Cherish the Moment

BeautyOfAMoment
I was recently sitting on my porch with my children, quietly enjoying a snack that Lily had made as we listened to the sounds of spring: birds chirping, a lawn-mower mowing, the gentle breeze blowing through the trees.

I cherished the way Lily served by giving everyone second helpings of the snack she’d prepared. My heart rejoiced at the carefree sounds Grace was making as she cheerfully mimicked the spring noises she was hearing around us.

It was so beautiful, so perfect that I wanted to grasp onto it, to somehow capture the moment forever. The way Lily’s hair softly framed her face after a few strands escaped her wavy ponytail. How cute Grace’s mouth looked as she happily crunched her apple slices. Their sweet voices breaking into our quietness as they chattered back and forth.

I started reaching for my phone thinking that I could take a few photos, maybe even a short video. Something to help me remember. Then I stopped. Even more than I wanted to capture the memory, I wanted to savor the moment. Life looks different through a lens.

And just as I don’t want the bulk of my children’s memories of me to be me staring into a bright screen instead of into their eyes, I also don’t want the bulk of their childhood memories to be interruptions as they had to stop what they were doing to smile at the little rectangle I was holding in front of me.

I want the majority of their memories to be of joyful moments as they learned, played, worked, and grew together. Even though this particular memory, and many of the others like it, may one day be forgotten, I want my children to remember how they felt: hopefully unrushed and un-interrupted as they savored and enjoyed life together.

Because sometimes the real gift is in the beauty of a moment, not the preservation of a memory.

CherishMoment

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How I Decluttered My Entire House in Six Days

SixDayDeclutter
Remember when I challenged myself to declutter my entire home in three days?
It ended up taking twice as long but I am thrilled with the results!

I listed my ideal declutter schedule here.

And here’s what reality looked like:

Day One: The living room, main bathroom, and my bedroom closet.
Day Two: The kitchen (Lily and I spent hours cleaning and organizing our spice and baking shelves to create a workable system and it has been well worth the effort!).
Day Three: The girls’ bedroom and the holiday storage closet.
Day Four: The schoolroom.
Day Five: The rest of the master bedroom (which included everything except my closet), plus Nathan’s walk-in storage closet.
Day Six: The basement.

Here’s how I accomplished decluttering my entire home in six days:

While I’d originally planned to just take three solid days to declutter, I’d forgotten one big thing: I couldn’t clean for three days straight! I hadn’t cleared my schedule and there was still schoolwork to help with, food to cook, laundry to fold (I used method B), and several other things that I couldn’t just drop without notice.

In other words, I had the excitement and the desire to declutter quickly but I lacked good planning. I decided not to let that discourage me though and I just went with it!

Laundry
I divided my decluttering project into three separate weeks:
Monday and Tuesday the first two weeks, then Tuesday and Wednesday the third week. Not only did this help decluttering to flow better with my family’s schedule, but it also gave me time to work on little projects inbetween declutter days (laundry, sending out mail, bringing in stuff from the cars, etc.).

We ate simple meals. This wasn’t the time for gourmet food! Fresh fruit with eggs for breakfast, leftovers for lunch, and oatmeal or baked fish with broccoli and rice for dinner. A couple of the nights, Lily (8) cooked dinner for the family and we were thrilled to eat whatever she made!

I decluttered even when I didn’t feel like it. Yes, there’s a time to rest and to take a break, but sometimes we just have to push through the tough stuff and focus on the end result!

I stopped when I really needed to. I didn’t meet my goals every day, but last year when I decluttered, I really disliked the process. It was hard. And often discouraging. Since then, I’ve also re-decluttered a few problem areas in my home. So when I decluttered this time I decided to reward myself with not dreading the entire process. When my kids wanted to make cushion tents while I vacuumed the couch, I helped them. When the weather was nice, I worked until 2pm and took the rest of the afternoon off so we could go outside for a few hours. I was able to actually enjoy the journey this time.

My family kept our main goal in mind. I’ve told you a little about our dream of moving to a tiny house in the country. I was amazed at how this dream propelled all four of us to get rid of more stuff! We all decided that if we won’t take it when we move, why do we need to keep it now?

