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Monday, June 27, 2011

Hoard much?

All you need to do to get motivated for simplifying your household is to watch the television show 'Hoarders'. I watched a few episodes last week and the next day found me sorting through a closet and finding two more garbage bags full, which I promptly took to the charity shop.

Watching this show makes me gag as the living situations are so bad. Yet it makes you realize how debilitating clutter can be. Whether it is a person who looses their keys over and over in the pile of clutter on the counter, or someone who looses their cat in a mountain of clutter - the addiction is the same - too much stuff.

As Americans we have too much. This is evident when you look at photos of families in Africa who live in stick huts with a bed, a chair, a pot and a cup between them all. While that is another extreme it shows just how little one needs to truly survive. The families in America are getting smaller while the houses, vehicles, and landfills are getting bigger. We don't have a population problem, we have a stuff problem.

I'm not out to solve the world's clutter crisis, only my own. Even that is slow going, but the motto is "It didn't take a day to get like this and it will take longer than a day to solve it." The best way to simplify is to do it slowly. While each week I tell you that I got rid of a bag of this or a box of that there is very little difference in the house just yet. Yes, it is lighter, but surprisingly, dumping 6+ full bags off did nothing for the appearance of the house. There is just so much more to go through yet. The scary part is that my home does not resemble a house from 'Hoarders', it just resembles a typical American family with too much stuff.

Most of what I have been donating is from closets and drawers. I just posted several boxes on ThredUp of outgrown children's clothing (if you sign up through that link you get $5 towards your first box). I went through all my old maternity clothing and thought 'Why am I saving this?' The last time I wore it was 3 years ago and the styles were so ugly then. I figure if/when I ever get pregnant again I can treat myself to some cute maternity clothing (through Ebay or ThredUp, of course. I rarely buy new anything). That filled one whole garbage bag. Next up were old blankets, sheets, and pillow cases that have been sitting in the closet unused for over a year. Jacob received so many cute blankets since his diagnosis that I figured we should get rid of our old blankets and other linens we no longer needed. Those filled the second bag. I was able to reorganize the closet because of the space and fit in several bins of clothing that are stocked away for the children to grow into. It was an afternoon project and I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when it was done.

I also had purchased a case of Indian food quick meals from Amazon a few months ago for those long weekend hospital stays. It is difficult to find food that is nutritious and quick that can be heated up in a microwave. I thought these sounded good from the reviews but upon receiving them I realized that I either 1. hate Indian food or 2. hate this prepackaged garbage. So several packages have been cluttering up my kitchen. I hated to throw them out knowing that someone could get some use out of them so offered them on Freecycle and was amazed at the many responses I received. I was glad to help someone out by passing some food along that they may enjoy. Another bag if items out of the house!

The next time you walk past the pile of stuff you are hanging onto, ask yourself 'Why?' and then donate it to someone who can use it. Or better yet, just watch 'Hoarders' and then see how quickly your pile of clutter disappears!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Scentsy Winner

The winner of the Scentsy giveaway was chosen through random.org with the winner being #29:

yourhandsinmine said...

I tweeted! http://twitter.com/#!/brijustbri

Please contact me at babys_mama1 "at" yahoo.com with the warmer and three scents of your choice!
Thank you to everyone else who entered. There will be several more giveaways in the near future. I also wanted to point out that it pays to do the "additional entries" on my giveaways by tweeting or Facebook since the past two winners of contests have been ones to do additional entries!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Birthday Boy

6 years old!!!

Jacob had to go to the hospital today to receive chemo (only 4 left now!!) and his platelets were low once again so he needed a transfusion. But afterwards we played hard at Chuck E. Cheese and arrived home to cards from friends, family, and strangers, a bouquet of balloons, and cake!!!

We were blessed 6 years ago by this bundle of joy and have been blessed every day since. We love you bunches, Jacob!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Midweek Review

We have all been sluggish the past several days after coming down, one after another, with a summer cold. This one is a doozy, with lots of coughing, but I think it has ended the circle with myself being the last to get it. We have been pretty healthy before this, only catching one other cold this past winter. The lack of germs has been a huge blessing since Jacob is immune suppressed and some years we tend to get cold after cold.

Yesterday Jacob's Hemoglobin and platelets were low again so off to the hospital we went
. He had just had a blood transfusion on Thursday due to low hemoglobin but I assume that his body is working double time not only due to the chemo but also the cold. The transfusion yesterday perked him up and I'm hoping it will stick until after his other round of chemo. Last week's chemo was a milestone - he is now 3/4 the way through treatment!! Only 5 more rounds to go!

