Our UnBusy Summer

I started out this summer like I typically do. Stoked! Stoked to spend time with my kids and revel in the joys of a Michigan summer. There isn’t anything quite like a Michigan summer. I love that our state is surrounded by shark and salt free bodies of water and peppered with gorgeous, alligator free inland lakes. It’s really something special.

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In my usual fashion, I started making a summer bucket list. It included adventures like, visit Mackinac Island, travel to the UP, find a waterfall, visit the Grand Rapids Children’s museum, take a trip to Michigan Adventure, visit the John Ball and Detroit Zoos, and visit different beaches on Lake Michigan. I even jotted a trip Niagra falls down on this summer’s list…shhh, don’t tell Paul. I figured since I had less to do around my house, I had time to explore our great state and give my kids many summer adventures to remember.

Keep in mind, we also have the privilege of owning a cottage on one of Michigan’s many inland lakes. This “summer bucket list” would be accomplished in between our days of fishing, swimming, boating, tubing, kayaking and the general vacation life that IS lake living.

A few weeks into summer it hit me. I’m writing about minimalism, intentional living, contentment and learning to be more present in my day. I want to savor my days and enjoy this crazy little world we’ve built.

But I hadn’t considered what a summer bucket list would say to my kids. They are becoming more content with fewer belongings, but what about with less activity? Can they find contentment with boredom?¬†

While savoring MY days, I started forgetting about THEIRS. I won’t always be around to make sure life is full of adventure and entertainment. They need to know that it isn’t the responsibility of any person to make you happy. Contentment needs to bleed into all areas of our lives, not just our tangible belongings.

So I declared this the summer of¬†boredom!¬†This isn’t a new concept, but for me it’s a radical change. I’ve decided to become unbusy, and that does not come naturally to me at all! This is the schedule detox we’ve needed. I’m resetting our expectations and¬†aligning our steps with contentment, one summer day at a time.¬†

Here are some ways we’ve intentionally exchanged our bucket list for contentment and worked to keep the calendar clear in search of simple summer joy.

Fewer summer plans

I’ve exchanged my summer bucket list for lazy summer days. We typically just see where the day takes us. Our summer plans are spontaneous and infrequent.

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For the most part, my kids have stopped¬†asking me, “What are we doing today?” When I do plan an outing I’m met with excitement and gratitude. Like I’m stinking Wonder Woman.

I’ve recently starting reading Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch. She says,

Our children need to be bored. They need to kick their feet and wait outside of bathroom doors, unanswered. They need to be sent outside or to their rooms to play. They need to turn over the bag of tricks to find it empty. Because that’s when they will discover they don’t need stuff to fill their time. The don’t need a plan for entertainment. They can create their own. And when they do, that’s when summer turns magical.

Fewer trips to the grocery store

I spent the first month of summer making 2-3 trips to the grocery store a week. My kids have stepped up their food consumption game to a whole new level.

I reached out to some mom friends who have, “been there, done that,” and the message was clear. I just needed to stop catering to their every food whim.

Everyone has their favorite fruits and vegetables and they expected them to always be readily available. I was so grateful they were eating such healthy foods, that I had become a slave to their cravings. If something ran out, it was my responsibility to replenish.

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I’ve been working on taking only 1 trip to the grocery store a week. So far it’s happened one time, but it’s getting better. We are wasting less food and when grocery day rolls around they are more excited than annoyed to run this errand. Win, win!

Fewer play dates

Play dates just don’t energize me. Am I allowed to say that? I love spending time with our friends. However, my kids end up over stimulated and doped up on cupcakes. They’ve either demonstrated a bad attitude or been the victim of one during the day. After all that, I still have to corral them into the car. I come home wanting nothing more than a solid 4 hour nap afterwards but that’s just not possible.

I’ve cut way back on play dates for now. I’m giving my kids the opportunity to play together and grow closer by not offering them friends as often. We have our good days, our great days and our lock-myself-in-the-closet days. But I have plenty of time to sit in that closet because I don’t have anywhere to be!

What I didn’t see coming is that we’ve actually made MORE friends by being home. Who would have thought? I’ve got some pretty great neighbors just a couple of doors away that I’ve always been too busy to get to know.

Disclaimer: Dear friends, please don’t stop inviting me! I’ll be back, I promise!

Eliminating simple tasks from my to-do list

What are you doing out of habit that you can eliminate, even if just for a season?

I’ve halted my purge for the summer and simply refocused on conscious consumerism. I’ll get back at it when my kids are in school. I just don’t feel like spending our fleeting summer that way.

I usually make my own bread and it is just delicious! (Link¬†HERE¬†). My family loves homemade bread. However, I just can’t keep up with it right now. So, I’ve given myself permission to cross this off my to-do list until we are back into a fall routine.

I’ve stopped making my own peanut butter because…well, why in the world did I ever even start?

At the risk of sounding redundant, minimalism has truly led to fewer chores around my house and I love it.

