Saturday, February 6, 2016
Simon's one today! He is such a joy and delight to us! He is by far our busiest baby, which while entertaining, is a challenge, too. He loves to get into the kitchen cupboards, which I'm trying to discourage! He has an adorable uneven smile, with two teeth on the bottom, and just one on the top. He loves to dance to music, and can crawl quite quickly, particularly when he's trying to get into something he's not supposed to have! :) He's not walking yet, but has just started standing on his own, so it's coming! He loves his big siblings, and when he's up before them in the morning, he will crawl to the bedroom, looking for them. He is my heaviest baby, and he loves to eat! He will eat pretty much anything, and plenty of it! We love him so much! Happy birthday Simon Henry!
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
This fall and summer were so busy, with camping trips and house projects, and just, life, that I'm not really sure where the time went. I'm hoping to get back on here after Christmas and do some updates, but for now our days are filled with Christmasy things, so that will have to wait. In the meantime, here's hoping you have a merry, merry Christmas! =)
Friday, November 20, 2015
This is the handout that I passed out at my talk, with recipes to try and resources to check out...
“Have nothing in your houses that you do know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” - William Morris
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” - Annie Dillard
Questions to ask yourself:
What does simple living mean to you?
What is important to you?
How do you want to spend your life, and how can you structure your days to reflect that?
What can you eliminate from your life to have more resources (time, money, energy) to focus on what is truly important to you?
6 Tbsp. softened coconut oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
Combine baking soda and arrowroot powder, then mix in coconut oil, combining well. Scoop into a small jar for storage. Use your fingers to apply a small amount to armpits. During hot weather, deodorant may need to be stored in the fridge to avoid the coconut oil liquifying.
1 1/2 tsp. dish liquid
3 Tbsp. vinegar
2 cups water
Combine in a spray bottle.
The Best Stain Remover
1 part dish soap
2 parts hydrogen peroxide
Combine in a bottle and shake to mix. Pour directly on stain as soon as possible and let sit for a bit before washing.
www.ewg.org (Dirty Dozen list, Skin Deep cosmetic rating database)
Simple and Green Living Blogs
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
A Guide to Green Housekeeping by Christina Strutt
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
Healthy Homemaking: One Step at a Time by Stephanie Langford (available at www.keeperofthehome.org)
The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Okay, so I have a few tips that I want to share if you are interested in making some changes toward living simply or in more environmentally friendly ways.
1. First, determine what is important to you. What makes you feel fulfilled? What is it that you feel that God wants you to be doing with your time? What are your goals, short and long term, and what are some steps that you can take to accomplish those?
2. Try everyday to do something that is important to you, whether it’s a big or little thing. Do something that you enjoy or that gets you just a little closer to a goal of yours, even if that means ignoring something else for a little while. Although most of my kids don’t nap anymore, we still have a rest time everyday where all the kids are in their own spot with books and quiet toys, and I try really hard to have a rest time for myself then, too. It is really tempting to get some work down during this time, but because it’s important to me to have some down time, I try really hard to do this every day, and read or do something that is restful to me.
3. Eliminate what you can so that you have more time for what is truly important. I’ve already mentioned that we’ve cut down on the errands we run, and that’s made a huge difference for us. When we were first married we spent every Sunday afternoon running errands, and now, we can’t even remember what kinds of things we bought. But now we hardly ever run errands, because we don’t buy that much. This is also why I’m not on social media. There is nothing wrong with social media, and it can even be a good thing, but I know that for me, it would take time that I would rather spend on other things, so I just stay away. Sometimes eliminating things can mean saying no to things that at the moment sound fun, but in the long run don’t contribute to the things that you have decided are important to you. For a while, Seth and I got in the habit of watching TV every evening. We’d watch one show, and when that was over, we would get lazy and just leave it on and end up watching it for a few hours. That wasn’t really how we wanted to spend our evening, but sometimes it sounded good in the moment, just to relax. But it never made us feel good in the end. When we moved, our antenna didn’t work, and we decided not to replace it, so we couldn’t watch regular TV. And for the most part, we don’t miss it. We do other things, hang out with the kids, read books, talk, and it has been great. Another way I eliminate things is by keeping my house cleaning really simple. I know some people are fastidious housekeepers, and if that’s you, that’s great. That is not me. I like a tidy house, and I can’t stand a lot of clutter, so I work hard at keeping things put away, and I try to keep things generally clean, but I don’t really care a lot about deep cleaning regularly. I don’t clean under things, like my stove or furniture very often, or anywhere else that isn’t really seen. Those things don’t bother me. I’ve already mentioned that I don’t like dusting, so I don’t have a lot of decorations or knick knacks anymore, which cuts down on dusting, and I still don’t do it very often, honestly. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do any deep cleaning in your house. My point is that just because some people say you should do these things doesn’t mean you have to. Take a look at the things you do, and make sure they are actually important to you before you decide to spend the time doing them.
