Baldwin Bedroom Remodel: Part 1

It’s been a long time coming, but the Baldwin’s are finally doing some home updating!

When we moved into this 1950’s ranch 4 years ago, it was literally in pristine condition. Well- 1950’s pristine condition. Nothing had been updated at all. There was no dishwasher, microwave or WASHER AND DRYER! The former owners were the original owners and they did a beautiful job maintaining their home. We were honestly ecstatic to find a home in such great original condition.

Since we were new homeowners on the verge of starting a family, we didn’t do much at all. We painted and…. actually, I think that’s all we did. Painted. And for the time being it really was enough.

But now, we have 3 kids and a (very) small amount of cash so we decided it was time to update. The first intention we had was to completely redo our kitchen. I’m not talking about new cabinet faces. I’m talking about tearing down walls and moving the where the sink is-type renovate.


But since, like I said, we only have a small amount of cash, that went by the wayside and we decided to tackle a smaller, but equally important project: the bedrooms.

Before we get into this new bedroom stuff, you must know four important things:

1. We are on a budget. Budget means- not a lot of cash and only cash, no loans of any kind are used during this process. 2. I am not a professional anything, let alone decorator or designer. I just do what I like and hope it works. Oh and I usually ask Amanda what she thinks and that’s about the extent of the professional help I am getting. 3. We are DIYing this whole shebang. If we get a professional in here at any time, I assure you it will be some kind of therapist and not a contractor. 4. Nothing is perfect and I think it will be a while until all this is done, so hang in there if this kind of stuff is your jam.


Here is what renovating the bedrooms in a 1950’s house looks like:

  • New wiring – including adding new outlets and making everything 3 phase wire (this basically means that the outlets have 3 holes instead of 2. Think about that time you tried to plug in your Mac somewhere and you couldn’t without an adapter. That’s the difference.)
  • New texture on all walls and ceilings
  • New paint
  • New trim
  • New windows
  • Adding lighting in closets and showers
  • New light fixtures
  • New interior doors
  • New door hardware

This is what I mean by boring. These are all actual images that Andy took during the electrical-update phase of this project.


This is how we lived for weeks. These extension cords ran from our kitchen to the bedrooms so the kids could have lamps on. Talk about living on the edge…and I know you see that mess. It was the real deal!


This is about what we saw of Andy for quite some time-his feet while he did electrical work in the attic. Behind him are two babies huddled up after a bath.

Unfortunately, the renovating part of this project is rather totally and completely boring and quite dusty. It was a lot of days of hours (and hours) of work (for Andy mostly) and seeing no progress. I mean switching over to 3 phase wiring is not an exciting thing at all. It means hours in the attic and pushing wires through various places and having Andy yell from the attic to the basement, “DO YOU SEE IT YET?” about the yellow wire. The most exciting part of this is new outlets; a 1950’s house has approximately 1/2 as many outlets as a modern home should have.

As unexciting as this whole first part was, it was actually kind of fun for us. I managed to keep my cool around all the dust and mess and we lived without electricity in the bedrooms and bathroom for a while. We made the most of it and basically all slept wherever we could and lived in partial darkness for so long that once we did have lighting we forgot to use it!

Our house was a total mess. New texture meant bedrooms had to be emptied of all their stuff and so almost everything was moved to the living room. This was actually great because it gave me a chance to do what I like to call Kon-Mari 2.0 : basically, get rid of more shit- and keep the shit I love and I loved it!


Now, for the actual real exciting part of this- here are a few photos of our new doors, windows and hardware. Remember what I said earlier, though, nothing is complete yet. It’s all still in progress, so don’t ask why the trim isn’t up in the hallway. This is a sneak peek.

We opted for Craftsman Style when it came to door handles, trim and fixtures. We’re going to be adding in lots of Mid-Century touches and clean white pieces as we decorate. It’s actually a bit tough for a couple reasons: 1. money, 2. we actually have people (and children) who live here and 3. our house is not large. It’s 1200 finished square feet upstairs, so we’re having to make adjustments to our wish list. But stick with me because I think you will enjoy our before, during and after!

All of our original interior doors were hollow wood with gold handles and hardware. Now we’ve got clean, white, craftsman style, solid wood doors and handles with bronzed hardware. The difference is amazing!


