Did that catch you off guard? Yes, the name of my company, this blog and website are all the same. It’s been a little while since I’ve shared the background of why I do what I do, every now and then it’s good to share a little more deeply, stories of my “why”.
I didn’t grow up rich but I wasn’t poor either. My family had everything we needed and most things we wanted, as well. I had been to Disney World multiple times by the time I was 4 years old and going to the beach was a common occurrence, usually with a bunch of extended family members along for a week of fun. My family had season passes to Carowinds, an amusement park just outside Charlotte, NC and we spent time twice a year with my mom’s family in Ohio, where more fun was always packed into a few days with my cousins. Every few years we would also go to Universal Studios while we were in Florida at Disney World, and every summer we went to Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock, NC which was a short drive from my hometown. All of this may sound “rich” to some of you, but we didn’t do anything extravagant – ever. We usually at meals at home, cooked by my mom and when my sister and I asked for a new toy my parent’s answer was typically “add it to your birthday or Christmas list”. We didn’t get new toys every time we went to the store – something I’ve noticed is pretty normal nowadays. We didn’t eat out during the week, and our home was very small – with only 1 bathroom for all four of us to share. We also only had one vehicle, a conversion van but it had a back bench seat that converted to a bed, so my sister and I usually begged for it to get laid down, so we had more space to play…because we never had to buckle up if we were in the very back. Our van had a TV and VCR so all our friends always wanted to ride with us since we had built in entertainment for even the shortest of car rides. A lot of my clothes were hand me downs from the twins who lived a street over or from a friend at church. Mostly this was because they were all “teenagers”, and I would beg them to give me their “cool clothes” when they got rid of them. My sister was my first best friend, and we had the time of our lives just living. We didn’t know anything any different. My parents shielded us from as much as they could, but we were also very inquisitive so not much got by us.
I shared all that information to try and paint a picture of my childhood. It was good. Really good. My parents rarely argued, my sister and I fought like normal siblings, but we also had a pact that meant only we were allowed to be mean to each other. If anyone else was mean to either of us it was war. We of course heard about terrible things going on in the world, but it all felt very far away and like it only happened to others.
Then, in my first grandparent passed away, and it seemed like after that everything changed. Before 2010 I had only lost one grandparent. By 2012 my sister had her apartment broken into, had been in a horrific car accident she should not have survived, had an emergency surgery on Easter Sunday to remove her gallbladder, and the Dr told us had she waited even another hour to come in she’d have died as she had become septic. I had lost all four grandparents, my dad, my uncle, my young cousin, another second cousin and a couple other people in my life. Suddenly, I felt loss. I knew loss. Frequently, I felt LOST. We all sort of waited for the next metaphorical shoe to drop.
My mom’s church was planning a mission trip to a remote (that is a massive understatement) village in Honduras and we got word a family friend had donated a large sum of money to the building of a chapel in the village and had asked it to be named in my dad’s memory. My mom, sister and I knew we had to be there as well, so we decided to go on the trip. After flying into San Pedro Sula (on a piece of grass vs a runway I might add) we jumped on a non-air-conditioned school bus for a 4–5-hour drive to Tegucigalpa, where we spent a night in camp style bunk beds and took our last hot shower for a week. The next morning, we climbed into the back of a cattle truck (yes, we all stood up for about an hour ride) and were dropped off literally at the end of a road with a cliff leading to heaven knew where in front of us. The driver waved and drove off and we began an hour-long descent down the mountain and from all civilization and into a village completely unknown to us. We were all excited but nervous as the mountain had no end in sight and we had to sidestep at several part of the descent as there was no ledge and if we fell it meat certain death.
When we finally reached the bottom, we felt relief that we made it, but we were equally unsure if we would make it out alive. The fifteen or so of us spent the next week hand mixing cement, pouring concrete, building a roof, teaching the children about a God who loved them more than they could ever know, holding babies, cooking rice, black beans, plantains and eggs for every meal, every day, and realizing we had never seen such engaged, happy people as these who seemingly didn’t know all they were “missing out on” in the real world, like TV, computers and cell phones. They never stopped smiling and they were just. so. happy.
