Finding Peace in the Process

I’ve been struggling, friends.

It took me a while to figure out why because I am doing all sorts of adulting over here, and adulting is stressful with all it’s deadlines, health issues, decisions, spouses, kids, chores, lists, life, death, etc. So I guess when I noticed myself feeling a growing sense of anxiety, I just accepted it. A (lying) voice told me to accept it. This is what happens when you grow up. The responsibility catches up with you and of course you feel awful. Right?

It was a total stranger who made me question this voice.

I know this might seem strange, since I find myself writing some private thoughts to all of you, but I am typically a deeply private person. Maybe too private.

But I am learning. I am watching the wise people around me who go through crisis, and you know what they do? They reach out. They circle the wagons and they gather the village and they lean. I am watching. I am learning.

So when this voice was really messing with my head one day, and my rock/bff/husband was out of town, I reached out to some… strangers, really, on an online group I belong to. This group has nothing to do with grief, but it’s a cool group of women, so I took a breath and dove in. It was much longer than this, but I’ll summarize my post as,

“I’m stressed, I’m sad, I’m not parenting well. I’m grieving. I’m failing. Help.”

The very first line of the very first response I got was this:

“Grief is big, it is real, and it is long.”

You know what that felt like? Permission. I read on…

There were others. There were online hugs, wishes for peace, great advice. But I think the most impactful messages were, like the one above, from women who had also lost loved ones and were still grieving. These women were 18 months, 3 years, 6 years out and still they grieve. I found these to be the most comforting messages, so of course I had to sit down and figure out why.

I thought about how much comfort and peace I am finding as I simplify and declutter my home. And how that experience feels so different from the other big decisions in my life right now.

What’s the difference?

When I declutter a drawer, the drawer is decluttered! It’s neat, it’s clean, it’s tidy, it brings me a sense of peace. Like, right then.
When I grieve, parent, meditate, or ponder some of the big decisions that we are facing right now, there is no tangible result. There is no beautifully decluttered part of my brain or heart or life that I can step back from and admire.

Instead, these things are all just part of a slow and usually invisible process.

I think, looking back, that I have been putting quite a bit of importance on the anniversary of my dad’s death. February 4th came and went. I had gotten through all the seasons and holidays and firsts, and yet…
On February 5th I was not magically restored. I was not done. I had not checked grieving off my to-do list. And maybe…definitely… I was disappointed. In myself.

And that pressure to see instant results, I now realize, was seeping into the rest of my life. I was taking processes like parenting and learning and healing and deciding and trying to turn them into prizes. Finish lines. Boxes to be checked. And then I struggled and wondered why I was so impatient and anxious all of the time.

I forgot.

I am not on this planet to check boxes. I am here to live. To grow. To be kind.

I forgot that it’s on the journey itself that the living happens.

And now I am remembering.

I am remembering that the parenting happens every day, in all the minutes. As my very wise friend told me once, “All of those minutes matter.” I will continue to simplify my home and life because it allows me more of these minutes. And I will not put pressure on myself and allow frustration that it is not done yet. I will live the “doing” just as much as the “done”.

And that goes for the other things too. These decisions that have to be made and healing and growing that needs to be done… it all happens in the journey. The answers will come as I am living my best life, and making time and space for what matters.

I am already seeing little differences. With no finish line to run to, I am more patient with myself, and with my sweet kids. I am yelling at them less. I am giggling with them more. I am taking more time for myself, my husband, and my kids, because… really, that’s what I am trying to get more of anyway.

Living and learning, over here, my friends.

I’ll just close by wishing for you what one of my wonderful stranger-friends wished for me that day.
“Big hugs. I wish I could send you a cup of tea, and a quiet spot to sit and just be. “
Wishing the same for all of you!:)

A day to do less and live more…

Hello everyone!

I am lucky enough to be writing this from beautiful and very snowy Colorado. As of this morning, snow totals in my city were at 16 inches, which earned us our second snow day today.
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I sit here on a chilly Tuesday night, looking back on these fun four days home with my babies.

