Monday, May 20, 2013


I'm finding that I've lost a bit of oomph for posting on the blog over the past few weeks. A loss of afternoon nap time, among other things, is not helping the matter.

Please expect a (lengthy) break before you see any more posts from me. Enjoy your summer and stay well.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ready to Organize, but Not Sure Where to Start? (Giveaway)


Are you enthusiastic about tackling an organizing project, but aren't sure where to start? Or do you know you'll only get the job done with some cheerleading and encouragement?

I'd be delighted to help!

That's exactly what I did for my friend, whose kitchen is featured in these photos. We organized for function and efficiency, and relocated objects so that she could install a dishwasher.


If you have an upcoming reason to organize, or are just frustrated with your stuff, here are a few ways that I could help:
  • Assess a problem area in your home/office and offer verbal or written suggestions on how to better organize it. 
  • Physically assist you in organizing one or more spaces, providing motivation, ideas and labor. I promise this can be fun; many hands make light work.
  • Guide you through setting up online bill pay or other paperless solutions.
  • Help you find charitable or eco-friendly disposal options for things that you no longer want or need.
  • Organize items and list them for sale on eBay, Craigslist, Freecycle, etc. or prepare for a yard sale or Mother's Mart.
Of course, I'd be happy to problem solve and brainstorm along with you if you have a more specific need. Reach me at christina (dot) alderfer (at) gmail (dot) com.

Ready to get started? I'm giving away a two-hour organizing session to one lucky reader this week. Please enter by commenting on why you need the help. I'll choose a random winner to be announced on Saturday. Good luck!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Cleaning Schedule/Checklist

Now that the warm weather is upon us (thank heavens!), I thought it might be a good time to re-post the link to my cleaning schedule. For those of you who are, um, thinking about spring cleaning.

Nothing fancy here, just a jumping off point for you to adapt to suit your home and family needs. If you don't like mine, there are hundreds of others in cyberspace to choose from.

Incidentally, since I developed the checklist, I read this post and learned I should be vacuuming a lot more often. Like almost every day. Since we are at home most of the time, that is one time per week for every person and pet.

(Shhh...Does anyone know if this is for real, or a conspiracy put forth by carpet companies?)

Enjoy your day!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Welcome and Thank You to Moms from JAM

Welcome to those of you who are reading for the first time. Thanks for stopping by!

I'd like to express my sincere appreciation to the Moms who allowed me to speak at JAM this morning. It was a pleasure to see faces both new and familiar!

If you'd like to review a copy of this morning's presentation, please click here.

I hope you were inspired and encouraged to tackle some spring cleaning and organizing projects. And, of course, I hope you'll follow by email or subscribe to the blog (along the right column) for future tips and encouragement.

Happy Spring!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Point A to Point B

My preschool age son is enjoying a new workbook that teaches pencil control.

It's really fun watching him concentrate (think of how people often stick their tongues out while cutting). He hasn't yet fully decided if he's left or right handed--we think it's probably left--so he's alternating hands.

He starts at the green dot, follows the path of whatever illustration (trash truck, flying bird, skier, etc.) and finishes at the red dot.

If only life were as neat, predictable and easy to navigate as workbook pages. Sigh.

(Can you tell I was one of those kids that got super excited about new books, notebooks and pens at the start of the school year?)

But here's what I'm learning: It's not just about getting from one dot to the other. It's what happens in between that really matters.

This weekend, my husband and I discussed my tendency to wish away the present as I anticipate the future. I was listening to some empty nesters talking about their impromptu plans to just head to the shore for a day. It sounded really nice.

I wish, oh how I wish, that I could be so spontaneous. I tell myself I could be spontaneous if I were an empty nester. But right now? I don't think we could do that. With a preschooler and toddler, it takes military-style tactical manuevers to get out the door.

Truthfully, I'm not sure I could do it, even without small children. I'd be worrying about what was left undone at home. I'd mentally be somewhere else, doing something different, again.

