How I Developed Chronic Pain

In order to really share my story with you, I need to go back to 2003. That’s when things really changed in our lives. My husband and I were happily married, I was pregnant with our fifth child and while we struggled financially, we were happy and grateful for our blessings.

In April of that year, I gave birth to a tiny, yet healthy baby girl, but I was not well. I had been feeling like something was wrong since February, but the doctors had ignored my concerns and even after I gave birth, they sent me home the next day with a fever and an inability to move my right leg (even though I hadn’t had anesthesia). Over the next few days, I returned to the ER several times, only to be sent away with antibiotics, instructions to rest, pain meds, etc. Nothing was helping and I felt like I was dying. I was in excruciating pain and I had fevers fluctuating up to 105 degrees. Finally, a week after Hannah was born and much persistence on my part that something was wrong, I was diagnosed with two blood clots – on my ovarian vein and renal vein.

Once I was admitted to the hospital, things only got worse after the doctors administered Heparin, which it turns out I’m allergic to. By the time they stopped the Heparin, I actually had clots in my femoral veins, iliac veins, ovarian vein, renal vein, and my inferior vena cava, among others. It was devastating. At that point I couldn’t walk and my doctor actually told my husband and me to call our family and friends from out of town because he did not expect me to make it more than a couple more days. They could not get the clotting to stop and blood has to flow in order for a person to live. As a last resort, he also suggested that they transfer me to a hospital in another state where a specialist might save my life.

We spent the next few weeks fighting for my life. The specialist managed to keep me alive. He treated the hyperactive clotting as a blood cancer and with a blood chemotherapy he was able to get the clotting to go into “remission,” for lack of a better description.

My life had been spared, but that didn’t mean it was going to be easy. When I finally came home from the hospital, I had a 7-yr-old, 5-yr-old, 3-yr-old, 2-yr-old and newborn to care for, but I could no longer walk, I was literally in constant pain and I had begun to suffer from migraines due to the blood thinner they had me on at the time.

It took me over 18 months to learn to walk again. At first I used a wheelchair and then a walker. I tried as much as possible to walk on my own, but it was incredibly painful. I was trying to force blood to flow in areas that had been blocked off for so long.

Not only was this process horrendously painful, but it was also emotionally draining. My life had been forever changed. I had a family to care for, but oftentimes they were caring more for me than I for them. Over the next ten years, I just focused on trying to regain my health and help my blood flow well.

2014 – This is a photo of where I have had clots. Most of the ones below my waist have calcified so they are actually still there. I grew collateral veins to create blood flow so that’s the only reason I’m alive and walking.

All the red veins have been clotted. Most of the ones below my waist still have calcified clots in them, but fortunately I grew collateral veins so that’s how I received blood flow when I was trying to learn to walk again. I actually have 3 inferior vena cavas because the one I was born with clotted completely when Hannah was born. The second clotted a few years ago. When I’m in a lot of pain or frustrated about my weight, etc., I try to remember that I am fortunate just to be alive.

2018 Update:

I wrote this post several years ago for the sake of being able to share the story with people without having to actually write it repeatedly. It’s still difficult for me emotionally to talk about it because I do live with daily reminders of how this has impacted my life. With that said, these days I have much to be grateful for! I am walking well. I exercise regularly, eat well and enjoy life. I love my husband and children and we’re blessed to know what a treasure it is to be in one another’s presence. I try to focus on these things rather than the pain or the loss.

I hope my story has been of some encouragement to you.


Renewing Your Marriage

Our children accuse me and my husband of being inappropriate. They roll their eyes, make gagging noises and, if we’re really successful in grossing them out, they leave the room. (Usually that’s our goal! Whether we want to talk, watch a movie, trade back rubs, do a devotional or be intimate, sometimes we just want to be alone.)

Several years ago, our kids regularly left the room for different reasons. Evenings, weekends and holidays were stressful. Chris and I couldn’t be in the same room together without one of us committing a slight against the other or simply getting on the other one’s nerves. My husband’s bed was the couch and if he happened to wander into the bedroom, I’d sleep on the couch. Things weren’t always that way, but we didn’t know how to fix the problems that had led to our dissatisfaction with one another.

