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How I’ve been coping with empty nest: cleaning, organizing, & decluttering

coffee and doughnuts

Coffee and doughnuts

Besides my coffee and doughnuts this morning (doughnuts are more rare now, but coffee is my morning thing), I’ve been trying to cope with our youngest daughter Leah moving out last weekend by a 5-day frenzy of cleaning, organizing, and decluttering.

I guess I’m doing this to grieve empty nest. But there is something savagely satisfying to me about giving or throwing things away. My husband Ray, who is a hoarder (although not as severe as those on the TV show) just doesn’t get this.

He keeps everything; it has gotten worse every year, and it has caused strife for the 26 years of our marriage. It makes me feel claustrophobic and suffocated, and makes me want to run away to the beach.

me on beach in Florida

me on beach in Florida

Not that I need an excuse for going to the beach. It is my place of peace and refilling. 

stack of books

stack of books

Hoarding is not the same as collecting; true hoarding is defined as the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. [Source: Hoarding: The Basics, Understanding The Facts: OCD, Anxiety and Depression Association  of American)

Everyone saves things. But the quantity of their collected items sets hoarders apart from other people. Commonly hoarded items are newspapers, magazines, paper and plastic bags, cardboard boxes, photographs, household supplies, food, and clothing. 

Some people even hoard pets, collecting hundreds of them, inside or outside, putting the people and animals at risk due to improper care and unsanitary conditions. Ray has seen people who do this, in his work as a paramedic, with people’s stuff and animal urine and feces making their homes inhabitable. (Ya’d think this would encourage him to get rid of things at our house!)

hoarder

hoarder

Some reasons for hoarding are:

  • The hoarder believes an item will be useful or valuable in the future;
  • They feel the item has sentimental value, is unique and irreplaceable, or is too big a bargain to throw away;
  • They think the item will jog their memory, believing that without it they won’t remember an important person or event;
  • They can’t decide where something belongs, so it’s better just to keep it. [Source: Hoarding: The Basics]

Are you a hoarder? Here’s a checklist of some symptoms and behaviors:

  • Inability to throw away your stuff (YEP!);
  • Severe anxiety when attempting to get rid of them (Yes, again!);
  • You have a very hard time categorizing or organizing your belongings;
  • Indecision about what to keep or where to put them (There’s no decision; Ray usually just keeps them!);
  • You feel distressed–overwhelmed or embarrassed by all your things (I would add, or your spouse feels this way!);
  • Suspicion of other people touching your stuff (Ray has asked me this at times);
  • Obsessive thoughts and actions, such as fear of running out of an item or of needing it in the future; you check the trash for accidentally discarded objects (Ray’s fear of me not accidentally doing this, when he leaves town);
  • Functional impairments, such as loss of your living space, social isolation, family or marriage discord, financial difficulties, and/or health hazards. [Source: Hoarding: The Basics]

All this has happened in our marriage. It’s actually kind of scary, because hoarding can be a mental illness. (I’m not saying Ray is mentally ill, although I do believe he needs counseling for it.) By middle age, symptoms can be severe and be harder to treat. If hoarding is a problem for you or a loved one, you should seek help with a mental health expert.

Hoarding may be present on its own or a symptom of another disorder. Those most often associated with hoarding are obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), OCD, or ADHD, and depression. [Source: Hoarding: The Basics]

OCD

OCD


(This is very strange and although it occurs less often, hoarding may be associated with an eating disorder, pica (eating non-food materials), Prader-Willi syndrome (a genetic disorder), psychosis, or dementia. Ray doesn’t have any of this. At least, I don’t think he munches on his old work papers!)

man eating paper

man eating paper

But seriously. Hoarding can cause anger, resentment, and depression among family members, and it can affect the social development of children. Unlivable conditions may lead to separation or divorce, eviction, and even loss of child custody. Watch the TV show Hoarders or videos on YouTube. (Yes, I have threatened Ray with leaving him for this at times, because it stresses me out so much! And he has threatened me for other things I do. We even fought at a marriage retreat once!)

