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Goodbye Harrowed, Hello Halloween!

Fall got a late start, and sometimes it feels like the weather these days is reflecting the state of my home. Unpredictable, too hot, and, some days, just plain weird. And, like Mother Nature, this mama is playing catch up to bring my family into fall. Translated: we’re in a mad dash to get Halloween costumes together and throw up our motley assortment of decorations!

Let’s talk about Halloween. (Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going to be an historical analysis about the day with religious or pagan descriptions. It also isn’t going to be a tirade against candy. I’ll leave that to the dental blogs.) Love it or hate it, Halloween is approaching, and, bear with me, I believe it offers A LOT for kids and grown-ups alike. I believe it can bring out the best in us. And, if you ignore Halloween, it can make you a bitter, seething adult. 

Halloween, for me, was an opportunity to forget everything: every emotional hang-up, every deadline looming, every thought I have and just focus on fun. The fun of assembling a costume you can’t wait to put on for a party you can’t wait to get to. The fun of thinking about how that character/object speaks and will I want to speak in an accent this Halloween to be fully thematic? The fun of getting candy (I’m partial to Twix), and ripping it open to eat the first one mid-trick-or-treating. The fun of making brain-shaped Jell-O and seeing my friends’ reactions to it. The fun of looking like someone else for a day. 

But I haven’t done any of that in a long time. I’ve focused on my kids and their fun. Between running Listed Treasures and being a mom I sometimes find Halloween to be a chore. Another thing I have to do. It seems I forgot about the brain Jell-O. I stopped celebrating Halloween for me

My neighbors have reclaimed their Halloween fun. They decorate like the ghost of Vincent Price is coming to town, and throw adult get togethers in the cul-de-sac with adult beverages and Halloween-themed snacks. We recap the trick-or-treating and costume making debacles, we tell our kids “No more candy!” while we sneak Reese’s ourselves, and, most importantly, we laugh. We laugh so much. And usually, I do it all in my regular, boring jeans and sweatshirt.

Before kids, I really went all out on my costume. I have a long history of extraordinary costumes, including dressing up as early career Britney Spears. I even performed a lip sync for a gymnastics gym full of kids! I also have a tradition of dressing up like the person that invited me to the party when I do go to a Halloween party.  It’s REALLY fun to see the looks on the hosts face when they see me in character as them! I act the part too!

I haven’t dressed up in a few years. It’s been a big enough task to get my kids into the costumes of their dreams. But this year, I’m reclaiming my right to have fun on Halloween. Don’t happy parents make happy kids? And if that’s not a saying I’m going to start saying it and make it one. 

This year, I’m going to dress up. I can’t tell you what my costume will be because it’ll probably be an eleventh hour effort. But I’m making the commitment! 

Let’s reclaim Halloween and have a real night of fun for ourselves. Come on and dress up, too. Tell me your costume–or send me a pic! Happy Halloween!

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I Want You To Go Back To School (but it’s not what you think)

September has always meant “back to school” for me, and I’m certain it always will. Even when my kids are done with all of their education, I will always feel excited about fall’s promise of getting to start over. 

For kids, ‘back to school’ is, of course, about new teachers, opportunities to grow and change, and making new friends. When I was a kid, I was excited about the first day of school, ironing my clothes to look just right. But, I was also nervous–what if no one wanted to sit with me at lunch? 

To my kids, who have their own hopes and fears about going back to school, I try to fortify them with courage and love. I pray that when I drop them off that, in those classrooms and playgrounds, on story mats and in circle time, someone there loves them, challenges them and sees them for who they really are. And, I hope they make friends they can giggle with.

I want these things for myself, too. I want that same giddy feeling of wondering what will happen in the new year. I want to question what I’m capable of, stretching to be more creative, more athletic, more inquisitive and curious. I, too, want to make new friends I can giggle with. 

