Our Story of Empowerment with the Debt Snowball

debt snowball

As most of you know I believe that clutter comes in ALL shapes and sizes and that being organized is a lifestyle not a destination.  I don’t just preach, I practice what I preach and I am always researching and educating myself on ways to do it better not only for myself but to teach others.

A few years back, while I was writing my book Organize Now! your money, business and career, I did a lot of research about different ways to budget, pay off debt, save money etc.  At the time my husband and I were following the Transforming Debt Into Wealth Program designed by John Cummuta.  I will say it is a great program and it really helped us save a huge down payment for the house we built.  John’s program taught us the power of the debt snowball.  Many of you know how this works but for those who don’t you basically pay off your debt from smallest to largest.  Once you pay off your smallest debt you start applying that monthly payment to your second debt.  For example: If you are paying $100 per month toward a credit card….once you pay off that credit card you would put $100 extra toward your next debt (say a car payment).  The payments basically grow larger and larger (like a snowball) until everything is paid off! Can you imagine how awesome you will feel on that day?!!!

Then last year I started listening to Dave Ramsey’s radio show on my way home from work.  I really got into it because Dave is a Christian and teaches from this perspective.  As an organizer, I especially love when he encourages his listeners to sell what they aren’t using and put this money toward their debt.  YES! I always think…. I totally love this guy!

I started applying what Dave calls the “Baby Steps” to our life:

Baby Step #1

Put $1,000 in an emergency fund.

Baby Step #2

Pay off all debt using the debt snowball.

Baby Step #3

Save 3-6 months living expenses.

Baby Step #4

Invest 15% of your household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement.

Baby Step #5

Start saving for your children’s college education.

Baby Step #6

Pay off your home mortgage.

Baby Step #7

Build your wealth and give! Continue to invest in mutual funds and real estate.

I had been listening to Dave’s show for about a year and had told a few friends about it.  One day my good friend, Jessi, said let’s order the Financial Peace University course.  This course is offered at my church (and hundreds of churches around the country) but we just didn’t have time in our schedule to commit to a weekly class at night.  Jessi and I also own a business together so we figured this was valuable for both our professional and personal lives.  It would also be fun to have the extra accountability from each other.  Plus, we really wanted to get both of our husbands on board (they were getting way too comfortable letting us do all of the number crunching)!

Well, my husband and I have been watching the DVDs from the course together for about 4 months and applying the principals to our lifestyle.  I will say that we both felt like we were pretty darn smart with our money before but I can not tell you how much MORE we have learned in just a short time!

Here are some of the major changes we have made:

* We not only paid off our one credit card but we cut it up in a million pieces AND canceled it forever!  FPU taught us that the so called “reward points” you earn off that piece of plastic are just not worth it.  I have had that same card for about 15 years and let me tell you it was a little scary for us to let go of that huge credit limit! But with Baby Step #3 completed we learned that WE should be able to cover an emergency, not the card.

* We implemented Dave’s Cash Envelope System.  What is this? Just like it sounds…you literally budget out your spending money each money with cash.  We are always good about using cash but what we have learned is to sit down together and plan out where our money goes each month….very empowering!  Important note: when the cash is gone you are done!

Here is the system my friend Jessi set up:

debt snowballdebt snowball

She loves it because it fits in her purse.  I am using Dave’s envelopes. Both work great!

* We dropped our mortgage from a 30 year loan to a 15 year loan….this saved us $88,000 in interest!

*  We shopped for new rates on our auto and home owner’s insurance and saved over $700/per year by switching!

* We switched to a new financial advisor, who is personally endorsed by Dave, and that believes in the same system we believe in and that can keep us accountable to it.

One of the most exciting things that I have noticed in this process is the grace we have encountered.  The more responsible we are with our money the more it seems to come our way.  My belief is that we are to be good stewards with what God gives us and when He sees that are can handle the precious gifts he sends our way…he gives us more.  I am in awe of His grace and truly grateful.

This journey has been amazing so far.  My husband and I communicate more than ever about our finances and our future.  We get excited about what we are doing and where we are going.  The best part is that we are working as a team.