The weekend was wonderfully busy. We had my niece and nephew over for a sleepover one night and went out with friends the second night. Sunday rolled around and with it came the snow… and the announcement of a snow day! Ahhhh, man. I thought I loved snow days as a student. They are even better as a teacher and parent!

I woke up on Monday morning with the day stretching out in front of me.

I had more options than hours, of course, and so I sat in my favorite spot with my cup of coffee and started to prioritize.
favorite spot
The cupboard that holds the tupperware, my makeup shelf, our nightstands, my bra drawer, and then of course blogging about all of these…. These were all projects I wanted to tackle with my found day.

I started to map out the day as I listened to my little cuties hop down the stairs in their footie pajamas.

And then…chocolate chip banana pancakes happened. Then the Magna-tiles came out. Then books, costumes, giggles, and tag. Next was a blissfully quiet hour of reading and tea for me while the kids played together. Then the snow gear went on and we all played outside. The neighbor kids joined in, which turned into a hot-chocolate-and-marshmallows date at our house while jackets and mittens dried by the door.
snow gear
I got the pot roast in the crockpot while the kids relaxed, then they helped me make homemade bread. After dinner, a movie, and snuggles, it was time for bed.

It was a fantastic day.

But early in this wonderful day, my projects started nagging at me. I was having a blast with the kids but I was thinking about all of the decluttering projects I wanted to get done.

And then I remembered… What is the POINT of all this decluttering?

The point is to get rid of The Noise to make space for what I love.

So if I am lucky enough to find myself in the situation where I am doing EXACTLY what I love… well then, the projects can and should wait.

And with that simple realization, the nagging thoughts disappeared. The projects would be there tomorrow. (And they were! Today I decluttered the Tupperware, bakeware, and nightstands while the kids played in their snow day fort.)
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There is nothing more important than enjoying my family and my life. I won’t always have the chance to enjoy snow days with my kids, so I did my best to make the most of them.

And I just found out… another snow day tomorrow! WOOHOO!

Minimalism Mini-projects

Hey all!
I have been elbow deep this week in teaching, skiing, and loving on my family… It’s been great!

But now, it’s Sunday night and I want to be productive. But only for, say… 10 minutes. 😉

I wanted a small and manageable project to tackle tonight and after the crazy Broncos game, my brain is fried. I went onto Pinterest and typed in “minimalism project” and found my new favorite blog!

Irene writes “Compulsively Quirky,” and her most recent post is about rethinking the junk drawer. It’s a great post, with an interesting idea of re-naming the drawer to create more purpose. Loved it!

As I browsed around her blog, I came across another post that I want to mention, because it’s about something we have been doing for months now and man, do we love it. She writes about creating an “eternal donation box.” We actually have two… one for my clothes that my daughter grows out of that will be heading to my niece, and one for the Arc when they come for their next pick up. I think it is key that these boxes are easily accessible, to make it as simple as possible to toss something in them, but also out of the way, so they do not create visual clutter.

For us, this means that the box for my niece is on the floor of the linen closet, which is right outside my daughter’s room. The Arc donation area is actually the bench that we keep at the foot of our bed. We have lots of room in there to fill up before the next pick up.

I’m off to tackle the Junk- I mean Utility Drawer!:)
Have a great night!

My Simple Holiday

Happy Holidays Everyone!

I’ve been taking a little break from the blog, from decluttering projects, from doing laundry… you know, all non-essentials. 😉

This is my first Christmas without my dad, and also the first Christmas where both of my kids are old enough to actually enjoy the magic of Santa. It’s been very bittersweet, and there have been many times that I have had a clear vision of myself on a roller coaster. White knuckles, loving it and hating it at the same time, just holding on for dear life. Before the holidays even got rolling, I knew I needed a survival plan. So, I decided to simplify.

I like to think of it like I am going into some sort of minimalist hibernation.

I don’t have a lot of emotional strength in reserves right now, and so I needed to remove all the extras. I needed to declutter my holiday to the absolute bare essentials so that I could live it as fully as possible.

