#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.

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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/

#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

#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.


#377: Tradition vs. Truth: How to Grow in Wisdom Every Single Day with Amanda Hope Haley

#377: Tradition vs. Truth: How to Grow in Wisdom Every Single Day with Amanda Hope Haley

In this week’s episode, Kathi sits down to chat with Amanda Hope Haley, author of Mary Magdalene Never Wore Blue Eye Shadow, about how to grow in wisdom every day. They invite us to take a journey of rediscovering who God is as we strip off mistaken ideas that can clutter our understanding and read the Bible with fresh eyes.

You’ll learn from Amanda’s journey of unlearning some of her preconceived notions about the Bible. You’ll also learn how we can grow in wisdom through:

  • Approaching the Bible boldly, with fresh eyes
  • Pressing into uncomfortable and confusing passages
  • Allowing the Living Word to teach us something new

To start your own journey of rediscovery, get your copy of Mary Magdalene Never Wore Blue Eye Shadow on Amazon today.


Thanks to the generosity of Harvest House Publishers, we have a few copies of Amanda’s book to give away to our readers!

One Grand Prize Winner will receive a copy of Mary Magdalene Never Wore Blue Eye Shadow, along with some lovely things to provide a cozy reading atmosphere. Curl up with some slippers, tea, a journal, and pens to enjoy this book and dig into truths from the Bible.

Enter to win 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.

Meet Our Guest

Amanda Hope Haley

Amanda Hope Haley

Amanda Hope Haley has a master of theological studies in Hebrew Scripture and Interpretation from Harvard University. She is a lover of the Bible–its God, its words, and its history. Amanda and David live in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with their always-entertaining basset hound, Copper. You can learn more at amandahopehaley.com

#376: Three Decisions to Make Today to Have the Best Christmas Ever

#376: Three Decisions to Make Today to Have the Best Christmas Ever

Ready or not, Christmas is on its way! The holidays come every year and yet we always seem caught off guard by their arrival. What if we could make some important decisions today to make our lives easier in December? What if we could plan ahead and have the best Christmas ever this year?

This week, Kathi and Tonya Kubo, fearless leader of the Clutter Free Academy Facebook Group, discuss three decisions you can make today to have the best Christmas ever. Their insights will help you move from dreading the holidays to actually enjoying them.

In this episode, you’ll learn how taking care of your future self by making decisions early will help you to have the best Christmas ever. You’ll also learn how to:

  • Get started on your Christmas cards today
  • Arrange your calendar early to include all the things (even Christmas cheer!)
  • Avoid the January sticker shock from your holiday spending

Get a handle on the holidays by ordering your own gorgeous copy of The Christmas Project Planner. Click here to order on Amazon.

If you’re looking for more ideas, support, and awesome .gifs, join the Christmas Project Planner Facebook Group.


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 #376

Read along with the podcast!

Clutter Free Academy Podcast # 376

Three Decisions to Make Today to Have the Best Christmas Ever.

<<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 the Christmas Countdown. Things are happening, friends. Christmas is coming, like it or not. I hope you like it.

Tonya – Like it or not, December 25th comes every year.

Kathi – It really does. You were talking about how people say, “Did Christmas just sneak up on you this year?” and you’re like, “No. I knew that Christmas was on December 25th.” 

Tonya – I just keep forgetting the days are ticking by. 

Kathi – You have to do something about it. Yeah, that’s a little frustrating. Well, here’s what I want us to do. I want us to make some decisions early, and these decisions can help you manage your Christmas in a better way. So, I am here with Tonya Kubo, who is our fearless leader, over at Clutter Free Academy on Facebook. If you have not joined Clutter Free Academy on Facebook, you didn’t listen to our last episode, because we pretty much shamed you into doing it. Here’s the thing: We love to talk about taking care of your future self. So, Tonya, why don’t you explain to people what taking care of your future self is.