I am sure there are many more fantastic ways to organize your finances and meet your goals but I thought I would share this post with you because this one works for us.  I love how this system forces you to focus on your goals one baby step at a time (just the way I teach organizing anything in your life)!  Plus, I always love a good plan!

I can not encourage you enough to apply these systems and the debt snowball to your life.  Just by taking control of your clutter (which in this case is debt) you will feel empowered more than you ever have before!! The younger you are when you begin, the more exciting your journey will be.  SO START TODAY!

** I have an organized a spreadsheet that works great if you are following the Baby Steps program.  I have also included a budget sheet and some tips on how you can find more money to put toward debt.  You can purchase your own copy of my Debt Reduction Worksheets for only $3.00!

Debt Reduction Worksheet

* This post is not a product review.  I am in no way being compensated by Dave Ramsey or his company.

Jennifer Ford Berry

Inspirational Story: Beat Mental Clutter and Live Your Dream

live your dream

I 100% believe that there is nothing like living your dreams each and everyday that you are here on earth.  I also believe that many times the difference between the people that go for their dreams, and those who don’t…is mental clutter.

Most often when people think of clutter they think of papers on the kitchen counter or clothes that never get worn or all those knick knacks on a shelf.  But clutter comes in many different forms. 

We have clutter in our minds too….lots of it!  After 12 years helping people get organized I have realized one thing…if you can clear the mental clutter everything else will fall into place.  You will start to have a stellar focus and ability to set goals AND achieve them…thus leading you to a life you dream about.

The following is a conversation I recently had with one of my longest and closest friends Attorney Cynthia Pyfrom.  I met Cindy in college. We were two young girls that left our families to attend college in Palm Beach County (oh yes that was a dream in itself).  Since I have known Cindy she has been through some major obstacles including: finding her birth mother, her brother having an accident that left him a paraplegic, being disowned by her father for marrying a man of color and opening her own law firm (just to name a few).

The reason why I chose her for this post is because besides all that she has faced Cindy continues to stay positive (believe me she has had reasons not to be) and stay focused on her goals. Her life could have gone in a completely different direction had she let the “Mental Clutter” get the better of her.  

