Monday, April 4, 2016

Overcoming Stuff Processing Disorder


Overcoming "Stuff Processing Disorder"

For the past two years, I've been on a decluttering mission. A mission to lighten my load, so to speak. I've been overwhelmed by too much stuff- and not even valuable stuff. Just stuff that comes in and doesn't get dealt with properly, and accumulates exponentially.

I was sharing something that was a small victory for me the other day in a decluttering group on Facebook. I threw away a catalog that came in the mail- the same day it arrived in my mailbox. It's a catalog of products that I use, and really like, but I realized I can find information about all of those products online. I don't need this catalog as a reference. I don't have a designated place to store catalogs in my home (who does?) So I tossed it. It was in that moment that I realized I am overcoming what I now refer to as "stuff processing disorder."

In the group, I joked that in the past, I would've held onto that catalog for six years. That's not much of an exaggeration. Many times, I've thought as I've come across things in my decluttering journey, "why do I still have this?"

I have a long history of dealing with stuff processing disorder. When I worked on staff at my church, I seem to remember my office being (semi) jokingly referred to as "the black hole". Stuff would go in, but it rarely made it out (at least not without much outside pressure). Come to think of it, my childhood bedroom was sort of the same way. My desk at school and my backpack were like this too. This is not a new thing for me.

You can imagine that living with this "disorder" adds to the level of chaos in my life. I'm not a hoarder- at least not to the point that I could appear on one of those reality shows. But I can easily see how I could have gotten to that point.

I've heard the expression, "big doors swing on little hinges" and I think it's important to recognize some of those "little hinges" or mental shifts it has taken for me to overcome stuff processing disorder.

I'm not a reservoir

Not every single item is meant to take up permanent residence with me and my family! Some items are meant to be used and passed on or discarded. Baby gear is a great example. With my fourth baby, we bought a swing second hand. We used it until she outgrew it and was ready for the Exersaucer, and then we passed it quickly to a relative.

Early on in my parenting journey, I thought I was wise for hanging onto everything. "Once this child outgrows it, I can use it for the next one," I'd say. Well, what happens in the mean time? Do I have space for this item until the next child is ready for it? If not, then it's time to re-evaluate. It's helpful to view our possessions as fluid- easily received and easily given again based on their usefulness to us at the time.

Items can be replaced

Our family might be complete with four children, but I know that I can get another baby swing if I need it in the future (I've been wrong about being done before- just saying). I can get one rather inexpensively too (or even free).

Most things are easily replaceable, and God has a way of providing- especially when we have open hands to give to others who need something that we have. Having extra space and order in the home is much better than hanging on to an item "just in case."

I only have so much space

This may not be something everyone deals with immediately, but for us, living in a small apartment, it came to my attention rather quickly! Children seem to acquire things at an alarming rate. With four of them in your family, that means four birthdays per year, Christmas gifts for four, Easter goodies, and every single kid-centric event ever (we all know that goody bags are a "requirement" of children's events), changing out seasonal clothing (again, twice a year times four little ones- and even more often for the baby), and you quickly realize that your walls are made of bricks- not elastic!

Too much stuff gets overwhelming

Not dealing with things promptly leads to an overwhelmed, stressed out me. Other people in my home are affected by this. One of my goals as a wife and mom is to create an atmosphere of peace. I've learned that part of my problem is spending too much time and effort on keeping things cleaned, put away, and tidy. I'm not the type of person who likes to clean (gasp!) When I learned that I need to be proactive about evaluating an item's role in our lives, I realized that I had the power to keep things from becoming overwhelming. It is so much more peaceful to maintain fewer items than it is to try to maintain many items!

Have you suffered from "stuff processing disorder"? What mental shifts have helped you overcome this issue?

Linking Up With:
Thank Goodness it's Monday
Teaching What is Good
Hip Homeschool Moms
A Little R & R
Whole Hearted Wednesday
Hearts for Home
I Choose Joy

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Review: The Love Letters Book Series (for kids)

I was given a copy of these books in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

As a Christian parent, my goal is to always point my children to Jesus in any situation. And I love sharing books with my children. So I was delighted when I had the opportunity to review a series of books by Soraya Diase Coffelt called The Love Letters Book Series.

Each book is about a holiday that is widely celebrated, and describes the origin of each one.

In It's Not About You, Mr. Pumpkin, a child writes a letter to a jack-o-lantern to share what they learned about this seemingly innocent and fun holiday that we know as Halloween. Personally, I've had trouble teaching my children about the true origins of Halloween and why we shun the glorification of anything "spooky". It is literally everywhere in October (and really most of the year). Bright illustrations combined with geography and historical facts help the child learn why certain things are done at Halloween, and help the parent start a discussion with their child about these traditions. I really appreciate this unique book and it will be one that I pull out again closer to Halloween!

It's Not About You, Mrs. Turkey is also a fun, colorful look at the history of our Thanksgiving holiday. It gets kids to look past the traditional feast on that day, while still acknowledging that all the festivities are fun and delicious. Again, the child writes a letter (this time to a turkey) explaining their newfound knowledge of the pilgrims and the persecution they escaped as well as God's provision they experienced in their new home.

