Renewal: Debt-free Living



Taking Stock

It’s Thursday, and that means one thing at my house: budget day!

There are a few things that I do before diving into the budget.

First, I pay tithe

Second, I take stock of the finances.

I am going to save what I mean by paying tithe for a later post and first discuss what it means to take stock.

As mentioned in the first post of this series, we did all of the homework assigned in Financial Peace no matter how brutal. The first assignment was to take stock of our finances.

Taking stock as described by Ramsey is totaling one’s “non-mortgage debt,” including “any money [one] owes on anything.” This means listing totals of credit cards, student loans, bank notes, car loans, outstanding doctor/dentist bills, home equity loans, etc. Everything one may owe outside of the first mortgage and monthly utilities.

This assignment was probably the single most eye-opening assignment of the class. I knew in my head how much we owed and to whom, but I never actually added it all together. Listing our debtors by name or title and the amount we owed to each brought a new level of seriousness to our situation. When I calculated the list and wrote down the total in the workbook, it brought me to a shocking realization: we were in debt more than $50,000. It took the wind right out of me.

What the heck? How did this happen? We can’t possibly own that much?

So I added it together again. The total was the same.

What the heck? None of the bills seem that large! Well, except the two car payments, but that couldn’t be helped. You can’t plan for a deer jumping out of the ditch and totaling your car.

And on and on went the week-long conversation I had with myself.

By the end of the week, I was mad. I remembered going into the first class hopeful that we would learn to live debt free. Now I was determined. It wasn’t a regular type of determination. It was fire and brimstone determination. I walked into the second class ready to get to work and pay off all the debt.

After that class, every Thursday I have taken stock of our finances. I make a grid on a simple sheet of writing paper, write the debtors on the lines, how much we owe, what is paid that week, and how much extra we can afford to pay, and then I total everything up.


A template of the grid I use. As you can see, I am not highly technical. I am positive that using a spreadsheet program would be easier and less time consuming; however, writing it by hand and calculating it myself forces me to pay closer attention to the details.



This is an example of what it looks like filled in. The grid is designed according to Ramsey’s signature “Debt Snowball” – listing debts from smallest to greatest by the balance owed. The amount listed in the “Payment” column is how much is being paid out that week. The “Extra” column is for any additional payments I can make that week.

I do this weekly because we get paid weekly. Plus we make weekly car payments and bi-weekly mortgage payments (I’ll explain why in a later post), so it helps me to keep track of how much we pay and when.

It may seem tedious, but I do this every Thursday for three reasons:

  1. It reminds me of the reality of our situation. By writing it down every week with my own hand, I am forced to claim it and take responsibility for it. That’s is my handwriting. That is my debt.
  2. It reminds me from whence we came. Each week, I am reminded of how much has changed for the better.
  3. It encourages me to not give up. As I see the gap grow between where we started and where we are now, I take pride in writing down a smaller number each week, not to mention the great satisfaction I get from crossing a debtor’s name off the list.

Once I have taken stock of our bills, I am ready to dive into the budget. Taking stock before doing the budget strengthens my resolve to live debt free, and I start cutting out unnecessary spending with a renewed vigor.

As Dave Ramsey says, “If you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”

That’s the goal.

This is an example of what it looks like filled in. The grid is designed according to Ramsey’s signature “Debt Snowball” – listing debts from smallest to greatest by the balance owed. The amount listed in the “Payment” column is how much is being paid out that week. The “Extra” column is for any additional payments I can make that week.

Note: I am not a credit counselor, nor am I or this blog affiliated with Dave Ramsey or Financial Peace University in any capacity other than a student. The following post strictly a testimonial designed to encourage debt-free living.
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Renewal: Debit Free Living


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Note: This blog or blog post is not in any way connected to Dave Ramsey or Financial Peace University other than being written by a student of Financial Peace classes. This blog is not being reimbursed for this testimony. 


Living with debt is sheer nincompoopery (the bad kind, not the funny kind), and believing there is no way around living in debt is sheer nincompoopery (still the bad kind).