This is dangerous thinking.

If I don't purposefully choose a course for my life--or as a Christian, submit to God's will for it--there will always be a savvy marketer happy to help me fill my time and empty my wallet.

So I want to intentionally enjoy each moment. Stopping to smell the roses, if you will. This requires me to be proactive, setting goals to make this season meaningful. They don't have to be perfectly executed, but they will push me to aim higher than no goals at all.

It will also be important to try and stick with the plan when the day goes off course. As I've been reflecting during the past months (this is much bigger than one conversation with hubby), I've recognized how easy it is to react, explode with frustration, and vow to get less upset next time, without making any real changes.

In the next two weeks, I'm planning to take a big step back and sit in a quiet place where I can think clearly. I want to map out a general direction for the next few years, establish priorities, and maybe even draft a family values covenant.

I can't wait to get started, even if my progress is a little shaky for awhile.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day (and taking a bite out of your inbox)

Happy March 14 (3.14) or Pi Day!

Instead of pie, I was really thinking about making cookies today. I always feel virtuous and want to eat well when the weather warms up, but now that it's gotten cold and windy again today, I just want comfort food.

I figure the quiche I'm planning for supper will be a fair equivalent to pie, since it is in a pie crust. Plus I want to keep testing the pie weights I bought.

Quiche is becoming a bit more common at our house since I've discovered my husband doesn't find it too girly. It's a modified omelet, really. But the real reason is that we've been so blessed by the beautiful brown eggs my father-in-law's hens are laying.

Can I brag and show you an adorable picture of my son and one of the hens when both were a bit newer?

On an unrelated note, if you struggle to keep up with the volume of emails in your life (personally or at work), you'll want to check out this post from Money Saving Mom on limiting the messages in your inbox.

Happy Pi Day!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cultivating Contentment

A few weeks ago, I had a delightful conversation with a "Mentor Mom" at my MOPS group. She is also a friend of my husband's family, and someone I have come to admire for her hospitality, sewing, and all-around pleasant demeanor. Like my mother-in-law, she's a lady

(My late mother and me--we'd just be called women, and that's on a good day! Ha!)

Where was I? Right. This dear sister was showing solidarity and acknowledging just how challenging it can be to mother young children, be a wife, keep a home and still lead some degree of the life you had before children. Then she used a fascinating phrase...cultivating contentment.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Still here...

I'm busy working on another post for you, one that I'm very excited about and don't want to just slap together.

This is what my front yard looks like today. (Sorry it's miserably windy and wet and I don't want to leave the safety of my porch!) We'll be getting a new roof installed as soon as the weather cooperates.

And there in the back, do you see that red, white and blue For Sale sign? Yep, that went up last week.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Organizing Mistakes (Part Four: What's Your Motivation?)

This post concludes a series on mindsets and marketing ploys that sabotage attempts at real organization.

Hi, my name is Christina, and I'm a recovering perfectionist. I was the little girl who, at three years old, was lining up shoes under my bed and shelving my books according to their height

I know a few things about the blurred line between healthy and unhealthy attitudes toward having a nice home and an orderly environment. I struggled with "coulda, shoulda, woulda" for a long time.

Say No to Shame

..."If only I could get my kids to clean up their rooms, then I can have people over"...
..."If only I could tackle that remodeling project, then we can invite the boss to dinner"...
..."I'd like to get to know my neighbors, but our furniture is Early American Yard Sale"...
..."I can't even keep up with my laundry, let alone find time to volunteer or serve"...
..."If only I was more organized, then everything would be better"...
..."When we have more money, then I'll feel better about hosting family dinners"... 
..."When I get caught up with the landscaping, then we'll have that birthday picnic for Susie"... 

Someone will always have more than you, but a lot of people have less than you do. Will your friends and family remember the cobweb in the corner, or the bright smile on your face and a warm cup of coffee?

