#408: How Do I Know Where Stuff Goes?

#408: How Do I Know Where Stuff Goes?

This week, Kathi and fearless leader of the Clutter Free Academy Facebook Group and Clutter Free for Life, Tonya Kubo, are continuing the conversation in the How Do I? Series. Last week Kathi and Tonya talked about how to get rid of the good stuff. Today Tonya brings to the table the most frequently asked question: where do I put all the stuff? Join in the conversation as they teach us how to create the solutions that make the most sense and change our lives.

In this episode you will learn:

  • How to make life more simple
  • Reduce design fatigue
  • Make things work for you

Clutter-Free Home

Are you longing for a place of peace from which you can love others well? The Clutter-Free Home: Making Room for Your Life is your room-by-room guide to decluttering, reclaiming, and celebrating every space of your home.

In The Clutter-Free Home, you’ll walk through each room of your house to create organizational zones that are not only functional and practical but create places of peace that reflect your personality. Kathi will help you tackle the four-step process to reveal the home you’ve always dreamed of and then transform it into a haven that reflects who you truly are meant to be.

Order your copy of The Clutter-Free Home on Amazon today.


Learn more about Clutter Free for Life

Learn more about Writing at the Red House 

Order your squeeze bottles on Amazon

GIVEAWAY TIME: Answer this question in the comments below for a chance to win The Get Yourself Organized Project: What is your biggest struggle in figuring out where to put things?

(Or you can order your copy of The Get Yourself Organized Project on Amazon today.)

We would love to stay connected.

To share your thoughts:

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

Subscribe on iTunes or subscribe to our newsletter now.

Meet Our Guest

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo is the illustrious and fearless leader of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Academy Facebook group and the Clutter Free for Life membership program. 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


Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, doable steps to live everyday with less clutter and more life. We’re in the midst of a series. It’s basically, “How do I?” I’ve got Tonya Kubo here, who’s our fearless leader over at Clutter Free Academy and Clutter Free for Life. Hey, Tonya!

Tonya – Hey, Kathi!

Kathi – So, she’s asking me the most frequently asked questions over at Clutter Free Academy. So, this is number three in the series, so let’s do it.

Tonya – So, this one is, “How do I know where stuff goes?”

Kathi – So, this isn’t the most frequently asked question at Clutter Free Academy. This is the most frequently asked question from Tonya Kubo.

Tonya – Maybe?

Kathi – So, go into this. Where’s the struggle?

Tonya – Other people ask it too. So, for me, I’m pretty honest with our listeners in that, I grew up in a studio apartment, with a mother who was a hoarder. So, when you live in 500 square feet, there’s not a lot of places for things. Then, when you live with a hoarder, there is stuff everywhere. I have lived in homes, since then, of varying sizes, but I really struggle with figuring out where things should go. What makes sense? So, I have a tendency to move things around a lot. Nothing ever seems quite right. Yet, when I go to other people’s houses, I don’t seem to have this problem.

Kathi – Okay, but you’re not trying to accomplish things in other people’s houses, for the most part.

Tonya – For the most part, but I can stay with somebody for a couple of days and go, “Oh, this is where the cups go. This makes sense.”

Kathi – And you’ve stayed here at The Red House quite a bit. You’re able to find your way around here. So, have you ever worked in a restaurant?

Tonya – Just in the front of the house.

Kathi – So I align a well-organized house with a well-organized kitchen. The flour always goes in the same place, but it’s figuring out where that goes. Here’s what I know about cluttery people. We are creative, so we’re always trying…

Tonya – To recreate the wheel.

Kathi – Yes. We always want to do something new. We always want to be innovators. We want to come up with the solution that makes the most sense and is going to change our lives. We’re the people who buy the air fryers, even though we don’t really know what they do. We do all those things. So, we tend to not want to stick with a system, ‘cause we’re always trying to find the short cut; the easy way. That kind of thing. So, I want to talk a little bit about ‘how do we do this?’ So, when you were struggling with “Where does something go?” my first question is, “Where will it be used?” We just talked about oil, so explain that.

Tonya – So, I lived in an older home, so I have some cabinets, but I don’t have a pantry, so we bought a pantry. But the only place for the pantry is clear across the kitchen. Almost not in the kitchen any more. In my brain, all the food belongs in the pantry. That’s where food goes. But that’s 20 steps, 30 steps away from where I cook.

Kathi – Let’s also say, you are on DEFCON 3 right now, when it comes to cooking. Explain that.

Tonya – So, I have a daughter with food allergies, so we have to cook 90% from scratch.

Kathi – Roger would starve. I’m just going to let you know. If I had to cook 95% of my stuff from scratch, it would be bad around here.

Tonya – We’ve all lost a little bit of weight. Not going to lie. We’re working on it. Part of it is a space thing. If I buy oils at Costco, they’re too tall to fit in the cabinet that’s by the stove. So, I’m doing a lot of back and forth. I’m grabbing a lot of specialty flours, a lot of specialty oils. I do have a lot more stuff in my kitchen than I’m used to.

Kathi – I’m on a new eating plan, too. First of all, the stuff is expensive, and there’s a lot of it.

Tonya – Amen.