I still have some tricks up my sleeve for the summer. We are still going to visit Lake Michigan. I’m sure we will even make it to the zoo again. The most significant difference is that my kids don’t expect it. I was the one putting the pressure on myself to make their summers magical. They’ve adjusted just fine, as children usually do.

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I’m no longer their camp director responsible for a summer to remember. My response to, “I’m bored” is, “great, your brain needs to be bored.” When we go on adventures it’s spontaneous, it’s special, and best of all, I get to be the Hero.

 

 

It’s Working: Watching my kids embrace a life of less

I have 3 kids. My oldest, Jameson, is 7. Raegan is 5 and Amelia is rapidly approaching 2. I feel so grateful to have been awakened to this new life of less while they are at such a young age. For the most part, this will be all they know. I truly believe they will be better off because of it.

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We have slowly been plugging along and donating more and more of our belongings. Some days my kids are willing and on board and other days, not so much. All the while, we press on, teaching, encouraging, and hopefully shaping the way they view their material possessions. We continue to put an emphasis on giving over selling. We have discussed the difference between junk and quality toys. We discuss and model delayed gratification. We talk about what it means to be a good steward of what you own. We continue to choose experiences over objects.

Most days, it feels like a lot of conversations. We try and reinforce this worldview by the words we speak and the choices we make. Like most parents, we take the time to teach life lessons through every day, routine encounters. These little people of mine have yet to venture out on their own path, to make their own choices. For a bit longer, we are still in charge of them. As parents, we often wonder what kind of influence we are making. Is it sinking in?

Then, in a moment, we get to see the fruits of our labor and the hopes of our prayers. ¬†I see my kids putting a stranger first. I see them willingly sacrifice for their siblings, which, for some reason, is often even more difficult than sacrificing for a stranger. I see God use my small children to speak big words to my heart. I see them being used as the hands and feet of Jesus. I see them choose to part with something they are done with, rather than try and hold on to it for the “what if!”

For example, these shoes…

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My son’s beloved light-up Spiderman shoes had grown snug, but still fit well enough. The¬†soles had started to pull away. The seams started splitting and his toes became exposed. It was time to let them go and I apprehensively prepared to inform him.

You see, this little boy of mine held on to everything. He has a heart of gold and the spirit of a giver, but a fear of missing things. A year prior, he had outgrown a coat. During our church’s winter coat drive, I put it in the car to drop off. This little hoarder could not fathom parting with it. It was a long, comical discussion. He gave me reason after reason why we should keep this coat. He tried to demonstrate for me that it still fit him…it did not. He tried to pull at my heart strings, explaining that it could be the coat he uses when he rakes leaves or cleans the garage with Dad. At that time, I opted to end the debate and revisit this discussion the following year.

These were the all too often conversations I’ve had about everything, from rocks, to toys and stickers, to dentist office and fair prizes. It was me begging this boy to throw something away, all the while knowing I, too, would have had a hard time. We treasure things hard. Sentimentality runs deep in our bones.

In a previous post, I told you it was a good idea to “be sneaky” while you are getting started and purging some of their items. Tread lightly. I still do that with some things I know they have forgotten all about. The things that won’t come back to bite me. However, the ultimate goal, is to get our kids on board. We want them to embrace this life. It’s a delicate balance between teaching gratitude for what they have and holding onto things loosely.

It may be a bit dramatic to some, but I believe this will overflow into other areas of their lives as they grow up. 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing let us be content.” I’m certainly not opposed to financial wealth, but we need to spend more time preparing them for contentment in all circumstances. It’s ultimately about genuine, deep, and lasting trust in the never-ending provision of God.

Ok, back to the shoes. There we stood in the kitchen, and I was ready to force him to throw these shoes away. I took a bit of advice from “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. It is an amazingly helpful, yet slightly overwhelming and neurotic take on minimalism.

I explained that it was time to throw them away. I then held them up and said, “Repeat after me: Thank you shoes for serving me well.” He mockingly tilted his head, but smiled and repeated those words. He slid his Crocs on as I stuffed the Spiderman shoes in the trash. Paul and I glanced at each other in shock as the conversation changed topic and I proceeded to happy dance.

In that moment, I actually felt choked up as I was hit by a wave of gratitude for the lifestyle we have implemented. It’s working.

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I continue to see little glimmers of my kids moving away from seeking joy and security through possessions. I see them building better relationships with each other. I find myself putting aside my to-do list and my need to fill my day. I’m spending more time picking up a basketball to play a game of four-square with my kids and saying, “sure” to reading one more book even if it’s approaching nap time. I’m setting down my phone and picking up more books to read myself. It’s encouraging to see such progress in my kids and it challenges me to keep on and press into the simple moments.¬†

 

 

 

“That’s Not Very Minimalist.”

I really had no idea how my family would react when I declared I wanted us to be minimalists. I knew I was committed, but I was unsure to what extent they would jump on board. I have always been the kind of person who reacts impulsively and then, in time, I calm down and settle into a more realistic version of whatever situation or concept is in front of me.

