Sunday, January 31, 2010

Come let us sing to the Lord!


Come let us sing to the Lord;
let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving
and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,
and the heights of the hills are his also.

The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,
and kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.
Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

Psalm 95:1-7




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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Couch Potato Productivity

Here's how I'll keep my hands busy while watching the KU vs. K-State basketball game this evening.
(LET'S GO JAYHAWKS!)



This is a perfect example of what my beautiful sister-in-law (and knitting guru) calls "Yarn Barf".


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Befores and Afters

My first few days of preparing the house for showing have been productive!
Here are a few before and after photos of my work in the school room:





This was the shelf where the current week's school books were supposed to be placed. However, it had become a dumping ground for EVERYTHING. It needed to be sorted and cleared, and quickly!









Now the shelf is completely cleared, except for a sampling of this week's hands-on projects. (Here's what we're learning this week!)














I also needed to overhaul the main school shelves - these held most of the school books we own, which was wonderful...except that I had just received a large shipment for our new school year (we begin in January), and it was overflowing with literary delights. Great for our students, not so great for their Bootcamping mom or for showing a home for sale!
















I moved many of the books which we will not use in this year of the Trivium into boxes so they can be stored away when we moved. What is left is a very streamlined bookshelf, and one that makes momma happy to look at. The students are finding it easier to find their school books as well!


















I didn't take a before of this shelf  (opposite of the school shelf), but it is neatly organized with "fun" books, games, puzzles and coloring paraphernalia.














During my next blogging break from work, I'll show you my efforts in the kitchen!

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Moving, Bootcamp Style

For those of you who didn't see the news here, my family just found out that we're moving to a new state. My dear sisters at H.K. have encouraged me to blog about it. I've decided that it's a good idea because 1. It will motivate me to follow through on any before pictures I post, 2. It will keep the journey fresh in my mind when I finally put these principles into a Bootcamper's Guide to Moving book and, 3. I'm hoping that as you read my entries, you'd be willing to lift us up in prayer as we work hard to quickly sell our home and move to another.


PHASE ONE: A SHOW-READY HOME


When people come to a home-showing, they WILL open cabinets and drawers! Sure, your things won't be there when they move in. But messy, dirty spaces just don't sell homes. Make sure every built-in cupboard, closet and drawer is VERY clean and well-organized, in addition to cutting clutter and cleaning the standing furniture.

Today's to-do's:

Overhaul of school bookshelves: The school room (which has been overstuffed since we got our new school year's curriculum/books at the end of December) was the one area our real estate agent suggested I work on. And she was right!
I'm going to take out what we won't need for a loooong time, box it and put it in the basement, moving current books into their spots - and hopefully making everything look more streamlined/less stuffed. Need to do this today because our MLS photos are being taken this evening!

It's Kitchen Day!

Re-organize kitchen cabinets: Take out everything in the bottom kitchen cabinets (currently pots/pans/cast iron cookware) and move it in the Tupperware cabinet (a stand-along "wardrobe" in the kitchen). Then move the Tupperware to the bottom cabinets. Not nearly as user-friendly for me, but when people come to see the house, they'll want to pull out the cabinet's built-in drawers, and that is HARD TO DO with cast-iron pots in there. Plus, the current pots and pans are so heavy that they literally scrape the wood underneath and there is always sawdust in that cabinet. Before I refill the cabinets with Tupperware, I will vacuum them and wash the down inside and out!

Re-organize the rest of the kitchen cabinets. They could all do with a tidying up and a good scrubbing down inside.

Clean out oven: It's original to the house, 1964! It works great, but the age will be a turn-off to potential buyers. I want it to look as fresh and new as possible, which is tough with 46 years of wear on it. Do ovens add one layer of grime per year, like tree rings? I hope not!

I'll check in later with before and after photos!


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A note to R.G.T.

Dear Sisters,

I'm so excited that you've decided to do a Bootcamp for Lousy Housekeepers Challenge!
I feel certain that if you stick with it for 60 days, you will see a dramatic change in your home - - not only in the way it looks, but in your ease of running it.

As you will see by the posts surrounding this one, I'm in the middle of a challenge myself - We were given a move-in date to our new home less than one month from today! So my priorities are very much focused on getting and keeping the house show-ready, selling it, packing and moving to a new state.