Kathi – A couple of things. One of the questions I like to ask is, “Where will it be used?” Yes, it’s in your kitchen, but it’s not convenient. I’ll tell you, I’ve had my own issues with oils. Because we have a lot of people here at The Red House, we buy the Costco olive oil. First of all, there’s no place for it in my kitchen. Also, the Costco one costs as much as the Safeway one, but it’s ten times as big. So, one of the things I’ve done is, I’ve got a little place. I’ve got a few oils in my kitchen, but what I’ve done is, I’ve got a squeeze bottle for that oil. First of all, I love using a squeeze bottle for my oil. That makes all the difference in the world. I’m putting it in a smaller container that works for me. Now, I don’t care that I store my oil out in the garage. Why are you laughing hysterically?

Tonya – Kathi, this is the perfect illustration of the challenge of most of us with clutter. It has never occurred to me that I could put something in a container different than the container I bought it in.

Kathi – Fascinating.

Tonya – It’s like, if I buy the oil at Costco, it has to stay in the Costco container. So, frequently, I will spend the money to buy the tiny little Safeway one, because that fits in my cabinet. The idea that there’s someplace that sell squeeze bottles never crossed my mind.

Kathi – Amazon. I’ll put the link in here.

Tonya – I’m not trying to be ridiculous. I promise I’m not overplaying this. This is not rehearsed. This is the truth.

Kathi – No today, when you were saying “What’s in your see through container?” I’m like, “Oh, that’s the shake you gave me.” You were like, “Oh. I’ve never taken it out of its container.”

Tonya – Do you know how annoyed I get with all those resealable zipper bags that have to sit on the top and they’re ugly and they fall over and they spill powder on your head? It has never occurred to me that I can put them in a different container.

Kathi – That’s so interesting. The oil thing has been new for me within the past five years.

Tonya – You’ve changed my life. I want to type this out, but I’m trying to be focused on the conversation.

Kathi – So I need the right size, right where I am, doing the thing. So, I have oil, salt, and pepper right where I need it to be, but the refills are in an inconvenient location, but they’re not as inconvenient as Costco. So, that’s how I like to think about it. I don’t have to keep all those giant containers within reach, but I will have everything I need within reach.

Tonya – Okay.

Kathi – Yay! I’m glad I could change your life.

Tonya – I’m stupefied.

Kathi – Here’s the other thing. When you are in the middle of cooking, and you’re like, “The thing that I need is not here.” Think about, “Is there somewhere I could put this so it would be right here?” I love a little tray that I can put my oil, my salt, my pepper, that kind of thing on, so it looks cute in my kitchen, but it’s not the giant thing.  So, I think about it that way. The dog collar. Where do you keep the dog collar? We have a special dog collar because Moose is a runner and we have 32 acres.

Tonya – That’s a lot of running.

Kathi – Please do not call the SPCA. We have a buzz collar. We have never buzzed her once, but it makes a little beeping sound when we say, “We want you to come back.” So, we have a little bowl where we keep our keys and our buzz collar, so we know where it’s at all the time. I also have little jars of treats around the house, because we’re trying to train her. So, it’s like, “Where do you keep the treats?” Well, I have a treat bucket that’s put away, but I have little containers of treats throughout the house in cute little containers, so things are where we use them. That’s my most important criteria.

Tonya – Right. So, we’re here at The Red House together, and I’m just looking around your kitchen as we’re talking. You have dishtowels. Now, I remember, this was one of those life-changing things for me, the first time I came here. You have a basket, to the left of your stove that has all your dishtowels. Often times, you’re at the stove and you get your hands dirty and you need to wipe them off. Now, you could keep those in a drawer across the way, but then what mess would you make?

Kathi – Most times, I keep a dishtowel on the oven, so it’s right there. I also keep all of our hot pads and that.

Tonya – Yeah. Potholders. Everything is right there, where you would typically need to use it.

Kathi – Right. So, I try to keep things right where I’ll use them, then, the backups are in the inconvenient locations. Either our pantry, which is in our laundry room, or we have a bigger pantry in the garage. Like we said, we have retreats here and if we get snowed in? We always have to have two weeks’ worth of food here. It’s not even an option.

Tonya – That’s just your reality.

Kathi – Okay, so the first question is: Where will it be used? With the asterisk of, “You can put it in a smaller container.” That’s okay. The second question is: Where is my first impulse to find it? So, where would I go looking for the salt? Where would I go looking for my blue jacket? Where would I go looking for the extra garbage bags? So, the garbage bags, for a long time, I kept them in a pull out drawer underneath our stairs. But I realized I used them in the sink, so I have now moved them over to the sink. It takes me about a year to really figure out a house. I haven’t spent a year here, yet. We’ve only spent portions of a year. You are allowed to make the house work for you. I think some people find it surprising that we have all of our glasses over on a different wall in our kitchen than right by the sink, or right by the fridge. Here’s the thing: I keep two mugs and two glasses right conveniently located for me and Roger. That’s all that lives here 90% of the time. Then, I keep the bulk of them someplace else. It seems a little weird, but the first place I would look is in the cupboard by the sink. That’s where we keep a lot of our short term things. So think about, “Where would be my first impulse to look for scissors?”, “Where would be my first impulse to look for my glasses?” those kind of things. Then, my third point, and I think that this really important: Label everything. So, make it a giant kindergarten room. I’ve got labels on the insides of all my cupboards, so that people know where things are. Now, there will be some people in your family, (you know I love him, Roger) who it doesn’t matter that I’ve had the scissors in the same place in this house since we bought it. I’ve had a label there that says, “Scissors”. Every day I get asked where the scissors are. I love him deeply. So, you label things. Here’s the thing: If you don’t want to label it, ‘cause “I’m not 100% sure this is where it’s going to go until Jesus comes back.” I want you to label it anyway. Labels are cheap. You can pull it off and you can move that label someplace else, if you decide that you need to do it.

