Life Unstaged, Messy Home Survival Strategies, My Clutter Journal/Journey, Real Messes--Caught On Camera!

Reality-based Decluttering

Sometimes…I just gotta break all the rules. Sometimes…I gotta declutter big time and fast! Sometimes…I just gotta let go and purge my life without the fine-tooth comb hanging over my shoulder and the experts whispering advice in my ear.

And I gotta say…

When I let go and do it this way, I get rid of SO MUCH, SO FAST!

I know this isn't the perfect way to declutter.

There probably won't be a book written about how to do it this way because it's not in 10 easy steps and there is no way this guarantees that all the clutter will be gone when you're finished.


I've done this three times in my married life, and each time I did it I was thrilled with how much clutter left my house in such a short amount of time!

So here's my pictures and how I did it.

First of all, in order to see how much clutter and how fast this was, you'll need to see this picture.

This beautifully, properly decluttered, dining room was posted on June 27th, the day after finishing it:


And these pictures of all my junk that I've quickly culled from around the house was taken this morning. It's July 5th today.




And did I mention, I'm not done yet?

So, I bet you're wondering how in the world I got so much stuff decluttered all in one short amount of time.

First of all, my life as I hold it all “together”, comes to a crashing hault!


My children watch guilt-inducing amounts of television! And run around in their pjs, and my toddler has a clean diaper but peanut butter under his finger nails, and the baby has way more attention from my eleven year old daughter than me.

Can I watch another episode of Transformers? Yeah.

Can I play on Mindcraft for an extra 30 minutes? Sure.

What you want for lunch, Honey? A piece of cheese, lunch meat and a chocolate donut…with apple juice. Why not.

Dinner variety is more akin to Whataburger one night, Taco Bell the next, and Church's chicken for lunch than it is a real plan.

Cleaning up the house comes down to 15 minutes of gathering trash that has grown a pair of legs and the ability to reproduce, loading the dishwasher, and making sure there's nothing souring in the washing machine because the house looks like this…



During the school year (this time “the mood” struck during summer break), history is watching a documentary on George Washington when we're studying Medieval history (yeah, I'm aware how far off plan that is, but I just don't care 'cause I'm tossing a literal ton of junk).

And my hair looks like I just spilled some olive oil on top and tried hiding it by brushing it through with a wet brush and slicking it back in a pony-tail.



During all of this routine breakdown that is “secretly” going on behind closed dining room blinds, there's a whole lot of work going on behind the scenes.

And honey, there ain't no rules I'm following.

I'm grabbing old boxes, my best laundry basket, the broken Rubbermaid, and whatever else I find while I'm passing by that's remotely in the shape of a box. No labels, no plan.

I've got a roll of masking tape and a marker (the easiest one to find) in one hand and a glass of iced tea in the other. Every item I'm removing gets slapped with a quick price just in case I end up with enough for a garage sale. I'm not about to have the energy to price all that stuff later.

A mental bulls eye is on every place I know has a plathora of excess.

I dive in big time and don't think about it much at all. The heavy decisions are for later. The detail decisions aren't happening today. I'm pulling out that toy box that the kids haven't touched in months, but I skip the other four sitting right beside it. I pull clothes right off the hanger straight into a bag that I know are never worn without stopping to try anything on.

I ask Josh to pull down one box after another so I can see what's inside. Some get taped back up and restored to their place, but 20 boxes seem to loose more than half their weight as I shuffle the little amounts of stuff I can't decide on back, combining the stuff that's left. Instant weight loss, both mentally and physically.

I dive into the closets where I know there are bags of clutter already waiting to be delivered to a thrift store.

I send Abram to go grab the skates that are two sizes too small, and get that rocking chair arm that's in the media room floor while you're at it.

I bend down and snatch several books from a stack under the side table that I never read and add a price in green permanent marker.

As I think of places, I hit them. I check. I unlid and relid tubs that sit in various corners.

