Decluttering and making a house a home: a family effort!

It is a blessing to have someone on your life who loves you enough to kindly tell you how you could do better…some one who loves you enough–as you already are–to help you grow even better. My big stepsister Dymphny is like that. Totally accepting, yet boldly courageous in proclaiming the truth with love.

She flew down to help me reorganize my home, because we have been fortunate enough to be able to rent the suite below us, and now have the whole house! Instead of 3 bedrooms for 9 people, we have 5 and a den, besides an extra little kitchen and bathroom. One of the most exciting parts is the large living room, which will be our new homeschool room, instead of the tiny, narrow dining room we’ve used for school till now.

Things have been rather quiet on my blog because they’ve been so packed here! The kids and I, with some help from Grandpa, my brother and my lovely landlord Joe, repainted the downstairs…transforming the pale, depressing, hospital-gown green suite into cute Bubblegum Pink bedrooms, a Thai Teal bedroom, and a English Daisy yellow schoolroom! 🙂

Everybody helped…

It was quite the fun project…home renovation and interior decorating 101! My 12 year daughter became an overnight IKEA expert and made a massive list of everything we needed to make our new space beautiful. Since I never usually buy many new things for our home, the list was huge, and we had a rather epic expedition involving a 5 hour shop and a U-Haul. Happily my sister and brother were there to help!

Of course my productivity manager came along as well…

We survived!! IKEA soft ice cream was a definite must in our way out the door.

But besides buying new things to make our space lovely…we had an even more important job to do: purging everything unnecessary, ugly, extra, etc, that was currently making our home cluttered, chaotic and well, rather resembling a ramshackle thrift store instead of a beautiful, intentional space. No more!

My daughter’s new bedroom

This is where having a loving big sister with an objective eye for crap came in so handy. She wasn’t going to let me hang on to anything that didn’t make my life better. Rather, she helped me dig out the precious things hiding under the clutter so I can display and enjoy them instead of having them tucked away and forgotten, like the fancy tea pot I bought for my birthday on my last IKEA trip last Advent…and still haven’t used, less than a month till my next birthday!

It’s a gift to have someone affirm that you’re better than some kind of recycling bin, and that you don’t need to hold on to everything that comes your way. Sometimes when trying to sort stuff alone it’s hard to cut the invisible strings of guilt that make you keep stuff for “one day” or because it’s from “so and so”…or because getting rid of stuff feels wasteful.

Sorting books

The minimalist mom Allie Casazza says that whatever takes up your space, takes up your time. You don’t need to lose time shuffling around odds and ends you don’t need. I’ve done this for years. And what’s really wasteful is harming your relationships because of unnecessary stress….not being able to find things, arriving late, not wanting to have people over because of mess, etc.

It’s so freeing to let go. Chuck those old shampoo bottles and extra creams into the recycling. Take pictures of all those kids drawings and then let them go. Let someone else enjoy those books and clothes you don’t need. Live with a lighter heart and be able to find things. A clear beautiful space is so calming. A study quoted on a Gretchen Rubin’s podcast Happier found that women’s cortisol levels, indicative of stress, were directly related to the amount of clutter in her home. No wonder I’ve been on edge!

I was so grateful to have Big Brothers to pick up our porch full of donations, and Half Price Rubbish Removal to come the next day. Seeing what we don’t need has opened our eyes to see how we could enjoy our home even better. Having space to do so more peacefully and enjoying the presence of family, including our IKEA expert building expert Opa, has been the best gift so far this season!

Summer in Crazy Land


How I have missed blogging much this summer! I’m bursting with ideas but haven’t found enough quiet moments between camping, swimming, visiting friends, researching new homeschool programs for the fall and editing my new poetry book, unexpected blossoming: a journey of grief and hope. This has been a really good process, and quite time-consuming…going over each poem with a fine toothed comb and, on the advice of my big sister (beautiful poet and editor Dymphny Dronyk), making sure that each word, each line break, each bit of punctuation or lack thereof is intentional. The poems were written more as passionate cries from the heart, but it’s been good to read them slowly and try to make sure they express my feelings in the clearest way. 