Here is how I am surviving and thriving this holiday:

1. Selective Cancelling
I was once called a “raging introvert,” so Step One in getting through this holiday in one piece was to cancel the parties and gatherings.
I. Just. Can’t. The talking, the socializing… it can be so fun, but it can also be draining, and I don’t have it in me this year.

And that’s ok.

There was one exception. Some dear friends of ours invited us to the mountains. Skiing, hot tub, fireplace, snow… these are a few of my faaaaavorite things! And these friends of ours, along with their family, are so warm and kind and real and are the type of people that just invite you to BE YOU. Shoes off, feet on the couch, swearing-like-a-sailor, laughing and crying YOU. That kind of gathering didn’t drain me, in fact I think it saved me. Thank you so much, T family and TR and WR. I am full of gratitude for you all.

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2. I did my best with presents and let the rest go
I had a whole post planned on what strategies I was implementing for keeping the holiday toy-splosion to a minimum, but then, you know… Hibernation.
I will write about it next year, but for now I will just say that I made a list and I did a decent job of sticking to it. I just plopped down in front of my laptop one night and gave my Amazon Prime a good workout. I didn’t worry about budget or sales because none of the items on the kids’ wishlists were even close to big ticket. It took me one night and it was done. My husband bought himself his presents because he is Superhusband. And we drew names for all the adults in my family (THANK GOD) and just had one person to buy for. I am sure I missed some people,

and that’s ok,

because anyone I would be buying a gift for is someone that loves me and has nothing but grace for me. It wasn’t perfect, but it sure seemed that way.

3. I spent a lot of time alone
Turns out, Holiday Hibernation is a dish best served solo. I have a very wonderful friend who reached out to me when my dad died and gave me the only advice (pretty much the only conversation) I actually remember from that time.

He said, “Grieve unapologetically.”

Accordingly, there have been lots of long hot baths, lots of meditation (in bed, under the covers… SO WHAT!?), lots of tears and alone time, and it has saved me. My sweet daughter even said to me, as we drove to my mom’s for our Christmas celebration, “But Nana doesn’t have an upstairs or a living room. Where will you go if you need to cry and feel better?” She wasn’t sad or pitying me. She was being observant and savvy… at 6 years old she sees that sometimes you just need a little alone time and a little cry.

And that’s ok.

4. I simplified dinner. And everything else.
Beef Wellington became Shepard’s Pie. No homemade whipped cream with Daddy’s French Toast. There may have been some mac and cheese, take-out, and hot dogs in there somewhere. And we all survived!

You guessed it… OK.

5. I stopped drinking alcohol.
I know what you are thinking… NOT OK.
I get it…If there is any time to have a nice big glass of wine, it’s when you are sad and stressed, right? I had several reasons for doing this, but I think more important are the benefits… which probably deserve their own post. Hmmmm.

For now I will just say that I was there for it all. I was present. I felt my way through the holiday, joy and grief and pain and loss and all. I will never have to do the first holiday after losing my dad again. It would have been easy to numb myself a bit, but then I knew next year would be just as hard. I wanted to go through it, get through it, and look forward to next year.

Bonus: I facilitated the easiest declutter of my life
Picture it: Christmas morning. Kids are psyched about all their new stuff, they can’t wait to rip into all those new toys. Boxes EVERYWHERE. I grab three big Amazon boxes and told the kids that we needed to make room for all these new toys, and to please run around and gather some things to donate. They instantly made it like a game, and those 3 boxes were filled in minutes! My husband and I just looked at each other, quietly picked up the boxes, and slinked off to the laundry room. And then high-fived.

Overall, it’s been a beautiful and restorative holiday. I have had lots of time home with my incredible husband. We’ve had more talks, more movies and popcorn, and lots more snuggling with the kids. It’s been wonderful.

So my friends, I hope this holiday is treating you well. I am so grateful that we are all on this path together. I appreciate all the support so much. I am so thankful to have this space with all of you!

Megan

Having trouble letting go of clutter? Read this.