And, it looks like I’m going to get all of that. Let me explain:

My kids are finally at the same school and on the same schedule. They get dropped off and picked up at the same place at the same time.  This is a GAME CHANGER for me! Previously, I had been running Listed Treasures from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. each day. I then had to pick up and parent my preschooler while still running Listed Treasures–sometimes from the car! Then, at 3:25,  I then picked up my older daughter from school and really truly tried to be present with both of them, while still (you guessed it!) running my business. Evenings were about homework and after school activities and Listed Treasures and dinner and bath and stories and bed. Following all that, I immediately flopped on the couch and fell asleep before I could even look at my work schedule for the next day. I was cramming a full-time job into a part-time schedule, and I struggled to get everything done.

As I prepare to let go of my youngest and send her off to Kindergarten (with both excitement and melancholy) I look at the day stretching out before me and, like a back-to-schooler, I am both nervous and giddy about what’s possible. I can now devote a full workday to my business. Where I was stretched thin trying to take care of everyone else, I can focus on realizing my dreams. I can see where my potential will take me.

For adults, even those who haven’t set foot in a classroom in decades, the ‘back to school’ mindset can be a catalyst for reinvention. I could choose to focus on my back-to-school fears (What if I miss my kids too much? How much of my identity is tied up in being a mom? What if I get overwhelmed? What if running the business full time is too hard?). Or, I can iron my shirt, get on the bus and see where the year takes me. 

How will this “school year” be different for you? Let me know!

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An august August

Usually the word August in Washington conjures hot, restless days. Maybe swim team is finally over, and there are a few weeks stretching before school and “real life” begin again. Maybe you’re headed for a much-needed vacation, or maybe you’re languishing, wondering what to do with your time. 

But it turns out that ‘august’ has another meaning, and that secondary one describes something or someone impressive or respected. So I gave some thought to who, or what, impresses me. Sometimes I might say I’m impressed with highly organized homes because I desperately want to have one. Or maybe it’s something embarrassingly material, something like a shiny, new car or a luxury leather chair. Those things are impressive. Sort of.

When I really took the time to write about what was impressive to me it was much more substantial than that chair. People I’m impressed by are:

  1. Those who naturally do the right thing, even when it’s not what benefits them the most.
  2. Those who remain patient, sometimes through the most trying experiences!
  3. Those who understand that they can do hard things.

After I had identified the august criteria, I thought about actual people who encompassed that. Immediately, I thought of my team! I’m regularly impressed by them.  It baffles me every day to see them work hard to learn new systems, stay on top of the sales and deliveries, and when I fuss about something, it’s obvious it means something to them to keep improving.  They remind me we are doing difficult things already, and to be patient with our own learning curve.

With the days of summer we have left, why not think about what’s impressive to you? Create your own August list of august traits and let me know what you come up with!

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A Better To-Do List

My daughter’s school participates in a program called The Positivity Project. Every week there is a new theme, and a recent one, “Cheering Others’ Success”, really caught my eye. The messaging was, “when other people succeed, you are happy for them and cheer them on. Making a commitment towards cheering on other people’s success can be a great way to improve our own health, happiness, and relationships.”

When I read that blurb in the school newsletter, I considered how many people had cheered my success, and wondered if I had demonstrated that same behavior. I started to think about all the women who had cheered not only my successes, but applauded the growth that came from struggle, and bolstered me when I felt like I was failing.

There are so many mompreneurs I look up to because they cheered me on even when they needed support themselves.

One of these spectacular women is Laura Jane Cohen. LJ co-founded and runs her business, Belle Jar Designs, but has also decided to run for FCPS school board so she can continue to improve the lives of all of our children. How amazing is that?

Have I shown LJ the support she’s shown me? Have I relished her success as if it was my own? If I haven’t, I’m starting here, right now.

LJ is so successful because she is a great listener– to her customers, coworkers, and to her friends and fellow business owners. She is generous, hard-working and creative. Her business has grown and prospered, and I couldn’t be happier for her!