Craftsman style trim and new windows! Hello lower heating bill!!

If you want to follow me on Pinterest, I’ve got tons of inspiration boards made as we work through this project!

Stay tuned because next time I’ll share some redecorating!



Messes only a dump truck will fix

I’ve got two issues I’d like to candidly share with you, my 36 readers.

  1. I HATE waste and broken things. One of the most traumatizing events of my childhood involved a Simon toy.51z5WCPgo-L._SL1000_ I had just gotten it for Christmas; I totally loved this toy. We went to the grocery store- which my mom told me NOT to bring the toy in to- and while we were in there, I lost it. While looking at the cookies. It was a total heartbreak. I hated wasting the money that was spent on the Simon and I hated losing the toy itself. Another incident that will help you understand how much I hate waste and wasted effort is this: one time I made a HUGE batch of biscotti. Biscotti, if you’ve never made it, involves LOTS of steps and lots of time. I went through all these steps and all this time and I left the biscotti cooling on the counter.  I came home to find that my husband had left the bastard dog inside to freely roam, who helped himself to all of the biscotti- that I spent hours making. To say that I came unglued is an understatement. Andy was helping a friend refinish his basement and I called him screaming and crying. So bad that his friend said, “Is everything OK? Maybe you should go home.” I hated the wasted effort, the senselessness of the dog eating my hard work and the loss of resources. So, loss is a trigger for me.
  2. The second issue that I have (for purposes of this blog- I’ve got more than 2) is that I like things to be perfect and just so. I don’t like messes. In fact, I actually really hate messes. I hate things being out of order and chaos. As you know, my dad was famous for saying, “Everything has a place and there is a place for everything.” And I believe this as a rule. He also used to say, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” Which is not actually a quote from the bible, but sometimes I think it should be. Anyway, I hate shoes by the door, dirt on the floor and clutter. I’ve mostly solved my problems by creating a peace-filled and joy-bringing space with Kon Mari, but once in a while a jar of pickles hits the floor or a gallon of milk gets spilled or Avett pulls all the tissues out of every box so he can have a container for food for his stuffed animals. And messes happen. Usually, I come unhinged. I feel like when these big messes happen I just need to sell the house and move out. The mess feels so permanent and unfix-able. I need a bulldozer and a dump truck to clean up the pickles. Or I can sell the house and move.

So as you can see something breaking or being lost and big messes are hard for me, really hard. But I am aware in my quest to be a healthy human being that there are deep rooted reasons why messes and loss are difficult. I’m not writing this off as no big deal. I’m looking at these things saying, “Why?”, “Why do big messes make me so upset?” “Why do lost things create deep pain in me?”

I’m not sure I have the answers, but I do have a story to tell you.

I’ve been seeing a counselor and honest to God, he is the very best counselor I’ve ever seen in my life. He is amazing. I absolutely love him. I’ve seen lots of counselors and because I am intuitive and authentic about who I am most of the time, they don’t say much that I don’t already know or that I find especially helpful. But this guy- we’ll call him Chris since that is his name. Chris says what I don’t know and affirms what I do. Seeing him is a game-changer for me and I couldn’t be happier to have found him. Anyway, one of the things that we’ve talked about is how hard I drive myself to perfection and as a result how hard I end up driving my kids. We discussed that I don’t take breaks and if I do, I think of myself as lazy, slovenly and unproductive. Trickle that down to my kids and you’ve got kids who think watching TV is a major privilege. We’ve talked about how there should be no rest until all the work is done. Trickle down to my kids: coming home from school will most definitely involve chore time. We’ve talked about how it must be done right or not at all (another dad quote). Trickle down and I’ve got kids who either strive for perfection or give up under my heavy hand.

Anyway, after talking to Chris about this, I decided to intentionally shock myself and my children and yesterday and they came home to find me laying on the couch watching Ellen. They had NO idea what to do.

Children: Tentatively, “Are you sick?” while slowly moving toward seats on the couch hoping to God I was going to let them watch with me and not order them to work.

Me: “No.” I casually replied. “Just watching Ellen. You guys will like this show. She’s funny and there is going to be a new music video at the end.”