Couple arguing

Couple arguing

Hoarding may also lead to serious financial problems. One example is renting (for months or years) a storage unit filled with the hoarded items. Or refusing to have old furniture or equipment fixed or replaced because of suspicion of new, modern models or of distrust of repairmen.

Fear of new technology isn’t limited to hoarders; many people thought trains would melt people’s bodies and were suspicious of the TV, believing it would be harmful to people’s conversations, reading, and the patterns of family living. This is at least partly true about the TV!)

man watching TV

man watching TV

You can’t change others. Obviously even though I’d love to, I can’t go around throwing away Ray’s stuff. I only did this a couple of times in all the years we’ve been together. The first year of our marriage, I threw away a pair of his old, worn-out, holey cowboy boots that I saw at the back of our closet. They were his beloved Tony Lama’s, and he’s never let me forget it!

Since then, I’ve bought him several pairs of new boots, because you just can’t separate Ray, a native Texan, from his cowboy boots. However, I can do whatever I want with my stuff!

de-cluttering my office

de-cluttering my office

So for the last several days since Leah moved out, I’ve been majorly cleaning, organizing, and purging. It feels wonderful! This will set you FREE!

freedom

I threw out an entire, HUGE garbage bag of binders, of notes I’d taken on business webinars and teleseminars. I narrowed my binders down to only three. I love buying cute binders and use plastic sleeves to put the notes in, and then insert the sleeves into the binders. 

cute binders

cute binders

I use plastic tubs from Walmart or the Dollar General to store my journals. Since I’m a voracious journaler, I have 3 tubs filled with diaries! And these aren’t even all of them. Years ago, I had Ray burn many of my diaries. I felt I needed a brand new start and burning them was symbolic.

My journals are my one form of hoarding. I talked to Ray today about burning all my journals again. We could make a fun night of it, and have a huge bonfire with grilled hotdogs and s’mores!

I often pour out my heart into my journals, which means they are sometimes full of pain! Journaling is a great catharsis, though. 

In the picture below, on the left is a tub filled with our tax returns. The purple spotted bag on top of it has a supply of my books, to sell when I speak at women’s conferences and events.

The 3 tubs on the right are my journals! The smaller tub is for a friend, who went to Israel, and asked me to keep it here for safekeeping. It’s some of her most treasured items. 

plastic tubs

plastic tubs

Throughout the year, I often save gift bags and tissue from friends who give me gifts, for my family’s birthdays and gifts for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and other holidays. I throw the boxes away at Christmas, and then start all over in January saving bags.

Our daughter Heather bought Ray a gift once, a pickle Christmas tree ornament and using a bag with pickles on it. We both busted out laughing when he opened it. 

Ray's pickle Christmas ornament deco

Ray’s pickle Christmas ornament deco

Ray loves pickles–pickled anything. Pickle spears, pickled asparagus, pickled okra, etc. I have a few gift bags and tissue in this box in my closet. You can see the pickle gift bag that I’ve used over and over again for Ray’s gifts. 

gift bags

gift bags

I buy pretty folders for our current bills, that I have in a metal file holder on a black card table with other office supplies. (Leah’s birthday gifts are there right now, too. We’re taking her out to eat bang bang shrimp tacos on her birthday).

I keep our most important papers, such as our house mortgage papers, in a waterproof, fireproof safe. 

I’m praying for Ray and I to become debt-free, and have the past due bills in in a plastic file folder in my office closet, with other files. 

I have a shredder that I just used this week to shred a bunch of paper like old bills. People keep way too many papers. Shredders are great for this.

One thing I remember is that I wouldn’t want our kids having to deal with getting rid of a bunch of junk from our estate when Ray and I die. Why not make it easier for your children or relatives?