This is where I am at right now. Settling into our new normal. It’s funny, what initially felt like minimal living¬†is now starting to feel like we own too much again.¬†Don’t get me wrong, I have not added any more to our home, it’s just that I want more stuff gone. I have less of a tolerance for clutter. However, the¬†process is moving slower than I would like. I’m realizing that patience is the only way I am going to get where I want to be.

It raises the question, is¬†“where I want to be” a concept that keeps moving out of reach every time¬†I make progress? The day I donated coats and moved all of our winter boots out of the coat closet and to the basement for the summer¬†felt great. The closet looked awesome. Now I look at my closet and want to set it on fire. Still so many shoes. Still so many jackets.

I have to be perfectly honest with you. Part of this comes from a new fear that someone will unexpectedly show up at my house and accuse me of hypocrisy. I picture it either being an audible accusation or simply just judgmental glances around my house, followed by an eye roll. While being transparent and sharing our journey I have inadvertently threatened my desire for authenticity.

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Nothing makes me feel like less of a minimalist than the 4pm hour of any given weekday.¬†The moment I decide to start making spaghetti sauce, my mischievous 21-month old¬†manipulates open a locked cupboard and pulls art supplies out onto the floor. She then heads to my lazy susan and pulls out a bottle of olive oil and a few jars of spices before moving two cupboards over to empty all of my kids’ cups onto the kitchen floor.¬†This typically occurs moments before she finds a crayola marker left on the floor by my¬†5 year old and proceeds to apply it to her lips like lipstick. If you were to walk into my home at that moment, I would want to crawl into a hole as you assess the hypocrisy of my claim to minimalism.

In the morning, I still leave 1/2 empty cereal bowls out on the counter while I spend some quiet time to myself before getting my littlest up. I sometimes even leave these bowls out for hours and hours as I rush out the door to pick up my daughter from preschool. What can I say? If my littlest sleeps in, I usually opt to keep reading. My kids still dump out ALL of the toys we do have and leave them sprawled out on the floor as I send them outside to play basketball before it starts raining.

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In those sour-milk-cereal, Crayola-lipstick, toy-sprawled moments, I worry what you may think of me. Since I find¬†authenticity non-negotiable, I’m just going to put it¬†out there. I haven’t mastered this minimalist thing yet.

I wonder if there is a danger of replacing the discontentment I used to have with too many possessions, with a different kind of discontentment.

Am I doomed to never be satisfied with my level of minimalism? How do we find the ideal amount for our family? Will the sentence, “You know, that’s not very minimalist,” spoken in jest by those close to me eventually begin to shape the decisions I make for my family?

I need to remind myself that the end goal is not minimalism itself. Minimalism is simply a lifestyle that facilitates getting to where I want to be. Just as the habit of regular exercise and a balanced diet is the lifestyle that promotes¬†a healthier and stronger you. The goal is not to always be exercising. The goal is a long and healthy life. A 30 day diet¬†doesn’t guarantee health 20 years from now, just as 3¬†months of purging won’t result in a lifetime of contentment. Minimalism is the path that facilitates peace, contentment, gratitude, and generosity.

I was never very good at keeping my home picked up and I was pretty vocal about that. I love that it now takes me less than 30 minutes to make this place look great. The thing is, I still have to do that because we live here.

I have decided to stay focused on the¬†purpose not the process.¬†It’s quite a process! We will become discouraged, self-conscious and distracted if that’s all we see. Don’t swap out one distraction for¬†another.¬†Appreciate the growth we do in the process, but don’t get hung up there. Perfection is unattainable and I have to appreciate how far we have come.¬†When we are focused on our purpose, even the setbacks are still steps in the right direction because of the opportunity to learn from them.

While it IS my job to edit what comes into my home, it is also my job to draw boundaries around the time I spend doing this. I became a minimalist to live each moment¬†intentionally, not to constantly spend¬†my time analyzing my belongings. I didn’t trade in my clutter and chaos for a fear of failure. I traded it in for freedom. Managing stuff was a misuse of my time and my purpose. I’m not looking to redirect that focus on how well I accomplish “minimalism.”

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Minimalism is the path our family has chosen to undo what has distracted us from our purpose. Our time is more free to love on our kids. Our time is more free to help a friend. Our money is more free to be used to bless others.

I just may always have a couple of pairs of shoes more than I need. I may never be able to make myself throw away a handful of things I probably should part with. I probably will¬†break down one day and buy my daughter the bell for her bike she randomly requested. If that makes me a failure, then this minimalism thing isn’t serving its purpose.

 

Minimalize Your kitchen

I tackled my kitchen with the same ferociousness I did my clothing. I am sitting here trying to come up with a 3 point plan or a 10 point plan on how to declutter your kitchen. The thing is, you just have to want it.

By the time I started in on¬†my kitchen I had seen the benefits of owning less in our bedrooms. I passionately wanted that¬†in every room of my house. With that thought in mind I just started in, cabinet by cabinet. I removed¬†everything that I didn’t use, even if I could come up with a reason why I may need it one day. If it didn’t serve a REAL purpose NOW¬†or in the next 365 days it was gone.