In It's Not About You, Mr. Santa Claus, our friend is back again with another letter to the jolly guy in the red suit to share the story of the first Christmas. I especially like the ending where the child invites Santa Claus to ask Jesus into his heart. I think that is a sweet touch for families that may have embraced the Santa Claus tradition in their home.

Each book has a Scripture in the beginning, as well as a dedication to Jesus Christ and the author's family. At the end of each one is an invitation to the reader to accept Jesus as Lord. Mrs. Coffelt's foundation, As the Stars of the Sky, works to promote literacy in children, something I am also very passionate about. I am definitely looking forward to her future books! They are such a fun and informative way to look at holidays, and direct children to Jesus Christ!

Linking up with: 
Hearts for Home
I Choose Joy
A Little R&R 
Whole Hearted Wednesday
Hip Homeschool Moms 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Our "Go with the Flow" Homeschool Day

 Have you ever wondered what a homeschool day in the life looks like for someone who is "structurally-challenged"? If so, you are in for a treat! (I will warn you: if you are the type of person who loves schedules and doing things by the book, this post may not be for you. It will seem terribly chaotic. I won't confidently say that it works for us, and that I'm totally nailing this homeschool thing, because I'm always striving to do better, but this is where we are right now. Or rather a few weeks ago.)

I have always resisted schedules. (It's sort of a trademark of an INFP). But even during those times when I think, "you know what? Maybe those Type A people are onto something..." there's generally some external resistance happening too. I have four children ages 8, 6, 3 and 9 months. Since the beginning of our homeschooling adventure, we've had an infant, and then a toddler, then a pregnancy, and now a new infant, and a very energetic preschooler.

I DO try to maintain some level of routine in our days. We follow one of the schedules from SimplyCharlotte Mason as much as is practical for us. I have found that it makes it easier to sort of be on "auto pilot" for our lessons and readings (the more planning and preparation and DECISIONS required of me, the less likely we are to actually accomplish any formal schooling for the day). Despite resisting schedules, we are rather creatures of habit. Our day just happens to start and end way later than most people's days. I'm working on that!
8:30-10:00 am- I'm up. I've made tea, chatted with my husband, and opened my Bible to read for a bit. I hear the baby cry, so I go in to settle her to buy myself a little more quiet time. My husband is taking the first part of his day off at work to get some errands done, so he is in and out of the house for the first part of our day.

10:30-11:30 am- Everyone else wakes up. First my 8 year old, who mills around for a bit and then asks for toast. The baby wakes up for good, and I feed her while I look at Facebook. The 3 year old wakes up to join the 8 year old who is now in the living room reading picture books. They start to squabble over something. I change the baby's diaper, and then the six year old gets up. I make toast for my 3 year old.

11:30-12:00 pm- Baby plays in the Exersaucer while I wrap up what I'm doing online. My 8 year old asks me to request some Kevin Henkes books from the library (he was on a mouse book kick there for a minute), so I handle that before I get off the computer. He starts his chores, which include sweeping the dining room floor, emptying small waste baskets, and checking the mail. (He is kind of a self-starter. Also, he knows that screen time doesn't happen until his chores are done).

12:30 pm- My husband returns home briefly before heading for work. He brought coffee. We talk in the kitchen until he has to go.
12:30-1:30 pm- The baby gets another diaper change, and I realize I haven't eaten yet! I put the baby in the Ergo and head to the kitchen to make myself something. The older kids are gathered around the tablet watching whatever the 3 year old is watching on YouTube Kids (until I shoo them away). He watches lots of toy videos (ugh), but also a variety of whatever else catches his fancy. In the past couple of weeks, I've seen Peppa Pig, Thomas and Friends, Pink Panther and some others. At some point, the 8 year old begs off of school today in favor of watching Despicable Me again (we rented it from Netflix). Um, NO.

1:30- 2:00 pm- The baby should be ready for a nap soon. I sit down in the living room with her for a feeding, and start to watch a new PBS documentary called No Mas Bebes. I am trying to see if she will get drowsy and fall asleep. The three year old begins quizzing me on how to spell the words, "um", "no", "yes", "Saturday" and "remote." The six year old comes into the room and starts to play with the baby. I fuss at the 6 year old for getting the baby worked up again, and quickly apologize for snapping at her. I send the bigger kids to play in the room while I feed and try to settle the baby. Three year old is playing on the tablet. I abandon the program eight minutes into it. The big kids were fighting. This nap time approach isn't working!

2:00- 3:00 pm- I use the restroom and put the baby back in the Ergo. Baby begins to fall asleep while I start on dishes and laundry and a new podcast episode. By three o'clock, I have put the baby in bed, and get ready for our lessons.

