaps.

But I also think that God made us so that we would have to care for our mental health for our sex life to work, too. So let your husband in on all of your pinballs. Brainstorm together on how you can start to get rid of them and declutter your mind. And as you do, you’ll likely feel a lot closer to him, too, because he’ll understand far more how you work. And maybe bells will still ring—but in a much better way!

 


Sheila Wray Gregoire blogs about marriage (and sex!) everyday at To Love, Honor and Vacuum. She’s the author of 9 books, including The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and 31 Days to Great Sex.

Grab your FREE copy of 36 Ways to Bring Sexy Back to Your Marriage when you sign up for her marriage emails HERE!

How to Enjoy Your Mother’s Day and Love On a Single Mom

How to Enjoy Your Mother’s Day and Love On a Single Mom

“Isn’t this day supposed to be about ME?” I remember saying those words one frustrated Mother’s Day years ago to a husband who just woke from a nap and kids who were fighting. Sometimes Mother’s Day doesn’t feel like a celebration of mom to MOM. Yes, you could look at it as a holiday created to sell greeting cards. But there’s something about this day that makes you want to feel honored or at the very least, recognized and given a much-needed break.

Maybe you’ve uttered those words to your family in frustration. Or perhaps you relish the fact that on this one day, they are going to knock your socks off with pampering and you are not going to have to think about anything heavy.

And then you see her. The single mom in your church. Huh. Who is making sure she has a great mother’s day? And the guilt starts to whisper that you really should do something but, I mean, really, it’s your ONE day. Squirm.

Clutter Free is about clearing clutter from a lot of areas of your life including your heart and mind. And seeing a mom who needs some help shouldn’t come with a side of guilt. Yes, you still get to enjoy your day. But if you truly want to bless her too, I’ve got two amazingly simple ways:

Remind her kids they need to do something.

Or, simply tell her you see the amazing job she’s doing as a mom on her own.

Told you they were simple.

Remind Her Kids

The first Mother’s Day after my husband died, I expected to wake up to just another day of doing everything for my kids. They were a little older but let’s face it, kids often need to be reminded. So imagine my surprise when my girls, ages 12 and almost-6 surprised me with scrambled eggs, toast, and tea on a pretty platter in bed. It was perfect. Absolutely perfect.

I didn’t need a huge gift. I couldn’t afford to take the kids out to lunch. But the fact that they remembered me was enough to make my Mother’s Day special.

Maybe her kids just need to be reminded to do something for mom on this day. Or perhaps they need some suggestions. If you have the means, giving them a gift certificate to take the family out for dinner is great too. Or, help the kids buy her flowers or something simple. These material things are super nice however I think most moms want to feel appreciated and remembered on this day more than anything. So do what you can.

Be Her Cheerleader

Maybe you don’t know her kids well enough to be the bossy grown-up who asks what they are planning. If not, simply telling her you see all she does and you think she’s rockin’ it is another great blessing.

Being a single parent is incredibly tough. It takes lots of creativity and energy to be all things that your kids need on top of provider and caretaker of the home. Telling a single mom you think she’s doing an amazing job at it is another way to bless her on this day to celebrate moms. Simple and free, this encouragement might come at a time when she’s had a rough day or just be a delightful surprise.

So when God places that single mom in your path as Mother’s Day approaches, don’t feel guilty that you want to enjoy your holiday. That’s self-care and you, fellow mom, have earned a day, too. Instead, ask God how you can best help this single mom.

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Jenn Buell is a writer, speaker, radio DJ and widowed mom of four kids who lives in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. She loves using her superpower of encouragement to cheer on other Christian single moms through her blog and podcast, “Right There With You.” You can connect with Jenn at JennBuell.com.

 

The Mom Project: Have a Game Night

The Mom Project: Have a Game Night

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

The Project

My husband and I have four boys. One of our two sons still living at home has autism and is mentally handicapped. It is difficult to find time to consistently connect with the boys in a fun and meaningful way, especially since we have various therapists coming into our home a few evenings a week. The days seem to blur into weeks, and before I know it, I haven’t really connected with either one. I go to bed thinking the next day will be different, but somehow, something always comes up. Unless I am intentional about connecting with them, it won’t happen. I wanted to share with you a simple, yet profound, book I’ve been reading called The Mom Project. This book shares lots of different ways for me as their mom to connect with them and to make some fun memories along the way. I chronicled one of my favorite projects from the book here today. For our project, we chose to have a game night.