It’s true: devoting time – and blog space – to extolling LJ does make me feel happy. In my relentless pursuit of being the perfect mom, and the perfect wife and the perfect business owner, acknowledging someone else’s success makes me feel more relaxed and happier. It alleviates stress–I’m not alone. There are others like me! And, their success is my success!

We can so easily get caught up in crossing things off our to-do list that we can forget to congratulate each other. But maybe what we should be doing is adding things to our lists that will actually improve our lives.

I would like each of us right now to add “Congratulate a friend on her success” to your to-do list. That means you’re going to call, text, email, or send a letter to your friend to tell them how happy you are for them. Be sincere. Their happiness IS your happiness.

Here’s mine:

  1. Text Rachel Kraft and tell her how unbelievable she is at her job (‘cause it’s true!)
  2. Call Nicole Dash to support her in her new endeavors
  3. Send Marcia Sheehan an email, congratulating her on a successful Connector Conference.

Whose success will you cheer? Let me know! Katy@ListedTreasures.com!

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Interview a Mom!

Mother’s Day is approaching, and it seems like an obvious time to talk about motherhood. Although, every day of my life is about motherhood. Like most moms I know, every business decision, every social event, every endeavor is tied to being a mother. It’s that integral to our identities. And yet, talking and writing about motherhood is really difficult.

The struggle, as always for me, is about how much time I work vs. how much time I’m with my kids. I feel like I’m shortchanging both, almost all of the time. Another Listed Treasures Mom said we should stop calling it work/life balance, and start calling it what it really is: a juggling act. Keeping everything, and everyone, afloat at all times, coupled with the fear of dropping something, is so exhausting. It’s hard to remember to put everything down, assess what all is in my hands, and give myself credit for even attempting the juggle.

I started to think about how I struggle with motherhood, and how I can feel guilt, pride, joy, and, yes, resentment, all from the same role.

A friend suggested I put together a Mother’s Day fill-in-the-blank, sort of like a MadLib. I found the questions made it easier to think about what being a mom means to me.

Would you please fill it out, too? I would love to hear about your experience as a parent–dads, too! Maybe if we share these answers, it will get less difficult to talk about this big part of our identities. And, we can celebrate each other more! Mother’s Day isn’t just for my kids to make me breakfast and homemade gifts (though that’s really nice). It’s also for me to celebrate the other mothers in my life, my business, my community.

So, print out this blog and take the following questions with you to your next book club or girls-night-out. Ask your friends with kids these questions. And listen to your mom friends. Really listen. I’m listening, too.

Here are the questions and my responses:

1) What did you think motherhood would be like vs. what it really turned out to be?

I saw myself as a football mom with a bunch of rowdy boys on some sort of field every day.  I saw myself as the “hot mess” mom type which actually came true, because that’s been me all along.  That I ended up raising two little girls has been the biggest and best joke the universe ever played on me and I’d never change it for anything.

2) What’s the hardest thing about being a mom? Easiest?

The hardest is having to be the bad guy when I know it’s for their own good.  My girls are super good kids so coming down on them stinks, but it is necessary at times.  Also, being attentive when I’m just plain exhausted. The easiest…..well, I don’t think there is much that’s easy, but when they wrap their little arms around my neck or find heart-shaped things and hand them to me for the hell of it, it makes it feel easy.

3) Complete these sentences:

I’m proudest of myself as a mom when...other parents compliment their behavior or character.

I’m proudest of my kids when they….do hard things, or choose the right thing under pressure when no one is looking.

I want my kids to understand that I am….trying as hard as I can.

I try to make our home safe so that my kids can feel secure to be themselves, ask questions, and seek our help navigating through life.

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How Puppies Can Save the Earth

It’s hard to explain my commitment to saving furniture from landfills and reducing waste. See what just happened? I said ‘landfill’, and you probably checked out a little, right? It happens to me all the time. So, I’m going to use an analogy everyone loves: puppies.