Tonya – Well, it’s understanding that the later version of yourself never has more time, or more energy for anything. So, why not just do something right now that makes later a little bit easier? 

Kathi – That’s all we want you to do. Yes, you’re doing it for your family. Yes, you’re doing it for your friends, but really? It’s okay to do it for yourself, to be a more peaceful version of who you are. So, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to pre-decide a few things, to decide if you’re doing them this year. If you’re not, mark it off and go with God, and don’t worry about it anymore, but, we want you to decide on a few things that are going to make the rest of your season so much easier. So, Number One: Are You Going to Do Christmas Cards? So, Tonya, are you going to do Christmas cards?

Tonya – I’m doing Christmas cards.

Kathi – You are?! 

Tonya – I am!

Kathi – Okay, tell me about it. First of all, I’m so proud of you for making that decision months in advance. 

Tonya – Especially since, the first time we recorded this episode, I was like, “Ah! I don’t know!” Pressure!

Kathi – Okay, so what made you decide that this is the year?

Tonya – Well, part of it is because I have a plan. I have a plan. I understand that it’s not such a big thing. There are just about little ten steps to get me from here to Christmas cards in the mail. And I can do those steps. I’ve realized that I have to buy stamps. I know how to buy stamps. And I can buy stamps at any time. I don’t have to buy stamps three days before Christmas.

Kathi – Right! You can order them online. 

Tonya – Right! I can buy stamps. I’ve decided I want a picture. I don’t have to have a picture. I have a friend who just buys her cards from the Dollar Store and hand writes every card. That’s not who I am. But I can get a picture, and we happen to have a long-time sitter. She’s been with us since Abby was born, and she’s really handy with a camera and a camera phone. So, I’m just going to have her take our picture. I already asked her. I said, “Do you think you could just snap a picture of us?” and she’s like, “Sure! Not a problem!” So, I’ve got that down. I just need to pick a date.

Kathi – Beautiful! I’m so proud of you! The Lipps, who haven’t sent Christmas cards for a few years, have also decided that this is the year. 

Tonya – Do we get to see Moo?

Kathi – Moo will be a part of it. So, if you guys don’t know, we have a new baby puggle. Her name is Moose, but we call her Moo, little Moo, Moo-Moo, Moose-on-the-Loose. She has many, many names. So, we are going to take a picture with her, probably at The Red House, but you know what? If it just happens to be just our two faces and little Moo?  Now, we cannot get Moo and Ashley the Cat in the same photograph, because, right now, everybody loves Moo, except for one. 

Tonya – Yeah, but you never know. Christmas miracles, they can happen at any time.

Kathi – Wouldn’t that be nice? I had little pictures of them snuggling together, and right now, I’m just praying they don’t kill each other. We’re working on it.  We’re working on training Moose, so she’s a little bit chill-er – let’s put it that way – and doesn’t bark quite as much. So, anyway, we look at sending Christmas cards as if it should be easy, and it actually is easy. It does require a lot of steps, though, and so, having the addresses. That’s the part that always kills me. Trying to get all those addresses together. So, that’s my first step. That’s the step that I need to do in advance. Print off those labels. I’m not your calligraphy kind of gal. I just want to print off the labels and be done with it. We can have a mass production. The other thing that I am doing? I am putting on my calendar, a night to invite people over to do their Christmas cards. 

Tonya – How fun!

Kathi – Right? If you lived closer, I’d invite you over. Sadly, you are several hours away.

Tonya – I don’t know. I might come over anyway.

Kathi – You might come over. I love it. 

Tonya – It depends on what we’re eating. Is there cheese? If there’s cheese involved, I might go.

Kathi – There will be cheese. There is always cheese. So, we’ll put on the Christmas music, and we’ll just go for it. It gives me a target for when I need the cards back in order to do all the things. I’m super-excited about it. So, let’s talk to the person who’s not going to do Christmas cards. You just saved yourself twelve hours.