The Plan

All three of us chose to play Monopoly. At first I was a little nervous about how this was going to unfold. I didn’t know if my special needs son would totally understand how to play, but I wanted to try. I wanted to make it fun for all of us and to make memories that would last and even make us want to play again really soon. However, I needed to be open minded about how we were going to actually play the game within our limits.

Results

Having a 15-year-old special needs son and a 9-year-old typical child created a unique challenge in connecting with them in this way. I found that adaptability was key. I had to get over my need to play by the rules and to be flexible enough to make up some rules as we went. I somewhat tailored the game to each boy, and they were both on board and engaged. I randomly handed out Monopoly real estate cards, and of course, whoever landed on the property had to pay rent, an easy amount for each of them to remember.

Both boys thoroughly enjoyed seeing Mom suffer as she had to go to jail and couldn’t be set free until she rolled doubles. Lots of laughter and lots of talking. We just made it a fun evening all around by having dessert before dinner, and dinner was pizza from one of their favorite restaurants. The more I got excited about the evening, the more they got excited.

I’m sure we’ll be playing again soon. I’d say Monopoly money was worth more than anything I could ever buy them.

What I Learned

Throughout this project, I learned to let go of my preconceived ideas of how the night should go. I invited them to participate in making up some rules with me, and I also realized they responded in kind to my excitement. I let the anticipation of game night build in their minds a few days beforehand, and I even taunted them with a little friendly competition. They are boys after all.

Extra Tips

If you are going to play a game with your children who are different ages or at different stages in their development, take a little time to plan ahead. Give them an opportunity to have some input in how they would like to play the game (within reason, of course), and watch their faces light up as they engage in the game they’ve helped create. A couple days before you play the game, start building up the excitement whenever and however you can.

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

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Julie and her husband have four boys, and she adores the title “Boy Mom.” She is also a special needs mom, helping navigate the world for her 15-year-old son with autism. Her four boys keep life busy and loud. Most days she wouldn’t want it any other way. You can connect with Julie on her blog at Stuff of Heaven.

 

How to Kick Self-Criticism to the Curb

How to Kick Self-Criticism to the Curb

Of all the things that make parenting challenging, the perpetual self-criticism is the worst. We lose sight of the fact that the most important thing our kids need from us is to feel loved.

We spend a lot of time beating ourselves up for not being “perfect” parents. Take the time my 17 year old son texted me a picture of himself being embraced by another mom after winning the championship wrestling match at the regional tournament. Through a miscommunication, my husband and I both left the match early. I awarded myself “Worst Mother Ever” for that one.

We unknowingly teach self-criticism – because this is how we talk to ourselves.

I’m replacing self-criticism with self-compassion, and making sure my kids hear the message.

You may think, “Sounds lovely. I can’t be trusted though. If I’m not tough on myself, I won’t change (get it done, do my best, etc.).” We fear that if we weren’t constantly berating ourselves, we’d be complete slackers. (Cue your favorite fantasy of irresponsible motherhood here).

Self-Criticism Hurts
I think of self-criticism like the bigger of two siblings, pummeling the other on the living room floor. Self-criticism regularly tries to take me down, landing a few good punches by the time I realize what’s going on and shut it down.

Why Do We Do This To Ourselves?!

This meaner version of ourselves has good intentions:

  • Keep us safe
  • Protect us from making mistakes
  • Make sure we retain our status and get enough love
  • Avoid disapproval from others

Unfortunately, the toxic methods of self-criticism – shame, name-calling, constant comparison, devaluing our needs and accomplishments – bring out the worst in us.

Research by Drs. Kristin Neff, Ricks Warren and Elke Smeets found self-critical people are more prone to avoidance, fearfulness, feelings of inferiority, depression, procrastination, and body dissatisfaction.

The Truth About Self-Compassion
We fear we’ll become self-indulgent sloths if we practice self-compassion. The opposite is true. Self-compassionate people are:

  • More successful in pursuing goals
  • More resilient when goals aren’t met
  • More motivated to change, try harder and avoid repeating mistakes

Change requires desire, awareness, and a plan. Self-compassion takes practice. Ask a trusted friend to point out when you use self-criticism.

4 Ways to Foster Self-Compassion
1. Notice when you slip into self-criticism
2. Stop!
3. Speak to yourself the way you would to a dear friend
4. Make a plan to deal with your concerns

When we think of people who make us feel loved and give us courage, compassion is what we’re most drawn to. Think of Jesus responding to the woman caught in adultery.

Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”
“No one, Master.”
“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” – John 8: 10, 11 (The Message)


____________
Warren, R., Smeets, E. & Neff, K. D. (2016). Self-criticism and self-compassion: Risk
and resilience for psychopathology. Current Psychiatry, 15(12), 18-32.

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Kimberly Gonsalves is a life and leadership coach, speaker and co-creator of Solving The Mystery of Parenting Teens. She encourages and equips women to thrive by letting go of what doesn’t work and instead build healthier habits and more respectful relationships, so they can bring their best to their most important leadership roles, and have more fun doing it. Read her in-depth series on self compassion, or connect with her on Facebook.

The Mom Project Chapter 13: Shower Your Kids With Grace

The Mom Project Chapter 13: Shower Your Kids With Grace

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

My daughter Anya has crossed that mysterious threshold, called middle school. I refer to it as the tween twilight zone. I had taken for granted the innocence of elementary school, the fairy forts being built in the backyard and listening to the endless stories of her class fishing with bamboo sticks in the creek. I was completely unprepared for sixth grade and the change it would bring to our home! Anya on the other hand is living her best tween life with one small exception…missing homework. I am certain my daughter completes her homework, because I have the unfortunate experience of wracking my brain trying to help her figure out what the slope of xy is if y is -4! Did I mention my strong disdain for algebra? Oh, and we haven’t even reached algebra this is pre-algebra! Since, she excelled in math in fifth grade she was placed in pre-algebra two levels higher than the average sixth grade math course, which has caused somewhat of a rift in our relationship!

Some of our discord is my fault. I have a new- found obsession with the online grading system that allows me to check the status of homework and grades at any time of the day…which I do…multiple times. I don’t check because I’m in training to be a tiger mom. I check because first, I’m perplexed that work is missing and second, I’m concerned. I never had issues with her handing in homework. I’m fully aware that Anya is responsible for her grades, but my momma heart can’t help to be a bit worried.

I decided to lower my blood pressure and put a stop to my new found unhealthy habit of visiting RemWeb. It was working, until one evening when she asked me to check if her math test was recorded. I eagerly agreed, after all my resistance was wearing weak! I put in the password, pulled up pre-algebra and there it was…a D, and to make matters worse, the overall grade was a D-. If she didn’t understand the material that’s one thing, but just not handing work in, well that’s another.

My eyes scanned the grades and it was apparent that she was in real trouble and partly because of missing work! I was ready to lay down the hammer, then I saw her eyes filling up with tears. I knew that anything I said in the heat of frustration would only result in a big blow out. Instead I gave her a goodnight kiss decided it was time to dive into the, “Mom Project.” I needed help!

The project, “Shower Your Kids with Grace,” immediately caught my attention. It was time to try a different angle, one that was completely opposite of what I felt like doing, which was dropping the gauntlet. After reading the project, I knew the best lesson wasn’t going to be a lecture, but a good dose of grace.

The next morning, I let Anya sleep in for a bit and woke her up with her favorite homemade waffle breakfast with whip cream and blackberries. She looked at me quizzically and cautiously. I told her we were taking the day off and having a mother daughter day in Washington, DC. She loves photography, so I planned a relaxing day of visiting her favorite spots to let her take photos. It would be a day free of grades, judgment or blame. We hopped on the metro and began the day in our Nation’s Capital. Watching Anya so care free, doing cart wheels on the National Mall, practicing her photography skills at the Botanical Gardens, and grabbing a sweet treat at Georgetown Cupcakes was a perfect way to shower her with the grace she needed.

While hanging out at the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden, Anya said, “Thanks, mom. This has been the best day,” and she opened up about some feelings and even fears that I had no idea about. After our excursion, without my prompting Anya asked me to drop her at school at 7:30 am to get tutoring in pre-algebra. She handed in the missing work and pulled her grade up to a C. I have no doubt that day of grace made a difference for the both of us.

I learned that a little bit of grace goes a long way. This project made me think of my too many to count colossal screw ups and the grace upon grace Jesus so graciously gave me. Jesus has loved me unconditionally through every stage and I had to make sure that I was showing that same grace and love to Anya as she goes through her many stages, even the twilight teen years.

If you want to try this project, find ways to incorporate simple and spontaneous grace in your family’s life to create a home that emphasizes your love for them in all circumstances. Maybe show up at school to take them out to an impromptu lunch, give them a free pass on chores for an evening, or simply don’t dole out a much-deserved consequence as a way of showing grace. Sewing grace into the fabric of our homes create kids that know how to accept grace, but also freely give it to others as well. Who couldn’t stand a little more grace in their day?