Once the chapel was built, we had visited the local school and handed out soccer balls, then proceeded to play soccer with the kids, we bathed in the freezing cold stream (our only time to bathe that week) and then started the trek up the mountain. When we finally made it to the top (mind you, we left EVERYTHING behind for the locals in the village, including dirty clothes. You’d have thought we were giving them gold. I remember thinking “I can’t believe they want our dirty clothes”) we spent time walking through the market to get trinkets to take home and I walked into a bakery and saw a woman holding her baby. Being a nanny, I immediately walked over and began playing peek a boo. I asked the lady if I may hold her baby. What happened next has stayed with me all these years. She began crying, kissed her child then handed her to me and walked away. I asked the translator what was going on and he said she realized I was American and could give her baby a better life, so she was giving her little girl to me.
I. was. wrecked.
I carried that little girl around for probably over thirty minutes, all over the market and that mother never once came looking for me or her child. I kept looking at my mom, dumbfounded, through tears and continued praying over the little baby who never cried once. Finally, when it was time to leave, I walked back to the bakery and explained I could not take this little girl home with me. I gave her back, while tears streamed down my face, walked to the school bus, sat in the very back row and cried for the entire drive back to Tegucigalpa.
Some people may have reacted differently, but I was angry, for a long time after that trip. I was angry at the spoiled actions of Americans, and how we insist on living glamorous lives even when we aren’t rich or famous. I was angry that professional athletes get paid ridiculous amounts of money while teachers, police officers and so many others who put their lives on the line everyday barely scrape by. I got angry that we are obsessed with our “super-size” life where everything bigger is better and we make ourselves literally SICK because we don’t know how to deny ourselves anything, ever. I vowed to make major changes then and there and although I didn’t know how yet; I knew I was destined to make a different in my little corner of the world.
I began talking to the kids I nannied for at the time about the “kids in Honduras who didn’t have any shoes or toys” and encouraged them to pick books, toys, clothes, etc they didn’t need or play with for us to give to kids right here in Nashville who didn’t have anything either. I guess you could say Neatly Balanced was launched way back in 2011 although I didn’t actually launch my business until 2020. I started organizing for any and everyone I nannied for or knew who wanted me to and asked if I could take anything they wanted to get rid of to my church, who did a lot of outreach to those less fortunate. From there, I began forming relationships with a lot of organizations around town who were not Goodwill, etc and who were making personal, tangible, hand to hand differences amongst MANY people. I was moved by the outpouring of goodness and appreciation both from those giving and those receiving. It just grew. I would stop by organizations and talk to the people running them, volunteering from time to time and learning more and today, I work with a dozen various organizations in greater Nashville who are mostly woman founded/run, many of whom are faith based but all of whom are making a massive difference in lives every single day.
I am grateful to even be a small part of that difference and I hope to continue to do so, by coming into my client’s homes and organizing spaces with the idea of living a more minimal lifestyle, both to leave a smaller footprint in our world but also to give things they are no longer using to those who do not have even the most basic essentials, much less extras. I am reminded of a story I heard about a little boy walking down the beach picking up starfish and throwing them back into the ocean. An old man walked by and griped “You’re never going to save them all”. The little boy picked up another starfish, threw it in the ocean and said, “maybe not but I just saved that one”. That is the feeling behind all I do. It is so much more than writing a check., although that certainly helps, too. I am not naive to think I am saving the world or fixing every issue in the world but if what I do can bring change to even one person, I feel I am making a difference. I travel nationwide and currently I have clients in six states. I work with realtors who give my information to their clients as I help with packing and unpacking homes before/after a move and even after. I work with everyday people and high-end clientele included professional athletes and musical artists. I also provide tax deductible donations receipts for everything I take so my clients can see exactly where their things go. I often tell my clients I can take literally every single thing as long as it is not broken and is in working condition. I also offer resale options for high end and designer items. I even take half empty shampoo and conditioner bottles to a mobile shower unit for the homeless and beauty products to an organization that provides glam days for inner city youth on prom day. It truly is amazing when I stop to think about the lives touched in the last couple of years, and I simultaneously get excited for where this can go as word starts to spread. I am currently working with the church that coordinated the mission trip to Honduras to begin giving a portion of all Neatly Balanced profit to the village and chapel in Honduras that we helped build as it has forever made an impact in my heart. The sky is the limit, and I am so excited to see what is next!
Thank you to every single person who has worked with me in the past and if you’re new and are interested in booking a consultation or organizational services please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
~Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself also in the LORD and He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.
These verses of scripture have meant so much to me for a long time but especially in the last few years. It is truly my heart’s desire to go to those who need help the most and show them the love of our Savior.