I’m excited to say that that process is just about finalized and I’m going to place my first bulk order in a day or two. I have been telling lots of people about my book and already have about 125 pre-orders, which means that another 125 will also be ordered and donated to bereaved moms, hospitals, midwife or doctor’s offices, or any other place where families suffering from miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss could benefit from my poems. I’m also getting my Blurb bookshop set up for online orders, and hope that women around the world will be able to benefit from knowing they are not alone in their grief after losing a baby. 


On top of all this, my little Mr. Baby has combined late night teething and his newfound mobility to keep me on my toes night and day, and my trusted iPad mini conked out for a few weeks—leaving me a strange internet-less vacuum. Happily my sweet techie husband managed to restore it to life by cleaning up the excessive digital load it was storing…kind of like the Internet version of a home rescue. I had 1100 emails (combining inbox, sent, drafts, trash etc) and 1300 photos!! My iPad mini just couldn’t handle this kind of clutter—poor little beast! After loading the pics onto our Mac instead and deleting the insane amount of emails (gah, remind me to stop signing up for things online!), my iPad is purring away again, much to my relief. As my friend Julia put it when I told her it was out of commission: “What!? That’s your life!” 

Does make you wonder though…why this need to keep everything? To read everything? To document everything? To be present everywhere (omnipresent) and to know everything (omniscient)…doesn’t that sound like Someone else’s job? Reflecting on this makes me want to strive for more simplicity. To be fully present where I am, right now, and not feel the need to hang on to old things from the past. I’m just one tiny part of this vast creation, and all I need to do is play my little part with all my heart. The rest will be taken care of by Someone much wiser than me, who doesn’t get overwhelmed by trying to fit so much into one little head!


So I hope you’ll be hearing from me more often as we settle into school this fall…wrapping ourselves in cosy scarves and sweaters and sipping cinnamon dolce latté’s as we watch the scarlet leaves tumbling against steely grey skies…oh, dear, sorry…slipping off into fantasy land! I meant as I juggle 4 homeschoolers and the baby chews my face while my toddler climbs the furniture…

Anyway,  here are a few posts I hope to write soon: 

  1. How to support a bereaved spouse
  2. Baby Burpin’Blues (a bluegrass poem)
  3. Scene Players: making hours of fun games out of stickers and junk mail 
  4. Things you don’t need to bring when camping with kids
  5. Teamwork, happiness and household chores 
  6. Online educational programs I’m excited about this fall

Any votes for which one to write first? Let me know! A huge hug to you all from us here in Crazy Land, and best wishes for a beautiful year of learning ahead!

    We are NOT our stuff

    It’s easy to get mixed up about who we are…what is important to us and where we spend our time… Sadly those two things don’t always coincide. Sometimes we spend a lot of our time dealing with stuff that doesn’t really matter. Like our junk. Our millions of clothes, books, toys, papers, household supplies etc.     There’s a saying that where your treasure is, there is your heart also. We might think that our heart isn’t in our physical possessions, but if we spend huge amounts of time buying, organizing, sorting and maintaining them, then isn’t it true? Society (or at least advertisers) actually tries pretty hard to make us believe our happiness and identity does come from what we own. We define ourselves by our possessions:

    I have Ferrari = I’m successful. I wear expensive jewelry = I’m classy. I have the latest fashions = I’m attractive. I eat organic = I’m pure.