These days, Chris and I have an intense desire for each other. If you’ve been looking at your spouse lately and wondering how you simply became roommates who sometimes have sex, don’t despair. Rekindling the romance might not be as difficult as you think, but it will take some effort, particularly when it comes to replacing bad habits with positive habits that encourage growth in the relationship. Try the following suggestions and let me know how they work out for you! (We don’t need details, but you’re welcome to share your joy with a renewed relationship.)

Take your spouse to bed.

After several years of sleeping separately and allowing our relationship to disintegrate emotionally, spiritually and physically, when we finally decided to see if we could repair the damage, one of the first changes we made was to establish a bedtime for our children. Although they had bedtimes when they were very young, this was something we hadn’t enforced in many years. It became our habit to allow them to stay up until 11:00 p.m. or later, usually in the same room with us watching television or hanging out. (As with many homeschoolers, our bedtimes weren’t firmly established. Unfortunately, I see this trend happening in many homeschool households and it is harming marriages.) Anyway, at some point my husband began sleeping on the couch and I sometimes wonder if part of the reason was just to get everyone to go to bed – since he had to get up early to go to work. Of course it didn’t help that the bed wasn’t an inviting place.

In our personal situation, sex was difficult for me for many years following the birth of our last child. I developed serious health issues and one of the side effects was severe pain in my legs and pelvic area (made much worse with intercourse). I desperately wanted to be with my husband, but the pain made it impossible. While that is a valid excuse, the fact is that I chose not only to avoid sexual contact, but also physical contact. If you get nothing else out of this article, I hope you’ll come away with this. Your husband wants to feel loved as much as you do and for men, physical contact is a large part of that. Without going into too much detail, physical contact can result in sexual satisfaction so that true intimacy offered only through the marital relationship can be fully realized. Even if all you do is spend time cuddling, this time alone together is what separates your marriage relationship from every other relationship.

Address any unresolved issues.

When Chris and I first began trying to establish new, healthy habits that would help us renew our relationship, I tried unsuccessfully to “forgive and forget” something that had become one of the biggest wedges in our relationship. Several years earlier, Chris had made a major decision, without my approval, that altered our lives. I realize why he made the decision, but it hurt me beyond comprehension that he would make such a huge decision that affected us both based on discussions with others rather than me. For a long time, I tried to “get over it,” but it was a festering wound that never healed. Finally, I shared my frustration and disappointment with him. While this didn’t resolve the issue, Chris was willing to listen to my point of view and recognize the pain he had caused. A year later – at great cost to us financially – we reversed the decision he had made without my approval and it was another turning point in our marriage. We began to see how God was healing our hearts and our marriage.

If there are unresolved issues in your marriage, you need to address these. Don’t accuse your spouse, but present your grievances with a plan on how to make the situation better. If you bring up an issue, make sure you have an idea on how it could be made better. Be willing to hear his or her side of events as well as your spouse’s ideas for resolution. If things become heated, set a future time to come back together to discuss the situation calmly. Once you’ve addressed the issues and made arrangements (when possible) for resolution, then move on. Don’t keep bringing up the past. If you still feel the need to do so, then you have not truly addressed the issue and certainly it hasn’t been resolved.

Keep your eyes on each other.

As we grow older and fatter, as gray hairs appear and love handles grow larger, it can be tempting to focus on what is “wrong” with our bodies. Even for those who seem to have avoided the physical ravages of age, in our society we tend to seek affirmation regarding our bodies from the time we’re little tots until we’re enjoying our last days. You want people to say you look nice, notice that you had a haircut or ask if you’ve lost weight. Most of us would like to hear those same comments from our spouse and when he (or she) doesn’t meet our expectations, we are tempted to seek praise from other sources (throwing ourselves into our career, devoting all time and energy to our children, accepting the advances of another person, etc.).

One way to keep your eyes on each other is to create a habit of noticing one another. Tell your husband he smells nice, he’s handsome, he works hard, he’s a great dad, etc…. Tell your wife how you admire her, how she’s a great mom, how you like the feel of her hands, her hips, her lips, her… You get the idea!