Decluttering my wardrobe started with the easy stuff… the items I didn’t really like all that much or were uncomfortable. Then went the stuff I loved but that didn’t fit quite right. Next I got rid of things I used to love or thought I should love or would love someday.

After all this, there was one category of clothes that still remained in my closet. It was the stuff that was beautiful, fit well, was relatively expensive and almost new, or (hard swallow) brand new. These are the items that I have had a really difficult time letting go of….until today!

So how did I finally let go of these things?

I figured it out by accident. One of my dear friends also happens to be a phenomenal human being and is holding a clothing drive at school. He is collecting clothes for homeless LGBT teenagers and donating them for the holidays.

This morning, I was getting dressed and I noticed a pair of nice pants that I paid too much for and then proceeded to wear one time in five years. (The truth is, they are a liiiiitle too small). It suddenly hit me that these pants would be perfect for a young kid going to, say, a job interview.

That one realization and my perspective changed.

Suddenly, all of these brand new or almost new clothes had a new purpose, and it wasn’t sitting in my closet. These nice things were destined to go to a needy kid.

Can I tell you how easy it suddenly was to get rid of those things I had been hanging on to?

So friends, here is what I learned….There are so many things that cause us to hang on to unnecessary clutter, and many of these are completely negated in the face of a good cause.

If you are having trouble decluttering an area of your home, try to visualize who the recipient of these items will be when you donate them.

Too many kids’ books and toys? Picture some happy munchkins, opening those books and toys on Christmas morning. Picture their parents, who couldn’t afford those things glance at each other across the room and throw each other a teary smile.

A box of maternity clothes? There is a pregnant mama out there that can’t afford them. Your clothes that you have been meaning to sell on Craigslist for four years could be keeping her warm.

A ridiculous amount of serving pieces? Post them for free online to a family in need, or drop them off to a shelter that serves homeless vets… and picture them eating a holiday dinner served from your lovely dishes.

It doesn’t matter what you donate or who it goes to… just remember that your excess clutter can be another person’s saving grace, especially during the holiday season.

Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!:)

How to use Pinterest to simplify your life

True Confession: I loooooooove Pinterest.

I have spent countless hours browsing all those beautiful photos, and I have learned so many amazing tips… Can I just mention the upside-down pineapple pancakes that I made last weekend? 😉

Pinterest can be an amazing tool if it is used wisely. However, if it is not used mindfully, Pinterest can foster discontent, insecurity, and unnecessary spending.

Case in Point: The other day, after mindlessly browsing Pinterest, I saw a really cute photo of a cozy winter outfit. I did not need this outfit. It was not on my list. But you know, I kind of moseyed over to the Banana Republic website to check out the price of some of these items. Lo and behond, they were on sale! Long story short, by the end of the night I bought several items that I didn’t need.

GRUMBLE.

It was the first time since embarking on this minimalism journey that I strayed from my list, and by the time I woke up the next day, I knew I had made a mistake. It was a cheap lesson, I guess. It all seemed like a good idea in the moment… but by the next day, I realized these things really would not add to what I already have. The shipping was free and I can just return everything, fortunately. It will cost me a trip to the post office and the annoyance of the mistake. But hey, we are embracing imperfection, right? 😉

Overall, it was a good reminder. And it got me thinking about how I can use Pinterest to enhance my life, and how to avoid allowing it to clutter my life.

I came to Pinterest for the recipes. I stayed for the clever DIY ideas. Eventually, I started browsing around.

There have been numerous studies showing that the simple act of looking through a fashion magazine has an immediate and negative impact on self-esteem. Turns out, when we look at picture after picture of these women, airbrushed and unrealistically perfect, we cannot help but compare ourselves and feel that we fall short.

Pinterest is like that, except instead of “just” comparing our looks with those of airbrushed models, we end up comparing every aspect of our lives to an airbrushed ideal. We tailor our Pinterest feeds to display every single image of the BEST possible version of our own reality… the fanciest parties, the most beautiful hair, the most immaculate homes, the most perfect bodies… and it would be impossible NOT to fall short. Friends… JUST DON’T.

