The Clean Out Has Begun (A #MinimalismSimplified Update)

When we got home with the kids a little less than two years ago, everyday life was just a sun-up to sun-down survival. From figuring out meals for seven (after 16 years of being used to fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants meals for two), to figuring out bedtimes, setting up boundaries, and learning what it means to be a family - everything was a struggle. By the time 8 o'clock rolled around, I was operating on auto-pilot, just praying that God would keep me going until I could fall into bed and do it all again the next day. That, my friends, is the reality of adopting five kids (ages 4-12) at one time.

Fortunately, life has gotten a lot better over the last few months, and we've all settled into a routine that works. Meals are no longer stressful, homework is done without much complaint, and the clutter is slowly coming back under control. However, one of the places that has remained in chaos has been my walk-in pantry. Until recently, we had a "no entrance" policy for the kids (one of those fantastic boundaries that we set in place until everyone had figured out how to behave), which meant that the pantry became our catch all for... well, just about everything.

The kids went back to school two weeks ago, and I've been playing catch up on all the tasks that I'd been putting off all summer. That include a thorough pantry clean out and reworking, which finally happened this week. On Tuesday I pulled everything out of the pantry and started over, shelf by shelf. I ended up with a full sack of garbage, and a full bag for the charity shop as well. As the shelves cleared out, I realized that my pantry clutter was actually costing me money. For example, I won't need to buy salt for the foreseeable future, as I have four bottles and two bags of it! I don't need to continue to buy small jars of cumin, because I have two industrial size bottles that had been lost behind other items on the shelf.

On Friday I paid a visit to TJ Maxx and picked up several storage bins to help organize what remained. While the kids watched a movie last night, I hid away in the pantry, creating sense of calm organization on the shelves. The result might not seem like much, but suddenly, I know where everything is. I know if we're getting low on something, or if we're out of something. The Hubs (who does as much cooking as I do, if not more) walked in, took one look, and loved it! When we needed hotdog buns for lunch today, he knew right where to go. When I used up the last of the ketchup, I knew where I could find our replacement bottle. It's only been a day, but I'm already in love.

Now, if I could just get our other catch-all (the laundry room) and storage spaces (the basement) to the same level... #UnclutteredGoals

During the Purge (left) and After (right)
HEY THERE! If you're interested in getting help taming the clutter in your home - whether it's hidden behind a pantry door like mine was, or out in plain sight - registration for the fall session of the uncluttered course from becoming minimalist blogger, Joshua Becker, ends tomorrow night. It's a hefty fee to sign up (about $80), but it's a lifetime membership and you can take the course any time it's offered (and he offers it three times a year). I've signed up, and I'd love for you to join me (note, it's an affiliate link and I get a nice sum back if you sign up through my link). Register today, join me for class on Monday! 


One In...One Out (#minimalismsimplified)

I've written about this before, but several years ago the Hubs told me that if I wanted to continue to bring new shoes into the house, I had to implement a rule that when a new pair came in, an old pair went out. The same was also to apply to clothing, dishes, and household items. I personally drew the line when it came to books (although I did do the unthinkable two years ago, and again last year, and purged the library of all the books I thought I would read someday, but have never gotten around to and - realistically - never will).

The one-in/one-out rule has worked really well for me over the years. It's kept my closet manageable, it's kept my kitchen a little more clutter free, and it's definitely helped my wallet, because I had to start thinking ahead when I was still in the store and mentally decide which pair of shoes or sweater I was going to purge when I got home if I wanted to bring in the new item that I was contemplating purchasing. More and more often, I found myself replacing the item on the shelf because I actually liked everything that I already owned, too much, in fact, to part with it. It was a great rule, and I'm still thankful to the Hubs for laying it down all those years ago.

Does this mean that I've gotten rid of every knickknack and unused item in our home? By no means! as I've mentioned in previous posts, I love my mementos from our travels, our eclectic Christmas ornament collection, and my Jane Austen action figure, and I'm not in the mode of purging to the point of stark walls and empty rooms. However, by being selective in what comes in to the house these days, it means that I have to really love it more than something else I already own, because I know that something at home will have to leave in order to make room for the new purchase.