I liken the idea of buying brand new, showroom furniture with buying designer dogs from backyard breeders. For my non-pet owners, a backyard breeder is an amateur animal breeder who doesn’t employ ethical standards to breeding. Usually, they only care about profits. This is also like large furniture manufacturers, who build the furniture overseas in factories that have little concern with pollution output. The furniture is over-packaged, overpriced, and imported, creating further air and sea pollution.

So, why would you buy a dog from a backyard breeder when other healthy dogs are available for a ⅕  of the price and have so much love and life to give (#rescuedog). Like used furniture, the dog might have a scratch or two, but it’s cute and loyal, has personality and makes you smile.

Now, I love all dogs, and I wouldn’t be unkind to a puppy mill dog. But, there is joy from giving a home to a dog that would have otherwise been put down. When we list people’s solid wood dressers or marble-topped dining tables for the same price as a new pressboard table (that you have to assemble yourself, mind you), I have to wonder: who wouldn’t choose a Listed Treasure piece over a catalogue item?

Let’s be clear; I’m not asking you to put garbage in your home, just as I wouldn’t ask you to take in a dangerous dog.

I’m asking you to pay less for beautiful, well-made furniture and nearly new kitchen appliances and dishes. I’m asking you to think about how the manufacturing, shipping and packaging of a new item creates toxic emissions and ends up in landfills. I’m asking you to think about your purchasing patterns because the way we spend money reflects our values. What does your credit card bill say about you?

For Earth Month, let’s not just reduce, reuse, recycle. Let’s also rethink. Rethink your choices. Rethink what’s available to you. Rethink what you bring into your home.

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Compassion for Hoarders

You might have been watching local news on Monday night like I was. There was a fire in Maryland and the victim was described as a possible hoarder. Instantly, I felt so protective of this woman, whose condition had been “outed” to her neighbors and friends. And, the tone the newscasters were taking made it worse, landing somewhere between derision and judgment. I was so angry– angry that in addition to recovering from fire-related injuries, she also faced certain public humiliation. I wondered, is this how we are meant to treat each other?

I go into people’s homes for a living. I choose to be be kind to my potential clients, and show them they can trust me with their belongings and memories. It upset me to think that these journalists hadn’t been educated about hoarding or were choosing not to be compassionate. It seemed they were reporting on it without knowing much about it.

For example, hoarders often feel isolated, and have no idea how prevalent their condition is. But according to research conducted at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, compulsive hoarding affects approximately 700,000 to 1.4 million people in the U.S. It’s so common, and yet rarely do you even know someone is dealing with this condition as they keep it a secret.

Hoarding is a mental health condition that may require medical intervention. It can be a serious health and safety concern, and there are county services set up to help. Educate yourself on hoarding, and if you suspect someone you know may suffer from this condition seek assistance from the Fairfax Code of Compliance Office, 703-324-1300.

Thank you, Treasure Hunters, for continuing to make our community a kind one.

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From Blah Into Bliss

February in Washington is often a very bleak time. Winter feels like it will never end. And, spring seems like something you read about once, but can’t really picture for yourself. It’s easy to feel more than a little dispirited.

Petrik Kids eating ice cream with friendI myself was definitely feeling downcast (and a little put off by how dry and pale my skin had become!), and so I took my kids and went to see some very special friends in Florida

I say ‘very special’ because I often have a tough time describing our relationship. I think of them as being something between a second set of parents and my retired best friends.

How it all began

I met David and Sandy when they were referred to me by Real Estate Agent Jay D’Alessandro, who was helping them sell their house. My business helping people downsize their homes was thriving, but I had been casual, with only verbal contracts and informal pamphlets. I decided to invest in myself and my business by writing formal contracts and developing professional presentation materials. I pitched my business in this new way to Sandy and David, and, while I wasn’t nervous, per se, it is a hard thing to take yourself seriously and to be open to new people and opportunities. I wondered what they would make of me.