This Friday Jacob will be turning 6! He has an out-patient chemo that day (Vincristine) and then we will head to Chuck E. Cheese afterwards to celebrate. Dance Marathon, a charity at the hospital, is hosting a trip to an amusement park on Sunday and we are signed up - so this adventure will be like an extended birthday weekend! I can't believe that my little boy is turning 6 - he has been through so much this year and deserves a very special day (if only it didn't include a clinic visit! EVERY single holiday this year has been spent at the hospital).

We are also getting ready for a visit from the in-laws early next week. We haven't seen them since last November so it's been too long! I will be found getting the house in tip-top shape this week, in between my coughing fits, that is!

I hope that you are enjoying some nice weather today. After days of sticky humid air I awoke to find a cool breeze outside so my windows are now open and the sounds of birds are wafting in the window, along with the sweet smells of summer and some much needed fresh air. It's cloudy and overcast - but at least it's cool!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Heavenly Smells

Ask anyone close to me and they will tell you that I love candles! Scents evoke memories for me; muskmelon brings back our first year of marriage of living in an apartment since my sister-in-law had given us a HUGE muskmelon candle which took forever to burn out so our apartment seemed to always smell of that. Dawn dish detergent brings back memories of my Grandma as that is the only dishsoap she ever had at her sink. The smell of coffee comforts me for some reason. And the list goes one. I'm just a huge fan of scents!

I also have three children and pets so there are times when I want my house to smell like something other than them! All you candle lovers know that it is difficult to find a candle that actually smells good while burning, much less one that surrounds your home in it's scent. Very few of them actually do.

My husband would tell you that he is tired of my candle addiction because I almost always say to him, once we are upstairs and ready for bed "Did I remember to blow the candle out?!" He groans and stumbles down the steps to check...I really don't think he enjoys that part of candles!

I was thrilled to have found Scentsy candle products and thrilled to test them out and review them for you! They smell wonderful and there is a boat load of scents to choose from. They envelope the house with their scent (I can smell these even when upstairs, and yet the scent is not overwhelming when even in the same room as them). And best of all, they are wickless candles and instead are melted in beautiful warmers.

I was first introduced to Scentsy when someone at Jacob's Benefit gave him a Scentsy Buddy; these are the coolest stuffed animals and make the whole bedroom smell delish! What Jacob likes best about these is that he takes it along with him to the hospital and it brings him a sense of comfort...the scent helps cover the smell of a hospital and it starts to smell like home.

For the review I chose the rooster warmer as it fits in with my kitchen decor. There are a wide range of warmers to choose from but my favorites are from the Individual Collection; the Rustic Star, Nature's Haven, Cherry Blossom, and Fizz. I was planning on ordering one of those until I realized that if I put them somewhere lower such as my hall table (which I had been planning on), the kids would be sticking their fingers in the wax. So the Rooster warmer it was!
I love how at night it makes the kitchen glow and I never forget to turn it off as I turn out all the lights.
The names of the scents are awesome; the scents themselves even better. The ones I chose to review are Rio Beach, Surfer Chick, and Thunderstorm. Rio Beach is my favorite - but they are all light scents which are perfect for summer.
What I like best about these bars is that they don't melt away into nothing. I did not realize that once you were done burning your scent for the day you could pour the melted wax back into the container and reuse again! This is so economical and right up my alley. I usually pick one or two little squares to use and burn for hours. I've been using these bars for over a month now and as you can see from the above picture, they look almost brand new (except for the Surfer Chick; only because I was burning that square at the moment I took the picture).

I am in love with these candles and can't wait to try more scents. I was able to find a couple bars at a garage sale so those new scents will tide me over until I'm invited to a Scentsy party (or host one of my own!).

Scentsy is offering someone the chance to win a full or mid-size warmer and their choice of three bars. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment here. For additional entries you can 1. tweet about this giveaway with a link back to here, 2. Add a link back to here on your Facebook, 3. Write about this giveaway on your blog. Each of those will earn you an additional entry, so be sure to come back here and leave additional comments for each extra entry you participate in. Winner will be chosen through random.org on Saturday, June 25th. Good Luck!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lessons from Simplifying

On Friday I had a hot date so I threw one of my favorite tops in the washing machine with a whole load of my clothing as well as some of the kid's clothing. Being short on time, I threw everything into the dryer instead of attempting to hang it all outside. Just before I was set to leave with my husband I rummaged through the dryer to find my top and was immediately puzzled by all the blue spots on my favorite pair of capris. As I dug deeper into the dryer I saw that all our clothes now had spotted blue designs. I found the culprit at the bottom of the dryer - an empty crayon wrapper.

