A Message to Church Leadership About Women’s Bible Studies

As many of you know, we moved back to the DC metro area this summer. I have to say, I am SOOO disappointed.

There is NO CHURCH within 20 minutes drive of where I live that A) has a women’s Bible study on Wednesday evenings and B) has a good kid/student program at the same time.

(And considering there are most likely 100 churches within that 20 minutes drive, there is no reason I should have to drive further.)

Churches already don’t have anything on Sunday nights here, so most moms with kids get nothing but whatever they can get on Sunday morning, and that’s IT. So, if you have a Sunday School teacher who phones it in, that’s just too bad for you.

Yes, churches do have occasional Saturday morning activities (like a once a month women’s breakfast like our current church) but that’s it. CHURCHES– may we please examine the message you’re telling the women in your congregation? Inadvertently or otherwise?

(Why am I harping on Wednesday evenings? Because that is the traditional night for Bible studies to be scheduled. If a church said, we have found that Tuesday evenings tend to work better in our community, I’m all for that. Forget Sunday nights – like I said, NO ONE here has a Sunday evening program for adults, either.)

WHAT I HEAR WHEN I ASK ABOUT WOMEN’S BIBLE STUDIES

A) You should come when it’s convenient for US. And where.
— Well, I would if you were the least bit reasonable in that, and if it was when and where it was the slightest bit convenient to me, too.

OR

B) If you work, then you can’t come when we offer that one study for SAHM’s per week, so you’re on you’re own.
— I am not lying, one of the church leaders at a church we visited gave me a LOOK when I told them that I was not taking off of work to go to MOPS meetings. Which is the only thing they offer. To ALL women. Dude, I have to work. Have to. It’s not a choice.

And would everyone quit trying to push me at their MOPS program, like that’s good enough? I’m not a mom of a preschooler, either, so why would I think this would pertain to me? (Don’t go defending MOPS, ladies, I know the groups are more open — but the name is misleading- why would I think of going if the name is MOPS?) And still, what about all the moms of preschoolers who still work? What good is that group to them??

OR

C) Good little Christian women would be home and would be available to go when we tell them to go.
— ie. “Well, if you were fully committed to your faith you would be available to attend that mother’s group Bible study we only offer on Tuesday morning at 10am.” >> Don’t think I haven’t heard this as well this summer!!

— ie. “Sure, we have an evening Bible study on Tuesday evenings. In someone’s home. Across town in DC metro traffic during rush hour. With NO childcare…. Well, if you were fully committed, you’d go when we told you and where we told you when and where it was convenient for US. So you must not really be committed. So you’re on your own.

OR

C) We tried that once, but not enough people came to make it worth it.
— How hard did you really try? Is it really because it’s not wanted or needed? Or was it not worth the effort, so no one came?

If it mattered enough to you and you cared enough to make it good enough, that the activities were WORTH making it a priority over other possible commitments and issues? People would come. I’ve seen it happen. But expecting me to continue when my kids are shoved in a room bored out of their minds? Not gonna last for long.

I could see that this is the case in an individual congregation perhaps. But every-single-church in the metropolitan area? (Or at least enough that it’s the rule and not the exception?) No. I don’t think so. This is a systematic problem.

OR

D) We don’t offer childcare or ANY kind of kid program at the same time, but we still fully expect you to attend when we say you should.
— Yeah, like that is EVER GOING TO HAPPEN. What the heck do you want me to do? Have you seen the cost of childcare lately? Do you really think I have $15+ an hour to burn to go to a Bible study on a Tuesday night on a regular basis? Sure, I could leave them with “Dad” but when is “Dad” ever home on time?

AND

E) Don’t I really need the “spiritual leader of our home” getting spiritually fed as well? Isn’t that important? So, why shouldn’t he go instead?
— Don’t you see? You are making us as parents CHOOSE who gets to be spiritually fed this week. And yes, I had a pastor’s wife tell me to “take turns.” Right, my not going to Bible study as a woman is because I don’t know how to share. Sure. Okay. So let’s talk reality.

What ends up happening is the mom says to herself, Yes, I’ll be the good little woman and stay home with the kids because I will sacrifice my own spiritual health for my husband. (I’ve seen this over and over and over and over here in US churches.) Or, in this area – the husbands that are constantly deployed or required to work late at any given moment. So, she just flat out gives up. Cause that’s where I’m at right now.