4. Multi-purpose stuff. This is one way to minimize the amount of stuff you need. Let’s take cleaners, for example. There is a different cleaner for every surface in your home. There are also recipes to replace every single one of those cleaners with a homemade option. And while that may be more natural, that is not more simple. Not only do you still have a whole cupboard full of cleaners, but you’re spending a lot of time making all of them. You don’t really need all that. You only need a couple of things to clean your house. I have one cleaner that I make with water, vinegar, and dish soap, and I use it to clean almost everything in my house; windows, toilets, floors, you name it. I don’t need a different cleaner for every one of those surfaces, when that one will do the trick for all of them. We’re actually going to make it today so you can take it home and try it.
5. I have some other recipes on the handout for cleaning jobs that my multi-purpose cleaner won’t work on. For things that need scrubbing, whether it’s dishes or the tub, I use baking soda, which works great. For carpet stains, I use hydrogen peroxide. You do need to keep it in a dark bottle, so I added a spray top to the original bottle. I spray that on the carpet, leave it for 10 or 15 minutes, then scrub it with a rag, and that works great on most things. I also have a really simple laundry stain remover that I make with hydrogen peroxide and dish soap, and that recipe is on the handout. This works so well better than anything else I have every tried. And I have 5 kids, so that’s saying something! That’s all I use for cleaning in my whole house, and all of these things are things I already have on hand, so it keeps it really simple.
6. Make things yourself when you can. From household cleaners, to food like baked goods and yogurt. It’s healthier for you, it’s cheaper, and there is so much less garbage. And a lot of things are actually easier than you might think. Also, I often make things, like baked goods especially, in big batches, and I freeze whatever I’m not using right now, and that not only saves time over making several smaller batches, but then I also have homemade convenience food that I can just grab when I need it. For me, making things also gives me a real sense of connection to what goes into the things I consume, and gives me a sense of independence, which are also important to me.
7. However, don’t feel bad about what you don’t or can’t do. Because I enjoy making things and because I know all the benefits of making things myself, I sometimes beat myself up for the things I don’t do. But only you can decide what’s important to you. I buy frozen meatballs because I don’t really want to make them. My husband doesn’t like my homemade deodorant, and he doesn’t like any of the natural brands he’s tried, so I buy normal stuff for him. As much as I would like to buy all organic food, I can’t afford it. It doesn’t have to always be all or nothing. Decide what’s important to you to pursue and don’t worry about the rest. There are a couple of good resources that you can utilize when you’re trying to decide what to prioritize as far as making changes. The Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) updates the Dirty Dozen list every year. Most of you have probably heard of that, but if you haven’t, it’s a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticides. So if you’re like me, you can use this to decide which produce items are the most important to try to buy organic. I don’t even bother spending money to buy organic for items that are not on this list. I can’t afford to buy everything on this list organically, either, but it gives me a plce to start. They also have on their site a section that is called the Skin Deep Database. They rate thousands of different cosmetic and skin care items according to the safety of their ingredients. So you can use this to look at the products you buy and you can see how safe they are. Maybe you’ll find a couple of products that you don’t want to buy anymore, and that can help you decide which ones you want to prioritize.