I was upset, as you can imagine! Included in this load of clothes were some of my favorite outfits (and I have very few favorites) as well as some of the cutest outfits for the kids. I rushed around trying to find another top before leaving for date night but my excitement was a bit squashed as I fumed over my ruined clothes. I finally had to stop myself and take a deep breath and tell myself I am sure there is a way to get the crayon marks out and I will just enjoy my date and do a little Google research once I arrived home.

I had a blast on the date with my husband. What is better than one on one time with hubby at a romantic table at a Chinese restaurant?! It had been over a month and a half since we were able to eat alone without children clamoring for our attention!

Back home I googled ways to remove set in crayon from clothing. There were millions of recipes and I settled with the one I had on hand: rubbing each stain with a bar of soap and sticking the clothing in a hot water soak overnight. This morning I noticed some of the marks were gone but most lingered on. I went to the store looking for Goo Be Gone or other products that were recommended but found none. I grabbed some Oxi-Clean Spray hoping that would do the trick and was found spraying each spot on my arrival home. I did another hot wash and took my basket of clothes outside to see how they fared as I hung them out to dry. Some of the clothing was salvaged. Some were still stained considerably but are pajamas so not a big concern. And some (my white top and my light capris) are ruined. I was upset.

Then I realized that they are just clothes! It was not my whole wardrobe. It was a few pieces of clothing. If needed, they are replaceable. They are not sentimental items or something of great value. If my house were to burn down right now I would not be mourning over the top or capris.

Things. They can own you, if you're not careful. This was a wake up call to me and just one of the many lessons that I am sure to learn throughout this simplifying process.

On that note, I spent a good part of this evening sweating myself silly in the playroom (which felt more like a sauna) organizing. I found a huge giftbag full of items to throw away and filled a large garbage bag of items to drop of for donation on Monday. Most importantly, I am learning to let go...both physically and mentally.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Clutter Countdown

I haven't been updating you enough about my clutter control but I have been doing a good job behind the scenes! Last week I brought a box of books to my aunt's consignment shop and donated a bag of items to our local charity shop. This week I brought half a box of items to my aunt's consignment shop and have a bag about ready to go to the charity shop, which I hope to finish filling up today before dropping it off while running errands.

How is your clutter busting going?

By the way, a fun giveaway will be posted this weekend!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Feed My Addiction

One of my few addictions (besides chocolate and books!) is clothes for my children. It's an easy addiction to have since there are such cute kid's clothes on the market and I find them everywhere I look (garage sales, thrift stores, the mall, online).

I particularly like unique clothing and 100% cotton clothing. While Gap and Old Navy are cool I see every kid I run across wearing that brand. It's nice to mix the wardrobe up a bit.

I was thrilled when Tea Collection sent some outfits to be reviewed. I have heard about their clothing line before but have not owned a piece of their clothing yet. Pulling the clothes out of the box brought plenty of oohs and aahs on my part. The fabric is cotton and buttery soft. Even the Cut Off Cord Shorts were super soft and have become one of our favorite pair of shorts, even though cords were on my dreaded list of clothing items before (I hate the stiffness usually found in corded pants).
The designs are original and inspired by the sights they see in their jaunts around the globe. I find them to be unique and hip while also being adorable for children's wear. I found out that they also have a line of women's clothing as well!
Because the cotton seems to be such high quality I have found that these clothes wash very well. Stains come out easily (this is never the case for cheaper brands!) and there has not been a sign of fading after several washes.
My favorite part of the design are the waist adjusters. These are a must in our family as my bean pole children always have a difficult time keeping their pants up if they don't have the adjusters. Not only are they designed with waist adjusters but the ends of the adjusters are sewn into the fabric, which means they do not go slipping back into the pocket of the waist...forever lost. You can't imagine how many times I have had that happen on my children's jeans/shorts and it is impossible to get that elastic back through the opening once it's slipped. This was a genius design!

I see that the Tea Collection summer line is now on sale at their website. There are some amazing prices, like this adorable guitar shirt or this feminine Ruffle Top. I also see at the bottom of their site that if you are a new customer you can sign up for their e-mail list and get a code for 10% off!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Becca is sick with a nasty cold. I'm praying that Jacob doesn't get this as I can only imagine how hard it would be on an immune suppressed body. There is nothing worse than a summer cold, that's for sure.