Red chair and loveseat

Our front entry room

pretty floral folders, my dry erase board calendar, and Leah's birthday gifts

pretty floral folders, my dry erase board calendar, & Leah’s gifts

I keep my to-do lists, speaking engagements, book deadlines, appointments, and other important info in my pretty desk calendar. I bought this one at Walmart. It’s called The Happy Planner. This keep me organized and on track–and yes, happy! I love sticky notes, to-do list pads, and planners!

The Happy Planner

 The Happy Planner

I like to surround myself with things I love in my office–pictures of my family, books, little knick-knacks, stuffed animals of mine (like funny Snoopy) and our kids, gifts Ray and others have given me, pretty art on the walls. It inspires my speaking and my writing. I just took two bags of books to the thrift store. 

desk knicknacks

desk knick-knacks

laptop and Snoopy

laptop and Snoopy

bookshelf

bookshelf

As I was blogging this post, I asked Ray to please go get me a cold drink at Casey’s convenience store. He also bought me this big chocolate bar that reads, “You are amazing!” What a guy! (Despite his hoarding!)

chocolate bar

chocolate bar

At any rate, I’ve been working so hard the last several days to clean, organize, declutter, and purge. I will continue to do this. I don’t think you’re ever really done with this. It’s a life-long process.

I think it’s also important to purge spiritually and emotionally–to let go and let God, to forgive, to repent to Jesus. Clutter makes your soul feel cluttered, too.

Don’t let it overwhelm you. You can start with just one area, like your purse, your car, a closet, or a corner of a room. 

This week practice letting go and letting God. Including your stuff.

It’s so liberating to go through your house, garage, and car and clean and get rid of things (or sell them or give them away to bless someone). I encourage you to do this before 2019 ends, to start off the new year 2020 with more space in your home and heart for the better things God has for you.

You have probably heard of beautiful Japanese author and organizing expert Marie Kondo, whose minimalism-inspired KonMari method is the latest rage to spark joy, bring more prosperity, and reduce stress in your life. She also has a Netflix show, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.

Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo

While I don’t agree with bowing before your home and things as she does (she has Shinto beliefs), I greatly admire her encouraging people to tidy up their homes and pursuing the life they want.

The KonMari philosophy is that the question of what you want to own is how you want to live. How do you? We can’t take any of this stuff with us when we die or when Jesus returns soon! Let it go. 

Let go of something old that no longer serves you in order to make room for something new.”–Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

“I realise there’s something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go.”–Jeffrey McDaniel

fall tree's orange leaves

fall tree’s orange leaves

fall tree's yellow leaves

fall tree’s yellow leaves

red, orange, & yellow leaf

red, orange, & yellow leaf

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Blog, Business, Ebooks, Faith, Family, Marriage, Parenting, Speaking, Spiritual Gifts, Writing

Summer’s here!

summer

summer
Image source: Google

Today is the first day of summer (you can get great summer deals today, including a free small blizzard at Dairy Queen), when it’s the longest day of the year in the U.S. and the shortest day of the year for people in Australia and residents south of the equator).

Heather, Andy, and their kids

Heather, Andy, and their kids

Our daughter Heather, her girls, her boyfriend Andy, and his kids, took off fast today for a much-needed break from work and a vacation in Branson, MO. It was a surprise for the kids.

There’s lots to do in Branson, although I joke to Ray that it’s “an old people’s place” with country hick singers and the entertainment shows (he loves it). However, Branson has beautiful scenery at Table Rock State Park and nice shopping and restaurants at Branson Landing.

Heather made a fun scavenger hunt at her house, where the kids looked for clues all over the house, until they got to the last clue which read that they were going on summer vacation in Branson. She is such a fun mom! The kids loved the scavenger hunt!

Me & Leah at our home for Thanksgiving 2017

Me & Leah at our home

Today I went to lunch with our youngest daughter Leah. When she was still living at home, she and I would go to lunch every two weeks when Ray was paid.

This was our mom-daughter special time together. After she moved out, I wanted to continue the tradition. Leah now stays busy working, taking her violin lessons, drawing her art, and doing stuff with her friends. We still try to go out every couple of weeks for our “mom-daughter” time.