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What does all that add up to, churches? You just don’t consider me a priority. You like to tell us how important we are as moms, but you fully expect us to do it all from a spiritually and permanently dry well.

No WONDER women don’t make their own spiritual walk a priority – you’ve all but told them they don’t need it and they don’t matter!

How have you told them that, you ask? Frankly, by all the above and more.

If you make it so HARD for them to get there, many will just give up in defeat. Why would they work so hard to go somewhere they don’t feel wanted?

Then, if they’re feeling like they need something but they’re can’t get it from you, that they must be bad moms or wrong! Frankly, if you don’t care about me, why should I care about myself?

Or why shouldn’t I go elsewhere, outside the church body, to find something/someone who does care about me? At least the PTA or sports team volunteering a mom often does – she get appreciated for that, and her kid gets something out of it.

CHURCHES, you say you want to support families.

  • What kind of support and help are you giving the parents trying to be good role models for their children?
  • What are those children learning from you? That moms don’t “deserve” or “need” spiritual support?
  • We need to walk the walk for our children, but how can I role model spiritual faith priority for my children without the church supporting me with tools to do so?

This isn’t meant to be a criticism of any one church, of any one denomination, in any one church building — but of the overall, universal, Christian church. I have many, many friends in ministry that I hold dear, so please don’t take any of what I’ve said as an individual, criticism.

This is also not just here in the DC area, though I find it more obvious here. We saw this in PA as well. Even AL to some extent. And yes, I have actually been told every single thing above AND MORE, personally.

I wish, if I could have every single pastor/church leader read this message from a perennial outsider (one who moves regularly due to job transfers), is that your intent isn’t the problem.I know many in ministry, and I know this is not what you intend. But this is what is happening.

CHURCH LEADERS, HERE ARE SIGNS YOU HAVE A PROBLEM

  1. If your men’s ministry is thriving, but those men’s wives are not in an equally compelling program, or those men’s wives are not in a Bible study at all: YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.
  2. If your men’s ministry is offering deep theological Bible studies, and your women’s ministry is offering teas and book clubs: YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.
  3. If a certain large percentage of your church feels like everyone else’s faith is more important and not giving their own spiritual walk FIRST priority (because this is what moms do): YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.
  4. If you are depending on that church down the street that hosts a women’s study that you don’t actively support and participate in the leadership in, to be the women’s Bible study ministry of your church: YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.
  5. If you are not addressing these problems from the highest points of your church leadership, from the pulpit, and not by personal self-example: YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.

We visited close to eight different churches this summer, in addition to researching and investigating countless churches within a reasonable driving radius. No, your intent isn’t the problem. But as a woman, the message that is being received, IS.

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Getting Ready for 2017-2018 Homeschool Year!

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Yes, the school year has finally arrived! Where did our summer go?

Well, I’m not sure about you, but our summer was decimated by our move. Starting early June, we dealt with combining two houses into one (turning our furnished rental property into an unfurnished rental property) and then purging, unpacking and then purging more. And then more. And even more. Truly. After all I purged before our move, we still looked like hoarders when trying to squeeze everything into this 1200 square feet townhouse. We must be ruthlessly organized to survive in this space. It’s honestly been pretty painful dealing with all that. I can say now that there is not one area of our lives and not one box that we did not cut in at least half. I still really like the place we are renting though. Great landlord, with a good, functional layout, AND he completely renovated it before we moved in.

In the midst of dealing with all of that, I began to organize for this homeschool year. Thankfully I had purchased most of it before our move, but I did have to pick up some odds and ends that were forgotten.

Today, I thought I’d share with you our curriculum plan. Our girls are now 11 and 9, entering “6th” and “4th.”

Because I am continuing to work and homeschool, we have to rely on independent-type homeschool work, so they can complete the bulk of their work while I’m on the phone with clients.

Math– We are sticking with Teaching Textbooks. Our oldest is in the middle of Level 6, our youngest will start Level 5.

Spelling– I’ve let my oldest out of doing formal Spelling now, though I did tell her I would start marking all spelling mistakes in her work as wrong. My youngest will continue with SpellingCity.com, using Abeka spelling lists.

Writing, Reading/Literature– Our girls are voracious readers now, so that’s not a problem for us. However, we’ve never done a formal reading comprehension program. I found the Apologia Readers in Residence program that we are going to try this year. We are also trying their Writers in Residence program this year as well. We will do this four days a week.