I put all of the information I’ve ever learned about decluttering to good use. Particularly basic declutter tips and how to declutter with little ones underfoot.

I knew that if we hadn’t used an item since last year’s declutter project, we probably didn’t need it, so I got rid of it.

19BagsOneCloset
I quickly got rid of bags that held our former possessions.
Trash was taken outside daily. Donation bags were dropped off weekly. This helped our house to feel lighter quickly and didn’t give us time to pull stuff out of bags!

Each person helped with their own items.
Last year, I did most of the decluttering alone because there was just so much and I needed to work alone to sort through my own thoughts as I cleaned. This year, everyone in my family helped with their own items. They got rid of things that I would have been afraid to toss. It saved me a tremendous amount of time and guess-work!

I enlisted outside help. I declutter our school/play room quarterly. And somehow, by the end of each quarter I feel overwhelmed as I look around and realize that it’s time again. So this time I traded days with a friend and she graciously helped me clean, declutter, and reorganize our entire school area in exchange for me helping her organize a few areas in her home. It’s so much easier to toss stuff quickly when a friend is right there to see all the junk we’re hanging onto for no reason!

Final Results

Maybe you’re wondering how much stuff we got rid of – not counting items we returned that belonged to other people, and not including stuff my husband took to the office for use there, we got rid of 49 trash bags full of trash and donation items. 19 of those bags were from my husband’s storage closet alone (did I forget to mention that I ignored one closet last year?).

This years’ declutter project was exponentially easier than last year. Our house is actually more organized than it was last year, it’s emptier than ever (but not bare!), and it’s so much easier to clean that it hardly even feels real!

I want to encourage you – whether you’re in the midst of a huge declutter project or are so overwhelmed that you still don’t know where to start, please don’t give up. Keep on keeping on. It’s more than worth every second of the effort. Remove the layers and enjoy the beauty that’s underneath.

You’ll be so glad you did.

ClutterFree2014

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Seven Simple Ways Kids Can Serve Others

SimpleService

Service tends to be something I think about a lot. It is so important to serve others but I have gone from seasons of not serving anyone at all to seasons of stretching myself way too thin with service projects. As I seek a balance between the two extremes, I’m learning that one way to serve others without neglecting my children is to involve my kids in the process. I want to share a few of those ideas with you.

Keep in mind that any chore your children can do for your family is a chore they can help do for someone else.

Here are a few service project ideas that kids can help with:

Clean/Organize
This can include washing dishes, sweeping floors, dusting furniture, organizing clothes, and scrubbing bathrooms.

Do Yard-work
Older kids can mow grass and do other heavy yard-work while younger children pull weeds or sweep the sidewalks.

Prepare Food
Whether you’re taking a full meal to a new mom, baking brownies for a new neighbor, or shopping for a small bag of groceries for someone in need, children can help with this task.

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Send Cards

Regardless of whether a card is homemade or store bought, this is a great way that kids of all ages can help to brighten someone’s day!

Call Others
Does little Susie have the gift of gab? Put her chatting skills to good use by calling someone who may feel a little lonely. Even if your child is shy, it’s possible to be sensitive about that tendency while still encouraging him or her to step out of the comfort zone.

Visit
Take children along to a nursing home or an elderly person’s home.

Save Pennies
Find a charity that your family can get passionate about helping, then designate a place for loose change. Watch the little stash grow and once you reach a set amount, deposit the money in the bank and write a check to your charity.

Final Thought: Embrace the Mess

Service projects with kids can sometimes feel like a recipe for disaster. That’s just life! It’s okay. Embrace it. Keep things simple. As your family serves together, you’ll figure out what you’re good at and what you’re not-so-good at. Find joy in the messy stuff and your family will be blessed as you learn to bless others together.

“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:35-40

What about you? What ideas do you have for involving your children in serving others?

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Freedom from Searching for Approval

FreedomFromApproval

I sometimes struggle with wanting to seek the approval of others. This is evident to me when I talk a lot about something really awesome my kids did or when I share too much about my own life. Yes, some sharing is needed for friendship building but not when it’s done with the hope of feeling good enough.

So I’ve been thinking – what would happen if I simply didn’t care whether or not others approve of me? How would I feel? What would change?