And when I'm exhausted, I crash in front of the tv and catch up on some much needed baby snuggle time, since I've only stopped to nurse and change diapers.

I'm likely still in my pjs at 2pm and still up zoning in front of Netflix or Facebook at 2am…but it's all worth it.

Are you in the mood to de-junk your life?

Forget the rules while you have the momentum…and just do it. It's not pretty, it's not routine, it's probably going to be exhausting…and it's definitely chaotic. But it's a thrill!

The only rules:

Kids must be safe and fed…and hugged when they're upset.

Diapers must be changed when they're wet.

That's it.

Happy Decluttering!


Chores, Messy Home Survival Strategies, Real Messes--Caught On Camera!

Picture Chores Like This!

There's a little play on words in this title! We actually use our iPhone cameras as to-do pictures instead of lists.

When our house seems to be falling apart at the seams and chaos is in every corner of my house, I find this to be the simplest way to get the kids involved and keep them motivated.

So set your timers…we're going on a tour of my two hour clean up last Saturday. (We usually delete each picture as it's finished, but I made sure they were all saved this time so I could show y'all. You're welcome!)

I start off by carrying Timmy around the house taking pictures of different focus areas that I would like done. I don't worry about the picture being perfect as long as my family can tell where and what I'm talking about. (Some pictures represent something-like a picture of the washer and dryer means to keep it going.)

We all gather around and look through the pictures together, and Abby's usually the first one to “call dibs” on something. I set the timer for twenty minutes, but usually it's ten. The house needs to be finished for Abram's party next weekend and Daddy's home to pitch in.


On this one, I placed Bubzy's clean sheets within the picture so they would know it meant to change the sheets and not just make the bed.

In this picture, one “round” was Josh actually cleaning the sink, while another time one of the kids picked up the stuff on the floor. While Abby might like cleaning the mirror, Abram might like throwing all the dirty clothes in hampers and throwing trash away…while Daddy prefers to use Scrubbing Bubbles on the sink and countertops. The picture might mean different things to different people. (Only Mom can approve the picture as complete before a child deletes it from the choices).

Josh chose to stay with the same theme and completely cleaned the bathroom instead of switching with the timer like the kids really need. He has such a servant's heart in choosing the least desirable chore!




Same idea here: Josh put together the crib while Abram tidied the couch. They saw something different. As a family, we use each of our talents to benefit the whole.
I figured Abby would choose the bed, since she loves making it all pretty, but this time Abram beat her to the punch and snatched it up. I didn't say a word when I passed the finished work and it was at a very obvious slant.

This one got skipped completely, which is totally fine. I put more than enough picture chores in front of them so that they have choices. I make a time goal and we stop when it gets there. That day it was 2 hours.

Usually, I take a picture of the floor if I want it vacuumed.

The picture of the sink, dishwasher, and the countertop we put dirty dishes on means to unload/reload the dishwasher and scrub the sink. I stuck with the kitchen and laundry through most of the two hours.

I remind the kids that the breakfast bar includes the bar stools, too.


This picture represents putting away pantry stuff, cleaning off and wiping down the counters.

Hand wash dishes

One person took this as taking the trash out and another took it as sweeping.

Abram picked up everything in this picture, dusted the alcove shelves and swept the floor. He did awesome! Too bad I'm not including after pics here. I was so proud of him.

Abby kind of adopted the bathroom and it was sparkling by the time she finished.





I have to be careful what I take pictures of, too. I took some of the school closet because I fully intended to go in there and tackle it after the kitchen and laundry were under control. But, when all that was left was the mess in the living room and all the trash created by eating fast food the night before, Abram chose the school closet. He wanted me to come tell him what to do in there. Ugh. I'm sorry, Buddy, but you're just going to have to pick one of the other things. I don't have the time to go show you what exactly I want done in there right now.

There were several choices that could have been done in here–tidy up, dust, vacuum, sweep–but by the end of the two hours we had only tidied up in here. Next time maybe.