I still love Pinterest. And I still use it often. But I have come up with some groundrules so that it is a wonderful tool in my toolbox, not a hook to encourage the idea that unnecessary purchases will make me happier, or that my simple tea party birthday for my 6 year old was subpar. I follow my own rules and I truly feel that Pinterest gives me access to information, inspiration, and ideas that make my life better.
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Here are my Pinterest guidelines:

1. DON’T BROWSE!
Mindlessly browsing “Popular” pins or following every board will inevitably set you up to view image after image of products that make you feel inferior instead of empowered. Here is the thing… if you haven’t independently realized that you have a need in your life… don’t allow advertisers or pinners to artificially create that need.

2. BE SELECTIVE
Unfollow any pinners that give you the impulse to needlessly spend time or money on things that are not important to you. This might include fashion boards, makeup boards, certain home decor boards, etc. It might take a while to weed these out… no rush, be patient. Follow only boards and pinners that provide you with inspiration that is in line with your priorities. For me, this includes whole food recipe boards like the one I have put together, minimalist home inspiration like this one, positive parenting boards like this one, boards that encourage me as I continue to grow out my grey hair like this one, travel boards like this one, boards about simplicity like this one, and others that fill my Pinterest feed with beautiful ideas and images, like this one.

3. LOOK FOR INSPIRATION WHERE YOU NEED IT
If you need ideas… search specifically for them. Use that search bar! Don’t type in something like “work outfit” or “kid party.” Instead, try searching for “girl’s tea party games” or “black pencil skirt” for ideas on how to wear an item you already own. When I want to search a subject that is a bit more broad, I’ll use qualifiers like “simple” or “easy.” “Simple Christmas decorations” will give you a much different set of images than just “Christmas decorations.”

I hope some of these tips were helpful to you… happy pinning!

And by the way… here is a photo from the above mentioned tea party. My baby girl had a blast… can you tell she picked out my outfit?;)
sophie and mommy bday

Ladies and Gentlemen…. the hubby is IN!!!

My husband has been on board with this minimalism thing since day one. Every time I bring minimalism to another area of our life, he is my biggest supporter and cheerleader. But until recently, he has never initiated a project himself. But the other day, something new happened!

There I was, sitting in my living room, giving the kids some snuggles while we watched a movie. My husband was making a snack in the kitchen. He open the knife drawer, rummaged around for what he was looking for. Then he stopped. And stared. And then he said,

“Babe… do we really need all these knives?”

Guys. I got a liiiittle too excited.

I practically jumped off the couch and said, “NO! NO WE DO NOT!” And danced into the kitchen for my first husband-initiated decluttering project.

In case you need to get at your own knife drawer, here is a little inspiration:

1. First, we took everything out of the drawer. Yes, that is all from ONE DRAWER.
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2. Then we pulled out the keepers.
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After I took this photo, we reevaluated. Do we little need those useless little corn thingies? NOPE. Do we really need three bottle openers? Actually, yes. One will be installed outside on the patio. The silver one is the one we actually use. And then, you will notice the USMA opener. It’s musical, people. Remember my post on keeping only what you need, use, or love? Yeah, well to say my husband loves hearing “On Brave Old Army Team” and watching the kids march around while sing the Army theme song every time he opens a beer is an understatement. It stays. Remember, we are creating a minimalism that works for us. 🙂

3. Next, we wiped out the drawer and put the keepers back. Check out what is still left on the counter!
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4. We put the rest into a box for our next trip to Goodwill!

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It’s so great to have a partner in this journey. I am one lucky lady!
Have a great night everybody!

Kids’ Art Corner… Decluttered!

If you ask my five-year-old what she wants to be when she grows up, she will usually tell you she wants to be an “Astronaut Artist.” If she can’t be outside playing with her buddies, you can almost find her inside at her beloved art table.