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I got these great books from Amazon, for my oldest. I want to work on her reasoning and logic skills, since she’s entering middle school age. We will do one short lesson a day, four days a week.

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I thought it important to move to a more formal science program this year. Neither of my girls could agree on what to study, so we’re letting them each study what they want. So my oldest will be doing Apologia’s Zoology 3 (land animals), and my youngest will be doing Apologia’s elementary Chemistry. We purchased the books and workbooks from Apologia during a big sale. Even better, I found kits with everything you need for the experiments of each. Everything is in in a box, organized in bags by lesson, and labeled. It feels completely magical. Do you know how much I love having things done for me????

Anyway, I will be helping them get through the book work portion, and Hubby will help them with the experiments twice a week.

The books list this as two times a week, but as much as is listed, the work might have to stretch over four days.

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I found these cute devotional books for the girls to use for their devotional time this year. I saw the “Big Book of Animal Devotions” at a used curriculum sale, and thought it it would be perfect for my oldest who is studying zoology this year. While unpacking, I found the second devotional (which we have never used) and my youngest decided to use this year.

Our main focus/theme for this year will be going back to history. While I personally LOVE My Father’s World and their program, my daughters don’t. I’ve been informed that it’s “babyish.” I don’t agree, by the way, but we used it for K-2nd, so maybe that’s why they think that.

Last year, we used a lapbook from Home School in the Woods elections, which my girls loved. I think it spoke to their crafty side. They wanted to do that again. So, I have cobbled together several products from Home School in the Woods, to replicate MFW’s Creation to the Greeks program.

This year, we will be using their Timeline, the Old Testament Activity Pack, and their Project Passports for Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece.

So, to go along with that, I have started collecting books to go along with these themes. I purchased a few at a used curriculum sale, and many if not most of the resources we need will be coming from local libraries. I’ve also been using Paperbackswap.com to fill in books I couldn’t find in the libraries.

Our “Egypt” theme books:

Our main history overview books:

Just beginning our Greek theme books:

So, that is our “school plan” for the year! This does not include all of our other activities, which I will cover in another post!

This post is part of the Back to Homeschool linkup from iHomeschool Network! Click over to read more curriculum choices from our fellow bloggers!

Teaching Your Child About Their Personal Testimony

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Our girls will finally be getting baptized in a few weeks, and the pastor of the church has asked they give (or at least write for him to read!) a brief testimony before their baptism. (We will be going for an immersion baptism, not the “sprinkle”!)

Growing up in a Southern Baptist Church, I always knew what this meant, but I realized I found it difficult to explain this in non-church-y words to my girls. So of course I went to my favorite resource – the Internet!


Here are some sites that I thought might be useful to you:

Kids Testimony Form

Free Testimony Worksheet

How to Share Your Testimony

Billy Graham’s Teaching Tweens to Share their Testimonies

Parenting Like Hannah’s Tips for Teaching Kids to Share their Faith

Our Families Adventure’s Teaching Kids to Write a Personal Testimony

Jeff McClung’s Free Booklet to Help Kids Write & Share Their Testimony


I thought also that it would be a good idea if my husband and I went through this exercise WITH the girls, as a family activity. (Not that I’ve told my husband that yet, but I know he’ll be open to it! 🙂 ) So they could watch and see us do it, but also practice it on us. That would give us another opportunity to share and talk about this topic with them, and to really make sure they truly understand the decision they’ve made.


This is IN ADDITION to several workbooks that we used after they let us know of this decision several years ago.  We did one page a day in as part of their devotional time every morning. I liked that it really made them think through this, but at their level. This is one I personally liked:

I hope this is useful!

In Honor of International Women’s Day, from a Working, Homeschooling Mom

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In honor of International Women’s Day, I’m wearing my red Homeschooling Mom t-shirt! The girls were completely uninterested in wearing red, because like all homeschoolers (or is it just mine??) they really don’t see the point of wearing something just because someone told them to, or everyone else is. And also, they are apparently hitting the “party pooper” stage of tweendom.

What I love about my working homeschooling mom life, is that I get the best of everything (except sleep).  I don’t HAVE TO CHOOSE, between being home with my kids and having a career. Sure, neither one of those look like the traditional experience  (of either category) for me, but who cares?

And in honor of today, I thought I would share with you how I am spending my day. Granted, this is not a typical work day for me (typical is worse, lol!) — technically we are on “vacation” in Miami visiting family, but you can still see what a day in my life looks like:

So, this is how my day went.

