Taking Life One Step At A Time

Taking Life One Step At  A Time

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pack Rats, Hoarders ... and Joy?

The other day I needed some time to veg out. It had been a long day and my brain needed some time away from the reality of kids, housecleaning, pregnancy and to-do lists.

I checked out Netflix and decided to watch an episode of Hoarders. I admit it, I wanted something that was going to make me feel good. I've been working to declutter and organize my home lately and although I wouldn't have admitted it at the time, deep down I was hoping to gather some "Ha! My house doesn't look like that!" kind of good feelings from the show.

All began well. Until I heard people say over and over again that they were called "pack rats" as children and that many hoarders grow up in homes with organized parents. I started to freak out a little bit as I thought back to the day before when I had spent two hours cleaning out my boys' room. And then I freaked out a little more as I realized just how often we call a couple of our children "pack rats". What if my children grow up to become hoarders??!!! What can I possibly do to prevent such a difficult road for them?

I ended the show second guessing my parenting skills. Certainly not the feel good fuzzies I'd been hoping for.

And now I've spent two days contemplating the show, my life and the lives of my children.

But I'm more encouraged now. Because I have realized several very important things. First, I am not a hoarder. Although my house is often a mess and we certainly have more than we need, in reflection I can see that I've made a deliberate decision to spend time with my children rather than focus on a perfect house.

Second, although hoarding is definitely often tied to psychological issues, there was something that stood out in each hoarder's comments. Their joy is in their stuff.

Several times I heard the hoarders or their spouses confess that they derived great joy from shopping for these items. Others found joy in the actual stuff - sometimes because of the memories attached to the items and sometimes because it gave them a sense of worth or self-confidence.

Why do I find these things to be so encouraging? Because it means that there is hope for my pack rat children. It means that I have the opportunity to teach them to find their joy in a source that will not destroy them. What source is that? The one true Source of joy: Jesus Christ!

As I was looking up verses in the Bible about joy, I found this one:
"For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting." Ecclesiastes 2:26
Hmmm. Interesting.

There are many verses that talk about joy. There are a few that I really like.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

Speaking of the righteous: Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy. Isaiah 61:7 (I found this one particularly appropriate given that with hoarding also comes a deep sense of shame because of the messy and sometimes unsanitary conditions. And so many hoarders have 2, 3, or 10 of the same item simply so that they can have whatever they need on hand at any given time. They collect to provide for themselves, but God will provide a double portion for the righteous - a portion we don't have to buy!)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4

That last one is the kicker. I want my children to walk in God's ways - which the Bible says again and again is the source of our joy.

If I'm to understand Scripture correctly, I can protect my children from hoarding and so many other destructive behaviors by teaching them the truth found in God's Word. If I consistently model trust in God's provision - and draw their attention to the many ways He provides - they will be much more likely to place their trust in Jehovah Jireh once they leave the nest.

I have no desire to come down hard on those who are hoarding. I'm not trying to point my finger and say, "Shame on you!" But for the grace of God, that would be me! Instead, I'm thankful for the opportunity to reevaluate what I'm teaching my children. Stuff is simply that ... stuff. You can't take it with you when you die. But joy in the Lord? That can last eternity!

Where do you place your joy?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Surprise from the Packrats!

To be honest I didn't expect to do any housework today. I had to head out shopping this afternoon and now that I'm entering the 3rd trimester of this pregnancy I'm finding that I really have much less stamina for lots of walking and shopping. Or anything afterwards.

Since I didn't want to clean, I figured I'd have the kids do a little work. (What else do I have little minions for, right?) Thinking I'd get about 15 minutes of productvitiy out of them, I asked all four to head upstairs and begin cleaning their rooms.

Meanwhile, I headed to my own room to fold laundry.

But as I did, I overheard my oldest and youngest working together. The oldest would ask, "Is this to keep or throw away?" And the youngest answered time and again, "I don't want that. Let's throw it away."

Shocking!! My kids are packrats and NEVER. THROW. ANYTHING. AWAY. Never.

I stood in stunned silence listening to the rustle of papers and the sound of said papers hitting the inside of the trashcan. Oh, what bliss!

Now although I had no intention of doing any major cleaning, I couldn't let this moment pass. This sweet and unexpected moment of time when my children were working together to actually declutter our home. Maybe all my work really is rubbing off on them in some way!

So, I did what any sane mother would do. I walked into their room, asked if I could help and began the arduous task of COMPLETELY decluttering their room.

We checked behind and under dressers, we went through bins, we pulled everything out from under the beds, we filled an entire garbage bag with trash - mostly papers and McDonalds type toys - and we sorted, sorted, sorted.

And right now, their room looks awesome. So awesome that I really would like to say they can't play there anymore. But that would be mean.

And what of my sweet daughter? As I worked with the boys for two hours, she worked on her own room. I haven't yet gotten in there with the vacuum, but I know she did her best. I'm guessing we'll work a bit more on it tomorrow, but I'm so proud of her for trying to tackle it on her own. Thankfully, her room isn't nearly as bad as the room where three boys collect everything from buttons and corks to rocks and every card ever given to them.