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

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This is written by Chere Williams, a passionate single mother who encourages women to make God their partner in their single parenting journey through her blog, “A Single Christian Mom’s Advice on Making Life Easier” Read an excerpt of her upcoming e-book,  “15 Tips on Avoiding Single Mom Burnout.” Click here for a free download.

Chapter 11: Go Outside

Chapter 11: Go Outside

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

The Project

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

The Plan

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

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

Results

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

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

What I Learned

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

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

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

Extra Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

10 Costco Secrets (that Work in Baja, Too)

10 Costco Secrets (that Work in Baja, Too)

10 Costco Secrets (that Work in Baja, Too)

If you’re a lover of the food court, impressed by ridiculously clean, smooth floors, and slightly addicted to samples… welcome to the Costco club.

It’s pretty much the only place where your shopping cart can contain a $45,000 diamond ring resting on top of a five-gallon jug of cooking oil.

It’s also the only place I’d like to be stuck/trapped/held captive in the event of an alien parking lot invasion. Think about it… grab a mattress, sheets, down comforter, scooch yourself to the middle aisles, bust open a pillow two-pack, choose some cozy jammies, slippers and a good book, plug in a heater and wait for the sample servers to come around with hors-d’oeuvres at five. Rotisserie chicken, bagged salad and artisan bread for dinner? I’ll grab the paper plates, napkins, and plastic silverware. Brownies or pumpkin pie for dessert? Yes.

Before we accidentally start planning this event, let’s get to the Costco secrets.

Disclaimer:

  • I am not an employee of Costco.
  • I am not a secret shopper with the ability to write Costco up for not letting me drive the floor squeegee/rider/thingy.
  • I do not own Costco stock.
  • I have only put one question in the suggestion box. (Why is cornbread seasonal?)
  • I do not follow Costco on Twitter.
  • I have never spent the night in Costco, though I’m not entirely opposed to the idea.
  • I am not member FDIC, mostly because I do not know what that means.

The Secrets

1. Open, Open, Open

Most Costcos in the States open at 10:00 a.m., but if you live in Mexico… 9:00 a.m., baby! Once I arrived early to our Ensenada store thinking I had 15 minutes to wait. When what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a dude with a key and a smile just for me. In I went at 8:45, feeling like I had been given an extra chunk of time in my day. This happens in Temecula, CA, too!

2. Turnover Nights

Ever wonder why the display of rad, crazy-soft blankets moved from the front to the middle and then to the right? Marketing. Costco moves things around to make you take a different route and possibly see new products.

New products are stocked on Saturday during the night shift, so if you want to see the latest and greatest, shop Sunday. But first, go to church and pray for patience because there tends to be a bit of gridlock around the TVs and Nearly Naked Popcorn.

3. Some Prices Will Never Change

Behold, the all-American hotdog, and soda combo, alive and well in Baja, too. Same price since the day Costco opened… just a mere $1.50. Friendly reminder: just because something is super cheap and makes your mouth dance does not mean it’s healthy for your insides.

Did I just ruin it?

Sorry—I ruined it.

4. Costco Membership = Discounts on Cars, Vacations, and Coffins

Not much to explain here. If you plan on buying a car, going on a vacation or kicking the can soon, shop costco.com first. 

5. For Real Bargains, Shop the Perimeter and Middle

According to Lifehacker, the middle area of the store is referred to as “action alley” because of the high traffic. “Makers and distributors often pay for the privilege of being there, and the prices are aggressive,” the site says. The flashy displays at the end of aisles, where lucrative samples are given, tend to be the worst bargains in Costco.

I love lucrative samples.

6. Price Adjustments

Besides having an amazing return policy, Costco also offers a 30-day price adjustment guarantee. If an item gets marked down within 30 days of when you bought it, take your receipt to customer service and get the difference reimbursed. Badda-bing, badda-boom.

7. Cheapest Prescription Drugs

A recent Consumer Reports survey found that, when it comes to generic prescription drugs, Costco’s pharmacy is the most affordable on the market.

Extra Bonus: Did you know Costco membership is not required for Costco Pharmacy purchases online or in the warehouses? Annnd… they offer home delivery. Ding-dong!

8. Ninety-Seven-Cent Tags are Your Friends

Most regular priced items end in .99¢, and sometimes .49¢, .79¢, and .89¢. But the real bargains end in .97¢. They’re the items that have been marked down to the lowest sales you’ll find. They’re throughout the whole store, even on food items. Score, score, score some more.