Above all else, don’t get into situations where you’re tempted to turn your focus elsewhere. Live above reproach so that your spouse trusts you. Let your spouse know that he (or she) is the most important person in your life.

Avoid airing problems on social media.

This is self explanatory, but it will help your marriage if you follow one simple rule regarding your spouse and social media:  Only mention your husband (or wife) on social media if you’re giving him (or her) a compliment or shouting to the world how in love you are. Go back to kindergarten rules in this area. If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all!!

Make a commitment to renew your marriage.

Finally, do whatever it takes to renew your relationship with your spouse. Regardless of our society’s current disregard for the sanctity of marriage (and of life in general), the institution of marriage is of God. The blessings of marriage are eternal. God created man and woman to be together as one in the marital relationship and this fellowship is unlike any other that exists.

Date your spouse. Look at old photographs. Listen to love songs you enjoyed as a young couple. Watch movies together. Take a walk. Hold hands, for goodness sakes! Sneak a kiss in public. Above all, pray and be patient. Some wounds can take longer than others to heal, but God is the great healer.

Finally, expect great things. Watch for the romance to blossom anew. Prepare to be surprised. You might just discover new ways to clear a room and look forward to those precious moments when you and your spouse can be alone.


J.K. Rowling

Bill Gates

Abraham Lincoln

Roy Rogers

Albert Einstein

Eleanor Roosevelt

Mother Teresa

Emma Watson

Barbara Bush

Rosa Parks

Mahatma Ghandi

These people have something in common with most of my children. They are all INTROVERTS.

I get incredibly tired of people praising extroverts when God has given each of us a unique personality. I know many extroverts who honestly need to learn to be quiet. They need to learn how to appreciate others, how to encourage individual talents (and personalities) and how to act a little more introverted at times.

Yesterday our kids walked into a courtroom where they had been told they were not welcome and weren’t even allowed. There was a high likelihood that we would have been escorted out, yet they boldly walked in anyway and sat down in front of spectators, prisoners, attorneys and the judge. Yes, they are introverts, but YES, they will stand up for themselves.

There have been millions of introverts throughout history (including those listed above and many of our greatest Biblical heroes) who probably would not have achieved what they did if they had been extroverts. You see, the thing about introverts is that they might be quiet and you might think they are sitting there doing “nothing” or “wishing they were an extrovert,” but in fact they are quietly plotting their course of action. That might be to write a book, develop a kazillion dollar software company, figure out how to help the poor or making a HUGE difference in any one of a million ways that you or I can’t fathom because we’re too busy being, well… too busy being busy little extroverts who think we know what’s best for everyone.

That’s my shout out for the day to all the introverts in the world. The world is a rough enough place without us bashing one another’s God-given traits. We all have room for improvement, but stress over the things you can change (like behavior) rather than those things you can’t change (like personality).

You are loved and you are amazing – just the way you are!

Parental Authority even in the Courtroom

Over the past week, I’ve heard from people who may understand my point about having access to the courtroom for my teenagers, but many of them add a disclaimer such as “unless the content gets too violent for them” or “except when the testimony is talking about things like murder” or perhaps “they could go to something like property court, but not something about a drug bust…”

On the one hand, I agree with the sentiment. We don’t want children exposed to unnecessary violence. On the other hand, many parents chose to avoid an argument, ignore their child’s questionable activities or perhaps even think it’s ok for them to do things some of us might disagree with. What if I personally didn’t agree with another parent’s decision to:

–  allow rated R (or PG-13) movies (which usually contain tons of violence, sex, cursing, etc.)