7am Wake up to kid climbing in bed snuggling with me. Glance at the clock and pretend it doesn’t exist for a few more minutes.

7:30am Get up, do bare minimum of getting ready for day. MAKE THE COFFEE. Boot up the computer. Eat plain gluten-free bread with butter, not toast, because I am not at home and don’t have a gluten-free designated toaster here. Get kids moving on getting ready for day

8am Log in and watch webinar for new client who wants me to take over her client-facing training webinars. Drinking the coffee and eating the fake toast while watching. Get kids working on the minimum of school work we brought with us, and youngest doing her therapy exercises.

9am Webinar is done. Direct traffic (i.e. check in on kids, and give next set of directions.) Put on real clothes and brush hair, and prep 2nd cup of coffee. Spend 1/2 hour responding and cleaning out email backlog.

9:30am Call from brand-new client from webinar this morning. It’s a sudo-interview, so I’m trying to sound coherent and impressive still, and taking notes.

10:20am Call ends early, so I sneak in a brush my teeth and wash my face. Check in on kids again, but hubby seems pretty on top of things at this point (he’s finally awake with a couple of cups of coffee in him, as well). Ask kids to set up bags of things we need to shove in car for later today.

10:30am Call with potential coaching client, asking about resumes. Do my pitch thing.

11am Try to hustle everyone out of the house.

11:50am Arrive at Miami Seaquarium. Get in, find cafe and feed family overpriced lunch.

12:30pm Hubby heads off with kids to do homeschool class here. Since he’s off and never gets to do these things (and only one parent can go in with kids) I’m happy to let him have experience with kids. I sit at table and whip out my laptop, to work on multiple work presentations I have been procrastinating on.

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12:30pm-3:00pm I feverishly work on training webinars in PowerPoint in the cafe, while hubby takes girls to a class on sharks. Where they also apparently dissected fish. And touched creepy, slimy things. I’m perfectly okay with missing this moment in their lives!

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3pm Walk around the park a bit so I can actually say I’ve seen something, and my oldest creates an “incident” by dropping her pencil in the sea lion tank and the sea lion tries to eat it. Super proud mama moment means it’s probably time to leave before we’re kicked out.

3:30pm Drive back to in-laws, stopping at Italian bakery to pick up frozen gluten-free meals for me to have for dinner tonight, because it’s pizza night for everyone else. Consider mortgaging the pencil kid to pay bill.

5pm-8pm Celebrate niece’s 15th birthday with pizza and entire crazy loud Dominican family.

And while this is all going on, my mother-in-law does my laundry for me. Either because she loves me, or she doesn’t want me messing with her machine! 🙂

8:45pm Finally home and have kids in bed with lights off, and settled on my bed with laptop ready to work again for a couple of hours before crashing.

So, that’s my day. And yes, I am SUPPOSED TO BE ON VACATION. This is as close as I will probably get to a vacation for quite a while. Because let’s face it, even on “vacation,” women – especially working-while-homeschooling ones – never really get to NOT work. At least this one.

2017 Challenge- The Big Organizational PackFest! – Assignment #6

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ASSIGNMENT #6: Craft/Hobby Area

Aaaah, you could spend a million years organizing your craft space. At least I could! But we can’t. We have got to get ready for our move!

1. The very first step is that we need to purge your craft area of anything you are not going to use.

In my hobby group, we often set up “rosie boxes” (aka. “ring around the rosie”, but with a box!) where we will fill up a box, and then pass it around the group, everyone taking out what they want, and adding items they don’t. This is a great way to get rid of items you no longer need (like leftover wedding album stickers after you finished scrapbooking your wedding album, for example) and to try out a couple new things that you’ve never tried before. A similar idea would be to collectively set up a “free give away” table at your next get-together, where everyone drops stuff they don’t want anymore, and anyone is welcome to go through the pile.

I’ve also donated items to preschools, to friends, to the girls’ scouting troop, to my girls’ own craft box stash, or found a worthwhile nonprofit to pass them to. It doesn’t matter; the main idea is to Get-It-Out-Of-Your-House.

Oh and if there’s junk you will never use, and no one else will either? Toss it. Yup. Toss it in the garbage. Call it your very own “stupid tax” for buying it in the first place, and toss it.