I used to go to great lengths to organize this well-used part of our home. I put two bookshelves there to hold toys and puzzles, and bought a large plastic bin for paper, art supplies, and coloring books. I collected all the stickers, markers, crafts, etc and found homes for them tucked somewhere in the art corner. Despite all my organizing efforts, this little corner was basically in shambles every night. This has especially been true every since my 3-year-old discovered the joys of “making confetti,” with his tiny scissors. I just repeat to myself… “HesdevelopinghisfinemotorskillsHesdevelopinghisfinemotorskills….”

The other day I found myself in the rare circumstance of being home alone for a couple of hours, so I decided it was time to bring minimalism to this little corner of our world.

First, I took everything off the shelves and out of the drawers to get my head around what I was dealing with here. As I emptied the drawers I found all the art supplies my kids had lost over the past few months, along with a bunch of random junk. Noted. As usual, there was just TOO MUCH STUFF and it was keeping my family from enjoying this area as much as they could.

Then I used the same strategy with the art corner that I used with my jewelry drawer.

1. Pick out the keepers. I started by picking out the really good stuff that my kids love AND use frequently. There were a handful of puzzles, white and construction paper, markers (each checked to make sure they are not dried up), crayons, scissors, gluesticks, and a small set of blocks.

What was left on the table was this:
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What. Is. This. Stuff.

2. Toss the rest. Whenever I am confronted with a pile of stuff like this, I freeze. It’s daunting to imagine putting each of these random pieces away. But then I remembered, I’m not an organizer anymore, I’m a minimalist. So I checked over this pile one more time for keepers, got an empty box, and I took my arm and swept the entire pile into the trash. It was glorious!

3. Create a functional space. Next I put away our seriously reduced art supplies. I made sure that the kids can access everything easily and put it away themselves easily. I got rid of so much rarely used stuff that after putting away the good stuff, this the storage that we no longer need:
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4. Admire! When the Littles got home, I immediately took them over to their art corner. My daughter gasped when she saw it and said, “I love it! I can SEE ALL MY STUFF!” She knows I threw the rest away and she couldn’t care less. Even my 5 year old immediately saw that her beloved art corner was so much better with all the clutter out of the way.
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Isn’t that amazing! Woohoo!
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Turns out my kids don’t need a million half-completed dollar store crafts. They need the basics. They LOVE the basics. And my husband and I love NOT picking up the art corner every night. Except, of course, the occasional confetti 😉
art supplies

Too many TOYS?

I know, I know.
It’s one thing for me to write about decluttering jewelry and clothes, but toys?

My organizing instinct has never gone into overdrive like it did after having kids. I felt like one of my main missions in life was to find a way to organize our toys in such a way that we were not living in a constant state of what we lovingly referred to as Toy-splosion. Over the years the toys built up, and I continue to spend time and money organizing these toys so they didn’t take over the house. By the time I adopted my minimalism, my kids were (and still are for a few more weeks!) 5 and 3, and my neat little nooks and crannies were busting at the seams. We had 17,000 stuffed animals (approximately), dozens of puzzles, and my least favorite, BOARD GAMES. Not classic games that are fun and actually make sense, but several cheap little games that come with endless tiny little pieces and rules that even the grownups in the room can’t figure out. Even the pantry was being taken over with my daughter’s first love… ART SUPPLIES. I set up an entire shelving system to try and contain the many, many art projects and supplies we had collected.

The Toy-splosion was slowly taking over.

Since embracing minimalism, so much has become clear to me. One of the most impactful things I have realized has to do with these toys, and it has changed our home and our lives with our children. So here it is….

Having very few toys is GOOD for my children.

Some of you already knew this. Some of you think I am crazy.
Hear me out. I know this sounds like one of those things that is good in theory but not in practice, but I’ve been really watching my kids. You know when they are at their happiest and most creative? When they are learning the most?

When they are playing with other kids. Bonus points if they are playing outside.