We are enjoying the cooler weather that we've been having. There is no sticky jungle like feel in the air, unlike last week. Yesterday I was able to hang out several loads of laundry and get some weeding done in the garden. Joe helped me weed and pulled up a few tomato plants in the process, snapping them in half so that they were not replantable. How sad I was about that as they were some of the healthiest plants in the garden. Before going to buy more plants I found baby tomato plants emerging in the garden (we always have a few surprise plants pop up because of our compost pile dirt) so I moved them and replanted them...I'm hoping they will catch up with the other plants and I'm curious to see what types they turn out to be!

We finally found Ben a new (to us) car after searching for several weeks. Ben's car has been a reliable work car (going back and forth a few miles every day) but it is not reliable for out of town travel. Which means that the kids and him haven't been able to visit us when we are in the hospital in Iowa City and we really can't depend on it as a second car to help us in a bind. So, with the money we had in savings (no, not Jacob's Benefit Fund...we use that only for expenses associated with his medical costs and costs incurred while being in the hospital) we set out to find a car...which is pretty tough to do with such a small amount. Every car we looked at was either too expensive, had too many miles, or had something wrong with it. The prices of used cars has gone up considerably since just a few years ago, we've found. It's stressful to car shop and there were several times when I saw how freeing it would be to just walk into a car dealership, point to a new car, and tell them what color you would want. But I also know that the monthly payments would not be so freeing!

So when our fridge went out last week I was dismayed. It was hard enough to try to find a car in our price range but now we would have to use part of that money for a new refrigerator! Then an angel stepped in and gave us enough money for the fridge as well as extra to fill it with food! I still can't believe the mysterious ways that God works and the goodness of people. That was a huge burden lifted.

We were back to searching for a vehicle but not having much luck. Saturday evening we looked at a Ford Explorer in our price range but it had a rusted hanger holding up a part underneath. We test drove another vehicle that had a slight tick in the engine. Uh...yeah...neither of these were going to be the reliable vehicle that we needed. Yesterday evening I stumbled across an advertisement for a 2000 Saville in the town over from us. It was within our price range if we could get them to go down some on it. We figured it wouldn't hurt to go check it out seeing as it wasn't too far away. It turned out to be a really nice car in really good condition. Not many miles, the air worked (yay for hospital trips!) and when we offered a price they accepted! To most, an 11 year old car is not something to get excited about but I'm loving the fact that we now have something reliable (aside from our van) and that Ben and the kids can visit us during our stays at the hospital...as well as an air conditioned vehicle to drive Jacob back and forth to the hospital instead of having to borrow a car on those hot summer days.

So with the stress of last week behind us and some big purchases made and paid for I hope that we have a smoother ride these next few weeks. Now I'm off with the kids to the hospital for Jacob's lab work and then they are going to have a picnic at my parent's house while I try to get some cleaning done here at home. No worries about them passing their germs on to my parents as that is where Becca caught it in the first place!

Monday, June 13, 2011


As if my week hadn't been stressful enough, Jacob and I arrived home from the hospital on Saturday to find our cat, who had been missing for several days, out back looking sick and like a skeleton. We brought him into the house that evening and took him to the vet yesterday. The vet's diagnosis was that he was extremely underweight, anemic, and dehydrated. The blood tests showed us why: Bandit had feline leukemia. We decided to take him home and see if he would rebound within the next few days but when we went to give him his dose of medicine last night we found that he was already gone. :(

Ben and I had gotten Bandit from a strange old man in Ohio that had a whole backyard/junkyard full of cats and a free sign out front. He was a tiny little kitten and used to sleep with me at night when Ben worked night shift. When we moved back to Iowa and lived in the country he loved the freedom of the outdoors and even when we moved into town he would not be contained to the house...which is probably why he came down with feline leukemia to begin with - roaming near other strange cats. He was a feisty cat and always marched the the beat of his own drum. It's difficult saying goodbye to a pet that you've had for ten years. :(

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Off We Go...

It's 9:30am and Jacob is still asleep. It was a long night with Jacob waking up at 3:00am crying and moaning that his legs hurt. After some Benadryl (to calm him down) and Tylenol and heat packs I was able to get him back to sleep. At 5:30am he woke up screaming that his legs hurt and started hitting them and literally trying to run away from the pain. No one had a clue what was going on and we were only able to lull him back to sleep after giving him morphine.

I will be talking to one of the Oncologists this morning to see if they have ever seen this before and what it could have been from. The odd thing is that our young roommate also woke up crying last night about leg pain...things that make you go uhmmm.