Children: run to seats on the couch wondering if I was lying about being sick.

So this is how their afternoon started. Then we had cookies for snack (never happens) and I casually played a game with Vaughn (never happens) and then lazily served sandwiches for dinner putting forth no good effort to feed my family a cooked meal (never happens).


After dinner I let them play video games (when I say this NEVER happens on school nights, I am actually not exaggerating). So as you can see, it was a strange and heady afternoon for my children. Nothing was normal.

After all that, we sat down to read our book together. As I started reading I looked over to my favorite spot by the window that I have created which brings me great and fantastic amounts of joy. It involves 3 live plants (and only 3 live plants, no other clutter needed) in beautifully curated planters soaking up the sun from the window. I had to look twice because I couldn’t understand why the third (and most favorite) pot was not sitting in his spot by the window. plant_jade

Me: “What?! What happened to my plant? NONONONONONO!”

“Oh No!!!! It’s broken all over the carpet. My favorite plant!!!” [Jade by the way!] Broken pot (a beautiful triangular round pot in my favorite color of blue-green kind of the color of the one pictured but way better), plant falling apart and dirt everywhere.

“The cat! She broke my plant” (In a not-so-crazy turn of events, it just so happens that it was actually that bastard dog who knocked it over barking at the mailman. Son of bitch that he is!)

Everyone else: Holds breath to see what fury hell will unleash.

Avett: Brings over his dump truck to help with the mess.

Andy: “I’ll clean it up later.”

Me: Plants pot on the spot in the dump truck, places where lovely triangle/circle pot used to be. Goes back to reading.

Everyone else: Deep, deep, DEEP sigh of relief. Honestly, I think I heard Vaughn’s lungs fully contract and I’m sure Eloise’s eyes were as wide as saucers.

No one could believe that I didn’t lose my shit. Including me. I shocked myself. Maybe it was the crazy unproductive afternoon that did it, but the mess didn’t matter.

I don’t know what this shows you except that…..with time, awareness and a little counseling sometimes a dump truck is what you need to clean up the biggest messes. And it is enough.



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Marriage: A Message from the Trenches

I don’t have anything figured out just yet and while I do act like an expert, I am certainly not one. So this blog is my letter from the trenches of marriage, where I’m always learning- never an expert.


But I can’t talk about the trenches of marriage, without talking about the trenches of rediscovering myself and growing up. Because marriage is made up of two people in their own trenches who are either digging toward each other or digging away from each other.

Right now, we’re both dirty and weary from the shovels and all the digging, but we’re digging toward each other.

First, an update from my own trench. Recently, I’ve …… come to rest. Relaxed. Let go. Eased up. Worried less. These attitude changes have made a HUGE difference in my life (consider my Type A perfectionist disposition). There are 3 things that have been the catalyst to my newfound peace (plus God- everything is plus God, and I’m not saying this lightly. I’m stating the facts. God.)

1. Anti-depressants. Anti-depressants have caused me to relax in a way that I could not have without them.

2. Kon Mari. I’ve already blogged extensively about the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but again this weekend I saw how wonderful it has made my life. We’ll call this abbreviated Kon Mari: House Renovations Edition. My husband “destroyed” two bedrooms in our house in the process of putting in new windows. For the first time ever– I was able to see the new windows part of that sentence before I saw the destroyed part. Because I knew the destroying- house part was temporary and was only going to take me a few minutes to clean up and I knew at the end I’d have new windows. There was no fighting or stress to be had between my husband and I. If you have known me more than say, 5-6 minutes then you know this is a true MIRACLE! This is because of Kon Mari. My house is in such a state of perfect order, that two destroyed bedrooms still only takes me a few minutes to normalize. And in the end, I have all new windows.

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3. Brene Brown. Besides reading Brene’s genius works, I’ve been attending a small group where we talk openly about our personal struggles. This safe place has become a place of healing for me as I walk through my past and present struggles.

So- that is one of the big things that has changed in my marriage: me. I’m not bragging, I’m stating facts. The fact is: I might just be growing up a little bit. Andy, though imperfect, has always been steady, loving and ready to serve. I have not always been so gracious in my dealings. Recently, after relating some story to my friend, she looked me in the eye and said this, “Celina! You are letting go!”. I hugged her and immediately turned to Andy for confirmation (he confirmed).