But it is my fervent desire to get back on the blog and give you help for your challenge as often as free moments allow! (This particular "free moment" is typing one handed while nursing a squirmy 10-month old baby!)
I strongly encourage you all to buy your own copy of Bootcamp for Lousy Housekeepers - there really is no substitute for all the lists, worksheets, direction and motivation given there. I also encourage ALL my readers to comment -- ask questions, give suggestions, just say 'hi!' Frankly, it's just too quiet in here. :) I'll answer your questions as soon as mommy-ly possible.

Blessings to all of you as you move from messed to blessed!

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Cheaper by the Dozen


Now, how many of you thought this was a baby announcement? *giggles* Nope, God hasn't given us another baby-blessing yet. But He's mightily blessed us in another way this week. My husband was offered a wonderful new job and we're moving....again. This will be our twelfth move in almost 12 years of marriage, and being as OCD as I am, I certainly do like that it will finally be an even dozen moves now. *giggles again* But moving....again...brings with it a huge amount of work, a huge need for organization, and a need for motivation that I sometimes feel unable to grasp my head, heart or hurting hips around. (I do believe I feel a Bootcamper's Guide to Moving coming on!)
With this move on my heart, I was utterly blessed by what Malia Russell (of Homemaking 911 sent to my inbox this morning.
If you are feeling "inwardly rushed" today - if, like me, you feel like Sisyphus pushing your huge to-do list up the hill, just to have it roll back down on you again tomorrow - please be blessed by what Malia writes. Take a deep breath, listen to God's still, small voice, and take the next thing as it comes.

"Do you ever have so much to do that you feel completely overwhelmed? Do you feel too tired, too weak, too irritated, too disorganized, too ___________(fill in the blank) to possibly get everything done that you should?

Beloved, I sometimes feel like that too.

But in my recent reading I read an incredible quote from one of my favorite authors, Amy Carmichael.

"..she learned that duties do not clash any more than do the stars. If we become inwardly rushed we shall feel as if they were all [the children in her care] demanding attention at once. But if we are inwardly quiet we shall see the purposed sequence and take them one by one. An angel is never sent on more than one errand at a time."

So if duties do not clash, we must learn to listen and watch for the ONE voice that can take all the disorder and chaos and give us purposed sequence. This reminds me of another author I love, Elizabeth Elliot from whom I learned the phrase: "Just do the next thing."

But these two ladies had something more than just an idea or a formula. The key to being able to be successful in perceiving and doing "the next thing" is a close relationship with the Lord.

There are times in my walk with the Lord when I feel extremely close to Him. He is at my side, at my shoulder, whispering in my ear, guiding my footsteps. And there are those times when I am so busy in my own agenda, I forget he is there. The difference for me between those times seems to be quite commiserate with whether or not I am sincerely praying and reading or studying his Word. It also has to do with what I use to fill my head all day. The music I choose to play in the car, the books I read at bedtime, the websites I read, the devotional I keep tucked in my bathroom or in my purse can all help fill me with the good things that will lead me ever-closer to my Lord.

Alternatively, if I fill my head with spiritual junk food, the noise and clamor of the world will seep in once again. My tasks will be overwhelming because I have no one clearly directing my path.

So, today, I am reminded once again that if I am inwardly quiet I shall see the proposed sequence and take my day one thing at a time.

"My vocation is no game." - The Golden Road, Raymond De Perrot"

Thanks, Malia, for reminding me that God never gives us a task without equipping us for it mightily.
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Eph. 2:10


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Monday, January 11, 2010

Thanks, and a coupon!

Thanks to everyone for an amazing first month of sales of Bootcamp for Lousy Housekeepers! It did better than I ever imagined it would, and I appreciate all your support and encouraging words. It's inspired me to begin writing again - - this time, a day-by-day two-month Bootcamp challenge, for those who really need motivation and instruction through their Bootcamp journey
Haven't purchased your copy yet? Use the promo code, "READMORE2010" when you check out at Lulu.com, and get 10% off your total purchase price.
Keep reading, Bootcampers! There will be a free book giveaway coming very, very soon!

Now get to work!

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Great Time-Waster

Of all the things in my home that I count as a blessing, a benefit, and a wonderful aid to productivity, only one is also a potentially HUGE robber of my minutes... hours... days... You guessed it: the internet.