It's also a mindset that I am actively trying to teach our five kids. Yesterday I felt that we finally had a breakthrough as I worked with our two youngest daughters to clean out their room, offering them three alternatives: keep (because you love it), toss (because it's garbage), and donate (because others can use it more than you). For the first time, our middle daughter was able to verbalize and acknowledge (on her own) that the empty boxes that had been stored, unused, under her bed were not as special to her as the stuffed mouse that we gave her when we adopted her. Baby steps!

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Whether you decide to start implementing the one-in/one-out rule or not, you should check out the uncluttered course that Joshua Becker runs through his website, becoming minimalist. He offers this 12-week, online class, three times a year, and registration for his next session opens TODAY. If you're interested in practical steps to reduce your stuff and create a home environment that isn't overwhelmed by things, then consider investing in this course and finding your version of minimalism. If you decide to sign up, I'd be grateful if you'd use my affiliate link (and my 5 kids, who need new shoes because they've already grown out of the ones I bought in April, will also thank you). Read more about the course HERE and sign up HERE.


Counting the Cost (of Coffee)

Here's the deal: after dropping the kids off at school (especially if it's a rainy day), I love to stop by my local Starbucks and grab a tall, decaf, white chocolate mocha. Or, since I started paying attention to the calorie counts (oof!), a tall, decaf, caramel macchiato. And once they start handing out those Pumpkin Spice Lattes...Katie, bar the door! I. AM. THERE. I may totally disagree with their corporate politics and anti-straw stance, but I am a sucker for their coffee.

While residing in Central America for two months to finalize the adoption, one of our few moments of relief from the continual stress we were under was to stop by the lone Starbucks, located (conveniently) right off the highway that took us to our rental. And when the giant billboard went up on the road home, announcing that #PSL had arrived, I almost cried tears of joy. A taste of fall in the summer-like heat! Glorious.

Once we returned to the U.S., life was chaotic for quite some time. True story: the Hubs and I would take turns sneaking out through our bedroom window to get groceries after the kids were in bed, grabbing a moment of quiet sanity and - occasionally - a detour to Starbucks to grab a couple of specialty coffees that we would sneak back into the house to share with the spouse who stayed at home. This soon became a habit that led to Gold Status, setting up an auto-refill amount on our Starbucks card, and downloading the app for quick scan and pay at the drive-thru. They made it so easy to buy, we didn't notice right away how fast it was adding up.

Photo by Hans Vivek on Unsplash
Financially, we've been all over the map during our eighteen years of marriage. We've been laser-focused, targeting our home mortgage and reducing the balance to $0 in just 11 years (out of a planned 30), but we've also had times when we've had to watch the bank account balance vs. the credit card balance, borrowing from savings to make sure we don't carry it over to the next month. In short, self-discipline in the financial department has been a long-term struggle. And the coffee isn't helping.

As much as I love my Starbucks stops, a few months ago I realized it was draining our wallets and adding to our waistlines (like I said, those calories are killer!), and something needed to change. So we slowed down on the stops, and I started looking for deals on grocery store Starbucks to make at home. In addition to making real coffee in our French press, I discovered that their little Via packets, when paired with Coffee-mate, Natural Bliss, Sweet Cream flavor cream (from the dairy section), really aren't that bad. Even the Hubs was surprised. And better still, I got them on clearance for $2.99 a box. That's 7 cups of (yummy) coffee for less than the cost of two cups at the drive-thru. Cha-ching!

As we've recently switched back to a 50/50 system (cash for half of the stuff we buy monthly, and the other half - known expenses - on the credit card to earn points back), it's made us even more aware of how much we were mindlessly spending - and not just at Starbucks. Dave Ramsey's point that handing over cash hurts a lot more, is spot on. So while there is, at least for us, still a time and a place for those #PSL stops, it's now been budgeted and thought out, not just a random stop when the day has been stressful. It seems that my desire for simplicity and minimalism has now extended to my wallet. Sorry, Starbucks. 