I hope you find inspiration in her story…
Tell us a little bit about how you grew up.
I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in Frankfort, Kentucky. I grew up in the country on acres of land with our own farm including cows, chickens, pigs and horses. I was a tomboy and loved playing outdoors whether it was on a tractor or a 4-wheeler, or out fishing in the creek. My father was the patriarch of the family and I was taught a “woman’s place” at a very early age, although I never really believed it. I played sports, made a lot of friends and never allowed other people’s assumed limitations to affect me. I received a volleyball scholarship to college at Palm Beach State College and moved down to Florida right after graduation from high school.
What was your deciding factor for taking the huge steps from Paralegal to Attorney?
I started working in the legal field in 1997 as a receptionist for a large law firm in West Palm Beach, Florida. I enjoyed the tasks I was given and always asked for more when I was done. After a short while as a receptionist, I moved up to secretary. From then, I continuously improved, moved up and took other jobs with better opportunities for growth. I attended college part-time and intended to become a high school teacher; however, when I reached the point in my educational journey where student teaching was a requirement, I chose to take time off to re-evaluate what I wanted to do in life. Ultimately, I decided to finish my Bachelor’s degree the fastest way I could and obtained my BA in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2004. I began working in the Family Law field in 2005 and fell in love. I could not learn enough. My employer in 2008 saw my potential and told me I should be an attorney. I honestly never even thought about becoming an attorney until she told me that. Once I heard that, I started realizing I could do it. I applied for law school at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida and was accepted in to their evening program. 
What were your biggest hurdles in making this transition?
My biggest hurdle was my own self-imposed doubts and limitations I placed on myself. Growing up in a small town, there were not a lot of successful women to look up to and aspire to be like. It had never even crossed my mind that I could be a lawyer. Once I made the decision to do it, I had to work extra hard on re-training my thoughts to believe that I could do anything I put my mind to. I found that when someone doubted me, or told me they didn’t think I could do it, that is when I truly found my motivation. I love proving people wrong!
Many times “Mental Clutter” keeps us stuck and doesn’t allow us to live bigger lives…what types of mental clutter did you face and how did you deal with it? 
I have some family members who never thought I would finish my bachelor’s degree, much less go on to graduate school! Especially because I did not decide to go to law school until I was 32 years old. Although they supported me and thought I was smart enough to do it, they thought at my age I would not have the drive, motivation or determination to get through it. I had to take the doubt and disbelief from others and turn it into fuel for my fire. I also had to take my own doubts in myself and realize that it could be the most damaging to my goals. Doubt in your own abilities is the worst deterrent to reaching your goals. Don’t doubt yourself, just do it.
What fuels you to stay focused?
Through law school I found that quotes were the most beneficial in helping me focus. When I felt overwhelmed, or defeated, I would seek out positive quotes to refocus and realign my efforts with thoughts of success. A good quote can make your whole day turn around for the better. Working full-time and attending law school at night proved to be very trying at times (many times)! I found that taking it one day at a time, one week at a time and one class at a time kept me from getting overwhelmed with the enormity of the entire endeavor. I would print out, or write down quotes and hang them all around my study space. I would make my background picture on my smart phone and my laptop a positive quote. It is amazing what a positive outlook, or one positive thought can do to change your entire perspective.
How we manage our time is one of the main factors between people who get things done and reach their goals and those that don’t…what are your best time management tips?
For me, managing my time was the most important task throughout law school. I used a notebook and would write down my weekly homework to ensure I accomplished everything I needed to over the weekend. Since I was working full-time, I had to do a week’s worth of homework on Saturday and Sunday in order to get through a week of night classes. I also used a planner so I could write down my deadlines (I.e. paper due, final exam, research, etc…). In fact, I still do this now for myself and my firm and it helps me manage my time over the next week so I know what I can and cannot do. It also ensures that I have plenty of time to handle my client’s cases efficiently while also going out and networking to get more clients.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my never-ending drive to do better than I did yesterday. I’ve always said, “I am not in competition with anyone else but myself. I just want to be a better me”. I think I’ve done a great job of doing that over the years, and I look forward to getting better and better as time goes on.
How does it feel to be living your dream?
I am honestly still getting used to it. I was sworn in as a license Florida attorney on April 16, 2013 and I opened my own law firm on January 17, 2014. I wake up every day with a smile on my face realizing that I am in control and this is what all of my hard work was for – I’m here! All of those years of working for other people have really paid off. I know more than I ever realized I knew. I truly believe I can do anything I put my mind to. I feel like my dreams are limitless and I’m just getting started. Make sure to check back with me in a couple of years and I’ll let you know how the dream is going. 🙂
What advice do you have for other people reading this that are dreaming but not living their dreams?
Don’t wait. Don’t make excuses. Free yourself from the limitations you are putting on yourself. You have to realize that now is the time. The longer you wait, and the more excuses you make, the longer it will take you to get there and that will just leave you with less time to actually live your dream. Take a leap of faith and truly believe in yourself, even if no one else does. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish!

6 Tips for Organizing with ADD

 organizing with ADD

Are you ashamed of your piles and your clutter?  You are not alone.  I have talked to hundreds of people over the years that feel the exact same way. You would think shame would be a good motivator but it is not.  It actually wastes more energy keeping you stuck.

If you are dealing with ADD or have a hard time focusing… getting your life organized can seem like a huge mountain to climb.  However it can be done!  The trick is to not focus on getting super organized.  If you are just starting out this can be an unrealistic (and frustrating goal if you have ADD).   Make it a goal to get “Good Enough” organized.  After all you are not a professional organizer and you are not Martha Stewart…and you can always find ways to tweak and improve down the road if the desire arises.

6 Tips for Organizing with ADD

1) Write it Down:  writing your to-dos down will make a HUGE difference on your mental health.  Even people who don’t have ADD have a hard time remembering. 