My husband and I actually started the journey to becoming debt free two years ago. We were both on the verge of turning 50 and started to look forward to retirement. We needed to dump our debt. The first year, we tried some conventional ideas: paying off the card with the highest interest rate first, making a stricter budget, reduce spending, etc. However, we just weren’t getting anywhere. We didn’t make a dent in our debt.

Feeling a discouraged, some of our friends and family told us about Finacial Peace University, a system not only for getting out of debt but to also live debt free.  We signed up, paid the minimal fee, and started the classes.  It was a bumpy year. A very bumpy year. It taught us more than we had anticipated about debt, finances, and teamwork.  That is why I am adamant that living in debt is sheer nincompoopery.

Living in debt is sheer nincompoopery, and believing you have to live in debt is sheer nincompoopery.

We paid down over 20% of our debt last year, and with renewed focus and motivation, we are ready to be debt free by the end of 2017.

From Whence We Came

This time last year, we were looking at a debt of over $230, 000 (including two mortgages). Without our mortgages, our debt was a little over $50,000. Ouch. Just ouch.

After making a slew of mistakes, false starts, and restarts, we buckled down, made some hard choices, and finished the year with a total debt (including one mortgage) of a tad over $200,000. Without the mortgage, our debt is a smidge over $40,000. Better, but still ouch.

A $10,000 difference in our non-mortgage debt doesn’t seem very substantial; however, when we did pay off is taken into account, it does turn out to be a pretty good start.

We moved across the country in 2008, leaving us with two mortgages on two houses in two different states. By following the steps we learned in Financial Peace, we were able to pay off the mortgage on our first house effectively moving that from the debt column to the revenue column.  On top of that, we were able to pay down our unsecured debt.

It doesn’t look like much, but it puts us in a good position for the start of 2017.

Debt Free by the End of 2017

Starting today and continuing every other Thursday in 2017, I will be journaling our road to renewing our financial lives. Some posts will highlight memories of last year’s journey, and some posts will run concurrent to this year’s journey.   It is one way for us to stay accountable and at the same time encourage others.This is how we started:

If last year taught us anything, it taught us that walking this road is not easy, so blogging is one way for us to stay accountable and at the same time encourage others

First Steps

This is how we started.

  • We enrolled and attended a Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class near us.
  • We went to the class every week without exception.
  • We did all of the homework no matter how brutal or exhausting, and it is brutal and exhausting.

No Regrets

My husband and I do not regret starting down the path of debt-free living. We do regret allowing ourselves to fall into debt in the first place. We both turned 50 in 2016 and are more determined than ever to cut out all debt.

If you are facing retirement, come along on this journey with us. If you are newly married, learn from our mistakes and don’t fall for the debt trap (there’s a reason why it sounds like “death trap”). As Dave Ramsey’s says, “Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else.”

No matter if you are young and single, married and set to retire, or somewhere in between, come along with us on this journey. The more the merrier!

Who’s with us?

Categories: Daily Writing Challenge, Personal | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Challenge Day 2: 20 Facts About Me

I don’t like giving facts about myself.  No matter what I write, I feel like I paint an incomplete picture and leave wide the doors of misinterpretation. Please feel free to ask questions. I’m an open book.


Twenty Things You Never Wanted To Know About Me

1. I am the youngest of 10 children.  I have four brothers and five sisters. I love them all.

2. I was raised Pentecostal by a Pentecostal Holiness father and a grace-giving mother. No, we didn’t dance around with snakes.

3. I lean toward liberal conservatism/conservative liberalism. My Christian friends think I’m liberal, and my non-Christian friends think I’m conservative.

4. A friend recently told me that I demand open-mindedness, and that I have very little patience for people who are closed-minded.

5. My favorite quote is from Aristotle: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

6. I love to learn. I dabble in a wide variety of disciplines; however, English literature and Composition and Rhetoric will always be my true loves.

7. I grew up in a very small, mid-western town. There are definite benefits and definite drawbacks to growing up/living in a rural area that, in my opinion, cannot be rightly compared to the benefits and drawback of growing up/living in an urban area.

8. I’ve never been to Europe, but have dreamt of traveling across Europe by train. A month is all I need.

9. I love to laugh. I also use laughter to break tension. I am a master at the ill-timed joke. That’s why I sit by myself at church.

