Life with Ladybug: How to de-clutter (written by a recovering slob)

By Shannon Magsam, co-founder of and mama to 1 little lady(bug) cleaning

My husband took two straight weeks off from work this summer.

We went to Florida one week and the next week we stayed closer to home and did something we grasshoppers have never done before while on vacation: we purged.

We cleaned out closets, the garage, the office, Ladybug’s bedroom.

Nobody was more surprised than we were that we’d spent vacation days doing something so boring.

But we’ve been realizing something over the years: less clutter equals less stress.

Nothing gets my husband’s goat quite like going out to the garage to find a tool, only to trip over a mountain of misplaced crap to reach that tool (which is likely covered in more junk that we haven’t used in three years).

What we did with all that stuff: We took two old microwave ovens to the Washington County Environmental Affairs office (they deal with electronics), left two old vacuum cleaners and a few other odds and ends by the curb for the city to pick up, and we took LOTS of stuff to Goodwill (including two old fax machines). We took our nice, but we-never-wear-them clothes to Plato’s closet and got a little cash. We took a huge collection of books to the Dickson Street Bookstore to sell.

As we moved through various parts of the house, de-cluttering and cleaning like fiends, we got to experience something we quite liked: we started enjoying our house more.

The more we purged, the better we liked it.

Therefore, I highly recommend you try it, too. If you’re into that, here are my Top 5 How-To De-clutter Tips, written by a recovering slob (that would be me):

1. Don’t overthink it. If you do, you’ll spend all your time trying to gather cleaning supplies and trash bags and then your energy will be sapped before you even get started. If you want to clean out your closet, just go in there and start pulling stuff out.

Start making piles: of things you want to keep, things you want to give away and things you want to throw away. If you wait until the end of the drag-things-out-and-assess-them exercise then you’ll know if you need more bins for storage or a over-the-door shoe cubby.

Or maybe you’ll get rid of most everything and you won’t need any of this. Chances are you only wear about six things in your closet over and over anyway.

2. Do it when you’re in the mood. I know, some of you are thinking it will never happen if you wait until the mood strikes. But if you start thinking about how good you’ll feel once it’s over, you WILL get in the mood. And one victory will make you want to score another one. Organized the closet? Yes! Now you know how good it will feel to get that bathroom de-cluttered!

3. Find a cleaning buddy. Having my husband work with me while he was home on vacation made it lots more fun — and productive. Maybe you and a friend can switch out helping each other purge. When it comes to almost anything (including exercise) it’s better with a friend.

4. Be brutal. If you’re in doubt, throw it out. I have been absolutely ruthless with my own crap and my daughter’s crap. I tossed stuff I’d kept for years — or I donated it if it was in good shape. It feels good knowing that some other child will get to enjoy my daughter’s puzzles, books or clothes now that she’s outgrown them.

5. Win small battles first. You must have small, obtainable goals. You need to tackle one area at a time, not the whole house. That would be too overwhelming. Once you’ve conquered a few smaller projects you’ll feel more confident to stand atop the rubble of bigger projects with your big ole victory flag.

Some extra slobster notes: The older I get, the less I enjoy “things”. I used to collect little trinkets, cute figurines and mementos from trips. Not anymore. I like experiences. Now the only things I bring back from trips are memories and pictures.

Well, while were in Florida that first vacation week I did buy a whimsical refrigerator magnet.

Speaking of the refrigerator … you’re next, mister!

Not today, though. Because today’s my birthday. I may de-clutter while on vacation, but this grasshopper refuses to clean out the refrigerator on her birthday.

shan, blue dress, circleShannon Magsam is mama to Ladybug (a salty/sweet tween girl who still likes things like superheroes and unicorns, thank goodness) is wife to newspaperman/entrepreneur John and is co-founder of

Life with Ladybug: Back to life. Back to reality.

shan at the beach

On our way back from Panama City Beach in Florida, we stopped by my parents’ house to spend the night – and to pick up a chicken.

No, not KFC. Against my better judgment, we were bringing home one of the chickens from my mom’s flock to join our lone chicken survivor, Tessa (we lost our other two chickens recently).

That morning, as we visited over my mother’s homemade waffles, she commented, “Well, vacation is over. Back to reality.”

I groaned at her words, but as I took another sip of my hot tea, I realized that the thought didn’t actually make me sad. I pondered over why that was and came to the conclusion that I love my work, my community, my life.

My reality doesn’t bite. So heading back wasn’t a bad thing.

Sure, there are plenty of things I’ll miss about vacation. Things like:

The food. No cooking! No clean-up! One of my favorite meals was at Great Southern Café (my daughter also gave this restaurant the Best Lemonade Award from along all the places we ate along the Panhandle). We also had fun seeing the alligators and eating crab legs at Bayou Bill’s Crab House. I’m not typically a sushi fan, but we also had a great experience at the restaurant FireFly. Our waiter was amazing and had actually lived in NWA for a time a few years back. I tried my husband’s Bubba Roll and it was gooooood. It was cooked, so I didn’t get all ooged out about raw fish. I also loved my Caesar salad with blue crab.