Keep the laundry going

Fold and put away this basket of clothes

It was Abby's laundry day

And, not surprisingly, an entire basket of stuff and a full bag of trash came out of there!


Two hours behind us, lots of cleaning up done…now time to enjoy the rest of our Saturday!


So, what do y'all do to get everyone in your family to cooperate willingly? This has been the one that's received the least complaints from my little crew.



My Clutter Journal/Journey, Real Messes--Caught On Camera!

Laundry Room Drop-N-Go

This area where we removed the fridge that died at Thanksgiving is way too convenient! It’s become a catch-all for stuff headed to the thrift store, toilet paper and paper towels we’re too lazy to put away, and Aldi’s bags. 

The paper towels were just too inconvenient where they had belonged, so I found a new place for them.

I put the big blue bags and other stuff headed to the thrift store in the back of the van.

I removed all the big stuff that belongs there…

…so I could sweep. It was in desperate need of it.

I put everything back neatly, and added the hanging rack that I had loaned to my sister and…

…made this “confiscation” bin for laundry I find laying around.

Oh, and yes, I wash the clothes before they go in here. 

And here’s what it looks like now.

Since I’ve been doing laundry everyday, it was really starting to bug me! Now it’s finally back in order and off my mind. 


Do you have a place that’s bugging you right now? 

Debt Free Living, Homes in Years Past, Messy Home Survival Strategies, My Clutter Journal/Journey, Real Messes--Caught On Camera!, Walks With Jesus

Looking Back: How Far We’ve Come

I’m absolutely astounded with how far God has brought our family in the last few years (like 6). I want to be an encouragement to those still struggling through what I’ve waded through, just as those bloggers have been to me that are such an inspiration.

Sometimes, when I read blogs with all the great home pictures of decorated rooms and clean kitchens, I imagine that they’ve always lived like that. Ya know, as if that mom was just born to be a miracle worker of clean bathrooms, painted walls, and tidy children. (I’m still sure some of them were, lol). But…some of us struggle to make our houses into homes and that’s WHY we blog about these things…to have a place of accountability, to journal about our progress, and to encourage other women who are where we were a few years back.

The other day I was looking through my pictures, as I take SO MANY, and found a few that made me cry. I don’t mean tear up a little, either. I mean I was bawling. Let me just show you a few.

I was babysitting at that time in my life, and some of these pictures had the child I was watching running around. The first thing that popped in my mind…before I really thought about it being my house…was, what kind of mom would let their child go there (to be watched daily).

I was shocked by the realization! It was MY house and I allowed it to stay that way a lot. And when I thought about my children living in that house day in and day out, I cried. I had a flop-down-on-my-bed-buried-in-my-pillow cry.

The thing is, I’m still a mess. I still struggle to get my laundry done and I still hate doing dishes…but the improvement is night and day.

I’ve been praying about my home and my role as mother and wife for as long as I can remember. And ya know what? I didn’t read one particular book that gave me an ah-ha moment, and I didn’t have anyone come to my house and teach me, and I never found extra energy miraculously making daily cleaning easier. It was God. That’s the only answer I have. In tiny, almost unnoticeable stages, HE has brought me from there to here.

Here is my new home:

All I can say through tears and gladness and amazement, is that God HAS changed me. He’s not finished with me yet…believe me, there’s a long way for this Mama to go, but I have changed.

What about those still in the thick of it?

Honey, I still consider myself in the thick of it…my home just looks way better now. But, I know what you mean. What about when you still live in that little apartment or rental that you don’t even like, maybe hate, and you want so badly to have a nice home?

First, pray a whole lot!
God is the only one who can take you from where you are to where you want to be without tearing a hole in your finances and ruining your life. Trust that God is working on YOU rather than just your home. Ask him to reveal to you what he’s trying to teach you and that you will be open to learning.

I had a contentment issue with my home. It made me mad that “everyone else” could wave their credit cards in front of a cash register and magically decorate faster than me. It was also disheartening that when we made the decision that I would stay home to raise and teach our children, that other families with two incomes were moving up far faster than we were.