I find that the world-wide-web is much like the last ten minutes of a football game. The clock says one thing, but the world fades away and pretty soon you've wasted hours of your life on...what exactly?

I'm not critizing computers in general. They've allowed me to make friends, organize my life, save money, minister to those in need all the way on the other side of the world...in just a few short minutes. But, I'm also prone to getting my feet stuck in the sticky mud of hulu-tainment, whiling away my precious hours on Facebook Farmville, or some other inane, time-wasting activity.

The internet can be a blessing, but it can be a curse for those who lack maxiumum self-control.

The Word of God makes it very clear how we are to live our lives. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."

Am I able to allow myself to hop on the computer without letting my usage of time become unwise? Often, I wasn't. Did I need to cut off the hand that was sinning? I did. But I needed my computer sometimes, and for noble, time-wise purpose. What to do?


Amazingly, my journey to wisdom took about four minutes. Because that's how long it took to install a couple of free, incredibly simple to install, browser add-ons. Ironically, the computer tooketh away, and now the computer giveth. For these Firefox add-ons have put me back on the path to wisdom and productivity.

LeechBlock

LeechBlock is "a simple productivity tool designed to block those time-wasting sites that can suck the life out of your working day. All you need to do is specify which sites to block and when to block them." Because my time online was spent on only a few different websites, this was a perfect add-on. I tell it which sites I tend to waste time on, and I tell it when I want to be blocked out. For me, that's weekdays when I should be choring, schooling, or spending undistracted time with my children.Alternately, you can tell the computer you only want to spend a set amount of time in each site, and it will block you out after that time is up. The specifics are up to you.
I didn't include my gmail account because that is how my husband communicates me during the day.
Does that mean I need to run to the computer every few minutes to check for an new email? Not anymore, because of a second simple add-on.

Gmail Notifier

With Gmail Notifier, your gmail account will automatically log-on when you open Firefox. Add a simple .wav file and you computer will alert you when "you've got mail" from the other room.


Time-Tracker

What about the time spent online in general? Are you prone to thinking "I wasn't on that long..."? Install a Time-Tracker add-on and watching the little clock on your tool-bar tick away will motivate you to move quickly through your web-tasks.

Pageaddict

Another helpful add-on is Pageaddict, which displays a summary of the time you've wasted on each web site for today, and a graph of your web surfing habits from the past.

Obviously, these add-ons are Firefox specific. I'm a huge fan of Firefox because it is so user-modifiable. You can make it a perfect browser for YOU, with thousands of fun and productive add-ons to choose from. If you'd like to make the switch, download Firefox for free here.


So, how much of your precious day have you wasted on the computer so far? Are you ready to "cut off the hand" that's wasting time and keeping you from making your home everything it should be?

Why not take charge of your computer time today, and every day. Starting NOW.

Get to work!


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Monday, January 4, 2010

Undeck the Halls!

Advent and Christmas are wonderful seasons in the Christian family's life, but I must admit that by this point in the year, I'm just about ready to strip the house bare and inhale a deep breath of non-peppermint-scented air.

I know many families have already taken down the mistletoe and packed up the Christmas tree, but in my home, we practice the ancient tradition of celebrating the twelve days of Christmas...and these days, contrary to popular secular belief, are the days AFTER Christmas, bringing us to the Feast of Epiphany. In other words, the decorations in my home are not taken down until January 7th.

After a month and a half of limited space and Christmas minutiae, some homemakers tend to de-clutter quickly and dump the decorations without thinking ahead to next Christmas...which seems so very far away. Taking a little time and forethought now, however, will save you so much time and frustration next Advent.

If you, like me, have yet to undeck your halls, here are some pointers from the Kansas City Star's Diana Reese and her "trio" of organization experts.

* Pare down. "Don't be afraid to get rid of the stuff you don't like," says Darcy Munzer, owner of Organize4U in Independence, Mo. "If you don't love it, get rid of it."


If it's broken, it doesn't work or you haven't used it, toss it, but donate what's in good condition.

* Consider the sentimental value. The half-melted choirboy candles have always been on her mantel at Christmas, says Mary Ellen Vincent, owner of OrganizeMe in Kansas City, "because they remind me every year of my mom."

For some items, though, you may be able to snap a picture to preserve the memory, Vincent says.