9. Asterisks Mean “Bye Bye”

If you see this symbol (*) in the top right corner of the price tag then you know the item will not be restocked. What you see is all they have, and it won’t be returning, so if it’s something you need, stock up. Exception: popular seasonal merchandise might be returning, but not for a year. Don’t panic though: Christmas decor now arrives in August. #sweatysanta

10. Think Outside the (Costco) Box

The clear, plastic container that holds a 12-pack or 14-pack of apples perfectly fits Christmas ornaments. Fa-la-la-la-la!

What’s your favorite Costco bargain?

Besides maybe pita and hummus, what do you think Jesus would buy at Costco?


Carrie Talbott

Originally from the redwood forest of Mount Hermon, CA, Carrie lived in Baja, Mexico for the past 12 years. She and her husband, and two very white, bilingual boys just moved back to the States and are gradually adjusting to traffic and taco prices.

In the middle of a non-profit ministry and surrounded by dust and mud, she wrote a children’s book about bullying. She is now collaborating on a nonfiction book about loss, guilt and grace.

Carrie is dedicated to Jesus and avocados, and blogs regularly at carrietalbottink.com. She can also be found on Twitter @carrie_talbott and on Facebook at Carrie Talbott Ink.

 

 

4 Ways to Express LOVE to Your Not-So-Organized Spouse, Plus Free Printable

4 Ways to Express LOVE to Your Not-So-Organized Spouse, Plus Free Printable

4 Ways to Express Love

Socks scattered across the bedroom floor. Again.

Love is patient.

Paper piles covering every flat surface, even though I created a file system for them.

Love is not easily angered.

How many times do I have to remind him there is a container for the chips?

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

These are the thoughts and frustrations that run through my mind every time my husband’s messy tendencies conflict with my organized ways. You would think that after 25 years of marriage I’d be used to it.

I’m not.

When I married Clint I knew what I was getting into. I didn’t marry him for his organizational skills, but rather for his sense of humor, good looks, and kind ways. Plus, I was certain being married to me would cure him of his disorganization.

I was wrong.

Our polar opposite personalities and different ways of keeping things in order clashed from the get-go. We struggled and fought. In the end, I had to learn how to balance my orderly style with his not-so-organized ways.

Love Paves the Way

It wasn’t easy, but hope and LOVE made all the difference.

LOVE paves the way

Since our marriage was a relationship grounded in God, it seemed like the best place for me to search for answers in dealing with my disorganized spouse would be God’s Word. I was certain that I would find the evidence I needed to change Clint to my tidy way of living.

Once again, I was wrong.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes, “ Love is patient, love is kind … it keeps no record of wrong.” I wonder if Paul knew how desperately some “Odd Couples” would need to hear those words in order to live as one.

Rather than give me the weapons I was looking for, God’s Word showed me how to express LOVE to Clint in ways that would honor him, our marriage, and our home.

Express Love to Your Spouse 

Learn your spouse’s organizing style. Organizing isn’t one-size-fits all. In fact, each of us has our own way of keeping order. As much as I wanted Clint to be organized like me, he had his own style.

Once I recognized his style – no lidded containers, simple in function, and everything in view – it made it easier for me to create order for both of us. By honoring who he was, and how God created him, I was able to find a balance both of us could work with.

A marriage is made up of two unique individuals. I needed to stop trying to make him just like me and appreciate the man he was.

Offer to compromise. In a perfect world, everyone would be organized. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and often times those we love are not as organized as we’d like them to be.

While we could insist they do things our way, God reminded me that love is not self-seeking (1 Cor 13:5). That’s where compromise comes in.

Compromises

Rather than demand that every inch of the house be in perfect order, here are a few compromises I suggested:

• Offering one or two “messy zones” that he is free to keep as he pleases.
• Determining together which spaces in the house should be clutter-free and which everyone has to make an effort to keep orderly.
• Setting terms for dealing with unwanted stuff – agreeing to declutter twice a year with a goal of getting rid of at least 50 items.

Compromise is never easy, but it’s a necessary component of marriage and the organizing journey.

Verbalize your feelings, but don’t nag. While it can be frustrating to see the piles and chaos that disorganized spouses can leave in their wake, constantly pointing out those tendencies will not bring order to your home.

Statements such as, “Why can’t you put the chips back where they belong?” or “You always leave your socks on the floor” don’t exactly convey loving sentiments. Rather, statements like these that can put your spouse on the defensive and make you sound like a quarrelsome wife (Prov. 19:13, 21:9, 25:24).