2. Next, organize what is left. Perhaps you would like to organize by project, putting all the items you need for that project together. Or, organize by color, or whatever. When I’m organizing, I try to think of the space I’m moving into, and how would be the easiest to find it while unpacking. How can I set up my new craft area in the quickest, most orderly, and functional way possible??

(Don’t worry, I can hear you laughing! Yeah, I find the idea of my craft area being orderly and functional comical, too. Notice I didn’t say that it would end up that way in reality! I can dream, can’t I?)

So, that’s it. Sounds so very simple when you write it out, doesn’t it? And yet, this can take up quite a bit of time. So get to it, so you can move on to the office space next!

2017 Challenge- The Big Organizational PackFest! – Assignment #5

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ASSIGNMENT #5: the Living Room

Whew! We are finally on the part of the challenge where we start going room by room! This is the part that will feel like you are accomplishing something!

I start with the living room, because generally, a) that’s the easiest,b)  you might need the space to start organizing those “stations” we talked about earlier, and c) if you’re anything like me, you need an easy assignment because you are already behind and need some time to catch up. (Don’t worry, I tried to build several some days like this in, just so we all CAN catch up and make it through!)

For me, the Living Room is the easiest room in the house to prep. Because I try to keep my house partially company ready, the living room is the main room that is always “ready.” I won’t have too much that I will have to do in my living room. Books and board games will be the main focus for me here.

The other thing I deal with in our living room is knick-knacks and picture frames. Even since we moved here, there is a large stack of knick-knacks that I never found space for and pictures I never hung up on the walls. Time to reevaluate those items. Are they worth repacking again, if I haven’t missed them by now? Or are some of these items, while dust catchers, still things that will make our new place feel like “home?”

When your home is constantly changing, that is a powerful need that cannot be marginalized. And not an easy decision sometimes.

Coming up next will be the craft/hobby area of your home. Get ready!

2017 Challenge- The Big Organizational PackFest! – Assignment #4

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ASSIGNMENT #4: “Like Goes with Like”

Before we start going room-by-room, let’s talk about the concept of “Like Goes with Like.” It is this concept alone that truly has given my artsy, non-linear brain any organizational ability whatsoever. And it’s pretty darn simple.

If this ___ is like this ____, then they go together.

For example, I organize all of my holiday decorations and related items this way. If I have Christmas related books, movies, or hand towels, they go in the Christmas boxes. If I have Thanksgiving related project idea books, they go in the Thanksgiving boxes. Period. That way my bookcases and movies aren’t cluttered with the annual Christmas movie marathon videos or all-about-Thanksgiving books. Plus, anticipation and excitement builds as kids get old enough to remember certain items.

If you can carry this idea throughout your house when you organize, it will make your life so much easier. Why have towels in 20 places around the house? Have one location, and then you have only one stop when putting away laundry!

This concept pertains to large-scale moves as well. Most of what I am doing is setting our items up for the packers. And frankly, I am trying to set things up in such a way so that when we get all of these boxes again at the other end, things are easy to find and quicker to put away. (When you move every two years, the process of unpacking loses any sort of thrill.) So think about like goes with like.

Do a quick run-through of your house and put like with like. It doesn’t have to organized and pretty right now. Right now we are focusing on making sure “things that go together” actually “go” (in our move) together. Does that make sense?

One of the ways this pertains to me, especially during a move, is our books. We are voracious readers and our kids have their own mountainous collection of books as well. Books are stationed all over our house, and tend to end up scattered in many random places. This stinks when you arrive at your new location and even after packing 50 boxes, you can’t find someone’s favorite bedtime story book that they just can’t sleep without.

Before a move, I will go through all of our books and do a purge of anything I choose to donate, and then with a laundry basket collecting all the random books from the random places to group together. We have so many books that I can’t put all the books in one place anymore, that we end up with a “grown-up books” area and a “kids book area” and a “homeschool books area.”

What I have to remember; I am in the situation where we are only allowed a certain amount of weight. And books weigh. A LOT. Probably more than anything else in the house. So we have to purge, even though I regularly go through these and try to keep donating them. I should probably purge at least one more time before moving again, even if getting rid of any of books is like tearing off my arm.

The next step to apply this idea to everything else in our house. Toiletries (and stashes of extra), clothing, you name it.

Coming up next will be the living room! You’re going to start seeing real progress beginning very soon, I promise!

2017 Challenge- The Big Organizational PackFest! – Assignment #3

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Here is ASSIGNMENT #3. (Need to catch up? See previous posts in this series HERE).