As soon as I finished the presentation, David smacked his hand on the table and yelled, “Sold!” They were overwhelmed with ‘stuff’, and didn’t know where to begin. They couldn’t believe a business existed that so perfectly met their need.

A Match Made in Heaven

As we began to work together, I found out a lot about them. When you dig through someone’s house where they’ve lived for 30 years, you can’t help but understand what they’re about. You learn the story of their marriage, the way they raised their children, about the holidays they celebrated. The things we have in our homes not only tell other people your story, but they remind us of good times, of babies who grew into children, and all the times in between. So when you are faced with the task of eliminating these reminders from your life it can be pretty scary.

I knew that I needed to earn Sandy and David’s trust so that they’d be comfortable letting me come in and sort through their story with them. Sandy and David were embarking on a new chapter of their lives and retiring to Naples, Florida. And even though that chapter was exciting, Sandy still clung to the things that had meant so much during the previous chapters.

I respected what she was going through, but I also had to give them realistic expectations. They had to know they could not fit even half of their old home into their new house. It wasn’t possible. Hard choices were going to have to be made. I also told them that once they had made those choices, once they had let go of those endearing objects and “stuff”, they would be happier for it. In the meantime, though, that old rocking chair where Sandy had rocked her babies was filed under “KEEP AT ALL COSTS”. To keep it, though, I explained that Sandy would have to forego a couch in the Naples apartment. After much deliberation, Sandy agreed I could sell the chair, thinking that it would at least bring someone else the joy it had brought her. That sale may not have made them a ton of money, but Sandy earned the love of the chair’s new owner, and the freedom of knowing that those memories went with her to Florida. They did not live within the chair.

Relationships Mean the World to Me!

When I look back, their sale was okay. It wasn’t an amazing, massive sale, but I spent so much time with Sandy and David that I didn’t think about my commission. I loved chatting with them, and our meetings always took longer than we planned.  I started to think of them more as friends than clients. Sometimes Sandy would come over to my house, and if I was on the phone with another client, she would start weeding my garden. We were that comfortable with each other! When it was finally time for them to move to Florida I actually cried. Sandy had become my confidante and ally, and she and David were always there for me and my family.

Sandy at the Beach

Since then, we have been to visit them in Florida several times. They love my kids, and get right down on the floor to play with them as if they were their grandchildren. They say you can’t pick your family, but with Sandy and David I sort of think I did add them to mine.

This business has brought so many incredible people into my life. Even my house used to belong to a client! We had such a great connection that she sold her house to me. We still keep in touch! Every day that I wake up there, I’m reminded that if you treat people well you will be rewarded for it. I also know that when I’m open to meeting new people, it almost always results in something positive.

So if February’s got you down, and you can’t get away to somewhere warm, slap on some self-tanner and give me a call. I’m always open.

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2018: Looking Back

New Year’s resolutions have never made sense to me. Just as you’re starting to reflect on the past year, and you finally having some time off at home with loved ones, suddenly you have to throw in some brand new thing that you’re going to change completely about yourself? That sounds like added stress just when you’ve started to relax. Who needs that?

Instead of altering myself, I’m going to do something that I think is way harder: admit weakness. So, here goes:

Reflection

This past year was incredible. And incredibly hard. We expanded Listed Treasures into a real company, with a new website, a new team of employees, and a real payroll. I am so proud of how this company evolved in 2018. It was risky, and scary, and luckily, so far, it’s worked. (Don’t worry, I’m not getting braggy—the weakness is coming!)

But big risks take a toll. They never mention the toll in business magazines, do they? When they tell the story of how a company grew, they never talk about how difficult it was for the managers and staff to maintain existing friendships. They don’t talk about how hard it is to make personal connections with new colleagues or clients when you really need to zip to the next meeting. And, if you’re a parent, there is the loss of time and focus on your kids.