Tonya – I was going to say, we just gave them a day and a half!

Kathi – I don’t send Christmas cards every year. We’ll send them this year, because we have a new, cute little face in the house, and I love to share the Moose-love, but we probably won’t send them next year, and that’s okay.  Nothing inside of me says, “I need to send them every year.”  Especially, when you have kids that are older, they change so slowly at that point. Now, when they’re little, and you have a new baby, yeah, do the cards. Of course, I’m saying that to new moms. You know what? Just put a picture of your kid up on the Interwebs. That’s all you need to do. So, if you’re not going to do Christmas cards, you get a free pass. That’s amazing. Good for you. But, if you’re going to do Christmas cards, start doing those little steps into motion. Get the picture taken, if you’re going to do that. Gather your addresses. Create an Excel spread sheet. Order the stamps. Are you doing it on Shutterfly? Figure all that out, and do it early. Number Two: Decide On Your Calendar. So, in The Christmas Project Planner, we have your December calendar and your November Calendar, and I want you to put in there, on little Post-It Notes, what nights or days you are going to be busy, so that you cannot worry about that. For somebody like me, it’s not that big of a deal, because Roger is going to be busy with church and everything like that, because he’s on the production team, but I don’t have little kids in the house. I’m not going to a million winter carnival/festival/thing-a-majigs. But you have Abby and Lily. You need to get those things on there early. So, tell me what your November and December looks like.

Tonya – Well, you know, they’re crazy. They always are. But I think one thing that I have realized this year that I don’t think I realized last year, is I don’t have to be a slave to other people’s communication schedules. I have the power to contact the school, contact the teachers and say, “Hey, when is the Christmas Program? When is this? When are conferences?” I don’t have to sit here and say, “Oh, well, I know my kids are going to have a Christmas Program, but the teacher hasn’t informed me yet.” No! They have to reserve the auditorium at some point, so I am totally capable of finding out when that reservation is. 

Kathi – Nice. I like that a lot. I really, really do. So, get your calendar together. Decide when you’re going to do things. Then decide when you’re going to put in the Christmas cheer. I said, I’m going to have a night where I’m inviting people over to work on their Christmas cards, or if they’re crafters, they can bring those kinds of things. Whatever they want to do. I’m inviting them over and we can do this all together. I’m also going to have a night when I get to The Red House, of wreath-making. We have thirty two acres of trees that are waiting to be turned into wreaths.  

Tonya – I don’t even know how that happens, but I look forward to hearing your story.

Kathi – I’m super-excited. I’ve got the ring. I’ve already ordered the supplies I need. I cannot wait. So, put in times of intentional joy and rest on your calendar. That’s what I want for you. I want you to have some days where you’re going to go do something fun. Both your family and my family have a tradition, where we load up the car, we drive through Starbucks, we get hot chocolates or the coffees or whatever, and we go look at Christmas lights.

Tonya – I love it, because I don’t actually put up Christmas lights. I can look at other peoples.

Kathi – Roger does. It’s not my thing, but it’s his thing. I love that we both do that. You get to go and appreciate somebody else’s work without having to do any of your own. Then, finally, I want you to Decide on Your Budget. One of the things that was really helpful for me last year was, I just shoved all the receipts into my Christmas book, so I could kind of see what I spent last year. Every family has some unusual expenses. I know you have some unusual expenses because of your husband’s job.

Tonya – Yes. My husband is a special education teacher at a low income school, so he spends a fair amount of money on his students, but also, his co-workers actually like each other and get together. A lot. 

Kathi – That’s amazing. Since we talked about it, it makes me think, we had a couple of teachers at the last Red House Writer’s Retreat. We were talking about what is covered by the school district and what isn’t. What was so interesting was: paper was covered, pencils are not. So, Roger was working in San Jose, and I had him go buy three hundred pencils to just give to them, so they could have them in their classrooms. I think, as parents, could we give the teachers twenty dollars and say, “Hey, I know you’ve got some expenses coming up this Christmas season.” Unless it’s one of those bah-humbug teachers. But Brian’s not one of those.