Hopefully in a few hours we can be discharged and headed home. One last thing to note is that my husband called me last night to tell me that a note and envelope were handed to Becca outside our home last night by a stranger and the gift inside will be enough to cover the expense of the new refrigerator and all the food we lost. I got goosebumps when he told me and was speechless - I am in awe of the goodness of people and am astounded in the way God works. Whoever it was...we can not thank them enough for taking yet another burden from us during this time. May they be blessed for their kindness!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cool Off

Do you know how frustrating it is to try to buy a refrigerator from the hospital?!

When I went to get the kids ice cream from the freezer yesterday it was all melted. As I touched everything in the freezer it was soft and unthawed. I turned the temperature down even more, thinking that the kids had left the door ajar partly (which has happened before) and then completely forgot about it until later that evening, when I found water dripping into the fridge. I opened the freezer door and promptly realized that our freezer was dead...everything was a pile of mush but still slightly cold so I transferred what I could save to the fridge, which was still cold.

Later last night I got nervous about the fridge and had Ben take Jacob's G-CSF medicine down to my parent's house as I did not want to lose $1,200 worth of medication if the fridge went out. Smart move, as this morning when I checked the fridge it was warm and the whole unit was making a very loud, annoying noise. Great...it was 5:30 in the morning and I was heading to the hospital with Jacob and here the fridge is dead!

Since Ben had no idea of what type of fridge I would want he didn't want to go shopping for one alone. I saw that Lowe's had 10% off all appliances and free next day delivery and haul away of your old appliance so I figured I may as well order one from the hospital. It took me over an hour to find one that looked the most appealing to me, only to find out that it would need to be special ordered and wouldn't arrive for two weeks. Another half an hour went by and I located another one that I wanted so placed the order (and who knew that refrigerators are that expensive?!), only to receive a phone call from Ben a bit later saying the store called and said they would deliver it next Friday. I knew it must be a mistake as their site clearly said next day delivery so I called the store and spoke to someone who said that they only deliver to our city once a week. How is that next day delivery, Lowe's?! She offered no other alternative so I canceled my order and called a different Lowe's store about the same distance from the first.

At first I was told that they did have one in stock and it could be delivered on the 23rd. Uh...no! When I told them that we have no fridge they said they could list it as an emergency delivery and after being on hold for awhile was told they could deliver on Sunday. Okay, that's better, but still not next day delivery. I think they need to have a disclaimer on their site saying "Next day delivery...or not."

And my disclaimer is: Never buy a refrigerator from the hospital.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Last week we hit another city wide garage sale. Typically, the sales in that town are not too fantastic but this time around we were able to find a lot. $90 worth, as a matter of fact.

Like I told a woman who asked me what she could help me find at a sale "I'm just looking for what I didn't know I needed." Don't get me wrong, my main focus at garage sales is quality brand name clothing for my children but what really excites me is the surprises that can be found at sales.
Like a basket of colorful fabrics which turns out to be Fuzzi Bunz diapers. Diapers that look brand new, diapers that probably are brand new. Anyone who uses cloth diapers know how expensive the Fuzzi Bunz diapers are. I debated with myself at first...I don't have a baby girl and my sweet Joe is not in size small any longer. When I asked the price and was told $2 a piece I knew I would kick myself later for not picking them up at that steal. I went even further and asked if they would take $30 for all 17 diapers...thus saving $4.
I knew that price was a steal, I just didn't realize how much of a steal it really was. I now see that packs of 18 Fuzzi Bunz sell for a little over $300 brand new. And now I have a stash to hold onto in case I turn up pregnant within the next year or so. If not, I'll make my money back and then some by selling these. You really never know what you'll run across at garage sales.

On a different note, Jacob's counts are up enough (the platelets just one point above the criteria!) to head in for chemo tomorrow morning. We will hopefully be getting home sometime Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Midweek Review

This week has started off with a bang - a fireball bang, that is. While I could be talking about the 100 degree heat we are enduring, I could also literally mean the fire ball that floated down from the sky down the street. Or, more accurately, the squirrel that got electrocuted and blew up right before my eyes after touching the transformer down the street. I actually meant the heat though. It's HOT out!

I would be fine with the heat if I was able to stay inside all day but yesterday Jacob's labs showed that not only did he need a blood transfusion but also a platelet transfusion so off to the hospital we had to go. And our van has no air conditioning. I was worried about Jacob in this heat having to travel an hour and a half and was so relieved when my mom called to tell me that my aunt offered to loan us her car. We both would have melted if we had to drive that far in this heat with no air and I am forever grateful to my aunt for her kindness! We spent all afternoon/evening at the hospital for the transfusions and arrived home around 9pm. Jacob now has a few days at home before having to go to the hospital early Friday morning for an overnight chemo treatment. Luckily, it is just one night so we should be arriving back home sometime Saturday afternoon.

