Our Trip: IKEA, Cancer Stinks, and Organizing Projects (&Tips)

With that headline you don’t know what to make of this post, do you?

This past week Jessie and I were in East Tennessee visiting a best friend from high school. I had been trying to get back up here for a long while and the timing finally worked out.  Ya’ll know Jessie keeps a very active calendar and trying to fit in a week-long trip where she isn’t missing much (she would make me miserable in that case!) is hard to do.

My First Trip to IKEA!!!

If you missed the Facebook post, Pam and I  met in Atlanta (she was coming from her parent’s house in GA after Thanksgiving) and spent 51/2 hours in IKEA! We both love to shop, she loves IKEA, and I had never been to one so I had to see it ALL. She’s been to IKEA many times and we beat her record for the longest time spent there. I’ll admit 5 1/2 hours is crazy long BUT That did include time that we ate lunch in their cafeteria too.  Thankfully for the hubby, I drive a Camry and was limited in what I could fit in my car. This was my first trip to IKEA, but I’m 100% sure it won’t be my last.

I’ve heard Pam talk about IKEA for years. She even buys little things like ziploc bags and batteries there every time she goes. I told her to pose so I could tell everyone I had been given the tour by the QUEEN of IKEA. She knows where every section is and can tell you where to find anything you’re looking for!

A lot of the decor at IKEA is a little more modern than my taste, but there was still so much that I loved.  The furniture pieces that offer great storage and organization….I wanted to buy it ALL.

I bought this storage cube piece for Jessie’s room. We’ve been working on her room for several months now.  I’ll eventually get around to a blog post on all the changes 🙂  We are  working toward her room being more adult. She’s 17, and we want her room to suit her more grown up taste now and function in the ways that best suit her needs and preferences.

Jessie and Pam.  They’re smiling here, but this is at the end of our shopping and we were all worn out.

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Thankfully, I had just gotten this wheelchair/transport chair right before our trip. There was no way Jessie could have done all that walking.  In this pic, Pam had gone out to her car to get something and Jessie was pushing the cart while I pushed her wheelchair.  That was a little bit of an adventure.

Pam has cancer.  It’s in her bones and in addition to other ways it affects her, it makes it hard for her to travel long distances.  Her sweet daddy paid for a hotel (so she wouldn’t push herself) so her trip home could be broken up into two days. That benefitted Jessie and me too, after all that shopping we were glad we weren’t trying to make it all the way to her house in Tennessee the same day.

Jessie LOVES to stay in a hotel.  She likes to color at the desk and chill out on the bed watching tv.  She also loves when they have a “breakfast room” as she calls it.

The next morning, after breakfast we got back on our way.  When we were just an hour or so from her home, we stopped at a big flea market..  The main thing I found there were some stocking stuffers for my grown up kids.  It can be tough to find cool items for their stockings that aren’t expensive and aren’t just junk. I won’t share those in case one of my kids reads this (unlikely).

Cancer stinks.   How can I help? Organizing house projects!

Pam and I talk sometimes every day, but at least every few days.  Over time, I’ve picked up on some projects she really wanted and needed  to do in her home that she can’t do on her own. I’ve wanted to come visit and I’ve also really wanted to come help Pam with some projects.

Pam has been dealing with cancer for 9 years. The cancer itself and the medicines she takes mean she can’t do everything she used to be able to do, or wishes she could.  She has good days and bad days.  Some chemo’s have more harsh effects than others.  They eventually stop working and she has to switch to another drug and adjust to new side effects.

Pam has a positive attitude about it all, but it’s really hard for her and would be for anyone, that there are many things she can’t get done without help. Once I get a project on my mind, I’m a person who really wants to get it done when I want it done. (Just ask the hubby 😬). Knowing how badly she wanted to do them,  her undone projects have been on my mind and bugging me like they were my own.

She has friends closer by that come to help her but most of them work full-time in addition to a full mom-life schedule.  Since I’m at home with Jessie I’m a little more free to stay long enough for a more in-depth project.

I really love organizing so this is a great way for me to be of help!

Some might think it crazy, but I really love organizing.  If it involves a label maker, yeehaw!  I have the older version of this label maker and love it.  Seeing items all straight, contained and labelled when the project is done makes me all sorts of happy.

After I went to TN the first time to help Pam, she told me I should consider working as a professional organizer.  She has hired a professional organizer a couple of times in the past and said my work was as good as hers.  I don’t know how to get started and market myself for that but it would be work I would enjoy doing!

The Pantry

This trip I cleaned out and organized her pantry. This wasn’t on our project list, but on a day Pam woke up with a migraine, I couldn’t work on the planned projects without her input.  I was ready to get to work so I busied myself organizing her pantry.  I did have to ask a few questions about her preferences, but this was a project I could do mostly on my own till she felt better.