A Moment's Pause Art Print

A Moment’s Pause art print
Copyright 2018 Leah Jones

You can follow Leah on Instagram @leah.merae to see the art she’s working on recently from daily prompts. You can also check out and buy her art at her Society 6 online store (Leah Merae).

I try to do lunches with Heather, too, only she lives much further away (an hour), she works more than full-time hours, and she is constantly busy, but we see each other when we possibly can.

Eden & her family

Eden & her family

Our middle daughter Eden stays very busy too, working 3 jobs, but she and Ray regularly text and video chat. We drop by to see them at times, since they and Leah live down the street from us in Butler. 

Heather, Eden, and Leah

Heather, Eden, and Leah

While our three precious daughters stay on the go every day and live their own, busy lives, I’m still trying to adjust to the empty nest. (I digress from the first day of summer, but I’m going with the writing flow for now.)

I’m not going to lie. It’s hard. Real hard. The house feels so empty at times. (My marriage isn’t what it should be yet, though we are in Christian marriage counseling now.)

insomnia

woman with insomnia
Image source: Google

At night when things are often too quiet, I lay down, wrestling with insomnia again, and then the mom guilt attacks me. The regrets. The painful ache in my heart, missing their beautiful, sweet faces and their physical presence here.

The haunting, condemning thoughts of, “I should have done more fun things with them” or “I shouldn’t have yelled at them so much” or “Why was I so focused on a clean house instead of just enjoying my time with them more?” Sometimes I miss them so much.

These days I do stay busy with my speaking and writing books. When I’m in between books, I get so restless, and feel like I’m just going to absolutely come out of my skin from boredom and anxiety. Today at lunch, Leah wisely told me, “You need to find new hobbies, mom.”

burger & fries

burger & fries

“Like what?” I asked her in between bites of a juicy cheeseburger and french fries drowned in ketchup. 

Creative things like painting or playing a musical instrument. For example, right now I’m learning to make origami.

Nancy Wilson of Heart

Nancy Wilson of Heart
Image source: Google

I told her that while origami is cool, I don’t want to do that and that I don’t know how on earth to draw or to play an instrument. The only instrument I’ve ever wanted to learn how to play was piano (which I quit my lessons as a child) and the guitar, so I could pretend to be Heart’s musician Nancy Wilson.  But I wanted to play bass guitar, not rhythm. I never learned how, and now I have no desire to be a rock star.

“What else can I do?” I asked my child who is wise beyond her years.

Whatever I want, she said. And Leah thinks that anyone can learn to draw or to play an instrument, no matter what your age is. It’s not too late to learn something new!

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher
Image source: Google

Here are some things I DO want to do–this summer:

  • Spend time with God and our family;
  • Travel somewhere new;
  • Start my walking/jogging routine again (pray for my self-discipline, puh-leeze! I’ve gained all my weight back!)
  • Drink more water and continue healthy eating (cut carbs and sugar dramatically, more salads and fresh veggies);
  • Restore our marriage;
  • Possibly write a children’s book with Leah illustrating the art on the front cover (she’s thinking about it!);
  • De-clutter my office (tame the paper tiger!);
  • Go horseback riding somewhere;
  • Have some much needed down time at the beach, my place of rest and refilling;
  • Visit my family and friends in different states;
  • Go on another train ride;
  • Speak at a women’s conference (several times would be great!);
  • Lead at least one person to Christ, hopefully more;
  • See God moving in our family, drawing us closer to Him and one another;
  • Visit the mountains; 
  • Ride a hot air balloon ride with Ray, drinking champagne;
  • Have roses bloom in my home garden;
  • Grow more Christ-like, in the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Laugh more. 

These are just some of the things I’d love to do. What about you? Share your comments below.

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Blog, Faith, Marriage, Parenting, prayer

Mothers’ Day with our beautiful daughters and my flower garden

Abraham Lincoln quote on mother

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.”–Abraham Lincoln

I had a great Mother’s Day weekend and hope you did, too. The best part for me was seeing our precious, beautiful daughters Heather and Leah. I went by to see our middle daughter Eden, but she was working late until that night. Hopefully I can see her this week when she is off work. 

