The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Part III)

Konmari all the things.

In the past two days I have gone through sweaters, shirts, pants, skirts, scarves, socks, bracelets, shorts, necklaces, rings, bags, books, notebooks, binders, magazines, and pictures.

We made one massive trip to Goodwill with another planned. I recycled three paper grocery bags full of papers. I condensed over three boxes of photographs into one. I freed up my half of the guest room dresser, half of my daughter’s closet and two under-the-bed storage bins from clothes. I took two banker boxes and one under-the-bed bin’s worth of memorabilia down to a 14x11x6.5″ box.

I don’t feel incredibly changed at this point. I thought I would. I don’t feel less frantic or more put together. I don’t feel tidy. I do feel disbelief over how much space we devote to things that have outlived their purpose. And even after focusing on those items that give me joy, I feel disbelief over how much stuff we have in general. I feel guilt over items I purchased to purchased. And a bit of shame over having gotten rid of so much stuff and not really noticing a difference. 

Fred told me yesterday that everything looked the same after two days of reducing. I don’t think it was meant to be a judgement but I walked him around the house to point out all of the nooks and crannies that were once full and are now free. Boxes. Bins. Baskets. Shelves. Drawers. Closets.

Clothes from high school. Binders from college. Jewelry from weddings. Blurry pictures. Things from Target. Past joys turned into burdens. Irrational fears of letting go and devaluing a relationship.


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Part II)

Now you’ve heard my idea of a future tidy life but Kondo doesn’t stop there. “Why?” she asks.

Why? Why? Why? Why? 3-5 times she asks for each desire. 

Why do I have clothes out the night before? 

  1. To take a decision out of my morning. 
  2. To get ready earlier.
  3. To be on time. 
  4. To start the day with less stress.
  5. To be peaceful. 

Why do I read a devotion?

  1. To be in the Word. 
  2. To center my heart. 
  3. To be open to God’s plan.
  4. To be obedient.

Why have lunches prepped for the week?

  1. To control content.
  2. To be healthier.
  3. To have more energy.
  4. To be an active mother and wife.
  5. To have a happy family.

Why? To be happy.

Kondo believes that the core of our desire to be tidy comes from our desire to be happy. Let it sink in.

The outcome of this project is happiness rather than tidiness.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Part I)

This Christmas, I asked for Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. 

If you’ve read any articles on Kondo’s method of  tidying you may feel that she’s slightly batty. Or entirely batty. But you may also feel that she is onto something worth learning.

Kondo begins her book by exposing the lack of training we receive in tidying at a young age. We’re told to clean our rooms, certainly, but not instructed how to eliminate unnecessary items or evaluate our things. After that, she begins to flesh out her method of letting go first and then putting away. Tidying is to occur by category rather than room. And it must happen all at once rather than over an extended period of time. 

It’s not that my house is terribly messy.  It’s average.  Maybe in some areas better and in others (paperwork) worse. But I do find myself researching storage option after storage option, seeking out the next organizing trick that will leave me feeling ahead in my day. Put together. In control.
Before starting the act of purging and placing, Kondo challenges her readers to visualize what they want out of the project. What does the tidy future life look like?

So here it is, the beginning of my journey to tidy:

I wake up to a quiet, clean house. My clothes are set out from the night before as are Miss Emma’s. On some mornings, I wake before the family and go the gym but today, the coffee maker is set to autostart and I wait for it to finish before getting out of bed to grab a cup of coffee. I read a short devotion before getting in the shower. Lunches have been packed for the week and Emma enjoys an unrushed breakfast before we head off to work and play.

2015 More to 2016 Measure: New Year Resolutions

It’s that time of year again. The time when you look back at what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve put off. The time to decide if you’re going to give your resolutions another go, replace them, or ignore them.

2015, I promised you some things:

  1. Be a more conscious consumer.
    1. Over the past year, I have replaced the following items in my house with a cruelty free alternative (brand):
      1. Laundry detergent (Method)
      2. Dish soap (Mrs. Meyers)
      3. Foundation (Nyx)
      4. Eye shadow (Nyx)
      5. Body wash (Everyone Soap)
      6. Face wash (Yes To)
      7. Face wipes (Yes To)
      8. Hairspray (Paul Mitchell)
      9. Shampoo (Kevin Murphy)
      10. Conditioner (Kevin Murphy)
      11. Baby wash (Burt’s Bees)
  2. Eat Less Bacon.
    1. I tried replacing pork with turkey bacon for a while but my husband did not approve. The thought of turkey farms doesn’t give me warm and fuzzy feelings either so I didn’t fight too hard. But did we eat less? Probably not…
  3. Be in the Word.
    1. I was on a roll with the She Reads Truth app until the free devotions were replaced with purchases (Sorry, SRT!) then tried to start my own devotions with varied commitment. All in all, did I spend more time in the word? Yes.
  4. Do Something Carefree.
    1. In 2015, I enjoyed kayaking on my lake. I danced until I was exhausted through the kitchen and living room with my daughter and enjoyed a seafood platter in the Outer Banks. It’s a short list. But a cherished one.