I have a friend who PURPOSEFULLY ignores some cleaning chores, depending on who her guests might be. She knows that if she sets the bar too high, they will feel awkward and hesitate to return the invitation. Amazing, right?

That was a real revelation for me, since I always thought my dirt and clutter was what would make them uncomfortable.

People remember how you make them feel. Consider that having a house that looks like Better Homes and Gardens might be a wee bit intimidating. Having a home where there is laughter and space to breathe is nothing to be ashamed of.

Missed the first, second or third post in this series?

Say No to Guilt

Can't hold a candle to the culinary skills your sister-in-law possesses? Had to downsize your house because of finances? Been spending hours on Pinterest sighing at the lifestyles other people have? 

Try to stop comparing your home or job or kids or your whatever to that of people around you. It won't make you feel better and rarely will inspire you to get ahead.

Don't get me wrong, this is hard. Still, I've come to the conclusion that guilt is one of those things that can get you down only if you let it. It's a choice to be okay with how you are. Celebrate the difference and focus on your strengths, not your perceived weaknesses.

Learn from Pain

Pain is a great teacher and can be a motivator. When it comes to disciplining children, a lot of psychologists talk about reality and natural consequences. These are painful but effective.

It's human nature to try to avoid all forms of pain and discomfort. Some people focus on organizing with the goal of preventing pain: I WILL NOT lose the keys again. I WILL get my papers figured out so I don't have to pay another late fee.

It's painful for your child to get a failing grade because an assignment was left at home.
It's painful to have your credit card rejected, especially in front of an audience.
It's painful when you have to pay outrageous overnight shipping charges because you forgot to order something in time.

But are reality consequences enough to get us to mend our ways and get proactive about (respectively) readying backpacks, keeping an eye on bills, and reviewing future obligations? It would be nice, but it's part of a process.

Next week I'll have a special post for you about goals and life themes, which I hope will help put all this in perspective and put some legs to this information.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Organizing Mistakes (Part Three: Once and Done Mentality)

This post continues a series on mindsets and marketing ploys that sabotage attempts at real organization. Missed the first or second post?

If you’ve glanced through magazines, read articles, or even paged through books on the subject, it seems that most people find “getting organized” to be a project: buy the bins, throw out/donate a bunch of things, then arrange them in a cute way, and voila! You’re done.

I heartily disagree.

Home or office organization is an ongoing task. It’s not only about achieving an uncluttered, rational filing system for your belongings and paperwork. Organization truly lies in a system that can be perpetuated with minimal effort. 

(Is this too much common sense for ya?) 

Let’s use cleaning floors as a parallel. Perhaps you move into a new home where the floors were sorely neglected. It’s a project to either replace the floor covering or get the grime off, but it’s possible. Your end result is a clean floor. Great. 

But, steps are needed to continue to keep the floor clean. It won’t magically repel dirt going forward. You must take steps to prevent it becoming soiled (say, taking off shoes at the door) and regularly sweeping or mopping. You might find that in the winter, you need to put out an extra rug to catch gravel. In the summer, you may have to put a mat outside to keep grass clippings at bay.

Similarly, with organizing, you will probably have to adapt and flex your system as you find new needs or challenges that need to be addressed. 

The good news is that by maintaining your system, you’ll never have to make organizing a project again. And just like cleaning, if things fall a little behind, it won’t be that hard to catch up. We all get sick, have intensely busy times, and get off routine for a variety of reasons, so it’s more important to maintain a reasonable level of organization than ditch the idea because you haven’t achieved organizational nirvana.

And this is one of the times that I’ve fallen behind. In fact, I’m writing this post instead of picking up my living room, which looks like this:

And my kitchen counter, which looks like this:


In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and to continue my goal of making my home an enjoyable place to be, you better believe I’m going to be caught up before tomorrow evening. 

How have you been viewing organization? As a project or ongoing task?