2) Set a timer for 20-30 minutes to begin and organized one specific area. A shelf, drawer, cupboard, a section of your closet etc.  If you stick to this plan you will be more likely to do it again tomorrow or next day.  If you go over your allotted time you could dread doing this exercise again.  The Time Timer works great because it is not only a timer but the “red” slipping away is a fantastic visual.  You can also set the time on your microwave or cell phone.

3) Limit the amount of TV you watch!  TV is full of useless information that can damage our peace of mind.  TV is constantly throwing images, words and noise at your brain which will no doubt add to your mental clutter.  Actually if you are feeling mentally unhealthy or suffer from ADD/ADHD it is a good idea to limit all electronics: video games and the internet.  Studies have shown that too much of these can actually predispose these traits.

4)  Ask for help!  See if a trusted friend or even hire a professional organizer.  It is much easier to get things accomplished when you have someone to help you.  This person can help you stay focused and not allow you to quit!  Be open with this person about your struggles and tell them exactly what you need from them.




5) Make it a priority to spend time with positive people in your life on a weekly basis.  Human contact is a necessity for all of us.  Surround yourself with people who love you, people who want to see you succeed and lift you up when you are low.  Eliminate your time with those that do not do these things.

6)  When you organize start with sorting.  Place everything sorted into a pile, bin or box labeled:




            -Not sure

Organizing Tip of the Day

-Know your strengths not just your weaknesses.  Have pride in doing something well and praise yourself for it. 

-Everything you feel is based on love or fear.  Always try to choose love.

-Structure is one of the best things you can have if you are dealing with ADD.  According to Dr. Ratey of Driven to Distraction, useful devices and new habits can help more than any medication.  This is why it is so important to have a home for everything and systems in place for your tasks.

-Adequate sleep, regular exercise and a balanced diet are keys for a mentally healthy lifestyle.

*I have created a special tool to help you stay focused this year.  Try it: Free Printable: Inner Clutter Checklist for 2014

Happy Organizing

3 Tips to Organize Your Style

Organize Your Personal Style

It takes a certain level of self-confidence to embrace and release your own personal style.  Your age, body shape, size, personality, and cultural background all influence your style.  We were created unique for a reason, so embrace your unique qualities; after all, if everyone had the same look the work would be boring!

3 Goals for This Week:

1. If you want to organize your style, start out by going through your current wardrobe to learn about what you already have.  Go through your dresser drawer and your closet by hanger and make three piles:

– Clothes you love and feel good in

– Clothes you wear but don’t get excited about

– Clothes that you don’t wear or hate

– Clothes that don’t fit

2.  Immediately bag up the clothes you don’t wear or that don’t fit and put them in the trunk of your car.  They are taking up closet space and holding you back.  Donate them.  If you lose weight in the future, you can reward yourself by buying new clothes.

3.  Now go through the “clothes you love pile” and identify what these items have in common: color, fit, fabric, etc.  This is your taste-embrace it and make note of it.  When you shop in the future you’ll have a better idea of what will work for you.

Organizing Tip of the Day

*  Be true to you!  The most beautiful people in the world embrace who they are and shine because of it.  Don’t be afraid to have a style that is not exactly like all of your friends.


I am a dress girl all the way. I love all kinds—long, short, staples, casual, formal. A dress are by far my most favorite piece and the easiest piece for me to shop for. I know I love them, and I give myself permission to wear them.  I also love the fact that I can throw it on and my outfit is complete without a lot of thinking!  What is your favorite go to piece?

Happy Organizing

10 Organization Tips for College Dorm Rooms

 Organization Tips for College Dorm Rooms

This week I had a blast organizing a college dorm room at the University of Buffalo. Wow did this take me back in time and I have to admit that although I LOVED college I do not miss living in such a small, shared space!  I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to my family friend Michele Canale, for letting me take over her side of the dorm room to shoot this video clip on Winging It, Buffalo Style!  As you watch the video you will see us point out the following 10 organization tips for college dorm rooms.  


1. Use a timer for studying.  This will help you stay focused when it is time to buckle down and study.  I love the Time Timer because it gives you a great visual for how much time you have left.  Check out their mobile app on your smart phone.