I didn’t move mountains over the last 12 months but I did make some positive moves in each category. But looking back at my goals, they were generic by design. Do more or less of something. Which I did.

So what about 2016?

Develop a measurable project scope:

  1. Be a more conscious consumer. Replace 12 more household items with a cruelty free alternative (brand).
    1. Hand soap
    2. Dishwasher detergent
    3. Blush
    4. Bronzer
    5. Mascara
    6. Eyeliner
    7. Multi-surface cleaner
    8. Glass cleaner
    9. Shower cleaner
    10. Candles
    11. Sunscreen
    12. Body lotion
  2. Eat Less Bacon. Participate in 52 Meatless Mondays (1 year).
  3. Be in the Word. Read the New Testament.
  4. Do Something Carefree. Take a dance lesson with Fred.

Nothing to complain about

What does it mean to be human? To be Christian?

Are the two such polar opposites, as some would have you believe?

Or is the very criteria of a believer to be so innately human that our flaws are unavoidable? Our sins laid bare at the foot of the cross?

In Romans 7:19, Paul writes, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.”

Sitting in book club on a Monday evening, I feel an anger-lit ember fan deep in a corner of my heart. I know it doesn’t belong there but I’m careless at containing the flame. Flipping rapidly back and forth through the pages of Thrashing About with God, I remind myself of the importance of “I” statements and avoiding accusatory statements. Even so, I launch into a monologue of defense.

A woman in the book club has just made the comment that the writer is whiny. Not just “whiny,” but she goes on to say that there’s nothing wrong in the writer’s life and the writer has nothing to complain about as an American Christian. As if that’s a thing… As if a faith can be broken down by region and all of the people within that region can be lumped together under some privileged title.

As quickly as the words leaves her mouth, I concede that I will not invite my struggling friend to this study.

My loosely-dampened words spill over my tongue, half registered to my own ears, and I am fueled by thoughts of my friend’s gut-reaction to such a careless summary of untruth.

“Nothing to complain about.”

A slander against those who struggle behind radiant smiles or who bear their trials in silent obedience.

A statement of exclusion.

Yet perhaps the ember flames so easily in me because I’ve stood in this woman’s ostentatious stance before…

Perhaps I am reminded of my misplaced belief that living a life worthy of the calling I have received (Ephesians 4:1) somehow means a life free of dark spaces. Of doubt. Of dissatisfaction.

But then…

Psalm 34:17-18  “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t make a resolution every year but some years find me teetering on the edge of growth, looking for that extra push. That conscious decision to grow. Perhaps this year it’s motherhood, my daughter’s own teetering serving as a visual reminder of my own. Whatever the case, I have decided to make several resolutions this year:

  1. Be a more conscious consumer.
    1. I have a girlfriend from high school who is an active advocate for cruelty-free products. She posts articles and videos about the cruelty practices of mainstream cosmetics and then she posts brand names to replace those products we have throughout our homes with cruelty-free substitutes. The posts got under my skin. Why buy product that’s tested on animals if I can buy an equal substitute? I’ve started to replace some items in our home as they run out with the Leaping Bunny stamp of approval and I’ve found some in home that already had the stamp!
  2. Eat Less Bacon.
    1. This is actually a continuation of 1. but it deserves separate attention. Another girlfriend from high school who became my roommate in college posted a video about pig farms the other day that disgusted me. I’ve jumped on the bacon bandwagon. But watching the video and seeing what our choices are encouraging is discouraging. I’ve got to scale it back.
  3. Be in the Word.
    1. My husband and I became members of our church at the end of 2014. We sat with elders at the church to discuss our faith walk and where we’re being led. I have outward goals but I think to start living out those outward callings, you’ve got to start working on the internal goals first. My internal goal is to be in the Word as routinely as I brush my teeth in the morning.
  4. Do Something Carefree
    1. Anything. Vacation. Dance in the summer rain. Kayak the river. Stop holding myself back and making excuses!

So there you have it. My public commitment to growth. May 2015 be a year full of joy and learning!

Detroit Blood

I’ve gone soft.

The change happened over a span of 8 years while adjusting to and then permanently residing in West Michigan. The adaptations have been gradual, of course, but the reality hit me today like a rush hour traffic jam on 696. Fast.