It doesn’t matter if you have an open floor plan or an isolated kitchen you can temporarily hide from, kitchen clutter will catch up with you. Our¬†counters used to be constantly littered with¬†everything from appliances to vitamins to a mound¬†of fruit and bread. Our old definition of a clean kitchen¬†was when¬†everything was “neatly”¬†stacked along the walls. I had come to terms with the fact that this was as good as it was going to get in our home.

We were on the verge of adding extra¬†cabinets or even moving. No matter how hard we tried we couldn’t keep stuff from accumulating on the counters. When we entertained¬†we would simply pack everything up off of the counters and move it to¬†the laundry room so it would be out of site. For those¬†few hours it was like I was on vacation from my chaos.¬†Within 24 hours we were back to the same old, same old.

Things are different now!

I did not revolutionize our kitchen with a new organization system or by simply decluttering. We had to go big. We had to own less. I am now able to live every day with a clutter free kitchen and room to spare. 

Here are some of the strategies that directed my steps as I tackled my kitchen. I hope they can help you stay focused and motivated as you journey with me toward a more simplified but abundant life.

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Remove duplicates 

Really, if you only do one thing, do this. As I started looking through my drawers, I realized how many items I had with the sole purpose of cutting things.¬†I have¬†a block set with multiple sizes of¬†knives. I started to think about why I also had¬†an apple slicer, cheese slicer, avocado slicer, Star Wars shaped sandwich cutter and a pizza slicer?¬†They all had a purpose, but wouldn’t a knife accomplish¬†the same job. In the spirit of simplifying the process of cutting food, I had inadvertently made life more complicated.¬†I got rid of most of those items…though the pizza slicer stays! That thing can¬†cut¬†kids food¬†in record time.

Muuuuuggggssss….Do I need to say more? Oh my word did I have a lot of mugs. With our place settings came matching mugs that were too small to drink a solid cup of coffee out of. Paul used one¬†a day¬†for espresso, but that’s it! I got rid of all but three. (For the record Paul¬†made me keep three. I thought one was sufficient).¬†I kept just a handful of mugs for entertaining, but only the ones that were my absolute favorites.

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I had enough platters to serve 5 turkeys at the same time. I only kept what I knew I would use in one big Thanksgiving meal and donated the rest. I found there was no real reason to keep extra platters. They just took up an awkward amount of space and made it difficult to find what I really needed. Consider what servingware you really¬†use and get rid of what you don’t.

Be honest & realistic about what you really use

We had chopsticks. Though they take up very little space it was just one more thing creating clutter in my silverware drawer. We never used them and there was no need to try and start now.

I had a set of 12 dessert plates that were just adorable. However, when¬†I hosted, I either forgot about them, chose to use my more accessible everyday plates, or we whipped out the paper plates (I usually ended going with Option C). I have had those plates¬†since we got married 13 years ago, but I have probably used them 5 times. They were hard to part with initially out of principle, but I truly don’t miss them at all.

What do you have that you just don’t use? China¬†or multiple¬†sets of plates that you never use? Do you have pie pans, but have never made a pie? Do you own a fondue set that is simply collecting dust?¬†Do you have a juicer and hate all things juice? Be honest! It’s ok to let it go. Sell it or donate it and then borrow it from a friend if you one day need it.

Just before minimalism became my mantra, I was looking at purchasing a springform pan. My friend has the BEST raspberry coffee cake recipe that calls for¬†a springform pan. This pan really isn’t very expensive, but the odds of me making this cake more than 1 time a¬†year is slim.

Before, I would have just purchased the pan and almost never used it. I would have added it to my collection of cake pans, cursing it as I had to dig around it to get to the pans I use regularly. Eventually, I would have moved it to a spot in the basement to wait until I one day needed to make another raspberry coffee cake.

I now intend to call my friend to borrow her pan when I want to make this cake. I will¬†gladly return the favor with items I own. Why are we not doing more pan sharing? We won’t starve if we don’t have every type of pan and appliance¬†accessible at all times.

Take a deeper look at every cabinet…spices, cookbooks, gadgets, towels, Gladware. What are you keeping just because you may one day need it? The joy¬†I have found in a¬†minimalist kitchen far outweighs the illusion of peace of mind that came¬†from¬†holding on to everything.¬†There is no real security in accumulation.

Create a space for the seasonal & large items if needed

We make Christmas cookies every Christmas. I love baking and decorating cakes and cupcakes for birthdays. My instant pot is huge and will not physically fit in any of my cabinets. Large items and items we don’t use regularly can be moved out of the kitchen.

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Careful now! This is not an excuse to hold on to stuff. Remember to continue being honest about what you need. Keep in mind that your kitchen may be large enough to hold all that you need.

I simply have one half empty shelf at the bottom of my basement stairs where I now store my cake decorating gun, my round cake pans, my Instant Pot, and my Christmas cookie cutters. I use this strategy to create space in my kitchen to easily find the stuff I need regularly.

I did not buy a new shelf for this, but relocated it from the back of my basement. There it sat for 13 years covered in items we NEVER used. I thought I was being responsible by keeping it all. It was good stuff. Some of it was even unopened wedding gifts. Getting rid of it all seemed so ungrateful before.