I also know I have sidelined friends and family throughout this past year. I regret that. It’s a hard thing to admit. I have new employees I want to get to know better. They work really hard for me, and I value them.

Uh-oh, this sounds like resolution

So maybe I am making a resolution? Now that the new website is up and flourishing (seriously, it’s so easy to use now!), and we’ve hired a team of people I can rely on, perhaps now is the time to take my weakness, acknowledge it, and deal with it. I’m going to continue to grow Listed Treasures, but at the heart of the company is the mission to make people feel valued. I have to walk the walk, spend more time with my clients, take my employees out for coffee, and really listen to my kids when they talk to me. I have to be the one to pick up the phone and call my friends, just to say hello.

I guess I’m resolving to reach out more. And I have a hunch that the more I do it, the more I’ll want to do it. Because connecting with someone else is what life is all about.

So, who’s free for coffee and a cake pop this afternoon?

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Opening Doors, Expanding Hearts

Opening Doors, Expanding Hearts

We used to have very few Christmas traditions. With family scattered around the country, we used to spend Christmas morning bundled in the car en route to a celebration elsewhere. Since we moved closer to family in here in Virginia that all has changed. Frankly, we were unprepared for the feelings that would come when we found “home”.

We purchased our house on Dec 1st, three years ago, and rushed through some renovations, knowing we wanted to spend Christmas there. Moving is already hectic and stressful, but the deadline of Christmas felt even zanier. It was so chaotic, my husband wrapped a sheet around our tree and threw it in the moving van (we only lost a few ornaments!), and we began the journey to Virginia.  We moved in Christmas Eve, and to celebrate got a new puppy. The puppy belonged to one of my husband’s clients, and, while we knew adding a puppy to the mix of moving and renovations wouldn’t help matters, the puppy looked just like my beloved dog (whom I loved for 15 years). I knew he was meant to go on the journey to the new house with us.

There’s a moment when you’re moving when you begin to doubt. For me it came when the kids were crying for the old house, and I started to realize my fixer-upper needed more fixing than I thought, and that mortgage was so big, and I freaked out. I thought, “Why did we move? And on Christmas Eve? I barely know anyone here! The new puppy is peeing on the new floor! What have I done?!” There may have been expletives.

But then, the doorbell rang.

What now? To my happy surprise, it was a group of strolling carolers, serenading my stressed out family with “Dashing Through The Snow”. My shoulders eased, my heart softened. The next day, someone dressed up as Santa, and cruised the neighborhood in a firetruck. My kids were ecstatic! Then, neighbors invited us to their Christmas Day open house, where we met lots of new people. One of those new friends invited us to a cul-de-sac fire pit get-together for that evening. Together with our kids and new friends, we roasted marshmallows, drank hot chocolate and started to reflect on our crazy move. In just 24 hours we had moved, made friends, and started to experience Christmas in a totally different way. We knew we had hit the neighborhood jackpot and this was going to be the place of memories for our kids.  

I know most families have age-old holiday traditions, but we are actually in the process of trying to figure out what’s going to be special for us.  My kids have experienced so much change in their lives (we’ve moved four times in my oldest daughter’s eight years). Now that we are close to family, we’re spending Christmas mornings quietly, cozily, at home together.  We really enjoy the time together here.

It’s our turn now.

As the season gets closer, I think of that first day in our new house, and how our community opened its arms to us. I think of their smiles, joyful parties, and their caroling voices, and how each revived our spirits. Even the puppy seemed to respond to the community feeling and stopped peeing on the floor!

I want to give that feeling of community and welcome to someone else here in Virginia. That’s why this season I’m looking to you to help me to help others. I’m hoping you’ll tell me about which local charities are important to you on our Facebook page. I know most local groups can always use more volunteers and more awareness. So let’s all learn about each other’s favorite causes, and let’s all try to reach out and make someone else’s holiday sweet and merry.