Tonya – You know what’s beautiful? Going back – and this is not sponsored by Amazon at all – but gift cards. I have the teacher’s email addresses, and Amazon gift cards. 

Kathi – It’s a beautiful thing. People were so gracious to us when we had evacuees at The Red House. People sent us games for the kids. They sent us books for the kids. Then they sent us Amazon gift cards, and it made such a difference in all the things we were doing. Finally, just knowing what your budget is, so you’re not surprised in January. If you’re going to buy all the things in December and complain about it in January, how is that honoring anybody? How is that honoring your family? How is that honoring your spouse? How is that honoring you? How is that honoring God? So, make these decisions early. If this all feels overwhelming to you, I’m going to have Tonya tell you a little bit about The Christmas Project Planner Facebook group, because we would love you to be a part of that. 

Tonya – Yes! First of all, it’s not like The Christmas Project Planner Facebook group lives twelve months out of the year. We’re just here for a short period of time and we’re going to have a lot of fun. Right now, there’s a lot of people in there that cannot get enough of Christmas, but as we get closer to Christmas, there are going to be people in there who are just desperate to survive Christmas. The great thing about The Christmas Project Planner group is, we’re in there and we’re just focused on practicality. Somebody posted in there the other day that they were raised by somebody who did Christmas like a pro, but didn’t really pass on how to do Christmas like a pro, so it’s been a big mystery to them. They are just in there, like, “How do you get through, day by day.” It’s beautiful because The Christmas Project Planner is twenty-one super-simple steps to get you from here to actually loving Christmas.

Kathi – Right. First of all, this book is beautiful. They’ve done such an amazing job. It’s really gorgeous. So, if this is something you want to do with a friend, if you gave them this book as a gift, it would be a gorgeous gift. If you order one, order two, and you can talk other people into doing this. I promise you. We would love for you to join the group. We would love for you to be a part of it. It’s not too late. We can help you simplify the Christmas that you want to have. Tonya, thank you so much for being on Clutter Free Academy. 

Tonya – Thank you for having me.

Kathi – Of course! And friends, thank you for joining us. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free Christmas you were always intended to celebrate.


*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

#375: A Christmas Plan For Those Who Are Overwhelmed By Christmas

#375: A Christmas Plan For Those Who Are Overwhelmed By Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner! Do you have a Christmas plan in place or are you overwhelmed thinking about it already? Have no fear! In this episode, Kathi and Tonya Kubo, illustrious leader of the Clutter Free Academy Facebook Group, will help you create a Christmas plan to have your most joyful, meaningful, merry holiday season yet.

Kathi and Tonya will give you a glimpse into some of their favorite Christmas traditions and others that didn’t work for them. Their experiences will help you discover:

  • Three things that can make Christmas feel overwhelming and how to address them.
  • Important questions to ask when crafting a Christmas plan.
  • How to share the giving season and get others involved in your Christmas plan.

Kathi and Tonya are right. You really can get anything on Amazon! Most importantly, you can pre-order your copy of The Christmas Project Planner and get your Christmas plan rolling today.

Join the Christmas planning fun in the Christmas Project Planner Facebook Group.

If you’re interested in trying raclette, click here to learn more.

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.

Clutter Free Academy Podcast #375 Transcript


Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, do-able steps to live everyday with less clutter and more life. All I want to say right now is, “JINGLE BELLS! JINGLE BELLS! JINGLE ALL THE WAY!!” Am I killing you, Tonya? I’m talking to my guest, Tonya Kubo, who is the fearless leader over at Clutter Free Academy, the Facebook group.  If you’re not a part of that, go join it. If you’re not a part of that, what are we even doing? What are we even doing here?

Tonya – I don’t even know. Where are you? If you’re not there, where are you?

