Last newsletter I told you about our graduations and celebrations. All the festivities are past and now I am parenting two more adult children with financial independence. I have another parental balance to maintain that I didn’t anticipate: shopping with them for furniture and home accessories. I could be in heaven, except for the fact that they are not me. So I write as a successful and potentially meddling parent, finding balance between the old sage and the excited shopper with a fresh slate.

Shopping with a purpose is very different than browsing for a find. Browsing can come from a place of  emotion as much as purpose. Often it comes as looking for something to do.Browsing can result in ideas for things we never knew we wanted. With purpose, you know where to focus: stores, budget, on-line shopping and/or comparisons, styles, and finishes.

With my daughter Corrie, we are looking for this focus, and have not yet found a central theme to decorate her new home. We are shopping for inspiration by looking at a variety of places in-store and on-line. A starting point is that she is drawn to dark gray in the kitchen and dining room.

With my son, Gray, however, he has a clear approach and we quickly moved to purchasing logistics. His needs are furniture selection for his first apartment while Corrie’s is moving from the hand-me-down items to a cohesive balance of style and function.

At the same time, Bud and I are doing a kitchen and floor make-over in our house. Our shopping is different still: we purchased backsplash tile years ago and it served as our inspiration to design the kitchen and floors. Now our buying is very specific, and we are shopping for the best bang for the buck, choosing where to save money as well as where to spend a little more. Every decision is tied together with other decisions. We have a design board, not an inspiration board.

No matter what type of buying we do, it has a layer of emotion, a positive or negative energy level that affects our reactions, and a thought process that goes from approving to buying. When emotion is the strongest driver it is important have a way to think it through. When emotion and thinking are in conflict, impulsiveness results in piles of items in bags, furniture on top of furniture, and no space to examine and use either. At this point, emotional and behavioral issues are important to address.

I must say that I am getting an emotional high shopping so much now. My daughter is the one curbing my impulsiveness to buy. I feel a great difference emotionally when I am looking at things with my husband than I do when I feel guilty and want to hide a purchase that doesn’t meet a real need.

Shopping with purpose doesn’t have to be only on big-ticket or major changes. We develop shopping and buying patterns on items that “only” cost $19.99 or that we think we may use in the future (“it was too big a deal to pass on, and if I don’t use it maybe someone I know will.”)

Asking questions when you are struggling with a decision helps us stop the emotional impulse, take a breath and focus on the bigger picture. Do I have something like this already? Where will I put this and use this when I get home? Can I afford this?

Shopping can be a great barrier to organizing, as we bring in new things regularly that add to clutter and delay organization. If this contributes to your chronic disorganization, let me know and we can process new thoughts and change patterns.

Awesome Entertaining

The key to an organized event is making it true to you and reasonable in execution. Ideas flow and communication stays open when you and your fiancé/spouse/friends and/or family are in sync on the core of what you want. This article is not a how-to plan event details (like centerpieces, photos, music or food). Instead, it is a guide to intentional hospitality from beginning to end. Whether a wedding or small dinner party, the basics for generous hosting are the same.

  1. Form your planning team, including people who work well together or who are great at a specific task (decorating, food, graphics, etc.). Building hospitality with the team builds that same hospitality into the event.

  2. Determine who is in charge and who can speak for the planning team. Conflict can come when people make spontaneous decisions when you already have a plan in place. Keeping a good sense of humor helps.

  3. Agree on the overarching theme of the event. This can be anything from “Join us as we marry” to “celebrate March Madness” to “something music”. The theme helps focus the details. Also, decide how you want your guests to interact, especially those who do not know each other. Food preparation, or a drink station with recipes and ingredients, or a coffee table full of legos become a place where people can engage.

  4. Keep a host journal where lists are in one place. Be clear when communicating with team members whether you are asking for input or announcing how things will be done. In this way, people who want to follow their own ideas can know clear boundaries. Cooperative firmness is key!