It took a whole lot of God working on my heart to accept wherever I was as my place to minister to my family. I worked through a lot of bitterness and jealousy to make it to the other side. And, ya know what, my circumstances didn’t change much at all until God was satisfied with how far I had come in my thinking. By the time we moved out of that town home, I had accepted that it could be my permanent home and that if I wanted to have a happy family in it, I would have to start working on it.

Second, get your hands busy.
I realize through the years that most of the improvement that happened was absolutely free! It was de-junking my home, organizing what was left, and cleaning up that truly made the biggest difference. I still hadn’t learned this in the pictures above. Those were great pictures to show the progress we made, but it got back to a big mess quickly and stayed that way for long periods of time. I always prioritized other stuff ahead of cleaning up and it showed. I knew how to clean, but I actually had to do it regularly to make a difference to my family. I’m still learning this one, but I’ve come a long way.
Third, do projects that give you big bang for your buck. Paint is incredibly cheap if you keep the supplies from one project to another. Painting is hard work but has really fabulous results and last a really long time. Almost everything I’ve decorated with over the years came from thrift stores or antique shops. It’s amazing what you can find if you’re determined to look.
And let people in on what you need. Somewhere someone is looking for that one person that will haul off their dining room table. These kind of HUGE blessings are how I’ve obtained about half of my furniture…and in return, when I’m ready to get rid of something, I give it away, too.
Fourth, realize that your home and YOU are works in progress! There’s never a time I’ve reached where I’ve said, “Wow…I’m done,” and really been finished. You will always have another wall to paint, another drawer to clean out, another load of dishes or laundry to do, and a new way to organize your bookshelves. When I started blogging, I figured I would come to the end of my house and the blog would be over. Good news! I’ve realized that I could blog about my house and home until I’m old and grey. No problem.
And God’s not done with ME yet either! I still have so much to learn and so many disciplines to train myself into. But, isn’t that a GOOD thing? I think so.


Linking Up at these amazing blogs:

It's Overflowing

A Slob Comes Clean

Metamorphosis Monday

Real Messes--Caught On Camera!

Mess Happens Fast! After the “After” Picture

(Memory Lane: This was a post from the house we stayed in while moving from our old house to our new one.)

This morning I was thinking about how fast messes are made.

So, day before yesterday, I perfected the kitchen breakfast area for pictures. There were maybe five dishes hidden in the sink, all the counters were wiped down, the floors swept, every inch of counter space cleared…you get the idea. No mess at all! Whoo!

Actually, let me show you:

It felt great to FINISH. I clean, tidy, shuffle around, every day–but many times it just doesn’t get all the way to done. But, I have the pics to prove it. It was done. If you had walked in my kitchen at that point, and I mean point (of time), you couldn’t have found a mess if you’d have tried.


That VERY NIGHT after dinner.

This is the picture I took upon waking this morning…before anyone even grabbed a bowl for breakfast to make a mess with. I mean, this is literally less than 12 hours from after pictures to after the “after”:

Oh My Word! Only 12 hours!

And…it’s not like I didn’t do any dishes. I cleaned up after breakfast. And you see the trashcan? FULL to overflowing. It’s not like we didn’t throw away anything.

So, here’s the After the After breakdown.

The water bottles, chips and bags are just a few on the way home groceries Josh brought home. We ran out of juice, milk and cereal, and the milk was all that got put up while I cooked dinner.

The papers in the middle of the table were the kids writing “I will not fight.” 5x each.

The broom on the floor is Bubzy’s and he pulled it out to sweep.

The juice-cup was a dig-out of Bubzy’s exploration through cabinets.

The dishes on the butcher block were all used for cooking dinner. We ate on paper plates.

The paper plates wouldn’t fit in the trashcan that was totally empty this morning! So there they sit on the edge of the counter.

The Whataburger cup was leftovers from the night before. Someone pulled it out to find out it was watered down and it also wouldn’t fit in trash…along with the coke can.