Speaking of Jacob, he is enjoying Vacation Bible School this week along with his brother and sister. Well, his sister, at least. Joe isn't quite sure what to make of it. I was thrilled (naive?) when I saw that ages three and up could attend this three hour daily, week long camp. I was almost giddy with the anticipation of three hours alone each day. Yesterday we arrived to a jam-packed church and Becca and Jacob went happily into their groups and blended into the crowd. I got Joe situated in his group and made my way to the door, pausing to see how he was doing up front. His eyes were glued to me and he was crying...silently. I went back and sat with him while the groups sang and danced and then went back to the preschool room and sat with him during story time; then snuck out during playtime. For those two and a half hours alone I was able to rush home and get the bathroom and kitchen floors mopped and the living room and office carpets cleaned. These are no easy tasks with children underfoot so I was thrilled to be able to get those chores done with no interruptions. When I picked the kids up yesterday before jetting off to the hospital for Jacob's transfusions the instructors said that Joe did great, so I had great plans for this morning when dropping them off for day 2.

Again, Becca and Jacob scampered into their groups. Joe clung to me like a lost monkey. I sat through the songs with him and played in the preschool room with him but he would not let me out of his sight. Finally, an hour and a half later, I was able to sneak out while he turned his back for one second during snack time. I flew to the grocery store and did my shopping, arrived home and put the groceries away, made myself lunch and read the newspaper. When I arrived at the church to pick the kids up Joe looked happy in the arms of one of the teen leaders. First he said he had a fun time but then he shook his head "no" when asked if he wanted to go back tomorrow.

What tomorrow brings?! No one knows, except Joe! But I'm hoping that it brings mama a few more hours of peace and quiet in order to prepare for the Make-A-Wish guests that will be arriving at our house tomorrow evening. Jacob gets to plan a wish of his very own! (Do not fret...before Jacob's illness I thought Make-A-Wish was only for terminally ill children but that is NOT the case! It is for any child who has to go through a life threatening illness and loose a small part of their childhood because of it.)

It has been one jam packed week so far! Why does it seem that summer days go by 100 times quicker than winter ones?!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Nature's Artwork

God's beautiful creation can be found...
...in our own backyard.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Guest Post: My Take On Minimalizing

By Heather Morehouse

Consider it a journey and not a quick fix.

