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Declutter your home and heart for the new year

Ray treating hand injury of little girl in Haiti

Ray treating hand injury of little girl in Haiti

My husband Ray has been to Haiti on mission trips about 5 times, to help our pastor friends Jay and Linda Threadgill of Fishers of Men Ministries International, including after the 7.0m earthquake in 2010 when he set up a medical clinic treating 200 to 300 injured and ill patients a day.

On his third trip there, I went with him. My heart hurt for the poor people of Haiti, and I learned many things there. One of the things that stood out to me the most was the trash problem. The trash is an ongoing nightmare for the people living there, with garbage filling the streets. On seemingly every corner, I saw garbage several feet high and wide and was horrified.

Pigs in Haiti trash Image source:

Pigs in Haiti trash
Image source:×768.jpg

I couldn’t stop talking about it to the point where Ray’s friend Shawn made a running bet with Ray that Ray had to pay him $1.00 for every time I talked about the trash. I was unaware of the bet, but began noticing after awhile that Ray would groan every time I mentioned it and Shawn would start laughing.¬†After awhile, Ray owed him so much money that he had to stop the bet! They finally told me about it, and I told Shawn to give Ray his money back or give it to pastor Jay for the people of Haiti.

Once dubbed “The Pearl of the Antilles”¬†in the 1950’s, Haiti has few landfills or dumpsters, and there’s nowhere to¬†dispose of the garbage. Many people have to climb over it or wade through it to get anywhere!

The trash problem results in:

  • Mice, rats, roaches, and mosquitoes to ¬†increase, and disease to spread.
  • The horrible smell and awful appearance are destroying the economy and are leading to a¬†severe decrease in tourism, which could help lift the poor country out of aid dependency.
  • A toxic environment. Decaying waste produces methane gas, which when inhaled can lead to serious¬†long-term lung, heart and brain defects.
palm tree

palm tree
Image source:

One night as Shawn, Ray and I sat on a patio, surrounded by luscious emerald-green palm trees and it began to gently rain as we drank small bottles of cold Coke¬ģ, I sighed with contentment, thinking, “We are in Haiti! HAITI!” It was surreal and like an exciting adventure. Then suddenly, I saw a big mouse running across a nearby power line and wanted to go home!

The trash and the rodents mar the idyllic tropical beauty of the land.¬†It’s the same in our lives. ¬†At the end of each year, I intentionally “take out the trash” to declutter my home and my heart.

Here’s a few of the things I do to “declutter” physically and spiritually, which might help you, too.¬†

My office clutter

My office clutter

Last night I pulled everything out of my office closet to organize, declutter, and throw things away. When I posted this above picture on Facebook, some of the amusing responses from my friends were:

  • “Oh my, is that all you have? My paper tiger is huge!”
  • “I’m doing the samething. Paper mountain for me.”
  • “Me, too!”
  • “My husband and I cleaned out several boxes in the basement. I found an old journal from the 1980’s.”
  • “I have so much paper stuff it’s not even funny!”
  • “I’m doing the same. I love organizing and purging!”
  • “I just had a white peppermint mocha. Yummo!” (I had mentioned drinking a cappuccino while doing my pile!”

It seems I’m in good company here. What about you?



This time of year, one of my best friends is the shredder. The one I bought  (pictured above) is from Walmart, and I think it cost me about $30. I use it all the time. One reason I shred personal papers is for protection against identity theft. (Nineteen people become victims of identity theft every minute, with $15 billion stolen from 13.1 million U.S. consumers in 2015.)



Last night I went through the folders in my black file cabinet, pictured above. (I have a small one; that helps tame the paper tiger!). If there are any papers that I believe I will not need, I toss and shred them.

This is the part where it gets sticky. So many people are afraid to throw away papers (or other belongings) because “I might need this one day.” Do you really need it? That is the question. You will not need 3 copies of the same medical bill! ¬†You don’t need papers from every place you’ve ever worked in your life. If you’re an author or speaker, you don’t need to keep copies of every single speaking presentation or old manuscripts. Purge!