It was a major palm-to-forehead moment when I realized that the toys are absolutely peripheral to my children. Given the choice between playing with other kids or playing with toys, they will choose their friends every single time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not tossing every single toy out of the house. But they don’t need the many trayfuls of Montessori projects I used to create and shelf after shelf (after shelf) of toys. They just want to go out and play with their friends. And I am absolutely convinced this is significantly better for them.
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My beautiful neighbor helped me learn this lesson. Her door is always open, she is always warm and welcoming to the neighborhood kids, and her own daughters are often playing out front. My kids adore her for obvious reasons. Every time my kids see her or her kids outside they BEG to go play. I cringe now when I think of how I used to often keep them so I could catch up with the all the cooking/cleaning/organizing. Now if at all possible, I put down what I am doing and I take them outside. I chat with my neighbor, I watch my kids learn social skills, get exercise, and make entire worlds out of sticks and leaves and sidewalk chalk, and we are all better off afterwards. And I make it a point to reach out to their other friends too, and I try to set up a playdate at least once a week.

My daughter when I say YES to playing with the neighbor kids.
My daughter when I say YES to playing with the neighbor kids.

As if to drive this point home, a few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to tackle the two huge toy chests in our family room. Both were absolutely overflowing with costumes, toys, balls, stuffed animals, etc. We brought our kiddos into the family room and told them that Mommy and Daddy don’t have as much time as we want to play with them because we are always picking up all these toys. We said they each get to pick three toys out of the toy chest and two costumes out of the costume chest, and the rest were getting donated. I was gearing up for a major battle over this number, and to be honest I was totally prepared to cave to a higher number. You know what my kids did? They quickly dug through the box, handed me their three toys and two costumes, and then ran off to go play with the neighbor kids without even glancing back. My husband and I just looked at each other, stunned. And thrilled.

Hubs took the kids outside to play while I quickly boxed up everything that was left into boxes. I put them in the garage for a couple days just in case. Turns out, my kids have never mentioned a single one of these donated toys. Not once. We got rid of one of the chests entirely, and the remaining one that doubles as our coffee table is not even close to full.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about this process is that we are teaching are kids that our time is precious. We only have so much time in this world, and we won’t allow a mountain of toys to claim that time, because we want to spend that time with the people we love. And it really seems like they get it. We still have a few areas for toys, and anything that doesn’t fit in these areas is gone. If a new toy comes into the house, something else goes.

I can only hope that by starting this lesson early, my kids will carry it with them throughout their lives. They will realize that stuff doesn’t matter much, but people sure do. And their lives will reflect this priority much sooner than mine did. That is my hope.

So, I encourage you to give this a try!
1. Explain to your kiddos that you all spend too much time dealing with the toys, and that you will get to PLAY with each other more and DO more stuff if you there are less toys in the house. Tell them they get to keep their favorites!
2. Gather all the toys in the area you are dealing with.
3. Create a small and manageable toy area. Commit to only allowing toys in this room (or on the main level) that have a home in this area.
4. Allow the kids to pick out a set number of toys. We let them each pick three. (True confession… my husband and I picked out a couple toys we really like too 😉 ) There will likely be a ton of stuff left behind. Don’t panic!
5. Take the toys your kids picked out and give them a home in the designated toy area. As long as your kids are over 2 years old, make sure the kids can easily put the toys away themselves.
6. Quickly box up everything else that was left behind, while keeping your kids (and yourself) focused on their favorite toys in this new, nice toy area. Point out to them that they can actually SEE and get to all their toys now!
7. Follow through! Use that time you used to spend endlessly picking up toys to play with your kids more, take them outside to play with neighbor kids, head out to do something fun, and remind them that you have the time to do this because you don’t have so much STUFF to take care of!

There is a GREAT book by on of my favorite bloggers Joshua Becker about decluttering kids stuff, and it even has a wonderful chapter on the topic of friends vs toys.
Clutterfree with Kids
I highly recommend it!

Hope you enjoyed this post… I’d love to hear from you!

**Next post…. ART SUPPLIES. This was even a bigger issue than toys for us. Can’t wait to show you the kids’ decluttered art area!

