As the Thanksgiving season is now over and Christmas is quickly approaching, I am choosing to stay and maybe forever sit in the gratefulness I feel and have. For those possibly new to this blog and also for those who have been with me since my very first blog post in early 2010, I am so grateful. In case you don’t know the back story, my family chose to start a blog in February of 2010, shortly after my father was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer that very quickly spread to his liver, and ultimately took his life a short four months after he was first diagnosed. He was SO well loved, and we quickly were overwhelmed in the best way at just how many people wanted to stay updated on his progress, send cards and come visit him in person. We decided to begin a blog so that we could share the latest news once and focus all our energy and time on the precious few weeks we had with my dad. After he died, I realized writing was my therapy and I naively believed no one would care or read what I wrote, and that I could say anything I wanted, and no one would know. I quickly realized once again; how wrong I was.
To say thank you for showing up week after week and caring enough to read the things I write about doesn’t seem like enough, but I am very grateful for those of you who do. Also, to feel safe and accepted enough to write about any topic I want or need to is also something I don’t take for granted. We live in a world where everything is argumentative, and people get offended or upset about everything, all the time, so the fact that I have never once received a negative comment about what I write about does not go unnoticed.
For those who may not know, or care, right around the time covid entered our lives I decided to take the leap and officially start a business I had been thinking of for a long time – a home organizing business. But it’s a lot more than just organizing. Way back in 2011, my mom’s church planned a mission trip to a remote village in Honduras to build a chapel for the people there to worship in. Someone in the church requested it be named in memory and honor of my father, and we all knew we had to be there for that pivotal moment, so we went. I know for certain none of us dreamed we would encounter all that we did during that week. My life was forever changed in the most amazing and profound way. First, it was excruciating to get there. Details are fuzzy after this long, but I remember we flew out of Charlotte, NC into San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where we then got on a school bus (that had no air conditioning!) for a five-hour drive to Tegucigalpa, where we spent our first night. As we unloaded all our supplies for the week off the school bus and into the camp style dorms we had (females in one, and males in the other, just like at church camp!) we thought “This isn’t bad at all!” Little did we know what was coming! We awoke bright and early the next morning and loaded all our supplies onto the back of a cattle truck (yes, literally) for another hour or so ride to the literal end of the road. After unloading the truck, we looked around and realized when someone pointed at the cliff in front of us, that yes, we were expected to scale the side of a mountain down into the village. Mind you, we had suitcases, huge coolers of water (we had to bring our own as they didn’t have clean drinking water in the village) and supplies to hold a VBS for the children, so it was a LOT of items to carry down this mountain!
When we finally, hours later, made it to the village where we would spend the next few days, I think all of us believed we would never leave. The thought of having to climb back UP that mountain seemed unsettling to say the least. What transpired over the next several days was almost unbelievable. We all came together and alongside the locals, poured and hand mixed cement, which would become the floor of the chapel, ate more rice, black beans, eggs and plantains than one would ever believe (It’s all we ate, every meal, every day for 5 days straight), made more coffee filter flowers for the girls and inflated soccer balls for the boys, then proceeded to play soccer every afternoon and slowly (for some, quickly for most) we fell in love with everything about this beautiful place. We were completely disconnected from the world – we had no TV, cell phones, internet/computers, and we sang songs, shared stories and handed out supplies which they hadn’t dreamed of receiving and we were SO HAPPY. We watched the sun rise and sun set every day, were surrounded by the most luscious, green, tropical looking trees and we bathed (once, in five days!) in freezing cold stream water and we smiled. Laughed. Prayed from the deepest parts of our hearts. I don’t know what I’ve ever felt MORE connected when I was actually disconnected from what most would say were necessities.
On the day we left the village and climbed up the mountain we were rewarded with a day in the market, where we could (and did!) buy fresh bread, souvenirs and trinkets to remind us of our time there. I was given an experience that I will never forget for the rest of my life and is what became the catalyst of my desire to start Neatly Balanced Home Organizing.
I was strolling with my mom and sister up and down the streets looking in various places at all the items offered, when I saw a bakery. Feeling a little hungry I asked our translator to go with us so I could order something. (All those years of Spanish in high school and college did me very little good! Ha!) I walked in and there was no one else there other than the lady who owned the place. She was holding the sweetest little baby girl and through our translator I asked if I could hold her. The lady had silent tears sliding down her cheeks as she kissed and hugged the baby girl for what seemed like a long time. She then handed me her baby and walked away. I was confused and asked the translator what happened. I tried to explain I was a nanny and just loved kids. The translator got teary eyed and said the lady realized I was American and knew I could give her baby a life she’d never be able to, and so she was giving me her child. To keep. I not so silently began to cry and walked out the door with the baby praying over her, praying for God to somehow take care of ALL their needs as only He can, and to provide a safe home and family for her. I asked the translator the child’s name, and he said Abigail. After a few minutes I walked back to the bakery and gave Abigail back to the woman, explaining I simply could not take her. I then walked to the school bus, went to the very back row and sat curled into a ball for the entire drive back and cried my heart out. I cried for Abigail, and for her mom who didn’t think she could give her the life she deserved. I also cried for all the children we were leaving behind in the village, knowing I’d grown attached during that week but that I’d more than likely never see them again. I cried for the spoiled nature of most Americans who live a life of luxury many people in the rest of the world will never comprehend, and I cried for those very same spoiled Americans who would rather write a check or, in many cases do absolutely nothing for the many people living in a way Americans cannot comprehend. I was broken. I was also adamant that I would not simply sit back and do nothing.