  5. Act only on spoken and agreed-upon plans. Know the people who are helping plan the party and call on their individual strengths. In the same vein, run interference where you know strong personalities may try to go in different directions. Returning to the basic theme is key in staying focused.

  6. Add the details onto the basic theme. Does each detail flow together coherently from the invitation, to the table, to the departure? In the details, the party becomes simplified or embellished. Assignments are made and decisions finalized.

  7. As the host, remain nimble during the unexpected. A traffic accident delays the caterer. Weather sends an outdoor party indoors and the tent rental company doesn’t have one available until the morning of the event. The butterflies peak too soon (rest their souls). The details are not the party. The people are.

Hosting a wedding is more complex than hosting an intimate dinner party. But the goal remains the same: for guests to feel welcome, respected, and engaged. While a wedding day is about the couple’s relationship, the growing acquaintance of family and friends enhances the couple’s new life together. Same with small parties where strangers or friends gather.

Never lose sight of the social possibilities of an event where people are brought together intentionally. It is in this connectedness that a party shines! It begins with the planners and ends with the guests. When everyone who planned and executed the event wears exhausted smiles at the end, the party has been what you envisioned!


May your home be a haven of blessing and a place of peace.

From a prayer of blessing in the United Methodist marriage liturgy

Sanctuary. First thought is often a large, high vaulted room for worship. Look deeper, and sanctuary encompasses so much more: safe keeping, growing relationships, purposeful furnishing, meaningful space. Furthermore, sanctuary means a place for others to find peace, shelter and safety.

At the heart of sanctuary is relationships. The relationships are multi-dimensional, encompassing every aspect of your home: spiritual, interpersonal, spatial and material. Exploring these relationships, I hope to inspire you to value your home's worth to you, your family, and all who enter. 

Spiritual Relationships: In what ways do you relate to higher beauty and order in your home? Do you have books, objects or art that lift you beyond the mundane and ordinary? Music and art often intersect with rush and clutter to bring us to a place of joy or appreciation. In our homes we can breathe in a spirit of wholeness, becoming one with ourselves in relation to the source of our grounding, confidence and hope.

Interpersonal Relationships: Do the relationships among people who live together deepen in understanding, empathy, shared experience, and justpeace (the interconnection of justice with peace)? We do not have to see things alike to grow in these things. We can be in different places and still grow. The key to growing closer is honoring the other and knowing that problem-solving is more than either-or thinking. When considering your house as a sanctuary, also remember relationships with people who come and go, like the plumber or the house cleaner. May all feel blessed in your house.

Spatial Relationships: How does light flow and air move between things? Through principles of feng sui, some people arrange their home to enhance flow of energy and light.  Other people move things around until it "looks" or "feels" right. However you place things, intentional or random, how our space breathes makes a difference in our energy. Fear or loss of control cause us to shut paths of light and energy while openness clears paths. When cutter grows,window shades close, beginning a cycle of hidenness which manifests in fear and shame. Our relationship with our space makes a difference in our health: mental spiritual, and physical. 

Material Relationships: What is your relationship with the material things in your home? Within a sanctuary, things are chosen and used with specific purposes. From furniture, to candles, to art, to books, there is a purpose.behind their presence. However, once my brother-in-law interviewed to become pastor of a particular church. When he asked why they kept an old pulpit and chancel table and chairs in the back of the sanctuary, they could not give him a clear reason. To Andy, this was a warning flag about the church. Although they spoke about future growth, their commitment to material possessions indicated they were stuck in the past. How do your possessions most reflect where you are going? where you are stuck? where you have been? 

The core of sanctuary living is internal. It is the place where you live transparent to yourself with your creator.

Our danger is to think that happiness will come from outside of us, from the things we possess or the power of our group, and not from within us, from the inner sanctuary of our being. 

Jean Vanier, L'Arche community


Peace and blessing,

Recovering from Messes Inside and Out

As a professional organizer who specializes in chronic disorganization, I know about clutter. As a survivor, I know about being an inside mess that is reflected as an outside mess. As a pastor, I know about grace and regeneration.