–  give a child a cell phone at age 12 or 13 (which can be used for sexting, contact with predators, unauthorized internet access)

–  allow a minor child internet access (do I need to even explain)

–  let a child watch shows like Special Victims Unit or Dexter (which includes violence like rape and murder)

–  leave an 11-year-old at home alone

–  give 16-year-olds keys to a vehicle (many have no business driving)

–  spank a child

–  get vaccinations / deny vaccinations

–  go to a mall alone


Across our country, there have been judges who disagree with the very idea of homeschooling who have ordered that children be put in public school for “socialization” – not because the child was having issues, but simply because the judge disagreed with homeschooling. What if I were a judge and decided mothers needed to be home caring for their children instead of sending them to daycare or public school? (I bet that wouldn’t go over so well, but judges are entitled to enforce their opinions in court, right?)

My children are mature. My oldest two children are almost 20 and 18. My oldest daughter is a junior in college and my son is leaving to serve in the Army in January. I am incredibly proud of them both. My husband and I made the decision to homeschool when it was time to enter my oldest in kindergarten and I was told by the school system that she would have to sit and review her letters for the next year even though she already knew how to read fluently. We plunged in and we’ve never looked back. I continue to teach our 12, 14 and 16-year-old children at home and in the community.

Learning is a privilege and homeschooling has been a delightful journey, but we’ve always placed our children’s safety and well-being above all else. We introduce concepts that are age-appropriate, limit their exposure to violence (especially early on) and encourage them to pursue their own interests and God-given talents. I do not take our decision to visit the courtroom lightly, but since we are responsible parents who care about our children, we are the best ones to make decisions about when to introduce certain concepts and how to do that. You wouldn’t appreciate me telling you that you’re literally not allowed to let your child watch a particular movie any more than I appreciate being told we cannot enter a public courtroom.

As a side note, for the most part, we’ve had overwhelming support and encouragement. Most people completely agree with our point of view and understand the issue at hand. Our local officials are trying to take parental authority into their own hands and in this case, the law has already stated that courtrooms are open to the public – all public (including minors). We’re not arguing about something that we want to “change.” We’re simply insisting that the law be followed.

Quitting Children’s Sports and Other Extracurricular Activities

I’m sure this will offend some readers so I’ll go ahead and establish that up front. Here’s your warning. You might get offended, but there are some things that need to be said.


First, I want to establish that I have never been a huge fan of keeping kids incredibly busy with outside activities. It seems that today many families run from one lesson, activity, practice, etc. to another with a quick stop for fast food in between. Although my children have always been taught at home, homeschoolers are not exempt from the fast-paced life most Americans have established.


Second, with the above thoughts in mind, I did allow my children to try martial arts (specifically TaeKwonDo) several years ago and we’re still doing it. It has been an awesome experience for them and not only have they learned important self-defense skills, but they’ve also gained valuable life lessons, leadership skills, social skills and much more.


With a background counseling parents, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many parents about issues they face with their children. I love being able to help parents learn how to better cope with challenges, seek creative solutions to problems and renew relationships with their children. Frequently, however, I come across one particular issue that baffles me. Here’s how it usually goes…


Little Susie is being a horrid child. She talks back to her parents, is doing poorly in school, has few friends and spends a large amount of her time sulking. Well, she behaves this way 98% of the time. As a matter of fact, the only time she doesn’t behave this way is when she is in ballet class (scouts, art class, cricket club, softball practice, etc. – just replace with your favorite imaginary extracurricular activity). When I talk with the parents about possible ways to address Little Susie’s behavior and attitude, the one thing I definitely do NOT recommend is removal from that activity, yet over the past decade I’ve been amazed at how often that is the most common disciplinary option they choose.


Here’s where I might be slightly offensive…


Why in the WORLD would you take a child out of the ONLY activity that is producing the behavioral results you seek?????  This makes no sense to me whatsoever.


Extracurricular activities have been proven to have positive effects on behavior, grades, school completion, social activity and the likelihood of becoming a successful adult. Participation in activities, especially athletics, has also been linked to higher self-esteem, peer status (others look up to this kid!) and possibly a deterrent to antisocial behavior.


Yet, if your child is acting out at home or school, by all means, take them out of the activity that might actually help. Don’t worry about the fact that the child is disrespectful to everyone except the instructor, coach or teacher. Ignore the fact that your child might behave poorly at home because YOU and your child have issues. Even though sports in particular increase children’s attention spans, you can always take them off the team and have them put on attention deficit medicine instead.


