Happy March, my friends! In this month’s Coffee Break chat, I am journeying down a familiar path I never expected to revisit, sharing the surprisingly simple way we’re dealing with some child behavior problems, and rounding up a few of my recent favorite finds! Take a break with me!

Megan from The Homes I Have Made

Deja Vu

Ten years ago, right around this exact same time, I was living just 2 miles away from where I live right now. In fact, I drive by our old house on an almost-daily basis. Greg was deployed, and my Mom had just passed away. As a result, I was making countless trips up to Virginia to help my Dad and siblings clean out and move out of my childhood home.

Cluttered craft room
My mother’s craft room in my childhood home.

I know many of you have been around since that time; and so you may recall the countless reflections I shared here on the blog about dealing with an excessive amount of stuff; how to deal with elderly parents who don’t want to let go of said stuff; how to sell craft supplies, how to run your own “estate” sale, and on and on.

At the time, the sheer amount of stuff in my parents’ home (and the consequences of dealing with it all) was eye-opening and transformative. It caused me to explore my own relationship with stuff; I worked tirelessly to purge our own home; I read countless books on clutter and became a self-proclaimed decluttering “expert”; I even gave up all shopping for Lent two years in a row.

At the end of this time, not only was my Dad set up in his new smaller and less-cluttered space, but I too felt as though I had gone through a “once and for all” transformation. Never again would I have to deal with his stuff or my stuff in such an overwhelming, all-consuming way.

How does that phrase go, again?? “Never say never” or something like that? Ha.

As my Dad ages, it’s become increasingly apparent that he needs to transition to an even more elderly-friendly space. And after a period of collective hemming and hawing (by him and my siblings together), the rotations back to Virginia have re-started.

Because in those 10 short years, he’s…again…filled that tiny home with more stuff than he needs. There are boxes and piles and papers (and so much more!) that started as simple and benign but have now grown to overwhelming and problematic.

And just like 10 years ago, he is physically and emotionally unable to handle it all on his own, so the troops (aka: my family) are being rallied once again.

Clutter on shelves
My father’s current garage shelves.

And so…all these years later…I find myself in what feels like the exact same place. I’m spending long weekends driving from Camp Lejeune to Virginia to declutter so much excess in my Dad’s home while RE-confronting the larger, heavier questions of stuff, consumption, clutter, needs/wants, burden, and more.

While I am (quite frankly) mad and frustrated that my Dad didn’t fully learn his lesson regarding the accumulation of stuff (and my siblings and I are again carrying the burden of dealing with it), I’m even more so frustrated and embarrassed that I’ve seemingly forgotten some of my own awakenings from a decade ago. Because when I look around my own home…I see my Mom and Dad’s overconsumption habits in me.

And so here we go again…

I’ve hinted that big changes are coming to my family and my home this coming summer. And while I’m still not quite ready to spill all the beans, this deja vu experience is providing even more motivation to embrace the changes I’ve long suspected are needed for myself and my family. I just hope these lessons stick the second time around!

Alllllll the Behavior Charts

I always have to laugh at the little things you dedicated readers notice when I share pictures of my home. Something that is an obscure, minute detail to me catches (many of) your eyes.

So I really shouldn’t have been surprised (although I am a bit) by the amount of questions I received about this photo I shared in a recent Sunday Short

While I was talking about how helpful these unassuming little magnetic clips have been in getting paperwork off our kitchen counters, what some of you really wanted to know about was our son’s behavior chart under the J clip.

Why are we using it? How is it working? What does he earn for all those stars?

Well…let me tell you!

To say that our youngest child, now 4.5, is “spirited” and a “handful” would be an understatement. Shame on me for thinking I have this “Boy Mom” thing figured out, as he challenges us and keeps us on our toes on a minute-by-minute basis. Yes, we adore him to pieces. But he’s… a lot.

Around Halloween, we started experiencing some pretty significant behavior challenges that were new for him and very new to us (as in, we’d never experienced them with our older two sons). What then commenced was a still-ongoing endeavor to manage these behaviors, motivate him to change them, and restore some peace and sanity to our household.

We’ve made some very significant progress, and the key has actually been this behavior chart!

Printable behavior chart

On the advice of a friend who is a special education teacher, I quickly (and quite desperately) whipped up a (very basic) star chart that focuses on just one of the behaviors we need to change. It’s fairly self-explanatory:

  • Each day he does the desired behavior, he gets a star.
  • Once three stars are earned, he gets to pick a prize from our prize bucket.
  • The length of the desired behaviors extends to 5 days, 7 days, 10 days, etc…always earning a prize at each milestone.

Our first goal was “Staying in bed through the entire night.” By the time we reached 20 days in a row, we no longer needed the chart because the desired behavior was achieved (yay for solid nights of sleep!)

Now, we’re working on “No throwing toys when we’re angry.” He’s earned three prizes so far and is working on his 10-day stretch (see above). The next one we’ll be implementing is “No bad words when we’re angry!”

I am about the farthest thing from a child development expert, but I think we’ve had some success with these charts for a few specific reasons:

  1. These charts are focused on one behavior at a time. Yes, it’s taking time and patience working through all the various behaviors we need to fix, but we’re making clear, actual progress by working on one at a time.
  2. These charts are easy to understand and uncomplicated to maintain. Every day, we quickly check-in and use a nearby marker to give him his star. No magnets, no stickers. Quick, simple, effective.
  3. He responds to it. Our kiddo is the kind of kid who understands the chart, is motivated by the prizes, and holds us very accountable to giving him his star. Finding the right motivation for your particular child is key!

This chart isn’t quite “printable” ready but I’ll try to get some formatted for the Toolbox soon!

Recent Favorite Finds

PSA: As I slowly start to re-calibrate the narrative surrounding “stuff” here on the blog, I find myself walking a tricky line. While I like to share items I truly, genuinely love (because they make my life/home/family better, easier, or prettier), I also do not want to promote or urge unnecessary consumption. Know that I’ve done my own reflections before purchasing the items below and always recommend doing your own want/need check-in before clicking “buy” 🙂

Doodle Boards

Our younger two kiddos are BIG into drawing and coloring. And since they get dragged along to lots of events and outings, we wanted a quick and easy way to keep them entertained. We love these light, mess-free, durable all-in-one doodle boards; so much that they are now a permanent item in my purse!

Travel Backpack

Our kids are (finally!) at an age where they can carry their own bags while traveling. Since most of our trips are short, we invested in travel backpacks for every family member, all in different colors so we can tell them apart. I am LOVING not packing the entire family into one, big, messy, heavy suitcase; and each person can now pack and carry their own stuff!

Owala Water Bottles

Tired of a bunch of random, mis-matched, leaky water bottles all over the kitchen, each family member recently got a brand new water bottle (also different colors so we can tell them apart). These bottles totally live up to the hype. We love their design and unique sipping mechanism. Just be sure to get the 24 oz version so they easily fit into cup holders!

3×5″ Cellophane Bags

One of the hardest parts of class Valentines is figuring out how to package them up so that they are easy to deliver. Instead of relying on staples, glue, bands, twist-ties, envelopes, etc, I instead bought these 3×5″ self-sealing bags. Talk about a solution I wish I had tried sooner! Not only are they the perfect size to hold printed Valentines, but they can be filled with candy, toys, etc and then sealed right up. This will be my go-to for all class Valentines from now on!

Ask Megan

You guys always ask the greatest questions, and I love answering them! If you have any topics or questions you’d love to see me cover, submit them via the (anonymous) form below.

Thanks for catching up with me this month!

See You Soon!