Additional Resources: Cleaning Chart, Nightly Routine

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Organizing Mistakes (Part Two: Rearranging Clutter)

Today we continue the series on mindsets and marketing ploys that sabotage attempts at real organization. Missed the first post?

As you know (have I said it enough?), I’m not one for buying a lot of bins or containers to house unorganized things. This is because pretty containers just beautify your clutter.

One of the several photos I've pinned sarcastically to highlight the beautification of stuff. However, where are you supposed to work, and who has perfectly sized and color coordinated fabric scraps?

Aside from kids’ toys--which inevitably become a jumbled mess in under 10 minutes--putting disorganized things in pretty containers can give you a false sense of security. Especially if those boxes are all the same.

You probably won’t be able to find things any faster.

You’ll definitely be less willing to sort through a pile tucked in an opaque container, because out of sight means out of mind. (Certainly doesn’t work for leftovers!)

It’s not a system that you’ll be motivated to maintain, because until the container is overflowing, you’ll find it handy to just dump things in there.

So, what’s the bottom line? You don’t just need places for your stuff. You need less stuff.
And rather than hear me say it six more ways, here’s a fabulous (and eloquent!) article on finding just the right balance of possessions and space.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Organizing Mistakes (Part One: January Whirlwind)

Welcome to Part One of a new series. I’ll be identifying common errors that sabotage our attempts at organization.

(For those of you who grew up in my era, cue the mental Beastie Boys soundtrack. Indulge for a few seconds. …And, now we’re back.)

Whether you are struggling to get organized or just want to be more organized, I’d imagine that you are tempted by the first culprit I’d like to address: the January whirlwind.

No matter where you look, the instant that Christmas is over, everyone is trying to restore order.
Stores reduce prices in attempts to move inventory. The radio station quickly (and frustratingly) switches back to their typical playlists at 12:01 am on December 26, leaving you with no more musical joy for holiday gatherings that happen after that moment. Magazines instruct invite you to tidy up your home, using photos with plenty of white in the palette. Everyone packs up the formerly adorable decorations that have now just become “clutter”. And there are New Year’s organizing resolutions aplenty.

Obviously, if you are still with me, you know that I believe getting organized is a good thing.

But more important is staying organized.

You know that it takes anywhere from 21 to 30 days to make an activity into a habit. You also know that changing your personal behaviors requires extra motivation and discipline. And if you have a family, you know you’ll also have a bit of convincing, training and reinforcing that you need to do.

Is this a wholesale decision to make on December 31? No, not at all. While I am wild about doing things as well as possible and as fast as possible, this is not the time nor the situation. Planning and patience are required.

January Do’s and Don’t’s
  • Do not run to the store and wildly purchase bins or specialty containers.
  • Do not empty out large quantities of cabinets or cupboards with the goal of wiping down and rearranging them. You will burn out. Quickly.
  • Do not assume that one week of vacation and a full iPod will be enough to perfect the organization in your life.
  •  Do set a timer and tackle one shelf or one drawer at a time.
  • Do realize that small, successful steps will pave the way for you to make larger changes. It’s okay to start with a central place for keys and progress onto emptying the bedroom-turned-storage-closet. Later, much later.
  • Do take time to identify the problem areas or “subjects” (e.g. paperwork, children’s belongings, kitchen storage) in your house and brainstorm ways to improve the problem with family members.
  • Do take the list of disorganized issues (above) and assign each area to a month of the year. Work on each issue for a month and evaluate the impact.
  • Do realize that staying organized will require ongoing effort. We’ll talk more about this later.
So, how are you doing with your New Year's resolutions?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Grace Again

Do you recall my confession post?

Once again I find myself in a similar situation: I lost my phone.

This is one of the reasons that I don't have a smartphone. Let me recount the history of my cell phone fatalities: washing machine "ride", thrown down the basement steps by my eldest son, died for no apparent reason, dropped on the sidewalk and cracked the screen, and now, MIA.