Kathi – Do you not love love? Do you not love support? Do you not love the kindest corner of the internet? I mean, what are we even doing? Well, Tonya, the reason I said I’m killing you, is because you are a self-admitted Grinch. I wouldn’t call you a Grinch. I know you call yourself a Grinch, but can we just say – and, by the way, we’re rerecording this because Kathi may have had a couple of technical difficulties the last time we recorded this – and we didn’t talk about this then, but I want to talk about it now. You maybe didn’t have the easiest growing up. 

Tonya – No, I didn’t have the easiest growing up. I would agree with you. I view Grinches as people who want to ruin Christmas for other people, but I think I’m happy for you to have the most amazing Christmas ever, I just don’t need to be a part of it. 

Kathi – My theory is: If you want to be miserable, you go right ahead. And you’re saying: If you want to be happy, you go right ahead. Here’s the thing: because you have kids, and because I love your kids, I want them to have some semblance of a Christmas that they will look back on fondly, with lots of love. I do feel like I need to get you up to a Christmas level every year, because you help me with The Christmas Challenge. Every year, you get a little more Christmas-y. 

Tonya – That is true. I will say, last year, as we were preparing for The Christmas Project Planner to come out, even Brian commented that I was the most Christmas-y he had ever known me to be. 

Kathi – Here’s the thing. I think you have mental issues when it comes to matching outfits. 

Tonya – I definitely have mental issues when it comes to matching outfits! Oh, my gosh!

Kathi – I think that there is some childhood trauma there. Every time I talk about, “What is your problem with Christmas?” matching outfits comes up. 

Tonya – Okay, so you know that I have a MOPS background, and our annual fundraiser at our local MOPS group is what they call Santa House. One of our members lives in an old mansion. She does it all out for Christmas. We have Santa there. For one price, you can take your Christmas picture, Christmas craft, some hot cocoa, some cookies. You get your picture print that day, and you go out the door. So, for years, I see that parade of families that walk in, and the whole family is done up in these coordinating outfits. I have to tell you, the first year, I was like, “These are thoughts that have never crossed my mind.” The idea that we all might own outfits that coordinate is not a Kubo family tradition. Second, the idea that you would all wear those coordinating outfits on this one day, like you would pre-plan that? Mind-blowing! 

Kathi – Can I just tell you, my husband loves me deeply and would do almost anything for me, but the thought of asking him to get into a coordinating outfit? It never even occurred to me. We did do, because he loves his daughter deeply, and she wanted to go to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Hallowe’en Party, and she wanted to go as Joy from UP!. Not UP! Excuse me. Inside Out. I get the two confused because they almost had an Up themed wedding. So, Roger went as Anger and I went as Disgust. 

Tonya – Yes! And Lily was very impressed with your Disgust. 

Kathi – I loved my Disgust. This has nothing to do with Christmas, but let me just say this: As a mom who raised kids in the ’90s and the aughts, the double zeros, pulling together a costume in 2019 is an order of magnitude easier than it was when my kids were little. You can get anything on Amazon. 

Tonya – Right?! The perfect wig and all the things.

Kathi – Right! I got everything on Amazon. It was amazing. Okay, sorry. The struggle is real. Okay, but we’re talking about Christmas and I believe that so many people are overwhelmed by Christmas for three reasons. Let me just go over them really quickly. Loneliness, and I’ll explain what I mean by that, A Lack of a Plan, and Others’ Expectations. So, let’s go into these. You and I have talked about this and you agree with these three.

Tonya – Oh, totally.