Great Southern Cafe salad

Great Southern Cafe salad

The sunsets. Wow, those Florida sunsets. Gorgeous.


The ocean sounds. I love the sounds of waves lapping against the shore. I even have a sound machine so I can hear the beach anytime, right here in Northwest Arkansas. Granted, it doesn’t sound exactly the same, but it still has a calming effect.

view from our balcony

The view from our balcony

Endless fun without the interruption of work. I didn’t say “Hang on! Just let me answer this one last email” even once. My daughter noticed.

The awesome pillows. Seriously, I miss my Holiday Inn Resort bed pillow. That was a first.

Riding bikes at Rosemary Beach. We had a great time riding around the little town. It’s so pretty!

That eclectic book store. We loved visiting Sun Dog books while we were visiting Seaside. It’s so adorable and we bought a few new beach reads (as if we didn’t already have a stack to mow through).

Sun Dog Books, Seaside

Sun Dog Books, Seaside

But, truthfully?

I’m glad to be back home where reality is doing laundry from the trip, jumping with both feet back into my work groove, setting up lunches with friends and enjoying Game of Thrones marathons with my husband (where I can mostly be found with my eyes shut tight, my fingers in my ears and humming so I can’t see or hear what’s on the screen).

That said, I do believe vacations – or even staycations where the whole family is out of their routine together – is a balm for the soul. It’s nice to be pampered and to experience the bonding that naturally happens when you have fun together as a family unit. And the beach is my happy place (my husband’s, too).

As I took my dishes to my mother’s sink after breakfast, I remembered that the day before we left Florida, my daughter expressed regret at having to come back home.

And I told her: “It is better to have vacationed and departed than to never have vacationed before.”

Au revoir, Panama City Beach. Hello, realistic {lovely} life.

shan, blue dress, circleShannon Magsam is mama to Ladybug (a salty/sweet tween girl who still likes things like superheroes and unicorns, thank goodness) is wife to newspaperman/entrepreneur John and is co-founder of

Life with Ladybug: Backyard chickens, rest in peace

Dot, ready for her close-up

By Shannon Magsam, co-founder of and mama to 1 little lady(bug)

I won’t ever look at a Saltine cracker again without thinking about our backyard chickens.

They liked a little wheat bread tossed out the back door from time to time, but Saltines? Oh yeah. They’d fight mightily over those.

I’m writing in past tense, but we do have one left: Tessa. She reminds me of the Little Red Hen from one of my favorite children’s books and, as of this morning, she’s all alone in the backyard.

Her buddy Shawnna, a black and white checkered beauty, died three weeks ago and my husband found Dot, the feistiest of them all, dead in their coop this morning when he went out to let them loose into the backyard. (That’s a close-up of Dot in the picture above. Ladybug took it last spring.)

I told my husband through hot, bitter tears this morning: “I don’t think I’m cut out to be a backyard chicken farmer.”

When you have a huge flock it might be easier to lose a few. But when you start out with the three amigos and you’re down to the lone survivor it’s a sad sight. The little red hen has been searching all morning for her friend. She calls out, loudly, but there’s no answer.

With Shawnna, we had tried valiantly for weeks to keep her alive, even taking her to a vet. I had thought at the time it would be better if she had just died quickly. But then this morning. With Dot. I felt like I hadn’t really had a chance to say goodbye, which I did with her sister.

When my husband dug the grave out back, it was a lot of work to cut through all the rocks and roots. It was a fairly large box we buried Dot in. While he worked, flashes of panic gripped me. What if I woke up one morning and found that he had died?

Death reminds us of death. Deaths of those who have gone before, deaths that will come later, our future deaths. All uncertain. I do have hope, though, for the afterlife. I cling to that hope.

If I managed one smile this morning, from the time my husband woke me up to tell me the bad news to the time I had to tell our daughter the same, it was when I pictured Shawnna running up to Dot as she reached heaven, calling her over to the best spot for scratching out bugs.

And the spot where a nice heavenly host tosses them the occasional manna – or maybe even a Saltine cracker.

Chicken collage

Life with Ladybug: What did I forget again?

Life with Ladybug logo

By Shannon Magsam, co-founder of nwaMotherlode and mama to 1 little lady(bug)

My memory is shot, y’all.

If I don’t write it down, set my iPhone alarm – or the timer on the oven, when I’m cooking – I’m toast. Burnt toast, on those occasions I forget to set an alarm.

Actually, toast is pretty safe, since it doesn’t require my attention for the final pop-up. But you can bet there are some nights when I’m cleaning the kitchen and, as I wipe down the stove, notice a stone cold piece of toast still waiting forlornly in the toaster from breakfast.

alarm clockIf I don’t set an alarm, it – whatever “it” is — just usually doesn’t get done. Well, either an alarm or getting it written down on my to-do list.