I was always a minimalist, though I never had a definition until I started reading about it a few years ago. I always travelled and lived lightly, preferring not to have to worry about my things, but rather enjoy the life experience. I also am not one who is attached too much in life. We recently survived a battery of tornadoes in our area. Hubster and I thought about making bug out bags, just in case. We used one huge tote bag and other than 2 days of clothing, important papers, meds, wallets, phones, little man’s dog and our laptop, we didn’t care about much else. It could all be replaced.
Things you must understand about me. I am a gypsy at heart and I love to travel and explore. I have no attachment to anything other than my little family, our pets and my laptop. I am quickly losing my previous dream of owning a house, instead looking at alternatives. I have lived in just about every situation from a brand spanking new condo to being homeless and everything in between. I am a pretty overly happy person and darn happy to be overly happy. I smile a lot. My family thinks I am nuts and once staged an intervention because of my “lifestyle.” Dead serious here. I once considered becoming a nun or something on the religious side of life just so I could experiment with less stuff, as I had seen a fantastic documentary about the lifestyles of various religious sects around the world. In fact, I may still dabble in that in the future, in a more spiritual, travel the world kind of way and not so much in the habit kind of way. Oh, and I call it like it is. I am very honest and this might come off as a brute but I am not one to beat around the bush.
Ok, now that that is out of the way. I am sure your first question will be how do I get started? Well, put down the boxes and organizing tools and get yourself a pen and paper. Holy crap Heather, really??? How does this help me declutter and find my Zen??? Please be patient grasshopper. Quick…write down the top 5 things in your life that you would consider a priority. Ok…now declutter anything in your home that is not helping you accomplish these goals. See? That was easy.
I will back up a bit. Often, even the most spirited aspiring minimalist will think it best to just start purging stuff. I am all about travelling the world without a map but I believe this is the one time you should have plan of action. It does go back to planning. When you see your priorities in life, the rest is gravy and might just make it easier for you to cull clutter. You are trying to keep the things that honor you and your priorities. Remember, minimalism transcends all planes, not just the stuff, but spiritual, emotional, physical and many other smaller planes. Now stay with me, don’t become afraid or paralyzed. Remember, this is not temporary; it is allowing change to embrace you. That list is going to be your best friend because it tells you all you need to own to live your live happily. But dear Heather, I am staring at a scrap of paper with 15 words or so on it and I don’t see how this moves the junk out of my life? Have you lost your mind? Well, yes but that is another post. No, this is the blueprint to the rest of your life. The life you talk about and say you are going to do something about and then organize your closet thinking it will be life altering, only to realize you have barely scratched the surface. So you sit in disgust that you can’t take control of your life and choose to ignore it and be miserable and blame the world for your problems and…well, I will stop there. I think you understand what I am getting at. (Reference the brute comment.)
Once you can accept where you are at, in the present, you will be able to move on. The next step is to give yourself permission, free yourself of any guilt or attachment because of how or what others might think, say, do, react or otherwise to your new found freedom. Trust me, you will receive some backlash so be prepared.
Next comes the fun part, the doing. I choose to do one room at a time and I started with my bedroom, since it’s the last place I lay my head and the first place I wake up to. I wanted to feel calm each day. I removed everything out of every drawer, closet, nook and cranny and piled it on the bed. Makes you work harder and faster when you know sleep time
is coming. Prepare a large trash bag/can, a box for keep, and a bag for donate. Here is where you also decide how long you are going to work on this. I can go for hours without hesitation but maybe just 30 minutes works for you. Find your balance. My rule for purging is to lay my hands on each item and make a choice right then and there. If you can’t, work around the item but you will probably find it just staring at you and you will be able to deal with immediately once you are on a roll. If you are feeling adventurous, you could designate maybe only 3 bins for all of your keep, to challenge yourself. This is completely up to you but I found this make me conscience of the choices I am making. I am kind of a challenge myself kind of girl, so again this works for me. Work diligently, work smart and work uninterrupted. If you have kids, get them involved. Older kids can do the same in their space, younger kids can help carry out trash or make them walk around the room and gather up like items.
Once you have completed the whole room, remove the trash to the garbage bins, take the donated and load up your vehicle or make a space in your garage, back porch, wherever, just have a spot and look at what you have kept. Nope, not ready to organize yet. It’s time to clean. Wipe down all surfaces, mop the floor or vacuum, clean the windows, take down drapery to clean, give the bedding a good wash. While you are at it, take a good look at your room. Do you want to move things around or remove some furniture? Go ahead and do this now.
Ok…time to get a drink and be proud of all you have done. Let’s label some more boxes with other room items, maybe marking them with designated rooms, as we are now going to go through your keep piles. It’s important to get stuff out that doesn’t belong in that room or area. Start grouping like items together, t-shirts, shoes, lotions, books, pictures, etc. This helps you organize faster and also, realize what you do have. Sometimes it can be a real eye opener. BE PREPARED.
So now you have some nice piles and a clean room. You may have purged some more items as you put like items together, so put them in their designated areas and start to put things back in an organized manner. You may even purge further as you go. And remember, this is just round one. Once you get things under control, you may find yourself doing a monthly once-over to purge and weed out. It is absolutely normal.

Side notes* If you are dealing with other people’s clutter along with your own, you may want to add designated box for their stuff so they can sort it later, if you are not comfortable with doing so. Also, if you have a massive project to undertake, divide the room up into quarters and work each quarter zone until finished. I did this with my grandparent’s house and it worked better than getting overwhelmed with all the stuff and not knowing where to start first.

Remember, this is just a loose rough draft of how I accomplished my minimalist life. It took me 3 weekends to do the whole house. I wasn’t a packrat and I was super motivated. It may take you longer and that is ok, as long as you are doing. You are not just dealing with the stuff; you will also be dealing with the emotional, physical and spiritual side of things as well. Honor those feelings.