She actually has two separate pantry areas. Sometimes other people put away groceries,  and she ends up with duplicates because she thought she was out of an item that was in a different place.  I labelled as much as I could to help things end back up in the same place each time.  All of her food is stored here, not in any cabinets.  This first pantry has an AC intake in the bottom area. The other has shelves that go far back so it’s easy to lose things. We organized it in ways that work the best with the space we have.

Most of us have some something we wish we could change, when it comes to our kitchen. She would like it better if it could all be stored in one larger pantry, but we think this will work pretty well.

This is her pantry that is in the kitchen.  The shelf risers are from IKEA.  She had put some linoleum flooring over the wire shelves to make it a solid surface.  The shelf risers that are turned sideways want to slip off.  She’s planning to add some double sided tape or velcro to make them stay put.
This pantry is just off the kitchen in the laundry area. When this shelving and storage space was added a couple of years ago this gave her a lot more storage!

The Spare Bedroom Closet

This closet was full when we started.  We took almost everything out and she went through most of the boxes. She got rid of bags and bags of trash and boxes of donations.  When we went to town for her doctor visit we dropped off all the donations we had at that point and the day before I left I re-loaded her car with more donations to be be dropped off the next day.

What seems to be small unboxed items on left are ones that she wants to work up into different Christmas boxes when she takes her tree down.

This closet will look even better when she has taken her tree down and boxed everything for Christmas.

TIP #1:  Have your mind set on what you want to achieve.

She quickly and ruthlessly made decisions to get rid of a LOT of stuff. This closet has been on her mind for a long time.  She was mentally prepared to part with stuff knowing she wanted this closet to have a lot less in it when we finished.  She didn’t want to leave decisions unmade that would lead to needing to go through it all again.

TIP #2: In some instances, it’s better not to get slowed down on your big project with the more emotional, difficult to sort through stuff.  Make a plan for that.

There were a few boxes that would have slowed down our progress and we might not have gotten to finish before I went home.  We set aside 3 or 4 boxes of items for her to go through more slowly, but the amount we left unfinished wasn’t overwhelming.  We put them in her living room, where she can go through them leisurely but they aren’t out of sight.  (Out of sight out of mind.) So she will get them done as quickly as she can. 

We Decorated for Christmas

Pam had told me she wasn’t going to decorate for Christmas this year because she couldn’t get to her stuff or decorate by herself.  We can’t be having that!  So I really wanted to help her decorate.  All of her Christmas decorations were in the closet I shared above.  She went through many (and got rid of some) of the decorations as we pulled stuff out.

She plans to reorganize all of her Christmas boxes as she puts away her Christmas decor.  This way, if she only wants to use a smaller tree or decorations she sits around the house, she can get to those specific items without having to open all the boxes.

Pam and I both love to watch Hallmark Christmas movies and it was really nice to watch them each night by tree light.

Elf decorations had never caught my eye before. Now, knowing that Pam loves them, I notice all the elves. I love the elf feet sticking out of her tree.

We didn’t get to everything I had hoped. Isn’t that always the way?

Pam has a craft/sewing/hobby room that she can’t use.  When there isn’t a place to put things, it always seems to go there.  We all have that space in our home when we shove things when we don’t know yet what to do with them. (I  mean I do, don’t you?!)

I really had hoped we could work on her hobby room so it would be more functional. On the days that she feels well and wants to be creative she would have a place and be able to get to all her crafty things.  We just couldn’t get to it this trip and it bugs me that we didn’t.  Jessie usually has a spring-break week from most of her activities.  We may try to make it back in the spring for round 2.

We can all find a way to serve. It might be a stranger, a neighbor or close friend.  What that looks like is different in every season of life.

As a stay at home mom, there have been seasons where I felt I didn’t have much to offer in the way of serving others outside my home.  When all my kids were young I felt like I had nothing to give.  While that wasn’t entirely true, most of my energies were needed and used inside the walls of our home.

Now that 2 are grown and Jessie is older and more independent, I find that God puts before me opportunities to serve that I can do BECAUSE I am a stay at home mom and have time others might not.

Whatever our life situation, God equips us to be able to be a blessing to others.  You may not have $ to give, but look around for a way you might serve others with your time, if time is what you have.

When we arrived back home on Sunday night we just had time to unload the car, change clothes and get to a Christmas celebration at Jordan’s (my oldest daughter) church.  It was such a wonderful opportunity, still early in the month, to get my mind and heart turned toward worshipping the one at the center of Christmas.  In this season it’s so easy to get too busy, so busy we lose sight of why we celebrate.

As I hit publish on this post today, I’m praying you’re having a joyful December.  Thinking back on an older Chris Tomlin song, I hope you know you are loved by the King and that makes your heart want to sing <3




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