The bananas were plopped on top of my canisters and the Pringles were un-bagged but not put away as well.

So, as you can see………we’re quite the messy family!

P.S. PLEASE excuse the brand new blog mess!! I’ve just transferred to WordPress from Blogger and haven’t finished in the least. For older posts that haven’t been transferred yet, you can find them at It’s still called Chaos2Calm…hopefully I didn’t confuse anyone too much! Thanks for your patience in the process. I would LOVE for anyone interested to sign up to get new posts in their e-mail!! Love, Tabitha Fletcher

Linking Up at A Slob Comes Clean

Messy Home Survival Strategies, My Clutter Journal/Journey, Real Messes--Caught On Camera!

Chaos to Calm in 2 Hours, the Whole House

I’ve been putting off writing this one, and ironically it’s not because I dread doing it. My house isn’t messy enough right now to take two hours, lol!! Great problem, eh?

However, I’ve taken so many pictures in this past year and taken so many notes while I’m cleaning up, that I know exactly how I do it. These pics are not going to be normal (as a little warning). I usually take pictures while I’m in the midst of a project and blog about it pretty soon afterward. This way they all match what I’ve just done. However, these pictures will be old. No–we didn’t get new carpet and then rip it out and Bubzy didn’t go back to being 6 months old. This post would be extremely long if I posted a lot of pictures anyway.

Note: As much as I would like to say we go by this exactly, that would be an exaggeration. If it’s easier to dump a shoe off the kitchen counter into the Stow-Away basket instead of wiping around it on the counter, for instance, I don’t call over the child in charge of stow-aways that’s working on the other side of the kitchen. This is just a guideline to give you a jumping off point, not a set of rules. Use your head more than you read these rules, and you’ll be good to go.

Keys To Timeliness:

  1. Keep your children close. Wear any not-yet-walking baby. This keeps them absolutely supervised and comfy enough for a nap. Any toddler age child can go in a walker-like toy–they are far easier to carry than a playpen and you can always switch to the playpen in the room it’s currently in. Give every child a job, even the older toddler. He can throw away paper plates and tightly wrapped diapers, or you can hand him a wipey and let him wipe whatever he gets his hands on. Once they are old enough to help, they should be included. People need to feel needed and useful! This is not child-labor, but self-esteem boosting exercises. Just never give them something more than age appropriate and be patient with them. Keeping your children close may seem to take longer, but think of all the saved steps going back and forth from the t.v. room. I told you how to set up a Safe Haven here, but that should really only be used when circumstances are unsafe to allow a child’s help.
  2. Get your tools together ahead of time. You will need two laundry baskets and at least one trash bag. You may also choose to take along a vacuum or broom if you haven’t recently used them.
  3. Eat before hand and start with no excuses. Children will have a few in their arsenal–thirst, hunger, and being hot or cold, are some of the first to come up. Make sure these and any others you know of are taken care of before you start. They will pull them out at intervals like slowly trickling traffic that you can’t pull out in, every excuse in the book. Just make sure that they’re not legitimate.
  4. Stay in the same room until you really need to move on and then glance around and make sure you’re taking with you as much as you can. If you’re headed to the back of the house, for instance, take several things that will be dropped in rooms that are along the way.
  5. Skip any really big messes–say Christmas decor that needs putting back in the garage or closets that need decluttering. If the timer hasn’t gone off by the time you’re finished tidying the whole house, by all means dive in, but not until then.

Step by Step

  1. Empty and reload your dishwasher. –I always start here. When I get behind, which is not unusual for me, I usually need two loads of dishes. It’s better if I start right away on getting the dishwasher started so I can put in a second load mid-way through.

    2. Assign jobs as such: (be sure to check for any sharp knives or slippery spots on the floor before getting started in the kitchen)
    1st child–oldest and most capable of doing dishes (may be you if your children are littles). Get them going on unloading the dishwasher.