Here is a special chart I created to sum up the changes in my general disposition. As you can see, I have a long way to go, but I’ve also come a long way:



Andy is digging his own trench. If he had a blog you could read about it. work-boots-gloves-shovel-dirty-rubble-red-clay

As a couple, we’re making positive changes. From the trenches of our marriage- here’s one: I mentioned earlier that when we went on vacation, Andy and I didn’t really do a good job connecting, but we did work it out in the end. We decided from the missed connections on vacation that we needed to be super intentional about connecting- even for just five minutes a day. (Look at us! Learning from failure and moving on with positive changes instead of wallowing!) In the busyness of day-to-day life: working, schedules, parenting- marriage is often the thing we are too tired to work on and it’s something we take for granted. We worry about the soccer schedule and not the emotional state of our mate and frankly a few days/weeks/months of living like that makes marriage feel like rooming with someone you used to love.


In response to that,  Andy and I have been doing daily aBc Scans. aBc Scans are short, but they can be as long as we have time for, but basically after we get all the kids to bed, we sit down for at least 5 minutes and chat. From “how was your day?” to “how are you feeling?” we put it on the table. If we’ve hurt one another, we discuss that. aBc Scans begin and end with a hug. A hug communicates love and that we are on the same team. Sometimes, we discuss Baldwin Current Affairs (BCA) and sometimes we just sit together and talk about our day. Usually I relate a funny or mind-blowingly frustrating story from my trench of motherhood, and Andy shares from his trench of corporate America. What we are doing is something all of you emotionally healthy people probably already do, but we’re working hard on “healthy” and connecting emotionally is difficult. So together, we are wading the uncomfortable waters of true connection. We are listening, hugging and loving each other unconditionally. As painful as it can be, it’s not nearly as painful as us digging our trenches away from each other.


Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we still dig in opposite directions- or who am I kidding, I dig in the opposite direction, but we’ve come so far it doesn’t make sense to go another way when what we have is the very best of all.



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Kon Mari: Party Edition

Have you guys heard about this Kon Mari thing? Just kidding. I know you’ve already read my four-part series on the Life Changing Magic of Tidying up and if not, I’ll just sum it up: it really is magic to declutter your house in such a ruthless fashion as Marie Kondo suggests. I have done the hard work to change my life to reflect the Kon Mari principles of having only belongings that bring me joy. Also, as I’ve said before, I have always been a neat, tidy and organized person, so some of my natural abilities play into my capacity to rock Kon Mari, but nevertheless, here is my song of praise for what Kon Mari does for your capacity to host a fabulous party in a space that isn’t ideal for hosting.

First, a little description and a couple photos of The Baldwin Ranch if you’ve never visited.


We live in a small, uncluttered ranch. Our home is about 1200 square feet of ground floor finished space and 1200 square feet of partially finished space in the basement (partially finished for us means we use the space for everyday living, though it isn’t aesthetically pleasing and it hosts The Shabby Alpaca’s home office and boutique.)

Anyway, though, clean and uncramped, the layout of our house is such that there are several smaller spaces in the main living area. When you come to the front door you enter an enclosed porch that is about 6×5.


This is the entry way. I’m taking this photo from the main doorway.

As you enter the house, you come into an even  smaller space inside our house that is directly in front of another wall which divides the kitchen and the dining room- making it an awkward space for entertaining. (P.S when I mentioned home renovations, this is top of the list for changes: knock out all the walls and get a new front door).


My living room has changed since this photo, but you get the idea- it isn’t a huge amount of space.

Today, though, I hosted a baby shower for my friend, Julie for 24-25 people and it was perfect.


Here’s that gun-slinging neighbor wife of mine telling her husband she was pregnant. The cake says, “if I have to get fat so do you”.

First of all: here’s how hosting a party would have looked for me before Kon Mari (even though I’ve always been a neat and organized person as stated above).


Here’s how that looked for me post-Kon Mari. First of all, I wasn’t stressed. On Friday, I cleaned my house from top to bottom. This took me approximately 1 hour because 95% of our belongings were already where they were supposed to be- all I had to do was lightly dust and mop floors. I rearranged my furniture and set up all of the decorative touches for the party.* I wasn’t stressed.