Heather bought me a sweet card and beautiful fresh red roses, my favorite flowers–so thoughtful of her!

card & roses from Heather

card & roses from Heather

Heather works full-time, stays constantly busy and on the go, and lives almost an hour away from me here in Butler. So it was a real treat for her to drive here with her girls Annabelle and Violet and take me out to lunch at the Mexican restaurant, El Charro. 

Me & our beautiful daughter, Heather Mothers' Day 2018

Me & our beautiful daughter, Heather
Mothers’ Day 2018

 

Heather opening her card & gift from me The girls watching her Mothers' Day 2018

Heather opening her card & gift from me
The girls watching her
Mothers’ Day 2018

Heather and the girls then stopped by our house to see our black cat with green eyes, Natalya, for the first time. Violet loved her! Natalya is shy, so I was really glad she allowed them to pet and even hold her!

Heather seeing our cat Natalya the first time

Heather seeing our cat Natalya for the first time here

 

Our granddaughters Violet & Annabelle seeing Natalya the 1st time

Our granddaughters Violet and Annabelle seeing Natalya for the 1st time here at our house

Their visit was very short and sweet, because Heather had an errand to run, but I’m so thankful that I was able to see them and spend time with them for this special holiday!

On actual Mother’s Day Sunday, our youngest daughter Leah treated me to lunch at El Charro, too (we both love Mexican and I can never have too much chips and salsa!). Seeing our daughters made my whole weekend!

Me & our precious, beautiful daughter Leah on Mothers' Day 2018

Me & our precious, beautiful daughter Leah on Mothers’ Day 2018

 

Mexican lunch

Mexican lunch

 

I'm addicted to chips & salsa!

I’m addicted to chips & salsa!

The restaurant staff also blessed me with a free dessert for Mothers’ Day: it was a creamy, yummy cake with strawberries!

the yummy dessert: Leah & I shared it!

the yummy cake with chocolate & strawberries: Leah and I shared it!

I’m so thankful that I was able to do this with Leah. It made my whole day.

My husband Ray bought me a beautiful butterfly card (I love butterflies!) and a Chicken Soup for the Soul book, The Empowered Woman. What the card read inside about me being beautiful and what he wrote about me as a mom meant the most to me and deeply touched me.

butterfly card & book

butterfly card & book

To treat myself afterward, I planted some flowers in my flower bed that I’d bought at the Mennonite store in town, the Stoplight Market, where I purchased them last year. All this is a lot of hard work, and I was very sore the next day! I posted a meme on Facebook which read, “My glutes are on FIYAH!”

 

flower bed

my flower bed. I started gardening last year and am happy to have fresh flowers again!

My friend Stephanie urged me to buy mulch for the flower bed, so the rains wouldn’t wash away the petunias. I went the next day to buy the mulch and put it down to protect the flowers.

mulch

mulch

 

petunias

petunias in a variety of colors

 

cute little sign-fairy

cute little sign: fairy crossing

 

yellow daisies

friendly daisies for our back steps

 

purple potted petunias

purple potted petunias

 

gardenias

red gardenias for my sunroom

I love having creamy coffee and drinking it in our sunroom in the morning. It’s a great place to just pray to God and watch the birds, squirrels, butterflies, and bunny rabbits.

coffee in the sunroom

coffee in the sunroom

My mother-in-law Judy bought me this beautiful, little glass table for the sunroom. I love it! It is perfect for my coffee, flowered cactus, and aloe vera plant.

glass table

glass table

Our cat Natalya loves our sunroom as much as I do, but for different reasons. She intently watches the birds and the squirrels, anticipating a kill if she could only get outside (she’s an indoor-only house cat!). 