FYI, I’m a messy by nature! Part of my DNA. For a period, it became extreme. Read on while I tell you about it. It can be the baseline for our shared journey.

While parenting three school-age children we kept a messy house. Not dirty, just messy. With an average amount of clothes, toys, games, and electronics, we had an ocean of things on every horizontal surface – stairs, tables, floors, sofas and chairs. All five of us would walk over and around things, seemingly unaffected.

But we were affected. Not just when we were having company!

Over the next few years, prompted in part when we were fired as clients of the Merry Maids (we didn’t pick up the house enough for them to clean the house!!!), we came to understand that our mess was reflecting an internal mess, mostly mine. I sank into a funk and things were overwhelming. During the next 10 years, two layers unfolded in our lives. One layer went through my PTSD diagnosis and recovery. The other went through the physical clutter of the house, family priorities and schedules (did one of my kids tell you about the time I forgot to pick them up?). For a while, there was serious chaos, tinged with confusion. But, over time, as I became aware and healed, things were getting calmer, we were growing in affirmation of our family strength and respect. Over more time, we realized our physical space reflected this growth and change.

Healing happens, and messes became controlled, not controlling.

There are a few things I want to point out as you process this autobiographical story.

First, sometimes a mess is just a mess. Life gets hectic and we throw things on the bed, and from the bed to the floor, and eventually things calm down and we tackle the mess. This is normal.

Next, sometimes a mess is on-going and cumulative because there is an underlying cause. People with ADHD tend to lose focus and messes meander, unaddressed, around the house. Creative types tend to have multiple projects unfolding around their space. Families with small children tip-toe around legos and bags of out-grown clothes. People with illness deal with limited energy and extra bottles and equipment. This is explainable.

However, some messes bother us to our core and cause us to turn inwardly or to react outwardly. These messes may be trying to tell us something about our life energy. We can learn to quiet ourselves and listen to what the mess is trying to say. Mess can open dialog toward positive change.

Do you have mess that is no longer welcome in your daily life? I offer you the opportunity to address both the internal and external through Clearing the Way Home’s services. Affecting change starts with you.


Powering Organization

Recently I bought a battery-operated drill/driver and a sander. With two batteries I keep potential energy stored to use them when ready. I can be away from my charger and have use of my tools. The energy remains in the battery, ready to go.

Sometimes we are not able to use our organizing tools when we first have them. However, we have gained something. This potential energy is stored within us and becomes available when we are ready to organize. Recently I heard from a woman who began coming to my workshops several years ago. She told of her recent perseverance and accomplishment. Previously she had tried to use the tools in her organizing bag, but without much success. However, when she came to the task this time, there was still “charge in her battery” that powered her productive results.

What tools do you have for organizing?

  • Books on the bookshelf, like Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out, or Kolberg and Nadeau’s ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life
  • Bins and totes you bought with dashed high hopes that are taking up valuable space
  • Money to hire an organizer, junk-hauler, or house cleaner
  • ·A week-end long break without interruptions to tackle the garage or closets or kids’ rooms
  • A friend with whom you can trade time between your homes

What is stored in the battery to power your organizing tools?

  • Knowledge and information you have read or heard
  • Desire for things to be different
  • Memories throughout the decades waiting to be triggered

Do you know where to re-charge your battery?

  • Attend workshops or retreats
  • Read a book or watch a how-to video
  • Go to a friend’s house and have your jaw drop in envy or surprise (When I envied the order of my friend Connie’s house, she showed me her closed room and said, “Everyone needs a place to throw things out of the way for company!”)

Are you patient enough to wait when the battery needs time to re-charge? When we use our power tools consistently, we must pace ourselves, going between the work and the charger. This natural pace allows us to move forward without losing juice. Plan to keep progressing steadily instead of quickly, using energy to your advantage.