Tonya – So, really, what you’re saying is, I could make the wrong choice.

Kathi – I want you to make the wrong choice. About 25% of your choices are going to be wrong and I want you to have the freedom to say, “This didn’t work. I’m going to go try something else.”

Tonya – I’m just going to believe you on that one.

Kathi – One hundred percent. This is how I did it the entire time the kids were growing up. “I’m going to try something here. I’m going to commit to it for a month…two months.” But if I’m like, “Oh, no. It shouldn’t be here, it should be over here.” I can only make that decision after I’ve committed to that one spot. You don’t believe me.

Tonya – No. What you don’t realize is that my whole life is playing like a movie in my brain right now. So, I’m going, “Oh, Abby, who’s five, would love that, because that fits with how her classroom is organized at school.”

Kathi – Right. Exactly.

Tonya – Abby is a systems person. It’s very hard for her when things are different, in different locations. It’s hard to have different rules at home than there are at school. It’s hard to have different organization systems at home than there is at school. So, I think of how much she would appreciate having a label, even if she can’t read. I can put a picture, right?

Kathi – You can put a picture.

Tonya – And she would know where things went.

Kathi – Right. I think that is so important for kids to have a sense of stability in their house. It’s important for adults, too. One of things we just did: On top of our fridge we have this bowl. It’s got tomatoes on it, and peppers and everything. It’s a big bowl. For a long time, what was making me lose my Jesus on a regular basis is, we’d go to Costco. We’d buy the thin pretzels. Roger would take some thin pretzels, then I had the backup bag, ‘cause we were having people over, so we had the backup bag. He would open the fresh bag while the other one still had 3/4ths of the content in it. Nothing makes Jesus weep more than two open bags. So now, when a bag gets opened, it goes on top of the fridge.

Tonya – So now you know where the open bag is.

Kathi – I know where the open bag is. Roger knows where the open bag is. Now the world knows where the open bag is.

Tonya – It’s on top of the fridge, guys.

Kathi – Right, so you better check the top of the fridge before you go opening a brand new bag. It’s just simpler to have those systems in place so it reduces our decision fatigue. If I know the scissors go in the same place in the drawer, I don’t have to decide every day “Where is the best place for the scissors?” The best place for the scissors is the place where we’ve designated. We can do that every single time. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every single day.

Tonya – Alright. This is good.

Kathi – So, guys, to recap. One, figure out where it will be used. You can do smaller containers. You can do whatever is going to make it work for you. Number two: Where’s my first impulse to find the thing? Number three: Put it in the wrong place. You get to make the decisions, even if they are bad decisions. If you don’t decide, you can’t change the decision. If you make a decision, you can change a decision.

Tonya – I like that.

Kathi – Okay, so I want to know what our listeners’ biggest struggles is where to put things. Is it kitchen items? Is it office supplies? For two of you, we’re going to send you a copy. We’re going to randomly choose from those comments and we’re going to send you a copy of the Get Yourself Organized Project. That’ll be fun. Some people do not have that book. We want them to have that book, because it helps you with all those systems. Tonya, thank you for asking the good questions.

Tonya – Well, thank you for answering the good questions.

Kathi – I can change your life. I love that.

Tonya – Is it rude to just pull up Amazon right now?

Kathi – No, I think you can do that. We will put that in the comments, and we’ll put it with an affiliate code, so a little bit of that money goes to support this podcast. People have asked how they can support the podcast. Clicking on the affiliate links really helps. Guys, thanks for joining us. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live.

400 Gutting Your Office with Cheri Gregory Part 2

400 Gutting Your Office with Cheri Gregory Part 2

Kathi chats with Cheri Gregory, coauthor of Overwhelmed, and co-partner on every good caper, about how gutting your office space clears the way for your important work. Cheri shares her motivations and methods for clearing out the old and making way for the new.

In this episode, you’ll learn tips and tricks to create a clutter free office. Don’t panic, friend, we break it down in easy, actionable steps. You’ve got this!

  • The primary reason to dig in and get it done.
  • How to overcome the overwhelm when you are deciding what to keep and what to toss.
  • The process for removing or recycling.
  • A couple of handy tools to help keep you motivated.

Clutter-Free Home

Are you longing for a place of peace from which you can love others well? The Clutter-Free Home: Making Room for Your Life is your room-by-room guide to decluttering, reclaiming, and celebrating every space of your home.

In The Clutter-Free Home, you’ll walk through each room of your house to create organizational zones that are not only functional and practical but create places of peace that reflect your personality.  Kathi will help you tackle the four-step process to reveal the home you’ve always dreamed of, and then transform it into a haven that reflects who you truly are meant to be.