Next, I organize the papers into various, colored folders. Write a short label for the contents of the folder, such as:

  • Present bills
  • Past due bills
  • Personal joint checking account
  • Business checking account
  • Paid off bills
  • Student loans

Your folders may have different labels. Since I am a published author and do research for my books, I also have a few folders for topics that I’m studying and writing about, such as:


Woman under mountain of papers

The key is to not let the paper tiger get out of control. Remember, your goal here is to get your office, desk, closet, or whatever space you’re working in organized, neat, and clean to prepare for the coming year. A study by Princeton University found that¬†physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.

You decide on what to keep and what to throw away and shred. There’s such a feeling of accomplishment and lightness when you are finished! You can breathe easier.

Another good idea is to buy a fireproof, waterproof safe to keep all your important family documents in, such as:

  • Copies of each family member’s birth certificates;
  • Copies of each family member’s driver’s license;
  • Family members’ passports;
  • Rent agreement or mortgage papers;
  • Copies of your car insurance papers;
  • Medical, dental, and vision insurance papers;
  • Retirement papers;
  • Bank information papers;
  • Spare keys to house, cars, safes, etc.
  • Any other papers that would be irreplaceable if lost or destroyed.

You can also get a safe at your local community bank to store these for you at a cost. I advise making copies of everything first.

A few other things I do at the end of the year to declutter and prepare for the new year:

  • Go through my closets and drawers. A good rule of thumb for giving away, selling, or throwing away an item is if you haven’t used it for a whole year (some say 6 months). Just think of how you’re making room for cute new clothes! ūüėÄ The leggings from 3 years ago won’t make you this winter’s fashionista! Then again, I don’t care about that personally; I wear what I like and is comfortable. Just make sure that your clothes still fit, are still in good shape (not torn, buttons missing, badly faded, etc.), you feel attractive in them, and they’re suitable for the current season.
  • Deep clean my house and decorate it prettily. This includes those once a year jobs like dusting ceiling fans (or dusting in general! Just kidding!), cleaning out your fridge, freezer, oven, and/or dishwasher. You can run vinegar and water through your dishwasher while it’s empty to clean it. Go through each room of your home. Does it look clean, organized, warm and inviting? Is the decor a reflection of your personal style and taste? If not, it may be time to toss some things and decorate to reflect you more. ¬†A woman’s home is her nest, and I think we should love where we live!
  • Knock down spider webs in the corners of every room, and in each closet and cabinet. This is a job I often leave to my husband Ray as I’m afraid of spiders! Spiders love to come inside your house during the colder months. They are not my furry little friends!
  • Check and replace light bulbs in each light or lamp and batteries in the smoke alarms. I usually do the light bulbs, and I ask Ray to check the smoke alarms since he used to be a fire chief and fireman. Smoke alarms save lives, and reduce fire deaths and injuries. The batteries should be checked once a month and the smoke alarm every 10 years.¬†
  • Check your car’s oil, windshield wiper fluid, brake fluid, tires, headlights and brake lights, and overall well-being (again, this is where I need Ray’s help!)¬†You also might need a tune-up. Make sure your trunk has jumping cables, a spare tire, a flashlight, a blanket (this might be kept in the back seat in the event of breaking down during cold weather, plus snacks and water.)
  • Create an emergency kit for disasters for your home. (This is on my goals list!)
  • Clean out the garage. ¬†Sweep, knock down spider webs, and organize it. Make sure your car(s) fit in there! Throw away any empty cans of charcoal fluid, car oil, brake fluid, windshield wiper fluid, pesticides, Windex or other cleaners, etc.¬†


Last and definitely not least, I declutter my heart to prepare for the new year.  Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.”–Proverbs 4:23, NIV

I ask God to search my heart for any unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, anger, rage, malice, jealousy, envy, worry, fear, stress, or anything that displeases Him. I don’t want to carry those things with me into the new year.¬† I want a clean and pure heart, and to run unencumbered into 2017!

Take out the trash! Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and show you any sin, anyone you need to forgive (including God or yourself), any unnecessary weight (such as stress, fear or anxiety) that will keep you from fulfilling your purpose walking in authority and in peace this year.

couple holding hands

couple holding hands

Examine your relationships with people this year: your marriage, your children, your parents, your siblings, your in-laws, your friends, your business peers or co-workers, your boss, your neighbors. Is the relationship good and close? Is there tension or unforgiveness between you, and if so, why?  