After my children began taking martial arts classes several years ago, I actually decided about two years later that I would do it. They were doing well and I thought it looked like fun. Now I actually have the blessing of teaching other students and they are an awesome part of my family’s life. We look forward to seeing these kids several days each week. I’m grateful that where I teach, I don’t hear it very often, but occasionally I’ll hear a parent express these thoughts about quitting (with the kids who need it most). Over the years, though, as I said, I’ve literally heard these same comments in regards to almost every activity you can imagine:  scouts, homeschool co-ops, sports, dance, art, even things like getting to drive. Even though the activity was the ONE THING the child did without a bad attitude, the parent used it as a punishment.


So here are some things I would ask them to think about. If you take away the one behavior that is producing positive results, how do you then expect any positive results?


I already know the return argument. I’ve heard it before. It goes something like this, “But I want my child to earn this activity so if he behaves (improves grades, stops acting out, etc.), I will let him come back.” Hmmm. Well, here’s the problem with that logic. Just imagine me yelling when you read this:  And what if he doesn’t?  Then what?


Seriously. What if he doesn’t? The parent basically just set the child up for failure. The child has to change behavior BEFORE he can continue the activity that was helping him, yet since the activity itself was the thing that was helping the child make improvements, it’s likely that change is never going to happen. And to be quite honest, I think many of these parents know it.


Now in case any of you are wondering, I’m not saying parents should never ever stop activities. There are times when arts classes end, scout groups become too liberal, sport coaches start focusing too much on winning, or perhaps the child is just ready to move on to another activity. In those cases, it’s not about quitting so much as making a thoughtful decision based on factors other than punishing the child because he’s doing well in the activity. If possible, it’s great if you can encourage your child to finish a commitment before moving on. Unless it’s unavoidable, have the child finish the season, participate in the final show or find a replacement before moving on. Hopefully your goal with having children in extracurricular activities in the first place is more than just keeping them busy. Hopefully you want to help them establish a sense of responsibility, develop positive character traits, get along in difficult situations and finish an activity. This will serve them well in life as they find (and keep!) jobs, take care of families, pursue dreams and live with a feeling of fulfillment rather than failure.


And by all means, please feel free to ask if you have any parenting-related questions. I love to talk with parents. However, please don’t tell me you’re going to take your child out of an activity because you’re upset that it’s the only place he behaves. I’ll just send you back a copy of this article.



Because My Mom Was a Single Parent…

Things weren’t easy growing up with a single mother. It was a fact that we always had less money, less food, fewer clothes, and pretty much less of everything except challenges. Today, however, when other parents ask me for advice, I realize that my parenting philosophies are a direct result of my own childhood experiences. Here are some of the things I learned mostly because my mom was a single parent most of the time.


When I was a kid, I resented the fact that my mom was not there to help me do homework, choose clothes, find my shoes or a hundred other things that I saw other parents helping their kids do on a daily basis. Once my mother told us to do something or taught us how to do it, she expected us to do it or figure it out again on our own.


If my mom was at work when my brother and I came home from school, it was my responsibility to fix something us something to eat, clean house and do my homework. I honestly can’t ever remember a time when anyone “reminded” or “prodded” me to do my homework. Even during times when I was living with my grandparents, everyone had work to do. Everyone was busy. It was each person’s responsibility to keep up with his or her own tasks. This is probably where my family has made the biggest impact in my adult life. I don’t think I would have been able to author books or achieve other goals without the concept of self-motivation, responsibility and accountability. These concepts have also made the biggest impact in how I homeschool my own children. I provide them access to educational materials and opportunities, but it is their responsibility to learn.

The importance of siblings

Parents frequently talk about how their kids don’t get along. When you grow up with a single parent and you’re frequently left alone with one or more siblings, you learn not only to appreciate them, but you feel accountable toward one another. I’ve frequently told my children that no matter how many other kids stay in our home as short or long term guests, they are the only people in the world who will know what it was like to grow up in our home. They were created from the same DNA. There are similarities in their looks (and possibly even personalities!). Siblings have a unique bond. In a single parent household, this bond can be even stronger as children feel accountable for each other when the parent isn’t around. Encourage your children to cherish one another.