Order your copy of The Clutter-Free Home on Amazon today.


Learn more about Clutter Free for Life.

Writing at the Red House

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Home Depot, hardboard for a flat writing surface.

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

Cheri Gregory

Cheri Gregory

Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. Her passion is helping women break free from destructive expectations. She writes and speaks from the conviction that “how to” works best in partnership with “heart, too.” Cheri is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of You Don’t Have to Try So Hard and Overwhelmed. Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for twenty-eight years, and is “Mom” to Annemarie (25) and Jonathon (23), also opposite personalities. Cheri blogs about perfectionism, people-pleasing, highly sensitive people, and hope at www.cherigregory.com.


Read along with the Podcast!


Clutter Free Academy Podcast #400


Gutting Your Office – Part Two



<<intro music>>



Kathi – Well, hey friends! Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small doable steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. I’ve invited back to the program, Cheri Gregory, my coauthor of Overwhelmed, You Don’t Have to Try So Hard, just every good caper I’ve been a part of, Cheri has been a part of it. Cheri, we were talking last week, about your office. Your office was out of control.


Cheri – Totally.


Kathi – I’m not a big believer in closing the windows, locking the door, ‘We’re not emerging from this space until it’s spic and span’, but just recap for us, why you needed to gut your office.


Cheri – Well, I’m in the midst of a book that I’m on a hard deadline for, and I had several boxes, big stacks of research and notes and things I might be able to use for the book. One day I was just going to go through them, and it started taking longer and longer, and as I was doing that, I looked around and suddenly realized that I had massive amounts of stuff in the office that were equally unusable.  I was either going to spend the rest of the year going backwards in time to figure out what they were, and how I might use them, or I could get rid of the majority of it, and move forward and live my life. The office had got to the point where I had been using pop up tables to hold more and more stacks of stuff, and I wasn’t using my office. I was actually working on the couch. Can I just say that laying back on a couch is not productive place or position to get work done?


Kathi – The only time I could ever do that is if I’m just free writing or watching massive amounts of Netflix. Otherwise, not so much.


Cheri – So, it needed to be done. And let’s be clear. I don’t have small children at home. It was Christmas vacation and nobody was relying on me for carpooling, food, anything. It was the perfect window of opportunity, and it was a great way for me to end 2019. There was something very symbolic about getting rid of the leftovers of the decade, to be honest.


Kathi – Let’s be honest, though. Let me ask. Were you gutting your office to avoid working on this big project?


Cheri – There definitely was a percentage where that was true, and I had to be okay with that. I had been avoiding cleaning it to make it useable. I was like, “No! That’s playing office! No! That’s procrastination.” So, my motives were absolutely mixed, but I’ve been reading a great book, which I know you’ve read and recommended, and I didn’t get on the bandwagon early enough. It’s called Atomic Habits and he said, “Too often we try to start habits in high friction environments.” He’s talking about practicing Environment Design.


Kathi – Yes. I love that book.


Cheri – “We try to follow a strict diet while we’re out to dinner with friends. We try to write a book in a chaotic household.” I was like, “I’m trying to write a book in a chaotic office, and it’s not going to work.” So, what he ends up saying, here, is, “Whenever you organize a space for its intended purpose, you’re priming it to make the next action easy.”  You can see in the margin of my book, it says, “Do this in my office.”


Kathi – So, you’re optimizing the environment to make the next action easy. I love that. So, by the way, you get the stamp of approval for gutting your office from the Clutter Free Lady. Okay, now, I want to know, and my audience wants to know. How did you do it? How did you go in there and make the hard decisions? Was it getting rid of stuff? Or was it organizing it?

Cheri – First of all, there was a ton of it that had to go, but last week, I told you the weird obstacle that I figured out, as to why I used to carry all my stuff out to the kitchen table to work, is that the kitchen table has a flat surface to it. I do a lot of work on my computer, but I do a lot of jotting down, Post-It notes and stuff like that. Realizing that I had that five foot table with that textured surface, and it’s not a comfortable surface to write on. The writing I end up doing is hard to read and it just feels strange to me. So, I literally went to Staples to buy a brand new table with a flat surface. Turned out that all the tables they had had that squiggly surface. So, long story short, I ended up at Home Depot looking for, and finding lightweight, thin board with a very flat surface. It’s called hardboard. Not cardboard, but hardboard. It cost $12.99 which was way cheaper than the table I was going to buy. They cut it, I put it on the table, but of course, to put it on the table, I had to take everything off. So then, I only put back on the table, the very few things I needed, leaving myself a huge working space. Then, my goal was to get rid of the other pop up tables. So, you know, my system tends to be, with any kind of project, even if it’s planning Thanksgiving dinner, or whatever. It starts as a piece of paper. It becomes a clipboard. Then it becomes a binder. But the problem is, being a person that loves starting projects, I don’t always love finishing them. So, they might become a binder, or a series of binders, or a two inch binder. I’ve realized that I have to start, quarterly, going through everything and going, “Which projects here got started, but are just never going to get finished?” And now I need to undo the binder and get rid of the contents, or shift the contents. I made this big old binder with, I don’t know, 21 Lessons for an e-course, then realized, “Nah, I’m never going to do that.” So, I just took the things that were good and put them into my blogging binder. Well, that still got rid of a ton of stuff. It was a lot of elimination. There was so much paper, because my fear factor, when I’m doing a book, or any kind of project, where I’m waiting for the deadline to pass, I’m constantly printing out versions of it, so that if the entire world crashes, the internet crashes, I still have the last known printed pages. Well, once the book has been on the market? There’s no need to keep the drafts. So, I did a lot of recycling.