With those items off to find new homes, I was able to use this shelf in a practical way. Every time I go downstairs to get an item from the shelf or return one, I look it over to make sure everything on that shelf truly needs to be there. Honesty and intention are necessary to thwart future accumulation.

Wash dishes or run the dishwasher daily

We load and run our dishwasher¬†before bed and unload it every morning. This keeps¬†us from needing¬†more than we actually need. It’s as simple as that.

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I now know where everything is and can grab it quickly. I am specific and intentional about what I keep out on my counter. Sure, it regularly¬†looks like chaos while I’m cooking or after my kids eat cereal at the counter. My littlest still opens all of the cupboards and pulls¬†stuff out all over the floor. That is¬†simply part of living life, but it¬†no longer defines us.

Owning less in my kitchen has¬†revolutionized the way I live out my daily life.¬†Our¬†kitchen is the heart of our¬†home. It is where we do life together. If the kitchen is cluttered, stress is unavoidable. It seems to ripple out into every other room of our¬†home. ¬†I find it’s the same thing with peace. When¬†peace is at the center of your¬†home it makes its way¬†into everything that occupies it.

4 unexpected benefits of implementing minimalism

There were many things I knew to expect when I shifted toward a more simple life. I anticipated we would have more money in our savings, more time and I was really banking on more sanity. However, there were a few things that I didn’t really see coming. I have to say that some of the unexpected benefits of implementing minimalism are my favorite benefits of all.

LESS LAUNDRY

I honestly thought I would be doing laundry more often if I got rid of over half of our clothes. It just hasn’t turned out to be the case.

I think the strategy my children used to clean up was simply to throw everything into the dirty laundry basket. Some of their clothing was probably washed more than worn! Now that I think about it, I’m guilty of the same thing. If it was on the floor of the living room or the bathroom I just tossed it in the washing machine.Untitled design-9

On top of that, I was washing 7 pairs of pajamas a week…per child. It just seemed easier than trying to manage my children’s pajamas. I was robbing Peter to pay Paul. Come laundry day, (and by that I mean the day that the laundry had piled up ridiculously high and my husband had run out of clean under shirts), I dreaded it. Do not confuse me with one of those women who have specific days they designate to do specific household chores; I’ve tried that. I’m just not that kinda gal. We were folding approximately 21+ sets of PJ’s. Thats up to 42 items to fold just in children’s pajamas!

With less kids clothing to manage it has become easier to keep track of what is clean and what is dirty. Even in my own closet the clothes are no longer falling off of the shelves and mindlessly getting shoved into the dirty laundry pile. When I do laundry now it’s 2 loads, maybe a 3rd if it has been a week. I still hate folding laundry, but it takes half the time now.

MORE STORAGE

This may seem obvious, but I really didn’t see it coming. I didn’t think I would NEED the storage, but removing stuff made room for our stuff. Go figure.

Those kids pajamas that I’m not washing as frequently get put on the coat hooks by the laundry room. We made room for that by cleaning out the closet. Such simple changes reaped huge rewards. The kids are able to put them there in the morning (assuming syrup wasn’t a condiment served at breakfast that day) and go back and get them in the evening for bedtime.

I noticed the biggest change in my kitchen. I now have room for my toaster to go into the cabinet and off of my counter. I no longer have a canister of spatulas and spoons on my counter because they all fit in the DRAWERS!

Know that I do not have a large gourmet kitchen either. My realtor sister (click here for a shameless advertisement from this adoring big sister) agrees that it as a “small to medium” sized kitchen. It’s a simple peninsula kitchen with a handful of upper and lower cabinets. Nothing crazy.

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I’ve noticed changes in my living room as well. The games have been moved to that once overflowing closet. I emptied so many bins and baskets that I was able to relocate a really cute one to my now clear living room shelf. It now holds the remotes. The elusive Apple remote has a home. Now if only I can make everyone remember to put it there.

LESS ERRANDS

This has been a game changer! I thrive under pressure with a list of things to accomplish. I was a glutton for busyness. I used to joke about how I was a stay at home mom that never stayed at home. Some days it was fun adventures like a day trip to Lake Michigan or a morning at our local zoo. But so many days were lists of things to buy and replace. It would be a quick stop at Lowes to look for a new light, then swing by Home Goods for some more picture frames and a new bathroom rug, a look at new tables at World Market and then stop by Target for some new tank tops and kids clothes (and the inevitable $150 I would proceed to spend on any and everything I fell in love with while appeasing my children with their popcorn).

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I have probably cut out about 90% of my errand running. Before making a purchase or adding a task to my day I think it through. I ask myself, “Do I really need to do this? Is this really something we need?” Depending on what it is, I may even wait a few days before getting it to see if we can go with out it all together. When I do have to pick something up I ONLY get the thing I came for. So much of my errand running, purchasing, and replacing has been out of habit.

MORE PERSONAL GROWTH

I really feel like a new person. Maybe it was a midlife crisis that catapulted me into minimalism. Maybe I just had enough. Whatever it was, it showed me that I could change. At 35 I have wildly shifted my thinking and it has resulted in a significant change in my behavior.