For me, I think it’d look like this:

  • Not feeling embarrassed or worried that someone may think I’m a bad mom when my kids act out.
  • Embracing my imperfections to the point that I can laugh about them.
  • Not hiding my successes out of fear of looking “too perfect” to others.
  • Explaining myself less.
  • Using more exclamation points when I write. (!)
  • Serving cereal for dinner once a week. Un-apologetically.
  • Et cetera.

Not caring about meeting others’ approval feels like freedom.

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And I wonder: why do I ever care about meeting the approval of someone else? Why do I sometimes feel the need to hide how great or not-so-great that I’m doing? What does that accomplish? Those who truly care about me don’t even need or want me to search for their approval.

Plus, successful approval-seeking may help me to feel good, but only temporarily. And then I’m left trying again, working harder, just to try to find more approval. But in the end it doesn’t matter.  It’s suffocating. It’s exhausting. And it’s costly. It costs me my well being, my sense of freedom, and it can hurt my relationships with those I love the most.

In the end, it doesn’t even matter what everyone else thinks of me. It ultimately only matters what Christ thinks. Did I love Him fully? Did I serve Him well? Did I encourage my family to glorify Him above all else?

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NKJV)

Trying to be approved by the world is an impossible task that can never be fully accomplished. But in Christ? It’s enough. I’m enough. I’m loved. I’m approved. I’m complete.

And so are you.

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Reminder: Final Chance to Purchase Your Organizational eBook Bundle

Organize365 All Organized Ebundle 23 ebooks to organize your home and home based business for $20

Just a reminder that today (Monday, April 7th, 2014) is the last day to purchase the All Organized eBundle.

This fabulous eBundle is only $20 for all 23 books, plus printables. That’s a savings of $133! Go here today to see the rest of the details. Or if you’re ready to buy, you can just click below:

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Thanks for reading; I’ll be back to my regular-style posts later this week!
~Davonne~

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Simple Ways to Experience Spring

My girls and I have a little tradition of experiencing each season with our five senses. It’s so easy, requires absolutely no planning, and only takes a few minutes to do, but it can also lead to great discussion and learning opportunities when we have extra time.

Simple Ways Spring
Here are a few ideas for experiencing spring with your five senses:

Sight
Look for signs of spring:

  • Trees budding
  • Flower stems emerging
  • Birds fluttering
  • Bugs crawling
  • Worms wiggling
  • Squirrels scampering

Smell
Breathe in the scent of spring:

  • Flowers
  • Rain
  • Dirt
  • Fresh air
  • Grass

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Hearing
Listen for sounds of spring:

  • Birds
  • Crickets
  • Rain
  • Thunder

Touch
Feel the freshness of spring:

  • Rain
  • Breeze
  • Warmth

Taste
Taste the newness of spring:

  • Blades of grass
  • Honeysuckle and other edible flowers
  • Rain
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables as they come into season (gardens and farmers markets are wonderful places to do this!)

Did you notice that rain is in every category? As the weather warms up, a fun activity in itself is to use all five senses to experience rain. My girls love doing this and will often take a minute to see, taste, smell, feel, and hear rain on the way from the car to the house.

How do you enjoy experiencing spring?

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March Goal Updates: Living Intentionally in 2014, Part Five

(Note: You can read more details about my original 2014 goals here and see how to set realistic goals for yourself here.)

March Progress

1) Read to Grace every day.
I read some days and missed others but I am so excited to have an emerging reader in my house right now! I took this short video a few weeks ago:

(Just an FYI that I pinned some really fabulous picture book lists here – I can’t wait to take these lists to the library this week!)

2) Provide daily conversation opportunities with Lily.
I did pretty well with this in March. Doing things like grocery shopping together, visiting friends’ farms, and of course baking has provided plenty of great conversation opportunities.

March2014GoalUpdates
3) Be less serious.

I’m having fun with this goal!

For example, after I signed up to bring snacks (or so I thought) to my daughter’s soccer practices and they made me head coach instead, I discussed my lack of athletic abilities with the soccer organizer and then decided to embrace my new role as soccer-coach. I’m actually really enjoying this position!