Kathi – Here’s what I’m beginning to realize, after working with you and Michele. You guys are probably much more tactile than I am. I always thought that I needed to see all the things, but really the question I have now is, “Is there any reason for this to be off my computer?” That’s what I have to do. I’m in a weird situation. I live in two different houses. Trying to cart stuff back and forth is just not going to work. So, sometimes there are things I have to have off my computer. I know that Michele uses a paper planner. What do you use?


Cheri – I use my Google Calendar.


Kathi – Yeah. Everything for me has to be in my laptop. It has to be backed up all the time. So, one of the questions you can ask yourself is, “What needs to live off my computer?” You may need to be the binder person, and that’s okay. Just know that. Just know what kind of person you are. Don’t go and create binders, because you want to have real projects. Okay, so let’s talk more. So, you started to create the environment you wanted. You go the tables out. How did you start making decisions about getting rid of stuff?


Cheri – Remind me what are the three questions about Clutter Free?


Kathi – Do I love it? Do I use it? Would I buy it again?


Cheri – Okay, so in this case, I had quite a few things I had printed out, free on the internet. “Surely I’ll need this when the time comes to do this.” Well, if I had loved it, I would have done something with it by now. I’m blowing an inch of dust off the tops of some of these things. Do I use it? Obviously no. Would I print this out again? Would I make this binder again, knowing what I now know? No.


Kathi – I think, oftentimes, when we’re going through stuff like that, if it sparks excitement for you? Like, “Oh! This is exactly what I need!” then you get to keep it.


Cheri – Most of it sparked dread. Like, “Oh, no! I haven’t got to that yet!” And at that point, it was like, “Yeah, and I’m not going to.” Thunk.


Kathi – Right. Okay. And see? Paying attention to our bodies. Paying attention to our emotions and what comes to the surface is really good.


Cheri – Here’s something else. I found a few of the things that I thought I was looking for, that I thought were going to be the magic thing that I need to make the current book work. I would find them and go, “Oh. It’s not doing for me what I was thinking it would.” And what that did, was it really gave me faith that, “I probably don’t need anything.” I’ve got a few writing coaches, Susy Flory and Ginny Yttrup, who have both told me, “Cheri, you have everything you need. Trust yourself.” I know that ‘trust yourself’ really means ‘Trust what God has already put in you.” Let’s be clear. I really don’t trust myself, but I was still trying to do that one last hunt for that one key thing that was somehow going to make all this easy. What it made me realize was, “No. I’ve got enough. I’ve got what I need and there is no magic other than doing the hard work, now.”


Kathi – It’s so interesting. So often, we’re looking for the new tool. The new idea. The new thing at Michael’s. The new thing from Costco to make life that much easier.


Cheri – The secret ingredient.


Kathi – Right. And we already have everything we need. Every once in a while, there’s something new that comes along and revolutionizes everything, thank you Instant Pot, but you gave away your Instant Pot.


Cheri – If you ask me if you should get an Instant Pot, I will say, “Only if you need a really big doorstop.”


Kathi – Okay, and I love my Instant Pot.


Cheri – Because you use it. I never use mine. Absolutely. Let’s be clear. I did find a few things that I was, like, “Oh, yeah. This could be kind of cool.” But I found nothing that was going to be that final puzzle piece. I think that’s what I was looking for. I was looking for that one missing puzzle piece. As if my book in progress is a finished puzzle that is missing just one piece. The other thing I know, and I can tell you this right now, because it’s now been more than a week, that is, once everything got into that dumpster and the recycling truck came and took it away? Talking to you right now? I can’t think of anything that was recycled. I think we are always afraid of the regrets. Or the regret of the one thing we could have used. Part of doing this is predeciding, “I will have no regrets.” And if I think of something, or I remember something, I will remind myself that clinging to that regret or memory is, once again, not trusting that God is in control of all of this, and will bring back. Sometimes, it’s “Will I remember what I need to remember?” Especially since I do have Alzheimer’s on both sides of my family. That has an extra panic level to the fear. It’s not just fear, it’s true panic. It’s another opportunity to trust that if there’s something I need to remember. Something that really needs to be said, or put in a book, or whatever, the Holy Spirit’s going to bring that back. It’s not all up to me.


Kathi – How did you actually get it out of the house? Did you have garbage bags? What was you process for actually getting it out?


Cheri – I used paper grocery bags, because those you can’t overfill. So much of what I was getting rid of was, in fact, paper that needed to go into our recycling bin. So, I would make it my goal to fill one up to the point where I could carry it without hurting myself, and then I took it out and put it in the recycling bin.


Kathi – Did you pile up a bunch of bags? Or, when a bag filled up, you took it out?