How to make our own fun

There were no fancy toys, no computers, no after school programs, no music lessons, no sports, and other than occasional activities, no clubs until I reached high school. In other words, no one else was given the responsibility of entertaining my brother and me three, four, five afternoons or evenings each week. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, one of my fondest memories of childhood is entertainment. We rode bikes, played with marbles, build forts, walked to the park, played with friends, watched birds, took hikes in the woods, helped neighbors, planted a garden, created make-believe worlds, made walnut-shell boats to sail down the creek, and read books. If we ever said we were “bored,” we very quickly earned ourselves a chore. There is no excuse to be bored in this life. There is always something you could be doing – if not for yourself, then to help someone else.

The value of money

My children are always shocked when they see other children who brag about how many pairs of shoes they have, leave bicycles in the road, drop their new computers and laugh, demand a different food because they don’t like what they’re served, etc. Although my children aren’t being raised in a single parent household, we do have a one-income household and five children. It’s difficult to make ends meet, but at least my husband and I have each other to lean on in terms of child-rearing, decision-making, etc. Most single moms do not have this support on a daily basis. Because I was raised by a single mom and in an environment with lots of grandparents who were quite old-fashioned and frugal, I have been able to be a stay-at-home mom because I learned from them how to stretch every penny. I also learned how to mend what’s broken, eat what I don’t like, grow my own food, find a way to work or trade for what I want or need, and many other skills that are being lost to a generation today that pretty much has everything handed to them. I’m passing these skills of frugality down to my own children.

The art of appreciation

Single moms are busy. Frequently they are doing two parents’ jobs at home while also working outside the home and caring for their own personal needs. Single parents are frequently too busy or tired to notice that the kids feel neglected, that they might be in trouble or perhaps that they are excelling at something like music, art or a certain school subject. Sometimes if they do notice, they are just too tired to do anything about it. Even a little appreciation goes a long way – for the child and for the parent.

So what can you take away from all of this? First, even if you’re part of a two-parent household, we can always learn something from others if we allow ourselves to do so. It’s true that some single parents are doing a poor job (as are some parents from two-parent households), but instead of judging them simply because they are raising their children without a spouse, you might take the time to learn something from these moms or dads. Many of them have streamlined parenting and housework and are doing a terrific job raising intelligent and ethical children. Out of necessity, they’ve learned how to be frugal as well as how to encourage independence and responsibility in their children. It’s also important to remember that many single parents didn’t choose to be in that position. They’re making the best out of challenging situations. And sometimes those challenging situations can be what help them develop parenting philosophies that actually end up helping their children in the long run.

How to Reduce Clutter – and Stress

One huge source of stress in many homes is an overabundance of stuff – or clutter. Below are some specific step-by-step guidelines to help you with this challenging issue. You will not only reduce clutter, but in the process you will be downsizing, which will also help your family financially.

Remember as you downsize that there are many things that hold memories for us and we are hesitant to relinquish those items. Really what we want to hold on to in many cases is the memory rather than the item itself. In other words, you know you’ll never again use that little hobby horse that you got on your second birthday, but you keep it because you remember how special it was to you. With that in mind, let’s get started!

If you are not committed to reducing clutter, or downsizing, it is not going to work. All you’re going to do is get rid of some stuff and then get more.

Once you have decided that you are going to clear out the clutter, pay off some bills and maintain better control over the clutter in your home in the future, it’s time to schedule a family meeting so that you can explain the benefits of de-cluttering to everyone involved. When you remove clutter, you:
– create the appearance of more space.
– will be able to maintain a cleaner home.
– can sell things you plan to discard, enabling you to put the money toward debt, savings or a vacation.
– have taken the important step of being in charge of your life rather than letting your stuff being in charge of you.

Set a start date
After committing and then recruiting the support of your family members, you will have the manpower necessary to do the work ahead of you. At this point it’s a good idea to set a date, pick a room and just start.