Kathi – Okay, so, Loneliness.  I believe that overwhelm often stems from the feeling “I’m in this all by myself.” Feeling alone in something. So, when I say Loneliness, it’s not that you don’t have friends. That’s not what we’re talking about. It’s feeling like it’s all up to you and you don’t have the help.  I think, I’m switching these around, because I think that stems from Number Three: Others’ Expectations. People feel like, “Well, everybody who’s a good mom has matching outfits”, “Everybody who’s a good mom xyz.” To not process those expectations, and just accept them? Here’s the thing that we need to understand: Expectations don’t affect us until with accept the expectations. There were lots of things people did for Christmas that I couldn’t have cared less about. We never dressed anybody in matching outfits. That was not our thing. We never went caroling. We had a group of friends who did that, and I’m like, “That sounds terrible. I don’t want to do that.” There are some people who love that, though. You have to figure out what works for you, in your situation, and you, in your family. What are some of the things that bring you joy when it comes to Christmas, Tonya?

Tonya – Peppermint Mochas and Gingerbread Lattes. 

Kathi – Yes! Those are good things. Very, very good things. Some people get angry that they only come out seasonally. I love that they only come out seasonally. 

Tonya – Well, you actually can get the Peppermint Mocha all year ’round.

Kathi – This is true, because Roger does it every day. The Gingerbread Lattes and things like that, though? Even the Pumpkin Spiced Latte? That’s a treat. 

Tonya – Right, and I think there is this thing, going back to your point about Amazon. You can get anything, at any time, pretty much, nowadays, right? So, it’s easy to feel like nothing is special, but the one thing I do like about Christmas, and the holiday season, is that it is an opportunity to make things special.

Kathi – That goes into our point of Number Two: Have a Plan. All of these tie in together. The loneliness, feeling like you have to do it all by yourself, others’ expectations. One of the things I feel is very important, whoever the stakeholders are in your Christmas, for you, that would be Brian and your two girls. For me, it is my husband, my adult kids, my adult step-kids, my mom, and to a certain extent, my brother and his family. So, if we want to have the Christmas we want to have, I’m going to put in as much effort, probably more, than most people in my family, but I’m not going to put in all the effort. Here’s what I’ve come to understand: I kill myself to make a great Christmas, but it’s not the Christmas that other people wanted, and then I’m disappointed with people’s reaction. That’s ridiculous. I stopped that around ten years ago. That’s not what’s happening anymore. So, to sit down and say, “What do we want this Christmas to look like?” And really get specific. I remember one time, I made at least fifteen dishes on the table, for Christmas dinner, and people weren’t eating anything. I couldn’t figure it out, and I was really frustrated. I came to find out all my kids care about were the appetizers. They don’t care about the turkey. They don’t care about any of that stuff. So say, “Could we do a Christmas where it’s just appetizers and dessert?” Can I just tell you? That was our favourite Christmas ever. We’ve done other things like that. Last year we did raclette. Everybody had a great time and it was super-easy. If you don’t know, it’s a Swedish fondue. You can look it up, or, we’ll put a link in the show notes. 

Tonya – You need to put a link in the show notes, ’cause I think that’s what my husband wants for Christmas.  I’m just saying.

Kathi – It’s super-super fun. We’ve one pizza fondue, we’ve done raclette. Get the stakeholders into it, so it’s not all up to you, so you’re not alone. You can have a plan. You can have this meeting early on. So, what would your girls say is important to them for Christmas?

Tonya – So, it’s funny that you bring that up. You’re right, going back to the plan. You have to ask. I remember, what was it, three years ago that you introduced me to this idea of asking? I asked Brian, and I thought Brian would talk about, ’cause guys are really about food, right? Dinner. All Brian cares about is for Christmas, which has been transcended to my daughters, candy for breakfast. 

Kathi – So, you do one morning of candy for breakfast on Christmas?

Tonya – Christmas morning. So, I was spending all this time planning the perfect Christmas breakfast, “‘Cause you know, it’s a sugar high, and so I want them to have protein and the overnight casserole and the whatever.” Brian just wants to be able to eat candy for breakfast. He wants to eat nothing but candy until lunchtime. That is Christmas to him.

Kathi – Okay, that sounds horrific, but if it makes them happy.

Tonya – So, then, all I have to worry about is having the Christmas breakfast that I want to have. 