Cheri – Oh, one by one. Oh, yeah. For me, that was a reward. To take it out and hear it go ‘thunk!’, then slam the lid down.


Kathi – Yes! It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? It’s an amazing feeling. Okay, what did you do with the stuff like, the coffee mug? Or the things that, “Maybe I would use those.” Maybe there would be some value.


Cheri – I filled up the trunk and back of my car, and I drove to the Goodwill with some lovely things that I hope somebody else really enjoys.


Kathi – Okay. Did you have guilt about that? Did you have shame?


Cheri – No. I’ve done that so many times. The first time I did it, when we were early working together, that was much harder. Especially after all the disasters we’ve had in California; all the fires we’ve had. Knowing, for certain, that there are people in need, and when things sit in my office or house not being used, that’s not stewardship. So, I’m being a slave to that. It’s part of that shrine mentality. I just trust that somebody else is going to use it. And should I end up short a coffee mug? I’m pretty sure somebody’s going to give me another one someday.


Kathi – Well, you’re a teacher. It’s required, by law, to give you coffee mugs.


Cheri – Hopefully they’ll put Godiva chocolate in it, when they do.


Kathi – I love it.


Cheri – Or Ghirardelli. It has to begin with G.


Kathi – Okay. ‘Cause: Gregory. I love it. Okay, did you organize in the midst of decluttering? Or did you declutter and then organize?


Cheri – That’s a great question. What I was constantly looking for was, “What is my actual work flow?” That’s going to be different for everybody. That determined what was on that large five foot table of mine. I have a little thing that holds binders and I have a certain number. There are the projects that I’m currently working on. There was a Red House binder, ‘cause I’m here this week, then there’s an Overwhelmed Retreat binder, ‘cause after here, I’m going to be speaking at a women’s retreat. It’s on my calendar to dismantle those binders, and store the contents, when I get home. That’s the one thing I wasn’t doing, giving myself time every quarter to bring things to a real end. So, now, when I’m sitting at my table, I have this rolling cart that has all my office supplies I could possibly need. I’ve got a place for my computer. I’ve got it on a stand, so my neck is in a good position when I’m using it. I have a large amount of free working space, and then I’ve got those binders right there. Everything else is on bookshelves.


Kathi – One thing I’m going to ask you to do, I’m going to totally put you on the spot.


Cheri – I will take pictures.


Kathi – I’d love for you to take pictures, but I also want a content list of what’s in your rolling cart.


Cheri – Oh, sure! I can do that.


Kathi – I think that would be really interesting to say, “What do you actually need when you’re sitting there doing that.” So, there was mostly decluttering and some organizing. Sometimes you need to organize a little bit to make decisions.


Cheri – I would organize and let it sit there while I was doing some other decluttering, and then I’m like, “No. It’s not going to work that way.” I did go on Amazon and look for several things. I looked for a riser for my laptop. I’m like, “They want twenty five dollars for that?!” So, I’m literally using a Sterilite shoe box. That’s what I put it on. I’m not going to pay twenty five dollars! Now, if I use it this way for the next 3-6 months and it’s really working for me? Then I might consider investing in something a little more permanent and classy looking, but I could tell that was playing office. That was going to be trying to buy in order to become, and I’m like, “No. I can figure out a hack that’ll get me working on this book, rather than spending more money and discovering, “Ah, it’s not quite the right thing, but I don’t have the time to return it.”


Kathi – So, figuring out what you need for the interim and figuring out what you need to invest in. Those are the two different things. Cheri, this has been so good. How’s your office now?


Cheri – You know, it’s so empty looking. I forgot what a wonderful feeling that is. I forgot how much the creativity is able to flow when there’s more space. My life verse is Psalm 18:19 and the verse before it says, “He brought me out into a spacious place. He rescued me because he delighted in me.” One of the things that I forget, but keep coming back to is, “I am afraid of spacious places.” To me, they feel empty. I’m terrified of emptiness, so I cram and overfill. But spaciousness can also be so incredibly freeing. It means open. It means there’s room. It’s restful. So, when I look at it now, I think, “Oh my goodness. How did I cram so much stuff into it?” Now there’s so much more room to breathe and move and get done what needs to be done.


Kathi – I love it. Thank you for sharing your gutting experience. Guys, you know what? You may need to do this. You may need to hunker down for a day, a half a day, whatever it’s going to take, but do it because there’s a purpose there. Not just because the room is driving you crazy, but because you need it to function. Create the space that you need. Then, get right back on to the Clutter Free Program so that you can keep it up. Here’s what I know. When you gut, you say, “Oh, I worked so hard on that, I’m not going to have to touch it again for six months.” You’re going to get right back to where you were. Cheri, thank so much for being on Clutter Free Academy.


Cheri – Thanks so much for having me back.


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





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


#374: Creating Beauty with Order – An Interview with Artist Ruth Chou Simons of Gracelaced

#374: Creating Beauty with Order – An Interview with Artist Ruth Chou Simons of Gracelaced

If you long to have a life with more beauty and order in it, today’s podcast will help you on your journey. Kathi sits down with artist and author Ruth Chou Simons this week to discuss ways of creating beauty with order.  