This morning, I finished preparing all the food, brought up extra chairs and sat back and waited for my guests to arrive. And I still wasn’t stressed. My guests politely dined on my many delicious offerings and hung out at the ranch from about 10-1. And I wasn’t stressed. By 1:45 I was completely cleaned up from the party (granted I was taking people’s plates and forks out of their hands while they were chewing, but never mind, my house was back in order in under an hour.)


Now, it’s Saturday night and I’m not stressed at all. I hosted a lovely shower for my beloved neighbor wife (you’ve heard of sister wives, right? This is like that except we don’t share husbands), my house is clean and in order, my laundry is done and I am doing one of the things that I love best in this life, which is writing this blog. 

To sum it up: Kon Mari saved me days of stress, freed me to do things I love like share community, bring people together, cook great food and write.

I’d call that a win for Kon Mari.


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P.S. If you love the party details, here are mine from today:

I bought these Wooden blocks and sharpies so people could decorate a block for Jaxxson to play with, thank you cards for the mother-to-be with envelopes and pens so guests could address their own thank you cards. For decor-a little clothesline with 3 cute onesies, and 3 glass jars of candy to eat, because I love that touch at parties.

For food and drink- easy crock pot vanilla lattes, fruity water (or as Avett calls it ‘pecial water’), an N/A brunch punch, a hash brown egg bake, a french toast casserole, cupcakes, a yogurt bar with granola and lots of berries & nuts. Because I was terrified I would run out of food I also made some cinnamon sugar waffles. You can check out my menus on my pinterest board. Oh, and no shower games, but while opening gifts, we had the gift-giver of the gift being opened, tell everyone how they know Julie allowing us a comfortable and easy chance to get to know one another since we were such a mish-mash of people.

KonMari Update

I am going to make this post very short because there isn’t very much to say. I can sum it up in one sentence: KonMari works.

It’s been four months since I posted about my one-and-done decluttering inspired by Marie Kondo and my house is still in perfect order. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. Don’t get me wrong- it’s not in Pinterest perfect order, but it is perfect for me and mine.

Of course, I clean up daily. I put away toys (with the help of 3 little ones), I mop and vacuum daily, (but I’ve always been one for clean floors) and I put stuff back where it goes- but everything is almost always where it is supposed to be.


I actually worked myself out of a job. I have nothing else to do here. The house is tidy. I know where everything is. I can clean up this place in 15 minutes flat.

And I think that is the key. If you do things the Marie Kondo way you find a place for everything and you put it all where it goes so that when it’s time to clean up at the end of the day or the end of the week, you can easily put everything back in it’s home. Because- everything has a place and there is a place for everything.

Here are the changes that I have made in the four months since I KonMari’d:

  • I have only things that bring me joy
  • I buy only things I think will bring me joy
  • I regularly can look at and hold something and decide if it still brings me joy and if not, I part with it

That’s it. So, in summary. Kon Mari works. You do have to devote some time to make it happen (it took me 3 weeks, but the author says six months is an acceptable time frame), but once it’s done, it’s done and you can move on with your life.



The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: Part 3

Maybe you weren’t impressed with the physical changes around my house. I understand. It’s probably not that drastic to you, especially since I didn’t take any before pictures. That’s fine. In Part 3, I’m going to tell you about the changes in my life. Not the changes in my house. The changes that have happened in my actual life. The real changes.