8. Try new things. Don’t be afraid to try something even if you don’t know if it will work. That’s how you learn. But if something isn’t working, don’t just try to struggle through it. Change it. I have mentioned that I use cloth diapers for my kids, and I love them. But for a while one of my kids really struggled with diaper rash, especially after wearing a wet diaper all night. So I started using disposables on him at night, and that worked well. We’ve tried different experiments in our desire to live simply. Some things work, and some don’t. Try things, and look at them as learning experiences, not just failures. You might find that it’s actually really fun!
9. Use glass jars! Glass is much healthier and more sustainable than plastic. I’ve eliminated most of the plastic from our kitchen, and I use glass jars for everything. Storage, leftovers, even our cups are actually small glass jars. They’re actually surprisingly hard to break, so they’re great for kids.
10. Try buying less when you can. When you do need to buy things, try to buy things that are quality so they’ll last longer. Even if you spend more at first, it will save you money in the long run, it saves you from having to spend time replacing it, and it also keeps things out of landfills.
11. Also reuse when you can. Try buying things that you can reuse. We started using rechargeable batteries not too long ago, and although they are more expensive at first, they have definitely saved us money, they work really well, and again, we never have to run out to get batteries. Instead of throwing things away, try to find ways you can reuse it. Use containers for other things. Use old clothes for rags. That being said, in the spirit of keeping our life simple, I don’t keep things unless I’m positive that I really am going to reuse it. I don’t save all my pasta jars thinking I’ll use it for some project someday. I don’t save juice can lids because I know I won’t use them. That’s why it’s important to try to buy less as the first step. So you don’t have to throw things away, and so you’re not keeping things to reuse that just end up as clutter.
12. Develop a routine. I know not everyone likes routines, or schedules; in fact, I don’t in some ways, but having a routine has really helped me simplify life. In a lot of ways, it helps me do what I need to do without having to really think about it, which saves my mental energy for other things. I’m reading a book right now, called Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, and it’s all about habits, and she says that a habit is anything we do without thinking about it. And a routine, she says, is just a string of habits. And it’s true. I have a morning routine that includes cleaning up the kitchen and having the kids do their chores right after breakfast. And it really is a habit. I do most of it without having to consciously decide to do it. It makes it so much easier for me. And, routines really help the kids, too. Before I really stuck to our after breakfast time to do chores, the kids would always fight me about it, which of course was challenging. But now that they know that it always happens right after breakfast, they will (usually) do it right away without arguing about it. And it makes life so much easier!
13. One thing that has helped me develop habits, is to “anchor” them by attaching them to something I already do. So, for example, when I wanted to get in the habit of cleaning up the kitchen and having the kids do their chores, I anchored those things to breakfast, since breakfast was something that always happens, everyday, usually around the same time. So, now, instead of trying to remember sometime in the morning to have them do their chores, we always do them right after breakfast. Meals are really good anchors, because they generally happen every day, around the same time. I have things anchored to all of our meals, and I have things that happen before meals, during meals, and after meals. Bedtime and wake up time can be really good anchors as well, such as brushing your teeth before bed. Anchoring has made a huge difference in how I’ve been able to develop habits.
14. As far as decluttering goes, clothes are a great place to start. There’s a statistic that says that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. We have a handful of favorites that we wear all the time, and then we’ll wear other stuff occasionally. And yet we often spend a lot of time each day looking through our clothes for something to wear. I’d challenge you to reduce your closet to just that 20% that you wear all the time. You can just try it as an experiment, and instead of actually getting rid of everything, just box it up for a few months and see if you like it.