10. I believe in learning something on vacation. I’m not against fun for fun’s sake, but I think if my family and I

photo credit:

photo credit:

are going to travel all over this beautiful nation of ours, we should come away with some knowledge about it, even if it is as seemingly insignificant as the Unsinkable Molly Brown (of Titanic fame) was never called Molly in her life, her Denver mansion by today’s standards is just a big house, and, by having small metal bowls to hold scented oil welded to the inside of the decorative fireplace screen, she is most likely the inventor of the warmed-oil air freshener.

11. I am a walking oxymoron. I am a considerate control freak, chaotic organizer, an idealist rational, messy clean freak, and lazy health nut. I am sure there are more.

12. A friend recently described me as “a soft and gooey center with a hard outer shell covered in armor with a wall build around for protection.” Seems about right.

13. I didn’t really learn to read until I was a sixth grader. They told my parents that I “didn’t apply myself.” I think it had something to do with my ADD. Regardless, I grew up thinking I was dumb. Imagine my surprise when, at 20, I found out that I wasn’t.

photo credit:

photo credit:

14. I grew up across the street from a Carnegie library.  Until I was a 5th or 6th grader, I was only allowed to check out books if one of my older sisters went with me.

15. Until I was able to check out books by myself, I would stand just inside the library doors, and for a few minutes with my eyes closed I’d breathe deeply, taking in the smell of the books. Then I’d leave without uttering a word to anyone.  I wonder now what the librarian thought of me: What a strange child that little Pinkston girl is. 

16. My entire family has dark brown hair. I secretly wanted to be one of the girls in ABBA, so that I’d be the only girl in the family to have long blonde hair. Maybe then everyone would stop calling me Beth (one of my older sisters).

17. One drawback to having 9 siblings is people I didn’t know would say, “Oh, aren’t you one of the Pinkston girls?”  Yes, I am, and please, for the love of everything good and holy, don’t call me Beth.

18. If Beth wasn’t my sister, we’d be best friends.

19. I cried when my parents sold our family home.

20. I cried again 20 years later when it was blown away by a Nebraska tornado.

That is kind of a bummer place to end. See what I mean about painting an incomplete picture?

Please feel free to browse the archives or ask questions for clarification or out of curiosity. I’m a curious cat myself.

Categories: Daily Writing Challenge, Family, Personal | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Influential Blogger Award

*This award was conferred almost a year ago. Apologies for taking so long to respond. No excuses. Just apologies.*

The title is actually Most Influential Blogger Award, but we all know that I’m not that. I’m not about to claim that I am the “most” at anything, but if I influenced you even in the slightest to laugh, think, question or write, I’m okay with that.

The nomination comes from Mouse of Girl in a Basemeninfluential-bloggert. She does all of those things I listed above and then some.

Mouse gave a sweeping nomination to all her followers, and although I’m not sure she’s even read my blog and the nomination isn’t exactly what one would call personal, I’m taking it anyway.  Like a free sample.

Rules: Answer the questions posed by the

Mouse’s Questions, My Answers

1. What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever encountered? It could be something somebody did or said, something you read, or even a stupid sign you’ve seen posted, just as some examples.  

I have encountered a lot of dumb things in my life. In fact, I write a blog about them. 😉

The dumbest thing I’ve seen recently is a video of a college freshman, at the urging of his fellow classmates, do a trust fall off of the roof of a shed into the ill-prepared arms of 6 – 8 of said classmates. Thank God (and I do mean that literally) he didn’t break his back when he hit the ground. Yes, I know these people personally. *sigh*

2. What kind of car would you drive, if money were no object?

Right now, I would choose a Ford Flex, mainly because I still have kids. If kids weren’t the issue and the car was just for little ol’ me, then a Mazda Miata of course. I wrote a poem once about driving a Miata when I’m old and gray. I may have to dig it up and post it. I think it also involved blowing Pepsi from my nose and whistling at young men.

3. What do you believe makes someone successful?

Doing what they love and loving what they’re doing. I’m not much into money.  I can be miserable no matter how much moolah I have. That’s not entirely true. I’m a pretty happy human being; however, I tend toward “grass is greener” thinking from time to time. I think that’s what gets my butt off the couch to get things done.