  1. I don’t carry all the weight of the household duties anymore. Everyone knows where everything goes. Anytime anyone says, “Where is the…?” I know the answer. As I mentioned in part 2, everyone now carries the weight which means less stress for me.
  2. I have time. I am not kidding when I tell you that I have actually created tons of time and space for myself. I get up in the morning to a house that is neat and orderly and all I have to worry about is the day’s tasks. I don’t need to clean or organize anything. It’s all done. I have to get dressed- easy- I only have clothes I love, make lunches for school- easy- I know where lunchboxes and all lunch supplies are. Make breakfast for the kids and get everyone to school. Then…I’m done. The rest of the day is mine. I don’t have to look around at piles of papers, misplaced shoes and other things that don’t bring me joy and feel stressed and upset. My home is organized, so all I have to do is the daily tasks. That frees up a massive amount of time.
  3. I am not stressed. I know. This really does sound too good to be true and I’m sorry about that. But it is true. And it is too good. I think because of my natural organization-loving personality, and my love for extreme living, I was constantly stressed by my space. I was always looking around in dissatisfaction that nothing was “in it’s place”. I felt like I had to clean my floors every night just to have one thing in order. I made a big deal out of everything that wasn’t properly put away because it was one more thing to add to my stress. I thought a new kitchen (which we’ve talked about for a couple of years now) would fix everything. If only….If only we had a new kitchen. If only we finished the basement…But turns out I didn’t need to do any of those things to relieve my stress.
  4. I asked to go camping! When I tell you I have never asked to go camping, I am not lying. But suddenly with all this free time, I felt like I couldn’t wait to go camping. Suddenly camping seemed like the best idea in the world. Because I know where all of our camping stuff is and leaving the house unattended for one weekend is no big deal because I know exactly what I come home to. I come home to an organized, clean neat space and I know where all the camping stuff will go when we get home.
  5. I am a curator of what brings me joy.  Since Kon Mari’ing my home, I know what brings me joy. I love: special candles, air plants & succulents, pillows, alpaca stuff, and comfy blankets. I know what I am on the hunt for because I now know what I love. It’s such an amazing feeling. As I purged my shoes I noted this: I love TOMS, boots, and cute running shoes. I know when I shop for shoes next, I will replace a worn pair of TOMS or get a second color of Birkenstocks. I love knowing that! At 38 years old, I finally know what I like to sleep in. I love Andy’s old, soft tee shirts, one of his hoodies and a pair of comfy sleeping pants. No need to curate any more pajamas. I’ve got all I need. I want you to know that not everyone needs Marie Kondo’s method. I know plenty of people who do not need to read this book or Kon Mari their space. These people are natural curators of stuff. Their homes are a sanctuary to them and to those who visit.My friend Robert is a curator. His home is beautifully furnished with antiques and vintage items. He knows (and tells) the story behind every single item he owns (I am absolutely not exaggerating). His home is amazing and I could spend a week resting in it comfortably. My friends Paul and Kristin are natural curators. They spend money on items they love that they will never find again. I’ve been antiquing with them when they’ve curated two huge paintings for their home. They knew that spending money on these items that brought them joy was entirely worth it. They already knew what would bring joy to them- because they don’t just collect STUFF. They curate. I’ve spent many nights in their home and felt like I was in a hotel. Between the gourmet meals served on beautiful dishes to the well made beds. Their home is a haven. I recently spent the night at my new friend Maggie’s house. As soon as I entered, I knew she was a Kon Mari natural. Her home is sparse, peaceful and beautifully put together. She had soft sheets, an adorable record player and a wall of prints that each had special meaning to her. Being a curator means that you a) know what you like. b) collect it.


    This area above my sink used to have: essential oils, pills, spices and other miscellany. Now it contains things that bring me joy: a couple of great jars, a silver butter dish I found in my basement and an air plant. I love doing dishes because I can look at these things that bring me joy and not all the things that should be somewhere else!

  6. I actually sit with my kids and color and don’t feel like I need to rush!  Without knowing it, my sister in law sent me a timely gift. She sent me an adult coloring book. It came just before I Kon Mari’d. Once I Kon Mari’d I realized that I could sit and color while my kids did homework or played nearby, making myself available to them and being near without being distracted.
  7. I have time and energy for things I am passionate about. This blog may not be the highlight of your day, but I assure you it’s one of the highlights of mine. I LOVE to write. I LOVE The Shabby Alpaca and I’m excited about growing those two things. I love spending time with the kids and not feeling frustrated about what I am not doing that needs to be done.

    I realize this may not be exciting to you. I mean it’s an office space in an unfinished basement. Who cares? I CARE! I literally used to have 3 offices around the house. The upstairs catch-all where we looked through mail (but never had stamps or envelopes!), this area you see here which was more for crafts (which I have moved away from in the wake of building a mobile retail boutique) and the office where the computer was in the spare bedroom. All offices have been moved to this single space and it is JOY!