Initiating minimalism has been a catalyst to self improvement in other areas of my life. It got me thinking about where else I could grow. I’ve always said,  “I’m not a camper.” “I have no musical ability whatsoever.” “I’m really not a reader.” “I’m not so great at cleaning and organizing.”

Proclaiming these things about myself released me from having to try. I just stayed away from the things I thought I couldn’t do. How sad is that? I had unintentionally given myself an excuse to stop growing and learning.

Now, I’m finding more time to read. I’m learning the ukelele alongside my daughter. I’m determined to do some camping…not my former definition of camping (which was to stay in a hotel with low water pressure and inconsistent air conditioned temperatures) but actual camping…in a tent.

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Is there something about yourself that you have just accepted? Trust me, if I can become a minimalist, then you can change anything. Whether it’s a new skill you want to learn, a character trait you aren’t pleased with or a new investigation into knowing the God who created you. You don’t have to be defined by something you aren’t proud of and you don’t have to be stuck where you are. Let’s challenge ourselves to grow.

The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size -Albert Einstein

 

 

 

Taking Our Minimalism on the Road

Spring break is such a busy and chaotic time to travel. We have always avoided it. Now that our kids are in school, we have found it necessary to use designated school breaks to our advantage. This spring break we planned our first ever family road trip.

You see, I have grand dreams of unplugging our family and living on the road or internationally for a few months…maybe even a year. ¬†I don’t know how it will work, where we will go or even when, but it’s a dream I talk about frequently and I am determined to make it happen. I saw this road trip as a first step in practicing¬†our traveling life. This¬†will certainly be easier when I don’t have to drag car seats, booster seats, a stroller and a pack-n-play with us (insert relaxing exhale). For now, that all gets to tag along. This trip, I worked on minimizing our attire and toiletries¬†in order to¬†redefine how we pack and travel.

I was determined to fit everything in backpacks. Some day I intend to drag my family backpacking through Europe. I thought this would be good practice. However, I realized my kids were too young to carry these very full backpacks from the parking lot to the hotel room. So I know that we are still quite a few years away from our Europe trip.

The goal: 5 people, 1 car, 3 cities in 8 days.

I am a¬†vacation planning nut job. I am known for diligently researching places to stay, things to do and things to avoid. To my husband it’s a borderline unhealthy obsession with the details. To me it’s the necessary due diligence and only irresponsible people don’t spend hours and hours planning their vacations. Just saying.

Although I was excited to head out on this road trip, I made some mistakes. I confused traveling minimally with spending less time planning. Maybe I will get there some day. Maybe I will be able to toss some things in a backpack the night before and head out. For this trip, packing¬†required more forethought than I gave it and we paid the price. Literally…I had to go buy some things. In some areas I hit the nail on the head, but in other areas I flew too close to the sun with my laissez faire approach.

CLOTHING

I somehow managed to only pack Raegan 1 pair of socks. I forgot Amelia’s¬†swimmy AND¬†bathing suit. I packed Amelia the same number of pants as the older 2 kids, which was an odorous mistake because she is in diapers. I’ll just leave it at that.

Even though I did forget a handful of necessities, we had easy access to stores and we did our best to just go without where we could. We also had access to a washer and dryer so I was able to wash our dirty clothes half way through the trip. Below are some photos of what I packed for my 2 older kids. These pictures include the clothes they wore the day we left.

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1 pj, 1 dress, 1 sweatpant for the road, 1 capri, 1 jean, 1 skirt/short. 4 shirts, 4 underwear, crocs and tennis shoes, Not pictured: bathing suit, cardigan, 1 hoodie sweatshirt

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1 pj, 4 shirts, 1 short, 1 bathing suit, 1 jean pant, 1 running pant, 4 underwear, 1 bathing suit, crocs and tennis shoes. Not pictured: hoodie

I used to think that I had to pack each kid a different outfit for every¬†day of the trip as well as a few extra outfits…just in case. Looking back, one of the reasons I found this necessary was¬†because…brace yourselves…I did not want to have my kids wearing the same outfits¬†in photos from different parts of my trip.¬†I am so thankful to have the opportunity to change course! My kids were not the picky ones. I was!

I am quite proud of how little I packed for myself as well for these 8 days. I was able to fit it all into one backpack! The best tip I came across in regards to packing minimally for myself may be obvious to some, but was revolutionary to me. Whatever you pack should all fall within the same color family. Shoes are what take up the most space. In the past I used to pack all of my favorite shirts with the necessary correlating shoes. This time, I picked the shoe I wanted to wear the whole time first and then only choose outfits that matched. Mind blowing!

I¬†only packed my Sperry’s and flip flops for the hotel pool, 1 pair of boot cut jeans (which are apparently mom jeans now…when did that happen?) 1 pair of skinny jeans, 1 pair of shorts, sweats that doubled as pajama pants, my favorite cardigan, approximately 4 short sleeved shirts and 2 tank tops, 4 underwear, 2 bras, bathing suit and pool shorts. After a mid week laundry session I was golden!