Let’s Talk Shop(ping)

AKA, My Rules for Minimalist Shopping

I was a little surprised, after embarking on my minimalism journey, to realize that I really enjoy shopping. I was not at all surprised to figure out that my shopping was a huge part of the problem of clutter in our home. In fact, when my husband and I started reading Simplify, by Joshua Becker, the thing my husband was most excited and adamant about was stopping the influx of crap into the house. And to be honest, that was all on me.

I was shopping more for the experience than I was for the stuff, that much I already knew. To make a change, I had to stop and ponder what I actually get out of shopping.

This is what I came up with…
1. I love the social aspect of shopping with friends, my beautiful sister-in-law, or my mama.
2. The feeling of “me time” when shopping by myself.
3. I get bored easily. I can’t just sit and watch TV with my hubby. I automatically just pick up my tablet and check out the Anthro fresh cuts. I enjoyed the thrill of the hunt of scoring some amazing online deal!
4. The feeling of “treating myself” with a new purchase.

And then, I had to look a little deeper.

Looking over my list, I saw that I had a beautiful opportunity to find these things in more meaningful way.

For example…
1. Social Aspect – Sitting face-to-face with a girlfriend over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine is much more conducive to real conversation. I’d honestly rather have that connection then the distracted afternoon of shopping. I have made it a point to reach out to my girlfriends more for a happy hour playdate or cup of coffee.
2. Me time – Where do I start? There are so many things I say I don’t have time to do, and shopping is not often one of them. Hot Yoga, reading, writing, working out, just going on a walk with some great music.
3. Boredom – I needed more of a creative outlet. Something that wasn’t about work or the kids. Something I could sit and work on while my hubby and I are watching TV. And guess what? I found and new and wonderful passion in THIS BLOG!:) It’s been a blast!
4. Treating myself – Ok, this one is FUN.

Because in my version of minimalism, shopping still exists! I’ve just changed the rules for myself.

After my closet purge, and then what followed a few weeks later (PURGE, part 2) I really got a vision of what I actually love on my body. And due to my drastically reduced wardrobe, I was able to see a few items that I could really, actually use. Not trendy, passing fashions that I would regret buying a few months, but a few items that would truly add to my wardrobe in terms of comfort and functionality. For example, would you believe that at 37 years old I did not own a Little Black Dress that I love? Part of my minimalism is that my wardrobe should make my life simpler. Owning a perfect LBD that can throw on for almost any occasion certainly fits that bill.

Here is how I did it.

For several weeks, actually months after purging my closet, I bought nothing. But I paid close attention to things I never wore (these things got donated during Purge #2), and things that I frequently thought, “Man, if I only had__________”. There were a very few items like this, that I wished I had over and over. In fact, there were only four things. A perfect little black dress, a nice, flowy black tunic that I could throw on over leggings or skinny jeans for a casual workday, a pair of black shorts, and a simple pendant necklace that I can wear with anything to pull together a simple outfit.

So, I started a list. THE list. I put it on my phone so it is always accessible.

And then, and this is key, I excused myself from sales.

If I find my perfect item, I buy it, whether it’s on sale or not. If this bothers you, just know that you will likely save a ton of money by buying only a few, good quality items. I know I have!

So that’s it. My new rules: It has to be on my list, and it has to be perfect… fit, color, fabric… everything.

Friends, you have GOT to try this. Let me tell you why…

What is happening is, instead of a closetful of trendy, cheap, or ill-fitting items that I would have previously picked up at Target or some clearance rack over the past few months, I have purchased only a couple things that are great quality and that I LOVE. I found a LBD that I feel beautiful in anywhere, and a cool, flowy black top that I happily wear to work at least one a week. Last week I finally found some perfect black shorts while I was shopping for the kids. Someday I will run into that necklace and I will snatch it up! And I don’t second guess these purchases, because I know how much use I will get out of them.

So, after you purge your closet, make your list. Keep it with you, and if you find yourself shopping, just ask yourself, is it on your list? Is it PERFECT? If not, let it go.

For more inspiration from a fantastic blog, check out project333!