Kathi and Ruth recognize that cluttery people often are the most creative and generous people, yet they are also plagued by perfectionism and self-doubt. Today’s episode offers powerful strategies for moving past those emotions that keep us stuck and towards beautiful order.

This episode will also introduce you to a tool that moves us towards creating beauty with order by providing space to:

  • Think about what matters most in your daily schedule.
  • Make small, doable steps towards your goals (no giant lists of panic-inducing check boxes here!)
  • Keep a record of past victories and/or future hope.
  • Take steps towards growing


And as a special treat we are giving away a trio of Ruth’s books! You could win a copy the GraceLaced 2020 12-Month Planner, Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship, and Beholding and Becoming: A Guided Companion.

Enter the giveaway here.

If you would like to purchase the GraceLaced 2020 12-Month Planner you can order it on AMAZON now.


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

Ruth Chou Simons

Ruth Chou Simons

Ruth Chou Simons is a bestselling author, entrepreneur, and speaker. She shares her journey of God’s grace intersecting daily life with word and paintbrush through an online shop at GraceLaced.com and her Instagram community of more than a hundred thousand. Ruth and her husband, Troy, are grateful parents to six boys—their greatest adventure. Her first book, GraceLaced, won a 2018 Christian Book Award.

Find Ruth–her art and heart–at GraceLaced.com and at @gracelaced on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

How to Have All the Summer Fun Without Losing Your Sanity

How to Have All the Summer Fun Without Losing Your Sanity

It’s that time of year again! Summertime—the carefree days of pool splashing, popsicle eating and sleeping in.

At least for the kids.

Not so much for the parents, right?

Usually moms are the ones washing swimming suits, buying popsicles, and constantly wiping up puddles of water and dried grass from the floors. And what about the piles of sidewalk chalk and sandbox toys that have taken the place of backpacks and school books? It’s enough to make even the most patient mom long for that big yellow bus.

Let’s be honest. Getting the kids outside is a good thing, especially if their natural inclination is to sit around playing video games all day while eating junk food. But encouraging outdoor activity is also a lot more work than handing over the game controls.

With a little planning and prep, you can encourage your kids to go outside and create a system that will ultimately save time and energy for mom.

“Mom, I’m Hungry!”

Fueling up those hard-playing days often takes a lot of snacks. To ward off the question, “What can we eat?” you may want to consider labeled snack bins for both the pantry and the refrigerator. That way, mom-approved snacks will be ready for them to grab (and maybe even eat outside) without a lot of hassle.

When unloading groceries from the car, divvy up the snacks into appropriate bins. You may even want to label these according to house rules. (For example, when I was a kid, we were allowed one can of soda per day.) That way, when they’re hungry, they know what they can grab to eat without the same old “I told you — no more potato chips” argument.

Don’t forget to include some healthy treats for the freezer. I love these frozen ice pops, because you can feed an old favorite to your kids without guilt.

“I’m Bored!”

Fun Stations are bins filled with outdoor activities for kids based on their interests. They can easily be stored in the garage or the back patio. Bubbles, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes and other outdoor favorites can get messy and take up the entire house, if we let it. But a big bin you can grab and set outside enables them to choose which outdoor activities to indulge in without a lot of in and out.

Other Fun Stations that you may want to separate into their own bins (to contain water or sand messes):

Water toys

Sand toys


Sports activities

And the best part? All of that outdoor fun goes back into the bin for the night, ready for another sunshiny day.

Pro parent tip: periodically replace or add fun items to keep kids interested in their Fun Station bins throughout the summer.

“I can’t find my…”

During the summertime, when kids live at the swimming pool (or play nonstop with water toys in their friends’ backyards), moms can save their sanity by keeping a day’s supply of water gear in a dedicated swimming bag. You could include toiletries, a swimming suit, cover up, sunscreen, water bottle, swim passes, sunglasses, sun hat and beach towel.

If you take your kids hiking often, you can save a lot of time by having a hiking backpack ready to go whenever you are. Include a water bottle, small first aid kit, binoculars, compass, bug spray, and sunscreen. You may even want to include a book for identifying plants or birds. Summer is a break from school, but you never stop learning, right?

“I spilled glitter! And other things you never want to hear your kids say.”

Have you banned glitter from your home? Does the thought of cleaning up one more glue mess make your heart palpitate? (I can’t be the only one!)

Summer is a great time for crafts outdoors. Create a bin with all the messy stuff that makes you sprout gray hairs whenever you see it out on your dining table. If you have a craft area designated outside, your kids can glue, glitter and paint to their heart’s content and all you need to do is supply a smock to protect their clothes. Or they can make gorgeous jewelry out of all of those maddeningly tiny beads and you won’t have to vacuum them out of the carpet.

It’s a win-win! Kids get to create staggering works of art in the great outdoors and mom has minimal mess.

Messy Marvin Strikes Again

Most of us have encountered the trail of soggy towels, goggles, and swimsuits through the house after a day at the pool. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent searching for missing items to (hopefully) load into the washing machine before they stunk of mold.

You can prevent the trail of tears (er…soggy swimming attire) by creating a hanging place for wet towels and suits. Whether it’s a bona fide clothes line in your back yard or some hooks near the entryway of your house, your kids will have a place to hang all the wet things, and you’ll save yourself time by not having to search through the house to find them.