FOOD

Another rookie mistake I made was poor meal planning. When my husband and I travel together we don’t usually eat breakfast or we may just have a coffee¬†and split a pastry. Later we typically eat a big lunch or dinner and just lightly snack throughout the day. Pina Coladas at a caribbean¬†resort can really fill a girl¬†up ya know.

I¬†did NOT take into consideration how much my children eat and giving your kid a latte or a pina colada to hold them over is frowned upon.¬†They need breakfast, lunch and dinner. So we found ourselves out to eat a lot. It cost us a lot of money and they ate a lot of french fries. I tried to be laid back about it and take on the mind set of, “It’s vacation. Who cares?” It got old really fast. I intend to meal plan better next time¬†by preparing our own picnic lunches and having¬†healthy snack options on hand all the times.

PHOTOS

Putting down my camera is something I have been working on at home as well as on this trip. Just a couple of days ago I came across a must read article on the subject of cataloging our motherhood. Dr. Denaye Barahona of Simple Families highlights a Walt Whitman quote that I just may make our families mission statement.

We were together. I forget the rest.

I find so much freedom in those words! I am always taking photos. For what? I mean, 100 years from now do my great great grandchildren want 150,000 photos of our family saved on multiple hard drives? Let’s look even sooner than that. When I am on my death bed do I want to flip through 100+ photo albums of my life? Or, will I just simply want to treasure the faces before me, spending those moments being present and take the time to invest in my loved ones? I know that¬†may be hyperbole, but a significant portion of this minimalism thing is not missing the now. When our¬†arms are full of the physical objects that represent our¬†past there is less room for the¬†now! Cameras and photo albums included.

Sure, I am still going to make the occasional photo album along the way, but I am also giving myself permission to not.

FUN

This, we did well. I dragged my kids on a 4 mile round trip walk from Germantown to Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee stopping for a cake pop, some water and run down the giant hill in front of the capital. We got popsicles at Las Paletas in 12 South and played at the park with wildly sticky hands. We used our reciprocal museum membership to spend a rainy day at the Nashville Adventure Science Museum. We spent a day deep inside the Mammoth Caves on a surprisingly anxiety provoking tour (I mean seriously, how is it safe to be down there?). We walked the Purple People Bridge in Cincinatti, strolled through the Creation Museum and spent a morning petting sharks at the Newport Aquarium. It was an adventure filled week.

I think my most favorite part of all was spending time in such close proximity to my husband and my little ones. Which is weird because I’m currently home with my kids full time in an 1800 square foot home. Sometimes that can feel like unbearably¬†close proximity. For example, at this very moment while trying to type this thought, I have a toddler grabbing at my calf and 2 other kids arguing about whether or not one is tattling on the other. Just living the dream, am I right?

However, I do find it is easy to spread out in our¬†own home and grow comfortable with the space between us. That isn’t a bad thing. We all need a little space, but bringing our family together like this for those 8 days was enlightening and precious. I got to learn new things about the way my kids love and learn.¬†Even if I one day forget the details, I’ll know we were together.

So, was my first attempt at traveling minimally a success or failure?¬†I¬†certainly made some mistakes, but overall I am another step toward my goal and I can’t wait¬†for our next family adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Less Toys: What we removed to decrease clutter and increase quality play

We had such great momentum diving into this new life of less. I was loading stuff into my car and hauling it¬†out of here like a maniac. I’m sure at some point our neighbors thought we were moving. It was invigorating.

However, I soon came to realize that toys, specifically, would be a never-ending battle.

Even if my kids were fully on board all day, everyday, they would still have birthdays, Easter, class parties and Christmas (I’m already mentally prepping for Christmas 2017. I’ve got Eye of the Tiger playing in my head. Game on!) Anyways, you get the point. Nate Berkus says,

Be a Ruthless Editor of what you allow into your home.

Stuff keeps coming in. It’s my job to defend our new found sanity.

I thought I would take the time to be specific and share exactly what toys we have gotten rid of. I’m nervous to do so, partly because I’m embarrassed I ever had so much, partly because I know I still have so far to go, but MOSTLY because I run the risk of really upsetting those who have purchased gifts for my kids. I have some before and after¬†photos that I am reluctant¬†to share. I know that if our family sees their gifts in these photos I will get an irritated phone call.¬†I’ve already been caught and yelled at for¬†selling something gifted to me 7 years ago. Sigh. I’m not going to¬†lie, it was pretty awkward.

Now, it would be easy for me to suggest that you just remove all of the toys your kids do NOT play with. However, I find it is just as easy to justify keeping most of those things because, maybe they occasionally make their way through each toy for an insignificant amount of time. As I started to rid our home of excess toys, I kept these 4 categories in mind. I did not go through the toys step by step, but rather all of these different areas had a target on their backs from the moment I started the purge. My agenda was to remove as much as I possibly could in one crazy swoop. Even to the point that it was uncomfortable at times. So, with the promise of what I knew to be inevitable peace, I began.