Natalya watching the birds

Natalya watching the birds

 

Natalya by the sunroom screen

Natalya by the sunroom screen

 

Natalya in the sunroom

Natalya in the sunroom

I bought a few herbs for my sunroom: wonderful-smelling lavender, oregano to use in cooking dishes like spaghetti, and beautiful purple Salvia. I never leave our cat alone in the sunroom with the plants, as some can be toxic. The door stays locked when I’m not in there.

I have the herbs in a big, white crate that was filled with goodies the attendees blessed me with last year, when I spoke at a retreat in Liberty, MO.

herbs: lavender, oregano, and Salvia

herbs: lavender, oregano, and Salvia

 

faith deco in sunroom

faith deco in sunroom

Last year I planted a big butterfly bush to entice butterflies, which I love. It blossomed well, and drew butterflies in my garden. But Missouri can have harsh, cold winters and it’s likely the ice and the snow killed the poor, little plant. I wasn’t able to find a big plant I really liked for that corner, so I bought a Celtic Cross.

I am proclaiming it is a prophetic declaration for me visiting Ireland, one of the things on my bucket list! Irish legend says that Saint Patrick was trying to convert the pagans to Christianity. Some of these pagans worshiped the sun, so it is said that he combined the cross with the circular pattern of the sun as a way to associate light and life with the Christian cross in the mind of his converts. I think it adds a unique touch to the garden.

Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross

I also put new bark mulch around my roses. Last year I planted my first rose garden. Two of the rose bushes look somewhat sad this spring, so they may have to be uprooted and replaced. I’m not sure they survived the winter. The other two rose bushes are doing well, and one is already blooming beautifully.

rose garden

rose garden with stones

 

my roses from this year's garden

my roses from this year’s garden

I bought bags of black sunflower and other little seeds to draw the red cardinals, sparrows, purple finches, blue jays, and other beautiful birds in our yard. I’ve already seen the male and female red cardinals in our yard. The red male cardinal is my special sign of love from God, and it makes me so happy to see one!

I’ve also seen purple finches and mourning doves. Doves make beautiful sounds in the morning and are among my other favorite birds. An interesting fact about doves is that they mate for life. 

red male cardinal Image source: Pinterest

red male cardinal
Image source: Pinterest

 

purple finch

purple finch

Last year my mother-in-law Judy bought me the squirrel-proof feeder on the left in the pic below. The squirrels are greedy, and practically do acrobatics on the feeders, even going upside down, to try to get to the seeds and eat them. 

bird feeders

bird feeders

I also put back out the hummingbird feeder with sugar water, and have already seen hummingbirds at them. I love the hummingbirds; they are so little and cute!

To make safe hummingbird food (there is controversy whether the red dye is safe or toxic to hummingbirds),  mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water and bring to a boil to kill any bacteria or mold that is present. Cool and fill your feeder. They love it! This morning I saw a big black and yellow bumblebee at the feeder; they like it, too, so be careful. I was stung by a bee on my foot as a child, and my foot was swollen to twice its size, so I’m allergic to bees. 

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”–Ashley Smith

hummingbird feeder

hummingbird feeder

The previous owners of this house had planted two pink peony bushes on the side yard. They are now blooming beautifully. My friend Stephanie said these are her favorite flowers, and that if I take care of them, they can grow as big as saucers.

pink peonies bush

pink peonies bush

 

pink peony

pink peony

I have a few more goals for our yard. One is to get a white trellis for the Wisteria tree, that Ray suggested I buy and plant last year. We put it in the front of our house by the little porch. It is now taking over our house, and friends of mine advised to get a trellis to train its growing “arms,” so it won’t destroy the siding on our home.

Wisteria tree

Wisteria tree

My other planned project is to buy 3 giant rocks at The Grass Pad in Martin City, MO, and make an attractive fairy rock garden on top of it. This is where I bought my stones for my rose garden last year. 

I had a very good Mothers’ Day this year and am so thankful.

Me on Mothers' Day 2018

Me on Mothers’ Day 2018

What did you do for the holiday? Leave your comments below.

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