In my mind, it's just not worth investing in anything too nice until I get this problem under control. Fortunately, the much-younger-than-me employees at the wireless dealer didn't make fun of me. They just gave me a new SIM card. For free. Oh, and they also gave me an admonishment to consider buying a protection plan.

For now, that new SIM card is in the phone with the cracked screen. I’m hoping and praying the old phone turns up. If not, you can believe I’ll be buying another unfancy phone. Hopefully it will last awhile.

Do you have any tips on how you keep your phone safe and healthy, especially when leaving the house involves many bags and small children?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Spiritual and Mental Clutter

Though I've posted links to Glynnis Whitwer's blog before, I was especially moved by her post today on quieting our hearts, minds and souls so that we can hear God's voice.

I hope you find it meaningful.

(Disclaimer: Though I enjoy Glynnis' blog and often read her devotionals, she has no idea who I am!)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Decluttering Success

A (very) belated Happy New Year to you!

For the third time in as many months, I feel like I’m on the cusp of “catching up”: bills paid, little snippets of paper under control, cleaning mostly up-to-date and only a handful of items on the to-do list. I hope I don’t jinx myself in terms of getting sick!

One of my proudest accomplishments: I’ve recently purged a number of items from our home via eBay, Craiglist and Freecycle. Though the proceeds have been minimal, I am delighted that these items have been given a second chance and will not be heading to the landfill for a while longer.

To date, we’ve parted with:
The above-pictured Ikea chairs (Freecycle)
A papasan dorm-style chair (Craigslist)
A spare set of yard sale golf cubs (Freecycle)
Four teddy bears that I was once collecting (eBay)
A necklace I never wore (eBay)
A highly breakable crystal bowl not compatible with young boys (eBay)

As a result, the basement is a lot less cluttered. I also have a few bucks in my PayPal account!

If you are highly motivated to pass on some of your earthly treasures this year, here are a few tips that I’ve gathered from my personal experience. I’d love for you to add your ideas in the comments section.

Choose the right listing venue
You must first decide if you want to dispose of your item quickly, or if you are willing to be patient in order to make some money.

  • eBay is a great way to get broad exposure for items that are relatively small and easy to ship. Though competing with many other sellers, you can offload almost any item in new or good condition that appeals to the average person (jewelry, accessories, clothing, children’s items, household items, etc.) 
  • Craigslist is a great option for items that are inconvenient to ship or that are showing a little bit of use, such as furniture, large quantities of clothing, large toys, etc.
  • Freecycle is a great way to get rid of nearly anything, and quickly. Your only investment is time in reviewing the myriad emails and putting the item out on your porch.
  • Facebook is a growing way to announce that you have items to part with. It’s also a terrific way to find a lender if you need to borrow something for the weekend.

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes
Who doesn’t love free shipping? If you are listing an item on eBay, offer free shipping. However, please save yourself frustration by first packing it up and taking it to the post office or UPS store and having them give you a price to ship it as far away as possible. (I always seem to end up selling to people on the West Coast.)  Build the shipping into your cost and be realistic.

Also, be sure to take good photos of what you are offering, even on Craigslist. I’ll be turned off by seeing the item in your dank-looking basement, wondering just how creepy you might be. Take a few extra minutes to make it presentable. An honest representation about whether the item has been in the home of a smoker, or about stains/wear is also something I would expect before buying.

On the other hand, don't be ashamed of your ugly, beat-up possessions. There is probably a do-it-yourself-er that would love to get their hands on project materials. Remember that one man's trash is another man's treasure.

Time it right
Hands down, it seems like Sundays are the best day for Craigslist and Freecycle pickups. Post your items on Thursday or Friday night so they are gone before the next workweek begins. This is also a good timeframe for eBay auctions. People are more prone to be available to place last-minute bids when they are home, especially on these dark winter evenings.
So what are you looking to get rid of soon? How will you get the word out?