2. Add Storage boxes to provide storage and privacy.  I purchased the boxes in this video on sale for $1.99 each at Michael’s but you can find them anywhere.

3. Do a season swap. Take items home that you will not be wearing for the current season. Only store the items you know you will wear for the next 4-6 months in your dorm room.

4. Bring your favorite clothes, the ones that you feel good in!  There is no point in bringing something you might wear once or twice this semester.

5. The right hanger can add 30% more space!  I can not preach this enough: everyone should invest in a good slimline hangers for their closet, especially college students because they are so limited on space. Notice in the video how using these hangers also allows for every thing to hang at the same height, which is also visually appealing.

blk hangers

6. Install a portable double rod into your closet.  This will double your hanging space and you can take it with you when you move out.

7. Utilize space under the bed if possible. Clear, pull out drawers are an inexpensive way to add more storage.  If your bed is not raised up like the one in the video you can use bed risers.

8. Bulletin boards provide decoration, inspiring visuals and are great for posting pictures and other reminders of home.

9. Create a hanging night stand.  By adding cups or other containers to the wall above your bed, you will have a home for items you might need at night: cell phone, Ipod, highlighter, water, chap stick, eye mask etc.  The cups used in this video are from Ikea. They run about $2.99 a piece.

10. Set up a “community space” in your dorm room.  This is an area where roommates can share items they both need to use such as a coffee pot, refrigerator, stereo or iron.

If you are currently a college student or the parent of one I would love to hear any additional tips you may have for my readers!  By the way, if you are looking for a great gift for any college student or if you are a student soon to graduate I have to tell you my book: Organize Now! your money, business and career is jammed pack with tips and ideas for: organizing your checkbook, job searches, organizing your resume and cover letter, interview skills, your image, time management, organizing a budget and SO much more! 

* If you enjoyed this post please check out:

college students

Happy Organizing








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To Do List       4 Time Management Tips

Organize Your Work-Life Balance

  Organize Your Work-Life Balance

We are a work-centered culture! We have been conditioned to think that work should bring us fulfillment, give us our identity, measure our value, and improve our lives. This is not true. You have heard the mantra, work to live don’t live to work. Now’s the time to put this into practice. When you add in the time it takes to commute many people spend way more than 40 hours per week on work. People who own their own business, especially a home-based business hardly leave work at all!

Remember “No” is a complete sentence. The reason why it is hard to say no is because we are worried about what the other person will think of us. We make our own choices and it is only up to us how we spend our time.

3 Goals for This Week:

1. Evaluate your work week. How many hours are you working each day? How many hours are you expected to work each day? If you are salaried, talk to your human resources representative to confirm how many hours you are expected to work each day and each week. How many hours do you want to work each day?

2. If you work from home or are self-employed set regular office hours and stick to them. Schedule a start time, a morning break, lunch time, an afternoon break and an end time for each day. If possible, use the same schedule every day or for as many days a week as possible.  Let your family know these hours. Stick with this schedule for at least a month. It takes 21 days to create a new habit, so give it time to take effect.

3. Make it a goal to have some amount of free time each day. Free time is not twenty minutes left over at the end of the day a couple times a week. It is something you should make time for in your schedule every day. You deserve it and need it! Don’t worry if some days you get more free time than others just make sure you are leaving some breathing room.


Establish boundaries with others when necessary.

* Before you leave work, reach a good stopping point for the project you are working on so you can start fresh the next day and not worry about it at home.


I can’t lie sometimes I struggle with this whole work-life balance thing myself on a daily basis.  But overall, on a yearly or lifetime basis, I feel pretty good about it.  My life is extremely full and credit that to: my faith, making family a priority, doing work I love and making time for me and my friendships.  If you can get to that point I will promise you one thing…you will feel like you are  living your life on purpose and you will not regret one minute for doing so!

 *If you need more help with your work-life balance consider registering for my upcoming Facebook challenge: Declutter Your Business.  You can also read more of my tips and resources for this topic in Organize Now! your money, business and career.