JUNK

This is the easiest stuff¬†to see go. Any toy with a broken or missing piece, get rid of it. Any game with a broken spinner or missing game pieces, trash it! Have your children assemble every puzzle you own and keep only the ones that can be made whole. “What if I¬†find that one missing puzzle piece later?” you ask. You probably won’t. Look at how many puzzles you have! I would just¬†TRASH IT!

I also got rid of anything I would refer to as a “junk toy”. Happy Meal toys, birthday party favors, prizes from an arcade or fair. I got rid of pretty¬†much any toy that would most likely break after a few uses.

DUPLICATES

Eliminate your duplicate toys. For example, we had 3 different toy stethoscopes, 4 different baby dolls, 3 baby doll strollers, 2 baby doll cribs, 3 Elsa figurines¬†and don’t get me started on stuffed animals. How many stuffed dogs does one family need?

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Left: Junk toys and duplicate toys I pitched or donated. Top Right: Some of my sons never ending themed toys before the purge. Bottom Right: My daughter’s bed, pre-purge, WHILE she’s asleep in it.

NEVER ENDING THEMED TOYS

I’m referring to toys that just keep accumulating like Hot Wheels. All of a¬†sudden I looked down and there were a million Hot Wheels in my home.¬†Where did they all come from?? When my kids¬†played with the Hot Wheels¬†it was just a few at a time. I had my son¬†pick about 5 and the rest we¬†donated to our church. Another place I found a large accumulation of toys was in our play kitchen. We have SO much food and even more spoons.

I realized that more play food did not equal more time and attention given to the play kitchen. It was chaotic to even be around because it so easily became a disorganized mess. I removed about 1/2 of our kitchen accessories and play food. 

KEEP

My son and I sorted his themed toys into 3 piles. I was so proud. He still hasn’t played with those “keep” toys.

BOOKS

What kind of¬†mother gets rid of books? Doesn’t she know March is reading month!? Doesn’t she want her kids to read?

I received some excellent advice on this topic from the doll face that revolutionized our family by mentioning she was a minimalist. Remember her? Little did she know how impactful those words would be on this equally unsuspecting momma that morning. But, I digress. I reached out to her regarding books and she reminded me that kids love NEW books. With a few exceptions, most books turn into clutter once they are read.

I was thrilled to realize¬†that I didn’t have to go all Fahrenheit 451 on our books¬†after all. I could simply go to the Library!

You are probably¬†thinking, “they never went to the library before?” Well the thing is, in the past I had gone to the library, and it had always been a disaster. Once I brought those books home I had to be responsible for them! We always lost them, and then returned them weeks and weeks later once they were found. It was just easier to purchase books at a garage sale for .25 cents a piece.

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BOOKS! SO many books. This isn’t even all of them.

I gave each child a small bin (one of the many empty bins I now have lying around the house) to keep their books in. They can¬†keep as many books as can¬†fit in their bin.¬†The rest we donated to their school.¬†We have since¬†made multiple trips to the library. Now that¬†I don’t have 200+ books¬†to wade through,¬†they are easy to find when it’s time to return. Who knew?

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Left Top: Raegan’s Left Bottom: Jameson’s. Bins designated to keep their favorite books in. Right: Our first post-purge trip to the library.

THEN I WENT EVEN DEEPER

After I removed the junk, duplicates, books and themed toys that keep coming in, I still had too many toys. At this point I just had to choose.

I started to choose what to keep with the assumption that almost everything should probably go. I only kept what I knew to be the most dear to them.

The ninja turtle figurines are gone. The Disney figurines are gone. The rocking horse and pop up tent…gone. The Rescue Bots and Doc McStuffins toys¬†have been put into a small bin and hidden in the closet. We like to refer to this as¬†“purgatory.” It’s just waiting until we make sure they don’t go asking for it.

I intend, from this point forward, to be more careful about what kind of toys we own.¬†Disney will always come out with a new movie. My kids do not need to have a toy for every new hit. Establishing tangible boundaries for our kids has¬†also been very helpful in setting the standard for what can stay. Rather than add more bins to hold more toys, the kids can only keep what can be kept in their designated areas.¬†If I’ve learned anything while parenting it’s that kids thrive with¬†boundaries. This has proven true once again.

I find that my kids are playing longer with what they have. We are spending less time cleaning up. We are playing more games as a family. Playing more living room soccer. My kids are reading to each other and creating even more art projects.

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend of those with kids, make a conscious decision to handle toys differently. Keep and give gifts¬†that promote creativity, imagination and deeper relationships. When spending time with kids you love, be intentional with that time. I know my kids’ favorite things to do are activities like¬†baking, movies, games, swinging, fishing, at-home manicures¬†and more. If they come home with a toy it’s quickly forgotten about, but when they have the opportunity to attend an MSU game with an aunt or bake cookies with grandma, it adds to a deeper, more quality relationship.

Depth is what minimalism¬†is all about for me. I try not to¬†focus on the “less”, but the room that “less” makes. Room to grow deeper in character, intentionality, strength, peace and JOY!