    2nd child–owns the trash bag. Instruct them to circle the room, picking up anything and everything trash and dumping any small trashcans in along the way.

    3rd child or You–starts either a few steps behind or on opposite side of child in charge of trash. Instruct them to walk around the kitchen in a circle, gathering all dirty dishes and putting them by the sink.

    1st child–when finished unloading starts right into loading back the dishwasher, skipping all hand wash only or knives.

    2nd child–circles a second time with one of the laundry baskets, picking up all stuff that belongs in a different room. If there’s not much in the area of trash and stow-aways, then have them run to distribute items where they go. This child may also be sent on a scavenger hunt for dishes that escaped to various rooms.

    You–instruct the children, put away all kitchen clutter that has been left out, and generally help with everything. I point a lot–you missed the paper plate, can you throw that jacket in the laundry basket, don’t skip that pot it can easily go in the dishwasher, etc.

    1st child and/or You–warms a rag and wipes down all counter tops and breakfast table, and sweeps the floor.

    You–do any hand wash dishes that remain and clean out the sink.

    Now, if you’re actually finished with the dishes, you’re done with the kitchen. If there’s more dishes left for a 2nd load, it’s time to move on and come back later.

    3. Quick trip to the laundry room–it’s not time to do laundry, but a quick swap from dryer to basket, washer to dryer, and starting a new load will keep it all running.

    4. Bedrooms–move from room to room, doing the following:

    Oldest Child and You–make bed first.

    2nd Child–owns the trash bag and “stow-away basket”, which holds anything belonging in a different room than you’re currently in. Circles the room picking any of these things up.

    3rd Child and/or You–deal with clothing. Hang back up what’s not dirty but found its way to the floor anyway and put all dirty clothes into basket.

    Now, everyone–circle room together, picking up all things out of place on the floor or dresser-tops and putting them back in their homes. If the room is terrible–blankets and pillows first, huge objects like boxes and chairs next, biggest toys after that, then shove together what’s left and put it all away. When a child’s room is really bad, I set a time limit and go in this order until the time is up and move on. You don’t want to get trapped here all day when you’re goal is the whole house.

    5. Bathrooms–I do these as we go along with bedrooms, and if it’s tight I usually either tackle it by myself or assign most of it to one child.

    First, gather all trash.

    Then, put away all clutter.

    Next, I use a clorox wipe to quickly freshen up the sink and toilet. (Remember, you’re catching up this time, so don’t stop to do major jobs like cleaning a nappy bathtub. However, if you have your cleaner right there with you and can contain yourself to an imperfect cleaning, be my guest.)

    Gather any dirty clothes or towels, and move on.

    As I finish each room, I take my baskets and filling trash bag with me. We scavenge through the Stow-Away basket in each new room and put things away.

    6. If the dishwasher’s finished, open it to cool, and let everyone get a drink and potty break.

    [REMEMBER–If your house is bad, decide on how much you’ll do as you hit a room, and then just call it done. You can always get trapped in a room later–not now.

    Let’s say I’m looking into Abram’s room and it looks like a tornado hit. I scan the room quickly and notice that most of it’s toys and blankets. I would say something like, “Okay, we’ll do the bed and all blankets, pillows and stuffed toys. We’ll get 20 big toys each put back (they usually run out of toys before they reach 20). We’ll put the toy box and dress-up bin back in place. Then we’ll pick up 20 small toys each and put them all back and call it done. That usually takes it from chaotic to hope and the next day we can usually finish it off.]

    7. Tidy hallways and entryways as you pass them. Straighten, tuck, and generally just put it back in order.

    8. Main Living Areas–

    1st Child–restores all pillows to the couch, then takes over the trash bag.

    2nd Child–puts away toys or belongings that go in the same room.

    3rd Child or You–tosses any stowaways in Stow-Away basket and if needed vacuum.

    9. Put away all things in Stow-Away basket. Children are great runners if you don’t mind them just placing stuff on the bed in whatever room they belong in.