I update my to-do list every night so it’s fresh and un-jumbled for tackling in the morning.

I also have an old-timey calendar hanging by my desk and it’s full of notes in those little squares with the day’s date. I make sure to check that calendar multiple times a day in case I may have forgotten something.

My memory has always been a little tricky. It seems like the childhood memories that stuck with me are all associated with a strong emotional event.

Or, as I tell my husband, my early childhood was pretty low-key, without too much turmoil, so the days may have blurred together a bit.

It went something like this: play with friends or siblings outside in the woods, eat lots of delicious food that my mother cooks without fail, sneak into my daddy’s truck for an extra Little Debbie’s sugar hit, visit the grandparents, play with the cousins. Rinse and repeat.

The teen years are a little more memorable. See above: strong emotional event. I think many of my memories are tinged with emotion from about ages 13-16. (Sorry, mom.)

Sometimes I get so frustrated, I have to look at the bright side of my bad memory. If you insulted me, for instance, back in 2005 I may have already forgotten it. It’s easy to forgive and forget this way (what a peace-loving perk!).

My mother’s memory, on the other hand, is elephant-like and she often brings up stories from my teen years that embarrass me in front of my husband. I’ll look blank, and she’ll say, “Don’t you remember that?”

Way too often the answer is a big fat no.

Of course, there are those times when I can remember things that my mom, brothers and sister can’t, and those occasional memory wins make my day.

I like to think that multi-tasking is the reason I sometimes feel so scattered. I know I need to focus on one thing at a time, but that concept strikes me as the impossible dream.

I started this blog, partially, as a way to remember. I love to look back over my posts and see what my little Ladybug was doing when she was 6 or 8. I like to read about my state of mind at the moment. It’s good to keep records. I may not be able to remember everything and I won’t always be around to remember – or forget — but the stories will stand.

In the meantime, I’ll I need all those bells and whistles.

Do you have a good memory? Any tips on how I can hang on to my remaining memory cells? Or, you know, whatever those things are called. How do you ensure you don’t forget and drop one of those important household/work/kid balls?

Blue dress, shannon, croppedShannon is co-founder of nwaMotherlode, and married to John, awesome dad to their 12-year-old daughter, Ladybug. If you have any comment about your memory, lack thereof, or tips, feel free to leave them below! Comments are the marshmallows in Shannon’s Cheerios (or something like that). Have a happy Thursday!

Life with Ladybug: Borrowing my daughter’s clothes

By Shannon Magsam

Last night, I gathered my Ladybug into a bear hug and realized something I’ve known was coming: my baby’s taller than me.

It was made official when I took her to the doctor a little over a week ago and they measured her height.

Now, for those of you who know me, you’re probably thinking, “Well, you’re not exactly tall.” And that’s true. I’m not even five feet, so it’s not a big stretch to imagine my daughter would outgrow me.

I’m glad she’s going to be a little taller, although I’ve never minded being “short”. But it’s a momentous occasion when your little Ladybug outgrows you.

mom loves me tshirtWhat’s most jarring is that we can wear the same clothes. Ladybug accuses me of buying clothes for her that I know she won’t really like, just so I can keep them. I DO buy clothes for her with no guilt, but don’t buy them for myself as readily, so there could be something to that. :)

Of course, I’m not too keen on wearing shirts covered with pictures of cats or phrases like, “You are so Cray Cray” with  dancing crayons on the front. Those were definitely bought with her in mind.

Yep, she’s literally growing up before my eyes – and now above them.

After that bear hug, we marveled at how tall she’s getting and how, when she was a baby, the pediatrician predicted she would be REALLY tall. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but I suppose it’s possible. (Read this article on WebMD if you’re curious about when kids stop growing and predicting height.)

When it was time for sleep last night, I sat on the edge of Ladybug’s bed, and we talked. It’s still one of her favorite things, though I often tell her it’s too late and she needs to go right to sleep. We chatted about her day, a little school drama (in sixth grade there’s always something) and she suddenly called me her friend.

“Your mother or your friend?” I asked, remembering all those parenting books that warn: YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE YOUR CHILD’S FRIEND. THEY HAVE LOTS OF FRIENDS BUT ONLY ONE MOTHER. RED ALERT. RED ALERT!

“Both,” she said, after considering.

I considered whether that was a bad thing.

Then I thought: “Therapists bedanged, I’m happy with that answer.”

Maybe we can get matching BFF shirts. In the same size.

(I’m only kidding, therapists!)

Blue dress, shannon, croppedShannon Magsam is mama to Ladybug (a salty/sweet tween girl who still likes things like superheroes and unicorns, thank goodness) is wife to newspaperman/entrepreneur John and is co-founder of

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