4. What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever donned or seen someone else don?

In my hometown in Northeast Nebraska, the Jaycee’s throw a  Costume Party for Halloween. One couple showed up as a hot dog and bun. She was the hot dog and he was the bun. She fit perfectly inside him, which now that I type that, sounds kinda gross. But it really was funny.

5. Do you like sitting right in front of the screen at a movie theater, or in the very back?

Neither. I like to sit smack dab in the middle of the theater with my huge bucket of popcorn and my smuggled-in bottle of Coke and 3 pound bag of Twizzlers.

6. What’s the most vivid dream you’ve ever had?

This is a hard one because I’ve had vivid dreams (my mother called them nightmares) in which I wake screaming, yelling, or in front of the refrigeration all my life.

When I was in the third grade, I dreamed that I opened my lunch box at the foot of my bed and snakes poured out. The kept coming out until they filled my room almost to the top of the bed. Some of them began slithering up my blankets and I started screaming for my mother. I woke balled up against my headboard with my mother wrapped around me stroking my hair gently telling me to wake, my pajamas and hair wet with sweat.

7. What do you believe in?

I believe Jesus Christ and seek to follow Him daily.  (For more of an explanation click here.)  I believe in learning something new everyday, even if it is something small or painful.  I believe we owe it to the everyone to be the best person we can be. You never know who you will influence.

Normally, the nominees would be asked to answer questions that I then pose, but as some of the influential bloggers are professional bloggers, I will just offer their links and leave it to you to check them out.

And the nominees are….

101 Books 

The Bookshelf of Emily J. 

Leanne Cole Photography

Morning Story and Dilbert

Aging Inappropriately 

Not a Day Over 45

Thanks you to the above bloggers for their inspiration and influence on me and so many other bloggers.

Categories: Awards, Personal, Recommendations | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2013 in review

So here it is, 2014.  I remember celebrating the New Year in 1985 and thinking, “Wow, it feels like 1982.” I was a senior in high school in ’85 and finally felt like I could make it in high school.

It takes me a little longer than most to build confidence, but I get there eventually.

When I started blogging in September 2011, I was far from confident that I could generate any type of following, but I did.  I have my 2013 New Year’s resolution – to be better – and family, friends and some awesome fellow bloggers to thank for that.

Was I better in all things? No, not at all, but I made progress in many areas:

  • Health – getting a better grip on my hypothyroidism and Hoshimoto’s decease.  With diet, exercise, and a vitamin regimen of athletic champions I am feeling tremendously better. 😉
  • Driving – I almost made it all year without getting a speeding ticket. Blast you Perry, GA!  Even with that one ticket, I still finished 2013 better than 2012. One more year doing “better” and I’m no longer considered high risk. Whew!
  • Parenting – I took a huge step into the completely uncomfortable and decided to homeschool F and Z this year.  I am not saying in the least that homeschooling makes me a better mother, because I don’t believe that it does; however, it has provided the time needed to uncover deeper causes of some troubling issues.  I am confident that with the information gained I can be a better parent.  I’m just not convinced the discovery is weighty enough to balance the intellectual and emotional scarring they’ve experienced by having me as their teacher.   Only time will tell.
  • WalMart – I didn’t step foot into a WalMart store for all of 2013, and I am a much better person for it! Not to mention my pocketbook is much happier, too.
  • Work – Continuing to tutor homeschooled students in various levels of high school English, I’ve also taken an adjunt English instructor position with an area community college.  I’m not sure how I’m going to juggle all of it, but I’m pretty sure Adderall will be a key player.
  • Financial – In July, I started listening to David Ramsey’s Financial Freedom seminars through Gateway and reading his blog.  I have my budget, my cash, and my plan.  One small credit card paid off, car to be paid off by March, and the first of two big credit cards to be paid by the end of 2014.  You may not understand the magnitude of this step in the better direction. It’s *hands spread shoulder-width apart, fingers spread and bent as if to catch a basketball, and with a deep voice say…* BETTER!