    My mom and I can work together, the kids can sit beside me at this awesome desk the previous owner left and my sewing machine is stowed but can easily be put where the computer is if I decide to sew. The 16-cubby storage piece is great for all of the office-y things.

So there you have it. This completes my series on The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I hope you’ve been inspired to at least read the book (ahem Amanda!).


The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: Part 2

Before I show you about how I’ve Kon Mari’d my space, I want to give you a bit of background on me. I think it’s important for you to know that I love and thrive in extremes. We’ve done Dave Ramsey (be debt free) and Whole30 (eat what your body needs, no sugar, no grains and no dairy for 30-days). We’ve had three kids in nine months (have I mentioned that? I don’t tell many people). Whatever I do, I do all the way and then I tell everyone I know about how life-changing that particular thing is.

I have to do something all the way, 100% in order to find the middle ground where I want to live. We don’t do Dave Ramsey 100% anymore because we’ve figured out how to live in the space between what ‘Dave says’ and real life. We aren’t always on Whole30, because we’ve learned how to eat so that we can feel healthy.We go all the way, then we back down.

I say this to tell you that Kon Mari is extreme. There is no gray area here. It’s “get you house in order and do it quickly and in this order”.  With this type of method, I thrive because the “rules” are clear. Amanda is also Kon Mari’ing her space. She hasn’t read the book. She hasn’t even asked me for advise. She’s read couple articles online and she just doing it in her time and her way. Which is fine! To each his own. But my way is this: black/white, do it 100% then back down to normalcy.

When Marie Kondo talks about decluttering quickly, she says six months is an appropriate span of time. I have completed 85% of my house in 14 days. I did the first 65% in 7 days after finishing the book. I actually embarked on this when Andy was out of town: I skipped meals, went to bed late, woke up early, filled bags with trash, recycling and items to donate and prayed he would never see what left the house. Most women don’t want their husbands to see what they bring home from the store. I didn’t want mine to see what I’d thrown away. I’ve probably purged 15-20 large black trash bags of stuff in the last two weeks.

The only categories left are: Christmas decor, mementos and tools/garage. The entire first floor of my house is organized and contains only items that bring me joy. The tools/garage is an area that I am listing here, but it’s Andy’s space and the beauty of Kon Mari is that I don’t have to hound him to do it. He can do whatever he wants with his tools and garage. But I’ll tell you that making this life change for myself, has inspired him and he’s totally on board with no nagging!Slide7

My dad used to say, “There is place for everything and everything has it’s place”. Louie Trotta was the original Marie Kondo. The problem with the Louie method (and the method I used for years) is that the only one who knew where the “right place” was was Louie (or in my own house- me) AND the right place tended to be multiple locations. This does not work for a family of five. Everyone has to know where everything goes.

Which is why this method is so genius. When you store all of one item in one place (example- paper clips) then everyone in your family knows where the paper clips are- and where they should be returned to! So guess what, mom doesn’t always have to be the picker-upper. Everyone in the family is a picker- upper and everyone in the family knows where everything is, so mom isn’t always, “Hang on. Let me find that for you.” Or “Why didn’t you put that away??” We all know where the markers, paper clips, flashlights, batteries and simple tools are located, so we can all do the work!

Here are just a few photos of some areas of my house that now are filled with only things that bring me joy and which have been decluttered with the Kon Mari method. I know they don’t pack the same punch as if I would have taken before pictures. Sorry.


This bookshelf contains only books that bring me joy. The top shelf especially makes me happy. It has only things I love on it. The books are only books I love and cherish. Decluttering books was great fun! It let me look back lovingly on all the things I have been into over the years from marathon training, to emergency prep. This bookshelf had it all.


One of the most satisfying things was decluttering health and beauty items. Throwing away all hotel soaps was like purging blackness from my soul. I’ve had a lot of hair styles and I’ve collected a lot of hair products. They are all now gone and my linen closet has only stuff we need and use.


This cabinet used to be FULL of kids stuff. Papers, crayons, games and toys. It is now nearly empty. There are a few toys of Avett’s, but otherwise- empty. The basket to the left on the vintage school chair is our “this item is out of place” basket. We put everything that has been left somewhere in there and at the end of the day, anyone can put the items in their proper place.