15. The next place I’d declutter is toys. Simplicity Parenting is a book all about simplifying life for kids, and it talks about how most kids are way overstimulated. Most kids have rooms full of toys, and it talks about how that actually makes it very difficult for kids to focus on any one thing for any length of time. So the book promotes having, really, only a few choices out for kids at any one time. We’ve done this with our family, not only as a way to get the kids to focus and really engage in thier play, but also as a way to keep chaos and mess to a minimum each day. So it makes it so much less overwhelming for kids to clean up as well. So how this looks in our family is that we keep just a few toys out and available at a time, and then the rest are put away in a closet. For the most part, my kids play with Legos all day every day, but sometimes I’ll bring something else out for a change of pace, or they’ll request something, so we’ll get it out. And I typically get rid of anything that is outgrown, anything that is never or rarely played with. I’ve found that in our home, toddlers don’t really want to play with toddler toys. They just want to play with what the big kids are using. So we have very few toddler toys. And I just recently started getting the kids involved with decluttering their things, and I was really surprised with how well they did with that. Instead of asking them what they wanted to get rid of, which of course is “nothing”, I asked them what were their favorite things that they wanted to keep. Even if it was something I knew they never played with, I didn’t get rid of anything they said they really wanted to keep. And I did give them some limits, like “you can keep your 15 favorite stuffed animals”, just to prevent them from saying everything was their favorite. And then I told them we were going to give the rest away to someone else, and they were mostly okay with it. It certainly wasn’t a perfect experiement, and they weren’t willing to get rid of as much as I was, but it was a start.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
So how does green living fit into all of this? I started trying to do things more naturally when I discovered blogs, and the first ones I started reading were all about green living. One of the first things I remember learning about was the dangers of chemicals in household cleaners. I had actually been given a basket of homemade cleaners when I got married, so it was pretty easy for me to start making my own. My interest in natural living grew when we had our first baby. Not only was I concerned with things being more healthy for him, but as I mentioned earlier, I was also trying to find ways to save money. I chose to cloth diaper, which was primarily a financial decision, but since I had learned about the chemicals and toxins that go into disposables, I was excited about it for that reason as well. I also started making more of our food from scratch, again, as a way to save money, but also because I was learning more about some of the unhealthy things that are added to foods. So I started making things like bread, tortillas, granola bars. As I was doing this, I found that not only were we saving money and eating more healthfully, but we also had a lot less garbage. I was starting to be aware of how much waste we were producing and I was pleased to be lessening that in any way that I could. This led me to start looking for reusable things as much as I could. We were already using cloth diapers and wipes, and I stopped using paper towels and used rags for most of my cleaning. I do still buy some paper towels that I use for cleaning the toilet, but that’s all I use them for, so one roll lasts me a few months. I also started making my own personal care products, like deodorant, face cleaner, and toothpaste, which, again, not only helped me avoid chemicals, but they also saved me money and produced less garbage. As I continued to try living more naturally, and as we also started simplifying life, it became really clear how living green was helping us live more simply. Since I was making so much from scratch, I was buying less. I was no longer buying a lot of different cleaners and body products, but was instead making most them from food ingredients that I already had. So, that was less time and effort that I had to spend shopping, and it eliminated a lot of last minutes trips to the store, which is a big deal with little kids! Because making things from scratch and using reusable products was saving me money, that meant we had more money for other things, like doing something fun as a family, but ultimately, since those things help keep our budget down, what that really means is that Seth doesn’t have to go out and work more, to pay for all of these things, which in turn helps us to pursue the other things that are important to us. And, now, keeping our bodies healthy and not doing things that harms the environment have become values of ours, that we want to pursue. So for us, green living goes back to that intentionality of simple living. I don’t want to be doing things just because that’s the way I’ve always done them, or because that’s what my neighbor is doing, or whatever. I want to be doing things that I’ve intentionally decided to do. And for us, that includes things like avoiding toxins and chemicals, reducing our waste, and cutting down on the time we spend running errands. Living green helps us accomplish those goals.
So for us, living simply and living green has kind of become this big web, where everything we do effects everything else we do. Doing things naturally is important to us, so that’s something we pursue, but by doing things naturally and a more “green” way, that helps us save money and time that we can then use to pursue other things that are important to us. Like I said earlier, there are many things that we are still continuing to change and work on, and everything that we do now has been a long, gradual process. I try to work on just one or two things at a time, and once I have that down, I work on something else that I want to change. And by doing that, we’ve been able to make a lot of changes over the last several years. Any change, even little ones can seem like a big deal and even overwhelming when you first start, but if you keep at it, eventually it gets easier and then just becomes part of life. At least, that’s how it has been for us!