I didn’t do so hot with my reading list or my writing, but I’m not going to allow those two perceived failures to squelch the contentment I feel.  Something has to give, right? Seriously, if I had to choose between spending countless hours completing my book list or spending countless hours discovering what is troubling my child, I am obviously going to spend those hours on my child. Although, it would have been a lot less painful reading the books.   😉

On the lighter side of things, “the stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for” me, and I’m quite happy with it.  My blog stats are better than last years (largely in part to gaining new readers, so thank you new readers of my blog for making my year successful), so I’m feeling good, my friends.  Feeling good, indeed.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report. It’s worth a look. I especially liked the map of the world. I can’t believe people in India read my writing!

So what’s my resolution for 2014?  Is it a cop out to keep the same resolution – to be better?

As I said last year, “I don’t have to beat myself up by not making big enough strides […], because in reality, the goal [to become the best person I can be] is unattainable; however, I can be better. And if I don’t consult the devilish stick that measures me against other people and stick to one simple question – Am I better than I was? – then I can do it.”

I like being better.

How about you?  What is your 2014 resolution?

Categories: Education, Family, Holidays, Parenting, Personal, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Grown-up Christmas List

I wish I could say that my list is so altruistic that includes peace on Earth and that all orphans would find a home. Although peace on Earth would be really cool, and deep down I, of course, wouldn’t turn it down if it actually happened, my Christmas list is more realistic and closer to home.

My 2014 Christmas List
1. A new red crockpot crock. I use my crockpot so much an extra crock would come in handy.

2. A big, chunky, square coffee table, preferably in dark wood, no glass or metal and a shelf on the bottom for blanket storage. But I’m not picky.

3. A housekeeper to come in twice a month and give my house a good scrubbing. Again, I could do it myself, but I’m lazy.

4. Warm, fuzzy house shoes or slippers. What, exactly, is the difference between the two?

5. A bulldog puppy. I already have two dogs, but bulldogs are so quirky.  I need a quirky dog.

6. More readers. Not readers of this blog; although, that would be nice. I’m talking about the little half glasses, specticals if you will, that help old people read tiny print. I used to have a pair for every room in the house, and now I can’t find any of them. So a few pair of readers, preferably red ones.

7. A year supply of ginko biloba, so I can remember where I put my new red readers.

8. To have more smiles than frowns. It’s a residual gift: then my kids have more smile than frowns, and that gives me more smiles than frowns, which causes them to have more smiles than frowns, and on, and on, and on it goes…

Thats the list. Much of it I could buy for myself. I’m just lazy. I want someone to buy it for me.

What’s on your Christmas list?

Categories: Family, Holidays, Personal | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Monday Morning Coffee and a Poem

photo credit: - creative coffee and cafe logos

photo credit: – creative coffee and cafe logos

Continue reading

Categories: Faith, Monday Morning Coffee, Personal, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Call for Humanity

Stop killing each other.


Start saving each other.


Video credit to WeAreChange Gloucestershire.

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I Don’t Need to Watch Dustin Hoffman’s confession video

I haven’t watched the viral video of Dustin Hoffman confessing unattractive women have substance, nor will I.

Not because I’m a hardcore feminist. Not because I don’t believe him.

I’m not going to watch it because I already know that “unattractive” women have substance.

I don’t need Dustin Hoffman or any other celebrity to validate my what I know to be true.

Elephant Journal’s insight that “In today’s pop culture, we’re so affected by a moment of sincerity we mistake it for, you know, integrity” echoes some of my own thoughts about celebrities being sincere on camera, especially accompanied by tears.

Somehow what they say seems a little less sincere.

Actors know how to cry on cue. It’s their job.

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It’s All In My Head


photo snagged from

My absence of late is due to migraines which are triggered by sharp barometric pressure changes, a.k.a. storm systems (check out more information click here, here, and here). I hate to give an ailment that much power over me that it determines what I can and cannot do. For Pete’s sake, I just posted a video of an armless man playing the piano and a guitar, and here I am letting the pain in my head render me incapacitated. Something about not being allowed to make my own choices grates on me. My mom thought it was because I grew up in a world with women burning bras and fighting for equality. My siblings say that I’ve always been that way and would refer to cursed home movies of me dance the rhythm of tantrum at the end of my mother’s arm as she drags me down the sidewalk.  I chalk it up to my dad always telling me that I had a mind and he expected me to use it, and something about being independent and taking care of one’s self. I could be wrong.