Organize Your Professional Message

  Organize Your Profession Message

The word “message” can have a lot of different meanings. The message I’m referring to in this week is your professional message. It’s what makes you or your business different from everyone else. What can you offer that will help you stand out in the crowd? What do you want people to know about you or your business? Once you identify what your message is, you will want to communicate it quickly and make it stick in people’s minds?

A business owner can immediately see the benefits of having a clear message, but how does a message help someone in the corporate world or workforce? A message will help you sell you in professional circles. When you network or interview for a job you’ll be able to share a short, memorable message about yourself that will stick in peoples mind.

Identifying your message may seem intimidating, but in my own life, I’ve found that if you can identify your purpose, creating and transmitting your message will be simple. Let’s get started.

 3  Goals for this Week:

 1. Interview five people with whom you network or do business. Ask them why they network or do business with you. If you are not yet doing business with someone ask a mentor or close friend.  Better yet ask someone that is working in the field you dream of working in!  Ask them to identify what attracts them to you. Ask them what they think your unique qualities are.

2. Write down everything that you think is unique about you.  Decide on and commit to a unique position that still aligns with your personal values and priorities. Think creatively. How can you do things different, and better, than someone else. It may be as simple as letting more of your personality shine through.

3. Create a marketing purpose statement. This should be the way you want to be perceived in plain English—not a polished marketing message. It should state why you do what you do—your purpose—so you refer to it when you ask yourself “Am I on my purpose?”. 


tipoftheday* To come up with a great message consider: a problem you solve, a unique habit, your values, ways you provide great customer service or a memorable personality.

* Before you launch a new message, test it out with trusted colleagues, your mentor, and select people in your networking group. Be sure to include the five people you interviewed. Ask for honest feedback.  


Here’s an example of my marketing purpose statement as a professional organizer: “I don’t just want to help people get organized I want to help them realize that clutter is preventing them from living the lives they were born to live. I want my services to be the lifeline they need and deserve”

* I share more tips and resources on this topic in my upcoming book: Organize Now! Think and Live Clutter Free: A Week-by-Week Action Plan for a Happier, Healthier Life


Organize Your Life Vision

Organize Your Life Vision

Vision is essential. If you can’t visualize your end point, how will you know how to get there, and how will you know when you have arrived?

This is an important week, because it will help you make necessary decisions as you organize the different parts of your life.  Maybe you were discouraged from daydreaming in school, but taking time to daydream about your ideal life can be both fun and empowering. Our actions begin as thoughts, so don’t overlook the powerful tools that your thoughts are. Think about your future and ask yourself what you would like it to look like. Don’t set any limitation on yourself. If you can’t dream it, you can’t do it!! (I am living proof of this one).

3 Goals for The Week

* Start this week by remembering your childhood dreams. Visit your Alma mater or your childhood home or look at old photos. These visual reminders will stir up your old dreams. Read your old journals or yearbooks. Reminisce with family members and friends. If you find any old dreams you want to live, write them down.

* Make a list of the things you want in your life in the next year.

* Go down the list item by item and write down everything you need to do to make that happen. Be realistic and research costs and time investment if you need to.  You need a step by step action plan.

* After you know the steps you need to take, schedule time on your calendar across the year so you try to make some kind of progress each month.


* If you have a hard time coming up with ideas for your life vision, ask the people closest to you what they see you doing with your life. But remember, this is only their opinion, if you don’t agree you don’t have to do it. This is your life.


One of the first things I do when working with a new client is sit down and ask them this question: If this space could have any look, what would you want it to look like? It is the same question I ask about their life: “If your life could have any look, what would you want it to look like”? When you know what you want, you can make a plan to get it. Organizing your thoughts and your home relies on decision-making (where will I put this or what will I do next), and it’s much easier to make decisions when you know what you want. As soon as you know what you want, you know what you are working toward.

* I share more tips and resources on how to live your life vision in my upcoming book: Organize Now! Think and Live Clutter Free: A Week-by-Week Action Plan for a Happier, Healthier Life