If you're interested in learning more about simple living, enrollment for the uncluttered course from becoming minimalist blogger, Joshua Becker, opens one week from today (August 24). If you want a reminder to sign up, fill out the form HERE


It's Just Stuff (A #MinimalismSimplified Post)

Last week I had a little meltdown when I went up into the play loft and discovered that my much beloved American Girl dolls (and their various accouterments) that had been in my possession for almost 30 years were - to put it mildly - trashed. There might have been weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth...or at least a few tears and a lot of disappointment that the girls had taken such poor care of my treasured childhood toys. I did my best to keep my temper in check, but my disappointment with them was evident, and internally, I was seething.

After the kids were in bed, I found myself in the bathroom, sobbing. I was so angry - with them, for ignoring my instructions to take care of the dolls, and at myself, for caring so much about stuff, and not enough about the tiny humans who live with me 24/7. But God has a way of taking situations with the kids and turning them around to teach me valuable lessons, and this time was no different.

As I wiped away the tears and continued to dissect my reaction (I'm an INTJ, it's what we do), I realized that God was giving me an opportunity to model any number of things to the girls. I could either teach them that stuff was more important than people, or I could show them - by example - that even when the stuff you prize is ruined, the people responsible are still the only eternal part of the equation. Stewardship and care taking are good lessons to learn, but so is the value of the human behind the mistake. Stuff is just stuff - we can't take it with us. It's good to keep that in perspective.

As I continue in my quest to de-clutter, dealing with the kids has helped me ask myself some new questions. What am I saving it for? Why am I holding onto it? Who could use it and enjoy it more than I do? Is there a reason I'm storing it - and if so, is it a good reason? I may never live a minimalist lifestyle (and I'm not saying that I want to), but I would like to find a way to simplify the stuff we live with, and maintain the perspective that none of it lasts forever.

If you're interested in living simply, you may enjoy this post by Joshua Becker (the guy behind the becoming minimalist blog). Three times a year he offers a 12-week course to help families and individuals declutter their homes. The fall session of the Uncluttered course will begin in September. If you're interested in learning more, you can sign up through this (affiliate - thanks!) link to be notified when registration opens. 


Keep It #Simple - A Blog Renewal

Everyone who works in social media knows that it's difficult to get traction on Facebook pages these days without paying for ads. And anyone who knows me (IRL or through the blog) knows that my Scotch-Irish heritage makes me too cheap to ever pay Facebook to push my post. So, naturally, this puts me at an impasse with the social media giant.

However, I keep using my Busy Nothings page because I've never been good at doing short blog posts. I'm too wordy, wanting to get it just right, while Facebook offers a faster way to do shorter posts, add an image, and get people to see it. For example, yesterday I did a quick post about this necklace that once belonged to my grandmother. For some reason it struck the elusive sweet spot and people started liking, sharing, and commenting. In less than 24-hours my post had almost 2,900 views. Do you know how many views my last blog post had? 58. {crickets} While the blog is an echo chamber, Facebook is a community. Lesson: No one wants to click twice.

Short and sweet, with the right content. This is the sweet spot that I dream of hitting more often, not just on Facebook, but here on the blog as well. With five kids to feed, clothe, and shuttle around, plus my work as a freelance writer and editor, my aspirations of writing a book, and my personal goal of still managing to read 50 books this year, my time is spread thin. "Like butter scraped over too much bread," as Bilbo Baggins said. If I want to continue blogging (and I do) then I need to learn how to keep it simple. Don't use 50 words when 6 will do (for example, Seth Godin).

So today is the beginning of a new writing plan, something that fits in with my ongoing desire for simplified minimalism in everything - from my kitchen pantry to my blog. Keep it simple. Life is already full of busy nothings, so perhaps it's time for me to add something a little more substantial to the mix. I've been blogging for 10 years, and it's time to figure out exactly what I want to say. Will you come along to see what changes? I hope so. But if not... I'll see you on Facebook.


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