So although unplanned, it was a hugely productive day. And just in time too. Grandma's coming on Sunday!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Newspapers to Riches

Surely several of you out there in bloggy land have desks that are unused. Unused not because of their placement or impractical nature, but because they look like this:

Yeah, me too.

By now, you probably think I'm the messiest person alive. But honestly, most of the areas I'm showing you are either closed off (like the inside of my desk) or not as noticeable - which would be why they don't get cleaned as frequently. Well, except for the big project that I'm gathering strength for. That's very visible and is one of the areas I hate most in our house. But that's another day.

Today my big project was to declutter my desk. Actually my project started out with just trying to clean off the TOP of the desk since it looked so hideous.

But really it went so quickly that I felt invigorated and decided to shoot for bigger goals. And now my desk looks like this:

BIG difference! And it's not just the visible parts. I organized all the drawers too. I know ... I'm such an overachiever. (Yeah, right.)

You may wonder what all that clutter was about and what in the world I did with it all. Well aside from a slew of pictures, I have actually sorted through everything and put it away. Imagine that!

Mostly I had a bunch of papers that were ready to be recycled. Things like catalogs I had set there hoping to keep gift ideas close at hand, newspapers that housed articles by Josh or pictures of my kids to cut out, and of course a bunch of random papers that really didn't need to be clogging up my desk.

Oh and $70 in cash! That was nice to find! And it certainly made my hubby pretty excited about my desk cleaning adventure. I guess you never know what you'll find hiding amidst the chaos.

So what are you waiting for ... go clean something! You might get rich doing it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cocktail of a Different Kind

Well, I didn't make any progress today on my decluttering ambitions. (Although I did at least get a bunch of dishes done and bought the groceries for the week.)

But today was monumental nonetheless. Today my oldest had to purchase shoes from the ...


Sigh. When did my little baby boy get so big? Everyone tells you when your kids are little not to blink. But I confess, I blinked. I didn't think blinking would really make a difference, but it did!

He's supposed to be this little:

Not this big:

Another sigh.

And did you know that although it's just one size up, men's shoes are a whole lot more expensive than boy's shoes? Great.

You know what else isn't cheap? Groceries. And guess who's eating me out of house and home? Yup. This guy:

(Yeah, the one who feels a need to eat massive amounts of food in order to be strong enough to move mountains.)

I know, I know. Buck up, Ali and get used to it! The next 18 years are going to be full of hungry, smelly, gangly boys. I figure with this one almost 11, I have about 7 years left with him at home. And about 9 left with his brother. And 13 left with the next one and then 18 with the one who's still cooking. Add in some girl hormones for my daughter and we're in for a crazy cocktail of teenage bliss.

But ... yesterday we weren't there yet. So I just need a moment to breathe deeply, remember the little kid years and gather my strength for what's to come. I do look forward to the new stages in my kids' lives, but I sure am nostalgic about the completed stages. They're good kids. Which is what makes it hard for this mom to let them grow and fly.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Operation Declutter: Fridge Top

I'm sure many of you already think I'm nuts. But despite my normal craziness and the chaos of everyday life, I'm just not able to control my organizational and nesting urges!

There's a blog I follow and the author is doing a 31 day challenge to re-decorate her house. I've been reading for awhile now and I can't help but be inspired by the seemingly easy changes she's making. Now, I don't really want to go to the trouble of buying and selling furniture on Craigs List, or redecorating my house. But I WOULD like to declutter my house before the baby arrives.

I'm not delusional enough to think that I can accomplish a decluttering task each day for a month. However given that I have 13 weeks or so before this little guy arrives, I should be able to get several things done. Besides that, my mom has happily stated that she would like to host a garage sale this summer which would give me a great outlet for ridding our house of unwanted junk!

So after much thought and some list making, I decided to tackle my first project yesterday (and part of today).

I knew we had several things going on, so I had hoped to find a short and easy task to boost my confidence in this new venture. I decided to attack the top of our fridge and the cabinet that housed our many, many vases.

Now, you may think that task unworthy. But ... I am ashamed to admit our fridge top looked like this:

And because the front of our fridge looks like this, just about everyone who comes to our house stops at the fridge for several minutes.

And if those guests are any taller than me, they can see the horrid dust and grime that sits atop our fridge.

Now the top of the fridge was pretty simple to clean. Soft scrub, gloves and paper towels make any cleaning job easy.

But remember, I wasn't just tackling the top of the fridge. I also wanted to declutter the cabinet above the fridge. Yup, the one that was filled to the brim with vases to the point that they overflowed onto my countertops.

Simple enough, right? Riiight. As I pulled out vases, I realized that several had the crud inside that comes from icky flower water leaving a film all over the inside of the vase. I'd heard that you should wash that with bleach, so I figured I'd clean the inside of ALL the vases. Smart, Ali.

I bleached every single vase - which by the way does work very, very well. Then, I sorted the vases and decided which ones to keep. I mean, really, how many flowers do I typically have in my house at one time?? So, I kept one of each size of vase (to accommodate different sizes and types of flowers, of course) and boxed up the rest for that garage sale I mentioned.