* Take inventory. How many wreaths do you own? Strings of lights? Remember that big stash of wrapping paper you got on sale last Dec. 26 but couldn't find this year? Before you can organize and store, you need to be aware of how much of everything you have, says Noelle Micek, a San Francisco-based expert in residential organization and design.

* Keep track. Munzer writes everything down, including special Christmas recipes and the gifts she buys throughout the year, in a notebook that she keeps in her home office.

* Choose your storage space, and measure it, so any containers you buy will fit, Micek says. Most people will store holiday decor in the basement, attic, garage, storage shed or even under the bed. Just make sure it's out of the way; you don't want to fight those bargain rolls of wrapping paper for the next 11 months.

"Let the space you have limit what you own and keep," Vincent advises.

* Keep it together. Store all the Christmas items — ornaments, cookie cutters and everything in between — in one spot, if possible. The exception: Keep certain heirloom items, linens and high-risk breakables in a temperature-controlled environment in the main part of the house. Holiday dishes can go in that hard-to-reach cabinet above the fridge. Munzer has a special cedar chest for holiday linens.

* Color code your containers. Use see-through plastic containers with the same color lids for each holiday, Micek suggests.

* Label. Never put a box away without a label. Write on the sides with a black marker, or list the contents on a 3-by-5-inch card or color-coded construction paper.

"You don't want to look through 50 plain white boxes to find the four with ornaments," Munzer says.

* Number your boxes. Number them in the order they should be opened. "You want the tree stand and skirt before you get the lights and ornaments," Micek says.

* Choose the right containers. Buy the best quality containers you can afford. You'll protect against water damage, accidental breakage and even pests such as mice. Shop around to find what fits your needs. Cardboard can be recycled, but plastic offers a better defense against moisture and pests.

"Organizing and storing Christmas decorations is just like tackling any organizing challenge," Micek says.

And there's a payoff, Munzer points out: "You can relax and enjoy Christmas."

Storage suggestions:

* Ornaments: Find a box or bin with partitions to keep ornaments from clanging against each other. Nest them in shredded paper or tissue paper; wrap the most delicate ornaments in bubble wrap.
For our family, each child acquires about three or four ornaments from various relatives each season, plus one for myself, my husband and one ornament for the entire family. When we decorate the tree, we sort the ornaments by name and take turns hanging our own. Sorting the ornaments into boxes for each individual child has made

* Cardboard drawers that pull out are great if they can sit on a shelf in the basement, off the floor. Otherwise, go with plastic.

* Lights: Micek recommends the light storage boxes made by Iris; the lights wrap around corrugated cardboard "spools" and fit into a plastic container. Or make your own with a piece of cardboard. (Wrap lights around it and tape ends down.)

* Trees: A zippered bag will keep the tree clean and dry if you can store it on a shelf. Otherwise, find a sturdy plastic tub to store it in on the floor. Some bags have handles and even wheels; others fit over a standing tree.

* Wreaths: Special plastic boxes will keep these from getting crushed, but they take up a lot of room. Another option: Use your vertical space, says Micek, and put the wreaths in bags that hang on the wall or from a clothesline strung in a corner.

Don't, however, make my mistake of five years ago: storing a live wreath. What was I thinking? I had a two-month old baby at the time, this is my only comfort. It is a blessing that most of the ornaments were stored in Ziploc bags, and protected from the horrible mold damage. I did have to replace all the stockings, though. This is what I mean when I say that forethought will save you much time and effort in the end!


Because people are resolving to de-clutter their belongings in the New Year, January is a PERFECT time to find storage bins on sale. Looking for specifics?

* www.stacksandstacks.com (Iris light boxes and other supplies)

* www.ultimatechristmas.com (archival acid-free ornament boxes)

* www.organizeit.com, 800-210-7712 (holiday and seasonal storage, including holiday wreath storage bag, $22 to $25; upright Christmas tree storage bag, $50; six-drawer holiday chest, $32).

* www.ikea.com, has wonderful and inexpensive storage bins and boxes of every shape, size and color.

* Don't forget your local big-box stores - check you local fliers for January sales!

(Reprinted in part from http://www.kansas.com/entertainment/all/story/1119815.html)

Need more motivated to get your home clean, de-cluttered and on track in 2010? Buy your copy of Bootcamp for Lousy Housekeepers today!

May God bless you richly in the New Year!
Now get to work!

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