4) Blog two times per week, plus submit two new articles to other blogs or magazines each month.
Blogging goal met for March. Submissions goal not met but I did attend a writer’s conference for a day with a friend!

5) Post a complete series about de-cluttering on my blog.
Goal met this month! I completed my weekly series in March, and plan to continue with a once-a-month declutter project or update for the remainder of the year.

6) Get out of debt by August.
Good progress made in March! My husband and I are almost on track to meet this goal.

7) Finish reading my way through the Bible.
I’ve made it into November’s suggested reading on my yearly Bible reading plan!

8) Start being on time again.
I’ve pinpointed some problem areas and have been working on improving in those areas with my kids.

LivingIntentionally2014

Click the photo to view all articles in this series.

I’m enjoying tracking my monthly progress because even though I don’t always feel like I’m making great headway, when I look back over a full month month I’m able to see progression, regardless of how small in some areas.

How did you do with working towards your goals in March?

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The One Thing My Marriage Was Missing… And How We Found It

{Special Note: My last post didn’t go through properly to e-mail subscribers. That post includes information about a fabulous eBook bundle that will help you organize your home and home-based business. Click here to read the details.}

Now for today’s article:

MarriageWasMissingThis

I’ve mentioned that my husband and I have a goal to finish paying off our debt by our 10th wedding anniversary this August.

Have I told you what we want to do once we’re out of debt?

We want to move into a tiny home in the country. We wish for tons of space to roam around in our own backyard. We want to get a dog for our energetic animal-loving four year old and a porch swing for our avid-reading eight year old.

We want campfires in the summertime and picturesque snowy nights in the wintertime. We long to see the vibrant stars in a way that is only possible without city lights. We hope to grow old there together.

Do you see what we’re doing? We’re dreaming with each-other about our future.

It hasn’t always been that way.

For years, we made painfully slow progress on debt payments. We didn’t like sacrificing to pay off debt, but we also knew that we don’t want to live in debt forever. Getting on the same page was difficult.

We had a goal to be debt free but no real plan for what we’d do next. Now, we have a plan. We’ve made a chart. We’re selling stuff online. We’re pulling some extra work hours.

We know what our next step is.

I love this dreaming together. To make it even better, while I was simply dreaming, Nathan was busy doing. He looked around online and found a tiny house that’s for sale in the country, complete with a pond, a garage, and lots and lots of land. To top it all off, this home is in our (future) price range and it’s just about our ideal location.

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I had two choices.
I could leave it at that – a house he found online. Or, I could take our dream to the next step – I could help make it real.

I chose the latter. So one Sunday morning, I got up a little early and made a very simple lunch, then wrapped everything up and put it in an insulated lunch tote.

After church, I told everyone I had a surprise and I handed out the food in the car. We drove to the property Nathan had found. It was vacant so we walked around the outside together. We talked. We planned. We dreamed. Grace (4) asked if we could please finish paying off debt this week so we can move into that house the next day. Lily (8) found the perfect reading spot.

It was glorious. While we were exploring the area, I realized that we do so many things together: we work, learn, grow, serve, play, worship, and travel. But this whole time, we’ve been missing something: the dreaming together.

Dreaming is so good. Will we ever move out to the country? I certainly hope so, but I don’t know what tomorrow holds. Will we get that house? Maybe, maybe not. By the time we’re ready to buy, it may be sold. All of us know that.

But now our dream feels more like a future reality, something much more tangible than various different abstract ideas swirling around in our heads. Now when we talk about “the country” we all have the same picture in our minds. We have a similar dream, and a common goal.

Paying off debt is no longer a burden - it’s exciting because we have a plan for what to do next.

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If you don’t have a current dream with your spouse, and your kids if they’re still living at home, go ahead and give it a try. It can be something as small as planning a Saturday just to have fun together or taking a family walk after dinner one evening. It may be getting out of debt so you can afford to take an overseas mission trip.

Maybe you think you and your spouse only have different dreams right now. It’s perfectly okay to dream about different things (trust me, my husband does not dream of having a book in print one day, and I definitely don’t dream about fixing more computers!). Be willing to listen to the heart behind each-others dreams and find something in common. Then work towards that.