My dealings with migraines started in Junior High School (’78/’79). For those of you not familiar with Junior High because you hail from a land that lumps them together with 6th grade and calls it “Middle School,” it is the equivalent to the seventh level of Dante’s hell the 7th and 8th grades. Not a good time to have an incapacitating ailment. Not that there is “a good time,” but it is very unfortunate to have to deal with it when you are in the throws of establishing a soical identity. Not that contracting an incapacitating ailment is ever fortunate, but. . . Good night! This could go on forever. You know what I mean: to couple anything with Junior High exacerbates the problem.

At that time, my migraines were sporadic and would come on at any given moment without warning. My mother told me she also began experiencing the heinous head-crackers in Junior High.

Oh, the joy that is known as heredity.

I was a sophomore or junior in high school when I experienced the worst one of my life.  I was at basketball practice, and the coaches had us scrimmage at the end of practice. I was a point guard. Kay passed the ball inbound to me, and I dribbled down court, passed the ball to my right to Jodi. Jodi faked a bounce pass to Jane who was on the base line and then turned and passed the ball back to me. Without any warning, when the ball touched my finger tips, it felt as if my head crack in half. A searing pain started in the middle of my forehead, shot directly through the middle of my head, and settled in the back of my skull.  In the same moment, I was blind in my left eye. Everything went white and I could barely breathe from the pain.

I finished that play and then asked the coach if I could sit down because I felt sick. I was scared to tell him that I had lost sight in my left eye. I just wanted to go home. Fortunately, we lived across the street. Seriously only 47 steps from the front door of my house to the front door of the school. 21 steps if I ran. My coach told me to go ahead and shower, which I skipped. The vision in my right eye was fading, and I could barely see to do anything.  I grabbed my gear from the locker room and ran the 21 steps home, afraid that I was going blind.

By the time I got to the front door, I was completely without sight and I was on sensory overload. Everything I touched, heard, or smelled made it feel like my head was cracking open a little further. Ringing the doorbell hurt. Hearing cars start caused more pain.  My mother opening the door and asking me why I was standing there with my eyes closed was almost too much to bear.  When I mumbled that my head hurt so badly that I couldn’t see, she grabbed me and drug me upstairs while I screamed in pain. Don’t judge her too harshly. What felt like grabbing and dragging could have been a slight touch and mere support and guidance.

She tried to lay my head down as softly as possible on my pillow, but it felt like she slammed me against the hardest rock she could find. I remember screaming and her apologizing.

I honestly cannot tell you what happened after that. I don’t know if I passed out, if she gave me medication, or what. I am positive, however, that she prayed. And you better believe it wasn’t a wimpy prayer, but a faith filled, Holy Spirit induced, Satan rebuking, there’s power in the blood and name of Jesus Christ kind of prayer.

You didn’t mess with my momma.

And she didn’t leave my side. Or maybe I hope she didn’t leave my side, because, honestly, I can’t remember it clearly.

I do know I was out of school the next day because of a little thing I call the headache hangover, a.k.a. postdrome. That’s the time it takes to rejuvenate after a migraine.  The pain is gone, but the residual effects still linger. For me that means drowsiness, queasiness, and dizziness are accompanied by an inability to speak coherently or process what is being said to me. And please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t ask me questions! Even if I could understand what you are saying, it would take me hours to formulate an answer. Then I’d have to take a nap. The headache hangover can last hours to days after a migraine. (The postdrome phase of a migraine is different for everyone. Click here for more information.)

The day after the postdrome, I’m usually ready to get caught up on everything that was left hanging as I lay in bed. The long to-do list gets created, things get purchased to complete the to-do list, the ball gets rolling and then I get tired. Right now my bedroom is in shambles because I thought it was time to organize and purge all the stuff that ends up in there because no one has a clue where it should go.

Now I’m in need of two extra bookshelves, a filing cabinet (or maybe two), a craft room, and a trip to the Goodwill Donation Center.

Goodwill Looks like I have my to-do list for the rest of the week!

Categories: Family, Personal | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments