Your Worst Packing Mistakes


We all want to be ninjas at packing.  Especially if we’re packing for our kids, too.  Here are some really common mistakes of mine that make the entire process stressful.

1.  Forget to check the weather situation

For our first anniversary, my husband and I went on a vacation to Washington, DC.  It was fun, but would have been a lot more fun if we had checked the weather and not frozen our butts off.

2. Have no idea of what you will do day-to-day

The prospect of needing something and not having it will cause #3 and possibly #8.  And you won’t look your best or will have to go shopping unexpectedly.  Bad.

3. Pack too much of the wrong things and not enough of the right things

Yes I do need 4 pairs of virtually identical flip flops, but I forgot underwear.  Again.

4. Run out of your tools (suit cases, Ziploc bags, etc)

Oh, remember?  That suitcase’s zipper ripped right off the last time we used it.  Did we replace it? No.  Whoops.  FAIL.

5. Pack stuff you don’t love

There is something wrong with me.  When I pack for Christmas, I inevitably believe that I will love to wear sweaters and pack them for daily wear.  I don’t wear them at home because between all the dishes and kids, they just don’t mesh well for me.  But when I pack for travelling, I become very stupid about what’s real in terms of my fashion preferences.

6. Start way too late

For me, gone are the days when 15 minutes and an empty bag complete the packing process.  I now pack for myself and several children, so I require approximately 37 years to pack for an overnight.  That’s an exaggeration.  However, 4 hours is the fastest I’ve ever realistically packed JUST FOR MY KIDS for an overnight, and that was when they were older and easy (no spit-up, predictable diaper patterns, no baby food).  Recently, when we had a TRIP with a variety of weather needs and fanciness needs and other people taking care of kids and a lot of HOOPLA– I started TWO WEEKS ahead of time planning and figuring everything out (including hiding the clothes I wanted to pack).  I am well aware of the seemingly RIDICULOUS nature of that statement, but we had everything we needed and it was one of the least stressful experiences to date.

7.  Use a “system” that’s incompatible with your personality (notes, lists, winging it, etc)

It’s pretty clear that if I ever winged anything, our house would burn down.  So that doesn’t work for me.  But I have very sweet, competent friends who would lose their VERY MINDS if I came at them with the packing list I have saved on my laptop.  Use what actually works for you.  If what you use doesn’t work, make a change.


The first time we traveled with our first child, I pretty well cleaned out all of her dresser drawers.  I was convinced that she would NEED every single onesie we owned.  Unsurprisingly, my husband did NOT enjoy packing the car and it was really hard to find everything we actually needed during the trip.  When we go fishing out in the middle of nowhere, I pack pretty heavily.  Otherwise, I know that we can probably make do or, as a last resort, make a trip to a nearby store.

9. If it’s a long trip, still try to pack enough clothes for the whole time, even though there’s convenient laundry services available

Not only will you have trouble getting it all in your suitcase and car, but you can look forward to wading through a sea of laundry when you get home!

10. Go shopping at the last minute

Does anyone ever have time for this?  This is 100% guaranteed to make my stress shoot through the roof.

Wide Open Spaces


My oldest daughter was in kindergarten and I took her to a classmate’s birthday party.  The house was big and beautiful and I still remember the thought that entered my mind as we traversed on our way through the house to get to the backyard:

There isn’t a bunch of CRAP in here.  There’s so much clean, open SPACE.

There was furniture for sure, and the rooms were decorated, but there were loads of completely empty flat surfaces.

It is way easier to prevent ALL clutter from collecting on a surface when emptiness is expected on that surface.

islandDoes this always work?  No.  It works for my kitchen island and is DELIGHTFUL.  But even with lots of decluttering (I don’t live alone), we need counter space for things.  I found a home in a cabinet for our toaster, but we use it EVERY DAY and it’s a pain to get it out and put it away without getting breadcrumbs everywhere (yes, I dump them somewhat regularly).

So it’s not always possible or practical, but when and where you can do it, you’ll LOVE it.

I pinky swear.

You’ll see your happy, usually clear space being overrun by junk and clear it off much more readily than a space that always has a few items there.

Here’s my rant about floors:

Floors should have furniture on them or nothing at all.  (Unless it’s your friend’s purse, during her visit.  That’s OK.)


Everything’s OK


I think in a lot of ways, we’ve all been over-complicating things a little bit.

We look at the mess with despair.  We break up another fight and we wonder why they’re not GETTING IT.  We infrequently get to have a real conversation with our spouse and we feel that distance.  We want to spend more time with all the people we like, but logistically, it’s just problematic with schedules, naps, tantrums, and dinner to make.  Are your kids happy?  Are they going to get into a good college?  How in the world will you pay for that?  How in the world will you pay for it if your van breaks down or your water heater craps out?  How could you possibly cram another kid into the mix and potty train the one who is so obviously ready?

Can I encourage you for one wee little minute?

Everything is going to be OK.

You’re nailing it.  You’re crushing it.  Don’t worry about the pile of laundry.  Start a load when you finish reading this.  Your kids are happy.  They’re fed.  They’re learning social skills because you’re teaching them.  Text your friend that you’ve been thinking about her, that you miss her.  Unload the dishwasher.  Realize that things ARE NOT going to be perfect and that’s OK.  You’re not perfect.  Anyone who expects that is ridiculous.  God made you and sustains your literal breath all day long and he knows you’re not perfect and that you’re struggling.  That’s why he sent Jesus.  So look at your kid.  Smile at her.  Tell her you love her.  Figure out what you’re going to have for lunch.  Do your day the best you can.  Pray for help in the midst of hard moments.  (A simple “Help!” under your breath is more than sufficient.  Then thank God for his grace in that moment that you recognize you need help and go from there.  What does a grace-filled response look like in that moment?  Clean up the urine or the milk.  Hug the crying kid.  Respond sweetly like you’d need if you forgot to do that thing that someone really needed.)

We all need perspective.

It feels hard.  That’s OK.  Just because we don’t have to walk 3 miles every day to get water for our family doesn’t mean it’s not hard when someone cries through every single meal for a week straight.  Yes, it’s a first-world problem, but it’s still a problem.  Work to fix it.  Train through it.  Take a breath.  Most of us don’t worry about being sex-trafficked or watching our child perish from a curable disease or being under constant threat of war.  We don’t worry about IF we’ll have food, but what combo will cause the fewest fits.  And then we worry that our kids are growing up too entitled and we lob a comment at them about other kids not having enough food EVER.  This world is wrecked.  But Jesus is also making it new, so all is not lost.  Be the change in your day.  If you’ve been in a funk today, in your brain list 5 things you’re grateful for.  Then hug your kids until they wriggle away.  Cover their faces in kisses until you’re both giggling.

We don’t get to decide all the things that happen, but we do get to decide how we respond to them.  Make sure you’re not making it worse for yourself and the people you love.

Keep your priorities straight.  Put away your phone.  Read a stack of books to your kid.  Do you know why old people keep telling you it’s going to go by fast?  Because it is.  And they wish they got to be around little kids more.  So we need the constant reminder to savor our littles.  But sometimes we need breaks from them.  Because little kids get clingy and needy and annoying.  Usually at the worst times.  I make dinner multiple nights each week while someone cries.

Keep doing the things that are working for you.  Think about the things that are a hot mess and see if you can come up with a better way.  I’m awesome at practical solutions.  Comment about what’s not working and we’ll work on it together.  Use the internet to make your life better.  I wasn’t planning on doing this, but I want to help you because there are some ways I can and I often need help, too, so here are some free tools:

  • is a free meal planning site that I built and run.  It has a standard plan, but you can customize it however you want.  Adding your own meals is a snap.
  • is a free Bible reading tool that I also built and run.  I built it to make reading your Bible convenient while working out, but it works just as well while eating a bagel and drinking coffee.