Remember the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a ¬†different result. If you do what you always did in this relationship–hold a grudge, blame, act snarky, criticize, withhold affection, ignore, take him or her for granted–you’ll get the same tired strife or distance!

The Bible says in Romans 12:18 (Berean Study Bible): “If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.” You might not be able to reconcile with everybody, but do your part and let God deal with the rest. When you prioritize a relationship and let the person know you sincerely care and humbly approach him or her (including apologies when necessary), it can work miracles.

Love is the greatest miracle of all. I’m asking God to give me more of a heart of unconditional, agape love for Him and others this coming year.

At other times, for the sake of your own emotional and mental health, you may need to set firm boundaries in relationships to protect yourself or those you love. You can forgive someone, but that doesn’t mean allowing others to abuse or mistreat you.

studying the Bible

studying the Bible

The most important relationship of all for the coming year is between you and God. Is there any “trash” between you and Him—known sin? Spend time in prayer and ask God to show you anything hindering your intimacy with Him. Walk in obedience this coming year and you will experience His many blessings that He longs to bestow on you.

“God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done.”–2 Corinthians 9:8, The Message

Are you ready to get rid of the trash, and declutter your home and heart? Don’t put it off. We have 3 more days before the end of this year! Let’s prepare for 2017 and make it your and my best year ever!

Image source:

Happy New Year 2017
Image source:

***Do you want to draw closer to God in the coming year? Check out my eBook on prayer at Amazon, Walking With God.

Red vase with flowers
Blog, Business, Marriage, prayer

The fun is decorating! More pics of our home

I’m still loving our new rental home. I’m slowly buying things to decorate it and wanted to share the pics with you.

This is the first time in 20 years of marriage that I’ve been able to buy furniture in my own modern taste, other than a daybed I bought the 2nd year of our marriage!

Below is the cute modern dinette set for our dining room.

We aren’t eating in there yet, because I want to first buy an area rug to go underneath it.

Our daughter Heather bought this same dinette at Nebraska Furniture Mart and I loved it, and decided to buy one for us, too.

Dining room dinette

Dining room dinette

Right now we’re still eating at the breakfast bar in the kitchen.

Kitchen breakfast bar

Kitchen breakfast bar

I love the red contrast of this Italian art picture against the cheery yellow painted kitchen walls.

Red Italian art picture in kitchen

Red Italian art picture in kitchen

The unique soapstone sculpture souvenir of a man and a woman as “one”¬†that Ray bought me on one of his missions trips to Haiti goes perfectly with our kitchen countertops, beside our coffee bean grinder.

Green soapstone Haiti sculpture

Green, soapstone Haiti sculpture in kitchen

I shopped at several stores to find Italian art¬†and wine pictures for the dining room.¬†Kohl’s had these 4 pretty ones on sale. I plan to buy one more to hang in the middle of the pictures:

Italian pics for dining room

Italian pics for dining room

I hung 2 wine pics like this one from Kohl’s on the opposite wall:

Wine pic for dining room

Wine pic for dining room

One of the main reasons I wanted this house was the unique, Spanish archways and a little arch in the dining room. I found a beautiful, round, red votive candle holder and white votive for the cute little shelf:

Red glass votive holder and candle

Red glass votive holder and candle


I have claimed our front entry room as my room. ūüôā I wanted a black fabric loveseat and a red chair, but NFM didn’t have any, so instead I bought a chocolate-brown (looks black) loveseat on sale and a red chair marked 50% off online.

The loveseat is soft and comfortable – a place where I relax, text friends, check email and Facebook on my Iphone, pray, and take naps.

Red chair and loveseat

Red chair and loveseat

I found the beautiful picture of the man and the woman kissing in the rain at Kirkland’s in Lee’s Summit, MO, a treasure chest of pictures.

It reminds me of the time Ray and I kissed in the rain in Italy when we went on the honeymoon trip that we’d never had, for our 10th wedding anniversary¬†– very romantic!