A bin by the door for flip flops and other wet, messy shoes can prevent a lot of floor cleaning too. As a bonus, everyone will be able to get into the car at the appointed time without having to search for something to put on their feet.

Nature Calls

Spending time outside improves kids’ health and their imaginations. Summertime is the perfect opportunity for them to explore, dream and try new adventures. It gives them a chance to focus on what they were created for and seek their Creator.

In her new book, This Outside Life: Finding God in the Heart of Nature, Laurie Otsby Kehler encourages us all to seek connections with our Creator and other people. She says, “Why are we so afraid? Why do we settle for reading about, talking about, but not stepping into our own adventures of faith?” Laurie’s new book is perfect for summer reading. And with a little planning and prep for your kids, you’ll have more time to spend turning pages while sitting by the pool. And who knows? You might even have time for a water war or an outdoor finger-painting session with your little adventurers.

Comment below for the opportunity to win! We will be giving away one Grand Prize Package- A copy of This Outside Life, a Sling Backpack, compact binoculars, and a reusable water bottle. Five Runner Ups will win a copy of This Outside Life.



The One Thing Every Successful Woman (I’ve Ever Met) Does

The One Thing Every Successful Woman (I’ve Ever Met) Does

I know that I’m one of the lucky ones. (And when I say lucky, I mean fortunate.)

I have a career I love, one with purpose and meaning and serves God in a way I was created for, people I love working with, and enough income to not stay up late at night worrying about how we are going to pay the bills (most nights, that is).

But let’s be clear… my life was not always this way.

I spent most of my twenties and thirties living paycheck to paycheck, in a job that had no potential, loving some of my coworkers but barely tolerating some of the people I worked with.

Some of that was just finding my place in the world – it’s what a lot of 20 and some 30-year-olds do. But part of it was not really believing I could be successful in what I wanted to do in my life. It was easier (and safer) to just do the day to day and survive instead of having a hope for a better, more successful future.

When did things finally begin to turn around for me? Was it a job promotion or a new opportunity?

No – it was a planner.

It was a simple, paper planner that, for the first time, I actually used to plan what I was going to accomplish instead of using it like a calendar.

I started to write down my dreams and started turning those into goals.

And this is what I’ve noticed with every successful woman I’ve ever worked with:

Most of them have great teams of people.

Most of them get up early to attack their day.

Most of them have supportive family and friends to encourage them.

But all of them take time away from their crazy, busy, jam-packed days to pull back and plan for what they want.

How to Pull Back and Plan

I call it Pull Back Planning because I have to be intentional about pulling back from my regular life and setting that time aside to plan for my day, my week, my month, my year, and yes, my whole life.

Each day, before I end work, I take a look at what is coming tomorrow to see what I need to plan for, pray for and do. I apply the same principle to my week, month and year.

I love what Dave Ramsey says about budgets: “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” It’s the same with a planner – a planner will help you tell your time where it goes instead of wondering where it went.

Proverbs 16:3 (NIV) says:

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”

I love that verse. But we have to know what we are planning to do in order to pray about it and commit it to God.

I want to give my readers the opportunity to try this out.

My favorite planner this year is Valorie Burton’s The Successful Woman Planner. I love the motivating, clarifying quotes placed throughout the week-at-a-glance page layout, and that Valorie (one of the most successful women I know) has shared her wisdom throughout those pages. It is my go-to planner for 2019. 

In order to be entered to win a copy of Valorie’s planner and a $50 gift card to Office Max, simply comment below and tell us the next step to success you want to take.

Offer open to US residents only.

Deadline to enter: January 30, 2019.

A bestselling author and Certified Personal and Executive Coach who has served clients in over 40 states and eight countries, Valorie Burton has written nine books on personal development, including Successful Women Think Differently and Happy Women Live Better. She is the founder of The CaPP Institute, providing tools and training that build resilience, well-being, and productivity for life and work.

She has been a regular contributor on CNN, HLN, and the Today show, where she gives practical career and life advice. She has also been featured in and on The Dr. Oz Show, NPR, Oprah Radio, Ebony, Essence, “O” The Oprah Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, and hundreds of others. Valorie’s corporate clientele includes multi-million dollar businesses such as Accenture, Black Entertainment Television (BET), Deloitte, General Mills, McDonalds Corp., and many more.

Join 25,000 subscribers to her weekly e-newsletter at www.valorieburton.com and visit her company site at www.cappinstitute.com.



When You Don’t Know Where to Start: Handling a Whole House Clutter Makeover Like a Pro

When You Don’t Know Where to Start: Handling a Whole House Clutter Makeover Like a Pro

When You Don’t Know Where to Start: Handling a Whole House Clutter Makeover Like a Pro

house makeover

Tackling the whole house at once? Oh that can feel so overwhelming. Whether it’s a move you are excited for or one that is out of necessity, you don’t want to move the clutter with you. Today we talk about how to strategically get rid of what you don’t need to box up and move. If you aren’t moving but you have just had it with the clutter messing up every room? Well this one is for you too.

You don’t have to feel held hostage by your clutter one more day and you definitely don’t have to move it to your new place.