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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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: http://www.bryankrahn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/haiti-pigs-1024x768.jpg
Pigs in Haiti trash
Image source: http://www.bryankrahn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/haiti-pigs-1024×768.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: http://www.commercialsilk.com/toolkit/photos/ancient-palm1.jpg

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®, 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?

shredder
shredder

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.)

shredder
shredder

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!

folders
folders

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:

papers
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! 😀 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. 

colored heart-lightstock.com

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: https://happynewyear2017.tips/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/new-year-2017-twitter-cover.jpg
Happy New Year 2017
Image source: https://happynewyear2017.tips/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/new-year-2017-twitter-cover.jpg

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

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We’re moving: make room for the new

We’re moving: make room for the new

 

Moving boxes
Moving boxes

A friend asked me this morning in an email if I  had “recovered yet” from the RELEASED! Women’s Conference. She’s heard it was great, but knew it was a lot of hard work, stress, and expense for me. Well, I am still recovering. The conference was SO good and we had very positive feedback from attendees, but yes, it was exhausting. I don’t get to rest yet. This week I start packing!

We’ve been looking for awhile for a new rental home and while we desperately want to get out of this rural, tiny town of Butler (I call it “the hicks” or “the boonies”), we weren’t able to find a place outside Butler – but I did find one here that I really like (an older home that is newly remodeled, Spanish arch doorways in the den and dining room, a big recreation room downstairs, my own office space -pics soon after we move)! I’m very excited about moving and can’t wait! Our move-in date is May 15.

This week I’ve been purging, blessing a local church that accepts our old junk donations – things like gently used clothes, an imcomplete set of green plates, our fake Christmas tree, books.

It’s not always easy to let go. Things like:

  • Envy/jealousy;
  • Anger;
  • Unforgiveness;
  • Pride;
  • Discouragement;
  • Worry/anxiety/stress;
  • Self-doubt;
  • Limiting beliefs.

It’s not always easy to let go of physical things, either. This is especially true for my husband Ray, who won’t throw away anything and if it wasn’t for me, he could qualify for the show Hoarders.

But letting go of things physically, emotionally, and spiritually sets you free. I have felt so good getting rid of more stuff and donating it!

freedom

God, help me get rid of anything unnecessary that I don’t need emotionally and spiritually,  which hinders my intimacy with You.

Today think about what you may need to let go of to embrace what God has ahead for you. You can’t store the new wine in old wineskins or they will burst. Make room for the new.

“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” – Mark 2:22, NIV

 

 

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