First Day Props


The first day of school is this week in our town.  Fellow parents, one of the least important decisions you have to make is whether or not you’re going to use a prop or not (DO take a picture though, it’s a rite of passage).

If you’re on Pinterest, you’ve no doubt noticed that it is rife with wildly-creative prop ideas. The last 2 years, I’ve worked really hard on the girls’ signs and ALWAYS regretted it.  Sure they’re cute, but they stressed me out and I wished I’d done something simpler that took WAY less time.  So make a choice you WON’T regret.

5 Prop Ideas (Easiest to hardest):

  • Get a blank piece of paper, white or colored according to what you have.  DO NOT GO TO THE STORE TO BUY PAPER.  Draw a big number of what grade your kid is going into.  Maybe write the year (2016).  Maybe let them decorate with stickers.  Kids like their names being on stuff, so write their name on it, too.
  • Let them make their own signs on construction paper or cardboard.  Help them with the parts they can’t accomplish on their own.  It’ll be a fun task for them to help with that’s FOR THEM and something THEY can do to prepare for school.
  • Use an existing chalkboard or white board you have laying around
  • Cut a cardboard box into a square or rectangle.  Cover it in pretty wrapping paper or foil.  Cut out a big number of grade in paper.  Outline it with glue/glitter.  Write kid’s name in glue/glitter.
  • Make a fancier sign from Pinterest: Google pinterest first day of school signs


How to End School Paper Clutter


If you kids aren’t school-aged, you don’t understand, but there is a DELUGE of paper that comes home with kids EVERY DAY.  (Or worse, if there’s a suspicious lack of papers, that means a TIDAL WAVE is coming as soon as your kids teacher discovers he or she has been cramming it all in a sad, sad desk at school.)

This 1 trick will cost you a whopping $0.20 per kid and save you endless frustration when dealing with school paper clutter.
  1. Buy 2 folders per kid
  2. Put 1 folder, labeled for the kid, in a place where he/she knows NOT to mess with it.  This is Mom’s folder of papers for the year.  Special stuff.  Sweet stuff.  Beautiful artwork.  Terrific grades.  Awards.  (I don’t even use the pockets, just place everything in chronologically.)
  3. Put 1 folder, labeled for the kid, in a place where he/she HAS ACCESS to it.  Bookshelf?  Desk?  Maybe even next to yours.  This folder is for your kid to put papers he/she wants to keep.  They are special to him.  (Even if they are only partially colored.)  When this folder is full, have her CLEAN IT OUT.  What papers do you not care about anymore?  Keep what’s important.  Make room for other stuff.

How this conversation goes on a daily basis as we process their folders:

Me: Ok, here’s your stack.  Either put it in your folder or the trash.

Kid: OK

(Kid sorts through stack)

Kid: Where’s [beautiful artwork or worksheet with amazing grade]?

Me: I put it in my folder of special things

(Kid beams ecstatically with pride)

The end.

Obvious teaching points:
  1. There are things to be proud of keep for special reasons.  Let’s celebrate those!
  2. We aren’t going to keep everything.  We don’t need to and it’s impractical to manage.
  3. It’s good to purge periodically.  For everyone of all ages.  Period.
  4. We can work in a system with finite space.  Let’s figure out how to accomplish a goal within a given set of parameters.
  5. We aren’t going to have HUGE amounts of paper floating through the house.  Because that’s awful!  (And my kids tend to start shredding paper if they’re left alone with it for any length of time!)

When trying to figure out this dilemma, I found a post that talked about keeping everything in a paper box and going through it all at the end of the year.  That is SO MUCH SPACE.  A box.  Holy cow, I have too many kids for that!  And talk about an excruciating chore to have at the end of the year when you’re sick of everything school-related!  No, thanks.  I have to go through the papers right away anyway in case there’s an urgent reminder from school (which happens frequently), so let’s toss the trash, save the precious and impressive in Mom’s folder, and let kiddo keep her 37th math worksheet in hers until she’s ready to toss it in 2 months.