I love the stark red and black contrast in the pic, especially her red raincoat and the red umbrella.

Pic of man and woman kissing in the rain

Pic of man and woman kissing in the rain

I found this cute black pillow of a lighted city and bridge at night at Walmart for the black (chocolate brown technically) loveseat:

Black pillow with lighted bridge and city

Black pillow with lighted bridge and city

And this cute, red-orange, ruffled pillow at Walmart, too, to go with the red chair and the red in the rain picture:

Red-orange ruffled pillow

Red-orange ruffled pillow

For a decoration by the loveseat, I¬†found this tall, red vase at Walmart. ¬†Kirkland’s had these beautiful red and white flowers.

Red vase with flowers

Red vase with flowers

I love this expression on this black-framed pic for the front¬†entry room: “Live well. Laugh often. Love much.”

"Live well. Laugh often. Love much." pic in front entry room

“Live well. Laugh often. Love much.” pic in front entry room

I found this cute girly-girl pic for the front entry room at Westward Flowers Shop in Butler. It says “Enjoy the little things.” Amen!

"Enjoy the little things" pic in front entry room

“Enjoy the little things” pic in front entry room

I also found this¬†pic at Westward’s of a bird flying free out of a cage. It says “Free to be.” LOVE IT! Are you free through Christ?

"Free to be" bird pic

“Free to be” bird pic

It took several weeks to go through the plastic tubs of letters,  papers, and photos in my office. My office is now organized.

When we moved here, Ray got his desk back and¬†it is downstairs in the “man cave” (which we aren’t through with yet creating into a man cave).

For now, my “desk” temporarily is a black card table and chair. Use what you have at hand and make it work! I will get a new desk eventually.

I’m very excited about this office because it’s my own space that nobody else uses!

I no longer have to worry about my family noisily scrounging around in the kitchen cabinets or fridge for food in the background while I’m doing a webinar, or needing to do something on the main computer while I’m blogging, writing a speaking presentation, or doing other work.

The room also has 3 windows so there’s lots of light in the room.

My new office

My new office

Of course, I had to decorate it with Hello, Kitty decorations Рa cute, ceramic piggy bank and Hello, Kitty stationery box set.

Hello, Kitty decorations for desk

Hello, Kitty decorations

I bought 2 new, inexpensive, black bookshelves for my favorite books, one with these decorations:

  • A ceramic blue and yellow¬†star with the inscription, “Wish upon a star”;
  • A paperweight with the letter “B” for “Beth,” that our daughter Heather gave me as a special gift;
  • A Curious George stuffed animal¬†that was a precious present from Florence Littaeur,¬†when I attended Upper Class professional speaking training (she said always learn, always be a Curious George);
  • A Hello, Kitty photo holder that has pics of my 3¬†long-distance,¬†best friends – Rochelle Valasek, Kimberly Ehlers, and Kimberly Weber.
Bookshelf with decorations

Bookshelf with decorations

Your business needs to include your core values, and one of my most important values is love for my family. I decorated the wall in back of me with family pics:

Familyh pics

Family pics

I have one “Heather” wall – pics of our daughter Heather when she was little, growing up, graduating from homeschool, and on her YWAM missions trip to South America.

Heather wall

Heather wall

The other wall is decorated as a “Leah wall” – pics of our daughter Leah when she was younger.

The wall includes a sample of her computer graphic art, one of my fave (a young girl looking out a window at night at the moon and a shooting star, with a flower on the windowsill).

Leah wall

Leah wall

On the wall to my left, I have a pic of God the Potter and the Clay (a beautiful, Asian woman being the pottery that is being shaped by God’s loving hands).¬†Next to it is a small painting of the ocean and the beach, which Leah did for me (I love the ocean!).