3:00-3:30 pm- Head to the kids' bedroom to start on school lessons. (I have deemed their room to be the most distraction-free location for lessons to take place for the time being. We live in a small apartment, so we don't have a dedicated school space, and the 3 year old is not occupied in the same way from one day to the next usually. We need to be flexible and do what works!) And I always have the three year old occupied with something in another room because being quiet is not one of his strengths! (And being loud is not one of my strengths!) We get started on Scripture memorization and Bible reading, and are interrupted by the three year old who first needs assistance in the restroom, and minutes later, requests a snack.

3:30- 4:00 pm- Attempt to transition from Bible reading to the next portion of our lessons, but end up discussing Esther the Girl Who Became Queen, and how it compares to the real story of Esther (which we haven't actually read yet- we were reading from Matthew today). The children begin flipping through the Bible, reading certain passages briefly (they are remembering many of the verses from VeggieTales). I manage to get us back on track, telling the children that they may explore the Bible more after we do our other lessons (which they ultimately do). There is a potty break, and the 3 year old requires attention again. 

I hear the baby wake up from her nap. I get her out of bed, and finish reading chapter two of The Cricket in Times Square. The 8 year old works on Khan Academy for math. I let him choose the duration, but it must be at least 10 minutes, and no more than 15 minutes. (Charlotte Mason recommends brief lessons to sustain the child's interest. It works for us!) My 6 year old works on a chapter of Life of Fred: Cats. I requested it from the library because she seemed to be having some trouble with some of the Khan Academy content. (We've tried LOF before, and it didn't sustain their interest. I LOVE the concept, but we likely won't get it again any time soon.) We end up skipping our reading from The Boy Who Invented TV (a children's book about Philo Farnsworth) because the baby woke sooner than expected.

4:00- 5:30 pm(ish)- I read Grover's Good Manners to the three year old and the baby, and nurse the baby briefly afterwards. The big kids make sandwiches while I feed the baby some solid food (she is really loving butternut squash right now). I eat something as well. I put a chicken in the slow cooker. (Mine actually runs really hot for some reason. Dinner will be ready in a few hours!) I start another load of laundry.

5:45 pm- I sit down to resume watching No Mas Bebes. (I find the story so heartbreaking. It's about some Hispanic women in 1970's Los Angeles who were sterilized without their informed consent.) This is free time for everyone. The 8 year old is having tablet time. The 6 year old usually looks on with the 8 year old, or she works on drawings, plays with her dolls or another toy. The 3 year old plays on the computer.

6:30 pm (and beyond)- The baby takes another nap later in the evening, and usually I tidy up the kitchen and do other chores with her in the Ergo while I wait for my husband to get off work. He is usually home by 10 pm, so we have a long wait! We eat dinner when he gets home. We would not be able to do this if the kids went to a traditional school, of course. (Now, I will disclose that this is not exactly intentional on my part. I would rather have everyone eat a little earlier, and be about ready for bed when he gets home, but I must admit that I like everyone to eat together too). Sometimes in the "waiting for dad" time, I let the children watch something together on TV.

Overall, our days tend to manifest as a combination of Charlotte Mason style learning and unschooling. We read lots of books, learn about a variety of subjects, but also have plenty of time to find our own rhythm and explore our own interests.

As of this writing (this day was a few weeks ago), our days do not look like this! We are taking a couple weeks off of our usual mom-facilitated learning as the baby works out some developmental stuff. (Nine month sleep regression is a real thing!) Last week, she barely napped longer than 15 minutes, so that made our school time really challenging. I decided this week, we would lean into that and give her the space to work it out. She's still not back to her usual nap routine, and a few of us have been feeling a bit sniffly, so the break is well-timed.

The older two children have been reading a book called Kid Presidents (a book about what the presidents were like as children), as well as other library books. I am working to implement a 30 minute daily individual reading time, so before screen time happens, they need to get their reading in. My 8 year old has been doing his math online this week before screen time as well. Yesterday, the two older children rediscovered their marble run. I happened to go into the room while they were taking a break from their fun, and noticed a stopwatch and paper and pencil on the floor. They had been timing how long it took for the marbles to reach the bottom, and seeing which one was faster. I don't worry much when we take breaks because I know that they are always learning! It may not look like school, but their knowledge is always growing! 

Do you homeschool? What does a day look like in your home? 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Seek Him FIRST


Seeking Him first. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing that I need to do is sit down in whatever quiet space is available with a cup of tea, and open His Word. Fill my mind with Him and His thoughts FIRST. First, before Facebook, before getting immersed into social media, or the cares of my day- my husband, my children, my work, my Netflix list. First.

The Bible tells us that if we will seek Him first, then "all these things shall be added to us." God wants to add to us, but we must FIRST seek Him.

I don't know about anyone else, but I know that when I put Him first, it pays off. I'm still learning various ways to put Him first, I know it goes beyond reading the Bible first thing in the morning. It's in thinking His thoughts first in any given situation. It's in obeying Him FIRST before I question. It's in sharing Him with my children and others before I share anything else with them. Seek. Him. First.


This post is a part of Five Minute Friday where writers set their timer for five minutes and WRITE. Click over to see more submissions!