Instead of bringing up his organizational shortcomings, why not try statements such as:

• “Honey, did you know that there is a basket specifically for the chips in the pantry?” or
• “It really bothers me when you leave your socks on the floor all the time. Could you pick them up more often and place them in the hamper?”

Words Have Power

Our words have the power of life and death and a gentle answer can turn away wrath (Prov. 15:1). They might just lead to order too.

Exemplify. It’s unlikely that your nagging or anger will be what brings your spouse to the light of organized living. I’ve learned from personal experience that setting the example first has more influence and impact than words or fights could ever have.

Truly, actions speak louder than words (1 Peter 3:1). Over time my consistent organized ways and habits eventually began to rub off on my husband. In the past few years I’ve seen Clint become more orderly – he makes to-do lists on a regular basis, he purges his clothes before we go shopping, and I’ve even caught him using my label maker!

I can’t say that he’s organized with everything, but he’s definitely not the same man I married all those years ago. Sometimes the best thing a wife can do is be the example for her spouse, even in the little things.

[Don’t forget to show LOVE to your spouse! Download the FREE printable – 4 Ways to Express LOVE to Your Not-So-Organized Spouse.]

Lesson Learned

Early in our marriage, I questioned whether two people on different ends of the organizing spectrum could make it work under one roof. I was certain that he was the one who needed to change. Eventually, I realized that the only person I can change is myself.

While our home isn’t perfectly organized, the truth of God’s Word, the hope that things could change, and a lot of LOVE have allowed us to have a home that’s as clutter-free as can be.

How could LOVE make a difference with your not-so-organized spouse?


Liana George is an organizer, writer, and speaker. Her mission is to inspire others in transforming their chaos into an organized lifestyle. Liana is married to Clint and together they have two adult daughters. When Liana isn’t organizing something you can find her curled up with a good book, watching/playing tennis, or planning her next dive adventure. You can visit her website at bygeorgeorganizing.com.


to-do list

Surprising Clutter: You Will Never Guess What I Found Under My Couch

Surprising Clutter: You Will Never Guess What I Found Under My Couch

I started wading through the clutter in January. One week later I was disheartened. There was still a lot to do. I shared my dismay with my brave friend who had come over and worked alongside me for a bit, she said, “It will take a year.” She reminded me this was a process and that it would take more than a weekend to declutter. And here I am today, still working on organizing, decluttering, de-junking my house. I have made some progress and have discovered some surprising clutter.

The piles of toy parts, the box of notes from high school, and the bags of stained baby clothes, I expected. However, I was surprised to discover hidden pockets of clutter of a different variety. These were things I thought I would never misplace or lose track of. I unearthed encouraging words left unsaid, found compliments piled in the corners like stacks of magazines, and discovered a hoard of fun under the couch.

Surprising clutter 

I found a box full of family time that still had the packing tape on it from our last move. Nothing really prepared me for the waves of regret that quickly eroded my pride in the progress I had made. The cost of clutter had not really hit me until that moment; clutter steals and hoards what we are capable of giving to others.

I had not realized that my disheveled closet was hoarding confidence or that the chaotic art room had my children’s creative tendencies squirreled away in half empty crayon boxes and dried up paint bottles. I started to think that maybe we just weren’t as creative, fun or as kind as we used to be, but it was just that the clutter had taken over and obscured these attributes from our hearts and minds. My creative, kind and fun-loving family was there all along.

It was just that we could only see the mess.

It didn’t take me long to realize I could not hold on to the the regret that came along with this discovery. I certainly could not afford to stockpile regret, so out it went and in came a new way of living and loving.

How to clear out the surprising clutter

As we clear the clutter, we discover that our hearts expand to give more generously to those we love most, and isn’t that what we all want? I don’t need the old train table the kids played with years ago or the 20 reusable grocery bags that have taken over my side entryway, I do need every bit of my capacity to encourage my children and to love my husband well.

My words of affirmation and kindness must be said, otherwise they are just as useless as the boxes of VHS tapes in the basement. The fun hoard, along with the dust bunnies and dog toys, needs to come out from under the couch, so that our home can be a place of joy.

Clearing the clutter allows our hearts to be tuned into what is most important — the people we do life with. As I continue to declutter my home I am now more excited about what I will gain. An expanded heart ready to jump into joy, fun and love versus what I will lose.

 


You can read more from Bethany Howard at bethanyhoward.com. She writes about finding fuel for joy and growth in the details of the daily. Her greatest leadership exercise has been her roles as wife and mom to three. She is a graduate of Leverage: The Speaker Conference.