The Potter and the Clay pic and Leah's ocean pic

The Potter and the Clay pic and Leah’s ocean pic

Ray bought me this cute pic because of my love for chocolate:

Chocolate pic

Chocolate pic

To the left of my desk on the wall, I hung this aqua-blue¬†pic that I found at Kohl’s, which has the inscription: “Be bold enough to use your voice, brave enough to listen to your heart, and strong enough to live the life you’ve always imagined.” Are you doing that? ūüôā

Life you've always imagined pic

Life you’ve always imagined pic

We have 2 full bathrooms and 1 half bathroom. I use the half bath to put on my face in the morning. Of course, I decorated this in Hello, Kitty decos, too. ūüôā

Hello, Kitty br

Hello, Kitty br

This Hello, Kitty deco makes me think of all my wonderful friends who God has blessed me with.

You know who you are and I love you so much! 

Hello, Kitty friends deco

Hello, Kitty friends deco

Soon I’d like to buy an area rug for the dining room and a couple of pretty pics for Ray’s and my bedroom and Leah’s bedroom. But it’s all coming together, slowly but surely.

Ray is enjoying his work bench downstairs in the unfinished half of the basement, where he’s been setting up his tools. Tools are to men what shoes are to women.

He’s been working on cleaning rust off of¬†old guns.¬†He also shines his boots here and does other work.

Ray's work bench with tools

Ray’s work bench with tools

Just as I claimed the front entry room, Ray has claimed this area of the house in the basement for himself.

Here he has:

  • his science fiction and medical¬†books;
  • his boots; Ray was born¬†and raised in south Louisiana and Texas and¬†no¬†respectable Texan would be without his boots;
  • his black Texan hat;
  • street art pictures from his (5) Haiti missions trips;
  • his grandfather’s old radio that he listens to country music on while he’s working;
  • his childhood marbles;
  • a few swords;
  • his Spyderco knife that I bought for his birthday last year;
  • a¬†few telephone pole glass insulators;
  • miscellaneous other objects he treasures.
Ray's work room

Ray’s work room

He has a 4-drawer¬†box filled to the brim with nuts, bolts, and other mysterious things that only God and¬†men know what it’s for, as well as a toolbox with tools, which are men’s toys.

Ray has always worked in emergency fields, with over 25 years of experience and high adrenaline coursing through his veins: Marines corpsman, Navy combat medic, paramedic, policeman, police chief, fireman, firechief, SWAT team.

As a result, he has a collection of uniforms and equipment. He used this bookshelf in the basement work room to put this equipment on:

Shelf with work equipment

Shelf with work equipment

Ray’s “collections”¬†of¬†other things¬†over the course of 20 years of marriage are the topic of many heated discussions (i.e., world war) between us. He is¬†a hoarder¬†(although not to the extreme¬†of those on the¬†t.v. show). This is¬†something I’ve tried to change about him for 20 years, to no avail.

Once Ruth Graham was asked if she ever thought about divorcing her husband, world famous evangelist Billy Graham. ”¬†‘No, I’ve never thought of divorce in all these 35 years of marriage,’ she said, ‘but I did¬† think of murder a few times.‚ÄĚ I understand the temptation!

Here’s just one small example of Ray’s papers stuffed in a bag. He has boxes and boxes of stuff in our two-garage and an entire shed full of stuff that he rented, because he¬†refuses to part with it¬†in this lifetime.

Ray's papers

Ray’s papers

He doesn’t throw anything away and I give away or throw away many things (or shred it) after not using it for awhile. Purging sets you free!

In fact, research shows that clutter causes you major stress, which can lead to serious health issues.

But he is happy that he has a work bench and a space where he can put his stuff.

He also has the recreation room downstairs in the finished part of the basement for his “man cave” – his desk and laptop, a bookshelf with his books and movies, and the walls to hang his many certificates and training certifications.

You can see part of a blow gun hanging up on the wall to the top right of the pic, I think a gift from a friend. I’m not sure where Ray might “need” this.

Ray's man cave

Ray’s man cave

He is glad to have his own big desk back and to have a place for his certificates, swords, and other favorite things for his desk:

Ray's desk and certificates

Ray’s desk and certificates

I even found a picture for him that says “Man Cave.”

Man cave picture

Man cave picture

So there you have it. A tour of the rest of our house. It’s been fun shopping for bargains for the decorations and furniture.

I love it here!

What do you think?

Where is your favorite place to shop for furniture, pictures, and home items?

Please leave your comments below.