When I left the Detroit area, I left in my black ’99 Ford Taurus, seat tilted back, rap turned up, one hand on the bottom of the steering wheel, pushing 90mph and weaving in and out of traffic. Fast forward a few years and I’m returning in my white 2011 Mazda3, driving 74mph, white knuckled at 10 and 2 with straight seat back and Carrie Underwood streaming through my Bluetooth radio.

You could say things have changed a bit.

When I first sped into West Michigan 8 years ago, I cursed the slow drivers and the laid back attitudes. I stained my walk and talk with Detroit blood like a badge of honor and I’d bad mouth anyone who dissed the D.

But over the years, I grew softer. My speech calmed, my speedometer slowed, and my pace slagged. I started to look at Detroit as a concrete jungle full of aggressive type As. I hated it and I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to move back. There’s no opportunity there. The housing market hasn’t recovered. It’s dangerous!

And in many ways I have loved that I’ve softened. I don’t need to feed off aggression or memorize speed traps. I can relax. And it is nice to be relaxed…

But I realized today that becoming soft also robs you of some things. Pride, for starters. I have pride in West Michigan but as an Eastsider I had pride in myself. I knew that if you wanted something, you had to get aggressive. No one is letting you in their lane because you used your turn signal. They’re letting you in because you shot the gap into the one car length ahead of them that they didn’t mean to give you. And if you managed to switch lanes without immediately slamming on your brakes, you earned the right to be there.

Becoming soft also robs you of growth. When have you ever faced a new challenge resting on your heels and come out on top? I didn’t think so.

And, in an unexpected twist, being soft limits your happiness. The happiest people are those who constantly try new things, push their limits, conquer new goals.

As I drove 696 tonight, I realized the beauty of the Eastside. I tilted my seat back just a little. I opened my sun roof and switched my radio to Nappy Roots, for old time’s sake. In a stroke of luck, I caught the echo of classic V8 engines roaring through the cement jungle after a night ride in the Woodward Dream Cruise. I breathed in the hot pavement, rubber and exhaust of the city and thought to myself, “My children will never know the lure of this place like I did.”

My Detroit blood has thinned over the years but it still courses throughout my veins with every beat of my heart and every rev of a V8 engine. It’s still inside of me. And it always will be.

The Happiest 5k on the Planet

My alarm went off at 5:50am this morning, reminding me that I was about to run in The Color Run – Grand Rapids with one day’s worth of training under my belt and some pre-existing knee pain.

5:50am. Yuck.

My parents were up for the weekend to take care of some GR chores, so I guilted my mom into coming as my support. She was already in the shower when my alarm went off and I shuddered to think of how tired she must be.

Geared up, I headed downtown with my mom to sign-in. I was meeting up with some girlfriends for the run and found them with relative ease.

This is what we looked like before the run:


Clean, fresh-faced, and ready to go!

And after:


Success! Running with girlfriends is so much better than running alone!

The race isn’t timed so we finished when we finished and threw that competitive awkwardness out the window. I may not have been in shape but I had a great time today with my friends. When I needed to walk, we walked. But they definitely pushed me to run!

Here’s my advice: If you have little running experience, I highly recommend signing up as a 5k team leader when you’re feeling ambitious. I know that doesn’t sound like it makes a whole lot of sense but thinking about it: If you lose motivation? Too bad. You’re the leader! You’re committed to running it because people are counting on you!

5ks are kind of my new thing. They’re long enough to make you feel accomplished when you’re out of shape but short enough to be within reach. And it might have something to do with something my mom said to me today about happy people too:

She told me that the happiest people actually engage in more activities that sit outside their comfort zone. Out of curiosity or a desire to tackle something new on their list, they sign up for those things they’ve never done before and, once they complete them, they’re happier for it.

Don’t go thinking that’s made a runner out of me (yet!) – but I continue to see 5ks in my future. And someday soon, I’ll take on something new!


A special thanks to my mom for cheering us on and documenting our day! It means a lot to me!

What Legacy am I Creating?

What will people say about me as I draw my final earthly breaths?

If I could choose (and ultimately I do choose by the way I live my life), I would want people to say things like:

She’s God-fearing.
She had a great sense of humor.
She loved her family.
She was compassionate.
She was a great encourager.
She was thoughtful.
She followed through on her word.
She went above and beyond.
She helped others in need.
She witnessed to others about the love of God.

It’s crazy how short life is in the grand scheme of things. How many excuses we make to start being the people we want to be later. How many defenses we build when people try to help us become the people we were meant to be.

If I had to guess, I would think people might say the following:

She had a great sense of humor. (Eh? Wink wink)
She had a short fuse and a sailor mouth.
She had a good work ethic.
She loved her people.
She called it like she saw it.
She wasn’t great at keeping in touch.

Isn’t that something? I need to make a change, it would appear.

I need to start building my legacy.