This is usually the hardest area to cull, next to books and mementos. I have changed my style over the years and I tend to lean to plainer, simple clothing now. I don’t do much patterns, except for maybe in a dress or 2 that I own. I like plain, comfortable clothing that I can add a pretty scarf and a cuff too and make it a wow outfit. This also keeps the number of items I have down to a minimum. Now, I have to have a professional wardrobe. I work in a business professional environment, no casual wear for me. So I have to maintain my sanity with having enough to wear to work without feeling boring. At home, I have been leaning towards simple linen dresses. You must understand I live in Texas, so my wardrobe is warmer weather friendly. I do own a winter jacket and boots and even a heavier scarf but otherwise, I just layer or walk really fast. I tend to stick to black/charcoal, navy, red, pure white and some khaki. I have one scarf that is hot pink and one infinity scarf that is blue/beige stripe.
Things I do not wear- anything clingy or see through, jeans (nope, I wear yoga pants to clean around the house or when I am just hanging out at home- jeans make me too hot), large patterned items (still own a few dresses- I am working on it), full lycra items (just too darn hot), printed t-shirts (just prefer plain).
If you are having a hard time, pick a style icon, browse the web, and find some inspiration for how you would like to dress. One of mine is Audrey Hepburn- simplistic style at its best, throughout her entire life. Even at home, she wore plain pants and a simple top. Lovely. I also draw inspiration from other minimalist bloggers. Just do a search and see what you can come up with. The one’s who seem to inspire me the most are the one’s who were not known for
their wardrobe but for their passion and heart. And remember, hair and jewelry help set the tone to. They are your frame. You can get as simple or as wild and funky with your bad self as you like. Remember, this is about the authentic you. For most jewelry, I have 4 large necklaces, 3 cuffs/watch and 4-5 sets of earrings. I have my wedding ring and it’s the only ring I wear. I usually pick one statement piece and that is all I wear.

A few quotes to ponder and motivate you:
Take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints.

If ones life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: Satisfaction with just enough food, clothing and shelter. - Dalai Lama
“Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner.”

My final thought- own nothing you do not honor with absolute impeccable care and that in return, honors who you are.

Heather has been an inspiration to me ever since I saw her posts on Facebook about hauling loads of stuff to Goodwill. It was something that I have wanted to do forever but didn't have the motivation or guts to start on. That was two years ago, I think, and here I am taking her advice and starting my journey!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bye, Bye Bookies

One of the first things I wanted to sort through were my books. I am a bookaholic and have three large bookshelves filled with books. One of those shelves was a large old wicker bookshelf that I had in my bedroom as a teenager. Holding heavy books and going through three moves it was no longer holding up well. As a matter of fact, it was ugly and falling apart and I wanted it out of my office but I didn't know where I was going to put the books that were on it!

With my new motivation I sorted through all three shelves and culled several piles of books. Fiction is no problem for me - those books come into my house and leave as soon as I have read them (except for my vintage Louisa May Alcott and Gene Stratton Porter). Non-fiction is a whole other story in my book (pun intended). I love non-fiction but while sorting through them realized that most of my collection were duplicates, in the sense that they held the same information. For example, one or two natural cleaning books hold the same information that the other three or four may have...so out went several of those. The same with natural remedies, cookbooks, and so on.

These are just a few of the piles of books that I cleared from the shelves. I later delved into the kitchen cupboard and sorted through my cookbooks as well.
I donated several books and binders full of information. I put several books up on Paperback Swap and sent them out already. And I have a box of books to take my aunt's consignment shop. All in all, I cleared out enough books that I was able to downsize my books from three large shelves to two large shelves and one small one. I put the ugly wicker bookshelf on Freecycle and stuck it by the curb and within a few hours it was taken. As a matter of a fact, it is sitting on a porch down the street with plants on it and it looks cute being utilized that way.

I know I'm not finished with clearing out the books. It was painful to get rid of some since my books are my babies but I don't need them. In a few more weeks I will sweep through the shelves again and clear more out but I did very well with this first step. Getting rid of a large box of books and clearing out a bookshelf made for a very productive day - as well as a lighter house!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Two Bags Down

Today marks my journey into becoming a minimalist. No, not the extreme ones who only own 15 things or live out of a suitcase...though that sounds somewhat appealing to me at the moment.

See, with three small kids, homeschooling, and loving all things paper and books we have quite a lot of clutter. I'm okay with small piles here or there or (fairly) organized bins of stuff but my children like to strew things about. So much so that within moments of a room being clean it often times looks like a tornado went through it. I finally realized that enough is enough - the kids (as well as the adults) in this family have so much that we don't appreciate and respect what we own.

Enter minimalism. It is an approach to only surround yourself with what you love, what you can use, and what you really need. There are vast differences when it comes to calling yourself a minimalist, and I may never reach the point that some would consider me one but what I want to get to the point where I am comfortable with our stuff, and to me that is the point of the lifestyle to begin with.

My goal is to clear out one bag of stuff a week, starting June 1st. I got a head start and took two bags to donate yesterday.
I'll tell you more about how I got started later this week but I wanted to ask...won't you join me on this journey? One bag a week, for however long it takes you to get to your happy point. What say you?


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