Kathi – Right. So, what do you eat instead of candy? Or do you eat the candy?

Tonya – No, I eat quiche. Quiche makes me happy.

Kathi – Quiche. Okay, you and I, carbs. Yes please. So, I love that. You’ve figured out what everybody else’s expectations or desires are, and you have a plan. 

Tonya – Right. It’s funny, because Abby will ask to eat a lollipop, last Saturday, and I just look at her and say, “Is it Christmas?” and she’ll say, “No.” “When do we eat candy for breakfast?” She knows she gets candy for breakfast on Christmas and on Easter and that’s it.

Kathi – That’s so cute. I love that. It makes it so super-special to them. It’s something they’ll remember. It’s something they’ll probably do with their own kids.  So, what we’re going to do to not be overwhelmed this Christmas? We’re going to understand other people’s expectations, and we’re going to accept or reject what works for us and our family. It doesn’t matter what the other mom at school is doing and what her expectations are. The only expectations that matter are those of your kids, your family, your friends, the ones that are celebrating with you. So, we’re going to do that. Then we’re going to have a plan. We’re going to have a plan on how to execute the Christmas that you want. Here’s what happens. When you are hustling to meet everybody’s expectations, the things that are important to you get shoved out. I’ll never forget the year that I felt I was too busy, getting ready for Christmas, to go to church. How screwed up are my priorities that I’m not going to church to celebrate the baby Jesus, but I’ll make sure that the cheese rolls are on point?

Tonya – But I do that!

Kathi – We all do it!

Tonya – I would be totally happy just wearing plain clothes, going to church and coming home. But it’s like, “Oh no. There’s no time for that.” ’cause I’m decking the halls. 

Kathi – Right! And if you’re going do matching clothes? Make them matching pajamas. Make sure it’s comfy. Then, we’re going to ask other people to participate. There is something, a matriarchal complex, I’m not really sure what it is, where we feel like we want to put on the Christmas feast all by ourselves. Can I tell you? Dinner is better when you assign it to other people. 

Tonya – We were raised by women who didn’t ask for help. That is my belief. We were raised by women who didn’t ask for help. We’re surrounded by friends we don’t see ask for help and therefore we assume asking for help is a bad thing.

Kathi – Asking for help means that other people get to give in the giving celebration and that’s what we want.  Okay guys, if this all sounds like, “Well, that’s all great, but I don’t think I can pull it off.” We have a whole group dedicated to pulling this off. We can make this the best Christmas ever for you. The one where you get to celebrate how you want, in the ways that you want. We want to make that happen for you, so we have a group, and I’m going to put in there, it’s The Christmas Project Planner Group. We want you to be a part of it, because we want this Christmas to be different from any other Christmas. Tonya’s in there leading it. You guys are having so much fun.

Tonya – We are! It’s kind of like Christmas exploded. Even I’m having a blast, because I totally feed off other people’s enthusiasm, and I had no idea that Facebook had such a library of hilarious Christmas .gifs.

Kathi – The .gifs are the best.

Tonya – Come for the gifs, I’m telling you. 

Kathi – Come for the gifs. Not the GIFTS. I love it. I’m going to put links in the show notes to buy the book. This is a book you’ll be able to use for the rest of your life. You can photocopy it. You can use Post-It notes, you can put all the lists in there. This will become your, I don’t want to say Christmas Bible, because we have a real Bible about Christmas, so it’s a little blasphemous. This is your Christmas Command Central. 

Tonya – I like that.

Kathi – You’ll be able to use it every year and it will be amazing. Okay, guys. Tonya, thanks so much. Thanks for being so open about your Christmas-y, Grinch-y tendencies.

Tonya – Thanks for loving me through it.

Kathi – I do. I do, friend. I hear ya. And guys, thank you for being here. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter-free Christmas you were always intended to celebrate.


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

Meet Our Guest

Tonya Kubo is the 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

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