To be continued...
Saturday, October 24, 2015
(Find Part 1 here and Part 2 here)
So those two things were kind of the big things that spurred us on toward a more simple lifestyle. We started talking about living simply, what that meant to us and how we would do it, and we started reading blogs that talked about simple living. We talked about our goals and the steps we needed to take to achieve them. We talked about the values we wanted to be intentional about instilling into our kids, and how to go about that. These conversations led to more changes. Our new desire to have less stuff led us to buy less, and to be very picky about the things that we did buy. We wanted to make sure that we were buying things that we truly needed, and things that would last a long time, so we weren’t constantly replacing them. We also decided that Seth should change jobs, from his stressful job that after our move also included a long commute, to one with less stress, much less driving, and that would provide him with more time for his schoolwork and to spend more time with us. We wanted to spend less time running around doing errands, so we just started eliminating those. As we simplified, we found that we didn’t want or even need as much, so we didn’t even miss those errands. I started changing some of the ways I thought about frugality. I had always considered frugality as buying the cheapest thing possible, which meant that I would run around to several grocery stores every week to get all of the best deals, which was time consuming and stressful with several small children. I started to do one big grocery shopping run a month, and while that meant I might not be buying every single thing as cheaply as possible, it did mean that I saved time and sanity, which was more important. We have a small house, which we didn’t really intentionally set out to buy; we just bought what we could afford at the time, but now we’re really thankful that that is what we ended up with. Even with a big family, we love our small house, because it allows us to live on a smaller budget, and it takes less time to clean and maintain. It also fosters our family value of closeness and doing things together. So for us it works great. Something that I’ve really always done, but even more so as we pursued simple living is to find ways to let the kids do things for themselves. For example, for a while I felt like I was constantly getting someone a drink of water. There was always someone asking for water. So I got one of those lemonade (or picnic) glass drink dispensers, filled it with water and put it on the counter, and then they could get water themselves. That change alone has made a big difference in my day.
So those are some of the things that we have changed. We continue to have conversations and find more things to work on all the time. Simple living is one of our favorite topics of conversation. For us, living simply means being really intentional in how we live our life. Like everyone, we have limited resources, limited time, money, and energy, and we want to make sure that we are actually purposefully choosing how we use those resources. To live our life in a way that reflects our values, instead of just going through the motions. There is an idea that I came across years ago, that talks about urgent things versus important things. Some things in life are important, some are urgent, and some are both, but we spend most of our time on urgent, unimportant things, doing the little things that come up in our day that need to be taken care of right now, like a phone call, or fighting kids, or a mess that needs to be cleaned up, and those things can take up so much of our time, that we never get to the really important stuff. And for us, simple living means fighting against that. We try to eliminate as much of the non-essential stuff as possible, so we’re spending less time on that non-important urgent stuff, and then intentionally choosing to pursue the important stuff. Sometimes, that means purposefully letting go of certain things for a while. Let’s face it, as moms, we are never going to reach that magical moment of having “nothing to do”. So that means, if I want to pursue something that is important to me, like playing a game with my kids, or having a little quiet time to myself, I have to intentionally choose to ignore the laundry for a little bit, or be okay with having eggs for dinner, so that I can have some time to do one of those things. There is a quote by Annie Dillard that says “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” And this, for us, is at the heart of simple living. We don’t just want to say “someday I’ll do this or that”. Someday might never come. Instead, how can we live those values and dreams today? Simple living has encouraged us to go for those things that we want to do but don’t always seem practical, like my husband going to grad school for creative writing. Or having a big family. Or getting backyard chickens. Sometimes we ask ourselves if we will be disappointed if we never get to do whatever it is that we’re thinking about doing, and the answer to that can be an indication of whether or not that is something we want to pursue. And this is going to look different for everyone. Everyone has different things that are important to them, and only you can decide what that is for you and your family.