This is the kid’s bookshelf. It is not perfect, but it is close enough. V & E are still kids, so I don’t nag about the condition of their room. Once a week or so, we get the place back in order and that’s that.


My closet is nothing short of beauty for me. Every piece of clothing I own- winter, summer, swimming- it’s all in there. I took the doors off and moved the dresser inside because I had plenty of room. The top shelf has scarves, bags, hats and boots. But it’s all there and I love everything in it.


My bedroom is a complete and total sanctuary. I’ve tripled my floor space. There’s room for the dog, Eloise when she can’t sleep in her own room, a chair (not pictured) and a laundry basket that brings me joy.

Now that you’ve seen what brings me joy, I do have a few tips of my own to add to Marie’s method. Because she is clearly single and not an American, there are a few things I think should be noted.

Tip #1: Involve your kids

When Andy was out of town, I took the opportunity to do all the kid’s stuff with Vaughn and Eloise. We went through every piece of clothing, every game, every paper they ever took a pencil to and asked each other, “Does this bring you joy?” Everntually, all you could hear as we quickly sorted through books and miscellany was, “Joy, Eloise?” “Joy, Vaughn?” I fully let my kids be a part of this and I wouldn’t have dared tackle it on my own. I learned a lot about them as we sorted through their few belongings. I learned what books they love and why, what mementos they keep and why and what toys really bring them joy. It was a great experience to go through this together! The beauty for me with involving my kids is that I no longer have to fuss when something is out of place. Now I calmly say, “I feel like you are disrespecting the hard work we did by not returning this item to it’s proper place.” The kids get this and it’s not me vs. them anymore; it’s us plus hard work.

Tip #2: Work as quickly as possible; results beget results

As I said, I love extremes. When I set up to do this, I ensured I didn’t have much else going on (like I ever do?). I knew I had a couple of slow weeks in which I could get as much done as possible. Because I am not a hoarder and because I was already “organized”, this really didn’t take too long. But start with your clothes as she says, because when you can look at your bedroom and suddenly it’s a sanctuary, you’ll keep going!

Tip #3: Don’t try and sell anything

I always have a box of stuff that is for the garage sale I’m going never going to have. The last time I had a garage sale was two years ago. So, I always have a box of shit that I am not going to sell or use. It’s pointless. As I sorted through my stuff, I did have a few moments of regret for items which I paid top dollar and am now donating. But I let my heart be glad that someone else will have that stuff. Once I decided that I was doing this, I HAD to get all the stuff that didn’t bring me joy out of my house. If you have an ample amount of space and you want to dedicate a room for stuff you’ll sell, great. But I just don’t recommend it. I think it impedes progress. It’s easier to just sort by “trash”, “recycling” and “give away”.

Tip #4: Save any IRS papers or anything related to an official legal matter

Marie’s take on papers is very simple: “Rule of thumb- discard everything”. I actually laughed out loud at this and how forward and frank it was. I loved the sense of freedom encroaching on me as I imagined dumping bin after bin of paper into the recycling bin. But, it was not to be exactly that way. Apparently, the IRS can ruin your life in one fell swoop. So, we kept the past tax returns. We’ve also adopted internationally, which means if there was ever some kind of dispute about anything, we’d really need documentation. So, we kept all our adoption papers. Other than that, we did dispose of lots of papers. We’ve downgraded from a filing cabinet to one of those little boxes that I think college students use for their papers. So, no filing cabinet and small storage for papers= no hanging onto papers!

Tip #5: There are some things you just need to disregard when you read the book

I didn’t thank a single one of my belongings as I was disposing of them (and I certainly didn’t get offended at her suggestion to do so- to each his own). I did thank God and I did try and remember why I bought that or when it did bring me joy. But, I disregarded her tip that you must thank each item. I didn’t quite get if Marie wanted you to finish your whole house before you put things away or finish a category and then put things away, but I couldn’t have finished my whole house and then put things away. As I did each category, I put it away items where I wanted them to go. This made rooms clean up really easy and quick even though I was sorting by category.

In part 3, I’ll share about actual internal changes that have happened in my life because of this method.

If you missed part 1, read it here!