    There’s nothing wrong with these good things, but none of them actaully defines the core of who we are. None of these things come with us when we die. I believe it was St. John of the Cross who said, “At the evening of our lives we will be judged on love.”     So how does stuff relate to our capacity to love? St Augustine tells us that “any lessening of concupiscience (the disordered and selfish desire for or attachment to things) means an increase in charity (generous love for others).” So the less our heart is crammed with stuff, the more room there is for people.     I want to relate this again to how we use our time. What has the time you spend dealing with your excess stuff (at least if you have too much of it like me) prevented you from doing for others? Perhaps volunteering at an old folks home, visiting a lonely relative, having a friend over who really could use a heart to heart chat, etc.     Or what does needing to constantly clean and organize prevent you from doing for yourself? Reading great books? Exercising? Meditating? Praying? Reflecting? Writing? Wouldn’t doing these things make you happier than trying to shuffle around the belongings you don’t know what to do with?     We don’t want to live caught on the surface of life, amidst our clutter. We want to go deeper, love better, ponder life’s meaning and find ways to nourish our souls. Having too much stuff can trap us in the superficial…so there’s only one solution: get rid of it and free yourself to live better!     I’ll write more on doing major decluttering soon, including insights from organizational master Marie Kondo’s book “the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.” Until then, all the best, and remember, you are not your stuff, you are so much more! Trimming the excess clutter will only free you up to be more yourself… 

    Unblogging My Clutter

    Whatever you can’t give away, you don’t possess. It possess you.
    Ivern Ball


    For years I’ve had the problem of having way more stuff than I could handle. I’ve spent endless hours shuffling around junk and not knowing what to do with it. I’m constantly sorting, recyling and giving boxes to the thrift store, yet I never do more than melt the tip of the iceberg. I get paralyzed by the tiniest decisions…like keeping or chucking this trinket or piece of paper, and end up shoving it back in the box and running away to cook dinner.

    My friend Reiko remembers me doing the same thing in highschool. “It seemed like every Saturday you were stuck inside cleaning your room again” she told me the other day, when I told her of my renewed mission to declutter my house. I realize now that what I was really doing was “neatening.” In her book “Let Go of Clutter,” organizational expert Harriet Schechter defines this as follows:

    Neatening: straightening, tidying, and/or hiding things away to create the illusion of orderliness.

    In other words, pretending. Ugh. I hate pretending. Trying to create an illusion of something I’m not. Keeping up appearances. What I really need is real change….to be liberated from the suffocating hold of too much stuff. I need to declutter, and this time not a little bit at a time, but in a radical major way.

    Decluttering: discarding, removing, or markedly reducing any accumulation of material objects.

    If it’s so obvious and simple, why is it so hard? Schechter believes we are hard-wired for hoarding. It’s an old survival instinct…our inner squirrel packing away nuts for a snowy day. Your waste-not-want-not squirrel might say while you attempt to declutter:

    But it could be useful one day…
    But it’s not broken…
    But it was expensive…
    But it was a gift from Aunt So-and-So…
    But I don’t want to be wasteful and make more garbage…

    The problem is that we live in a time at least in many parts of the world, of abundance rather than scarcity. Hoarding in this context makes no sense. We end up with more that we know what to do with…and as a result spend hours and hours every year shuffling it around, looking for new storage solutions, sorting and resorting.

    If I had $10-15 for every hour I’ve spent sorting mismatched kids socks alone, I could likely take a cruise. Schechter suggests you add up all the minutes each day you spend sorting, looking for lost things, and trying to put away stuff that has no place of it’s own. If you value your own time, you’ll realize that clutter is a luxury you can’t afford. An hour a day wasted adds up to about $3500 a year!

    What is your clutter preventing you from accomplishing instead? Playing music, taking an art class, trying new recipes, taking a long walk at the beach, taking time to stay connected with friends, getting a promotion? How does a messy house affect your sense of self-worth?

    While I know clutter is a waste of time, space and money, and a stressful source of tension, I find it hard to deal with alone. I feel overwhelmed:


    I’m really blessed to have some awesome friends who are willing to get up to the elbows in junk and chant, “Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!” So with their help and you all cheering me on (and sharing your best declutter tips, please!) I hope to at last conquer my clutter by letting it go…unblogging my emotional blocks around “stuff” to create a clear and peaceful home…and heart as well.