Only God knows the future, but in the meantime, dreaming together is so good.

“…I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done…” Isaiah 46:9-10 (NKJV)

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Helping You Organize Your Home and Home-Based Business: A Fantastic eBook Bundle!

Special Note: While the fun sale I’m going to tell you about lasts for 14 days, you will only receive 2 emails total from me about this – this one today plus a last-minute reminder the final day of the sale (April 7th).

Organize365 All Organized Ebundle 23 ebooks to organize your home and home based business for $20

Since this blog is not a sales blog, I rarely write sales articles. Today, however, I want to share information about an organizational eBook bundle with you because:

  1. This is a great deal.
  2. I love organization.
  3. I’m excited that one of my books is part of this bundle!

Here’s information about this fabulous deal…

Welcome to the eBundle that will have you organizing your schedule as well as spring cleaning your home and home based business! In these 23 eBooks, you’ll find tips, support and know-how about working from home, cleaning, organizing, and mom support along with printables!

Organize365 All Organized Ebundle 23 ebooks to organize your home and home based business for $20

The All Organized – Organization eBook Bundle is available March 24th until April 7th for only $20. That’s a savings of $133! So hop over and buy it now!

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Organizing your home

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This 6 eBook mini eBundle (sold as part of the full eBundle) will have you breathing a sigh of relief as you move through getting your pictures organized, know what paper you need to keep, help for homemaking, and working towards having less stuff & more living!

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The ‘Working from Home’ mini eBundle (sold as part of the full eBundle) will help you stay calm and productive when you need to work while children are underfoot. Complete with an eClass, this bundle will also help you organize your direct sales business as well as learn about establishing office hours and a schedule that will help you thrive as you run a family and a business.

Moms

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This mini eBundle (sold as part of the full eBundle) will help all of us with meal planning and involving the kids in cleaning so we can work and live more efficiently. There’s also support here for the mothers of special needs children and those in the military to learn how to organize their homes even more efficiently.

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This mini eBundle of 2 cleaning books is mighty! It’ll help you schedule your cleaning and know what’s clean enough so you’re not embarrassed when clients, friends, or your mother-in-law stops by unexpectedly.

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Schedule

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This ‘Scheduling’ mini eBundle of 6 will help you create a schedule, arrive on time, and provide simple strategies that work for your entire life. With the planner printables included, you will be able to make a plan that works for YOU!

(Also sold as part of the full eBundle.)

This eBundle will be available March 24th until April 7th for only $20. That’s a savings of $133! So hop over and buy it now!

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The Fine Print: We have all the nitty gritty details over on the Frequently Asked Questions Page, but here are a few highlights:

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  • All sales are final. There are no refunds and the deadline for purchasing will not be extended.
  • If you have any questions or issues with any of the e-Books included in this bundle, please contact that author directly.
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Thanks for reading – please feel free to contact me if you have any questions after reading the FAQ page. I’ll be back to my regular-style posts later this week!
~Davonne~

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Gentle Encouragement About Decluttering: Week 13 of Clutter Free in 2014

{Special Note: This is the final weekly article of Clutter-Free in 2014. Beginning in April, I plan to post one organizational article per month for the remainder of the year.}

ClutterFreeEncouragement2
Before last year, I was an accidental hoarder.
And while I’d tried to declutter my home several times before, my attempts, although somewhat successful, had also resulted partially in just moving some junk from one room to another. It was a bit discouraging.

But you know what? My previous declutter attempts had prepared me for my full-house overhaul. Even though I thought I had failed at decluttering, in actuality I had removed some layers of stuff from my home. It reminds me of the part in the movie Shrek where Shrek was trying to explain to Donkey what it’s like to be an Ogre:

“Ogres are like onions… Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.” Shrek, in Shrek.

Aren’t our homes like that as well? Layers. Of stuff. Of love. Of memories. Of life.

Removing the layers of stuff doesn’t diminish the other things. Quite the opposite in fact; removing layers of stuff allows more space for living.

So whether you’re decluttering for the 1st time or the 20th time, don’t give up. It’s not in vain. Just keep working on removing the layers of stuff.

You’ll be glad you did.

ClutterFree2014

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