Organize as you work
Your downsizing task will be much easier if you sort items as you work. I recommend that people create four piles – trash, donate, gift, sell – and put things in these piles as you go through each room. If you are going to keep something, but it needs to go to a different room, go ahead and take it to the other room immediately. You’ll put it up when you get to that room.
Remember as you go through each room that the goal is to get rid of as much stuff as possible. We are a society driven by materialism and even in poor neighborhoods you can find piles of “stuff” in people’s homes and yards. In many nice homes, the stuff is spread out across 5,000 square feet or packed away in an attic, where it hasn’t been touched in several years. When you decide to downsize, you make a commitment to rid yourself of the excess baggage. You are going to throw away the trash and donate or sell anything in decent condition. If you’re not sure what to get rid of, just keep the following guidelines in mind:
– Donate anything you haven’t worn in three months or more (with the exception of seasonal items).
– Donate items stored in your attic, basement, or cellar. Keep seasonal items or things with sentimental value that you can’t bear to let go to a minimum.
– Donate knick knacks and other items that are just “gathering dust,” but have no special meaning to you.
– Trade or donate books you have no intention of reading again.
– Donate or consign toys your children have outgrown.
– If you have items of sentimental value that might mean more to someone else, then give them a GIFT and let the other person enjoy that item.
– Donate or sell anything you will not have use for within the next year.
– Donate or sell anything you use only sporadically that you could easily borrow from someone else.
– Get rid of stock-piled items that you will never use .
– Sort food that is out of date and use quickly, donate or trash (if it is bad).

As you gather trash, immediately put it in trash bags and discard. This is the easiest part of removing clutter. Trash is usually obvious. However, don’t forget about all the trash that’s not so obvious. This is going to involve going through old paperwork, boxes that should have been thrown out three years ago, things that were broken and you weren’t even aware they were broken, etc. When you de-clutter your home, you truly will be shocked at how much trash you will throw away. If you have a limit on how much trash you’re allowed each week, you may need to plan a trip to the dump, divide the bags over several weeks of downsizing, or ask a neighbor if you can put some of the overflow into his or her trash can.

Donation Pile
When you “downsize,” the idea is much more than a thorough cleaning of your home. It’s literally a concentrated effort to rid yourself of unnecessary “baggage” that you have simply because you’ve been collecting it for years and years. You are trying to gain control of your life, your home, your finances, and your time. The donate pile is to be used for items that are still in good condition, but you would rather donate them than sell them. If you are doing a huge estate sale or yard sale, however, you could just combine these items with your sale pile.

Gift Pile
When we were downsizing, I noticed several things that I really didn’t want to get rid of, but I knew we no longer had room to keep them. Instead of selling or donating those items, I collected these things in a separate area and gave them to family or friends who had expressed an interest in them. It was even easier to give away sentimental items when I knew they were going to someone who would treasure them.

Sale Pile
After you’ve finished de-cluttering, schedule a downsizing sale and put the money toward debt or something special (like a family vacation)! Just make sure everyone knows not to bring things back into the house during the sale.

Avoid the same situation
Once you’ve downsized, it is important not to get in the same situation again. Here are some tips to help you avoid re-cluttering your home.
– Don’t buy anything unless you absolutely need it.
– Don’t buy something just because it’s a good deal.
– When you see something you want that is not a necessity, wait one week and if you still think you can’t live without it and have the money, then purchase the item.
– Teach your children to share their toys.
– Accept hand-me-down clothes from friends and relatives or purchase clothes at a second hand store or thrift store. Keep all clothes to a minimum. Do you really need eight pair of pants, ten pair of shoes, twenty t-shirts, etc. when you can only wear one outfit at a time?
– Learn to live frugally. Sometimes less is more.
– Keep receipts for all your purchases and if you do decide you shouldn’t have purchased something, return it (unopened and unused).
– Don’t use credit cards to purchase anything that you can’t pay off on the next statement.
– Avoid storage containers for anything other than seasonal items – clothes for warm/cold weather, Christmas ornaments, homeschool books you’re saving for a later date, etc.

“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’” Luke 12:15