Oh, and since I'm at the task of decluttering, I just had to stop at a garage sale yesterday that had tons of tupperware and other containers. Makes sense right? Yeah. While I did get a few items to help with some of my decluttering tasks, I also got a few larger tupperware items for the kitchen. Things that I don't have space for, but that I've been wanting for a long time. Like a salad spinner, a cupcake holder and a cake carrier. Seriously, I cringe every time I'm making a salad and have to bruise the leaves to get the water off of them. Really, I do.

So, with this newly cleared space only half filled with vases, I was able to fit my new tupperware items. Yay me! And my fridge is no longer an embarrassment! Well, unless you open it. But that's a project for another day.

Here's a pic of the clean and organized finished product.

I know it's not the biggest accomplishment in the world, but it's a start. And starting is half the battle.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pastors Need to Hear This!

For the past week our family has been living in this beautiful house in southern Colorado.

We've taken day trips to hike, visit historical sites, shop in quirky stores and spend time as a family. We have stayed up late and slept in. We've fished, lazed around and goofed off. All that a vacation should be!

You may be thinking, "Gee. It must be nice to have the money to just up and take an extravagant vacation like that! Those lucky Brumbaughs." And you'd be completely right if we had forked out the money for this vacation.

But God is good and we didn't have to. Yes, we paid for gas to drive out here, hotels on the way and for food and souveniers. But we did not have to pay for a week in a house bigger than ours with more bathrooms than I could count!

We went through a pastoral retreat program called Rocky Mountain Renewal. They offer week long retreats to full time pastors and their families free of charge! And amazingly they aren't the only ones who do so. Check out the Pastor's Retreat Network.

You can find these types of retreats all over the country. Wonderful people who desire to serve those who are serving the church. People who are willing to sacrifice their time, resources and talents so that those who are on the front lines can get a much needed break. I praise God for these people!

Josh and I have now attended three pastor's retreats. The first was through Broomtree. We stayed on Lake Michigan and had a wonderful time fellowshiping with other church leaders and ministry wives while also getting lots of alone time with God and time for our marriage.

Our second retreat was at Cedarly. I'm not sure you could find a more beautiful setting! We stayed in an old, giant house situated on beautifully kept grounds nestled against a lake. We enjoyed things like bike riding, canoeing, strolling in the woods and incredible meals.

Both of these retreats were only for pastors and spouses. No kids allowed. And with both of these there was a required group meal each day when we would gather and talk about ministry together. The hosts of both weeks were incredibly gracious and loving, ready to listen and challenge as needed.

This week's retreat was different in that we were allowed to bring the kids with us. There was also no schedule to keep. In fact, we never once saw the face of a person affiliated with the program. We were mailed directions on how to get onto the property, where to find the house key and specifics on what was allowed or not allowed (such as using the grill if there was a high risk of forest fire). It truly felt as though we were on our own vacation - which was a tremendous blessing with four kids in tow. We shopped for our food, made our own meals, set our own schedule and thoroughly enjoyed spreading out in a huge house.

As we talk with other pastors, Josh and I are learning that so few actually seek out opportunities like these for rest. So can I ask you to do something? Tell your pastor about these things. Most are free of charge, some come with a small fee. Some are only for pastors and spouses and some accept whole families. But nomatter the format, we've found that the refreshment offered through these programs is a tremendous way to encourage those in ministry. At our first retreat we were told that frequently pastors will sleep for an entire day and a half - not even bothering to eat - because they are so worn from constant ministry. Pastors are on call at all times - which often means their spouses and families are as well.

Josh and I decided after our first retreat that we needed to do one every other year or so. It helps us to stay fresh, to take time for our marriage, to spend time with God and to appreciate our church family. And it is wonderfully encouraging to be poured into for a whole week without having to pour out.

So go, tell your pastor about these retreats! And if you have extra resources that you aren't sure what to do with, consider contributing to one of these ministries. What they do for those who serve in God's name is invaluable.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fit to be Tied

Parent to parent, here's a tip for the next time you travel.

Give your children rope.

Yes, rope.

We've been on the road traveling this week and I happened upon this little tidbit after our stop at the Little House site in DeSmet, South Dakota. Each of children had the opportunity to make a rope.

Of course, you can't make rope and not keep it, so we stuffed the four ropes into our already ridiculously crammed van. But can I just say, I've never seen the kids play so well with something so simple?! (In the van, that is. A cardboard box can provide hours of playtime at home!)

That rope was used by my 5-10 year olds to lasso horses (headrests), hogtie stuffed animals, trap and hang imaginary bad guys, and even tie up the rope holder! Notice Pooh Bear in this picture:

I really do believe that without these ropes we would have heard soooo much more whining and crabbiness in the car over the next three days of driving.

So, next time you get ready for a long trip with your youngsters ... be sure to give them some rope! They'll thank you for it and you'll pat yourself on the back for giving them hours of simple fun.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I can identify!

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms in the 'hood!