Shortly after I got back from that trip, I began offering to clean out, purge, and donate anything items the families I nannied for no longer needed. I did that for years, getting tax deductible donation receipts for any and everything I cleaned out. The thing was, for the most part everything was going to Goodwill, and when I shopped at Goodwill, I never saw the President/CEO of the company walking around the store. However, when I went to the smaller, local organizations I slowly began researching and seeking out, I CONSTANTLY saw the founders, CEO’s, Presidents of each place WORKING. It was not lost on me and had a profound effect on the places I began working with. I sought out female led and owned places, and also places that put an emphasis on Christian morals and beliefs. It filled me with such happiness when I took carloads of items one person no longer needed and often, I watched the people who DID need these items get handed them right in front of me. It was so different than the times I’d pull up to Goodwill to bring donations and they’d barely acknowledge me and tell me to “just put it there” in random bins which filled the back of the stock rooms, seemingly forgotten. I’m not trying to bash what one place does vs another, but it WAS vastly different approaches.
Fast forward to 2020, I was contemplating what the next season of my life would hold and shared with my husband how fulfilling I found my work with clients when I was organizing and taking donations to organizations with whom I’d formed friendships with, in most cases. With his support, I began advertising my services on social media and our local Facebook community pages. Maybe it was covid and the fact that so many people were now finding themselves with a surplus of time, and maybe it was something else, but I was quickly booking clients four and five weeks out, working most every night AFTER leaving my full-time job. It was exhilarating but also exhausting since I now found myself working 60+ hours a week. With a lot of trial and even more error, I found my footing, built a website, had business cards printed and quickly found myself in the homes of huge fashion influencers, country music artists, stylists and bloggers!
Two years later, I am still growing, still learning about more organizations I can help every day, and I now work with a PR genius who is helping me take my business to the next level. Taking it back to the beginning of this blog post, I am eternally, abundantly grateful and am quite often left speechless at all the many blessings God has bestowed upon me. I know the Bible says to whom much is given, much is required, and I am more than willing to be here to help serve those less fortunate more and more, and in greater ways than I previously have. It is through Him and Him alone than I am able to do this, and I truly thank God every day for all He has given me.
I would love to help you organize, purge and donate any and everything you no longer need as well, and I travel nationwide! I provide donation receipts that are tax deductible and many times the receipts are for more than what I charge to organize so the entire thing is a write off! Below are just a few of the organizations around Nashville that I have partnered with and help serve on a weekly basis:
Ten Thirty Five – “It is our hope to plant a seed in allowing young women to identify those gifts and strengths while finding confidence in who they are created to be. We do this through mentoring and fashion. We will begin with a curriculum developed to help these young women identify these strengths. They will also be welcomed into our upscale thrift store to pick out and take home clothing for free that best fits their needs.”
Nashville Rescue Mission – Nashville Rescue Mission is a Christ-centered community dedicated to providing hope for today, hope for tomorrow, and hope for eternity to the hungry, homeless, and hurting.
Hope Clinic for Women and Children – As the Mission began to see more women experiencing homelessness walk through our doors, especially those with small children, we knew it was time to do something more. These women and children need more than food, clothing, and shelter to break the cycle of homelessness. They need services and support that will allow them to plan for a better tomorrow and take them out of a shelter environment, and put them on the path to independent and sustainable housing.
Nashville Anti Human Trafficking – Nashville Anti-Human Trafficking is a Christ centered team of intervention specialists who rescue and restore women and children from the bondage of human trafficking.
The Little Pantry that Could – Our shoppers’ needs are very real and whatever way we can help, we will. Food assistance – fresh fruits and vegetables, and a variety of shelf-stable goods to anyone in need is our primary mission. We strive to make a personal connection with each shopper, letting them know that they are cared for and that they are important to us.
Welcome Home Ministries – From a destructive way of life in addiction to alcohol and drugs to an abstinence-based, sober living community of healing and wholeness, men who enter Welcome Home Ministries’ alcohol and drug recovery program are welcomed with open arms, compassion and grace.
Cumberland Crisis Pregnancy Center – Since 1987, the Cumberland Crisis Pregnancy Center (CCPC) has been providing resources and support for young women and families facing the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. All services are free and available to everyone regardless of race, religion, age, or gender. No one in need would ever be turned away.
Shower Up – Shower Up serves those experiencing homelessness and anyone in need by providing mobile showers, hygiene resources, and personal care. It’s our goal to Shower Grace, Hope, and Love with everyone. Shower Up is a non-profit organization.
Dress for Success – The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.
I was also blessed to recently help a high school in Kentucky, through a teacher who reached out to me via Instagram, after the tornadoes devastated so many of the students and teachers at that school. I sent multiple giant trash bags of clothes, shoes and other necessities to help, and hope to help other organizations who reach out in need of help. The Bible says in Matthew 25:40 “Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.” (MSG Version) The desire of my heart is that one day, no one will feel less than or overlooked, but will feel hope, love and compassion from everyone they encounter. I also hope that we who are so blessed to live in the United States of America learn to be content with less, and truly appreciate and use what we have.
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love ” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NKJV).