ASSIGNMENT #3: Creating “Stations”

Today’s assignment is “easy.” During this challenge, you are going to need “stations” for things in process. For us, sometimes our stuff goes in different shipments, and I need to have ways to organize each of these. Perhaps as you begin, you need to create a “goes to storage” shipment (I would not actually suggest shoving stuff down in your basement until we get to the point where we start sorting/purging the basement, though!). Or perhaps you need a “goes to charity” or “prep for consignment sale” pile.

Regardless, I have found it easiest if I pre-plan these stations.  In this move, I will probably have a donation pile for the girls’ AHG troop’s yard sale, homeschool (books) consignment sales, donation piles to pass along galore, etc.

For your family members who are a bit clueless about this crazy challenge you’ve started, a good idea might be to label each area with a sign – “Consignment sale pile – DO NOT TOUCH.” Or “To Storage Area.” It might also help ease the mind of your significant other that you have not gone off the deep end and become a crazy hoarder piling things to the ceiling.😉

My husband is so used to me at this point he mostly just ignores me. However, I do have to point the piles out and ask him to please stop cleaning up after me; there is a method to my madness!

It might look like madness for a little bit, I admit. But there is a plan to this madness, and it will all improve soon!

Next up: “Like Goes with Like!”  See you soon!

2017 Challenge- The Big Organizational PackFest! – Assignment #2

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Here is ASSIGNMENT #2. (Need to catch up? See previous posts in this series HERE).

ASSIGNMENT #2: Decorations

It’s time to pack away Christmas decorations, so we might as well start by purging and organizing them while we do it!

1. Go to your house and get everything Christmas-related and one place. This includes ALL of your storage bins as well! EVERYTHING!

2. Make sure anything that needs to be washed before it’s put away, such as Christmas tablecloth, towels, etc.

3. Walk around the outside of your house and collect all Christmas decorations that are outside.

4. Collect your Christmas cards that you received from others wherever you might have displayed them and put them away in your scrapbooking pile to put in your scrapbook for later.

5. If you have Christmas related pictures that you display only at this time of the year – if you switch out seasonal pictures – be sure to collect those all in a stack as well.

(This is something new I’ve starting to do, because we have SO MANY pictures, and I was starting to feel like our house was being taken over! So, I’ve started to use up some of my collection of frames and fill them with specific seasonal shots (like you see here below) and only display them with that season. Now I don’t feel as guilty that I spent all that money getting a bajillion pictures AND I used up some of my leftover random frames!)

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6. Collect all your little breakables decorations that you might need to wrap before packing away all in one place.

7. When I am putting out my holiday decorations at the beginning of the season because of space I have to sometimes pack up my regular decorations to have room for it all. Now is time to pull off your regular chotchkies out of your decoration boxes and set them aside.

8. Before going any further, before packing anything away, go through Moore storage boxes of what you did not take out or use the season. Purge, throw away, or reorganize. Decide what you want to continue to keep, what did you not use because you forgot you had it (need to organize), what’s broken or out of style or does not fit your house or your kids have aged out of or you just no longer want (throw out). Complete this step before going any further.

Set aside the things you’re going to keep, and the things that need to be reorganized. Make a list of any items that might need to be replaced or fixed next year. Throw out anything broken or that no longer works, and make a pile of things you might want to donate or pass along to a new home.

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Here are a couple of the piles I came up with: A) Christmas plates and serving dishes – KEEP. B) Cookie tins – KEEP. C) Leftover Holiday cards and “Letter”paper. I tend to use Photo Cards now (who has time to write a letter anymore?) – TRASH. D) Random Santa hats and extra stockings, and seasonal hand towels for bathroom.(All great for wrapping breakables in!) – KEEP. E) Ziplocs. – DEFINITELY KEEP. F) Some of the girls’ holiday crafts from when they were little. – KEEP. G) Instruction manual from their nativity – KEEP. H) Extra candles for the advent wreath. – KEEP.

8a. One great tip: I keep all of my holiday books and movies together with the decorations for that particular holiday.  These are put in baskets under the tree, until presents take their place on Christmas Eve! This keeps all like with like, but also because these toys and movies and books only get to be seen and played with during that particular holiday season, it keeps everything fresh and new and fun to play with.

9. Start breaking down any items and packing them up. Ziplocs and cling wrap cam be great friends during this!

Seran wrap (plastic cling wrap) also works great for items that are too big for ziplocs. Here is the “before” of one of the girls’ nativity sets.

And here is the after! Easy Peasy!

10. Start packing everything away back into your bins!

10a. I use any holiday related cloth items to wrap up my breakables. This saves cost and space. I also have older stockings that we no longer use comma Santa hats, that I use for this purpose as well. (See picture above!)

11. Set aside anything you are going to re-purpose elsewhere (extension cords for example). Put it all where it goes!

12. Check all the strands of lights to make sure they work before packing them away. This way you can add it to your list of to-do for next time if you need to replace anything, and can watch out for seasonal sales.

13. Label your boxes! Trust me, this makes it so much easier when you have to send someone to pull them back up out of the basement and he brings half-Christmas, half-Halloween and then grumbles as he has to bring other items  up/down over and over.

Not that I know this from experience, of course!

14. Reorganize all your wrapping paper. Etc. Our container has gotten quite junky since the girls have started wrapping gifts as well.

15. Put all the boxes away til next year!

BONUS: Lather, Rinse, Repeat for ALL SEASONAL/HOLIDAY DECORATIONS YOU OWN! If you do not do this NOW, you will need to stop and do it as you go through each set of items through the year.

My Update:

Happily, I survived!

I was able to get rid of one large bag of trash, and I was able to collect one large bag of items to pass along to someone else! This actually reduced our Christmas bins down by one! Yeay for me!

Here are some of the items I’m able to pass along to another – including some Christmas videos the girls decided to pass along as well!

Next up: Creating “Stations”!  See you soon!

2017 Challenge- The Big Organizational PackFest! – Assignment #1

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Today we begin!

Here is ASSIGNMENT #1. (Need to catch up? See previous posts in this series HERE).

I know many of you are playing along with me, pretending to move when in actuality, you’re not. You’re just along for the ride. Which is awesome, because I really do think that this will be really helpful to you. And the more of you that participate, the more support/accountability I have!

So to participate in this challenge, you need to FULLY jump into the “pretending” that you are about to execute a major move. Not just across town where you can do it yourself by the truckload. I want you to put yourself in a situation where you have to think about how in the world would you make a major move with moving trucks and all that. Or, if you were in the position where you might have to downsize your home (since I’ve just done both, both of those scenarios work!). You are going to have to look at your home, your stuff and your LIFE with a fresh pair of eyes. A completely new perspective.

And since I will actually be moving and doing all this this summer, I will be writing and talking about this with “moving language.” Of course, take from this whatever you can. I just don’t want to confuse anyone by going back and forth from “fake scenario A” and “fake scenario B”, so I will write in my own scenario/situation.

The first part of participating is FULLY CHANGING YOUR MINDSET. One thing I have learned, which I have also realized is very different from how many perceive this, is that when you have to pack up and move, and unpack and find places to put things, over and over and over and over and over and over (you get the idea), that your relationship with those things changes.

There is nothing wrong with stuff. And frankly, I’m the most sentimental person in my family. I’m the one who is into scrapbooking and preserving stories, and I am the one who is interested in family history, and I’m the one who attaches crazy sentimental value on many things. (which is much worse around Christmas time!)

However, when you have to move often in a limited time frame, you start to think differently about stuff. It becomes a chore. Then an irritation. Then a total pain in the backside. And one day you have a crazy flip out over an innocent stack of magazines, ripping them to shreds and trashing them, all while cursing the day you ever thought you’d actually read them. Or the time you realized you had over nine huge plastic bins of baby clothes. For ages 0-12 months. That because the seasons were flipped, your second child will probably never wear. And you go berserk, creating a massive yard sale campaign to get rid of them all, and eventually just start mailing boxes of clothes to your unsuspecting pregnant friends, just so you don’t have to look at them anymore.

Oh wait. That’s just me.

But you do create a very different perception to what is

a) important/necessary for living (pots and pans, kids toys, sheets/towels, etc.),
b) what’s fun to have and good for mental health (hobby items, scrapbooking stuff, etc.),
c) what you need for emotional health and or has SIGNIFICANT sentimental/emotional value (holiday decorations, stuff needed for family traditions, and other items with sentimental value), and
d) dead weight junk.

I do something very similar to this challenge every single time we move. (I’ve lost track how many times we’ve moved in twelve years.) And every single time I do this I am amazed by how much MORE stuff I get rid of. I swear, stuff breeds like rabbits or gremlins when you are not looking.