To Be Continued....
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
(Part 1 can be found here)
Another thing that happened around then, was that we moved. And some realizations came out of that move. We were living in a small apartment, had a couple of kids, and quite a bit of stuff. I had started feeling like I was spending all of my time taking care of all of our stuff. We had spent all of our married life so far buying the things that we wanted and needed, or thought we needed, and I was started to get overwhelmed with it all. When I got pregnant with our third child, we started feeling like it was time to move, so we started looking around at apartments. We looked for several months and never found anything that we liked and could afford. This was just after the housing crisis, and in a weird turn of events, we discovered that we could buy a house for less than we could rent an apartment. So about a week after our baby was born, we were out looking at houses. We ended up buying a house, but it was a short sale, which was really common a few years ago, and that meant that it could take a few months to get the bank to approve the sale. So, now that we were anticipating a move soon, with three small children, I wanted to get a head start, and I started boxing up everything that we didn’t really need out. Wall decorations, knick knacks, extra dishes, things that we weren’t using every day got boxed up. And I discovered that I really liked having less stuff. There was less stuff to become messy, so there was less to clean. I hate dusting, so having decorations put away and not needing to be dusted was awesome. And not only that, but our house seemed calmer. Bare walls and surfaces made our house seem less overwhelming. I hadn’t really realized the effect that all that stuff was having on me. Having several little kids was providing enough noise and chaos, and all the stuff was just adding to that and making everything feel even more overwhelming. Having less stimulation around was making all the noise and action much more manageable. Then, when the move actually came, we boxed everything up, and since we lived in an upstairs apartment, we ended up moving all of our stuff into a pile in the lobby downstairs while we waited for the moving truck to arrive. Seeing all of our stuff in one place was pretty eye-opening. I already knew we had a lot of stuff, but seeing that monsterously huge pile confirmed it. I suppose that, compared to the average household, it wasn’t like tons and tons of stuff; after all we had been living in a small apartment, and it only fit so much, but we knew that it was way more than we needed, and we knew that it was burdening us. It was a rare opportunity for us to see that, because when is your stuff ever all in one big pile? Try to imagine, if you can, all of the stuff from your house, all in one place. I think it would be hard to imagine that accurately; I know I never could have imagined it, if I hadn’t actually seen it. It was a much bigger amount than I had thought, and I was really grateful I was able get that acurate look at everything we had. We had kind of a unique situation in that we actually had to live in a temporary apartment for a couple of months while we waited for our house sale to finish going through, so we used that time as an experiment to see what we needed to live and what we didn’t. We kept a lot of things boxed up, and pretty much just got out what we needed. We didn’t put any decorations out, we kept available toys to a minimum, we put away extra furniture, and we kind of tried out a more minimalistic lifestyle for a couple of months. And we loved it. Just like I had experienced when I originally started boxing things up, our home seemed calmer and my work seemed less overwhelming.
So that experience kind of started another aspect of simple living for us, which is minimalism. We got rid of a lot of stuff that we realized we didn’t need, and that has continued for us. Now, I wouldn’t call us true minimalists, in that we don’t have a bare house or anything close to that, but we do try to not have a lot of stuff. There’s a quote by a man named Wiliam Morris that says, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” And that is really what we try to do. We have things that we do not truly need, like books, and such, but they are things that we love, and we try not to keep things that we no longer need or love. I always keep an eye out in our home for things that are not being used, and I always have a donation bag in our laundry room that I put things in that we no longer need.
Just to be clear, you don’t have to be a stringent minimalist to live a simple life. But for us, minimalism has been one way of getting rid of the things that are not essential, in order for us to have more time and energy to focus on the things that are important to us. Because really, everything, whether it’s physical things, activities, thoughts, or relationships; all of those things take time and mental and physical energy, and the more resources you spend on any area of your life, the less you will have for the other areas. So for us, having less stuff is one way to clear some space and have more time and energy to spend on other aspects of life that mean more to us than our stuff.
To Be Continued....