The first part of changing your mindset is looking at every single item in your house as a “stuff” that has to be moved. Whether you are limited by funds (how expensive it is to hire a moving truck) or by weight (you can only move a certain amount of weight, or only have a certain size container that you are allowed to fill) YOU NOW HAVE A LIMIT to how much “stuff” you can own, and move. That point is really important. THERE IS A LIMIT TO HOW MUCH STUFF YOU CAN HAVE (OR MOVE). (P.S. Packing materials also count in that pound limit, so you whatever amount of stuff you thought you could fit in that amount? Yeah, cut it down further.)

The second part of this challenge is a time limit. Most of the times I have done this on my own, I’ve given myself long stretches of time to go through and purge/organize – like six months, where I work on one little project a week. However, I have had to do ALL OF THIS IN ONE MONTH BEFORE. (Yes, we have packers/movers. In your own pretend scenario you might be filling that role yourself. Just realize that you might have to talk about yourself in the third person in that case!) I want that thought of time constraints running through your mind. Even if this is “pretend” for you, you must think about that countdown to get it all completed. Not only is this to motivate you to keep going and not flake out, but also, having that kind of deadline is going to start to inform the decisions you have to make, which is a vital part of the process. For my own purposes, I hope to have everything done by May 1st.

We will talk about prioritizing, sentimental value, purging, organization, and time issues more later on.

A) PLAN/SCHEDULE.

Step one: set up your detailed calendar for the month and create your plan. To do all of this in such time constraints as I’ve given us, you are going to have to be HYPER organized. (This is not easy, even for me.) The best way I’ve found to handle this sort of thing is to have my calendar completely filled in with everything I need to do, down to the last detail. This will be something you will need on a constant, daily basis going forward to make sure nothing falls through the cracks, either with this challenge or the rest of “real life.” So, make sure you account for anything you might already have scheduled. Basically, be ready to go gung-ho!

B) TO-DO LISTS.

Step two: I will go into more insane detail in the future, but for today, start making lists. Of everything you personally need to do as part of this challenge. I find it helpful to categorize things. My own lists often end up several pages long, I won’t lie. But I also find it vital to write down every single little thing because I can’t afford for anything to fall through the cracks. My DH likes to create spreadsheets for himself, but personally I’m fine with a notebook and scratching things off. So make your list however you might like.

And what should be on this list? Well, remember, in your pretend scenario, you are about to make a major, life-changing move. (ie. moving across the country, etc.) So, what kind of stuff would that entail for you and your family? Sure, in real life you don’t need to go get copies of your kids’ school records and medical records to take with you, but as part of this exercise, I would encourage you to take 15 minutes today and brainstorm about ALL POSSIBILITIES. Because you might come with several things that would be very useful regardless. Like making sure you know where important family documents are at all times (kids’ shot records, birth certificates, etc) and that would lead you to writing down “create specific file for each person’s important documents” that you will do.

Once I do mine, I will give you guys examples of things that are on my list. And many of those topics will end up being future daily challenge assignments. But to get you started, in addition to the general organizational purge, collecting important documents, phone calls/appointments needed to be made, dealing with logistical side of the move, paperwork, those are sort of the topics I tend to start brainstorming and creating my lists around.

C) MINDLESS GET ‘ER DONE PROJECTS.

I know that tomorrow and on the next few days, there will be a lot of time where you will want to sit down and chill out in front of the TV. Bowl games, favorite shows you like to watch at night, etc. So, during this monthly challenge, I encourage you to take advantage of those times! As you go through this, make a to-do list of mindless items you can do while doing something else. Then, get everything you need for that particular chore, and put it all together right beside your couch. That way you will have everything together and ready to go, so you won’t have any excuses. I suggest having 3 “chores” ready to go at any time. Unfortunately, this month you don’t get the luxury of “downtime!” We’ll get all of that we want once the movers are gone! Don’t give yourself any chores that are going to require lots of brain power. Shredding, filing, organizing paperwork, dealing with receipts for taxes, etc are several ideas that I often do. And don’t hesitate to delegate things to other family members! DH can easily shred documents while watching a game, etc.

So that’s for today. Calendar prep, to-do lists, and prep Get ‘Er Done projects. Tomorrow’s assignment: we will start with organizing/sorting/purging food/pantry items. The next assignment after that will be creating “stations” prepping for the major purge/sort process. Just to get you prepared!